think we're in for a good time with Stan Agol, the recording engineer for three
of Tim Buckley's albums...'Starsailor', 'Greetings From L.A.',and 'Look At The
Note: This online chat has been reformatted to a more reader-friendly conventional
interview. No meaningful text has been changed.)
many years have you been in the music business and how many years as a recording
how many different record labels have you worked for?
Who was the first big name entertainer that you worked with?
Gillespie, around 1967, it was the last Bell Telephone Hour, filmed live
at the Jazz Workshop in SF, I also recorded Charles Lloyd at Reed College for
the same show.
you possibly recall how many big names you worked with and which were some of
the most exciting?
Bing Crosby, Dizzy, Frank Zappa, Robert Goulet, Diana
Ross, Jackson 5, Sly Stone, Al Jarreau, Sammy Davis Jr, Eric Burdon, Jimmy Witherspoon,
mixed a lot of Woodstock I, Harry Chapin, Little Feat,Mickey Newbury, Judy Collins,
The James Gang, Todd Rundgren, Don Costa, Buddy Greco, The Osmonds, The Silvers,
Steve and Edie, The Boones, CSNY, Blue Cheer, CCR, Steve Miller, Dan Hicks, Cal
Tjader,John Handy, Sir Douglas Quintet, Gene Clark, Ronne Blakley, Ry Cooder,
The Charlatans, Robby Krieger, T-Bone Burnett.
How did you wind up
working with Tim Buckley?
I had just finished Chunga's Revenge
the difference between a producer and a recording engineer?
is responsible for the technology involved in the recording The producer, if one
is present, is responsible for the overall direction. A record producer would
equate to a film director and the engineer to the cameraman. Sometimes a producer
is not present and some of those duties fall on the engineer.
of the three albums - 'Starsailor', 'Greetings From LA', or 'Look At The Fool'
- was your favorite session? Which of the three turned out to be your favorite
Starsailor was the most fun. Look at the Fool
the best sound.
was a typical session day like?
Well, they were mostly nights. None of
them were typical (Musician) Union sessions with charts were straight ahead, Four
songs in three hours, very professional. Starsailor was not like that,
a lot of what we did was experiment which eats up the time.
did everyone arrive?
When the session started or thereabouts.
long did they work?
Sessions could be from four hours to 24 hours.
How long did it take to finish a song?
An hour to a week.
Tim assume a leadership role in the studio?
During Starsailor he
did. Less during Greetings and Fool.
things chaotic or organized?
was the social atmosphere like?
Very creative, relaxed.
everyone get along?
career was looking up. He was going to play Woody Guthrie in 'Bound For Glory'.
He was leaving Herb Cohen and signing a big deal with Screen Gems. He was NOT
you at any of the rehearsals?
The only rehearsals of Tim's I attended
were between Starsailor and Greetings, when Chapman (Emmett Chapman
- inventor of The Chapman Stick) was with him.
it all business during the actual recording sessions?
No. Fool was probably
the most business-like, the studio musicians were first-string, they were used
to doing a lot of charted sessions, film scores, etc.
there many bystanders/groupies at these sessions?
No groupies. Friends
drop by, record company people sometimes.
Tim's wife, Judy, attend?
I don't think she was at Starsailor, some
at Greetings, more at Fool.
Did Larry Beckett attend
any of the sessions or was he around at all?
No. I never met Larry at
any of the three.
the recording of 'Starsailor', the song, what did you think of the concept?
more avant-gauche than avant-garde.
How did Tim explain
to you what he wanted the song to sound like when it was finally mixed or did
you guys just wing it?
I couldn't possibly remember that. A lot of the
effects like flange phasing and backwards vocals were my ideas He was not specific
I just ran across the following notes this past Saturday and
I'll share them with you<>
Structure: a set of horizontal vocal lines is improvised in at least three
ranges, the vertical effect of which is atonal tone clusters and a rhythmic counterpoint.
The written melody is to be sung, after which the lines of lyric are to be re-ordered
at will and sung to improvised melody, taking advantage of the opportunity for
quartertones, third note lengths, and flexible tempo.
did you tell me the other day about playing Starsailor, the
You can hear the backwards parts Palindromorphic
the musicians use sheet music?
Lee Underwood have a lot of input?
Yes, it was basically Tim and Lee and
writers of Starsailor, the song, were Tim Buckley, Larry Beckett, and John Balkinhow
much of that song was actually John's?
I have no idea.
Tim, Larry, John, and Lee all satisfied with the final mix of Starsailor,
the song, or did they have differences about how it should sound?
I don't think Larry was there I don't recall any disagreements
Song To The Siren, who played the electric guitar?
that Tim's voice in the background at all times on Song To The Siren?
Yes, I think we used all sixteen tracks for vocals, a lot of backwards
vocals, no instruments
1999 Stan Agol created a version of the song 'Starsailor'
that can be played both forwards and backwards and somehow
it sounds the same. He calls this 'Palindromorphic Music'.
Stan is quite proud of this recording which he produced
technology was yet available for Tim to make Palindromorphic
music in 1970. However, words were recorded backwards
on the song 'Starsailor' on the album.As you can hear,
Tim did give that recording process a whirl.
calls his nine-minute Palindromorphic version Starsailor
you explain what phasing is?
That's when you take a signal and duplicate
it and vary the speed of one of the signals slightly then you get phasing. Originally
named flange phasing because to vary the speed of one of the signals you would
put your thumb on the flange of the tape reel.
Tim hang out in the control room with you for playbacks?
you spend any time at all with Tim outside the studio?
Not a lot. The rehearsals
mentioned above, and at the Boarding House in 1972 right before Greetings
which album did you first work with Joe Falsia?
Joe and I met at Far Out
Productions, basically Eric Burdon's company run by Jerry Goldstein and Steve
Gold. I was a staff engineer and Joe was staff guitar player and arranger.
first worked together with a group called Fatha. They were to be War's replacement
as contracts were broken.
How different was Joe Falsia from Lee?
Totally different Joe was a studio player from NY, basically R&B oriented,
and an arranger - the strings on Sweet Surrender, the horns on Fool.
Lee was more of an artiste
Joe and Tim good friends?
They had a relationship I had no part of (on)
the road. I would say they were good friends
you know how they met?
They met on Greetings.
you consider Joe a good producer or did you have to help him a lot?
had to help him when he was playing guitar solos, he couldn't play and produce
at the same time. I had more input on Fool than Greetings.
understand that you were very unhappy with the outcome of Greetings?
I feel that the basic groove was better without the sax, organ, handclaps,
was it like to work with Jerry Goldstein the producer of Greetings?
I've worked with producers I've liked better
was Look At The Fool recorded?
Wally Heider's Studio Three,
the Record Plant Studio B. Mixed at Heider's Studio Three after remodeling. Mastered
at Warner Bros Amiga Studios.
there any studio incidents that were funny or worth telling about?
album was originally titled Tijuana Moon (note the cover) All three albums
had a last-minute-addition-for-time song. Starsailor it was Moulin Rouge;
Greetings it was Hong Kong Bar; Fool it was Wanda Lu - which
Warners and Discreet picked for the single.
did you view Tim, as a personality?
Incredible vocalist. A better singer than guitar player. Twelve-string
guitars are very difficult to keep in tune .There is none of Tim's guitar on Fool.
I don't know which lyrics he wrote and which lyrics Larry wrote.
I admire the use of analogies, metaphors, and similes. I write lyrics and they
always end up structured and rhyming.
His pitch was awesome, his range was awesome - 3 1/2 octaves,
not five-plus as reported elsewhere
was the last time that you saw Tim alive?
At the completion of Look
at the Fool.
You were there at the end of Tim's recording career
Is it true that Tim felt the need to carry a gun? Was anyone looking to hurt him
that you know of?
I never heard about Tim carrying a gun.
anecdotes that you would like to share with us, before we open up the floor to
questions from the other people in the room?
No, not in public anyway
about that Paramount (Studios) session you told me about?
The ones with
Timmy on twelve-string, Maury Baker on his custom tympani/trap
drum set, Emmett Chapman on Stick (Schtick as Timmy put it),
Glen Farris on trombone. John Balkin was not at the studio,
I don't remember the rehearsals.
Tim a funny guy?
Yeah, he was intelligent, so was his humor
he like to stretch the truth at times?
He just liked stretch marks
did he abandon the acoustic guitar?
I didn't know that he did. At least
not before he died. He didn't play guitar on Fool.
takes did Tim typically do to get a song down the way he wanted it?
Could Deny You was done in one take the first time, at the start of the session.
Others took several takes maybe with some punch-ins.
Why didn't Tim
play guitar on Look At The Fool?
His guitar playing was not
as good as his singing. He played on the live takes, but we just didn't use it
in the final mix. I mentioned above the tuning problems with twelve-strings
there much overdubbing on Fool?
It's sort of a paradox. He had perfect
pitch, I think, and his vocals were always so in tune. The problem with the guitar
is just inherent with twelve-strings
was Tim's state of mind during LATF? Some writers characterize him as down and
No, that's bullshit. His career was looking up. He was going
to play Woody Guthrie in Bound For Glory. He was leaving Herb Cohen and
signing a big deal with Screen Gems. He was NOT a junkie!
the Paramount sessions How much material was recorded?
Only one or two
disappointed was Herb Cohen over the material on 'Starsailor,the
was not the material, it was the album in general. Well, it was almost two years
before he recorded again.
Did Tim require many vocal punch-ins on Song
to the Siren? The emotional continuity of his performance is awesome.
I don't think there were a lot of punch-ins. Remember there
are sixteen vocals, some backwards.
(Editor: Stan is referring to Starsailor the song, not
Song to the Siren.)
Cohen took the credit as executive producer of 'Starsailor'.
did he do anything at all?
in the studio, he was never there.
What was Herb's role back then?
Executive Producer is a suit that sets up financing etc.
did Tim get along with his various producers? Were there conflicts?
only saw Herb a few times, and then he was usually complaining about something
I think Tim thought Jerry Goldstein was a yo-yo He got along good with Joe.
You said that you recorded some stuff of your own on the computer What
did you record?
Some lyrics I wrote.
On what subject?
subjects like child abuse, endangered species, etc.
Tell us your theory
on why Tim left this earth, if it's not too personal?
Singers like Tim
are angels, they get to leave when their work is done
did you find out he had died?
I called Joe at home to find out how the
movie deal was going, This was the next day after he died.
was close to being made?
That's what I was calling to find out, it was
looking very good!
there any other contenders for the role?
David Carradine got the part.
He sucked as Woody Guthrie Tim looked a lot like Woody.
Did Tim do
a screen test for the movie?
I'm not sure, I think so. That would be hot to get a copy
general comments about Tim's professionalism?
Yes, he was very professional
in the studio
I guess we should call it a night Thank you Stan, it was very nice of you to answer
so many questions.
Jack Brolly/Room 109