This week’s feature: No Blood Orphan

Category: Blog — @ 1:40 pm February 15, 2006

One of the ways I originally wanted to approach this feature on No Blood Orphan (read it here) was to talk about the nature of guitar-playing with frontman/guitarist Mike Saklar, a living legend among local musicians. The problem, of course, was that Saklar is way, way too humble to talk about his skills. I commented that he was one of the most versatile ax-wielders in the scene today and he just sort of quietly, shyly said “Thanks” and indicated non-verbally that it was time to move on, that there’s nothing to see here. It’s sort of what I expected. As long as I can remember, Saklar always has deflected any attention to himself, preferring to let his guitar speak for him, and speak well it does.

What Mike was willing to talk about (beyond what’s in the story) was the nature of digital and analog recording. He recorded Your Ship Sales the Seven Seas with NBO guitarist Steve Bartolomei and mastered it at Ant Studios, the name of Saklar’s home studio in Ralston. “The studio is my whole house,” he said. “It’s like a rehearsal studio, we basically practice down there and I try to keep everything miked up all the time. I generally record every practice and we go back and fix things that sound weird.”

For the actual recording sessions, however, Saklar unplugs the computer and plugs in an 8-track tape recorder. “The album was recorded entirely on analog equipment,” he said. “Everything went to tape. I’ve been recording stuff since ’96; actually I started recording albums in ’89 or ’90. If nothing else, I’ve learned the ropes a little bit.”

Why analog? “It just sound better,” he said. “Me and Steve (Bartolomei) talk about this every day. There’s a richness and level of harmonics you can perceive when you compare digital to analog. It’s just different. Seems like a lot of digital recordings can punch you. With analog, you get a cushy low end; everything sounds better.”

“It’s like putting a layer of varnish on the recording,” added keyboardist Chris Esterbrooks. “You’re also hearing the sound of the tape itself.”

Saklar is also becoming a go-to guy when it comes to mastering, having recently handled the mastering chores on new albums by Life After Laserdisque and Landing On the Moon, among others. “I’ve been mastering since Ravine,” Saklar said. “I mastered all my records and a little bit of Ritual Device. It makes sense to me since I feel really close to the music as the engineer.”

Saturday’s No Blood Orphan CD release show at The Niner falls on a busy weekend for shows. The Jeff Tweedy show is the same night in Lincoln, indie band MAE is down at Sokol and Outlaw Con Bandana’s album release show will be going on at Don Carmelo’s on Farnam. More on that band tomorrow.

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