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DUST BUNNIES….A JOURNEY
So, I wanted to make this record, right? I mean, it's been bothering me for years. There were all of these fantastic songs that I couldn't get out of my brain. I remembered tunes that haunted my formative years. From early sixties folkies and the B-sides and unheard album cuts that flew by, unnoticed and in a blur from my early times in show biz, I made a list of these forgotten gems and filed them away for years in the dusty recesses of my imploding brain.
I remember being on an airplane about seven years ago with my West Coast keyboardist, Andy Cahan, and telling him that one day, I'd love to go into a recording studio and lay down these selections, but that the restraints of time and the costs of the studio for a vanity project such as this, were simply prohibitive.
So we developed a plan.
I went home and gathered up all of the 45 rpm records and 33 1/3 vinyl albums that contained these obscure pieces and sent them to Andy in the San Fernando Valley. His job was to make exact copies of the backing tracks of these songs using his primitive synthesizer and to send those rough tracks back to me.
Which he did.
I then, flew into LA from my home in…let's see, I think I was living in St. Louis at the time… and threw down a set of really, really rough scratch vocals. So we had vocals on one side of the stereo mix and Andy's track on the other.
And that's the way that the project sat.
Until a friend of mine from Brooklyn, NY, the late great Andrew Craig heard about it.
Andrew was an amazing man.
He was a mountain of a man; jovial and hedonistic with a penchant for getting just a bit too into whatever he undertook. He was an actor…you might remember him from his numerous roles on television or as the bearded rabbi in Ghostbusters. He was gigantic, fun-loving and a loyal friend.
Andrew had a friend in Brooklyn who had a band…a jazz/salsa band as it turns out…and he enlisted their help on my behalf.
Armed with nothing but the stereo mix that Andy Cahan and I had made in LA (with no click track or synch pulses to assist them), Rick Howard and his band of musicians (whom I have not met to this very day!) went into their drummer's studio and painstakingly laid down perfect backing tracks to all ten selections.
And then, they sent them back to me.
Where they sat.
Until I bumped into a friend from Cleveland named David Spero. David I have known for many years as one of the founding board members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And he was, at the time, working with Oscar Winner, Billy Bob Thornton, on Billy's second album.
When I went to Billy's to meet him, I was immediately embraced by the star and shown his posters of the Mothers of Invention taken while I was in the band, as well as his collection of Turtles and Flo and Eddie records. Billy told me that when he was first making his way to California from Arkansas, he listened to our music exclusively…a fact I was later to hear affirmed by Dwight Yoakum. Billy opened up his heart and his home to me and, together with his beautiful girlfriend Connie, made Andy and I feel welcome as we made his Beverly Hills mansion our second home for a couple of weeks, laying down the vocals and slapping all of our acquired tracks into Protools for later mixing.
Billy is also the voice you hear (as if I needed to tell you that!) on "Music", the album's final cut. His masterful voice chills to the marrow as he reads definitions from the dictionary and then improvises on the mystic qualities of life's rhythms and harmonies.
Billy Bob turned out to be more than just a great friend and contributor to this album, but almost like the brother that I never knew I had... no offence to Al, the brother that I always knew I had. One of the industry's truly great individuals and a human being that I am very proud to know.
So now we had a finished product. Now what? The question remained, who in the hell CARES about Howard Kaylan's favorite songs anyway? And did Howard Kaylan care enough to treat this project seriously and not just let it mould away on some shelf as the Turtles continued to tour?
I'm not an agent, kids. And I am not a manager. The only thing that I've ever sold is myself and, even then, as a member of a group or a team.
I let it slide.
For a good, long time.
And then, one day while internet surfing, I came across a guy in Montpelier Vermont who had a very unique indie record label called Halogen.
His name is Justin Hoy and we struck up quite the web conversation about all things musical. As a friend, I sent him a copy of the album and he instantly liked it. Already, I was encouraged.
He agreed to distribute the record, now titled Dust Bunnies, throughout the US and Canada.
And then his company was "acquired."
Which is to say that, instead of the little garage operation that I had been waiting for, a new company, CED Entertainment out of Philadelphia, would now be involved in the distribution.
And that for internet release, we would be dealing with Sony/Red, an outfit that already was distributing The Turtles' albums through their Shout Factory division.
Pretty cool, huh?
Now it was up to me as the album producer (and owner of my own label which would be handled by Halogen) to design and press my own product for delivery to the distributor.
Well, hell. I've been in this business for over forty years and I NEVER had to design or press my own records…it's easy to be oblivious when you are concentrating on only ONE aspect of the record industry.
I turned to Adobe Photoshop for most of the graphics and to another good friend, noted horror and sci-fi illustrator J.K.Potter for the photo art that I would reprint on the inside of the liner notes and on the disc itself. Potter is a genius. You've seen his disarming altered photo images in all mediums for years now…he is the pre-eminent artist in his genre…and he graciously consented to let me use one of his instantly identifiable trademark pieces for the record.
For those of you interested in releasing your own album, just as I have, you will need to know one other little slice of information:
Now that you have your album completed, the artwork done and a plan for the product's release, you still have to manufacture said product. It ain't magic folks; it's the final step on your way to audio independence.
For help here, I turned to the most recommended name in the field. And these guys were amazing. I am talking about a company called Triple Disc. These saintly gentlemen and ladies took all of the diverse elements culled from all of my disparate sources and turned them into a great sounding a wonderful looking finished CD. They worked with me daily on the art and made sure, under stressful and often daunting conditions, that I was totally happy with my record before they began the mastering and duplicating process. They were great on the phone with me, indulgent online with me, and ultimately wonderful with the final price as well.
As an indie producer, you could not do better than to do your record at www.tripledisc.com
Tell them I sent you…you might not get any money off the deal, but you'll get a smile and some great stories. And unparalleled service.
Triple Disc sends the albums to me to hang onto until the distributor on the East Coast needs them. That is still a good two months from the first day that the record goes online at itunes, Napster, Amazon, etc.
And that day is this week!
So you should be able to download Dust Bunnies right now!
And to order it from your local record emporium or online site for delivery in November of 05.
That's Dust Bunnies.
By Howard Kaylan
On Intentional Records… (Not International, although the eye wants to read it that way…suckers!)
Distributed by Halogen Records/CED Entertainment/Sony/Red
Please do me the great honor of checking out a track or two, or actually risking $14.99 just because I say so.
Cause I've never lied to you before.
And I am never kidding.
And because there is at least ONE great album in each and every one of us.
And this is mine.
September 8, 2005
www.goldminemag.com GOLDMINE #678 July 21, 2006
Howard Kaylan’s first solo album took 44 years, but that’s somewhat understandable considering the reliable repertoire he has accumulated from his tenure with The Turtles. Thanks to the chart-toppers they stockpiled in the ’60s, he’s been able to bank on the band’s material
most of his career.
Nevertheless, Kaylan said he is no longer content to merely rehash the hits. He recently released Dust Bunnies, an album that finds him tackling a set of songs that spans the past 40 years. Although the writing credits boast names such as Tim Buckley, John Miles, Charles Avanour, The Left Banke’s Michael Brown, and Jerry Yester and Judy Henske, most are obscure outcasts and unlikely B-sides far removed from most people’s
“They’re songs I discovered as album tracks, songs I used to love, songs the Turtles could never do,” Kaylan explained. “I heard them and thought, ‘I could cover that.’ These great songs became the concept. My only criteria was that the songs had to have some sort of historic
or nostalgic element.”
He was mostly driven by the desire to resume recording.
“It certainly wasn’t financial,” he said. “I really missed going into the studio. We hadn’t recorded a Flo & Eddie album since the early ’80s. Mark [Volman] and I live so far apart, and we don’t get together that often. I live in Seattle, and he lives in Nashville. It’s been a long time since those days when we’d regularly get together and do background vocals for other people. When we lived in L.A., David Cassidy would call, and we’d be at the studio in 10 minutes. When we were in New York, Duran Duran or The Ramones would call, and we’d be there right away. But for the last 10 years we’ve been on the road and we’ve literally stopped recording. I’m 59 years old now, and this might be my last chance to make a great statement.”
After such a long absence, Kaylan admitted he wasn’t sure exactly how to proceed. “I was going to go in and use a group name so I could disguise my real identity,” he recalled. “Then I decided I’d do a demo presentation and take it around, play it for my friends and people I knew and see what kind of reaction I’d get.” Recording took the circuitous route. Kaylan gave his keyboardist, Andy Cahan, the original records so that he could reproduce the arrangements on synthesizer in his basement studio. The tracks were sent to Rick Howard, a guitarist Cahan knew in New York, and Howard then hired a band to overdub Cahan’s synthesizer parts. Kaylan took those tapes to Billy Bob Thornton’s home recording studio, where he synchronized the band’s performances with the vocals he had originally recorded with Cahan.
“It was a painstaking process,” Kaylan recalled. “I had to get every beat in just the right place. We then had to extract Andy’s synthesizer so it would sound like a real band. It took two weeks to get everything in sync, and we’d work until 4 a.m. some nights. But if you have to pass that time with anybody, who better than Billy Bob Thornton? By the way, I’ve yet to meet the guitar player, the bass player or the drummer, but thank you everybody, you did a great job. It’s a virtual band for my virtual label. It became a product totally of my imagination. It was therapeutic in a way. I had to totally trust my vocals and my instincts.”
Although the autobiographical “Easy Street,” the set’s sole original (co-composed by Kaylan and Volman), bears obvious references to The Turtles, Kaylan admitted he never felt that strongly about the abilities of his former colleagues. “The original Turtles, the band that existed between 1965 and 1970, was not that great a band,” he conceded. “We had the good fortune to be able to pick out records that fit our vocal style and fit the community, but we weren’t that strong musically. But the songs worked great because we had horns, strings and vocals washing over those chords. When we had a chance to be in Frank Zappa’s band and actually hear a great guitarist, we were mesmerized.”
These days Kaylan and Volman still tour regularly, billing themselves as The Turtles Featuring Flo & Eddie. Kaylan said he sees his former bandmates on occasion but confessed, “It’s sad in a couple of cases.”
The current incarnation of The Turtles is actually two different groups — a New York–based band for East Coast gigs and a L.A. outfit for western dates. “We learned long ago how to do this in an economical kind of way,” Kaylan conceded. Surprisingly, The Turtles have not been inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, a fact Kaylan doesn’t find surprising. “It’s very political. It has very little to do with success and a lot to do with what label you were on. If we had recorded for one of the WEA labels, we would have been in years ago. The people who aren’t connected with the old guard — people like Ahmet Ertegun or Clive Davis — they’re not going to get in. We recorded for White Whale, which was owned by two guys who were sort of shady. There were rumors the company was started with funny money….
Unfortunately, the music isn’t treated separately…. It’s mixed in with the politics.”
Looking ahead, Kaylan is touting several other projects in addition to the album, including a film he’s produced based on an actual evening spent with Jimi Hendrix at London’s Speakeasy Club in April 1967, a docudrama of sorts titled, appropriately, My Dinner With Jimi. He and Volman are also preparing a new multimedia show that documents the history of The Turtles and Flo & Eddie. Then too, there’s the book he began writing two years ago, which he said he finally feels inspired to finish.
Still, Kaylan insisted he’s not interested in dwelling on his former glories. “The past used to scare me, but now it doesn’t,” he said. “I used to lament it…. It used to depress me, but now I celebrate it and move on. I want to leave a legacy beyond ‘Happy Together.’ I don’t
want to spend my life re-creating. I’d rather spend it creating. I’ve been good at re-creating since 1962.”
— Lee Zimmerman
Intentional Records (none)
Despite his seasoned status, on his debut solo album, Dust Bunnies, The Turtles’ Howard Kaylan displays the veracity and tenacity of a younger, hungrier upstart, an impassioned performer whose voice conveys unbridled emotion. That’s evident at the outset with “Pleasant Street,” an anguished outburst that belies any “happy together” sentiments, its title notwithstanding. “Snowblind” and “Love Songs In The Night” make for a pair of tough, tenacious rockers, each capped with riveting refrains. The elaborately orchestrated ballads “What’s That Got To Do With Me,” “Two By Two” and “A Young Girl” find Kaylan’s voice soaring with grandeur. “Easy Street,” the album’s one original, boasts an exhilarating chorus that rivals any of those found in his classic Turtles tunes. “Music” is the only misstep, with guest Billy Bob Thornton intruding on the lavish production with a rambling dissertation about the meaning of music. But who needs Billy Bob’s babbling? Kaylan’s performances express all one needs to know.
— Lee Zimmerman
Courtesy of Howard Kaylan
— Turtles singer sheds his shell
Howard Kaylan assembles obscurities for solo debut
“I really missed going into the
studio. We hadn’t recorded a
Flo & Eddie album since the
— Howard Kaylan
www.goldminemag.com GOLDMINE #678 July 21, 2006 •