Volume Six Interview

D. James Goodwin
Producer, Engineer & Mixer
Dripfield

written by Jon Caruso

2022 has been a significant year for Goose: in addition to playing venues like the legendary Radio City Music Hall, Newport Folk Festival and Red Rocks for the first time, they’ve also had their first performance on TV (CBS Saturday Morning) and also released their third full-length studio LP, Dripfield.

A portrait of D. James Goodwin | Photo Credit: Peter Anspach

Dripfield, arguably their most ambitious and musically varied album yet, is like lightning in a bottle. It encapsulates this exciting moment in time within the band’s history - in which fans are seeing their sound evolve and mature in real-time. Dripfield is a true representation and expression of the band’s overall sound, which is a melting pot of indie/alternative and jam band influences: from the arena rock anthem
“Hungersite”, to the afrobeat funk of “Arrow” and the earnest indie vibes of “Moonrise.”

At its very essence, music is one of the ultimate forms of self-expression. Artists subconsciously pull from their own influences and experiences, which culminate into something completely unique. Producers, in a lot of ways, help guide an artists’ (or bands’) sound, see what works and ultimately craft their vision into an album format. They’re the mad scientists that understand that there is no roadmap to what creates memorable music – rather, in order to break conventions and create something new and exciting, experimentation is crucial.

D. James Goodwin, a New-York based record producer, recording engineer, musician, and filmmaker, is known for his experimental and eccentric approach to recording – having produced albums for an impressive variety of artists, including Amy Helm, The Hold Steady, Bonny Light Horseman, The National, and even Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead. The el Goose Times had an opportunity to sit down with Goodwin to discuss his influences, Dripfield and more.


The dossier on your website mentions that you’re “the son of a perpetual tinkerer and gadget-head.” What did your Dad do for a living? Would you consider your Dad (and/or Mom) as an influence when wanting to pursue a career in producing?

My dad worked for NY Telephone (and then Verizon) for his whole adult life. He was actually the first male operator in the New York state! As his career progressed, he went onto building and installing phone networks - and eventually into computer controller systems for phone networks. I would say that both of my parents were influences, unwittingly. When I was a kid, my parents had a huge record collection and were big music fans. Neither of them played music, but music always played in the house and in the car. After my parents divorced, one way my dad and I bonded was to listen to records together on headphones. He built a box where we could both listen on headphones to a record. We listened to music like Pink Floyd, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Frank Zappa, etc… we bonded a lot over that.


As a fellow film buff, I noticed 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of your favorite films - even naming one of your cats after the legendary Stanley Kubrick. Did this movie (or film soundtracks in general) also have an impact on your recording style/methodology? In the case of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the soundtrack is brilliant: it invokes a true feeling of desolation and darkness - but also feelings of majesty and wonder. It really pushed the boundaries for its time.

Films have definitely had a big impact on my methodology – probably in the sense that I enjoy composition and lighting, both of which Kubrick was a master of. These things do translate into my work, for sure. I like juxtaposition, bold color choices, landscape…I think a lot of it is that when I listen and work on music, I am always seeing scenes in my head. It’s hard to explain, but it’s basically like I’m making a film in my head as we work.


Can you expand a bit on how you see "scenes in your head" as you work? There's a perceptual phenomenon that has always been extremely interesting to me, synesthesia, in which someone sees either colors or shapes when they listen to music (essentially experiences one of our senses through another) - and what you’re describing reminds me of that.

In fact, I have synesthesia. For me, it manifests like seeing colors around shapes while I hear music, and typically gets more intense with percussion instruments. I thought it was just normal, until I was in my late 20’s! In terms of how I see scenes in my head…it’s like I’m watching a film internally, as if the images just come and coalesce. It’s so hard to put into words. 


One of the biggest takeaways I had after reading your bio and listening to The Great Beyond interview is that you’re very much about eschewing tradition and deconstructing material in order to push forward. Tell us about that – is that also something that traces back to your childhood/influences? Or is it something you learned over time, based off of your experiences?

I don’t know where that comes from. It’s probably my mother’s influence, as she has always been a bit of a contrarian. I think I get it from her. I have always been attracted to non-standard, non-mainstream, non-traditional choices, whatever form they take. I appreciate the mindfulness it requires to make non-conventional art. Even when it is done with abandon, I think it requires a cultivation of abandonment, if that makes sense. It always seems to feel more thoughtful than things made using traditional methodology or constructs.


You’ve worked with everyone from Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead to Amy Helm to Bonny Light Horseman. Which artists have been your favorite to work with so far? What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned as a producer?

There is no way to choose a favorite, honestly. Each artist and project has brought me deep joy and discovery - so it’s impossible to single anyone out. Very rarely (if ever) do I work with someone who hasn’t become a true friend. The biggest lesson I’ve ever learned producing a record is that everyone has a different definition of good, and what moves them. You have to find their ‘body temperature’, so to speak. That requires learning who they are: learning their way of communicating and how they see the world. In the end, I think it taught me to be more open and empathetic to other perspectives, in general. It’s a beautiful gift.


Tell us what it was like working in the studio with Goose. You mentioned in The Great Beyond interview that you had to adjust to their style of working, which was different than what you were used to (i.e. slow, but methodical). However, Goose seemed receptive and willing to deconstruct their material that fans have known for so long. At what point did the process really click with you? Did you appreciate that the band was open to different interpretations of songs they’ve played hundreds of times?

(Chuckles) Some of that was exaggerated for humor! It’s mainly that you have five people, all potentially distracted by something different at the same time, so it’s a challenge to wrangle everyone all the time. But honestly, no - they weren’t that bad! And yes - they were so open, which was a big part I think, of why they chose to work with me on this record. That part clicked from the get-go. And frankly, though I like working very fast,

I was appreciative of their pace, because it let us focus on details in a way that I do really like. I am forever thankful that they trusted me to take these songs in different directions. I think it made a stronger record, and one that will last as a statement of art - rather than just be a passing moment. I think people will listen to this record in ten years, and understand that the band was trying to break different ground and explore their boundaries. That always makes great art, even if it takes a while for the audience to find that truth.


Was experimentation a big theme when producing Dripfield? A lot of the songs on the album are much different than their live counterparts in a cool way, challenging the status quo and pushing boundaries.

Oh, definitely. One of the big things we talked about very early on was experimenting, and not letting a rule book guide us. The band didn’t want to make a normal jam band record, and I was on board for that. We wanted to make something timeless and exciting. I think the more people live with the record, the more they will fall in love, even with some of the bolder choices, like “Arrow” and “Hot Tea.” I also think it’s a case of having fallen in love with the first version they heard… I think if people heard the studio “Arrow” first, they could never hear it another way. But, that’s what’s fun about the record and live shows. They’re different experiences - and that’s the way it should be.


How long did Dripfield take to produce, in total? It's truly a labor of love, as evident from the recording and the behind-the-scenes video Goose had shown during the live broadcast of one of the Radio City Music Hall shows.

I think all told, it was roughly a month of recording, and then a week or so to mix and master. It was spread out a bit, and we also recorded a few extra songs that aren’t on the record (but will be released), so it’s tough to nail down for just Dripfield alone…It was definitely a labor of love. We worked pretty much on one song per day. Sometimes it would bleed a bit into the next, but generally we would start with the basic tracking for a song, and then move into overdubs for the remainder of the day.

With Dripfield, did you determine the placement of each song or was it a collaborative process? The album has a
great flow stylistically!

It was definitely collaborative. The band knew the first three tracks were going to be “Borne,” “Hungersite,” “Dripfield”… I think it was also decided early on that “726” would be last. From there, it was experimenting with other placements. I think the flow is fantastic!

Peter playing the keys in studio | Photo Credit: D. James Goodwin

Pictured above: Rick hanging out with his dog Shasta|Photo Credit:
D. James Goodwin

Trevor hanging out in-between recording sessions | Photo Credit : Peter Anspach

D. James Goodwin laying down some guitar tracks in-studio | Photo Credit:
Peter Anspach

Ben & Jeff playing drums in the studio | Photo Credit: D. James Goodwin

Borne

“Borne” was the first song we began working on. It set the tone for the entire record, in terms of how we dove in and how we communicated. This song largely stayed true to form, meaning we didn’t change a lot about the overall structure - except for the final bridge before the end. We were shooting for a sort of Fleetwood Mac feeling there, and it paid off. After the main track: we overdubbed some piano; I played some keyboards, and a couple guitars - Rick and Peter sang their vocals, and that was that.


This song also set the stage for how we setup as a band in the main live room of the studio. Both Jeff and Ben were setup near each other: Jeff had a huge percussion ensemble and Ben used a ratty old drum kit of mine, in lieu of his usual Tama drum kit - mainly because we were looking to push boundaries and get out of comfort zones. Rick’s amps were isolated in another room, as were Trevor’s. Peter had a stack of keyboards next to him by the piano, and that stack grew as we worked. That main setup is how we started and remained for the entirety of the record.


Hungersite

Similar to “Borne”, “Hungersite” remained largely unchanged in terms of the overall structure. For the most part, my aim was to capture the band’s live energy on this track - knowing it would one day become a staple. However, I believe we played with the final chorus feel a little bit from their usual way of playing it: rather than going back into the main groove of the song, we setup a really cool, low-key, spaced-out jam section. I loved that. The track on the record is a live performance - no overdubs. We kept that spirit for the whole thing. Jeff used a variety of shakers in this one, including an old whiskey tin with beans in it, and we might have also used a salt shaker (they sound awesome).


Dripfield

“Dripfield” was one of the last songs we did for the record. The song itself was primarily based around Peter’s synth arpeggio, which was a randomly repeating set of notes at a specific tempo. To the best of my knowledge, this is the only track we built as a sort of puzzle: I believe we started by recording about 20 minutes of Peter’s arpeggio - followed by Ben on the drum kit, playing different patterns to that recording. Following that, I cut up a bunch of those patterns and created a base drum layer to track to.

Once we had the base drum layer, I had Rick, Trevor and Peter play to what I had built - mainly to get a song form on top of the skeleton. I sculpted the drum tracks around the form and have Ben play some fills, etc…Jeff then went in and played about 10 different percussion passes, different tom patterns, shakers, tambourines, etc. I spent awhile cutting all that material up and flying it around the song to create some drama and depth.

Finally, Rick and Peter re-tracked their guitars to this new drama, and we started to develop the arc of the song. Once we had the song pretty much in its place, I played some synths, and some guitar textures, and then we cut vocals. A lot of different sounds made it onto this one - and I can’t remember them all - but it was great fun to develop this one. I believe this is one of the ones we spent more than a day on, mainly because we were having so much fun experimenting with textures.


Slow Ready

“Slow Ready” was one that obviously has a much different live arrangement. I was curious to hear it slowed down, almost like an R&B track. Goose was game, so we went in that direction from the start. I wanted a big fat snare drum sound, so we changed the drum kit around a bit, and Ben played this big old 15x8 snare drum that I have. Trevor played my old Fender P Bass, I believe.

This recording also has that amazing guitar solo… one of my favorites actually. At first, it was a fairly normal solo, but I was curious to throw Rick for a loop and change it up. So, I set him up with a weird rig and Rick played the solo through an old Mutron envelope filter pedal that I had in my possession. What we ended up playing was so lyrical and gorgeous; it has become one of the best solos I’ve ever heard on record.


The Whales

“The Whales” was one I had a feeling about from the beginning, in terms of where I wanted to take the song. I wanted to make it feel more ramshackle, like J.J. Cale, or even like some of the more cookin’ Grateful Dead stuff. It wasn’t hard - “The Whales” is a great tune. The jam section at the end really captures Goose at their best, I think. That jam was another live take, no edits, etc… just how they played it in the room.

The guitar unplugging noise in the recording was conscious, but after the fact. Because it was a live take and without any fixes or overdubs on the entire out jam/solo, I thought it was nice to keep that energy intact by retaining what Rick had done naturally at the end of the take. It was a special moment on the record, because it was one of the few spots where the fellas took off in an improvised jam.

Arrow

“Arrow” obviously is the biggest transformation on the record - and to me, it’s also the real banger. I love this recording - I know some hardcore fans are quite upset at this version, but I think it shows how absolutely genius these guys are and how they can pivot on a dime.

I didn’t dislike the old version, but I didn’t think it translated to the record quite as well in that form. The band also felt like there a different way to approach the song, but wasn’t exactly sure how. I was curious how this would sound as a sort of afrobeat tune. It took a lot experimenting with feel, but once I played a bit of Fela Kuti for Ben, he got it immediately and it didn’t take much convincing. They were stoked - as was I. We found a very cool way of playing this tune.

We cut drums out of the chorus entirely and made it feel like it was a totally different place. My goal was to get that weightless feeling in the chorus, with the big deep soundscapes. The big vocal chorus was Peter’s idea, and it was fantastic. I love that part.

I had horns in mind from the beginning too. I knew that Stuart Bogie would slay it - and he truly did. He played his parts in the song remotely and would send them to me. From there, I placed them in the song, did some minor edits and they worked like a charm. After that, I added some chaotic guitar stuff and we added some other textures - and that was that. And of course, as Peter has said, we added a bunch of pots and pans in the beginning - which was literally just dropping the pots and pans on the floor on those hits. That was so much fun! I recorded Rick’s main vocals through an old radio mic and a guitar amp on this one to get that “stressed out” sound. I think it’s a really cool texture against the pure and deep timbre of the choruses.

To me, “Arrow” is such a badass track. I think the people who dislike it would LOVE this version if they heard this first. I think it’s purely experiential. I’ve seen the rare comment that this version is ‘atrocious’ or some such thing and that’s just silly. This song is a banger. If your ass doesn’t move when you hear this version - you’re a corpse!


Hot Tea

“Hot Tea” was another one we changed quite a bit, but mostly in terms of tempo. We had to make some adjustments to the song form, mainly because of time considerations on a vinyl LP and also to keep the tune moving - since it’s not a live performance. Otherwise, the form stayed pretty true - we just slowed it down so it could groove more. The band was really into it.

We tracked this as usual, with the band in their usual places, playing the main body. But then we overdubbed as a whole band - where everyone changed instruments, or changed what they played. Then we did that a third time, mainly to create the feeling of many people in the room playing this tune at a deep drug party. That was always the approach. Rick played my late 60’s Stratocaster - we went direct into a tube preamp, and pushed the input a bit. This gave the guitar that classic stringy Strat sound. And again, Stuart Bogie played horns on this track as well, which was always the plan - to me.


Moonrise

I love “Moonrise.” I wanted this one to be very simple and we kept it that way: Rick on acoustic, Peter on acoustic and vocals and Jeff on upright bass. We tracked it just like that, live. Only overdubbed a harmony vocal but that was it. It’s easily the humblest recording on the record, but also one of the most beautiful ones. Peter sang this so beautifully, and I love that it’s a live vocal - which was only a single take.


Honeybee

“Honeybee” is one of my favorites on the record. I don’t remember the old version, but I do remember that I had a somewhat clear idea of trying this as sort of more tumbling - where the drums were pulsing, rather than the usual sort of impact. I really wanted it to be spacious, layered and evocative. I believe I played some synths on this track, as well as some other minor bits. We did a bunch of overdubbing of multiple acoustic guitars, and piano as well - and of course layers of Rick’s main guitar melody. It’s a beautiful recording.


726

“726” was another where I don’t recall the original version - but the band was intent on exploring the boundaries on this one. Somewhere between soul music and Pink Floyd was where we landed. We also knew it would have a very long end vamp, where it would sort of spiral into psychedelia, and we built that in from the beginning.

Rick and I played the trading guitars at the end, which was really cool. We both sat in the control room, monitors blasting and traded the guitars back and forth to create this huge landscape as the ending grew bigger. The core of this track and this version, his Peter’s beautiful muted piano throughout the track. I think that singular part really gave this version a unique identity.

General Production Thoughts:

Vocals

Most of the vocals were recorded using a Neumann U67. Sometimes I used something more odd, like the radio mic for “Arrow.” Peter’s vocals were an old Soviet Lomo tube mic.


Guitars

On most of the record, Rick used his PRS guitar and his Mesa Boogie combo. We often experimented with a variety of pedals: old tape echos and delays - like my WEM Copicat, and Multivox Tape Echo, etc…Most of Rick’s guitars were recorded using an old Shure SM7 and a Neumann U67 on the amp.


Keys/Piano

The piano on the record is my Baldwin Hamilton, early 1970’s upright piano, in addition to my Hammond B3, which was chopped by a funeral home for location services. We used a combination of my old Rhodes, and later Peter got his new Rhodes made by Vintage Vibe, which sounds fantastic. Other keyboards used include: Wurlitzer 200a, Hohner Clavinet, Moog Voyager, Korg MicroPreset, Crumar Orchestrator, Korg MS10, Baldwin Discoverer, Casio SK1. There might have been a few others used too, but I’m not sure…


Bass

Trevor played a bunch of different basses on the record. He would sometimes play his main bass, in addition to my late 70’s Fender Precision with flatwounds, my old Soviet bass called a Ural, a Baldwin Vibraslim hollowbody from the 1960’s and my Fender Bass IV baritone guitar.

We occasionally used pedals, like a fuzz or an octave pedal. We mainly recorded using a custom DI, which is my preference, as well as my old Ampeg B15 amp.


Drums & Percussion

Jeff had a huge percussion setup in the studio. He had congas, bongos, shakers, tambourines, cowbells, etc…We also used interesting objects like chains, garbage cans and their lids, a shaker made out of an old tin and seeds - and a tribal pumpkin seed shaker. Anything that made a cool sound, we would use it for texture.

I would also often use a contact mic on something he was playing, and then run it into a guitar amp with pedals - creating more interesting textures and sounds.

Ben’s setup changed a little for every song, but the core of his setup was a late 60’s Slingerland 22” kick drum, and two 60’s Rogers toms (floor and rack toms). He also had his piccolo snare setup, as well as his cymbals.

Sometimes it was my GMS 6.5x14, or my old Radio King 7x14, or his Tama. We even went with my old Ludwig 8x15 snare on some things. The snares and cymbals he used changed a lot in-between songs.

My drum mic setup would change for every song, but it was always a combination of my old Soviet era Lomo tube mics, and old German mics, like an AKG D12. I would also use contact mics through amps to alter the textures a bunch. I always experiment a lot with drum sounds, depending on the song.

We would also sometimes use tea towels on the heads for a more muted effect and it was inspired by The Beatles, really. It was a Ringo/Paul trick to deaden the drums a bit for that late 60’s/70’s sound. It kills all the ring of the drum, and leads to some really interesting sounds, and playing. Because it affects the rebound of the stick, it almost makes you play more simply, and in Ben’s case - more funky. We ended up using that trick, or a variation of it, on a lot of songs, actually.

In The Great Beyond, you raved about two songs that didn’t make the album: “Travelers” and “Elmeg the Wise.” Will we see these on the next album? What can you tell us about these studio versions – are they close to the live interpretations, or slightly different?

We actually recorded four others too, which I think will be on an EP at some point. Those were awesome and have a lot more of the band ‘jamming’ which is very cool. But yes, “Elmeg” and “Travelers” are probably two of my favorite things we did together. I believe they really capture both the live element and the studio experimental mindset, together in one. I’m super excited for people to hear that stuff, but I have no idea when it will be released. I think people will have their minds blown!


Tell us about how the Radio City sit-in unfolded: did the band approach you with the idea to bring these reworked versions of “Hot Tea” and “Arrow”? What was it like playing them in front of the audience, especially with Stuart Bogie?

Yes, the band had mentioned it at some point and I was totally into it. It was incredible not only to play in front of that insane crowd, at a place as legendary as Radio City, but to see the crowd moving and dancing to these guys doing their thing… that was magic. It really made me feel something I haven’t felt at a concert in a long time.

Playing with Stuart and Dave was just awesome. Those guys are like attack dogs, you give them a mission and they slay it. Dave played a ridiculously good trombone solo for like 5 minutes on Hot Tea! And seeing the crowd eat it up and warm up to these new versions was very cool.


What’s next for you? I know that you recently moved to a new studio in Kingston – how’s that been going? How does the new studio differ from the Isokon? Will Goose record their next album there?

The move is going okay! It is a much different vibe than the old Isokon, but still my vibe and still cool. It feels cozy, and it does all the things I need my studio to do. We haven’t settled on where to do the next record, but I imagine it will be a combination of the Isokon and perhaps another location!


Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it! Dripfield is one of Goose’s best, most cohesive, albums yet and I believe you’re a big reason for that.

My pleasure! Thank you!!


Follow Goodwin on Instagram at @djamesgoodwin and @djamesgoodwinfilms
and check out his website at: www.djamesgoodwin.com.


Check out Goodwin’s interview on
The Great Beyond podcast from
June 23rd 2022 (https://shows.acast.com/the-great-beyond/episodes/dripfield-in-d-an-interview-w-d-james-goodwin)
the podcast serves as an excellent complement to this interview!

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