Scott McCaughey :: The Aquarium Drunkard Interview

There is something of the recently deceased Harry Dean Stanton to Scott McCaughey. Just as Stanton was to pictures for decades, McCaughey is that cool, mysterious guy in music that shows up in seemingly every conceivably happening circumstance and you're always happy to see him. As frontman for the indispensably great Young Fresh Fellows and Minus 5, he has produced a daunting welter of great songs while running his own show. But he thrives as the character actor as well, the sideman who has lent his uncanny skills and wild hair sensibility to everyone from R.E.M. to Robyn Hitchcock to Wilco over the past two decades. Most recently, McCaughey has served as the glue that holds together Filthy Friends, essentially an ambitious collaboration between R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker. We spoke to him about the experience of making their new record Invitation, the last days of R.E.M. and what it's like to record fast and loose.

Aquarium Drunkard: You've been in no shortage of epic recording sessions. How did Filthy Friends compare to recording with Young Fresh Fellows, Minus 5 or R.E.M.? Was the vibe more spontaneous or carefully curated? The record does a nice job of splitting the difference between feeling fully fleshed out without becoming overbaked.

Scott McCaughey: Filthy Friends rehearsed a couple days, went straight into the studio with 15 songs somewhat band-ready, and tracked, overdubbed, etc., all in about a week as I recall. It was really straightforward – Peter and I have developed a way of making records very quickly – not simply for economy’s sake (though certainly that’s a factor in this day and age), but because that’s the most energizing way to record. We have fun in the studio, but we’re also all about getting shit DONE. No agonizing over decisions, no more than three or four takes of a song usually, no polishing the life out of a performance. For my own records, working quickly in the studio has always been a fact of life. Of course, in latter stages of R.E.M., budgets got bigger and left more room for sonic explorations, re-recording, and sometimes indecisiveness. Peter and I got to experience that end of the rainbow, and we made some great records. But the preference these days is to slam them out, full-throttle style, and Corin, Kurt, and Bill were all on board for the high-speed voyage.

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