Our Defining Hour

By the summer of 2000, with the Y2K fears long subsided and the long lazy days of summer having slowed New York City to a crawl – Native had put the finishing touches at converting its studio, Marmfington Farm, into a self-service recording studio.

One of the earliest tracks we used in the new-to-us format of ProTools, was a song I’d written that everybody seemed to really like. I remember the time between first bringing it in and when the band had perfected it was quite short. Although its Latin lilt was a bit outside of our style, it suited us to a tee, especially with Mat & Woody’s thrilling harmonies sailing over the top.

We were basically defined as a jam band, although we billed ourselves as “Funky Fried” and all manner of other hype-oriented genres, it really came down to songwriting first, and jamming second for us. Although, we were influenced greatly by The Grateful Dead, I think it’s safe to come out and say that our main influences were The Meters and The Beatles. In fact, I used to refer to the band as The Beaters.

This song was a watershed moment for me in another way — it’s my first mix.

Although, I had produced our second studio album, Exhale On Spring Street, I always trusted and relied on engineers to see to the details of mixing the music. Craig Randall had done a wonderful job on Exhale, and now we expected John Fitzwater to do the same. To that end, he engineered today’s offering beautifully, and would continue to do so throughout all the tracking that took place in the latter half of 2000, and onward to June 2001.

But, it was early days for the project and I wanted to get my hands wet. After I dried them off, I made a mix, and that’s what we’re going to hear today.

Please note that Mike Jaimes would not get around to cutting his lead guitar tracks, nor would Chris Wyckoff get to lay down his keyboard licks, until 2004. The reason for this will be covered in a future installment of this epistemological tome.

Until then, here is the splendor of our rough mix of a very polished tune —

My Defining Hour (Demo)

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St. Stephen with a rose…

Hey, hey! We’re back, and look – it’s 2015!

We’ve been working on this Nativology project for over two years, now. Hard to believe that when Dave Thomas cued up the four-track demo he and Mike Jaimes made in November 1992 that we’d have come through four volumes of rarities from our vaults!

But, hey, we’ve always been very productive, as evidenced by today’s offering.

When John Fitzwater undertook the production of the album that would come to be known as And Then What, his first act was to get our studio, Marmfington Farm, into the twenty-first century. Gone were the easily-mangled eight track cassettes that had been our mainstay for years. Computer-based recording was the wave, and we were going to ride that wave like raving ninja surfers!

Sadly, we were not ninjas or surfers, and our relationship with technology was pretty much the same one the Frankenstein monster had with fire.

Fire bad!!

To ease the sitch, Fitz wisely led us through some sessions that were not meant for release, but were aimed at allaying our primitive fears, and getting the ninja-thing happening.

So, the new ProTools set-up’s maiden voyage culminated in today’s tune – a classic Grateful Dead song playfully reworked by Mat Hutt. (Note: Version 1, performed by Mike at the same session, appeared on Nativology Vol. 2)

In and waaaaaay out of the garden he goes —

St. Stephen 2

Cornbread Wednesday

A Second Helping Of Love

Please excuse our absence these past two weeks. Our archivist/Curator, the famously infamous Dave Thomas (aka, davenative) allowed his personal projects to intrude into our airspace. But, the standoff has been rectified, corporal punishment has been applied, and now restitution to all offended parties is being administered, via ear canal.

Journey back with us now, as we remember that innocent yesteryear – 2000 a.d., the year Native began seriously planning an epic album – And Then What.

In addition to all the great new songs we’d been working on, we knew we had a large catalogue of tunes that had slipped through the cracks, and had not made it to our earlier albums.

Going through all the old tapes laying around Marmfington Farm, John Fitzwater, our producer and soul brother, came upon the 1995 recording of today’s offered morsel of musical remuneration – a song of great concision (it is barely 3 minutes long) written by Michael Jaimes.

At the gigs, the song was always used as a breather in our otherwise hard-jamming setlists, and it became a well-loved tune by every one of us.

We had recorded an updated version on the same, original tape sometime in the intervening five years since the first was done. This version was slower, more direct, and even more heartfelt – something that did not seem possible.

Fitz made a fresh mix of it for us to listen to, and it quickly became a priority for the new album. We carried out the assignment of re-recording it with alacrity, but in all honesty, we never matched the easy grace of this version.

So, here you go. The subject is love – and, as you’ll hear, Mike had it by the truckload.

Just Want To Love You (Version 2)

Cornbread Wednesday

Native Deals With It

After 8 years of pretty much glorious escapades, the first year of the new century had ended rather acrimoniously for Native. There were problems between Mat & myself, and looking back after all this time, I can see it objectively, and say that:

1) Mat’s beefs with me were completely legitimate.
2) My beefs with Mat were completely legitimate.
3) The two sets of beef had nothing to do with each other.
4) We were both a couple of big babies, and it damaged morale in the band.

But, we soldiered on into 2001, and somehow Mat & I worked through our differences, and our collaborations started clicking, the band breathed a sigh of relief, and there was great rejoicing.

We kicked off the year with a fresh round of rehearsals to work on all the new material we had, with Fitz at the studio controls – located clear across on the other side of the loft from the live room!

He was still working out the fine points of using the digital recording software – ProTools, and was loving every moment of it, except for the lack of ventilation or oxygen in my room, where the recording console was set up.

Amidst a general air of friviolity in the occasion, Mike suddenly goes bang into the wonderful Grateful Dead song that is this week’s submission for your approval. And, damn if we didn’t jump in and hang on for a perfectly splendid rendition!

As I listen to it, I marvel at how good we were, and *gosh-a-mighty* Mike was just the most talented guy in the world!

Added bonus – It’s kinda good to see how things can go if you work through your struggles.

Surely, we had grown stronger for having learned how to —

Deal

Cornbread Wednesday

Polishing Diamonds

And Then What was planned as an album, knowing that it would be our last one. We wanted to get all the latest material, developed during Chris Wyckoff‘s reign on keyboards, circa 1997-2000.

But, we also wanted to do a few tracks of songs that had fallen between the cracks, so to speak. As seen in this Nativology series, we left a lot of songs on the cutting room floor.

Good songs, we were thinking, as with today’s entry, which we offer as proof that we were a very good band in the studio -tight, but without rigidness, or semblance of restraint.

Listen to how Mike, knowing he will redub his guitar later, plays around with several musical ideas and motifs, switching like a gadfly from one to the next.

And then there Mat Hutt‘s startling- spine-tingling, powerhouse vocal!

Mat really dug deep when he wrote the song, based on an experience from some year’s hence, but no less painful for time’s passage.

In this passionate take, Mat summons up everything he was feeling when he wrote it, and in the process gives us one of his best-ever performances!

This song would see it’s final form take shape during the sessions at Marmfington Farm in 2005, when Mike would finally redub his guitar, Woody would add his harmony, Chris would add piano, and Dave would roll the doobies!

But, here it is in the rough mix John Fitzwater did the day we recorded it in late 2000.

Diamonds

Cornbread Wednesday

Native gets Down… Really Down!

Being a member of Native is kind of like being from the sixties – if you can’t remember it, you know you were there!

As curator of the vast Native Tape Vault, I am constantly coming up with nice little rarities that I was unaware existed, or had forgotten about. Of course, once I’ve found a rare item, the old brain cells kick in and start pumping out a data stream of zero’s and one’s. Mostly zeros.

But, this much I do know about today’s audio offering —

It was a mix of a song we had demoed twice in 1992, first with Anthony Balsley (our original lead singer). In December of that year, after Anthony left the band, Mat Hutt worked with sound engineer, Rob Smith, to cut new vocals over the same backing track. A remix of this session has already appeared on Volume 1 of this Nativology series.

But, today’s track is different enough that we think it worthy of your precious time and sweaty ears. Here’s why —

As we prepared our album, And Then What, the first thing we did was get really stoned. The second thing we did was review old, unreleased songs that might make the cut. Indeed, two songs included were from those earlier, smoke-enshrouded years – I Am and Tell Me The Truth.

Why this beauty remained unfinished and left to languish in our vault is a mystery. Probably time constraints were a factor.

We had planned a double-cd release, but time ran out in June 2001, and we only had about enough for an album and a half when Mat moved to California. (Later that year, all work to complete the tracks was abandoned in the wake of 9/11.)

But, for a brief moment, this gem was deemed a contender, and this instrumental mix was prepared by John Fitzwater in the waning days of 1998. It needed new Mat Hutt & Woody Wood vocal tracks, some percussion and Chris Wyckoff’s keys, which it never got. What it does have are some amazing and awesome guitar parts by Mike Jaimes and Mat, and it contains a solo that is all angst and guitar fury – Jaimes in all his unfettered 1992 glory, playing his legendary Gibson Mary Ford guitar, with all its toggle switches!

Fitz’s splendid work on the mix (with very limited equipment) shows how good this would have sounded on the record.

So, kick back with a Nutella Daiquiri and enjoy a very rocking and jamming instrumental mix, and one of the few things in our vault with both of our soundmen’s fingerprints on it (other than a certain blow-up doll!).

Down (No Vox, Fitzmix – 1998)

Cornbread Wednesday

The Long Road To And Then What! Part One

If you are puzzled by this week’s blog title – it refers to Native’s biggest, most ambitious album project. The title, And Then What, was derived from something once said by Sam Hutt (Mat’s dad – better known as Hank Wangford), whilst on a visit during the early days of Native’s existence.

We were watching a serial (you know, the pre-television episodic cliffhangers that thrilled movie audiences in those days of yore when everything was better?), I believe it was Dick Tracy, starring the great Ralph Byrd, made by my favorite studio – Republic Pictures.

In the serial, there was a moment where the evil ringleader of The Spider Gang, tells a henchman something like this – “Go down there, catch that guy, then take him to the river and drown him.” The incredibly compliant henchman nods in obeiance, and off he goes on his murderous task.

Sam’s cogent question was, “Why do the henchmen never say ‘And then what?'”

We had not yet recorded our first record, but the long road to And Then What began at that moment.

Jump cut to early 1999, Native has been touring for a year in support of our second studio album, Exhale On Spring Street (on which we churlishly got Sam’s credit for Wild Atlantic Sea wrong!), Keyboardist and botany expert Chris Wyckoff had settled in as a full member of the band, Woody had built a spiffing studio for us to rehearse, and the often-acerbic John Fitzwater had outfitted that space with a Pro Tools set up.

We were now fully capable of producing our next album, and had built up a large reservoir of new material, so we immediately set to work with surprising alacrity and slothfulness.

One of the very first songs we undertook was written by your humble narrator, and played with great vigor by my bandmates.

I don’t remember writing it, but the lyrics are at variance with those on my own demo of the song, so there must have been an great deal of collaboration on it, which I assume I enjoyed.

Get ready for quite a few more oddities like this in the next few week’s thrilling chapters – we wrote way more than what ended up on the album, and like this submission, the material was very strong, and the henchmen were compliant, and unquestioning.

(Note: The vocals start out quiet, but get louder on this demo – there is nothing wrong with your system!)
Everyday

Cornbread Wednesday