1998 Dolomite.net Interview with Dave




David Fridmann: Like Standing Under a Waterfall

by Charles Austin

December 1, 1998

David Fridmann likes to listen to things underwater. He plays in the criminally underrated band Mercury Rev, he's recorded the Flaming Lips, Jane's Addiction, Elf Power, Weezer, etc. His most recent projects were the remarkable Zaireeka, the four-cd release by the Flaming Lips, and the mind-blowing 'Deserter's Songs' by Mercury Rev.

Dolomite: At what age did you become aware of, or fascinated by sound? I guess I'm trying to find out if there was a moment of revelation.

Fridmann: I'm not sure if it is the sound so much as it is the emotional impact that is attached to it. I remember being around 10 and having my own radio. Sometimes I would just burst into tears while listening. I would also listen until late at night. There was a station that played "Headphones Only" entire albums from midnight to 6AM and I would lay there with my headphones "seeing" the music.

Dolomite: How much are you into the scientific side of recording? Do you find yourself thinking about sound waves and other invisible phenomena, or is the scientific stuff best thought of as a means to an end? There seems to be so much technical stuff involved and so much mystique surrounding the whole process.

Fridmann: There is a lot to it. And fortunately there is a lot of mystique to it or I probably would have stopped a long time ago. I have been making records with The Flaming Lips for almost ten years now and we sometimes look at each other and say,"You would've thought that we could have figured out some kind of formula to know we were doing it right by now!", but we never do. There is still a lot of random unquantizable factors involved. The science is certainly a means to an end, but you have to know that stuff so cold that it is second nature. When I put a mic on something, you play a hunch and hope that it works.

Dolomite: Zaireeka has to be the only record of its kind in existence. Was this a particularly difficult one to record, or did it fall into place?

Fridmann: To be honest, since there are so few comparisons, that made it a little easier to record. The technical considerations were difficult to conceive, but fairly easy to implement. My studio has very comprehensive automation and console routing capabilities, so we had a few different ways to experiment and see what we liked best.

Dolomite: Where do you stand in terms of the 'digital recording versus analog recording' debate? I know that Neil Young likened listening to a digital recording to looking at something through a screen door.

Fridmann: I think that they both have their uses. Mr. Young's comments were from quite a while ago. The difference that the last few years have bought in terms of cost/performance and performance of digital in general have been stunning. I use both all the time, at the same time.

Dolomite: Are there certain records that you consider really well recorded that are particularly inspiring to you?

Fridmann: Miles Davis, In a Silent Way; Spiritualized, Floating in Space; Jane Siberry, When I was a Boy; My Bloody Valentine, Loveless; Steely Dan, Aja; Thomas Dolby, The Flat Earth, tons more.

Dolomite: What's the strangest sound you've ever heard or made?

Fridmann: I suppose that this will label me in psychiatric circles, but I love to listen to things underwater. I think that is where my affinity for particularly loud sound comes from. The closest that I ever recorded is on Mercury Rev 'Boces'. At the end of the song 'yer Snorry Mouth', there is a guitar that Jon Donahue did that I could listen to for weeks. It reminds me of standing under a waterfall and you are nearly pummeled into the ground by the force of it so that your body is trembling and melting. Check it out, turn it way the hell up!

Dave Fridmann selected discography:

Flaming Lips: Clouds taste Metallic, Zaireeka

Mercury Rev: Deserter's Songs, Boces

Weezer: Pinkerton