Micah P. Hinson vs. Phil Ochs

One of the absolute greatest things about being as close to the actual making of music as I now am is being able to actually witness new and awesome things as they come into existence, and to savour that ‘holy fucking shit, what is this, it’s awesome‘ moment when you realise that it is going to be excellent.

I am still amazed by what a mess music can actually sound like when you are in the room, listening to the actual act of recording. I remember some of the flat-out rock bands we recorded in our old living room, and it just sounded like someone throwing a load of old pots and pans down the stairs with some poor fucker trying desperately to scream over the top of the resulting cacophony. It sounded awful. And it turned out fantastically.

As you know I am currently in the middle of recording Song, by Toad Split 12″ Vol.6 (Vol.4 is out in July and Vol.5 in November) and we have three bands’ songs more or less down now. This project has embodied both ends of the ‘what the fuck is going on’ spectrum, from the Willard Grant Conspiracy, whose performance in the room itself was so obviously beautifully that my sole responsibility as a mixing engineer is not to fuck it up, through to the Tiss├Ş Lake songs, which were mostly individually tracked, so I didn’t really have much idea what I was hearing until we started to assemble everything together. It still surprises me when proper, grown-up music emerges from all those scraps, but it shouldn’t anymore.

Micah P. Hinson, on the other hand, has been a slightly different case. I am not sure he really enjoyed the recording process himself, primarily┬ábecause he is from Texas and was playing in an unheated warehouse in Edinburgh in November, so he was absolutely fucking freezing. I am genuinely sorry for this – I blame the perennial postponement of our stove installation – but you honestly wouldn’t know it from the recordings. The sound as Micah generally does: unhurried, rich and sincere.

One of the nicest bits though, and the bit which prompted the opening sentence to this post, is a cover that Micah played. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but it’s a Phil Ochs song and listening to it the other day as I tweaked the initial mixes, it struck me, hearing Ochs’ lyrics sung by Micah, how much lyrical common ground there is between the two. Phil Ochs is obviously more overtly political of course, but in other senses they have such a similar feel – the burst of humour (bitterly acerbic or otherwise), the flair for lighthearted musical styles to back poignant lyrics, that constant sense of self-doubt and nagging fear of futility, and of course the ability to write absolutely crushingly sad, beautiful songs as well as almost anyone I’ve heard.

There’s an intensity to the two of them too, sitting there beneath the surface of the music, and you never quite know what to do with it, which I think it probably what makes it brilliant.

Micah is fond of a cover, of course, and recorded a whole double album of them a few years ago, but this was just one of those moments where I thought ‘oh yeah, that’s perfect, and I never realised at all’.

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