Collide Interview / Review
In my opinion, Collide‘s recent release, Two Headed Monster, is both a culmination and a departure from their past work. Though it may remain in the same rack in the record store (those still exist, right?), you can feel that a maturation has taken place.
Contrary to opinion, maturation of this nature doesn’t simply come with time. As many artists prove, you can create and re-create the same thing for a lifetime, if you so choose.
There is a deceptive, almost infinite freedom provided by working on projects exclusively in the studio, as much of Collide’s previous work has been. Sometimes those boundless 3 a.m.-in-the-studio possibilities can become a creatively stagnating trap. I’m happy they managed to avoid that trap, instead creating a thickly-textured, lively album that stands up to many listens.
As some of you probably already know, I’m not a fan of regurgitating the experience of listening to an album in an attempt to entice you into buying it. Rather, I leave it to you to check it out, and form your own opinion. The process that created a work is always most interesting to me, so I am happy that I had the chance to talk to kaRIN and statik about how this album came into being…
James Curcio: The first thing that stood out to me on this album was that it seemed to be more collaborative than your previous work. Correct me if I’m wrong on this, but it feels to me that Collide really took a step forward in that regard, and several others. After so many years with the two of you primarily working as a “two headed monster” (as it were), what was it like opening the songwriting process up to other band members and contributors?
kaRIN: The primary song writing for Collide is still primarily Statik and myself. Over the years, we are just trying to evolve as much as we can and not make the same songs over again. We were very lucky to have gathered up some great live players, so the live influence and the fact that all of our live members contributed to each of the songs is definitely evident on Two Headed Monster.
One of the songs, ‘Pure Bliss’ was co-written by Scott Landes, who is our live guitar player and a super talented guy. In this case, he sent us the initial framework of the song.
Statik: What we usually do is bring in someone after kaRIN and I have worked out the basic structure, melody, and words of the song. I’m not really a guitar player, but I’ll usually have a pretty good idea of what I’m after… The fun part is trying to get what I’m after during a guitar session. It usually involves me singing and gesturing quite a bit. I’m sure if anyone else were watching they would think it was quite funny.
JC: Not surprisingly, there’s some buzz around Danny Carey‘s contribution on this album. His presence is certainly felt in the mix, but I felt like he really was aiming to contribute to the ensamble rather than “play out” and almost drive the machine the way he does with Tool. on those tracks you don’t get the sense of “oh it’s Danny Carey playing with Collide” but rather that it’s Collide, and the drums happen to be exceptionally tight and slick. This gets back to what I was asking before– can you tell me what it was like working with Danny on this, and how you felt the creative process went?
kaRIN: In this case, Danny added to the songs after they were pretty much formed. Danny is a good friend of ours and we have known him for years. Before there was a Collide, and pretty much before anyone knew who Tool was, Statik worked on Tool’s first full CD Undertow.
When you just happen to know the best drummer in the world, it’s pretty cool if you can just ask him to play on your CD. Just when we were at the stage of having Danny play on it, he had an unfortunate tangle with a sea creature of some sort and his hand was pretty damaged.
He had to have a few operations on it, so we were not sure if it was going to happen at all.
We were super lucky to have him play on it. Danny is an amazing drummer and can actually speak with his drums. I would love to see the collaboration go further.
Statik: It was funny, because it worked out about the same way it worked out on Some Kind of Strange. We just weren’t sure if he was going to be able to play on it or not, so we just went ahead as if he wasn’t going to play on it. The programmed drums were all done, and I already had Chaz (our live drummer) in to do a session and had all of his drums edited. When we found out Danny was going to be able to play, I recorded his drums in his studio and then went back in and had to figure out how to make everything work. A couple of songs had two live drummers plus the programmed drums. I wouldn’t have wanted to do that if i were to start a song from scratch, but it’s just how it worked out. There were parts of all of the different drums that I liked so I just tried to accentuate the different drums on different parts of the song.
JC: I imagine that made for a quite an elaborate mixing and mastering process. I know a lot of time and thought goes into the mixing and mastering of any album. Some of that thought winds up going towards the environment where you imagine it will be played the most. This album sounds to me like it was mixed for club play – not that it doesn’t sound good on home systems but it has an unusually strong low frequency that rattles the room on good monitors.
Not the way an album destined mostly for laptop speakers and earbuds is mixed or mastered. First off, would you say that is true? Are you shooting for a lot of club play? Secondly, what was this part of the process like? What did you have in mind?
Statik: I don’t shoot for club play, but I do listen on a very full range system. I of course check out the mixes on laptop speakers too, but I want to make sure that if someone is listening to the mixes, from an actual cd (as opposed to an mp3) on a system with bass that it’s going to sound right. As I mix, I’m constantly making a cd with all of the mixes on it, and bringing it with me in the car when I drive, or in my boom box… by the time the CD’s done, I’ve listened to it in so many places it’s not even funny. So… hopefully by the time I get to mastering, I’m not really surprised. I know it can happen, and I hate it when, early in the mixing process, I’m listening somewhere new, and I’m like… hey, what is with that sound jumping out, or what’s with the low end on that synth? That wasn’t supposed to be there. I don’t know…it’s weird how different places really make me hear differently, but I think it’s an important aspect of mixing.
JC: Yes. On more than one occasion I thought I had an album done, working on flat monitors, and then I’d throw it in a car system when with a friend, and get a rather unpleasant surprise. It’s both a rewarding and frustrating process.
How does the lyric-writing process usually interlock with the songwriting process? Is there a regular way it flows- for instance oftentimes leading with lyrics or a vocal melody, rather than music, or the other way around? Or has it always been a song-by-song basis?
kaRIN: When I work with music typically I am given a rough framework of musical ideas…which gives me placement, mood and something to re-act to. I work by myself to totally get inside the song and turn it inside out until I feel it is working and then Statik and I go back and forth to further develop the song.
JC: What are the touring plans with this album? Who is going to be on the tour?
kaRIN: No plans at the moment… other than to take a short break and then get back into the studio. We are and always have been creatively driven. If an offer came up for touring that we just could not resist we would have to think about it…but ultimately that takes us away from what we really want to be doing which is making new music.