Kathy Foster of The Thermals

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the thermals kathy foster

oh cassette 4-track, how i love thee!

i love losing all sense of time recording on the 4-track. i love getting into it. inspiration's striking hot and i can barely maneuver through the obstacle course of cables, pedals, microphones, drums, amps and guitars i've created. no time for order! i have to capture these ideas before they fly out of my brain. i play the melody on the guitar or keyboard and think about what the drums should do. then i put one mic on the drums and play to the melody in my head. record. see how it sounds. move the mic. record. yeah cool! maybe put the mic through a reverb or delay pedal. record. yeah! the drums sound SO.GOOD. on the cassette 4-track. one mic! that's all you need. ok, get the drums down. that usually takes one to, ohh, eight tries or so. then the momentum picks up. the drums sounds good! oh, i'm so excited to get the guitar on there! move the mic from the drums to the amp. a small loud amp. plug in the distortion pedal (or sometimes the natural distortion of the amp is enough) and/or the reverb pedal and/or the delay pedal and/or the overdrive pedal. or maybe none of that. one of my favorite guitar sounds is through one of those tiny marshall amps that are like 6 inches tall with my vintage electrovoice mic on it. yes! once i have the guitar down, i get excited to put down the vocals or a guitar solo. both are super fun to do over and over again. i've been singing the song as i write it, but now i hear myself and gotta find the right sweet sound. the right mic, the right effect, the right feeling, uh, the right key please! or if i haven't finished writing the words, then i listen to the recording thus far over and over and sing along and it helps me finish the song. then maybe write a guitar solo. it's SO fun to write a guitar solo. sometimes i know where to start because i've already been hearing in my head the solo melody and then i just try to let it flow out of me naturally. i want it to feel good and be fun to listen to, maybe even a little humorous. i love listening to the recording over and over in my headphones, soloing along. the sound of the 4-track's lo-fi recording of the instruments is so satisfying to my ears. and then the bass. i usually record the vocals before the bass to make sure the melodies don't step on each other. jamming on the bass is so much fun too. i usually just go direct into the 4-track which gives it some natural distortion. done! now i've got myself a sweet little lo-fi 4-track song. its really fun to sit down with no ideas, and make up something right then and there. sometimes i start with a drum beat and then write a song to it. after a few hours, i'll have created something out of nothing. those are usually my favorite songs too. it's like you're plugging the 4-track directly into your brain and seeing what comes out, leaving no time to mull it over or second guess yourself. a direct feed! those are the songs that seem to come from some magical unknown place within me. when i listen to them months later, i'm like, where did THAT come from?! how did i DO that?! or, i don't remember doing THAT! when i'm done recording i'll take a break for a while, then come back and listen with fresh ears. yeah! it sounds so good! fuckin bad! oh cassette 4-track, how i love thee!