When you create an account on Tumblr, they have a suggestion page of blogs you might like to follow. A Tumblr that happened to be listed at the time I joined was Pres Record Co., a blog with posts about record pressings produced by musician, Nick Waterhouse, along with photos and videos from live shows and show posters advertising upcoming ones. I clicked ‘follow’. Nick and his endeavors looked interesting. What an understatement. Since early this year, I’ve really enjoyed being exposed to his music and collaborations with groups like Allah-Las, The Turn-Keys and The Tarots. I really admire people who find a way to meet their goals. This was exactly what I wanted to ask him about. On Friday, August 19th at 1 PM my time and 10 AM his time, through too many Skype disconnections, I was able to do just that. Here are some of his words.
Hey, Gina. Hang on a second.
Sure. Do you mind if we video chat?
Um, I’m actually on my iPhone, so it’ll be my first time. But, I’ll try.
Alright. Can you see me?
Um, I see a picture of you. Can you see me?
I do see you.
There we are. [Pause] Hello? Hmm.. Dang. [Calls back] [Call isn’t connecting. Starting to get nervous.] That’s weird. [Call connects finally.]
Hi. That was weird.
Yeah. I think uh, I don’t know, it was because I went in the elevator. I keep forgetting this is on WIFI and not on regular phone line stuff. Do you need– is the video imperative, or…
No. It’s not.
Okay, this might be a– I don’t know if my connection can handle it because I’m outdoors.
Makes sense. I didn’t think about your um, like, location situation. So, that’s fine.
Yeah. Yeah, I have a day job where I can’t really talk in the office. So.
Oh, okay. Um, what’s your day job, if you don’t mind me asking?
Uh, I work for a, like a news website. I do um, editing for them. So, it’s like, it’s kind of like hyper-local news. I’m really not very invested in it.
[Laughs] Okay, fair enough. Um, well I wanted to start out by saying that I really enjoyed the Night Fog Reader mix you made for uh, Night Fog Reader… Sorry. [Laughs]
Oh, great. I did, too.
It was pretty rad. It didn’t leave my car stereo for a very long time.
Good. That’s a, the aim, I guess. I mean that’s, those are all, those are all songs that are very near and dear to me. So, I can listen to those again and again and again. You know, and if I find somebody else that feels the same way, they’re a very special person.
Alrighty, so my first question is what’s your first musical memory?
[Laughs] Um… I, I have this really strong memory of being maybe three or four in my uh, being in my dad’s car and he was playing, maybe it was the radio, but I remember asking him about “Get Off of My Cloud” by The Rolling Stones. [Laughs under his breath] And uh, I just thought that song was so cool as a child and it was so sort of, abstract to me, but that’s, you know.. I just remember saying “what does he mean?” And my dad trying to explain it. I don’t think he even explained it that well to me, but that, that for some reason really stuck with me.
That’s pretty neat. Um, if you weren’t in San Francisco, where do you think you would be?
Oh, um, I’m not really at home, but I’m at home anywhere. I uh, most likely I’d just be in, in Los Angeles to be closer to the studio that I use, The Distillery. Um, which uh, I’m not sure if you’re that familiar with sort of, how I record and what I do, but um, yeah–
A little bit. I mean–
I don’t know. LA is fine for me.
I was just going to say a little bit. I’ve read a lot of your posts and um, some things about the Allah-Las… So, I mean, not super-familiar. I don’t know if I can relay it someone else very well, but…
Well, I guess The Distillery is kind of a place where I grew up in ‘cause I lived– grew up down there. But um, I’m very a, I’m able to do what I need to without having any resistance in that, in that sense. I’m sort of like a very professional amateur. So, if I go into another studio, I understand why people will be hesitant to let me do whatever. But, sometimes you know, I have ideas that are maybe not conventional to other audio engineers and trusting a stranger with your equipment is always difficult, I know. So, The Distillery is where I am allowed to experiment and do as I please. And so, just being nearer to there would mean I would have a lot more time to sort of, hone my craft.
That’s pretty great. Um, in the Yours Truly interview that you did, I guess recently, um, you were talking about moving to San Francisco. Was that at 18 that you moved there?
Yeah, it was.
Um, what sort of worries did you have when you moved, if any?
Oh, I was was worried I didn’t know what I was doing. Um, I was worried I wasn’t gonna find anybody that was interested in the same, same pursuits as me. You know, it’s like, there’s a difference between liking the same things, which is really superficial, and people that are really sort of, driven to–
[The recorder cuts to him saying he’s going to call me back after finding a room indoors he can use to continue the interview in.]
…you know, use the WIFI but not be out in the office.
I work with a bunch of tech weirdos. So, it’s like a giant, silent room with like, forty people at their computers. So, talking out loud is discouraged.
Indeed. Makes sense.
[A few minutes go by and a call back comes through]
Hey. You found a good spot?
Yeah.. well, I got my computer out, so.
Oh. Hiya. [Greeting him because video chat became an option again]
Okay. Um, how would you describe your present self in one sentence?
[Laughs] That’s kind of a loaded question. Um… uh.. Jesus. I don’t know, how would you describe my present self? In one sentence.
That’s a good question. [Laughs] That’s why I asked you.
I don’t– I don’t really think about myself– [Video became distorted and audio slowed down nearly to a halt]
I don’t know if you can hear me right now, but you’re sounding really distorted. [Pause] Hello?
Connecting. Ringing. Hello?
Hello. [Distorted audio]
This is becoming pretty difficult, isn’t it? Are you there? [Disconnected again.] [Under my breath] Fuck. All I have is my phone [to record with].. not my actual recorder… [Waits a few minutes. Calls again.]
Hi. This is becoming a little silly, huh?
Yeah. Okay. So, I’m gonna try and ask you this question again. I was about to um.. is it, is it your connection, too that keeps disconnecting?
No, I’m fine. I don’t know if it’s you, or– but I’m totally fine.
Oh, okay. I was going to say, if it does it again, then I guess, you know the little– we can also instant message back and forth if that–
We can do that as well.
I don’t know what your preference is.
Okay. Let’s try this and see if it works for more than a minute. [Said while laughing, more with nervousness than glee.] Okay, um, you were trying to talk about describing your present self in one sentence. Before you got all distorted.
[Said with distortion] Gina, are you there?
You keep cutting out and now I don’t hear anything.
Oh, there you are.
Yeah. I’m here.
Um, your present self..
Are you, are you outdoors?
I am. Do you think that’s affecting it?
Yeah. Probably. But uh, it’s alright.
I could try going inside.
I would say stay where you were, because I was getting good reception from you.
My present self.
I just wanna play R&B. That’s how I would describe myself.
Okay, well maybe that answers my next question. Because I was going to say how about musically, what you’re doing with your music in one sentence.
I would say I just wanna play R&B, but I don’t know if it’s gonna come out that way.
What do you mean?
I mean like uh, you know, Van Morrison just wanted to play R&B, but I don’t think it came out that way. And like, Elvis Presley just wanted to play R&B, but I don’t think it came out that way, so. I think American music is sort of like, taking whatever you… it’s about gestating influences, you know. So like, somebody who listens to tons and tons of ‘X’ records isn’t necessarily going to make a replication of that. It’s going to come out the way that it’s supposed to if you’re doing your job as a creator. [Clears throat] Does that make sense?
It does. Um, can you tell me a story about a victory you’ve had on your journey of getting to where you are today, musically?
[Laughs] A victory. Uh..
Yeah, sure. I uh, you know, I had all these friends that comprise this group, the Allah-Las, and uh, you know, [Sighs] it’s like, again, it’s like one of those things where you’re on the other side. Your concerns have changed when you’ve achieved something. Those guys were just my friends, you know, and if you would’ve told us a year before we were gonna play a sold out show in San Francisco to 450 people and both of us would have 45 records that I produced, that we all thought sounded amazing and people wanted to buy ‘em, you know, that to me is like a victory on the path. To go from nothing to something all of a sudden. I mean, I guess another is like, my record. You know, I’ve been buying R&B and Soul and American 45’s for a long time. Some of ‘em on ebay for a lot of money and [Distortion. Then a cutout.]
[Calls back] Hello?
I don’t think Skype lends itself very well to my speaking style.
No, it doesn’t. It just sounded like you were talking very slowly until it disconnected. You were saying something about your record selling on ebay.
It sold for 129 dollars on ebay.
Was that because of a very limited run of it?
Uh, there were 1,000 pressed. But I mean, very limited is in the eye of the beholder. I mean, a lot of old 45‘s that I like were pressed in a run of 500 or something and that’s not… I think today we’re sort of geared to think of things in million dollar sales, but I don’t think that way, really.
No.. Okay. What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve had to jump along the way? How did it affect you and what you were trying to accomplish?
Biggest hurdle.. Um, I guess trying to figure out how to get my deal across. It’s hard to– I think it’s hard to find, number one, to find people that are passionate and interested, with the same kind of background, which is arguably like a really unique background. But also to get people that are willing to give up their time and effort and abilities to play. Um, just getting a group together and you know, putting a record out is kind of like an uphill battle. And coming to terms with the frustration– [More distortion] [Final cutout. Switch to Skype’s instant messenger.]
I was asking you about overcoming obstacles with your music-
and how they’ve affected what you were trying to do
Sure. I guess everything about playing music is overcoming an obstacle for me as long as I’ve been playing music. I am not exactly taking the path of least resistance. But I’m happy with what I’ve been making because it’s cemented that I am really in love with it, to the point of suffering embarrassment, displacement, financial troubles, deep frustration.. Huntington Beach was not very culturally receptive (for a while) but I won over a lot of people by being an anomaly. Funny enough, San Francisco is kind of the same – in a different way, but is much more difficult to execute or be a musician because of the cost of living. You are sort of disenfranchised because part of playing music needing space to do it. Part of living here is just making enough money to house yourself, so to house your creative endeavors means striving even harder.
It’s double the work.
and I found a lot of people, it didn’t matter that much to them. Sort of a land-of-the-lotus-eaters feel. So, yeah, I wrote my first record very quietly, on an electric piano, constantly in fear of my landlord pounding on my door. And silently, in my head, on the bus. and I didn’t hear the actual music of the whole arrangement until I was in the studio. But I knew every part, because I had gone over it in my head so many times.
What was that like– in the studio being able to really hear it and experience it
It’s really powerful. It’s a peak moment, and it happens every once and while for me, usually when I finally get everyone I am playing with the play the right thing. and that, to me, is how I know this thing doesnt go away, because I’ve had the feeling listening to songs and it’s always an incredible physical sensation where you know it’s right.
When things get difficult- what do you tell yourself
I kind of have a mantra. I just repeat to myself ‘I just wanna play R&B, I just wanna play R&B..’ it’s an abstraction, it’s not the words that mean anything.
1: 36 PM
And then you adjust yourself to keep that happening?
It’s taking all those feelings I was just describing, the moment where either I get a drummer to hit the right moment, and the bass hits the counterpoint and everything locks and I know that it’s THE song, but it’s also the feeling, for instance, when a Bobby Bland tune drops into a certain groove and he does this magnificent gargling scream just on time.. It’s kind of like how people talk about envisioning something in a time of stress – ‘I picture a beach’, ‘ i picture a peaceful blue triangle’, etc. etc. For me, it’s like ‘this whole moment you are in is bullshit and you know the truth.’ I mean, I could be repeating ‘you know the truth, you know the truth,’ but that’s not the point. To me, the truth in my life is ‘i just wanna play r&b’.. But that’s my private thing that I do in my head.
Thank you for sharing it. Truly.
I was taught by my father to keep a cool head under pressure. He was a fireman and a paramedic. He worked on motorcycles and cars. He could stitch himself up if we were in the middle of the desert and he crashed his motorcycle. I just apply that to my own life, in my own way. It’s funny that as my life goes on, I realize I am applying the things he taught me about racing motorcycles, and doing physical things, and dealing with problems to my own art. and, I suppose the rest of my life. What’s cool about this to me is that I can also be totally non-intellectual about my music and just play it and not worry about it. I am neither fish nor fowl.