THE STORY BEHIND THE ALBUM: Illuminated by The 360’s

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The 1991 release from the beloved Boston band has indeed stood the test of time. “Joyous rock ‘n’ roll and a great band,” as producer Sean Slade puts it.

BY JONATHAN LEVITT

Ed. Note: The concept behind our series “The Story Behind the Album” is pretty straightforward: what went into the making of a particularly noteworthy recording, as seen through the eyes of its creator(s). It can be an acknowledged classic or an under-the-radar gem, but the basic parameters are the same: a title that stands out in an artist’s catalog, one which has stood the test of time and still commands the respect of fans. It could even have been a critical flop or a commercially under-performing record upon its initial release, but the years have steadily unveiled its extant genius. Our first investigation was into Thee Hypnotics’ 1991 classic Soul Glitter & Sin. Then we took a look at New River Head by The Bevis Frond, followed by Rock ‘N’ Roll by The Cynics, From the Heart of Town by Gallon Drunk, Couture, Couture, Couture by Frausdots and Blue Sky Mining by Midnight Oil. Here’s our latest, and for anyone who was around during the alt-rock explosion in America during the ‘90s, we’re betting you heard — and dug — it. Enjoy.—FM

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In 1991 Boston indie rockers The 360’s, consisting of Audrey Clark, Eric Russell, Brian Evans and John Grady, walked into Fort Apache recording studio and proceeded to create a psychedelic tinged, blistering rock record that hit two sweet spots for me. The first was the guitar playing which was in your face, melodic and with a hint of grunge. Next were the vocals that recalled a Chrissie Hynde assuredness and swagger.

In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Boston was strip mined for its alternative music. Bands such as Morphine, The Lemonheads, Bullet Lavolta, and the Pixies were offered record deals. Signing frenzies reached their peak and labels were trying very hard to find the next Jane’s Addiction or Ivo Watts Russell-4AD darling. “We were ahead of the curve musically in Boston [and] it always seemed like the right people got it or dug it,” guitarist Eric Russell notes.

Unfortunately, this didn’t add up to stellar album sales for the band. What it did, though, was put them on the radar in Europe and the UK, giving them the opportunity to bring their formidable sound to a new audience. Says Russell, “I remember one gig in New York, we met a promoter who was there to check us out for the Metropolis festival, which is the tour of Holland featured in the movie, The Year That Punk Broke. The cash from that one gig paid for our airfare and allowed us a two-week tour of Holland.” Illuminated also helped propel the band to win, as Audrey Clark mentions, “best new band at the Boston Music Awards.”

Much of the band’s sound can be attributed to their “Fifth Beatle,” Sean Slade, who produced and mixed records such as Radiohead’s Pablo Honey, as well as a slew of Boston’s greatest alternative acts (The Pixies, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Lemonheads, Buffalo Tom, Morphine etc.) and eventually Hole’s Live Through This. Clark recalls, “Slade was absolutely the 5th member of the band. His input was essential, including arrangements, and Eric/Slade had a true vision for the album. Slade is a master of vocal recording. He’s a great vocal arranger especially with female singers. He also had a great collection of vintage amps and guitars. Slade understood us as a band!”

Tracks like “Texas,” with its grizzled ferocity, and pitched on the edge of sanity double tracked vocals, stands out, with its layers of aggressive guitar that swirl and detonate repeatedly throughout the song. It’s as if we’ve happened upon a ghoulish scene in the film Near Dark. Meanwhile, “Illuminated” is the perfect balance of angelic vocals and gritty rumbling guitar. “Put That Behind Me” recalls The Pretenders’ “Middle of the Road”. Here Audrey’s vocals evoke a cynical weariness. The propulsive nature of the guitars makes this all too brief song seethe, and glow. Why this wasn’t a single is beyond comprehension and begs the question of whether the label really had a clear idea of how to promote the band.

Eric aptly describes the sound they were going for with this recordsaying,  “We were talking a lot about heavy guitars, using words like heavy, grunge. Heavy guitars with soft beautiful vocals over the top of a psychedelic wave of noise.” This is in many ways why this album is so interesting, with its psychedelic layers seasoned throughout its ten tracks.

Unfortunately, as is the case for so many bands that are signed to major labels or “indies” with major label ties, unless you have someone at the label to champion your record inside you may inevitably get lost in the shuffle and simply become another notch on an A&R man’s belt. Eric Russell says, “The first recording was paid for by A&M’s Aaron Jacoves, the man who signed Soundgarden.” Later on, though, the label lost interest. This is when NYC’s Link Records stepped up to the plate to sign the band.

Luck also has a fair amount to do with it for bands to get signed. The 360’s seemed to be lucky on many fronts back then. Russell recalls, “I remember coming home from Europe and playing a big gig at Axis. It was for WFNX packed [with] 5 or 600 and the main P.A. kept going in and out, people were horrified they couldn’t believe [that] we didn’t stop. We played through it, weird gig, but it was that night that we were approached with a record deal.”

You’d be forgiven if you thought the band had disappeared into the ether. I certainly thought they had hung up their spurs long ago but as Audrey Clarke says, “We never really stopped being 360’s.” In fact, the band has now welcomed Malcolm Travis (of Sugar fame) into the band as well as Audrey and Eric’s son Ian who does duty behind the kit.

In my musical musings I often mention that back in 1991 I was in China as a foreign exchange student. Illuminated was dubbed on a tape by my friend Juan Lozano who would send me care packages of music to feed me musically when the bleakness of China would start to close in. That is where the music took root in a drab dorm room, on a crappy boom box sitting atop a regulation wooden desk with red painted serial numbers. It’s been almost 25 years and I’ve never tired of listening to Illuminated’s stellar slice of rock and roll.

So with an army of questions in mind, I contacted Clark and her partner Russell to give me the lowdown on how this Illuminated came into existence. In the interim I spent several occasions chatting over Facebook with Audrey about music and my time in China and some common elements in our background. What was great about those moments for me was being able to get to know someone that I had only known through her music. So some three months after I initially emailed her the questions I get a message, “The questions have been answered please send me your address”. I send her my email address and to my surprise and shock she asks for my mailing address. She went on to explain that she’s “old school” about such things and that she included some photos for me and a signed copy of the CD.

Autograph

When the package finally arrived after 2 nail biting weeks, I opened it to find 13 pages of handwritten responses from both her and Eric as well as nine original photos of her and the band. It was a lovingly, ramshackle assembled montage of a band that continues to inspire. The paper that the questions were answered on smelled of cigarettes and conjure up a wooden kitchen table, linoleum flooring, and those few precious moments of calm in the morning before one heads off to work. Yes, Audrey like many other musicians in this world have to hold down day jobs in order to fund their artistic endeavors.

Of course this article wouldn’t have been complete without talking to Berklee School of Music Professor/Music Producer extraordinaire, Sean Slade. As noted above, he produced the album, and he also manned the boards for its followup, 1992’s Supernatural. (Asked about the possibility of Illuminated one day being available again, he commented, “I have no idea about any re-issue plans. And to be honest, I love the album, but I prefer Supernatural.”) He offered up a wonderfully detailed summary of the recording sessions for Blurt readers which you can read below.

First though, it’s time, in the band’s own transcribed words, to shine a light on Illuminated. (Below: sundry memorabilia plus the band’s handwritten interview responses.)

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Memorabilia

BLURT: How long had the 360’s been together when Illuminated started to coalesce?

ERIC RUSSELL (ER): I met Audrey in late ’87 we started to discuss forming a band called The Bardot’s and making music and how the music should sound. It was at this point we decided Audrey would play guitar although she had never played before. This started the songwriting [process]. My teaching Audrey to play sparked some sort of energy; it was simple but it felt right. We wrote 2 songs first: “H.M.S.” later on 45 as a B side, and “Trashed” never made it past demo. The 2 songs were done on 4-track, very low fi, no bass or drummer. We used a drum machine and an old friend played bass but this is really where the band and record started. I say this is where the record started because this is when we started to develop our sound – we listened to Syd Barrett bootlegs over and over, post Pink Floyd, [and] also listened heavily to a demo by The Titanics produced by Sean Slade. We wanted heavy guitars with soft female vocals over the top, not knowing yet [that] Slade would be the perfect producer to achieve the sound we wanted, open minded musically yet a great vocal producer.

I think of the record beginning when I met Audrey and we started to talk a lot about the sound we wanted the band to have. We were talking about heavy guitars;we were using words like heavy, grunge. Heavy guitars with soft beautiful vocals over the top of a psychedelic wave of noise. When I met Audrey her band had just broken up; they were beginning to get interest from A&M Records’ A&R man Aaron Jucovics, the Soundgarden A&R man. The band was called Drama Club. I tried out for the band but was kicked out by the band leader who [felt] threatened by me. He could sense that we had a chemistry musically. Audrey was asked to form a new band and started with me. I had Audrey fooling around with one of my guitars and said, “I did not know you could play.” She said, “I can’t,” and I said, “Yes you can,” so I began to teach Audrey guitar. This brought me back to my roots, which was Boston hardcore. It freed me, made me less freaked out by the interest from A&M records.

We wrote our first songs “H.M.S (Horror Movie Soundtrack)” and [“Trashed”]. We recorded them right away on a 4 track home studio owned by her old band mate Kenny. We really dug the lo-fi sound – it had the wave of noise with beautiful vocals. This whole thing took about six months. We played the 2 song demo for Max [Tolkoff], the program director of WFNX who liked the demo, so we started more writing. The whole thing felt new, it felt right, so every time we played we were writing. By the time we got drummer John Grady and [our] first bass player, we had the two songs from the demo and I started writing “Deadpan Superstar”. Audrey started “Tripping With the Angels”, so we had the four songs – not all the way finished, but those 4 ideas before any proper band rehearsals started.

 Were all of these songs tunes you had played and then perfected in the studio, or were some of these songs written in the studio?

ER: No, that would come later as we grew as a band. We were such a young band in the amount of time we were together, and the fact that Audrey had only played guitar for six months when we recorded. We had some great gigs and some real room clearings. We were ahead of the curve musically in Boston but it always seemed like the right people got it or dug it. We grew by playing gigs. All the songs for Illuminated were played out live — we were so loose as a band. It really helped to hone the songs by playing them live. I don’t think we could have made that record without playing them live. Some early gigs were huge breaks, [like the] WFNX birthday that had O-Positive in the audience and they asked us to play their record release party, which led to us [to] opening for Mark Sandman’s band, Treat Her Right. They had a huge local hit with “I Think She Likes Me”. Our music was on heavy rotation on WBCN and WFNX; he described the band as sexy garage rock. He was a fan of the band and a good friend [to] the band.

Back when you all decided to lay these tracks down, what was the Boston music scene like?

ER: The Boston scene had a kind of turmoil – you could feel that a change was happening; the super Berklee chops type of band were out of style. Metal was still their bands, like Trash Broadway, but like out of nowhere we got hold of a rough mix demo by a band called the Titanics – it blew our minds, Audrey and myself. It was recorded at Fort Apache by Sean Slade, Tim O’Hare and Carl Plaster. This was the music of the day [and] they weren’t as big as they should have been, but to us they were our favorite band. This was a new sound for us in Boston. It was heavy rock, but psychedelic, not metal like Aerosmith or Guns N’ Roses. Guitar players Nat Freedberg and Dave Fradette were a huge influence on me and my songwriting and guitar playing. So other than the Pixies there was Reeves Gabrels, later playing with Bowie. He [was] like a big brother [to me]. [We] were playing a gig one night at the Middle East. I looked out in the crowd and there was Bowie’s guitar player. I was blown away. He was with his woman and I said, “Reeves what are you doing here?” and he said, “I am here to see you!” I couldn’t believe it! We began a friendship, big brother little brother type. We talked a lot about favorite gigs, guitars, guitar sound; we had a lot in common, he was part of that Berklee super chops thing, but was getting into a more garage band thing. Then I met Rich Gilbert [Boston band Human Sexual Response] at a gig. He was into what I was doing. I asked him to come up and play a song with us; he didn’t want to do it at first but I talked him into it. We did, “Are You Experienced,” a cover we were doing at the time; it came out really good. It reminded me of [“Happenings Ten Years Time Ago”] a Yardbirds song that had Page and Beck on it. I felt a part of the Boston Elite Club of guitar players.

AUDREY CLARKE (AC): The Boston music scene was always a great scene, The Rat, Channel, Middle East, TT’s and tons of really great bands. Illuminated came out and was well received by the music community. Bands like O Positive (Link Label mates) and Mark Sandman (Treat Her Right/Morphine) took us under their wing, gave us some great shows.

 

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What sort of following did the 360’s have back then?

ER: Like I spoke of in question 3 they were a lot of the hip scene makers coming, press people, but [it was] surprising [to have fans] like Seka, death metal bands, guitar player Bill O’Malley — I became friends [with him]. We always had a lot of freaks [at our shows]. I started to notice the crowds looking more normal but I liked the freaks and people of the music biz scene. I remember one gig in NY: we met a promoter who was there to check us out for the Metropolis festival, which is the tour of Holland featured in the movie, The Year That Punk Broke. The cash from that one gig paid for our airfare and allowed us a two-week tour of Holland. We saw the mind blowing Nirvana show, and then you knew the change had come – it was called grunge, but rock and roll was cool again. I had met Billy Corgan, Gish had just come out and he told me he dug our record, and the office of Caroline Records had been listening to Illuminated all the time he was dating Courtney (you know who) at that time. We had just started to talk about guitars, gear – he did not have a very good show that night. He had a lot of trouble with his backline but before we could really get into it, Courtney said, “Who is that guy, he is nobody.” He apologized, we shook hands, and then watched Nirvana change music.

As far as our scene, there for a while it was hard to go to New York or Europe and play a huge show – people were really into what we were doing  – and then play home still trying to get gigs packed. But I can say we loved the Middle East. [It] had a great vibe [and we] never had a bad gig. I remember coming home from Europe and playing a big gig at Axis. It was for WFNX, packed [with] 500 or 600 , and the main P.A. kept going in and out – people were horrified, they couldn’t believe [that] we didn’t stop. We played through it; weird gig, but it was that night that we were approached with a record deal.

AC: We built up our following by playing a lot of local shows with our favorite bands, Titanics, The Lyres, Zulus, Bags etc. When the record came out we went from 100 people on a good night to 300 people and slowly began playing our own shows. At our peak we could pack the Middle East downstairs (800 people) or the Paradise (500 people).

What do you remember about the initial sessions for the record?

ER: First of all, I must talk about Sean Slade and Carl Plaster; anywhere we went with those guys we had a great vibe. Slade and Plaster were our favorite [producer and engineer team]. Slade had picked Birddog, a tiny little studio. I remember the recording desk and main control room were upstairs and the band would set up downstairs so no one could see each other and we had to talk through the mics. No visual [cues] so once we started playing it could be hard to stop us if they didn’t like the take. We started to get some great demos… whoops I’m getting ahead of myself.

First the Fort, Aka Fort Apache, had a North and South end. The North was high end and the South was low end for low budget recordings. The first recording was paid for by A&M’s Aaron Jacoves, the man who signed Soundgarden. We went into Fort South and set up live and were to record every song we had. I think we recorded about 12 tracks that day, everything live, no overdubs except for vocals. We got a few really good soundtracks that day: one was “Tripping With the Angels”, which made he radio and was the track that led us to getting signed and also a showcase for A&M, but it was there that we knew we had a record’s worth of material. So we lost interest from A&M, and soon after signed with Link – which leads us back to Birddog Studios pre-doc demos.

It was now our second time in the studio with Slade and Plaster. We had the whole day to do about 5 songs, which meant some overdubs. I remember “Deadpan Superstar” was the track that sounded really good that day; we did not have the ending on the record worked out yet, but we did a second try at “Tripping” [which] wasn’t any better than the live. We also tracked two songs, “Free” and “It”. It was decided that these would be released as a two song 45 to come out before the record, and was our first time in the Fort to cut these two songs with Andy Kipnes credited as Co-producer. Which was a joke, because I remember all [of] his production ideas left me confused and uptight – my first [time] in a really good studio [cutting] my first 45.

Kipnes was wrecking the cool relationship Slade and I had started to develop, like knowing what the other guy means without having to explain it all, so the laughable co-production of Andy Kipnes starting to wreck the guitar overdubs. I remember Slade and I going for a joint in the bathroom and him telling me to look at him [Andy Kipnes], nod your head, and ignore anything he says. It was too funny – it is making me laugh right now. We started to joke around that it is like a parent driving the car while the infant in the car seat thinks he is steering the car with a play steering wheel. Sorry; I had to add that. It is an insult to someone I know as a true professional, having Andy as co-producer.

AC: The initial sessions included a lot of demoing at Birddog Studios, a little studio in Cambridge owned by John Wood. We did our demos with Slade and Carl Plaster and Paul Kolderie. Some were done at The Fort (Fort Apache Studios) We had about 25 songs to choose from. Analog; there were no pro tools or auto tune back then. (Thank God.) We practiced five days a week, we’d get a coffee, smokes, and then head to rehearsal from 10 am to 2 pm. We worked really hard experimenting with sounds and vocals.

Poster

Who decided the running order of the record?

AC: Mostly democratic with Slade and Eric making the final decisions.

Being signed to Link, a subsidiary of Elektra Records, did that come with its own benefits and/or stress?

AC: Initially being signed to Link was perfect, a small indie label with distribution from Elektra, so it was nice being part of a small family but having the benefits of a major in terms of distribution and promotion.

Something that has always struck me about the record is the killer guitar sound. Eric, can you give us insight into the setup you had in the studio? What sort of gear (guitars/pedals/amps) did you use?

ER: At the time I was young and had just moved out on my own. I had very little money; all [the] early stuff was done with a Mesa Boogie studio Cal 22 amp brand new at the time. I talked Andy Kipnes into buying me a used Marshall Silver Jubilee 25th Anniversary half stack. It was 100-50-watt amp and depending on the sound I would run 50 watts for a softer, more gain type of sound, and would run 100 watts for a harder, punchier sound. I also would switch between 100 or 50 watts for live shows depending on the size of the club. The cab had Celestians G-12-75; they worked really well with the head. I have tried several Silver Jubilee and found the one I had sounded really good. Some of them not so good. It is the amp that Slash later made famous and is pretty much the same amp as the Slash model.

Guitars, I had one Charvel l used; not sure what model it was. I wanted something cooler but could not afford it. I covered the head stock with stickers to hide the Charvel logo. I had the Floyd Rose whammy blocked and it had a more organic sound and pre-amp built in that I always turned off. Then I beat it up and scratched it to make it look as old as it could. All in all, it sounded pretty good. The one problem with the guitar: it doesn’t clean up when you turn the volume down. As far as the pedals, I had two really cool TC electronics pedals; the first one I got was a chorus flanger [with] an input gain that I always turn up. The other TC pedal was parametric E.Q that had a sustainer with distortion. This had a lot to do with my tone that I used on almost all lead tracks. The end lead in “Texas” is a good example of this sound. I also used an Ibanez T610 Tube Screamer; most leads had both pedals o, but the whole record was done using various combinations of these pedals.

 Can you go into detail about working with producer Sean Slade? How much did he tweak the sound of the record? What were some of the decisions regarding the record you felt benefitted from his hand, and what if any do you feel critical of to this day?

AC: Slade was absolutely the 5th member of the band. His input was essential including arrangements and Eric/Slade had a true vision for the album. Slade is a master of vocal recording. He’s a great vocal arranger, especially with female singers. He also had a great collection of vintage amps and guitars. Slade understood us as a band and we were a “Real Band”, 4 people who created together, the right combination. He got the best performances from the band without being harsh. We all communicated so well together, personality wise and musically we connected as friends an as musicians. He is a genius producer.

In terms of how the record was mixed, what were some of the choices Andy Wallace made?

ER: In terms of the mix, Andy Wallace – what a cool guy. Slade and I show up to Bearsville: my first time ever being at a world class studio. We walk in and this assistant who had just finished working on the Cinderella record starts giving Slade and me major attitude, making us feel really nervous, like, who are you guys. We later nicknamed him Poodlecloo – nice haircut. Andy walks in and immediately puts the guy in his place. We set the decks up for the mix the way he wants them. We make some small talk for half an hour. He carries a small gym bag with him: in it, a towel, two big bags of Hydrox Double Stuff cookies. This is standard for any mix session; the rest is all top secret mix programs he brings to all mixes. I think they have something to do with the drum sounds. He looks at us and says politely, everyone out! He sets up his secret programs and he will call us when he is done once he sets things the way he likes them. He is very diplomatic about mixing the songs, making sure that Slade and I are happy with any of the mixes, asking if we have any ideas we aren’t hearing. He is very easy to work with, super humble, really into what the band [and Slade] thinks.

The more we mixed the faster the sound of the record took shape. I think he mixed the whole record in two days. I [believe] we mixed almost in the order or sequence of the record. He really liked the record; the guitar sounds are pretty close to the way they were recorded. Some leads had two takes and I remember he let them both go in the mix. Andy and Sean spent most of the time on the vocals. Sean is a great vocal producer. They did a lot of mixes with the vox where Andy or Sean liked them ,then they would do vocals up 2 dB then down 2 dB, then we would vote on the one we liked. Also, the studio had us set up in our own house. They owned several houses around town.

After 1 or 2 mixes we were really happy with what we were hearing. The mixes sounded great, so Slade and I would go back to the house, [then] the studio would call us to come over and listen to the next mix and add whatever we wanted to guitar, drums, vox, bass etc. He was humble [with] everything he [did] and very concerned that we were happy with the mixes, even over the opinion of the record label. [He was] a band mate, team player, a true friend. What a great guy. I wish we could have mixed the record with just Andy Wallace, Sean Slade and myself with no input from Andy Kipnes. Andy Wallace would call us in to listen to an early mix and it would sound so heavy and rockin’ and Andy Kipnes would say turn that down, that’s too heavy, turn down the guitars, they are too heavy. Andy Kipnes was too worried about sounding commercial and we did not see it that way, nor did Andy Wallace. Sometimes we would pretend that we were turning things down and leave them the same. He could not really tell the difference once we were mixing. Andy Wallace could be a real advocate for the band!

AC: I wasn’t at the Illuminated mixing sessions.

Single poster

There are 10 tracks on the CD: how many songs were recorded for the Illuminated sessions? What happened to the tracks that were jettisoned?

AC: 10 songs for the record and another 3-5 that were B-sides for the singles. “Are You Experienced” (Hendrix cover), “Wild Roads”, “Horror Movie Soundtrack”.

A track like “Put That Behind Me” is one hell of a badass tune; tell us the origin of the song?

AC: “Put That Behind Me” was my least favorite song on the record. Slade insisted it was a great tune so we recorded it. I don’t think we ever played it live. I like it much more these days. It’s a story about getting older playing in a band and losing inspiration.

The album has always struck me as if I witnessed something horrific and lived to tell the tale. The album seems to go to some really dark places. Can you talk about what was the inspiration for some of the tracks on the record like “Texas”, “Illuminated” as well as “Deadpan Superstar”?

AC: “Texas” was a riff Eric had. The intro the band was working on. Lyrically, our friends from the band The Titanics were going to play in Texas and we kept chanting “Texas” over the riff – the book The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry was a big inspiration for the song.

“Illuminated” was written at 3am. I wrote the song in a dream, got up and grabbed my guitar; the song wrote itself, divine inspiration. Lyrically it also came from the dream, with exception to the lyrics my 4-year-old son wrote. I asked him to just say whatever was on his mind. He was jumping on the sofa and said, “I am falling, I’m so tall.” The song was now finished.

“Deadpan Superstar”, Eric wrote the song and Lori Kramer my sister and I were singing over the song. The lyrics were about Lori’s best friend Becky who had recently killed herself. Lori was devastated. “They picked her up today outside” was her being picked up on the street for some indiscretion. “She was looking in a shop store window or was that a greenfield somewhere”, not knowing where she was. She had a mental breakdown. She was an X-doll and vampire (she was a stripper at the time). It’s a story about a beautiful person that unfortunately couldn’t deal with her world.

360s CD

What does the album cover represent?

AC: The album cover was an artist rendering of the Universe—stars sun moon.

 So, when you were gearing up for the release of the record, what it was like to listen to the completed album?

AC: When the record was mixed by Andy Wallace at Bearsville Studios, I was not at the mix as I had a young son. Eric, Slade, Andy mixed the record, so it was a surprise. I thought it sounded great. Andy Wallace is a fine producer. We were really blessed to have Slade and Andy at the board.

Laminate

 How did the label promote the record?

AC: Upon release of the record Bruce McDonald and Laura Norden of Link did a blitz of all the major magazines /newspapers. A week after the release Jon Pareles gave us Record of the Week in the New York Times. We got fantastic press and were invited to Europe shortly afterwards, particularly Amsterdam and the Netherlands, performing at the Metropolis festival in Rotterdam: 1991-The Year Punk Broke with Nirvana, Sonic Youth and Smashing Pumpkins. We played outdoors in front of 10,000 people. Upon return we did CMJ in NYC at the Marquee Club where Joey Ramone and I hung out and introduced the band to NYC. The record release party was held at the Middle East club in Cambridge, Boston’s best club, and it was a fantastic night.

That year we received best new band at the Boston Music Awards. We did not tour really on Illuminated but on Supernatural, our second release, we toured with the Soup Dragons, Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, as well as Levitation, and we were supposed to do the Radiohead tour but there was not enough money to fund the tour. We played with Urge Overkill, Swervedriver, Dead Moon, Lyres, Morphine, The Pixies and loads of other great bands.

Audrey and Eric at Lemon Recs 1992

 These days when I hear bands like The Heartless Bastards I can hear the 360’s influence. Has the band ever thought of making a comeback and taking back the musical ground you forged and that bands like the Bastards seem to be mining for all its worth?

AC: I’m not sure about making a comeback per se. We never really stopped being 360’s. The original group will never be again due to our bassist Brian Evans is MIA in California (no contact for 20 years) and our drummer John Grady is my ex-brother in law. Eric and I will always make music together; we’ve been a couple since 1990 – the band consists of Eric, me, and my son Ian on drums and Linda Bean on bass. This was really my favorite lineup. Sadly Linda has decided to drop out and we are trying out “Lorde Buckingham,” a very fine player, this month for some local shows, and recording a double set of music. We have some interest, and with Sean Slade and Jon Magoon (engineer) we are looking forward to a project—analog of course.

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ILLUMINATED PRODUCER SEAN SLADE ON THE 360’S AND THE MAKING OF THE ALBUM

 I first met Audrey sometime in 1989. Paul Kolderie and I had taken a trip to LA to meet label people, hand out our demo reel, and see if we could dig up some gigs. One of the more friendly A&R guys was Aaron Jacoves at A&M:

he was a fan of Audrey from one of her earlier Boston rock combos, and he offered to pay for a session. We invited her to Fort Apache to sing on some cover tunes we’d selected for her; the one that clicked was her version of “Boys In Town” by the Divinyls, and we really hit it off on a musical and personal level. She booked the studio again sometime later with her new band The Bardots, which was the 360s, only with a different bass player. We produced a couple of songs that got on local radio, and drew the attention of Andy Kipnes at Link Records.

When Andy signed the band, the idea was to make an album, but there was no formal budget given (at least not to me). At this point Kolderie was busy with other projects, so I produced and engineered the sessions. Time was booked at Fort Apache North (our 24-track joint), but only in 3 to 4 day slots. There was no pre-production at all; we had neither the budget nor the inclination for such niceties. No structural changes were made to the songs, because they didn’t need them. I had never seen them live; all I knew is that I liked them and they were all great musicians. We’d set up, and record the full band live, as if at a show. No bass overdubs were done, because we were going for the pure live energy of the full rhythm section. (A lot of Audrey’s guitar takes were keepers too.) As soon as a basic was cut, Eric would overdub one or two extra rhythm guitars, always recorded with the shortest possible signal path: the mic(s) into John Hardy mic pre’s, then straight into the back of the tape recorder. Audrey would sing her vocals, which I usually edited/compiled after the band had gone home. Eric’s solos were always beautifully conceived and composed; one or two takes, and bam!, instant Rock. The only other essential overdubs were the background vocals, sung by me (once again, after the band had left) in a high falsetto that was designed to be subtly mixed in and appear to be Audrey singing. (Although I wasn’t trying to imitate her; I had no idea what her high falsetto might have sounded like. Just a crazy idea that worked, and the band liked.)

So essentially, Illuminated was recorded quickly, in an intuitive, almost thoughtless fashion. The band’s creativity was flying around, fast and loose, aided by copious amounts of then-illegal medicinal herbs, cheap beer, and non-stop 70s porn videotapes playing on the TV set in the lounge. (Kindly provided by Carl Plaster, a Fort engineer and a connoisseur of the genre. The sound at the end of “Texas” is John Holmes and Tracey Lords, played backwards.) Eric and I would work together to make sure the guitar tones on the album were cool and varied, but as far as each song goes, it was always he and I just trying to have fun; there was never a grand plan to “sculpt” anything.

But the loose plan for completion was to do enough of these short sessions until we had enough material to mix and turn into a full-length LP. There were no songs that were difficult to get in the studio, and no outtakes (at least that I can remember). So once again, any of the current “rules” of making albums were not adhered to. We were doing it (to borrow a phrase) fast, cheap, and out-of-control.

I do remember pulling a Guy Stevens routine, running around the control room in crazed delirium when they played a particularly inspired take. The band could see me through the large window, and they said it was highly motivating.

Bearsville barn studio

When we had the album recorded, Kipnes drove up to listen and was satisfied. The plan was always to have the album mixed by Andy Wallace (who Kipnes managed), at Bearsville Studio (above) in upstate NY, a legendary place where Kipnes was friends with the owner and got great deals on time. Audrey, Eric and I drove to NY with the 24 track masters, and Andy mixed the album very quickly, over the course of a three-day weekend on the SSL console in Bearsville Studio B. He did a terrific job, and of course would soon become justifiably famous for mixing Nirvana’s “Nevermind.” He totally understood the blend of hard rock and psychedelia we were going for, and he liked the trippy solos and the crazy background harmonies (he mixed them in the exact right spot). When Wallace finished, I came up with a provisional sequence, which ended up being the final one, and everyone was elated. (It sounded especially good played back at crushing volume on the studio’s “big” wall speakers.)

I haven’t listened to the whole album in quite a while (my copy is tucked away in my archive at my studio up in Maine), but when I’ve heard individual songs recently, they sound very alive, wild, and free to me, and immediately bring me back to the joyous rock ‘n’ roll experience of recording with the 360’s, a great band.

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