Larry Crane is the editor and founder of Tape Op Magazine, owner of Portland, Oregon’s Jackpot! Recording Studio, a freelance producer/engineer who’s worked internationally, and the archivist for the estate of Elliott Smith. He’s worked in the studio with Sleater-Kinney, The Decemberists, Jenny Lewis, M. Ward, Go-Betweens, Stephen Malkmus, Jason Lytle, Quasi, Portland Cello Project, Elliott Smith, and many more.
(Photo Credit: Lucas Deming)
OK, here’s the deal. I’ve been running a place, Jackpot! Recording Studio, in Portland, Oregon, for 24 years. Along the way I’ve formed many friendships with people that I initially met as clients. In all cases, they had to have great music before they could become great friends. In January of 1998, less than a year after we opened, I recorded a band called Worthington. They’d gigged around town a bit, and had a cool sound. I’d just come off recording Quasi’s Featuring “Birds” album the month before; a session with two people who were already friends of mine, and one where I was pushed really hard to make a sonically exciting album. When I started into the Worthington record I was goin’ nuts, and we made a crazy sounding, interesting album (one I recently remixed for reissue). I really liked the guys in this band, and I remember joining up with them for a friend’s birthday party at a gay bar and hanging out around PDX.
Along that same time, my future wife, Jenna Zine, dragged me to a house party to see Spectator Pump, a band fronted by the captivating Stephanie Smith along with guitarist Michael Carothers. A few years later I found myself recording some of their final studio sessions, and Michael and I soon began recording some new projects.
Alright, now skip ahead a few years. Not long before Jackpot! Moved into its new location in 2007, Kurt Foster, Worthington’s vocalist, returned with a new band, Recall 7. We made a few CDs, and they even helped us move Jackpot! into our new digs. As the band fell apart, bassist Jeremy Dietz joined Kurt in a new project, Mission Spotlight, which is still active today, in parallel with Sunday State. Mission Spotlight focuses tight on Kurt’s country-ish, haunted songs, and of course they proceeded to make several records at Jackpot! with me.
Jeez, OK. So, parallel to all that, Michael Carothers returned to Jackpot! to make several albums with different projects, like Paper Cameras and Impossible Windows. And who would be drumming for Impossible Windows but Thom Sullivan? With a resume that stretches back to LA groups like Bigelf and The Lords Of Altamont, before moving to Portland to join bands like The Pynnacles and Kleveland, he’s a seasoned style-master on the kit.
Do ya see what I’m lining up here? Now get this: Michael starts a round of demos from his basement lab, drops them off with Kurt to “casually maybe write some words for.” Demos and more demos, and then the next thing you know we’re in the studio. But Jeremy hasn’t been roped in yet, so somehow — because Michael can con a snake outta its skin — Steve Turner from Mudhoney got pulled in to play bass. That titanic combo recorded MONO here with me, an EP planned to not be in stereo. Cool. But Steve had tours to do, and guess who gets asked to play bass? Jeremy, yup.
I forced the guys to do a few oddball sessions with me, sponsored by speaker manufacturers and cat jugglers, and we tried other ways of recording with much success! Then we slowly built up more songs, this time in stereo, and it looked like a record was happening. Steve Turner joined up to play some rocking guitars, and Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, Minus 5) and I got to do our first time in the studio together on some great overdubs. A quick trip up north to Washington, and the boys had a one-day session with our longtime pal Ken Stringfellow, yielding the finishing batch of songs for this album. We mixed it all down here, and boom, it’s done.
You see how it goes, now. The music world is never a linear path to creativity and enlightenment, but instead a bunch of missed exits and the flotsam and jetsam you gather around yourself along the way. I’m proud to make records with so many of my friends after a quarter century of producing music in Portland, and this group of guys make it a pretty fun adventure.
— Larry Crane
(Photo Credit: left, Lucas Deming)