“Making the album Physical World was a long and fractured experience,” says Sylvia Gordon of urban new wave act Kudu. Along with beat master Deantoni Parks, Gordon has been shaking up the scene by combining hip-hop, electronica, jazz, and a hefty dose of neo-soul. To celebrate the release of Death of the Party, Kudu’s newest full-length offering, EQ contacted Gordon to pose the question that, as of early March, everybody has been asking: “How the hell did you do it?”
“Well we knew that we wanted to do as much as possible on our own, as we didn’t have much money,” Gordon relays; a situation we are all, at one time or another, a little too familiar with. Parlaying dollars earned from the D./John Cale tour nearly a year prior into equipment, Kudu constructed the basis for what amounted to a bare bones operation. A laptop, a Pro Tools 002 rig, a decent mic for pre-production vocals, and a version of Reason made up the bulk of Kudu’s arsenal. Given the money/time constraints, it was imperative that Kudu focus on pre-production and assorted preparation while they had the luxury to do so. “Most of the base tracks were already written by D.” Gordon says, “I just added the melody and lyrics as well as structured the tracks around my arrangements — with bits of detail being added later during the recording process.“
The album is largely electronically based (composed in Reason) with the only live instrumentation you hear being an acoustic drum kit, various voices, horns on one track, and just a smidgeon of guitar on another. “The main advantage to using a portable studio is in that it lets D. create tracks anytime/anywhere,” Gordon declares, “he actually wrote the track for ‘Neon Graveyard’ in Las Vegas while on a tour bus as I was writing the lyrics to it in New York, unbeknownst to either of us.”
“I struggled along with the production process, as I’m not an engineer, but knowing what you want and having a basic working knowledge of Pro Tools is definitely helpful in shaving off time in the real studio. We were fortunate enough to have a friend, who is now head engineer at Chung King, give us the ‘late night super special.’ Of course, we would have to wait days, sometimes weeks, before time was available and, even then, we would sometimes get bumped for the big time customers with major label funding. It was frustrating, but cheap. When that deal began to wear on us, another generous friend stepped in and offered us a comparable rate at his own local studio where the equipment wasn’t quite up to par, but was still quite an impressive place — especially for a guy not even out of school yet.”
“Half of the album was recorded and mixed in our neighborhood at Ishlab on a vintage MCI JH-636 — a 36-channel console previously owned and used by Eric B. and Rakim, KRS One, Public Enemy, DJ Premier, and Salt-N-Pepa. In addition to that, we utilized an Avalon 737 preamp/compressor/limiter, API 3124 preamps, Drawmer DS 3201 dual noise gates, and a Neumann U87 mic. The other half of the album was recorded and mixed at Chung King in the Blue Room on a Custom Neve VRP72 with flying faders and total recall — all with the help of a bevy of high end compressors, pre-amps, and mics.”
The sum of the parts is a warm, entrancing album that pushes the conventional boundaries of pop music with a production that succeeds in being consistent, as well as suitably dynamic and swelling with life. How the hell did they do it?
“With a little help from our friends.”