“Make sure that hook is big enough to catch a whale”- Jim Bacchi
|Fuzzbubble in motion (Photo by Larry Busacca)
I am absolutely thrilled that Fuzzbubble (and now Cult Stars From Mars) members Jim Bacchi and Jason Camiolo have agreed to answer a few questions for me.
Don't Let It Get You Down (Youtube Audio)
N: “Don’t Let It Get You Down” is one of those rare perfect pop songs— one of those songs that sounds like it has existed since the beginning of time. Do you guys remember the evolution of the song’s chorus— that killer melody and harmony? Did it emerge as a pretty fully-formed piece of music, or did it go through various iterations before what we hear on the album?
Jim: Thank you for that compliment. It’s one of my most prized songs.
I remember exactly how that song happened. Probably 1996…I was in my apartment in Hollywood, getting my day started. I was listening to a Seattle band called FLOP (the “Fall of the Mopsqueezer” album)…the song that was playing was called “Big Sky”, which unbeknownst to me was actually a KINKS cover…now, you’d think I’d know that being a power pop fan, but I’ve never been that big of a fan of The Kinks (I know right? Powerpop 101 right there, but I just never really connected with them).
Anyway, the last line of the song is: “don’t let it get you down.” It was a really nice melodic phrase, but it was that lyric that caught me. So, I immediately shut the CD off and picked up my cheap 1960’s Kawaii Jaguar copy, and the song literally just came gushing out. Literally written in like 30 minutes--maybe except for some lyrics-- which may have taken more time, but not much.
Somewhere in the middle of that 30 minute burst of creativity, Brett (our bass player) called me. The band had moved out to Hollywood to put Fuzzbubble together at the beginning of that year…anyway, he just called to see what was up, and I was like “I just wrote this amazing song,” and I think I may have played it for him. Anyway, we got together, rehearsed it up, and recorded it not too long after that.
I still remember the whole thing, because it happened so fast. Sometimes the best songs just happen like that.
Jason: I remember recording the demo of that song on Mother’s Day of 1996 in LA - (I think the studio was "The Sandbox") and phoning back to NY to wish my mom a Happy Mother’s Day… Jimmy showed it to us and we loved it right away. Obviously Beatle-esque, but I recall talking about The Raspberries influence, and for me--drumming-wise anyway-- there’s a lot of Bun E. Carlos (Cheap Trick) --or at least my attempt at him-- in there. As with most Fuzzbubble songs’ drums - lots of Ringo, and lots of Bun E. influence.
Bliss (Youtube Audio)
N: You guys talked (in the podcast) about your harder rock influences. I always felt like there was more to that edge than just the remnants of grunge--it was just too sincere. Of course you come right out of the gate with "Bliss"-one of the hardest hitting/ most defiant power pop songs ever written. Do you remember what gave you that unapologetic "band versus the world" vitriol? Where did that blood and vinegar----that rocket fuel---come from?
Jason: I will let Jim answer as he is the main writer and ‘visionary’ of the band… but as an aside, we are also legitimate and ardent hard-rock and heavy metal fans, and all four of us played in much ‘harder & heavier’ bands prior to Fuzzbubble.
Jim: The song is actually not "band vs world"-- it's "Jim vs world". It's a song of introspection-- a very personal song about not fitting in, and always feeling like (as the great Neil Peart once described in the song "Subdivisions") "the dreamer and the misfit so alone". It's about always feeling wrong about who you are, and finally saying "fuck, everyone is crazy…but I'm alright".
It was definitely musically influenced by the Foo Fighters’ song “I’ll Stick Around”. I was listening to that first album a lot at the time I wrote “Bliss”. I liked the melodic, yet aggressive feel.
Jason: I also love Dave Grohl-- especially his drumming-- and it’s no surprise he’s a fan of The Beatles and Cheap Trick. In a weird 'twist' we would eventually have a single (“Out There”) on the soundtrack to Godzilla, along with the Foo Fighters (“A320”). Dave Grohl also played drums on the studio recording of “All About the Benjamins - Rock Remix”, which we played live a few times (including with Slash at NetAid in ‘98).
Rockstar Parking (Youtube Audio)
N: If a young band came to you guys with a demo/ some song ideas, and said they needed it to "sound like Fuzzbubble", what kinds of pointers would you offer? Anything in terms of composition, attitude, or recording (I know you have a lot of studio experience Jim)?
Jim: Well, sonically speaking, a few things.
A big part of the Fuzzbubble sound is that the bass guitar is dirty, and the guitars are on the cleaner, less distorted side. Not “jangly clean” like The Byrds, but kind of cranked up and clanging…or as Chip Z’nuff told us: “Beatles with Balls”. That about sums it up.
Drums? Ringo and Bun E Carlos. I’ll let Jay answer this one, but for me: a nice, ringing, open sounding drum kit, and a swingy feel to the beats.
Vocals? Harmonies…but not just harmonizing along with the lead vocals-- actual question and answer harmony parts…like the Beatles do. Counter-melodies to the lead vocal. Also, just singing a straight 3 part harmony is cool, but a nice tension harmony always makes things way more interesting.
In terms of composition: Make sure that hook is big enough to catch a whale. That chorus needs to be melodic and catchy. You want to hear that song once and remember the hook. Hard to do, but it’s what I always aim for. Make sure you create a nice tension building up to the chorus, and with 2 guitars it’s always nice to have the guitars doing different things at times, as well as playing the same part for impact as well-- switch back and forth. It gives the song more dimension, then more impact when they double the same part.
Recording…well, most of the Fuzzbubble material was recorded on 2” tape…no, copy/paste option…you just did it, and tried to punch in any mistakes. Now things are way different-- it’s a lot easier to fix things. While I do record the modern way now, I AM glad that I learned to engineer and record the old fashioned way. The real fun is recording the new way, and getting it to sound like the old way. It’s what everyone wants, and that’s why there are so many vintage style plug ins...and I own most of them, LOL.
Jason: Funny, because I wasn’t reading ahead here, and when I got to Jim’s comments about the drums I laughed!
Yes, exactly! Ringo Starr & Bun E. Carlos definitely make up the bulk of my influence as far as ‘Fuzzbubble - Drums’ are concerned. I would add Clem Burke (Blondie) and Andy Sturmer (Jellyfish) as well. I do love Roger Taylor of Queen too - and MANY more!
But, the overarching idea here as ‘advice for the drummer’ from me would be this: “You’re not here to play the drums… you’re here to play drums in these songs.” Meaning: As much as I am also a fan of prog rock and metal and many other very "technical" drummers (Neil Peart, Terry Bozzio, Danny Carey…), that’s not the ‘vibe’ for a Fuzzbubble or power-pop band (in my opinion).
The drums/ drummer are a 'support role’ –to ‘groove’ or ’swing’ or ‘drive’ the SONG. This is pretty much my mantra for the new project (Cult Stars From Mars). Although I’m only, or always, playing drums… I make some appearances on keyboards and bass as well in the new project. So far... ; )
I was interested to learn that Jason has two sons who are roughly the same age I was when I discovered Fuzzbubble. So, do they think their dad's music is pretty cool?
Maxwell (12): Yeah.
Ian (11): Kind of. No offense but I was born in a different time period.
So there you have it! Again, if you haven't added the podcast to your bookmarks, here it is: Podcast From Mars
Exciting things in the works...