One of the best parts of interviewing musicians is hearing the stories of how it all began and the histories behind relationships with fellow players in the industry. Sitting down with Tom Thiel to discuss his latest solo album at Rock Garden Studio, I found out his history with Marc Golde goes back to their school days.
“I was playing a battle of the bands at a dry bar, like a teen center. We won, actually, playing songs from White Snake and Led Zeppelin. We went to Catholic school though so we wore shorts and flowery Beach Boys shirts and short hair. But Marc walked in with his long hair, a total rocker. He was the sound guy and we totally hit it off.”
Now, years later, with experience in bands such as Electric Bananas and Boxkar under his belt, Thiel is ready to share songs of his own.
“I’ve been playing a lot of songs that I’ve written at home for myself. It’s gotten to the point where I have a lot of them and some of them are pretty good. I think it’s time for people to hear those.”
He credits his ten years in Boxkar with helping his songwriting grow. “I’ve learned a lot writing with those guys; they’re awesome people to work with, very flexible and musical. I’ll often start writing a song and I can tell right away it’s not going to be a good fit for the band so I save those for myself for a situation like this.”
Thiel describes the sound for his upcoming solo album as “the folky side of Led Zeppelin with country-blues-type elements.”
“I’ve been working in open guitar tunings for fifteen years so my songs have this open ‘English countryside’ sound to them that I like. I want to hone in on that sound and see what I can do with it.”
From Golde’s living room and now to Rock Garden Studio, Thiel and Golde have collaborated and recorded together since the ‘90s.
“I am in a unique position where I am probably the only one that has recorded in each studio Marc Golde has been in. Looking back, I can see the progression but it always sounds like Marc – he’s got an identifiable sound.” He adds, “When you go outside this area, people refer to it as ‘The Fox Valley Sound.’ It’s not the bands because each band is different like FEATherWOLF or Cool Waters Band or Boxkar. It’s the sound people recognize. That’s Marc.”
In addition to the legendary soundboard at Rock Garden Studio (“I swear if you squeeze one of the faders hard enough you’ll get some of Bob Dylan’s sweat,” notes Thiel) Golde is using a vintage recording system to process one of Thiel’s songs.
“We’re going a little outside of the norm to come up with an effect that might compliment this song, give us a sound like the 1960s. We’re using gear that used to be for recording but using it for processing it this time to get the sound of what those old recordings used to sound like,” says Golde. “For overdubbing the voice and the main guitar, we’re going to use two vintage ribbon mics and then run them into a vintage tape recorder and transfer that on to the computer and sync it up after.”
Theil adds, “I’m hoping it’ll come across like an old blues album-type sound and have some of those minor nuances that working with tape produce.”
Thiel is looking forward to his time recording at Rock Garden Studio.
“Between Marc and the gear and the atmosphere… it’s synergy where you get results that transcend anything you could get on your own. We are just in the beginning of it but I have high hopes. Just being here is a great place to start.”