with Alan Sparhawk of Low
I’m really big on the new Low album Invisible Way, so I figured I’d ask Alan a few questions I hadn’t seen anyone else ask him about it.
QRD – I assume Clarence White in the song “Clarence White” is the musician, but who’s Josh Murray & what’s his relation to him?
Alan – Actually the name “Clarence White” came very random when I wrote the song - so not about the actual person. Same with Mr. Murray. The two names had a nice ring together. Sometimes all you need are names.
QRD – On “Clarence White” are the handclaps real or is it that handclap pedal?
Alan – We went analog on the claps, though the hand-clapper pedal is always at hand, ready for that one special day.
QRD – These days do you record with a click track & build up or go kind of live?
Alan – I think we used a click on one song on Invisible Way. All the songs started tracking with the 3 of us all playing together in the room, then built from there.
QRD – How much of Invisible Way was completely planned before going in to record & how many ideas were created or added in the studio?
Alan – We had our songs sorted before we went in - by that I mean we had demo’d the songs & knew our way around them pretty well. There was some creative adjustment once we got into the studio, but we already knew where we were; probably more so than any record we have done in a while. We knew we had limited time with Jeff, so we tried to be ready & efficient.
QRD – How involved is a producer with your record? Are they basically just an engineer or fairly involved with song selection, musical arrangements, etc.?
Alan – It of course varies wildly. I always look at the producer as the “facilitator” - the person who makes sure the record gets done. That can span from, like you said, just recording to putting the whole thing together. I don’t think we have ever worked with anyone who told us how to play or how a song should be (maybe we should have?) even with Jeff, who I thought, of anyone, would have maybe poked around with the songs, didn’t. I’ve done some producing & I must say, I like it; but I like being more hands-on, like Phil Spector.
QRD – How do you select a producer & do you think that you’ll ever do home recordings for a commercial release again?
Alan – Usually, it’s just a matter of planting the idea in our heads (“we have some songs, we should make another record, where?”) for a while & seeing what comes up. Usually we know what it should be once we stumble on it. For this last record, Jeff had invited us to see the studio a few years ago & when we finally stopped by the light went on & we knew it was the right place & people to work with. We still record at home & the results are out there (bonus CDs, etc.), but there’s something about going to a place for a limited time to concentrate & finish as you start - it’s probably the best way for us, maybe just because that’s how we started. Plus, I like having another creative person there who you trust & who has perhaps a different perspective or angle on who the band is. We’ve learned that no matter who & where we work with, it still sounds like us. In fact the last few records have been a bit of experimenting with that very property.
QRD – Will there ever be a full album in the “Clarence What?” & “Do You Know How to Waltz?” style?
Alan – I would have made all the records like that if it were not for all these pesky songs we keep writing.
QRD – What are the pictures of “a guitar/amp to keep you warm” a reference to?
Alan – It was a particularly cold spell in Duluth. Started with a banjo, actually! It was just to say hello to my cold friends, but it kept going....
Other QRD interviews with Alan Sparhawk:
Low (from Whirlpool 1995)
Low interview (October 1998)
Low interview (September 2000)
Alan Sparhawk interview (July 2006)
Low Interview (October 2007)
Couples interview with Alan & Mimi of Low (February 2007)
Father's Day Interview with Alan Sparhawk of Low (May 2007)
Guitarist Interview Series with Alan Sparhawk of Low & Retribution Gospel Choir (December 2010)
Christian Musician interview with Alan Sparhawk of Low (March 2011)