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His production philosophy was reflected in the working relationship that Brave Combo had with the late Tiny Tim. "There was a part of him that was very much like us...an affinity for 'old' music and the impact [it] has had on 'new' music." he says. "That's very similar to what we do. We take old music and try to have it make sense for people who are living currently."
Finch has a special fondness for voice: "Very important to me, speaking as a producer. I have to find something...intoxicating about the sound of a person's voice. I love the idea that a person's voice is a unique stamp.
"I think as a producer it's really not your job to do what the artist wants," he adds. "You have to see beyond that. A lot of [producers] go into a studio and help the artist fulfill their vision; that's not my thing. Sometimes I can find the special-ness there that [the singer is] not aware of necessarily."
Finch's production philosophy involves striking a balance between what's cool and "what works with the music from a traditional point of view," he says. "So it's still polka music, yet the sound is palatable in terms of 'hip' society. In a lot of ways, everything kind of boils down to that. When you're in the business of selling records and trying to get airplay, everybody's playing pop music. It's hard to get away from."
Since his days as a new-wave visionary in Austin's The Pool, Patrick Keel has always searched for the pulse of tomorrow's music. He moved to Dallas at the dawn of Deep Ellum, founded with David Dennard the mightily influential Dragon Street Records, and has continued to spiral outward. Recently, Keel has ventured into academia as the innovator of Business of Music courses in the Dallas County Community College system. Keel and his students came up with the concept of the Eat Yer Vegetables CDs--class-sponsored, -recorded and -produced compilations featuring local acts.
The first featured a group called Dead City Radio, and their song, "Angie Wood," was a bona fide local hit. That group, of course, became the Grand Street Cryers, and Keel's scholastic projects garnered the respect, credibility, and power they deserved; a second volume of Vegetables is now available, and Keel remains busy in commercial recording pursuits as well.
Chad Lovell (winner)
The travails of Course of Empire might just have been the best thing to happen to local music in a long time. The band's decision to build their own studio in order to record their follow-up to Initiation--once derided and second-guessed--has become a reason to rejoice. The pregnant pause in COE's career forced drummer Chad Lovell to find a way of fighting boredom--if not a second job. Whether helping Doosu churn, Crimson Clay soar, the Lone Star Trio reinvent itself an Strap, or Funland dance (on the over-the-top "Bleed Like Anyone"), Lovell's hands and ears in COE's studio have shaped some of the most notable recordings of the last year.
Lovell considers himself a musician foremost: "I don't consider myself a producer the way Castell and the rest of those guys are. I mean, that's what they do. I'm just dabbling with it, a tech-dweeb guy who likes to twirl knobs and stuff.
"I just wanted to help some friends," he adds. "It's a way to give back a little, a way to share the wealth, so to speak." He pauses. "You know, I needed a way to stay around music, but I didn't want to go out and play drums with every band in town like Michael Jerome," he adds with a laugh, taking a gentle jab at his fellow COE drummer.
With the band finally adding a couple of tracks on their forever-upcoming album, Lovell no longer has to dabble with producing others to be around music. But don't tell the locals that. "I can't really do anything right now, because we need the studio," he says. "But people keep calling me--I guess I've taken on more than I thought. It's weird to be in a position where people really want your help, but you can't do anything about it."
"I'm sort of the 'cut-rate recording guy,'" Sam McCall says, explaining his penchant for working with untried talent. "A lot of the bands that come to me have never recorded before, and so I end up having to help them define their sound--at least, their recorded sound."
For the past five years in Denton's music community, McCall has become known for something other than playing bass for Brutal Juice: You went to him when your cash-strapped band needed a quality recording. It's an invaluable service to UNT student budgets; a McCall recording, usually recorded in an old house near the UNT campus, is renowned for quality approaching that of an expensive studio. The one band that tested the limits of his low-cost, low-tech values was The Grown-Ups, McCall recalls. "I just had a little eight-track, and they had so many instruments. They were a bunch of young kids with a lot of enthusiasm, and it was fun getting all of that onto tape," he says, sounding surprised. "I'm really proud of that 10-inch that they put out on Direct Hit."