Sunday, February 1, 2009

Marc Primeau, or Primo; the cantilevered behometh

We may have been making recordings for almost twenty years, but the chance to be in a recording studio for a few days is still a treasured experience for the creative core of Poetry Scores, who mostly do very different things for a living.

As hobbyists, we geek out on the minutiae more than would come natural to a working professional, like Lij, whose studio The Toy Box we invaded last weekend in Nashville.

Take, for example, this fellow, Marc Primeau.

Primeau - pronounced "Primo," as I also thought his name was spelled - has become something of Lij's righthand man in the studio, his assistant engineer. They met when Primeau (one so badly wants to spell the name "Primo") interned at Alex The Great, the great Nashville rock studio where Lij got his start in the industry.

Lij's agenda for the Poetry Scores session (working on The Sydney Highrise Variations) was to spend a lot of time with a guitar in his hand and very little time twiddling knobs and tweaking compressor settings. That's where Primeau came in.

When Primeau was at the board, Lij was called upon to do very, very little knob twiddling. He became executive knob twiddler, knob twiddling consulant, and full-time musician - drummer, as it turned out, rather than guitar player, for the most part; that's the way it goes, for guys like Lij who can play just about everything.

As someone who earns his living in recording studios, Lij long ago learned how to appreciate an assistant, but more or less take them for granted when he is fortunate to have one, the way I have learned to take for granted reporters and Matt Fuller in Los Angeles now takes for granted high-ego Los Angeles art directors, creatures who might seem equally exotic and interesting to people who don't grind out a living in their company.

So, anyway, being in a better place to appreciate a character like Primeau, Dave Melson and I took some time to take his pictures, and we all developed affectionate banter with the lad over a couple of intense working days in the studio. A name like "Primo" (would have swore it was "Primo") certainly didn't hurt, considering the prominence of that word in the slacker lexicon of our youth, when a very good thing was "primo" when it was not "rad" or even "bitchin'".

Having Primeau at the knobs and in the house was a very good thing. We even dedicated one of our songs to him, "The cantilevered behometh."

Primeau has been spending his days producing a heavy metal band from his Tennessee hometown (where his family moved as a child following his nativity in Quebec, which explains that "eau" stuff in his name). I was guessing that the heavy metals bands of northeastern Tennessee just don't serve up many phrases like "The cantilevered behometh," as does Les Murray, the Australian author of our poem.

Here is the scrap of Les' poem I culled for lyrics to this Three Fried Men song on the score:
The cantilevered behemoth
is fitted up with hospitals and electric Gatling guns
to deal with recalcitrant and archaic spirits.
Alas, just as we were working this song up - it was late of a Saturday night - Primeau had to leave us, one sensed in pursuit of the company of a young lass.

"It's okay, Primo," I said (spelling his name in my mind without that "eau" stuff, at that time). "You don't have to be here and work on the song for us to dedicate to you."

So we recorded it without him and dedicated it to him. Thanks, Primeau, Primo; we hope to have you again when we come back down to finish up.

Free mp3

"The cantilevered behometh"
(Matt Fuller, Chris King, Les Murray)
Three Fried Men
(Rough mix with scratch vocal and no overdubs.)


Photo of Primeau on the way out the door by Dave Melson; photos of Primeau at work by me. Like every engineer and producer in Nashville, Primeau also is a musician. Check out his MySpace page for recorded evidence.

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