Robert Harrison sounds off the new Cotton Mather reissue
By Austin Powell,
11:08AM, Wed. Apr. 13, 2011
“We need to pass it on to another generation.” That’s the plea Oasis’ Noel Gallagher makes in the (already successful) Kickstarter campaign to reissue Cotton Mather’s 1997 cult classic, Kontiki. OTR asked frontman and current Future Clouds & Radar leader Robert Harrison to elaborate on the album’s bonus features. Here’s what came back.
Kontiki was a record that sort of created itself while we were trying to make another record.
“We were looking for a record deal and a friend of mine, Joe McDermott, gave me the keys to this old house in Leander, where he had a room with a little gear, and he showed me the basics so I could demo some songs. I had my 4-track as well, and so Whit and I began doing some very basic recordings on the weekends or late at night when the house wasn't being used. Around that time we began working with a noted local producer on some ‘real studio recordings.’ George Reiff and Dana Myzer had joined us on bass and drums, and that Cotton Mather line-up was an explosive live band.
“The first things we did in Leander were just raw as I tried to figure out what I was doing and the intention wasn't to make art. But soon we began to get this vibe going on these little acoustic tracks, and I began to find them infinitely more interesting than what we were making with the big boys. So we ditched those tracks, took my first real treasure from Leander as a jumping off point and began to get live takes of Cotton Mather on 4-track that I could build into something.
“We never had more than two mics at one time in Leander, so usually there is just one mic on the drums. We cut some stuff live to 4-track in my little living room on Possum Trot with four mics - one on drums, one on bass amp, and one on me and Whit playing through the same guitar amp! Then one for vocals. Totally high school style.
“But it all worked because we were on fire as a band, and we had some good songs. The bonus tracks are either acoustic tracks in the vein of ‘Spin My Wheels’ that were deemed not quite good enough. Or live tracks from the 4-track or ADAT that I abandoned in favor of another version. A few things I had no recollection of creating and were a nice surprise. The real interesting thing about the bonus CD is that it shows the two distinctly different creative personas of Cotton Mather at the time that we were trying to marry and successfully did on the final product.
“There is the hard rocking guitar pop band that played with utter abandon and then there is at the core this very sweet and reflective song life. The bonus CD only works because you know from the classic disc that I was in the end able to pull the disparate elements into a focused artistic statement.”