JPG: You mentioned the word “vibe.” I watched the documentary on the making of the new album and “vibe” was mentioned several times. Can you elaborate on that?
ASL: You know what? Forgive me for being too metaphorical, but if you go to Italy and eat delicious food there it can’t really be reproduced here because those tomatoes are grown in that dirt and that cheese comes from those meadows, and those cows, that grass. And I feel like Mario’s studio — where it is and how it is — it’s like specific ingredients.
MD: There’s more than just the songs and the playing and the singing. There’s also this kind of mysterious soupy whatever that creates whatever is special and magical about the recordings and that is the “vibe.” You could use a word like texture or timbre or feel or pocket. The vibe extends to lunch in the studio. It extends to the conversations in the car and the drive to the studio, not just the performances. It’s the overall feeling that encompasses the entire project.
ASL: Also, Mike and I are fans [of Mario], which helps me. Every time I’m in that studio, I’m always very grateful to be in there. It’s fun.
JPG: It looks like it’s a house or his house. It gets you out of that sterile studio environment.
ASL: Some studios feel like purgatory where there’s no windows. It’s lovely to be in a home. There’s light. In between takes we go sit outside and it’s cool.
MD: It’s Mario’s place. So, it really is his Instrument. We brought [Scrap’s] cello, but in terms of the guitars, in terms of the keyboards…I brought my sampler but 90 percent of the instruments on the record are what was in Mario’s house. So, we really tried to maximize the use of that Instrument in every way possible.
The other thing is a huge part of the performances on the record is the use of the delays and the echoing voices, the repeating, dubbed-out textures. Mario really was a musician on this record. He wasn’t just a guy hitting the record button.
JPG: As far as the songs on the new album. I like the latter half where it gets weirder, artsier and more out there than the first half. I don’t know if that was intentional, or the track listing came about that way.
MD: There were some songs we definitely wanted up front but other than that…We do this thing with keys where we never repeat the key of a song. So, putting it together was about figuring out what the structure was in terms of the keys, and it’s not something that your average listener is going to be conscious of, but there is definitely a sense of movement if you change the key on every song.
Also, each song has what we call the dreams, which is the long instrumental usually with a little vocal snippet sample in there after each song. That is very much like a misdirection. We’ll go from whatever key the song is into an unrelated key or a barely connected key, and then that will flow into the next tune. I guess we were trying to make the second half of the record trippier if that’s what you’re asking, just more of a structural fly by the seat of our pants type of thing.
JPG: Is that something on “3” compared to “1” where you push the singles to the front and things go out there a little more later?
ASL: I think that’s an accurate assessment and probably because we did Ghost of Vroom 1 and then we did that EP, Ghost of Vroom 2, which actually came out first. By the time we did Ghost of Vroom 3, we’d known Mario for a few years and there was a comfort level.
I’m also biased in that I think that whatever is current is the best thing that’s happened. [Laughs.] So, I feel like the way of working after now that we’ve done “Ghost of Vroom 3,” it feels like we have our sea legs on how to make something like that in a couple of weeks.
JPG: Mike has a fondness for using a sampler and samples. Obviously, the samples are merged into the tunes themselves but then there’s the little sections at the end of the tunes; one example being at the end of “Cold Smoke” with 20 seconds of sonic cacophony.
ASL: One of my favorite features about Ghost of Vroom 3 is we do these songs in between the songs where there’s 15 to 30 seconds of music that has nothing to do with the previous song or the next song that I think is a real joy of this project.
MD: It brings the instrumental bit into focus. It’s like the dot your optician makes you look at when he tests your eyes. It’s a focal point, even if it’s not really the most important part of the section.
ASL: We make all those separate from the songs and then it gets decided which ones get tacked on to the end of which songs. Sometimes, a song naturally leads into some weird tale or something.
JPG: Are you sampling rhythms as well or are you sampling vocals and sounds?
MD: It’s all it’s all sounds basically, vocal snippets. “Still Getting It Done” is built around a sample of a “Sintayehu” by Hailu Mergia & Dahlak Band. Other than that, they’re basically played effects. I perform it all live. It’s all triggered live.
JPG: Memory-wise, does your sampler fill up to the point that you have to either add memory to it or…?
MD: I use Ableton Live, their sampler interface, and then this shitty little keyboard that I use to trigger it. So, there’s plenty of room. It’s not like the old days where you had to fill a zip drive and then constantly be juggling these different zip discs for every song.
JPG: Mike, you contributed to “The Ultimate Gen X Summer Playlist” (https://www.aarparrow.com/inside-dope/the-ultimate-gen-x-summer-playlist). I was really surprised — even though I do love the song – that you picked The Stone Roses’ “I Wanna Be Adored.” I think of you and the influence of hip-hop, but you went in another direction.
MD: Oh yeah. I love that song. That’s definitely…to this day, a repeat listen. My musical tastes are really really wide, and, of course, you sort of end up stereotyped by the music you make. But, I listen to an incredible variety of music.
JPG: So Scrap, what song would you have picked for the playlist?
ASL: Gosh, that’s a great question. This might be just because you’re asking me on this day, and what I was listening to last night, which is pretty random, I might pick “War Ensemble” by Slayer.
MD: Oh good. Excellent.
JPG: Oh, wow! Okay. That works.
ASL: If you ask me tomorrow, I’ll tell you something completely…I might say Duran Duran or something. [Laughs.]
JPG: Were you playing along or just listening?
ASL: Honestly, I was playing along. I try to do a lot of weird stuff to keep my chops in shape. I listen to Bach. I try to play some Bach every day. I try to play some kind of jamband-y stuff every day, if I can. And sometimes, I try to play along with Pantera or Lamb of God. I keep myself guessing too. [Laughs.]
JPG: Besides keeping your chops up, and besides doing Ghost of Vroom stuff are you constantly working or doing gigs?
ASL: I do. I play upright bass in a trio with a piano player and a guitar player, and they’re both like 76 years old. We do a monthly gig in a jazz club in Boston. It’s really fun and really sweet. They’re good people. Then, I do some really weird experimental chamber music with some friends of mine. We’re all composers and performers.