Life of the Record

By Life of the Record

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Classic albums, told by the people who made them.

Episode Date
The Making of #1 RECORD by Big Star - featuring Jody Stephens, Terry Manning, Holly George-Warren and Rich Tupica
For the 50th anniversary of Big Star’s iconic debut, #1 RECORD, we take a detailed look at how it was made. After Chris Bell, Andy Hummel and Jody Stephens had taken recording classes from Ardent Studios owner, John Fry, they began to learn the art of recording. John Fry generously allowed them to use the studio during the night as they recorded under the names, Icewater and Rock City. Meanwhile, Alex Chilton had quit the Box Tops and was living in New York City before deciding to return to his hometown of Memphis. Chris Bell invited him to join the band as they began recording what would become #1 RECORD. In this episode, Big Star drummer, Jody Stephens describes being a teenager caught under the spell of his bandmates’ talents and the creative environment of Ardent Studios. Engineer/keyboardist, Terry Manning, reflects on his close friendships with Chris Bell, Alex Chilton and the Big Star clique, and his contributions to #1 RECORD. Holly George-Warren, author of A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, from Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man, discusses Alex Chilton’s unlikely journey of being the 16-year-old lead singer of a hit group to learning to be a songwriter and an independent person. Rich Tupica, author of There Was a Light: The Cosmic History of Chris Bell and the Rise of Big Star, describes Chris Bell’s sonic vision for #1 RECORD as well as his deterioration in the aftermath of the failure of its release. From wanting to be the Memphis Beatles to endless hours of recording through the night to bringing motorcycles into the studio to Alex discovering a new voice to the Bell/Chilton collaboration and rivalry to the distribution disaster, we’ll hear the stories of how the album came together.
Jul 29, 2022
The Making of CELEBRATION ROCK by Japandroids - featuring David Prowse, Jesse Gander and Steven Hyden

For the 10th anniversary of Japandroids’ second album, CELEBRATION ROCK, we take a detailed look at how the record was made. After the unlikely success of their debut album, POST-NOTHING, Japandroids found themselves leaving their hometown of Vancouver to tour the world and play to much larger audiences than they ever dreamed of. The expectations for their second album began to build as the band felt tremendous pressure to deliver a followup record that proved they weren’t just a one-hit wonder. In between multiple tours, they would record in two-day sessions with longtime engineer/producer, Jesse Gander. Eventually, they rented a house in Nashville to focus on writing the remaining songs for what would become CELEBRATION ROCK.

In this episode, David Prowse describes how he and Brian King pushed themselves to make a record that would far surpass any expectations they ever had for the band. Engineer/producer, Jesse Gander, takes us through his first impression of Japandroids and how he was able to capture their unique punk and classic rock-influenced sound. Additionally, author and music critic, Steven Hyden, offers his perspective on Japandroids’ embrace of classic rock mythology and why the record connected with so many people. From Brian’s attempt at revitalizing classic rock tropes to the difficulty of recording fireworks to capturing the feeling of being young to the unabashed embrace of the power of rock and roll, we’ll hear the stories around how the record came together.

Jun 05, 2022
The Making of 3 YEARS, 5 MONTHS AND 2 DAYS IN THE LIFE OF… by Arrested Development - featuring Speech

For the 30th anniversary of the 2x Grammy Award winning group, Arrested Development’s, pioneering debut album, 3 YEARS, 5 MONTHS AND 2 DAYS IN THE LIFE OF…, Speech joins us for a detailed look at how the record was made. After getting his start in a high school hip hop group in Milwaukee called Attack, Speech left for more opportunities in Atlanta. He connected with Headliner at The Art Institute of Atlanta and the two of them formed Arrested Development, gradually adding group members, Aerle Taree, Montsho Eshe, Rasa Don and Baba Oje, along the way. Eventually, Arrested Development signed a deal with Chrysalis Records, which took exactly 3 years, 5 months and 2 days, giving their debut album its title. In this episode, Speech describes how we became conscious and wanted to form a hip hop group that was an alternative to the gangsta rap that was popular at the time. From being one of the first hip hop groups out of Atlanta to developing a melodic rhyming style to 4-track bedroom recording to the expensive art of sampling to Dionne Farris’s incredible guest vocals, we’ll hear the stories of how the album came together.

Mar 24, 2022
The Making of HISSING FAUNA, ARE YOU THE DESTROYER? by of Montreal - featuring Kevin Barnes

For the 15th anniversary of the landmark of Montreal album, HISSING FAUNA, ARE YOU THE DESTROYER?, Kevin Barnes joins us for a detailed look at how the record was made. After of Montreal had already released multiple albums by this point, Barnes had mostly been writing in a conceptual and fantastical style as a way to avoid writing personal songs. For HISSING FAUNA, Barnes decided to write autobiographically about the difficulties they were experiencing in their personal life during this period. Barnes had gotten married and moved to Norway while expecting their first child and was struggling with anxiety and depression. The isolation and stress they were feeling informed the deeply personal songs that ended up on the record. After splitting with their wife, Nina, part way through the sessions, Barnes finished the remaining songs in Athens while writing from the perspective of the Georgie Fruit character they had created. From alienating band members by working alone to using the studio as an escape to the struggle to earn a living as an artist to the problematic Georgie Fruit character, we’ll hear the stories around how the record came together.

Mar 07, 2022
The Making of PERFECT FROM NOW ON by Built to Spill - featuring Doug Martsch

For the 25th anniversary of Built to Spill’s astonishing third album, PERFECT FROM NOW ON, Doug Martsch joins us for a detailed look at how the record was made. After Built to Spill released their first two records on indie labels, they ended up signing with Warner Bros. for their third album. Signing with a major label left Martsch feeling conflicted but inspired to experiment in the studio and was determined to make an ambitious album that deserved to be heard by a larger audience. Martsch’s original vision was to change the lineup for the third time and play the majority of the instruments himself with Peter Lansdowne on drums. After reconnecting with producer, Phil Ek, in Seattle, they recorded the first version of the album but were dissatisfied with the results. Martsch then decided to bring bassist, Brett Nelson, back, along with new drummer, Scott Plouff, and record the album a second time. After Phil Ek drove with the tapes from Seattle to Boise, they found that the tapes had been damaged. The band ended up recording the album a third time and brought in collaborators, Brett Netson, John McMahon and Robert Roth to help fill out the arrangements. From envisioning a classic rock sound to the difficulties of analog recording in the nineties to combining ideas to make collage-style songs to stealing lyrics from his wife to the never-ending quest for perfection, we’ll hear the stories around how the album came together.

Jan 28, 2022
The Making of ONE YEAR - featuring Colin Blunstone

For the 50th anniversary of the baroque pop classic, ONE YEAR, Colin Blunstone looks back on the unique circumstances around how his first solo album was made. After the end of The Zombies, a band he formed as a teenager with Rod Argent, Hugh Grundy, Paul Atkinson and Paul Arnold, Blunstone found himself unsure about continuing in the music business. The Zombies had recorded ODESSEY AND ORACLE at Abbey Road Studios in 1967, but the initial singles failed to generate interest so the band called it quits before the album was released. Blunstone began working as an insurance clerk in London when “Time of the Season” unexpectedly started to chart in the United States in 1969. Producer, Mike Hurst, convinced Blunstone to make music again and he released a few singles under the pseudonym, Neil MacArthur. Later, former Zombies bandmates, Rod Argent and Chris White, talked Blunstone into recording a solo album under his own name with the two of them co-producing. From Chris Gunning’s breathtaking string arrangements to an unlikely hit of a 21-piece orchestra pop tune to a painfully honest account of his breakup with actress, Caroline Munro, to getting the old Zombies team back together again, we’ll hear the stories around how ONE YEAR came together.

Jan 11, 2022
The Making of MIC CITY SONS by Heatmiser - featuring Neil Gust, Tony Lash and Sam Coomes

For the 25th anniversary of Heatmiser’s third and final album, MIC CITY SONS, Neil Gust, Tony Lash and Sam Coomes talk openly and in detail about the unique circumstances around how this record was made. When Heatmiser embarked on recording their third album, it was a huge turning point for the band, as they signed a deal with a major label and began building their own studio. Elliott Smith was starting to have success as a solo artist and was coming into his own with songwriting and recording, which led to a lot of tension over the direction of the band. Neil Gust talks about forming his close friendship with Elliott and bonding over music, but how that was changing rapidly in the wake of Elliott’s success. Tony Lash describes butting heads with Elliott in the studio since they were teenagers and how it was reaching a breaking point. Sam Coomes gives an outsider’s perspective as he talks about never officially joining the band and attempting to play peacekeeper during the fraught sessions. As the tensions rose, Neil, Tony and Sam describe the decision to bring in Rob Schnapf and Tom Rothrock as outside producers to help get the record finished. From drastically changing the sound of the band mid-tour to writing songs about interpersonal band dynamics to guys in their twenties being unable to communicate to the contractual obligation that ultimately ended the band, we’ll hear the stories around how the record came together.

Oct 29, 2021
The Making of JOHN PRINE (Self-Titled) - featuring Margo Price, Amanda Shires, Erin Osmon, Dave Prine, Bobby Wood and Gene Chrisman

For the 50th anniversary of John Prine’s debut album, we take a detailed look at the extraordinary circumstances of how this record came to be. In this episode, John’s older brother, Dave Prine, describes the shocking moment when he realized his brother’s staggering talent. Erin Osmon, author of the forthcoming 33 1/3 book about this album, takes us through John’s discovery story and how he first made an impact at folk clubs in Chicago before being discovered by Kris Kristofferson and Jerry Wexler. We’ll hear about the unlikely pairing of Prine with legendary Atlantic producer, Arif Mardin, and session players, the Memphis Boys, who had never made a folk record before. Keyboardist, Bobby Wood, and drummer, Gene Chrisman, of the Memphis Boys, discuss what it was like to record these songs at American Sound Studio with a very nervous and inexperienced young performer. Additionally, we’ll hear from another generation of Nashville songwriters and Prine collaborators, Margo Price and Amanda Shires, who describe why many of the songs from this record have become standards. From Prine’s wry sense of humor to his ability to write characters to covertly writing about controversial subjects to his deep empathy, we’ll hear the stories around how this record came together and why it ended up becoming one of Prine’s most enduring works.

Sep 23, 2021
The Making of CIVILIAN by Wye Oak - featuring Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack

In celebration of the 10th anniversary, Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack reflect on the writing and recording of the third Wye Oak album, CIVILIAN. In this episode, they describe this intense period as a young band when they were taking every touring opportunity available and were getting burnt out by working constantly. For CIVILIAN, they were moving out of their comfort zone with recording as they sought help beyond their tight knit Baltimore community and went to Dallas to have the record mixed by John Congleton. On a personal level, Jenn talks about the panic attacks she was experiencing along with a sense of shame that she was feeling in response to her music career taking off, distancing her from the people she loved. In addition, Jenn and Andy talk about a key romantic relationship that was ending, which greatly informed the songwriting for this record. From ominous energy in Dallas to questioning religion and long-term relationships to capturing the right guitar solo to making beautiful ugliness, we’ll hear the stories around how the record came together.

Aug 31, 2021
The Making of THE SOPHTWARE SLUMP by Grandaddy - featuring Jason Lytle

In this episode, Jason Lytle reflects on the process of making Grandaddy's second album, THE SOPHTWARE SLUMP. Jason talks about being "a man with a mission" while holing up in a farmhouse outside of their hometown of Modesto, California and tracking and mixing nearly everything himself. During this era when bands were starting to record themselves, Jason describes how he was obsessively buying gear and learning the craft of recording while being inspired to experiment after hearing Radiohead's OK COMPUTER. Since Grandaddy had signed with major label, V2, prior to the making of the record, Jason describes the pressure he felt as the band was gaining popularity and the curse of the sophomore slump lingered. From writing cautionary tales, sci-fi epics and songs about drinking and failed relationships to sending a joke version of the album to the label to sharing a stage with Elliott Smith, we'll hear the stories around how the record came together.

Jul 27, 2021
The Making of MOUNT EERIE by the Microphones - featuring Phil Elverum

In this episode, Phil Elverum reflects on the experience of making MOUNT EERIE, the last album made under the Microphones name before adopting Mount Eerie as his project name. Phil gets into the process of taking a different approach from his previous album, THE GLOW PT. 2, and conceiving of a theatrical story about death and transformation. As his final album recorded in Olympia, Phil talks about embracing collaboration and enlisting friends from the Pacific Northwest music scene, including Mirah Zeitlyn, Khaela Maricich, Kyle Field, Karl Blau and Calvin Johnson to take on the roles of different characters. From the initial inspiration of driving around in Florida shortly after September 11th happened, to the difficulties of solo recording a 10-minute samba drum section to tape to taking inspiration from artists like Sade, Bjork and Timbaland to the young person’s search for meaning, we’ll hear the stories around how the record came together.

Jun 08, 2021
The Making of THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE by Low - featuring Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk
For the 20th anniversary, Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk reflect on the making of the classic Low album, THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE. After Low had made several records in their signature slow and minimal style, they were beginning to expand their sound while recognizing the possibilities of the studio. For THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE, Low took their time recording with Steve Albini in Chicago and later enhancing the recordings with Tom Herbers in Minneapolis. The recordings represented a turning point for the band as they built the songs up more than they had in the past with guest musicians, lush string arrangements, layered harmonies and keyboard textures. Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk’s songwriting in this period was heavily influenced by the birth of their first child, Hollis, who also makes an appearance on the record. From writing mournful songs about the cycle of life to figuring out how to translate parts to string players to studying the original innovators in the studio, we’ll hear the stories around how the record came together.
Apr 20, 2021
The Making of LIGHT GREEN LEAVES by Little Wings - featuring Kyle Field

In this episode, Kyle Field reflects on the experience of making LIGHT GREEN LEAVES, Little Wings’ second album for K Records. Kyle gets into the process of conceiving of a record about the fall and ambitiously deciding to make three completely different versions of the album for three different formats. As Kyle reflects on the writing and recording of each song from the album, we’ll hear a detailed look at his creative process. From moving to the Pacific Northwest on a quest, to living in a house full of musicians in Portland, to being nostalgic for the Central Coast of California, to making the decision to try and make it as an artist, we’ll hear the stories around how LIGHT GREEN LEAVES came together.

Mar 02, 2021
The Making of ONE MISSISSIPPI - featuring Brendan Benson

For the 25th Anniversary, Brendan Benson looks back on the process of making his debut album, ONE MISSISSIPPI

In this episode, Brendan Benson reflects on the experience of unexpectedly being signed to a major label at a young age and all of the pressures that came along with that. After initially recording 4-track cassette demos with Jason Falkner, Brendan takes us through the process of making the record in New Orleans, controversially scrapping it, and then remaking the record again in San Francisco with a new band and a young Ethan Johns as the producer.

From the competitive songwriter scene in Los Angeles, to touring with no experience as a frontman, to falling in love while having to work a record, we’ll hear the stories around how ONE MISSISSIPPI came together.

Jan 12, 2021
The Making of PLEASED TO MEET ME by the Replacements - featuring Bob Mehr and Luther Dickinson

In celebration of the PLEASED TO MEET ME Deluxe Edition, we look back at the unique circumstances around how the record was created. 

Bob Mehr, author of Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements, offers a detailed perspective of this uncertain period when the Replacements entered Ardent Studios after splitting with guitarist Bob Stinson. Luther Dickinson, son of the late producer, Jim Dickinson, reflects on his father’s contribution to the album, as well as his own experience of joining the band in the studio as a teenager. Additionally, we’ll hear from Paul Westerberg himself, in a 1987 Warner Bros. interview with Julie Panebianco, where he shares his thoughts on the writing and recording of PLEASED TO MEET ME. 

From alcohol-fueled and trick-filled sessions in Memphis to the controversy of using horns and strings to the existential conflict of being an underground rock band in a major label world, the episode offers a unique look at this pivotal moment in the Replacements’ history.

Nov 18, 2020
The Making of ELLIOTT SMITH (Self-Titled) - featuring Larry Crane, JJ Gonson, Tony Lash, Slim Moon and Leslie Uppinghouse

For the 25th Anniversary, Elliott Smith’s friends and collaborators, including Larry Crane, JJ Gonson, Tony Lash, Slim Moon and Leslie Uppinghouse, offer a unique oral history of how the Self-Titled record was created.

With many new details that have never been heard before, Tony Lash and Leslie Uppinghouse describe the DIY processes that Elliott used while recording songs at their homes. From Elliott teaching himself how to play cello, to using cracked and out of tune guitars, to calling family members for help remembering lyrics, you’ll hear stories about how the album came together. Larry Crane, JJ Gonson and Slim Moon also reflect on where Elliott was at during this period, when the Self-Titled record ended up becoming a turning point in his solo career.

Aug 28, 2020
The Making of PENTHOUSE by Luna - featuring Dean Wareham

For the 25th Anniversary, Dean Wareham looks back on the process of making Luna’s third record, PENTHOUSE. 

In this episode, Dean Wareham reflects on recording at Sorcerer Studios in New York City with engineer Mario Salvati and producer Pat McCarthy. Dean Wareham gets into the process of pushing for better performances, major label pressure, the grunge era and working with Tom Verlaine.

Apr 21, 2020
The Making of ESCONDIDA - featuring Jolie Holland

For the 15th Anniversary, Jolie Holland looks back on her first studio album, ESCONDIDA.

In this episode, Jolie Holland reflects on recording in the redwoods with Lemon DeGeorge and her band of San Francisco musicians. Jolie Holland gets into the process of going from the lo-fi aesthetics of Catalpa to the studio environment and finding new fans like Bob Dylan and Daniel Lanois along the way.

Nov 19, 2019
The Making of BOWS & ARROWS by The Walkmen - featuring Paul Maroon, Walter Martin and Peter Bauer

For the 15th Anniversary, Paul Maroon, Walter Martin and Peter Bauer look back on writing, recording and touring the classic Walkmen record, BOWS & ARROWS.

In this episode, members of The Walkmen reflect on recording in the south during a hurricane, opening for Incubus after 9/11, a tiger balm incident with Hamilton Leithauser, and the contentious process behind their biggest song, "The Rat."

Nov 19, 2019
The Making of ÁGAETIS BYRJUN by Sigur Rós - featuring Kjartan Sveinsson

For the 20th Anniversary, Kjartan Sveinsson of Sigur Rós looks back on the writing and recording of their breakthrough album, ÁGÆTIS BYRJUN.

In this episode, Kjartan Sveinsson reflects on being an undiscovered, ambitious band in Iceland, working day jobs while recording at night, finding inspiration in broken equipment and rudimentary software, and repurposing bass riffs from Nirvana.

Nov 19, 2019

Life of the Record - A podcast where artists look back on the making of a classic album. Featuring Sigur Rós, The Walkmen, Jolie Holland and more. 

Nov 10, 2019