Recorded over 5 days in frontman Scott Dence’s basement Dumgeon studio, Dumb Doctors latest tape release features the band in their truest form. The 10 songs rip from front to back, capturing their live energy directly to tape. Recorded on a 4 track Tascam 424 MKII, the album retains the feeling and energy of a live session. On tracks like “Carpet Walls” you hear the warm hiss of tape for a second before you hear a clean driven guitar rhythm strum in and then the full band kick in 30 seconds into the song. You can literally hear the warmth that’s always referred to blanketing the entire song when bass, drums, and guitar aren’t cutting through.
Saturday at Summer Shindig they’ll celebrate the release of their latest recordings, and their first recording with the full band. We caught up with Dumb Doctor’s Scott Dence about the latest tape, and some of the music that’s influenced him over the years.
You mentioned this is the first time you recorded with a full band instead of playing everything yourself. What went into that decision?
The Dumb Doctors lineup has changed a lot over the years and I felt like we really started settling into this line up at the end of 2016. We were playing a lot at the time and it was really exciting hearing these songs that I would write and record by myself turn into real live band material, so I wanted a document of that. I also wanted to challenge myself to record the band as a whole. We recorded these songs live in my basement then overdubbed the vocals on top of the live tracks. I had been reading this book of interviews from the magazine, Tape Op, which opened my mind to new possibilities of the 4-track. Around that time, I had Chris Wenner try to fix an 8-track machine that I had but it was beyond repair. We ended up talking about 4-track recording and how so many classic album were made on them and he kinda talked me into using the 4-track. He also blew my mind a few times during that conversation by dropping so much knowledge and different ideas of how to use a 4-track that never occurred to me.
Pre 2000 music really has a lot to owe to the 4 track Tascam, maybe more than some realize. What do you love most about recording that way?
I like the process and the lo-fi sound. It’s so antiquated, it’s becoming a lost art. It took years to figure that thing out because it was hard to find info that made sense to me. I had to learn the ways of tape and how mixers work and signal flow and that kind of stuff before i could get anything to sound decent.
I was into a lot of albums that were recorded on 4-track when I was in high school. I was super obsessed with Guided By Voices and Athens lo-fi bands like Masters of The Hemisphere and Elf Power and other Elephant Six records stuff. The music those bands were recording was magical and messy. Sometimes psychotic and noisy; other times bleary eyed and quiet. And it would be all on the same record. It seemed like a tall tale to me that these bands were using such cheap equipment to make such amazing albums.
4-track is also way different from recording with computers because the tape is actually rolling and you can’t just stop, go back and punch in and fix mistakes. You have to really perform and fuckin’ rock out to get a really good take. If you make a mistake that you can’t live with, you have to go back to the beginning and do it all over again.
Why do you think 4 track tape recording and tapes in general are making a comeback of sorts?
I’m not sure why tapes have come back. I’m know it has a lot to do with the Burger Records people in California though. I think tape just sounds better. It’s a lot warmer and more organic sounding.
Cassettes are also cool and pretty cheap. If I go to a show and a band who I like has cassettes I’ll buy one.
You mentioned it was recorded with the full band, was it also written that way?
Nah, I demoed up all the songs on the album before we recorded. We did a range of stuff on this cassette. There are some brand new songs as well as some old songs that I wanted to re-record because they’ve changed so much from the original demo.
Tell me a little bit more about the artwork.
Dennis Hickman is an old friend and he occasionally eats at the Early Bird Diner, where I work, and I brought up making a shirt to go with song “The Reptile”. That song was based on the SC legend of the lizard man of ore county. He told me that there were a bunch of cool shirts from the 80’s and 90’s with the lizard man on’em that you would find at South of The Border. So It’s kinda his take on that. I really loved the image so I decided to use it as the album cover but I still plan on making shirts.
I’m listening to the Bob Boilen book right now and he keeps trying to get down to one song that changed a musicians life, or guided it and shaped it. Can you think of one song in particular that really influenced you from a young age, or one you found when you were older that really opened you up.
Yeah there are so many! I’ve always loved listening to music. I almost like listening more than playing music. I was kinda a latch key kid and spent a lot of time after school with my brother watching MTV. It’s kinda cliche but I loved Nirvana, they were my favorite. I had seen the videos for “Come as You Are” “Teen Spirit” “In Bloom” which were all mind altering on their own. I saw the performance of “Lithium” from the 92 VMA’s and that completely changed me. They seemed so crazy! They talked shit to Axl Rose and wrecked the stage which really spoke to me as a 10 year old. But my favorite part was when Krist Novoselic threw his bass like 20 ft in the air and got hit in the head when it came down. It was just so wild! I couldn’t believe what I saw! I’m pretty sure that was the year I went back to school and was like “I’m gonna be a rocker when I grow up”.