Ah, the major label debut of PMB. It was a thrilling time for us. I recall being out on Alcatraz Island on one of our many trips to the Bay Area to play shows in San Francisco. It was out there on that tourist trap that for some reason I got the call to sign on the dotted line with the mighty Warner Brothers Records. Fitting since we were officially at that moment in the “prison” of the music business. We no longer could be in 100% control of all things PMB, but damn did we try!
On Shine we had the fortunate opportunity to record at legendary studios in Sausalito, CA and NYC. We worked with the elite team of Jerry Harrison (founding member of Talking Heads), Karl Derfler (engineer bad ass) and Andy Wallace (produced Jeff Buckley’s Grace and mixed pretty much everything awesome on the radio). It was truly a dream come true experience. During the recording sessions we met lots of celebs, used the best of equipment, stayed in sweet accommodations and generally just wined and dined ourselves silly. I recall being at BB-Q in Marin and pumping keg beer with Bob Weir. James Hetfield was just down the street. CSN&Y were rehearsing around the corner and we got to use a bunch of Neil Young’s amps. It was ridiculousness.
We had a blast polishing this new batch of tunes I had written for the record. This was the first time I had written with anyone other than myself. I was introduced to Marti Frederickson, a very well-known songwriter living in Monrovia, CA. He had worked with legends and I was slightly intimidated yet totally ecstatic to get the chance to create something new for PMB. I went on to write “Runaway”, “Anybody”, “What Ya Got”, & “Hero” with Marti. He pushed me to sing higher, louder and generally rock harder—essentially not be such a pansy. I can still recall phoning Chardy and could hardly hold back the excitement after coming up with “Runaway”. I could envision the band all over that song and couldn’t wait to track it. Co-writing for me is always a touchy thing. I’ve co-written songs that I never felt the connection with mainly because they were not my ideas to begin with. Those songs don’t make the records. But writing with Marti was different. We did it together and he always let me steer the ship, even if he had his foot on the brake and gas.
Looking back on the recording process, Jerry really let us be us. I’m still very proud of that record. It’s pretty much an airtight version of what each guy musically brought to the table. I very rarely listen to these recordings so hearing it now during this reflection is a time warp for me. I can remember sitting in the studio cutting the guitar for “I Know” and tracking “Shine” with a ton of candles around me. I felt like Sting in the “Wrapped Around Your Finger” video. I also remember when Ghegan flew in to cut sax on the record. Karl was thinking we would “cut and paste” his performance, basically taking his best riffs and make a great performance out of many different takes. Michael politely said, “Just press record, I got this.” He nailed it in one take and even these seasoned vets in the studio were in awe.
Same thing went for Fechino when he came in to cut a few solos. Brian just has an endless amount of riffs and tone for miles. The producers were like, um, ok then, I guess we’re done here! Brian would join us for our next record and join the band for many years.
Another personal highlight for me was having Warren Haynes from Allman Brothers Band play slide on “Anybody” and “Shine”. While we were tracking in NYC I was in full-on Wayne’s World mode, silently chanting to myself… “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy!” Warren was an absolute pro to work with and what really struck me as special was that he genuinely cared about what the song was written about and if what he was doing was OK by me. He could have played a solo over the entire song and I would have said, print it! All in all an amazing experience, to say the least. It was also our first real deal photo shoot. We were attempting to look cool in the streets and subways of San Francisco by big time photographer Jay Blakesburg. If you ask me, we failed. Why do you think there isn’t a photo of the band on the cover of the record?