In the Studio: Interpol with Dave Fridmann - EMusician

This week sees the release of Interpol’s new album, Marauder, the product of four blocks of sessions in Dave Fridmann’s Tarbox Studios. The rhythmic and infectious guitar riffs, synth embellishments, varied drum sounds, and frontman Paul Banks’ expressive voice and bass work, add up to a high-energy, adventurous album with almost anthemic moments.

Fridmann says that the band entered his studio with impressively well-formed and detailed demos. “They had been working for more than a year by the time I heard a note,” he says. “But things were also very fluid and open. Especially considering how much work they did, they were willing to listen to any suggestion. Anything that made the song better—great, let’s do that.”

Sam Fogarino, Paul Banks, and Daniel Kessler

Sam Fogarino, Paul Banks, and Daniel Kessler

Sessions started with live basic tracking, with Banks playing bass and sometimes singing a scratch vocal to a Shure SM58 (the same mic he used for final tracks), Daniel Kessler on guitar, and Samuel Fogarino on drums.

“Sam is such an inventive, strange player and so particular about his sounds,” Fridmann says. “He brought a ton of drums and we have a ton here as well, and he had a very good idea of what he wanted to do. I didn’t have a reason to give him a lot of input on what drums he was picking, but he brought a wide variety and we have a ton here as well. He designed his parts and it seems to me they were designed around the drums he was playing. I just needed to capture it on tape.” (And yes, tape was actually tape: They recorded to an Otari MTR90 MkII machine with Dolby SR.)

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Fridmann’s miking scheme allowed for 10 or 11 tracks of drums to give Fogarino options.

“You don’t necessarily hear all the mics on every song, but we’d have choices that way, and backups,” says Fridmann, who also works on the Flaming Lips’ records. “My mics would be pretty standard, normal stuff. For example, I have an Electro-Voice 868 from a drum mic kit I got forever ago, and it’s a great match for his kick drum. He always uses these square beaters on the kick so he gets maximum contact, and so it’s a really interesting tone that he has. For most of the people I work with, I’m just using standard engineering techniques to capture whatever weird idea they have.”

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For each song, once the band had a foundation they liked, they’d build on with guitars, vocals, and keys. Some tracks came together pretty quickly, while others seemed harder to nail down. The single “The Rover” fell into the latter category.

“We had accomplished getting the basic track earlier in the day, and then we went ahead and started [overdubbing] after dinner. I don’t think we finished it that night, and when we came back the next day we were dissatisfied with how it felt. We tried different click tracks. The next day we tried a few more. Then we started doing it without a click, and I believe by dinner time on the [third night], we had decided upon a couple different takes that we thought best represented the song, and I did tape edits from those.

“It was all about the way the song progresses and how we imagined the vocal overlays in the long runs happening. It wasn’t until we disengaged from the click track that we felt like it was getting the emotional response that we wanted.”

“We improvised on-the-fly, extending a segue for entering the third chorus,” recalls Kessler, who played through a Fender Princeton Reverb plus a Deluxe on “The Rover.” “For my guitar sound, we tried an assortment of different approaches before arriving at the mixture of amps and effects as heard on the track. We were just looking for something urgent and textural that carried some weight to the part. It’s one of those things that you don’t know it’s right until you finally go ‘that’s it.’”

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Fridmann and the band tempered the strong emotional intensity of songs like “The Rover” with short interstitial pieces that they call “Interludes.” Though most of the synths and keys on the album were contributed by Brandon Curtis or Roger Joseph Manning, these gentle, ambient synth tracks were actually performed by Fogarino.

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“As we got closer to picking the final songs for the record, it became more and more apparent there was a lot of hard and fast information coming in, and you know what would be nice? If we had a little break somewhere in there,” says Fridmann.

“Including a couple Interlude pieces on the album was Dave's idea,” Fogarino says. “He asked me to generate something on the modular synth rig I had brought along with me. Mainly, I used the ADDAC Mellotron and Mutable Instruments Rings Eurorack modules as my tonal anchors. It's like combining two complete voices—one analog, the other digital––in a tiny amount of space. Pitch CV came from a Xaoc Devices Rotosequencer and a Tiptop Audio Quantizer.

Further modules that Fogarino used included Xaoc Tallin VCA, Kamieniec Phase Rotator, Xaoc Belgrad Multimode Filter, Batumi Quad LFO, Audio Damage EOS Stereo Reverb, ALM PE-1 Dual Parametric EQ, Make Noise Dynamix, Contour Envelope Generator, and more.

“It all came together in a relatively brief span of time,” Fogarino says. “The modular synth rig was in the live room. We had been recording the final round of songs. I had the synth running through a small P.A. It was loud. The studio door was opened to the kitchen, where everyone was hanging out. Minutes later, I heard shouting. I assumed they just wanted the door shut. But, as I lowered the volume, I realized they were actually shouting, ‘Are you recording this?!’

“It was really just a big Fridmann-guided accident. What appears on Marauder had a lot of additional filtering or modulation coming from Dave—a beautiful wash and smearing of the original ‘movement.’”