In the Blazes, the debut LP from Aaron Lee Tasjan -who cut his teeth playing lead guitar in late-period incarnations of The New York Dolls and Drivin N Cryin— has wound up with one hell of a debut LP.
“I read something about Guy Clark getting high and just making songs up, and I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll do that,’” Tasjan says. “So I wrote the record in the haze of being stoned all the time. Probably too stoned—like, shoulda-gone-to-the-doctor-a-couple-times stoned. But overdoing it allowed me to understand why that’s not such a good idea. I was learning things along the way.”
In December 2014, Tasjan spent a week recording In the Blazes at New Monkey Studio in Los Angeles, the same hallowed space where Elliott Smith cut his final record From a Basement on the Hill. At the helm for the sessions was Tasjan’s good buddy Eli Thomson of the band Everest, whom he’d met on tour while pulling a stint with Brooklyn indie-folk outfit Alberta Cross, and who produced Delta Spirit’s Ode to Sunshine. “Eli is a very grounded dude, personality-wise—he has a zen way of being,” Tasjan says. “On a subconscious level, that’s a comforting thing to be around during the creative process. You’re relaxed enough to try new things and blow it. And for better or worse, part of my thing is messing up—I have to mess it up first to do it great.
Stylistically, In the Blazes runs the gamut of American roots music, from folk, country and blues to rock & roll. It calls down the quiet thunder of Kristofferson & Prine, with lyrics that’ll snap you out of the deepest trance and make you listen up. There’s fanboat bayou swamp-soul boogie, Fillmore West buzzing-bee Quicksilver guitar mayhem, sweltering latenight R&B shuffles, twangadelic California country, and plenty of good old chiming American rock & roll.
Glide is proud to premiere “$66 Blues” (below) off of “In the Blazes” a rambunctious number that kills within the realm of high caliber rock Low Cut Connie and J. Roddy Walston are doing today and the rockabilly legends of the past. Read below the song premiere embed for Tasjan’s CRAZY first hand narrative escapade about the making of “$66 Blues” that is almost a full-on movie script in itself, proving that good music with Skynyrd t-shirts win, when all else fails.
“A couple of years ago I was in Columbus, Ohio, with my songwriter friends Tim Easton and JP Olsen,” recalls Tasjan. :We were all playing on the same gigs together as part of this weekend of music in the park called Comfest. I’d just recently bought a Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt with an eagle holding the confederate flag in one talon and an electric guitar in the other. I took a sharpie to it and crossed out the flag part and circled the guitar part so no one would be confused on where I stood. Aside from the flag part, it was a totally rad t-shirt and made me feel like I could do anything—which is not always a good thing. My sets that weekend were decidedly experimental due in no small part not only to my newfound t-shirt-provided confidence but also the fun enhancers I’d been enjoying all day and night. Basically, I sucked. Word must’ve gotten out fast about that, too, because we played to relatively small crowds considering all three of us were more or less hometown boys in Columbus. The end result of my musical shortcomings left me with $66 to pay myself and my band. And that’s where most of the inspiration for “$66 Blues” initially came from—a weekend’s worth of disappointing gigs in Ohio.”
“I can’t remember writing the actual song—I never can. That all just comes out of nowhere. But the recording of it I do recall. It was one of the last songs cut for In The Blazes. I’d been sleeping at the studio every night on the floor in the control room because showers and hotels aren’t for the opening band. Our producer, Eli Thomson, would come in around 9 a.m., I’d wake up and we’d start recording. The day we recorded “$66 Blues,” I noticed my rental car had been towed during the night. Then we had a visitor at the studio who accidentally knocked over the monitors which the fell onto the console and pretty much brought the whole day to a screeching halt while we tried to repair it all and get things back up and running. Our time was now limited and my lack of a rental car also meant I was unable to make my daily trip to the grocery store to buy snacks for the band. Bands love snacks—it’s a proven fact. Most people in bands don’t eat much to begin with so snacks can really set a positive vibe for the workday. So there we were—the control room in shambles, no band snacks and a missing rental car. A lot of people would have given up at this point, but we had a blues song to record.”
“Before I arrived in Los Angeles to record, I sent everyone in the band demos of each song. But when I got to New Monkey Studio, I discovered that no one had listened to any of them. So I taught each song to the band in the studio and then we’d record them, laying down the drums, guitar and a vocal followed by bass and maybe an extra guitar or something. We knew we wanted some badass Jerry Lee Lewis-style piano on there. Our friend—legendary West Coast based drummer Frank Lenz—knew this guy who could play like that who worked at Disneyland. Eli and I spent most of the afternoon trying to compose ourselves after making mushroom tea and putting way too much in it. We ordered whole Peruvian chickens to eat and when they arrived we couldn’t even bring ourselves to taste them—we laughed and laughed and did the only sensible thing, which was to go up on the roof and wait for Frank to come home and the piano guy from Disneyland to show up.”
and the story continues
“I called Kevn Kinney and my manager to let them know I was pretty concerned about how to find—and then return—my rental car and make my 6 a.m. flight the next morning so I could get to New York and open for Billy Joe Shaver that night. They explained to me that it would be in my best interest to wait until I felt less high to do all that stuff. I begrudgingly agreed before parking myself on a folding chair next to the speakers and burying my head in my hands for the next 2-3 hours. During that time, the Disney guy showed up and played two takes of piano that, in my state of inebriation, seemed almost impossible but because Frank was still sober, he could attest to the fact that it was, in fact, incredible playing. At the end of that song you hear Frank yell in disbelief, “What the fuck?!” We were all stunned by how great the piano playing was. The score was Disneyland 1, stuff that doesn’t kick ass 0. At the end of it all, we were left with the fastest blues song any of us had ever recorded and two whole uneaten Peruvian chickens. Sometimes life hands you lemonade and it’s delicious. Probably a line I just stole from Kevn Kinney and/or Todd Snider.”
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Photo by Stacie Huckeba