The Maple Forum: Clamfight Issue Studio Update on Recording Volume III

Even as Blackwolfgoat discs are heading out the door — you can buy yours here if you haven’t yet — the next Maple Forum release is in the works. Forum040 will be Volume III by South Jersey bashers and thrashers Clamfight, and as a fan of the band and someone who’s heard demos and rough mixes of the tracks, I can tell you straight out, it’s going to be a monster. The four-piece — guitarists Sean McKee and Joel Harris, drummer/vocalist Andy Martin and bassist Louis Koble — hit the studio on May 13 to start the recording process, and Martin was kind enough to take a couple minutes out and issue the following update on their progress.

Volume III should be out sometime this fall, if not before. Here’s what Martin had to say:

A few quick words of introduction here, as judging by the sales of Volume I, there aren’t a ton of you who know who we are, and it felt a little pretentious to just jump right in with the new record stuff. We’re Clamfight from suburban South Jersey. We’ve been playing together since junior high, have played a ton of shows in NY, PA, NJ, DE, and MD over the last six years, and we’ll never be too old or musically snobby to question the sheer perfection of Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power, Deep Purple’s Machine Head, Sepultura’s Chaos A.D., and Clutch‘s self-titled. Last year we released a record titled Volume I that several husky bearded gentlemen from across the globe enjoyed and were kind enough to plug on their respective blogs and websites. Your own H.P. Taskmaster enjoyed it enough to offer to put out the follow-up to Volume I, and the making of this album, Volume III, is why we’re taking up valuable Obelisk real estate today.

Volume I was an accidental record; it was recorded in drips and drabs over several months in ’08, and then due to work and personal commitments as well as the fact that we knew dick about self releasing a record it languished, completed, for close to two years before we got it out. Knowing that JJ would be handling the releasing was a huge load off our minds from the get-go, now it fell to us to deliver as good a record as we possibly could. With that in mind we returned to the Gradwell House in Haddon Heights, New Jersey (, and the man who’s our own loving combination of Colonel Tom Parker and the mom from The Partridge Family, Steve Poponi. To be honest, since working with Steve on Volume I we wouldn’t have gone anywhere else. Steve had been able to browbeat and turd-polish a solid record out of us when we really hadn’t meant to record one, now we were eager to see what he could do when we actually intended to make a record.

We hit Gradwell House Friday night (May 13) with a long weekend booked and the intention of laying all the basic tracks for the nine songs we’d prepared; a few guitar solos still needed to be written and vocals would have to wait until my allergies relaxed and I no longer sound like Yeardley Smith trying to scream-clear a snorkel. Booking the block time was Steve‘s idea and it was amazing how much time it saved. Our gear remained set up in the studio so once the several hours of setup time had been spent on Friday night, we could roll in the rest of the weekend and be recording within minutes of walking in the door. Joel went with the same Peavey Classic tube head he used on Volume I, this time through his Mesa cabinet, while Sean played his Mesa Triple Rectifier through a Marshall cabinet. I played the same Black Cat kit as on Volume I, and Louis played a Tech 21 Sans Amp through an Avalon direct input box. Friday night we knocked out “The Eagle,” “I vs. the Glacier,” and “Sandriders” (my ode to Dune; yeah, we’re those kind of nerds) and left the studio around 11, feeling pretty good.

Saturday, I knocked out the rest of my drum tracks (for such ditties as “River of Ice,” “The Shadowline,” “The Age of Reptiles,” “Mountain,” “Tower of the Elephant II,” and “Stealing the Ghost Horse”) and again I need to stop and give Steve a lot of credit for how smoothly things went here. 15 or so years of playing the drums in loud bands have left me with some so-so hearing (earplugs kids, wear your earplugs), and the last time we recorded I used regular headphones which honestly prohibited me from hearing everything properly and I consequently held back on my playing a lot. This time out Steve loaned me some great in-ear monitors and since it now sounded as if the guys were playing in my frontal lobe, I could relax and play as hard as I do live, instead of mincing around the kit straining to hear Sean.

Another key to our recording of Volume III has been Gradwell‘s gigantic live room. Though Louis is playing his bass through a DI and the guitar cabs are isolated, for the basic tracks and some of Sean‘s leads we’ve all been in the same room banging the songs out together. Besides the practical reasons like all of us being able to see each other and cue each other in on the changes — some of these songs were only finished two weeks before we hit the studio, so some of the changes remain a bit fresh — there’s just something about the four of us in the room playing together that brings a hell of a lot more energy to the songs than say, if I played to a click and a scratch track and everyone else layered their parts in afterward. It also takes a little bit of that microscope effect out of the process as well, being able to look at each other and flip the other guys off or mouth a well timed “fuck you” or “you suck” to ease the tension is a big help. It helps make recording — God forbid — fun. Ultimately that’s what we’re doing in this band anyway, I mean we’re not trying to pay the bills with a band named Clamfight (if we wanted to do that we’d move to Brooklyn, gank a name from Robert E. Howard and start working on our beards), we’re out to have a good time, to play some ugly music for whoever will have us, and to hang out with the same assholes we’d be hanging out with whether we were a band or not. That’s what’s been so great about the Volume III sessions so far-we’ve managed to have that same good time while engaging in what’s usually one of the most pressure-filled and money-devouring activities that a band at our level can engage in.

We’ll go back in a few weeks to complete leads and vocals and should have a rough mix of a couple of songs for our upcoming shows (June 10 at the M-Room in Philthadelphia with Boss 302 and Human Shield, who are the fucking tits). In the meantime I have to stop hogging this hotel lobby computer — there’s some businessmen types who are clearly eager to commence trolling Craigslist for hookers and if I hold them up any further they may band together and violently remove me. Stay classy, Obelisk. – Andy Martin

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