“Death to the Traitor” Session 1 COMPLETE!

Greetings, Detholians, and forgive my protracted absence from the blogosphere!

Over these past weeks, I have been caught in the undertow of a magical tsunami, madly writing orchestral scores, mastering the new Baby Teeth record (ETA July 09!) and disappearing to distant lands to start the tracking process on the new Detholz! record, “Death to the Traitor.” These are the times in life when I am truly grateful to be in music — it feels like living inside a pleasant dream and not at all like work, despite the lack of sleep, late nights and near total and constant physical exhaustion.

I have no track to offer this week, just an old-fashioned blah-blah-blog about our 4-day marathon session at Key Club, Bill Skibbe’s fantastical recording emporium in the unlikely burg of Benton Harbor, Michigan.

Utilizing the classic Prussian Dao of Detholz!, we were able to complete basic tracking for 10 songs in just two days. For this recording, we have enlisted the services of the giant brain of the tiny master impresario, Bobby Conn, who has given 110% thus far in making this record the best Detholz! outing to date. Arrangements have been improved, thanks to Bobby (including a significant overhaul of the songs “Catherine Zeta-Jones” and the title track, “Death to the Traitor”), bongos have been expertly played by our keyboardist/Zen Master-in-residence, Jon Steinmeier (why not visit him today at jonsteinmeier.com ?), theremin has been not-so-expertly tracked by yours truly, as well as a host of other goodies as we flesh out this unseemly beast.

Recording is by far my favorite part of playing in bands and our session last weekend proved my favoritism is well-placed. Key Club is the perfect place to make a record– it’s far enough away from anything that an epic odyssey is almost always required before you begin the recording process. This record was no exception– we migrated there in a caravan in near white-out conditions.

Once you are there, you are in a magic cave. Time literally ceases to exist — it has no meaning whatsoever. This is the perfect environment in which to make a recording because, as I am loath to admit, recording has more to do with “vibe” — how you’re feeling at a particular moment in time– than it does with raw preparation, musicianship, or even the science of recording. It always pays to be prepared going into a studio, of course. The last thing you want to have to do is spend money on time to practice when you should be tracking. Simultaneously, I think it’s possible to be OVER-prepared for a studio session. You want to leave room for magic-making, improvisation, and a little dash of old-fashioned chaos.

There was plenty of all three in our session. You will not recognize a lot of the songs from the demos I’ve posted here over the past few years– which is a good thing. The session (and hence the songs) took on a life and breath all its own. We want this record to be a little more organic in scope than our past highly controlled albums — the material is a little looser and needs to breathe a little easier than our past gyroscopic contraptions.

That’s exactly what we got. There’s even material that, dare I say, sounds downright sexy. And, as a great man once said, “What’s wrong with being sexy?”

We are very, very excited to be cooking up this violent, bloody dish for you. As Flannery O’Connor once said, “a writer with Christian concerns need[s] to take ever more violent means to get her vision across.” This is shaping up to be what we hope you find to be a delicious and challenging cannibalistic feast to enrich both your flesh and your spirit.

We go back to Key Club for Round 2 this weekend. Another update to follow next week…


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14 Responses to ““Death to the Traitor” Session 1 COMPLETE!”

  1. bp Says:

    Keep up the good work, Detholz! And well-said, Jim, about preparing vs. over-preparing for recording sessions. Looking forward to hearing the record!

  2. Fragile Porpoise Says:

    Horrorshow news. I’m very much anticipating the new album.
    Yes, Napoleon Tex will be included? Yes?
    Is your silence an affirmative? Can you not say? Too many questions, not enough answers.

  3. Jim Says:

    Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!

    That’s all great news. I’m really happy for all of you for the luck you’ve had with the session. The vibe can make or break for sure. And I CAN’T WAIT to hear it all.

  4. detholz Says:

    bp: Thank you! I think you’ll be surprised at some of the sounds on this one. One track was literally saved by running drums thru a vintage Echo-Plex– totally opened Andrew’s playing up. Amazing how it just tripped this switch for him– the song went from “not working” to “great” in a few short minutes.

    Porp: Unfortunately, Tex didn’t make it past the cutting floor. We had an evening a few months ago where we listened through all of the demos & the final song order was decided by majority vote. General consensus was that Tex creates a convincing “atmosphere,” but is ultimately not as coherent as some of the other demos.

    Remembering what an elephant that song was to write, I tend to agree. When you start getting lost in the trees as a songwriter & focusing too much on arrangement, you’ve lost the battle. The song will probably fail.

    DH! has always been sorta socialist with respect to songs– they belong to everyone in the band, not just me. When I finish the demos, I simply release them into the hands of the rest of the group. Sometimes they’ll change the arrangements, sometimes they’ll do nothing, and other times, as with Tex, they’ll toss it in the B-side file. I have come to trust DH! groupthink implicitly over the years– the collective wisdom of the band with respect to individual songs is far sharper and more accurate than mine.

    I’m glad somebody somewhere gets something out of that song, however! In the end, it was worth writing if it reaches/moves even one person!

  5. detholz Says:

    Jim: Thanks, brother!

  6. Jim Says:

    So, uh…final song order, eh?

    You wouldn’t, uh, possibly feel like sharin’ that there info, would ya? Or are we gonna hafta wait?

  7. Fragile Porpoise Says:

    Aw, poor ol’ Tex. ‘Twas good times, that song.
    But I trust the judgment of you crazy kids and I’m sure the album will be no less fantastic for lack of that track.
    It’s probably not going to get played live, uh, *ever*, is it? Speaking of live performances… do you ever play Behold The Man? Just wondering. I would love to hear a live recording of that. Yeah, totally unrelated to the topic at hand, sorry.

    Knowing all the songs beforehand? Where’s the fun in that, sir Jim? [And I reckon here there should be a winking emoticon or something to that effect.]

  8. kebabdylan Says:

    you know, next time you are in Benton Harbor, we should really meet up for drinks or something… We are 20 minutes away.

    Very glad to hear this album thing is gettin’ on. Are you keeping some tracks secret? or can you tell me the status of lost weekend and zion?

  9. detholz Says:

    Jim: Afraid you’ll have to wait. We are mostly sure what the order will be, but there’s still some debate about that.

    Porp: Yeah, I doubt Tex will ever see the light of day. It was a 3/2 split in the band of “nay’s” to “aye’s.”

    We used to play Behold the Man at just about every show back in the Cast Out Devils days– it was in regular rotation when we toured with Wilco a few years ago. I think there’s an audio archive of one of those shows on the NPR website somewhere. If you dig you might find it.

    Also, a ton of old DH! live recordings are available on eMusic. I haven’t listened to them, but I’ve been told there are a few rarities amongst those, incl. the infamous “Time Traveling Peterbilt Semi,” which we only played once.

    ‘Bab: Looks like we’re postponing the second session so more of us can be present. But yeah, you might like to stop by and take a looksee– Bill’s studio is pretty amazing, including a room whose walls are completely lined with cut logs. It’s like being in an episode of Twin Peaks.

    Here’s a little sneak peek:

    Zion didn’t make the cut & got a pretty tepid response from the rest of the band. Ben and Karl hated it, Andrew loved it & Jonny was on the fence. Since I was also on the fence, we scrapped it.

    Lost Weekend… hm, well it was one of my favorite demos of the past year. It was a big hit with the band, too– the only demo to receive an unqualified 2 thumbs up from everyone.

    I have a LOT to say about that song & our experience recording it, but maybe I’ll save it for a bona fide post. Suffice it to say it’s undergone one hell of a makeover!

  10. Jim Says:


    Well, Yearning was good while it lasted.

  11. kebabdylan Says:

    what do karl and ben know anyway… I always like andrew best. And yes emusic as some performances of many classic detholz songs. great live version of we build this city and faith and that larry norman song to boot.

    and yes, jim, I’d love to check out the studio. that would be bitchin’

  12. detholz Says:

    Jim: I’m not convinced we couldn’t cut/paste the chorus into something else– I’m happy with it, for the most part. Problem is, usually when a song’s voted down, it stays down.

    Oh well. That’s why I do these demos– in the hopes that even the majority of material that gets voted down has an outlet somewhere (namely here!)

    ‘Bab: I’ll let you know when we schedule the next session — likely late May, at the earliest.

  13. Fragile Porpoise Says:

    That live version of Faith restored my faith in humanity.
    There’s also a version of Chapel of Love that fills me with Chicago pride.
    Good stuff.

  14. briansole Says:

    “Over these past weeks, I have been caught in the undertow of a magical tsunami,…”

    As long as you weren’t caught in a “Tsunami of Tsuckitude”.

    Good to see your back. I’ve been waiting to read your blog again.

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