Interview With Mark Zanandrea
What’s the difference between Kensington Way on CD and Kensington Way Revisited on vinyl?
To my ears, there’s a big difference, though a casual listener might not notice all the changes. The CD was a purge of absolutely everything we had recorded. There was no editing, so it rambled and meandered far too much. It was too long! There were also some mixes I wasn’t happy with. So it needed about a half dozen remixes and some serious editing.
On top of that, I simply don’t find CDs as pleasurable a listening experience as vinyl, so I took it down to Nashville and remastered it with Nick Davis at etown records. He built a really nice compressor from scratch that we used. It makes this record something I would happily give a friend, whereas I have a fantasy of finding all the CDs and destroying them.
What options do we have to buy the album? What about listening online?
You and Mel (Melanie Clarin DeGiovanni) are such a great team. What’s the history of your collaboration? How do the two of you work together?
Melanie and I have been playing together since the 80’s, starting with The Catheads! I loved the way she always listened to, and complimented, the songs. After The Catheads broke up, Mel and I continued with It Thing. We have a stringent policy of recording one album per millennium.
I think there’s a natural chemistry when we collaborate. I write most of the songs, but she does a great job of actually making them listenable. She’s also a natural at harmonies, which I’m terrible at. One of the impressive things to understand about her contributions is the way she can so quickly flesh out my ideas. All the basic tracks on the album are first takes! And that’s not after weeks, or even days, of rehearsal. I’d send her a demo, she’d listen to it, come over and say how about this? We’d run through it once or twice in my living room, and then record it directly onto my cassette deck. A few times I asked to try it again in a slightly different way, but she was always right the first time, so I always used the first take.
What about the other band members, Josh Housh and Ray Halliday?
I’ve known both of them for years. Josh was a natural choice for me, because, while he does like to rock out and make noise, he can also rein it in and have a gentle touch. That’s very important to me. He turned out to be a perfect choice- very musical, and another great harmonist. Ray wasn’t on the album but I wanted a fuller sound for the live shows.
I was briefly in Ray’s band, The Buckets. He’s a great songwriter. And a ham. I hope to get them both to contribute more, but right now they’re just following my lead.
What was your experience like co-producing my album The Perambulator? What do you think was your most significant contribution?
It was fun being able to produce without being fully responsible for the outcome. It gave me a chance to listen to your material and say “Well, you know what I would do...” and then just fantasize the song through a particular genre- Which is right in my wheelhouse. Hopefully my most significant contribution was being able to help develop the sound and feel of the songs, without getting in the way of the songs.
A series of essays? Or maybe I’ll take up drawing, simply because I’m so terrible at it.