who plays on the recordings?

daisy olden 12/17/12

I think I've read that a lot of the earlier stuff is mostly, or entirely, Eric, that his demos became the finished recordings, etc.  But Furr, DotV, Goldwing?  The drums sound pretty consistently amateurish and naive--I mean this as a high complement.  The drumming is more MUSICAL and Ringo-like than 99% of rock drumming (& if the tracks ARE played by someone who took lessons, learned flamadiddles and press rolls, worked through the Dick Demers book, etc., then to have unlearned all that shit and gotten back to the communicative core of drumming is a pretty astonishing feat (so different from the guitar leads, which, despite being semantically coded as "loose" and 70s-like, are frighteningly tight and left-brained

I mean, the real question may be, who cares?  I think it does matter in a sort of music appreciation sense--I mean, I'm so consistently in awe of this music, I want to know how it's made.  I mean, if you are served a bowl of amazingly crispy, pan-seared brussel sprouts, don't you immediately set about trying to reconstruct how they must have been prepared?  It's in our nature, as caveman scientists, to want to know.  I want to meet the watchmaker.  Are we listening to amazing ensemble playing, or is there a single intelligence animating it all?  Eric seems to be an infinitely flexible vocalist, so I guess I wouldn't be surprised if all those other sounds resided in him, too.  

jeglican 12/18/12

Haha I was talking to Brian after one show, and I mentioned I thought his playing on WMN was really cool sounding, only to have him fill me in on it being Eric that played. I was just kinda like...oh......*foot in mouth*.

junglelove 12/19/12

Eric is Billy Corgan with hair ?

Band Member
marty 12/25/12

Dear Daisy,

Eric and Brian (and MVP and Erik "Tito" Menteer for that matter) are all solid drummers, and none of them have much if any training on the kits. Not sure if this is what makes it "musical" to your ears, but when I was a teen I steadfastly refused music lessons of any kind from my parents on the grounds that none of The Beatles had ever been classically trained. (I now regret this—I think musicians need any advantage they can get. I was a very dense teen).

I'm impressed by your reading of the guitar solos. Yes, the semantics are a bit of a put-on, aren't they? The guitars really are frighteningly tight, and reflect many years of early training on Earley's part. It seems that he also has some vocal training somewhere in his past, but I don't know for certain.

So, who plays what on what? And does it matter? (It does).

The first two Blitzen records were more collaborative group efforts in the studio than WMN or Furr, which were basically Earley solo joints (with some exceptions, like Drew's electric guitar on Woof and Warp, or Brian and MVP's rhythm sections here and there). I think Michael wrote the Moog hook on Black River Killer maybe? Starting with DotV, Brian has been playing all the drums. Other players appear occasionally. My own contributions in the studio since Field Rexx have been limited to vocals.

Personally it doesn't matter to me who plays what as long as the recorded material approximates Earley's vision of what it ought to sound like. The band's relative lack of resources combined with Eric's efficiency in the studio (talk about frightening!) makes it seem like utter vanity to insist that I clumsily try to emulate what he's going for with some acoustic guitars or something.

However, I think that live Blitzen Trapper utterly destroys the studio work, and that in general this stems from the synergistic possibilities in ensemble play rather than from any player's technical prowess. Some day perhaps we will record a record live in the studio, a la Tonight's The Night, which is probably the greatest rock record ever in my opinion despite (or because of) its raggedness.

I remember in high school learning how Smashing Pumpkins worked in the studio and losing all respect for the band, so I can imagine how this information can be disappointing to some parties. Part of the appeal of a rock band is this romantic image of everyone all pitching in on a quixotic, egoless quest to make something as a group. Of course this is a myth. Bands are as varied as humans and as such it's most often marketplace factors that determine how work gets done.


jeglican 12/26/12

My mind has exploded. I didnt know you guys mixed it up that much.

rudolph trapper 12/27/12

Well said Marty. Who's actually playing what on the records doesnt really matter to me. When i see u guys play live it ALWAYS blows the studio versions out of the water (as much as i love those too). BTW thanku for "Jericho", one of my fav. BT jams.

steve mock 1/16/13

If tweets from the last week or so are any indication, it appears there's been some 'rehearsing.' And the first person plural 'we' would indicate at least two people are going into the studio to work on the next record.

That's all I got.

OCDBT4ME 1/29/13

This is a fantastic thread.  Thanks to Daisy for so eloquently communicating the question and expressing my shared primal desire to know as much about the BT recordings as a fan could possibly know.  And man, Marty, when are you going to write that quintessential BT biography?  You really have such an incredible gift, my friend.   

Kevidently 5/17/16
I'm trying to work on it (the BT bio, sort of) now.  We'll see if it compares to Marty's eloquence.
junglelove 5/26/16
Probably some gold on this forum from the band over the years.

Band Member
Ross McLochness 6/22/16
Hey guys, 
like Marty said, everybody plays multiple instruments to varying degrees of success.  Earley is obviously the most accomplished and prolific shredder/composer in the group.  When we moved out of our deep SE Foster Lavender Compound in 2006 and into our own places, we got our first external practice space (where Earley also lived for quite some time), he started recording the songs that would become WMN and later FURR, late at night due to the constant sound of bands in the building of band practice spaces (like 1am-??) on most nights and because he writes fast, like really fast, he knocked those records out mostly himself in no time.  Prior to WMN I had played nearly every drum track, but on WMN I only played drums on Futures and Folly and Miss Spiritual Tramp.  On FURR, I only played on Black River Killer.  After that I returned to being the full time drummer on the rest of the records again. 
As far as the Ringo-esque naivete of the drumming goes, it's complicated.  Yes, I probably play in a naive way because I never took lessons but I did listen constantly to and learn from many drummers, most notably Ringo Starr, Bill Bruford, Pat Mastelotto, Danny Carey, Ainsley Dunsbar, Dave Grohl and on and on...but also, the way that I (we) approach drums is about playing the right drums for the song, the technicality of it isn't really important at all, as long as it's serving the song.  So, sometimes a song needs a giant indulgent fill or sometimes it's just a bass drum, hi hat and rim shot...depends on the song and the feeling.

Hope that helps a little...
Kevidently 7/2/16
Aha! Brian, it's been difficult to know, exactly, who plays what on Furr. I know Earley did most of it himself, but knowing you drummed on the title track is really helpful.  Do you know who else may have played on the other tracks?  And how did that work - did Early lay down the basic tracks and you played and it got merged, or was it all recorded live? 
Band Member
michael.james 7/5/16
Kev, it is very simple. Brain said he did *not* play on the title track. Eric played everything on every song. With the exception of BRK with Brian on drums and myself on bass and Moog - recorded live by Mike Coykendall at his studio. Aside from a small drum break that was sampled on Easy Con (myself) there are no other musicians involved in Furr.
Kevidently 7/9/16
Ugh. I meant BRK.  DUMB KEV.

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