As Billboard appear in backward September, ambassador Paul Curcio anesthetized abroad beforehand in the ages at the age of 74. Curcio, who denticulate accessory hits in the ‘60s as a affiliate of the consciousness-expanding folk accouterments the Mojo Men, became a recording avant-garde afterwards that aforementioned decade aback he founded the Bay Area’s aboriginal 16-track recording studio. In 1983, he produced Metallica’s game-changing acceptance Kill ‘Em All.
Months afore his death, Curcio looked aback on his activity in the music business, a adventure with a bright casting of characters that additionally included Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, biologic lawyers-turned-executive producers, an abominable LSD manufacturer, airsickness musicians, and artful almanac aggregation execs. See an edited archetype of the chat below.
You founded Pacific Recording in the Bay Breadth in the ‘60s. How did it become a destination of best for acts like the Grateful Dead and Santana?
We were the aboriginal multi-track flat in the area, and anybody was dying to bandage parts. Afore long, I had the Grateful Dead blind out at my abode because they admired the accessories we had. They were experimenting with all kinds of sounds. The Grateful Dead anthology — I can’t alike [pronounce the title]: oh-ex-on-amo? [1969’s Aoxomoxoa — Ed.] — we did that. They were aggravating to use sounds and things that they knew were on the record, but breadth bodies would accept to accept frontwards and backwards and upside bottomward to amount out what instruments they were absolutely using.
There was additionally a fella I knew alleged Brian Rohan. He and his accomplice handled best of the big groups’ drug-related issues. Brian set me up so all the groups he was administration — these were name artists — would appear to me: Janis, Kozmic Blues Band, and The Grateful Dead. I additionally brought the Doobie Brothers up from Santa Cruz and cut demos with them aback they were aloof a trio. They added [singer-guitarist] Pat Simmons while we were accomplishing the demos. Dave Shogren, the aboriginal bass player, was a acceptable acquaintance of mine. He anesthetized abroad [in 1999] aback he was alone 49 years old. It was actual sad. But I was aggravating to accompany groups in from added genitalia of the country too.
There was a multi-track operation in New York City [likely apropos to Mirasound — Ed.], and you had The Beatles in London, but we were one of the big ones. The technology was still so new. Every week, article abroad was advancing out. It was agitative times — absolute exciting. You never knew who was activity to appearance up from day to day. [Laughs.]
When you say “handling the bands’ drug-related issues,” what does that mean?
Rohan’s accomplice was [Michael] Stepanian. Aback [legendary Bay Breadth promoter] Bill Graham had problems with groups accepting in agitation for accepting busted, he would about-face them over to Rohan and Stepanian. The bands were accepting bankrupt for pot, again eventually coke and all kinds of drugs. So they would accomplish the alarm to Rohan and Stepanian, who were accepted to get deals with the courts and align biologic adjust programs and altered things that the lath would [order]. Sometimes it was aloof a bang on the wrist. The big names aloof went walking sometimes.
The Grateful Dead, my God — they were growing absolute grass fields up in the Mendocino area, breadth they grew high-grade pot. Anybody knew it, but they never got in agitation for it. There was additionally Owsley Stanley, who came up with high-grade processes for growing pot and, later, for accomplishment LSD. All of this was done through the bands.
Owsley was the one, as far as I know, who came up with the blueprint for artery use of LSD that swept the Haight and the blow of the country. [Nicknamed Bear, he was additionally amenable for the Grateful Dead’s “wall of sound” alive audio mix and iconic “Steal Your Face” logo — Ed.] He was a character, I’ll acquaint ya. He capital to get anybody high.
One of my engineers — Ron Wickersham, the guy who developed the blush [slow-motion] camera for use at football amateur — formed at Ampex. Owsley absolutely capital Ron to put some LSD in the baptize at Ampex and get anybody benumbed to see what would happen. This guy was arena with alarming stuff! But he was consistently around. Jimi Hendrix came to my flat two or three times — mainly to angle up with Owsley. He would appearance up and Owsley would accord him an envelope [full] of pills. But Jimi did almanac some things. I ambition I had those tapes.
Ravi Shankar set up one of his adoration rugs already aback he was accepting accessible to go on a tour. Hendrix absolved in and concluded up jamming with Ravi. Things like that are priceless, but we didn’t apperceive how priceless they were at the time.
Was the bandage rolling?
Oh yeah, [but tapes] aloof went out the aperture with the assorted artists.
And so the attorneys were agriculture you the bands as clients?
Yes. I bethink Bill Graham came in and had a affair with the Grateful Dead. They were overbudget, and Warner Bros. wasn’t activity to accord them any added money. So Bill came to me and says, “We’ve got to accomplish a deal.” We were all in the allowance sitting on the attic of the studio. I anticipate the cardinal was amid fifteen and twenty thousand that Bill Graham would pay me, no amount how abounding hours it took.
And aback Brian Rohan would pay me, we would go to his house, which was a little abbey in the Haight-Asbury area. He would consistently pay me in cash. He would go to assorted genitalia of the abbey and cull out a jar abounding of hundred dollar bills. There was never a curtailment of money.
You’re from Roer, New York. How did you end up in the Bay Area?
I had addition accessory alleged Steve Alaimo who was absolute big in the music business. Steve had initially gone off to Michigan. He was absolutely activity to comedy football but he got aberrate by the music affair and anguish up in Miami. Roer was too algid for my mother, and my ancestors confused there in ‘56-’57.
I went to North Miami High. In the aboriginal allotment of the ‘60s, I would go to the abundant Critera Studios [now accepted as The Hit Factory Criteria Miami] afterwards academy if my accessory was playing. He’d accept me sit there and comedy acoustic guitar or comedy a little part. 45s were big, and Steve had hits advancing out aback then. Eventually, [that led to Alaimo acceptable the co-founder of] TK Records with Henry Stone, one of the absolute antecedents of the music industry.
KC and The Sunshine Bandage came out of all that. TK had a little 8-track flat — you gotta accept that, aback then, these were aloof two 4-track machines put together. The flat was admiral from their administration space. Henry was a almanac benefactor and he had a acute bulb that he owned, so 45s were activity out from downstairs. But they had KC experimenting admiral and he came up with the KC sound. They let KC do things [on the artistic and assembly end], and Henry and Steve would adhere on to the publishing.
Anyway, my added accessory Jim Alaimo was additionally bottomward in Miami. He would become the bass amateur in my accumulation The Mojo Men. In ‘64, I collection to California with addition boy from Roer, [future Mojo Men keyboardist] Don Metchick. We all met in San Francisco to accompany our music. We were alleged The Mojo.
The guy that endemic us, Tom Donahue — who was absolutely the ancestor of FM underground radio — he alleged us the Mojo Men. We were alleged afterwards one of his horses, Mojo Woman. He acclimated to bet a lot of money on her out at Gulfstream Racetrack in Florida. So we were alleged afterwards a horse. [Laughs.] We absolutely approved Mojo Women aback Jan Errico from the Vejtables became our drummer. We approved altered bodies in the accumulation and played about with a lot of altered things.
And Sly Stone produced you.
He was a year or two adolescent than us. Tom Donahue said, “Here, you’re gonna assignment with him.” Tom was in Pittsburgh one day and he heard a song alleged “Hanky Panky.” Tommy James [& The Shondells] had a big hit with it. He alleged us and said, “Be at my abode Sunday. I’m aerial in.” He gave us the song and said, “Learn it today or tomorrow.” We were activity to almanac it on Tuesday with Sly.
The aboriginal song we recorded was “Off the Hook,” which was a Jagger-Richards song. The Rolling Stones didn’t apperceive we’d recorded it. We absolutely did a appearance with them and did the song first. Anybody anticipation it was our song and that the Rolling Stones were advantageous accolade to the Mojo Men. But Sly was a ability alike at that age. He was on the radio [on San Francisco base KSOL], and if he played your song, anybody would appetite to go buy it. He’d accomplish you a hit overnight. He had that power.
When did you accomplish the alteration from assuming to producing?
I started acid demos for people. One of the aboriginal was the Doobie Brothers, and I got Warners absorbed in signing them. I had two groups — the added one was alleged Road House, who were as acceptable if not bigger than the Doobies. I capital Warners to booty two bands, but they didn’t appetite to. My accomplice Marty Cohn and I were managing both groups and sitting abaft the board.
When the Doobies anthology came out, they didn’t appetite to accord us credit. They had us listed as controlling producers. It said “produced by Lenny Waronker and Ted Templeman.” We didn’t get all the acclaim we were activity to get. We fabricated some money, but not as abundant as [we could because what] the Doobies accept fabricated through the years.
What was your consequence of how above labels operated aback then?
I consistently begin the above players to be actual conniving. You couldn’t assurance a handshake with them. For instance, aback we were arrive the Doobie Brothers, I was walking about the anteroom and saw that our apparatus had a bond that was acquainted into addition apparatus in addition room. [Warners] were authoritative a alike archetype of our master. I went in and accessible them. [Execs] Mo Austin and Joe Smith capital to be the aboriginal in accepting their name on everything.
What brought you aback to Roer in 1978?
My accessory Jim, the bass amateur in the Mojo Men, had started to convenance law aback in Roer. I came aback for us to do concerts, [work on] almanac production, whatever. It acquainted acceptable to be back, because I had a ancestors aback in Roer that I could now see.
So how did you end up bearing Metallica?
[Laughs.] Jonny Zazula, accepted as Jonny Z [founder of Megaforce Records], formed out of a flea bazaar in New Jersey. He had a feel for adamantine rock, metal, and acceleration metal bands. He beatific me the audience bandage No Activity ‘Til Leather that Metallica had recorded with added associates in California. He said “What do you think?” At the time, my buzz alarm to him was a buzz berth — that was his number. I said, “It’s incredible. I’ve never heard annihilation like it. It’s bedrock and roll, but with speed.” We hadn’t heard guitars played like that. I admired it.
So what he capital to do was accept a flat breadth he could accelerate the bands he was award at a acceptable amount so he could do these albums cheap. I anticipate the Metallica anthology ability accept amount [a aggregate sum of] maybe $15,000. He beatific [fellow Bay Breadth batter metal greats] Anthrax up to me and they showed up with a bivouac abounding of equipment. They anticipation we’d recorded Metallica with all these amps, but we’d absolutely recorded Metallica with one amplifier. And the drums were recorded up in the ballroom, because it had a absolutely alive copse sound. Lars [Ulrich, Metallica’s drummer] admired it up there.
Except that he anticipation it was haunted.
Yeah. He said the cymbals would circuit around. And as it got aphotic up there, they lit some candles, which fabricated it alike stranger. He absolutely believed it was haunted.
By the time the bandage came to record, they were actual well-rehearsed. You didn’t accept to do any pre-production with them–
I didn’t accept to do any pre-production, but I did use tricks that I’d acclimated afore to get assertive sounds on their guitars, the bass, and voice. Cliff Burton had a bass and we couldn’t get rid of its acute scream babble that it made. Nothing would get rid of it. So I took it to a guy who congenital pickups from scratch, and there was no added screaming. I bethink Cliff would be in the ascendancy allowance continuing abaft the lath activity basics afraid his hair. He was a super-nice guy. He absolutely accepted the assignment we went through to get his bass to assignment right.
But they were additionally bubbler heavily, authoritative a mess, spilling things on the rug — this is by their own admission.
Well, my wife at the time would accomplish them lasagna and dinners and accompany it to the house. We had a bandage abode breadth the bands would live. They’d beddy-bye in sleeping accoutrements and alcohol and do whatever they wanted.
One night, I asked a acquaintance of abundance — Jay Rund, who endemic [a bounded area named] The Riverboat –who had a area if we could all appear and adhere out. The bandage who was in there was from Pennsylvania and had a actual big following. They were arena a Judas Priest song. Metallica were continuing a the lath and didn’t like that this bandage was replicating one of their idols, so they started spilling beer on the board. The bass amateur in this bandage anguish up accepted his bass at James [Hetfield, Metallica frontman] and Lars. They got into a huge fight, and again the band’s roadies threw them out the advanced door.
Lars and James puked all over the abode in the fella’s car who was active them that night. We got ‘em out of there, took ‘em aback to the house, and bankrupt ‘em all up so they could get aback to the flat in a day or two. Because the aing day they had amazing hangovers.
It doesn’t complete like you were absolutely agitated by the way they acted.
As continued as we got the artefact done, I’d go forth with aloof about anything. Aback we came to mixing, I didn’t accept them in the ascendancy allowance a few times because they were extensive over the architect and avaricious the ascendancy knobs and aloof accepting in the way. So I bound them out of the ascendancy room. My son consistently tells me that I was beggarly to them. I wasn’t mean; I was aggravating to get the anthology done. [Laughs.]
How complex were you in giving them feedback, selecting takes and allegorical performances?
Well, for example, with James’ vocals, we accumulated a approved Neumann U 67 or 87 mic — I’m not abiding — and an RCA award mic that I had and attenuated those together. I was authoritative decisions aloof to accomplish it big and loud and nasty. It was a crazy record. But [the decisions] were a aggregate of all of us. I’d accept to takes in the ascendancy allowance with James and Lars, and in the big allowance we’d additionally aces out the appropriate sounds amid the three of us. Lars capital the guitars to complete a assertive way.
Looking back, how appreciative are you of that recording?
Oh my God, I anticipate about it all the time. This accomplished year [in 2017], they appeared in Orlando and I wasn’t activity good, so I didn’t go. But my son Paul, Jr. went, and they beatific me some pictures and a little video of James and Lars adage hi. My son said that James and Lars were actuality so nice.
Did you get credibility on that record?
No, I gave up my points. We didn’t anticipate at the time that it was activity to advertise that big. We didn’t know. But I’m appreciative of it, though. We were all allotment of authoritative one of the greatest albums of all time.
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