Back from my round-the-world trip!
Originally, I was going to post my favorite AGENT ORANGE record and that is, of course, the legendary (and in this case, the term is fitting) “Living in Darkness” Mini-LP. I asked the producer, Robbie Fields, to come up with some memories and he in return asked me not to post “Living in Darkness” but “Bitchin’ Summer”.
I asked Robbie if he could write down what he remembers from the actual production process of this EP. The whole material, physical side of record production in the old days is something we rarely hear about, so I thought this would be interesting for a change. As far as my personal take on the music goes, you may insert the usual hyperbolism, especially regarding the two songs “Misirlou”, the Dick Dale standard (taken from “Living in Darkness” and the hardcorey “Breakdown” (an outtake from the same sessions).
Anyway, this is what Robbie has to say regarding the production of this and other Posh Boy releases (slightly edited by me). Keep in mind that Posh Boy will not physically re-press their old releases, but sell them on iTunes exclusively, so this is indeed a bit of nostalgia here.
«There were lots of different vinyl pressings of the e.p.. The first couple of thousands were done by hand in a shack in Hollywood by an eccentric guy called Pete Korelich, who had emigrated from Croatia in my recollection. But Pete spoke Mexican Spanish! Pete was one of these guys who collected old engineering junk and made it work. He probably owned this old tumble down building in Hollywood, with the roof not just leaking but gone in the back.
At some point, he specialized in recording Mexican bands for the then small US market but he had good stuff. In 1982, he needed a “good” studio for one of his bands and he traded record pressings with studio owner Brian Elliot. This was the type of deal that Brian loved because he immediately knew to whom he could broker the pressings … me.
As it so happened, I was pretty broke in the summer of 1982 and I needed a new release but I had max’d out my credit line at my usual pressing plant. So I called Agent Orange and told them I wanted to do an e.p. with the non LP “B” side and outtakes from the “Living In Darkness” sessions. As usual, they were not happy (they never were) but they provided me with the artwork within a few days. Meanwhile, as a selling point, I had decided to extend “Pipeline”, which we did over at Gold Star IIRC, by means of what’s called a music or tape edit. “Breakdown” had been extended already at the studio, as it was necessary to work from the 2″ tape.
I was highly sceptical about the whole deal. Korelich had a couple of functioning manual presses and spare parts for 50! But dang it, the pressings were great. And I remember later running some Social Distortion “Playpen” singles there. In fact, any re-press where we had fewer than 300 sleeves was ideal for doing there. Brian Elliot knew he would always get paid by me for studio time and now pressings and he sure wanted the Mexican musicians to return!
The 12″ turned out a great success. It was a hit in the Honolulu market with “Pipeline”. I would have done further pressings at different pressing plants once the credit ran out at Korelich. However, Pete took in a tenant in the most normal room in the building, another character called Richard Simpson, one of the unsung heroes of L. A. punk rock and early rap music.
Richard had worked for years at one of the great L.A. pressing plants, Monarch, cutting disks. He was extremely well trained and owned his own mastering rig. At an indeterminate age (he wore a shaggy wig that we never spoke about), he set up at Korelich and started mastering everyone’s records and doing tape assembling and the like. Richard had absolutely no ego … he facilitated whatever the customer wanted. He cut some wicked records, ones with monster bottom end. Most importantly, he worked cheap in his ultra low rent location. He was living out in Simi Valley in a very conservative town and yet he chose to commute into the seediest part of Hollywood and have some very strange looking customers.
He was so un-Hollywood. Just a down to earth guy. So look for the “Mastered by Richard Simpson” credit from 1983 onwards.
The Rhino CD edition was deleted 31 December 2009. It was re-mastered by them in 1992 from the original mix tapes and they prided themselves on their superior skills.»
(Robbie Fields, April 2012)
I would like to thank Robbie a lot for taking his time and giving his endorsement.