“I used to have a tiny office that doubled as a recording studio, but since becoming a father four years ago, there have been three main spaces where I work:
(1) At home, very quietly
(2) At the studio at Brooklyn College
(3) The Seaside Lounge recording studio
(1) At home, usually after my son has gone to sleep, I pull out a metal folding chair, which is more quiet than the other rickety old wooden chairs in our apartment. I play an unamplified electric guitar. We live on the 12th floor, and my view out the window is that of Brooklyn stretching south from Clinton Hill towards Prospect Heights and Prospect Park. The furthest thing that I can see is the tree line of the park. The room is full of LPs, CDs, books. There are no other instruments in this room. (Elsewhere in the apartment are hidden guitars, a tenor banjo, banjo-mandolin, analog synths, etc., etc.)
(2) I do a lot of mixing at the studio at Brooklyn College, where I teach. I feel like I’m in total airlock isolation, and I love it. I turn off the air conditioning and feel the heat of the gear. When I get completely flummoxed I go into the next room and play the Steinway grand piano.
(3) This is The Seaside Lounge recording studio (photo above). It’s a very comfortable basement studio nestled amidst artists’ spaces in Park Slope, Brooklyn. An Optimist Notes the Dusk was recorded here with Patrick McCarthy.
The most important thing for me in any of these spaces is to keep it absolutely simple and to focus on one task at a time. When I’m hitting my stride and working on new material, I do best when I do it every day. Inspiration hits when I’m working regularly. In terms of creativivty, for me, isolation is paramount. I love working with other folks, but the gestation period is long and solitary.
How do I get started? A notebook of lyrics. A notebook with jottings for chords and melodies. An ever-present list of song titles and album titles. I tend to write music and lyrics independently of one another, in long swatches that are eventually cut into songs. Apart from what I’ve mentioned above, I use an electric guitar, a piano, a VCS3 synth, a Moog source synth, a Little Boy Blue synth and ProTools.
What I like most about my (home) space is that I own it. And it’s 10 steps away from my bed.”
Louisville, Kentucky-born David Grubbs has been making records since 1982. Since then he has made ten solo records, was a founding member of Squirrel Bait, Bastro, Gastr del Sol, and has worked with Stephen Prina, Cosima von Bonin, Angela Bulloch, Anthony McCall, Susan Howe and Kenneth Goldsmith. He has also played in The Red Krayola and The Wingdale Community Singers. He operates his own label, Blue Chopsticks, which has released both new and archival recordings by Luc Ferrari, Derek Bailey and Noël Akchoté, Workshop, Circle X, Van Oehlen and Mats Gustafsson. With Jim O’Rourke, Grubbs co-directed Dexter’s Cigar, an acclaimed label that reissued out-of-print recordings by, among others, Arnold Dreyblatt, Henry Kaiser, and Merzbow.
David Grubbs plays Whelan’s, Dublin on Saturday January 24th, 2009. Tickets €16 from WAV, City Discs, Road, Ticketmaster, Tickets.ie. For more information visit www.myspace.com/davidgrubbsbluechopsticks.