Tim Ramenofsky (aka Headfridge) and Gerrit Brusse (aka King Leisure) began their musical partnership in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. It was there that Ramenofsky founded T-Bones Records and produced rap-artist Afroman's hit single, “Because I Got High,” a home-recorded effort that bears the distinction of being nominated for a Grammy. “The Los Angeles Times said it was a travesty that we were nominated because we're so low budget,” says Ramenofsky. “But to me, that was an honor. We're still very underground, but now people know who we are.” Ramenofsky later moved his record label to Los Angeles.
Collectively, Ramenofsky and Brusse are the Savalas Brothers, purveyors of acid-jazz, dance music, funk, and trip-hop. They cite musical influences such as James Brown and the JBs, the Meters, Herbie Hancock, LTJ Bukem, and DJ Shadow. Pimp Knuckle is the Savalas Brothers' second solo outing, recorded in the living room of Ramenofsky's former home in Mississippi. “We tried to make it a very organic album,” says Ramenofsky. “We recorded it all from scratch.” Twenty-one guest musicians from the Mississippi Delta visited the studio known as Timmy's Sweatshop. “We did almost everything with live instruments in the middle of the living room,” Ramenofsky says. “We didn't want [Pimp Knuckle] to sound like a digital techno album.”
Live performances were recorded through an Echo Digital Audio Gina digital audio interface into a PC running Sonic Foundry's Acid 1.0. Ramenofsky and Brusse edited tracks in Sonic Foundry's Sound Forge using DirectX plug-ins. Their recording gear also includes a Mackie 1402-VLZ Pro mixer, an Avalon Design VT-737 tube preamp and compressor, an Alesis Q20 multi-effects processor, and a pair of Sennheiser MD 421 dynamic mics abetted by an assortment of inexpensive mics.
The Savalas Brothers miked instruments and vocals with the MD 421s and used the additional mics to capture room sound, which they eventually abandoned. “It was hard to get a good room sound,” Ramenofsky says. “But the resonance on the drums was spectacular because we had wood floors and a basement. We figured that we could get a great drum sound by using the [VT-737] compressor.” They aged drum sounds by adding vinyl-record pops. When recording horns, the Savalas Brothers added reverb by activating the bass-drum mic — still inside the bass drum — in conjunction with the instrument mics. They also experimented with placing a mic on the floor underneath a kitchen pot or a mop bucket.
Songs began with improvised drum tracks. “That's how James Brown did it,” Ramenofsky says. “He'd have this room full of people and he would coach them. We'd go through the drum takes and find the good spots. Then we'd overdub the other instruments.” Pimp Knuckle features a variety of instruments, including theremin, turntables, and Chapman Stick. “If we have an odd instrument, we'll record a long, improvised take and layer that stuff in, sometimes transposing it to a different key or pitch,” says Ramenofsky.
Pimp Knuckle has already gained a lot of attention. One track, “Take Another Puff (Dopeman Mix),” appears on MTV's Road Rules soundtrack. Ramenofsky's also shopping “2 Pimps,” featuring 2 Live Crew turntablist Mr. Mixx. “It's screaming to be put into an action movie,” he says. “We're talking to a bunch of movie studios, trying to get our music involved.”
For more information, contact T-Bones Records, PO Box 46793, West Hollywood, CA 90046; tel. (601) 434-0822; Webwww.tbonesrecords.com.