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David Castell on Recording with Blue October, Famous Drummers, and DFW's Finest

David Castell on Recording with Blue October, Famous Drummers, and DFW's Finest
David Castell (R) with The Band Hell, Texas.

We caught up with producer David Castell here a couple years ago, but he's been up to an awful lot since then.

Castell has produced, mixed, mastered and otherwise had his hands in local music dating all the way back to the early '90s, and he shows no sign of slowing...or aging really, for that matter. David Castell was a force behind DFW records from Course of Empire, Deep Blue Something, Edie Brickell, Burden Brothers, Bowling for Soup, Paul Slavens, Smile Smile, South FM, the Feds, Zac Maloy of The Nixons, The Electromagnetics and many more.

I hear, among other things, you've been in the studio with Spot again! Spot, from the '90s. That Spot?

I was a huge fan of Spot back in the day so I was so excited when Chad and Reggie Reuffer and Davis Brickston asked me to record and produce their new release Splatter, Splash.

Wow. Spot is back again with a new EP.

These guys are so talented and I am so proud of this little EP. I hope I did the songs justice. All four tracks on Splatter Splash are awesome but there's a song called "So Happy" that I can't stop listening to - incredible lyrics and melody. The EP is already on Spotify and iTunes. Bass master Dave Prez recently joined the band and there's going to be an official CD release party at Lola's in Ft. Worth June 29th.

Aren't you also working with some of the gang from Buck Jones?

Back in the mid-'90s, around the same time Spot released their hit, "Moon, June Spoon", I was producing Buck Jones' "Shimmer". I still think that is a great record filled with wonderful songs and I was really disappointed it didn't get more traction. When Buck Jones disbanded, Gabby and Burette moved to Vermont and started The Cush. Ten years and 2 critically acclaimed records later, I get to help The Cush with their 3rd release. I oversaw the recording of Todd Harwell (Doosu) on drums and will be mixing and mastering. The Douglases are cutting the rest of the parts at their place. The songs are incredible and the tracks they're sending me sound big It's going to be another great record. We'll be wrapping up this summer.

Since last we spoke, you've gotten married. Has life changed much as a result?

I met my wife, Brynna, in San Antonio while I was producing Blowing Trees for Glassnote Records. So you could say music brought us together. We had a long distance relationship for over two years and shared a lot of playlists. It's great getting to know someone through the music they love. She's a big Toadies fan and when the band asked me to produce "No Deliverance" she was impressed - thanks guys! It's so amazing to have a partner and best friend who has great taste and is a music fan. We went to a wedding in Japan last fall, and saw amazing and inspirationl things, but one of the most memorable experiences we both had was watching my cousin, Ayumu tear it up on bass with his punk band in a tiny little club in Tokyo! We had no idea what they were singing about but it didn't matter - the energy of a pounding rock beat translates in any language. So yeah, I am definitely a happily married man!

What have you been up to in the studio recently? I saw pics you posted of a string session.

I just finished four and a half months of recording and mixing with Blue October. The sessions covered a lot of ground writing and recording in Nashville, San Marcos and Austin. The string pics are from The Firestation in San Marcos - great room and great people down there. Blue's multi-instrumentalist, Ryan Delahoussaye and I literally built up an entire orchestra one string part at a time.We arranged multiple chairs around the mics and Ryan layered all the violin and viola parts by sitting in a different chair for each part.

Recording a string section sounds meticulous..and patience-trying!

It. Took. Forever. But it sounded beautiful! Steve Bernal formerly of Grand Street Cryers played cello. Kevin Butler of Test Tube Audio helped me on the engineering side. Tim Palmer worked his usual magic covering most of the mixing duties at '62 Studios . The album sounds amazing if I do say so myself. the new LP is called "Sway". Comes out August 20.

Lets geek out for a second. New studio toys?

Every time I turn around someone's coming out with a new piece of gear or groundbreaking plugin! Without getting too technical, the analog emulation plugins [software versions of vintage equipment] have come so far in the last few years that I opened an all digital online mixing and mastering service. There is a lot of on-line mastering available these days but there aren't many affordable options with engineers who have actually worked on hit records. With the advent of this new technology, I felt I could offer a great service at an affordablet price. Derek Taylor has partnered with me in bringing this service to the masses. It's been great mixing and mastering so many different types of projects from all over the US and Canada.

All over North America? Anything quirky or exotic?

I'll be mastering a Civil War period ensemble one day and a Canadian punk band the next day. I started mastering some Hawaiian reggae R&B pop for a couple of Hawaiian producers. One of the bands is Neisian N.I.N.E. Smooth stacked vocals, big fat bass - it's so fun to work on!

 

And, of course, how about hometown projects?

Glad you asked! Lot's of new and exciting stuff going on with dear friends! I have been very fortunate and so honored to work with some of the very best bands and musicians in North Texas. Whether classically trained or self-taught, I have been spoiled with the level of artistry and musicianship in this area over the last thirty plus years.

Thirty Years. Seriously, congratualtions! What was the first thing you ever produced in DFW?

Thirty years. Ouch. The first album I ever produced was Zane Gray's Window to the West. Among the members; now legendary session drummer Matt Chamberlain; Mike Dillon (Billygoat, Ani DiFranco, Les Claypool, The Mike Dillon Band) on percussion ; Chris Lindsay on lead vocals. Like so many musicians, Matt and Mike relocated to North Texas to attend UNT. But Chris and I both grew up here and were band geeks at North Garland High School. Chris moved to Nashville in the early 90's and has become one the most successful songwriters that town has ever produced - almost 100 million records to date. Chris invited Justin (Blue October) and I to do a two-day co-write and recording session at his place earlier this year. It was an amazing and inspiring experience with an old friend. It's so true that great artists make it look easy!

Being a drummer myself, I have to ask you to laundry list the drummers you work with. Recording drums is a special area of expertise for you, I know. Roll off some names for us.

I know you'll recognize all of these guys, being a drummer yourself. I have been so spoiled with recording some of the greatest drummers in the world. Matt Chamberlain (10 Hands, Billy Goat, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, Bowie, Clapton, Springsteen) , Earl Harvin (10 Hands, Seal, The The, Air), Jack Irons (Buck Pets, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Eleven), Dave Abbruzzese (GRO, Pearl Jam, Stevie Salas), Al Emert (10 Hands, Billygoat, Brave Combo) Taz Bentley (Rev Horton Heat, Burden Brothers, Izzy Stradlin), Michael Jerome (Course of Empire, Pop Poppins, Cottonmouth TX, Better Than Ezra) but out of all of them, I have to say that if Led Zepplin got back together, Taz Bentley would be my drummer of choice! He's the most John Bonham-esque drummer I have ever recorded - amazing feel.

I love Taz's playing on Reverend Horton Heat's "Full Custom Gospel Sounds". He did get very Bonham-like on the Burden Brothers stuff, yes.

I first recorded Taz when he was in Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! with Barry Kooda in the late '80s. 15 years later we were back in the studio together cutting The Burden Brothers "Buried in Your Black Heart" album followed 3 years later by The Burden Brother's "Mercy". As of late, he's been playing in the studio with Izzy Stradlin, but he's also been getting his feet wet playing guitar and lead singing for his band Hell, Texas. Along with Kenny Withrow, Spyche Bonjiovi and Aaron Lyons, Taz has been recording with Paul Williams for the past few months and I've lent a hand with vocal production and mixing. They've got some killer tracks so far and I'm really excited to see how the rest of it turns out. I'd like to add that being as great a drummer as Taz is, I really respect his courage to get out from behind the drums and do something he's been itching to do for a long time. It's so great to see people stepping out of their comfort zones, stretching and challenging themselves to do new things.

I also know you did new stuff with Here Holy Spain and Descender that's coming out as a split EP?

Yes! Mixing songs with large track counts is pretty common these days but I mixed a couple of Here Holy Spain tunes that had just one guitar track... and it's slammin'! Love it. Speaking of love - I have to add - when (Here Holy Spain vocalist/guitarist) Wes Todd isn't working with his own band, he's out on the road tour-managing for The Toadies. And when he's not out with the Toadies, he's on the road with Reverend Horton Heat. And when he's not out with the Rev, he's going to shows in Deep Ellum supporting other bands. The guy is a music loving machine and I love him for it.

He also sports a Bill Hicks-meets-G.G. Allin sense of humor.

Yes, and did I mention he's also in school working on his degree? The guy's a phenom. Sweet, prompt, professional, passionate - Wes, dude, you're on fire. Anyway, back to the split release. My buddy, Derek Taylor mixed and mastered the Descender half. Jeff Saenz and Casey Di lorio recorded the tracks. It's coming out on vinyl and digital July 30 on Idol Records but will be available at the release show with Brutal Juice / Bobgoblin / Descender / Here Holy Spain July 27.

Who else? I know you're not done.

Whiskey Pants! What a name for a band. My dear friends Kirk Tatom (Deep Blue Something, Evamore, Atom 12) and Greg Beutel (Evamore, Grand Street Cryers) started an acoustic duo several years ago. Now they're booked solid, playing country clubs and private parties. They both write killer tunes and sing like birds so we started recording an EP last year. We hope to have it done in the next couple of months. Also, last year I got to master a local band, Plowboy. A great friend of mine, Brandon Smith (Billygoat), produced and mixed the project.

Plowboy was just mentioned a couple weeks ago in this column by someone.

The album is called "Headlong and Roaming" and it's a pretty amazing record especially since the average age of the band is 15! I love "Butterfly Tatoo". It's on Spotify - check it out!

Parting shots, before you spin off in a productive whirlwind?

In closing, I'd like to thank Bart Rose out at Ft Worth Sound for helping me get great drum tracks on Spot, The Cush and Whiskey Pants. It's where I've been going to get most my drums for a couple a years now. Great guy and a great studio.

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