Each month Tiger Beat, beginning with this issue, will present an on-the-spot interview with a personality close to the Monkees. This issue: CHIP DOUGLAS their recording producer.
Were there any problems because the Monkees weren’t used to working in a studio as musicians?
At first they were a little bit afraid. But once everybody got over the fear of each other and playing their own instruments for the first time it was fine. It was like starting with a new group. Four months ago, none of them had actually sat down and started to create before. It turned out nine times better than I had ever hoped.
Can you recall any funny incidents that happened in the studio?
Oh! Yes! We did one thing that is just an extra band on the album. It was called “Band Six.” It is the fourth band on the album. There are 14 on the album, two of them were extras. There are 12 tunes and the extra one of the extra was “Band Six” and lasts about 30 seconds. They were playing the theme from Warner Brothers’ music at the end of the cartoon with a steel guitar and they were playing it a bunch of times and one section of this whole time we would take this down on tape. All the jam sessions and everything, we haven’t even sifted through those… there are thousands of them. They will probably be used as background music on the show. They started playing this one thing and they started playing it very slowly. Peter and Mike did it on steel guitars and Micky was playing it very fast on the drums and the two were not fitting together exactly and it sounded very funny at the time.
Another thing we did is called “Zilch” where each of us talks in with the others. “Mr. Dovalina, Mr. Bob Dovalina, Mr. Dovalina, Mr. Bob Dovalina.” And then Davy comes in saying “China Clipper calling Alameda. China Clipper calling Alameda.” And Micky comes in saying “Never mind the further more, plea is self defense. Never mind the further more, plea is self defense.” Then Mike comes in saying “It is in my opinion the people are intending” and this thing goes over and over so we thought that we would do this by putting each guy down on a separate track with a separate microphone. What happened was they were cracking themselves up! Davy couldn’t say, “Mr. Dovalina, Mr. Bob Dovalina.” He was supposed to say that part at first, then he went into a laughing fit that lasted a half an hour! We had most of it down on tape finally Davy and Peter switched parts, because they could say it better and it came off okay. It was all they could do to keep from breaking up at the end.
What are some of the funny things they do before they start singing?
There is a tune called “Mr. Webster” on the album and I almost felt like leaving this on the album, but I didn’t. Davy says, “Press the starter!” in a very funny way just before the tape begins to roll. They always talk right up to the second the tape starts. All the voices are on a separate track and the instruments are on a separate track since there’s always talking on the voice track right up until the time they sing, you have to go back and erase this. Micky always says “Press the little button that says Go” just before every take.
Who is the hardest worker in the studio?
It’s very important to Peter. I think it’s important to all of them, but Peter realizes the importance of it and is willing to stay there. He can probably outlast the others by 50 per cent or more.
Do you have any problem getting them to the studio on time?
Everybody usually arrives late because compared with shooting (shooting costs 200 dollars a minute down at Screen Gems) recording only costs 50 dollars an hour, so it’s really cheap compared to shooting. It is important to get it done, because of the time element.
Has anyone been really late and had a really funny story to explain why he was late?
Well, Mike has come up with a few interesting stories, none of which I can recall at this point. He’s usually late for various reasons. He has a lot of things to do during the day and he’s the most active of the four. He’s always out buying motorcycles before a session. We’ll say “how come you’re two hours late?” and he’ll say, “I bought my wife a motorcycle!”
Do any of the Monkees have “quirks” in the studio?
Micky has to wear a foam rubber knee pad, only he wears it on his left thigh because when he plays the drums he hits his leg. And if you do this 12 hours a day, pretty soon you bruise your leg. He also wears his San Francisco policeman’s hat everywhere in the studio. They all grew beards while we recorded the third album. Davy always stands and dances before each take. Peter is kind of nervous before each take. Mike did his best vocal one night when he was in a very good mood, very relaxed and he did it in one take.
Do you ever travel with the Monkees?
I would like to more than I do, but I’ve only traveled with them to New York. I went there to cut “The Girl That I Knew Somewhere,” but we ended up back here instead. I was going to go on tour with them when they went to Canada, but I didn’t because I had to finish mixing the album down and get it done.
Is there any purpose for you to be along, except to see them perform?
It would help to get ideas going all the time. They’re fixing up a music room down at the Screen Gems lot where we can all go during breaks and where there is a piano and a set of drums. We’ll be able to sit around and dream up ideas.
Were there any songs that you had to call in musicians to play?
Yes. There was one tune called “Shades of Gray”, which came out very well and sounds like quite a few instruments on the record, but actually there’s only a bass, drums, piano, steel guitar and all the percussion stuff that Davy plays, plus we called in a French horn player and a cello player.
Doesn’t Peter play the French horn?
He was going to, but he hasn’t played it for a long time. He probably will on the next album. Anyway, by the time Peter went out and bought the instrument, we were half way through the album. He was practicing everyday and getting very good, but the studio musician that we used on the tune was so good that he sounded like four French horns. He’s the best in the business. Those two were the only two outside musicians we used on the session.
What are the typical foods the Monkees eat during the session?
Orange juice in the morning. Davy usually brings the food for all of us, usually Orange Juice from Norm’s, the restaurant next door to RCA. Once we start work, Peter drinks lots of coffee.
How are they dressed when they come to a session?
Davy always wears the nice clothes… the rest of the guys are used to dressing casual. Micky wears some cut-off levis, no shoes or slippers. He comes in everyday that way because he says it’s easier to play the drums. Mike always wears cowboy boots. Peter usually wears thick cord slacks and sweatshirts.