Sunday, August 16, 2009

Forever Young by Audra Mae (alternate version)

When Kurt asked me to find a lullaby to open episode 112 last year, I thought Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” would be great.

This was a very heavy episode culminating with the murder of Donna. Because the script called for the same song to end the episode, I’d have to come up with a different version that could underscore each characters reaction to the tragedy.

This process of discovery generally takes me through some changes, both musically and psychically. In TV, things move really fast, and It’s hard to figure out what is going to work without seeing the picture. Trying to gauge what the scene will ultimately need is highly intuitive to say the least....

One thing I knew for sure - Audra Mae had the voice to sing the song. Ultimately, the sheer emotion of her voice naked, without any instruments backing her up, was as powerful as anything that would carry the closing montage so we did not use this recorded version. We took the instrumentation out and let her solo voice carry the last 3+ minutes of the episode.

Here's Audra singing Forever Young with a pretty awesome band consisting of Val McCallum, Greg Leisz, Larry Goldings, Davey Faragher, Aaron Sterling and yours truly...

Forever Young by Audra Mae

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I had dinner at Osteria Mozza with my friend Murray one night last March. It really tweaked my brain. Seriously. I think this would explain why....

1. Afetati Misti with gnocco fritti - mortadella, agrumi, speck, and prosciutto.
2. Tripe alla Parmagiana
3. Mussels with Passato and chiles
4. Burrata with Asparagus, brown butter, guanciale, and Sicilian Almonds
5. Sheep's Milk Ricotta with Trufflebert Farms hazelnuts, and Aillade toasts.
6. Calf's Brain Ravioli with sage and lemon.
7. Linguine with clams, pancetta, and Fresno chiles
8. Braised Rabbit and Rabbit sausage.
9. Sweetbreads Piccata with Artichokes.
10. Fried Fingerling Potatoes with rosemary
11. Wild Spinach
12. Rosemary olive oil cakes with olive oil gelato
13. Fritelle di Riso with Nocello soaked raisins and banana gelato
14. Apple Borselino with apple cider jelly gelato and caramel sauce
15. And one other dessert but I'm too food drunk to remember.
16. Purge and start again.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Paul Brady

Most mornings, you can find me sitting in PEET’s coffee listening to music. Love these Shure 201 noise canceling earbuds.

This morning, Sunday, the shuffle mode is taking me all over the place and nothing has stuck to my heart like the song that just came on.

Paul Brady. I admit I was a little late coming to the party. But thanks to Dillon O'Brian and Curtis Stigers, I did finally get here...

This should put some ease to your soul as it rips it to pieces at the same time. Quite a feat.

The Lakes Of Pontchartrain

Thursday, August 06, 2009


My Dad produced a lot of John Coltrane recordings. Pretty much everything on IMPULSE! I don't know the actual number, but I'd say that in the six plus years they worked together, they must have recorded at least four albums a year. A lot of the records were never released during Coltrane's lifetime. Fact is, Dad used to hide the sessions from ABC, Impulse's parent company. They thought it was ridiculous that Coltrane was making all these records in the first place... But they let my Dad run the label and he saw fit to let John go in the studio whenever he wanted to go. Pretty amazing collaboration. Don't see that anymore!

Here is a track from the album Meditations. I offer this for no specific reason. It just came up on my iTunes and I'm trying to blog as much as I can to make this a habit...


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Fortunate Son

Back in the production days of season 1 (seems like a long, long time ago) Kurt had the idea to close episode 108 with an instrumental version of “Fortunate Son.” The dramatic flow that was occurring on screen had a lot to do with sons, some fortunate and some not so. I got together with the awesomely talented Lyle Workman and we recorded this one morning at his Burbank studio. Brian Scheuble, another one of the great LA recording engineer/mixers that I can call friend, made this piece of music sound that much more rich and compelling.

A bunch of fans have been talking this piece up on the various message boards. Well, for those fortunate sons (and daughters) who have stumbled on to this site, here is your reward...

Fortunate Son

John The Revelator

Kurt from the beginning wanted to use the song John The Revelator. Funny, when we were prepping the pilot, long before FX had ordered a season’s worth of episode, I was immersing myself in music that I might think relevant to the show. I was formulating my musical palette (without having scene a single frame of footage... we had yet to begun filming.) Among the artists I’d been listening to was Son House. His version of “Death Letter” has always been a harrowing recording that moves the dead. And I had reacquainted myself with his version of John The Revelator as well. I pulled them both into my Sons Of Anarchy iTunes playlist that I was compiling. (Today, the list is 500 recordings strong.)

Cut to last October.

The finale (“Revelator”) was shot and it was time to put music to picture. Kurt wanted score to underly the entirety of ACT IV. Six plus minutes of music with some specific emotional touch points that I would need to respect. (As watchers of SoA can gather, we don’t ‘score’ the show in a traditional way, looking to incorporate stabs and stings at those moments where the gun goes of or the bikes rev up.) So this was going to be something new for me. How to score a long passage without it sounding like score...

I brought out my Collings D-3 acoustic guitar and tuned it to an open chord. (I believe it was D but it might be G.) And then I watched the picture and started to play. Luckily, the microphone was in the right place as I watched the picture. My intention was to create a tonal sense of what could/would work with picture. It was a sketch at best. Certainly nothing that I anticipated would be usable. Anyway, I did one solid pass of guitar playing up to the point where Kurt said he wanted the song John The Revelator to come in. I sent my musical musings off to Kurt and he dug it. He dug it so much that it was THE version that stuck in the actual episode. (I often find myself trying to improve on my ‘sketches/demos’ and the results are never as good. Lessons #1 right there!)

Now - the main course. Recording John The Revelator. I knew that Curtis Stigers was the voice! No doubt about that. He sings the main title theme so brilliantly, I think of him as a cast member sometimes. I enlisted some of my favorite musicians to meet up at The Pass in LA, Dave Way’s awesome studio. Dave would also engineer. He confided that he was a bit anxious as he’d not recorded drums in his studio in a while. (Most of his work is mixing and producing with a deep passion for garage-type recordings at his awesome home studio. 3 mics on the drums. MAX.)

Brian Macleod, my fave drummer and another perennial in my SoA arsenal, played with my guitar accompaniment. He watched me through the glass as I signaled dynamic changes. I love it when the process is this organic and unrehearsed. (On a musical note, what I love about this show is that it requires a certain spontaneity that you just don’t want to rehearse much. It’s about feeling.)

So Brian is rocking it and Greg Leisz (string master most extrraordinaire) is playing lap steel, punctuating lines with his unique tonal shifts and transitions. Greg is ridiculously good; no mistake why he is as valued as he is by so many artists and producers. (Check him out on for a peak at an amazing career.) Greg finished his lap steel part and then proceeded to mandolin. Fantastic....

Davey Faragher, my favorite bass player in the world, was ready to play but as the song unfolded I just motioned to him to lay out. I was looking for the right entrance. It just felt like he should enter for the final tag. This came when Piney tells Jax that it is “time for a change...” The deep ringing sentiment of that line, what could underscore the profound foreboding of those words? I didn’t want to make a BIG deal out of it musically, but by the same token, it needed some power. It felt like those deep bass notes from Davey were all that was needed.

My friends Gia Ciambotti and Kim Yarborough added this haunting and powerful background vocal line that explodes. I love their sound. Been looking for a section like that for a very long time....

So all that was needed - Curtis’ vocal. As I said, I knew his was the voice to sing this song. Curtis gets Son House. He gets B.B. King too. Frank Sinatra. Shaw Colvin. Van Morrison. He has great taste and he’s got his own sound. (Have I stressed how IMPORTANT that is?) Needless to say, he pretty much killed it (in the best possible way.)

Ed Cherney mixed it. Ed FUCKING Cherney!!! This guy is Hall Of Fame brilliant! By the way, Ed asked, “Who recorded these drums? They sound fantastic.”) Dave Way! 5 microphones. Nice Dave. A Grammy winning engineer paying you the supreme compliment.

I guess the subtext of all this is that I am really good at getting a bunch of incredibly talented people together to make me look like a genius....

The SoA Process

I’ve been very fortunate in this life to do many things that have given me great creative and professional satisfaction. I’m one of the lucky ones!

So, here I am at Chapter 47 in my life’s story. Funny how when I think it can’t get better than this, it somehow manages to do so. Working with a bunch of wild-eyed, passionate individuals who are creating this awesome television series called SONS OF ANARCHY, that's my day job!

So, for the next I don’t know how long, I’ll probably do some writing on this show and the process. How great it is to have people out there, fans, who feel as passionately as do those of us behind the scenes and in front of the camera. To our music fans, I’ll try and give some background on what you all are hearing each week.

This could turn into ramblings about the musical process that some might find boring, pompous and self-important. If I do come off as that to any of you readers, I apologize in advance. I’m not a writer and I don’t want to spend too much time editing my musings. I also believe there are some people out there who want to know about my process and some of the technical aspects of how we get to where we get...