Wild Throne in the LA with producer Ross Robinson
by JOSH HOLLAND
Ross is super pissed at me.
We’re in the middle of a late-night vocal session and I’m distracted. I had just come from dinner with a guest to the studio and I know she is upstairs waiting for me to finish up for the evening. As we talk for an hour or so about the content of the song I’m squirmy and he can tell. During this one of our many long talks before we record I tell him the truth: I’m distracted. He giggles but his face turns quick and he hits me back. “Well, while you’re off trying to be somewhere else and not wanting to be here, I am here working my fucking ass off on your fucking album! So what the fuck are we doing here!!?” He was right. I snap back into form in horror realizing I’d disappointed our generous producer after which he tells me to get the fuck over it. Then I let go on “Born to Die,” desperately firing on all cylinders to show that microphone why I came here what I can do. After the takes, I come out covered in sweat. “I’m sorry man,” I whimper, “I don’t mean to be a slacker. Just getting tired tonight.” Ross looks at me confused then smiles. “Oh, dude,” he cheers, “I was just messing with you and trying to get a reaction. Great take!” Then he focuses back on the waveforms on the screen, clicking away into the night. I’m free to leave for the evening with my brain a little scrambled as usual.
The studio on Venice Beach isn’t as glamorous or extravagant as one may imagine. Flanked by massive ocean-front homes and smack-dab in the center of the subdued action of Venice – a place far more akin to the pace of Bellingham than any other area of Los Angeles – it’s a small, unassuming two-room studio on the first floor of our residence for the next 10 weeks. But the quarters above is a very different vibe.
Ross Robinson’s house is a four-level castle on the sand. A long and narrow structure with high ceilings, rooftop patios, beautiful beach view, plenty of guest space and overall a home where you may imagine a producer of his repute to dwell. It’s littered with artifacts of projects past: a Slipknot gold record, autographed Blood Brothers vinyl, old Limp Bizkit press glosses and homemade polaroids of a pre-platinum Korn. But personally and professionally, Ross, who has signed on to produce our debut LP Harvest Of Darkness and put us up in his home for its duration, seems more like that small studio in the basement than the fancy house above: humble, minimalist and concentrated.
Styled after the infamous studio compound Indigo Ranch where Ross launched so many careers (including his own), the studio’s live room is smaller than the average bedroom with high brick molding along dark wood walls, a low angled wood ceiling and no windows. Even for the three of us it’s a tight fit, and even tighter when Ross is in there hashing out the details with us. The control room serves double as a lounge with a small kitchen and bathroom attached. All of the tubes and cables snake through this room and connect all of the vintage microphones, compressors, amplifiers, pre-amps and effect pedals – almost all of which are the exact same used on every recording of Ross›s dating back to his first. There’s a large tape machine in the center where all of the drums for the record will be tracked to.
One step outside this blue and orange nerve center and you are right amidst buzz of the Venice Beach ocean front walk. This location creates a revolving-door atmosphere at the home studio. Weather it is family or friends from past and present, random instrumentalists wandering off the walk, members of Sepultura, Slipknot, Queens Of The Stone Age or Skrillex, almost everyone is welcome and friends of his and ours are always encouraged to stop by. The upshot of this is interesting and a fixture of the atmosphere in this studio: you are often encouraged to perform openly and vulnerably in front of total strangers – some of whom may be a tad intimidating.
Day to day, the room is always filled with great stories from the last big boom of the record industry in the 90s which I love. There is often a cast of characters around remembering how crazy that time was before piracy and streaming services routed the record business. Ross is usually more far-sighted than nostalgic, though. Always pushing forward and not looking back. I think it explains why he was so successful then, and how he has managed to keep his projects fresh and his career as a producer viable and relevant today where many have vanished. The construction of a home studio early on in the decade is one reason (at our level decent studio budgets are gone). Pushing music that is ahead of its time and brand new for over 20 years is another. Based on that instinct, he took us on and shared our vision for making something really loud, honest, and super freaky and didn›t seem to give much of a lick what anyone thought about it. It was infectious and we created freely and in tandem on that focus. It was a real education for us, an experience we are all grateful for and one we will ever forget.
Harvest Of Darkness is in the hopper now. We’re very proud of it. As of this writing it hasn’t been released (it comes out Aug. 18 on Roadrunner Records) but we hope any listener can hear in it the truth of what it is and what we tried to capture in those sessions: three dudes from and influenced by Bellingham in a big way who are hungry, honest, a little pissed, and straight scared shitless.
Follow Wild Throne at https://www.facebook.com/wildthrone.
Published in the April 2015 issue of What’s Up! Magazine