Multitalented Eric Corne (of Forty Below Records) talks about John Mayall, Walter Trout and Henry Miller

"I prefer to focus on the great music of today and just learn from the past. My fears for the future are that there is so little monetary reward for artists that many give it up."

Eric Corne: Sonic Balance And Vibe

Eric Corne is a Canadian producer, engineer and singer-songwriter currently based in Los Angeles. Corne formed the Toronto space pop group Mysterio in the late 90s along with guitarist Simon Craig (Son, Feist, Dragonette). In 2004, Corne relocated his family to Los Angeles to work for widely respected producer, engineer and bassist Dusty Wakeman (Lucinda Williams, Dwight Yoakam) at Mad Dog Studios. Working at Mad Dog, Corne engineered sessions for the likes of Glen Campbell, Lucinda Williams, Nancy Wilson (Heart), John Doe (X, The Knitters) and Michelle Shocked, including some of Shocked’s second line music featuring, Trombone Shorty and her contribution to Give US Your Poor, a benefit CD to fight homelessness that also included tracks from Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt and Madeleine Peyroux.

Corne, whose own music has always had a socio-political slant, also worked on the Instant Karma charity project for Darfur, recording and mixing Ghanaian reggae/afro-beat artist, Rocky Dawuni’s cover of John Lennon’s “Well, well, well.” In addition, Corne spent months engineering and mixing a charity project for Hurricane Katrina victims called The Congo Square Project, which featured dozens of the greatest drummers of all time, including Airto Moreira (Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell), Louie Bellson (Duke Ellington), Ndugu Chancler (Michael Jackson), Clem Burke (Blondie) and many more. He recently released his first solo record, "Kid Dynamite & The Common Man" featuring a who's who of L.A. rock and roots royalty, including: Richie Hayward (Little Feat), Greg Leisz (Wilco), Doug Pettibone (Lucinda Williams), Brian MacLeod (Sheryl Crow), Nick Urata (DeVotchKa), Stephen Hodges (Tom Waits), Skip Edwards (Dwight Yoakam), Dusty Wakeman (Jim Lauderdale), Carl Byron (Michelle Shocked), Eamon Ryland (Happy Mondays) and Sasha Smith (Jesca Hoop). Some of Eric's notable recording credits: Michelle Shocked, Walter Trout, Devotchka, John Mayall, Glen Campbell, Lucinda Williams, Airto Moreira, Taiwanese sensation, Joanna Wang, Tim Easton, PF Sloan, Rocky Dawuni, Anne McCue, Nancy Wilson, Louie Bellson, Marvin Etzioni, John Doe, Jude Johnstone, Trevor Menear and Tsar.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?

Catharsis, humour and honesty…When it’s at it’s best, raw emotion.

How do you describe Eric Corne sound and songbook? What characterize your music philosophy?

I don’t have one overall sound. I like to take a different approach and do what the song and the album “tell” me to do.  The two most important things to me sonically are balance and vibe.

"My hopes are that mainstream music become more real and organic, less pitch corrected and quantized and that governments protect the rights of content owners with respect to streaming etc. I also hope we move to higher resolution formats like Neil Young and Tom Petty are lobbying for."

How started the thought of Forty Below Records? What is the mission and the story behind the name of label?

The idea for Forty Below Records started when I was chief engineer at Dusty Wakeman’s Mad Dog Studios. I found myself making records with some of the greatest session musicians around and began thinking about my great admiration for the Funk Brothers (Motown), The MGS (Stax) and The Wrecking Crew. I saw a lot of talented artists finishing a record and just posting it on-line with no idea about how to distribute and promote an album and I wanted to provide a pathway for artists to get to the next level.

When I began making records with John Mayall and signed him to the label, the focus split a bit, and now I feel confident releasing more established artists, as I have distribution throughout North America, Europe, Japan and Australia.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice ever given you?

Well, after meeting my wife, of course, haha, I would say meeting Dusty Wakeman, Walter Trout and John Mayall were very important for me professionally. Also, being able to work with and learn from engineers like Eddie Kramer and David Bianco.

As for advice, I’ve always remembered producer/engineer Ross Hogarth telling me that this is a service industry.

"I don’t have one overall sound. I like to take a different approach and do what the song and the album “tell” me to do.  The two most important things to me sonically are balance and vibe." (Photo: Eric Corne & John Mayall - Eric mastered Mayall's live at Hollywood Palladium, 1971)

Are there any memories from your experiences in the studio which you’d like to share with us?

What happens in the studio, stays in the studio, haha! No, just kidding, sort of, haha! Working with Glen Campbell and Lucinda Williams are highlights and recently, I did a horn session with some of the musicians from The Late Show With Conan O’Brien and a third party told me that after the session the musicians said it was the most creative session they’d ever been a apart of.

Another great session was when John Mayall came in to guest on a Walter Trout record I was producing. I’d heard stories of engineers working with veterans like Dylan and Ry Cooder and not recording the rehearsals and getting fired. So, before John came to the studio I made sure to get a sound ready. When he got to the studio, he walked over to the piano and I ran into the control room and hit record. John played for 10 minutes and when he was done, Walter asked if he’d like to do one with the band and John said no, that was it “Didn’t you get it”? Everyone turned around to look at me and I gave them the thumbs up. Then John gave me a sheet of paper instructing me what bars to cut out. It was a magical session and shortly after that I got the call to do John’s next record.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I prefer to focus on the great music of today and just learn from the past. My fears for the future are that there is so little monetary reward for artists that many give it up. My hopes are that mainstream music become more real and organic, less pitch corrected and quantized and that governments protect the rights of content owners with respect to streaming etc. I also hope we move to higher resolution formats like Neil Young and Tom Petty are lobbying for.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

No lip syncing.

"As for advice, I’ve always remembered producer/engineer Ross Hogarth telling me that this is a service industry." (Photo: Eric Corne with Sasha Smith and Walter Trout)

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the music circuits?

On the laughing front…I was recording a song with Kim Deal (The Pixies) and we took a picture together and she was really excited to send it to a male friend…After a few minutes I realized that because I had a bear on my hat, she thought I was a cute gay guy, haha!

On the emotional front…Making “The Blues Came Calling” with Walter Trout as he was dying from liver disease. He could barely speak or play but the music was filled with emotion and documented his journey. It was the most difficult record I’ve ever made because I love the man (not that way, Kim, haha!). He got a transplant, pulled through and we are starting a new record in a couple months…A miracle of modern science and the support of the wonderful blues community.

What has been the relationship between music & socio-political activism in your life and music?

I believe strongly in fairness, equality and justice and these are strong tenets in my lyrics. All my musical heroes from Dylan to Lennon to Strummer to Neil pointed the way…

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

I’d want to hang out with Henry Miller in Paris in the 1920s/30s!

Eric Corne Music - Home

Photo: Eric Corne, Dave Raven, Michelle Shocked, Dusty Wakeman and Eamon Ryland in The Mint

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