Some people have been around and talk about how they’d been around. Others have been around and stick around. Witness Ivan Julian. Here’s a guy who probably could’ve coasted on occasional “bad old New York” documentary appearances based soley on playing guitar with Richard Hell & the Voidoids on some of the best records of the first wave of American punk. Instead, over the years he’s kept ripping through a number of his own projects while guesting with Shriekback, Matthew Sweet, the Clash and others. Then around 2000, he and Matt Verta-Ray (Speedball Baby, Heavy Trash) started the NY Hed studio in Manhattan, recording everyone from old bros the Fleshtones and Jon Spencer to loads of the mid-00s neo-garage scene to new noisters like Hunx & His Punx. And Julian was a house producer for a series of cool 7-inches that Scion put out a few years ago, featuring the latest gutter garagers like Human Eye, Cheap Time and many others.
In 2011, Julian released his very first solo album, The Naked Flame (00:02:59). And recently he got together with fellow first-era punk Alejandro Escovedo, ’90s alt-rock all-star drummer Linda Pitmon and longtime Chicago scene vet Nicholas Tremulis (guitar) to make up the Fauntleroys, for a seemingly one-off SXSW show that has turned into some upcoming tour dates and a new EP, Below The Pink Pony. It’s full of sweeping roots rock and is out today on Plowboy Records, a new label run by another legendary first wave punk maestro, Cheetah Chrome (Dead Boys).
All those years of r’n’r action got us thinking about Julian’s favorite sessions, and here’s his breakdown, though he claims it’s too imposssible to say “best to least.” Check out the Fauntleroys tour dates below too.
Ivan Julian’s Top Ten Recording Sessions
1. Nick Lowe producing The Voidoids’ Kid with the Replaceable Head/I’m Your Man – September, 1978
Nick was the model for the kind of producer that I wanted to be. He knew how to work with the band to create a vibe that made everyone want to push it up a notch or step back and just let it flow as he did on I’m Your Man. He also knew his way around the board. That day, without us noticing, Nick effortlessly turned the Voidoids into a pop band. Not an easy feat.
2. The Clash at ElectricLady Studios – October, 1980
When The Clash were in town, Mick Jones invited me down to the studio to just hang; I had no intention of playing. Joe sat down at the grand piano, then he an Mickey Dread started up this groove. It was so compelling that I said, “Gimmie a guitar” and picked up Strummer’s Tele. We worked it, re-worked it then jammed on it for fifteen minutes with tape rolling. That became “The Call Up.”
3. The Fauntleroys at NY Hed – November, 2011
The Fuantleroys sessions were truly magical. Nearly every time I’ve been in the studio as a musician, producer or engineer it has involved some sort of rehearsals. Witht this, we just assembled in the studio and milled around until it was time to press record. Nick would say, “I got this song and it goes like this,” and after doing it two or three times we would record it. Done. Alejandro and Nick would huddle together…Same result—done. I would come out from behind the board and show them one of my songs. Bam! They nail it. None of this would have happened without Linda Pittmon being there. She’s a monster that carries you with velvet claws. Always knowing when to and when not to. Alejandro’s idea that he play bass was the icing on the cake. He’s instinctive as a bass player. Show him a song and he’ll play the bass line that you’re thinking of. While recording this session I didn’t have to chase the magic, it came up and licked my finger.
4. The Fleshtones – 2007-12
I have known these guys a long time but until recently we always seemed to be in different parts of the globe.The first album I produced for them was Take A Good Look. We have the same garage sensibility, so when I make a reference to the Seeds or Talk Talk by the Music Machine, they got it. With them it’s just a matter of putting up the mics in their special places, getting a sound and then the shiny pieces all fall into place.
5. Matthew Sweet – June, 1995
It was fun watching Matthew tell Mick Fleetwood which cymbals to hit and when. When we were in London, I got Pete Thomas from Elvis Costello’s band involved on one of the sessions. That’s him on Someone To Pull the Trigger. He’s such a pleasure to play with, such a talented drummer.
6. Hunx and His Punx – 2010-12
I’ve produced two albums with Hunx and I’ll do a third in a heartbeat. I’ll never forget when he came into the studio with “his Punxs,” (four amazingly beautiful women). Then they began to play and they had “it.” The groove was there waiting to carry you away. Then they began to sing together and I was floored. I knew then that Too Young To Be In Love was going to be a great record!
7. Burnt Sugar “The Bowie Sessions,” produced by Vernon Reid – November, 2012
One day I stepped outside my studio to get some air. Vernon comes walking by. “Hey Vernon, come on down, I got something to show ya”. He sees all the tube pre’s, 2-inch tape machine, etc. and says, “I’ll be back.” A month later he rolls in with 17 musicians that are Burnt Sugar to record an album of David Bowie songs with this R&B band. I mean real R&B, not the vocal gymnastics you hear that sounds like it’s being read from a guitar tab. He wants to do it all live, no overdubs. The results are stellar. The room is pumping. When they did their version of Rock n Roll Suicide, the earth stopped moving. It’s not released yet and it takes a lot to impress me, but it will change your life! I feel lucky to have been part of that recording.
8. The Voidoids Blank Generation Sessions, Plaza Sound, Radio City – July, 1977
We were mixing the song, Blank Generation. When we got to the ooos they just kept going down in pitch, way down until the tape machine just stopped. Then the lights went out. We thought we had blown the main fuses for the studio, again. This meant the electrical engineer for the building would soon burst through the door screaming at us. Turns out it was the NYC Blackout of ’77, and we didn’t do it. The muggers soon hit the streets, but Bob Quine and I somehow managed to get back downtown with our guitars.
9. Haala sessions with Sean Lennon on keys and backing vocals, Dougie Bowne producing – April, 2007
Dougie had written these amazing arrangements for Haala, an Iranian singer that sang ancient Iranian poems. On one of the sessions, Sean comes into HY Hed, sits down at the Wurlitzer and lays down this keyboard part that makes the song. Then he does his backing vocals and starts to layer these high harmonies. It wasn’t like he was trying, it just came out of him. A beautiful thing to record and watch.
10. The Naked Flame Sessions, NY Hed – March, 2009
The more I read in books and linear notes, it seems obvious that most of the records I admire are not just performed by the “core” band. There is always some Fifth Element in the form of outside musicians that morph the songs and the sound into something special. I decided to put this to practice for these sessions. People came in and played whatever they wanted and I just let it go. Let the vine grow without so much pruning. That’s the magic.
Tour Dates For The Fauntleroys:
10/03 – Cincinnati, OH – Taft Theatre
10/04 – Nashville, TN – City Winery
10/05 – Lexington, KY Willie’s Locally Known
10/07 – Pittsburgh, PA – Hard Rock Café
10/08 – New York, NY – Mercury Lounge,
10/09 – Brooklyn, NY – Rough Trade
10/10 – Philadelphia, PA – North Star
10/11 – Washington, DC – The Hamilton