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Demos and espressos

Ben Moore talks about his record production rampage

Ben Moore engineers, produces, and plays — sometimes all at once.
Ben Moore engineers, produces, and plays — sometimes all at once.

Ben Moore moved from North County to the city proper to record his first production project, Loam’s Stereoscopic (1995). That album received the Best Local Recording award at the San Diego Music Awards. Moore has worked on albums by San Diego staples such as the Hot Snakes, Pinback, Octagrape, Switchfoot, Berkley Hart, Tim Flannery, as well as Metz, Buckfast Superbee, and his own band, the now-defunct Styletones.

Where did it all begin?

It all started at at MiraCosta Community College in Oceanside with two guys I met there: Frank Drennan [Loam] and Rob Crow. I met Rob when I was 17 at the beginning of Heavy Vegetable, and before Eléa had joined the band. I remember working on analog 8-track tape with Rob and Travis [Nelson], recording demo versions of songs from their first Cargo release.

The opportunity to come to San Diego and make the Loam record was the catalyst I needed to escape the suburbs. I purchased a small studio’s worth of recording equipment on a credit card and moved to San Diego. The band lived together above Club Megalopolis [now a parking lot] and I slept on some couches for a couple months while we made the album.

The San Diego Guitar Center location was on El Cajon Boulevard in the SDSU area. I was there buying some headphones and I noticed a small recording studio across the street, Golden Track. There was a DAT tape copy of the currently unreleased Loam LP in my pocket for some reason, and I walked in that afternoon. I was in endless rotation at that studio, and others, for the next five years.

Video:

"Brown Room"

...by John Reis & the Blind Shake

...by John Reis & the Blind Shake

You’ve also worked with John Reis...

Yeah, I’ve enjoyed a long working relationship with John. I like to work on whatever he is doing because the music is always interesting and the people are always really cool. I seem to record quite a few bands he is either performing in or producing; and that one thing for Rob Schneider [SNL] that we don’t talk about anymore.

By then, John was starting to focus on Hot Snakes, according to the online history.

The first Hot Snakes record was done very quickly, but my recollection is that Jason [Kourkanis] and John had been working on those songs on-and-off for a year or so. We recorded 18 songs in three days and at the time, John intended to sing on the album. I was sick with a flu for that recording and trying my best to act normal with veins full of DayQuil.

By the time we made Audit in Progress, it seemed like the band had more momentum behind them and we had a little more time to experiment. I remember having more fun on that album, but I still have nightmares about creating the organ loop in “Lovebirds” with a primitive piece of rack equipment (well before computers made their appearance in the studio).

How was working on John Reis & The Blind Shake’s Modern Surf Classics?

That album was fun! I remember John explaining what he wanted to do and I don’t think it really settled in that I was doing a surf record until the day we started production. I had never heard of the Blind Shake but they were great to work with. The drummer hits a little more post-punk than “traditional” surf music would allow for, but the guitar tones were super legit, using 1960s guitars through the right 1960s amps.

What else is coming up for you?

I was on a record production rampage in 2015. I produced seven songs on the new Octagrape LP coming out in January, some of which was recorded on cassette tape. New EP’s for Saba Loo and Secret Lynx were just recently released. I started a couple songs with Metz with John Reis for his Swami label but they haven’t been completed yet, since the band tours relentlessly. Rob Crow has a new solo album out in March and I think it’s one of the best things he’s done in a long time.

Most producers don’t like to engineer for other producers. I have never had a problem with that. I have been fortunate that the engineering work has provided opportunities for me to learn from a regular rotation of well-known producers and artists as they have breezed through San Diego. The corporate business has gone away but I still have a lifetime of experience and a really nice Italian espresso machine to show for it.

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Ben Moore engineers, produces, and plays — sometimes all at once.
Ben Moore engineers, produces, and plays — sometimes all at once.

Ben Moore moved from North County to the city proper to record his first production project, Loam’s Stereoscopic (1995). That album received the Best Local Recording award at the San Diego Music Awards. Moore has worked on albums by San Diego staples such as the Hot Snakes, Pinback, Octagrape, Switchfoot, Berkley Hart, Tim Flannery, as well as Metz, Buckfast Superbee, and his own band, the now-defunct Styletones.

Where did it all begin?

It all started at at MiraCosta Community College in Oceanside with two guys I met there: Frank Drennan [Loam] and Rob Crow. I met Rob when I was 17 at the beginning of Heavy Vegetable, and before Eléa had joined the band. I remember working on analog 8-track tape with Rob and Travis [Nelson], recording demo versions of songs from their first Cargo release.

The opportunity to come to San Diego and make the Loam record was the catalyst I needed to escape the suburbs. I purchased a small studio’s worth of recording equipment on a credit card and moved to San Diego. The band lived together above Club Megalopolis [now a parking lot] and I slept on some couches for a couple months while we made the album.

The San Diego Guitar Center location was on El Cajon Boulevard in the SDSU area. I was there buying some headphones and I noticed a small recording studio across the street, Golden Track. There was a DAT tape copy of the currently unreleased Loam LP in my pocket for some reason, and I walked in that afternoon. I was in endless rotation at that studio, and others, for the next five years.

Video:

"Brown Room"

...by John Reis & the Blind Shake

...by John Reis & the Blind Shake

You’ve also worked with John Reis...

Yeah, I’ve enjoyed a long working relationship with John. I like to work on whatever he is doing because the music is always interesting and the people are always really cool. I seem to record quite a few bands he is either performing in or producing; and that one thing for Rob Schneider [SNL] that we don’t talk about anymore.

By then, John was starting to focus on Hot Snakes, according to the online history.

The first Hot Snakes record was done very quickly, but my recollection is that Jason [Kourkanis] and John had been working on those songs on-and-off for a year or so. We recorded 18 songs in three days and at the time, John intended to sing on the album. I was sick with a flu for that recording and trying my best to act normal with veins full of DayQuil.

By the time we made Audit in Progress, it seemed like the band had more momentum behind them and we had a little more time to experiment. I remember having more fun on that album, but I still have nightmares about creating the organ loop in “Lovebirds” with a primitive piece of rack equipment (well before computers made their appearance in the studio).

How was working on John Reis & The Blind Shake’s Modern Surf Classics?

That album was fun! I remember John explaining what he wanted to do and I don’t think it really settled in that I was doing a surf record until the day we started production. I had never heard of the Blind Shake but they were great to work with. The drummer hits a little more post-punk than “traditional” surf music would allow for, but the guitar tones were super legit, using 1960s guitars through the right 1960s amps.

What else is coming up for you?

I was on a record production rampage in 2015. I produced seven songs on the new Octagrape LP coming out in January, some of which was recorded on cassette tape. New EP’s for Saba Loo and Secret Lynx were just recently released. I started a couple songs with Metz with John Reis for his Swami label but they haven’t been completed yet, since the band tours relentlessly. Rob Crow has a new solo album out in March and I think it’s one of the best things he’s done in a long time.

Most producers don’t like to engineer for other producers. I have never had a problem with that. I have been fortunate that the engineering work has provided opportunities for me to learn from a regular rotation of well-known producers and artists as they have breezed through San Diego. The corporate business has gone away but I still have a lifetime of experience and a really nice Italian espresso machine to show for it.

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