The Lost Dogs: It Came From The Basement

posted in: Articles, September 2011 | 0

One of the most absurd things here at Down the Line is that The Lost Dogs haven’t had their cover story yet. This is the second time we have interviewed them, but unfortunately both times it hasn’t hit the cover… we will rectify that soon I hope, and we hope to get The Doc on the cover in the near future as well. If you are reading this you know who these guys are. You know the band, the members and their history together as well as in their respective bands. What you don’t know about is how great their latest DVD is. Not only does this capture the Dogs in all their dusty glory, but the back story is uncanny, absurdly humorous… and can only come from what happens when you get all these guys in a cramped, hot basement playing to a small room. This was the welcoming tour for Steve Hindalong to get accustomed to what he undoubtedly knew was coming, and that is the complete zaniness that ensues. In humorous fashion and with the witty banter we all know and love, the guys have indulged us this interview accompanied with Lo-Fidelity mastermind Jeffrey Kotthoff who was filming the show.

This is a great article, but let me just throw in my two cents about the DVD It Came from the Basement. I actually had purchased the DVD and download of the CD before we even set this interview up. The artwork is stellar and being a huge fan of horror I am a total sucker for campy B style horror images. The really unique thing about this DVD is that it comes in all kinds of different packaging configurations. You can get the poster, guitar pics, downloads of the audio, the DVD itself, stickers and buttons in just about every combination you can think of. It really is a great DVD, for all the wackiness that accompanied this disc, you would never know it by watching the show. This is a top notch, professional shot DVD and it is one that you must have in your collection. Support the Dogs by getting over and snatching one up before they’re gone! (links are at the bottom of the page)

What tour was this show from?

Derri: This was the tour in support of the Mutt CD. It was also the first tour with Steve Hindalong on the drums. We wanted to do a more electric show and Steve took a cool drum kit that was part drums and part ethnic percussion. I remember it being a very successful tour and we all came back feeling like we had put on a good show for our fans.

Terry: Hmmmmm…..I’m not doubting we were actually on a tour, but to be honest I don’t remember this tour at all, and until viewing the video, I hadn’t remembered that Steve had joined the band at that time. For me at least, tours tend to blur together after a while and it takes sitting around with the other guys and reminiscing in order to kick start any specific memories. Since the boys ain’t here with me right now I have to admit my mind is a complete blank. Am I having a stroke? Was this tour in 1954? I do however remember this particular gig. It was damn hot in that basement!

Jeffrey: Yeah… It was the first tour with Steve, and also the first full tour the band had done with a drummer since the “Green Room Serenade” tour, so it seemed like something special and worth filming.

Why did you decide to film the performance in a home studio versus a music venue?

Jeffrey: We wanted it to be something special… intimate… for a handful of die-hard fans… something they would remember. It also seemed like it would be an easier scenario to control. Filming and recording a live performance in any setting presents certain challenges, and this seemed like it would be ideal. The studio was set up for recording and for a band to be able to walk in and play, so that seemed like we had half the battle in hand. It ended up being totally the opposite!

How so?

Jeffrey: Well… it was just a comedy of errors from the start. My wife and I drove up from Chicago the day before the performance to help the guy who runs the studio set up. Right away there were issues. The area of Wisconsin where the performance was held was being hit by violent storms and flash flooding, so just getting there was an event. While we were setting up, I had to make some personal calls, but the studio was actually in the basement of this home (hence the name of the DVD) and they had purposely dug the basement extra deep to allow for high ceilings and soundproofing in the studio. This made cell reception almost impossible. So I ended up standing on a stepladder near one of the basement windows in a private room trying to get a signal on my phone…. and it was storming really bad outside. Next thing I know there is a bright flash, a deafening crack of thunder, and suddenly I’m on the floor… my hand is sheet white and numb, and my cell phone is dead. Everybody in house started yelling about lightening hitting right outside, and I remember thinking, “I just got shocked… this can’t be good.” Once the storm passed we started powering up the studio, only to find that the PA now had a constant hum and buzz… and nothing we tried got rid of it.

The day of the show wasn’t much better. The storms had passed, but now the heat and humidity were oppressive. The lightening strike from the night before seemed to have messed with everything electrical in the home, and the A/C was starting to fail. About an hour before the band was set to arrive, I called Mike to see how he was feeling and how close they were…. only to find that the bands booking agent had failed to put the concert in their tour route. They actually thought they had the day off and were heading to Madison Wi to relax. Fortunately, they were only 2 hours away and were able to re-route and head towards the studio. But it was all stressful at this point…. and that is never good for filming and recording.

Derri: Yeah, we thought we had a day off. Jeff called Mike and asked what time we would be there to load in and we all freaked. We got there and we had to load our gear in through an elevator shaft into the studio because the elevator had broken. We had one guy handing the gear down and someone else would stand in the shaft and grab it. It was so hot in the room that you felt like you were going to pass out. Then we went to sound check and the PA had a huge 60cycle hum in it. It was so loud we didn’t know how we could record the show. We thought it was a complete waste of time.

Mike: It was hot, humid, and cramped. I hated loading in with a ‘dumb waiter’ through a hole into the basement. That was ridiculous! So was the 60cycle hum in the PA, and I was royally pissed we were recording and filming because I knew I would be faced with releasing it all one day. And sure enough, it happened, but thank God! It was better than I remember it and they got all the hum out!!

Steve: I mostly remember Mike cryin’ about the heat. Man, it’s rock & roll! Get a cold drink and take your shirts off, everybody!

Terry: It was hot in that basement!

Jeffrey: By the time showtime happened the A/C in the house has pretty much failed, and with the audience, band, film crew, and lighting all packed in the studio, it was probably 110 degrees. The audience was really into the show, but everyone was just dying… and Mike was really sick.

Did Mike play out the entire tour that sick or was he hospitalized at some point?

Mike: All I remember about the tour is spending 6 hours in the ER two days before launch thinking I was having a heart attack! They couldn’t diagnose it, and sent me on the road with strict instructions to get to a hospital immediately if my symptoms returned. My conditioned worsened as the tour progressed. The x-rays and blood work ended up revealing anemia and pneumonia. The doctors knew I would refuse to leave the tour even though they recommended that, so they prescribed medication and antibiotics and told me to take it as easy as possible. The tour was a horrible experience physically and psychologically for me, but I marveled at my ability to be professional and give 100% to every show musically, vocally and humor-wise. I had to sit down for some shows (which Terry didn’t like — ass!) but I did all I could do. I just had to walk like an old man up to the stage and off the stage. That was a bit embarrassing. “The most professional man in the most professional band!”

Derri: Mike was really sick that night. At one point we thought we would have to send him home and do the tour without him. I just remember us standing up on stage sweating and wishing it was over.

Terry: I’d have an easier time remembering the couple of tours when Mike wasn’t ill.

Jeffrey: I really felt for everyone in the room… it was brutal hot, and between songs the guys would have to towel off, drink a bunch of water, and then tune again. Between the heat and sweat, the guitars just wouldn’t stay in tune from one song to the next. The heat seemed to effect the recording equipment as well. One camera that was positioned on Derri filmed for about 30 seconds, and then just stopped. When we were editing, occasionally we could see that camera in the frame and could see that the recording light was on, but the camera had stopped working so the entire tape was blank. It was just stuff like that all night.

Didn’t Mike break Derri’s guitar? How did that happen?

Derri: I don’t really remember it happening. At some point I heard Mike say something about Jeff Elbel helping to fix the guitar.

Terry: It was hot….. no I don’t recall exactly how Mike broke Derri’s guitar. Was it over Derri’s head?

Mike: No comment.

Jeffrey: It was at the end of “Why Is the Devil Red.” Mike had just played this crazy solo and the band was getting ready to sing the last word and have the big ending, and instead Mike just starts laughing and says his guitar is broken. The entire jack had fallen out of the guitar onto the floor. Everything just devolved from there into a hilarious screaming match between the band and Mike. At the same time, both working cameras ran out of film, so there isn’t any footage of this happening. But we have the audio… which is hilarious, and the whole thing is probably funnier because you can’t see what’s happening and have to use your imagination.

As mentioned earlier, this was Steve’s first tour with the Dogs. Can you describe the unique percussion setup you used for this tour?

Steve: That silver drum on my right is a Brazilian surdo, typically suspended by a strap like a parade drum. I’ve got a Middle Eastern doumbek in front of me, snare drum on my left, glockenspiel to my right and a tambourine between my knees. I think the Dogs’ music sounds great without a bunch of cymbals clanging and washing out those lovely vocal harmonies. I could’ve used a kick drum but space was limited in the van and Terry and I both felt it was vital that we bring our “hand-carved in Mexico” coyote mascot as a stage prop. We bungeed him between the front seats and Dr. Love, usually driving, kept hitting his elbow against him and cursing. Ha! Yeah, it was well worth it and that coyote added a lot to the show.

Given all the issues with the filming and recording, how hard was it to make something out of what was captured?

Jeffrey: Well… I remember the night of the show thinking that despite everything, the Dogs had played really well… even if they didn’t think so! My hope was that once we got into the footage and audio we could dig out the best parts of the show and have something cool to work with. The audio presented a huge challenge simply because the 60 cycle hum was in every track. It wasn’t a simple fix, and I think none of us really knew what to do with it all once it was over. So I just shelved it, hoping at some point technology would catch up to where we’d be able to fully restore the audio without killing the tone… and it did. Jeff Elbel and I mixed and mastered the show at his studio, and Kevin Fromer at EnrgyGlass was able to remove the hum. Thanks to Jeff and Kevin, show sounds fantastic. The editing was tricky as well. My brother Tim and I spend months pouring over the footage to get it exactly right. Tim is a great editor… he actually edited the second Lost Dogs DVD, Via Chicago, All We Left Unsaid. All that footage was stuff the editing company from the first DVD told me was unusable. So Tim was the guy I knew could make the “Basement” film something special, and I think it really shows.

What brought you back to the “Basement” project?

Jeffrey: Actually it was the “Route 66” project. Last winter the Dogs approached me to see if I had any ideas on how to kickstart getting that film funded and finished, and I pitched the idea of my completing the “Basement” DVD and using it as a fundraiser for the “Route 66” project. Given their memory of the performance, they were all pretty skeptical at first, but everyone seems happy with the finished film.

Who gets the art direction credits because the insert is amazing!

Jeffrey: That would be Marc Ludena from BassLine Shift. I have this fascination with really cheesy monster stuff from the 50s and 60s, and I had an idea, this picture in my head of an open door leading into a basement, and it looking dirty, ominous, and just really messed up and Marc totally nailed it. He really did an amazing job… but then he always does. I feel really fortunate to have him as a friend and working on projects for the label.

Who chose the black and white b-horror cuts in the film?

Jeffrey: That was me. I watched countless hours of public domain footage to find just the right sequences to drop in between songs. There was so much time between songs with the guys tuning and trying to cool off that we had to find a way to make the transitions work. So between songs it’s as if you’re watching some old “creature feature” on late night TV, flipping channels between songs, and landing on bizarre and absurd commercials in the process.

So do sales of It Came From The Basement benefit the band and the “Route 66” project?

Jeffrey: Absolutely… yeah. The “Basement” DVD sales go toward completing the “Route 66” film so that the band can release it themselves next year. There are different packages people can buy to support the project. Everything from just a download of the audio, to a deluxe package with the DVD, CD and download of the audio, a movie poster, Lost Dogs buttons, guitar pics, a sticker, and the buyers name in the credits of the “Route 66” film. We really need the fans support on this to finish the project, and the “Basement” DVD is just a really fun way to hopefully make that happen.

Given the issues you faced that night, are there any surprises, pleasant or otherwise, when you watch the DVD?

Derri: On Mike’s and my Kerosene Halo tour this summer, Jeffrey sat us down in his office and we watched the whole DVD. I was amazed at how good it turned out. I love the look of it. It’s a very “grindcore” art house type of look and the between song little films are very funny. Jeffrey did a fantastic job. He made a very good concert film out of very little. The other thing that shocked me was how good we sounded. That night none of us thought we played well. We all thought it was crap but when I saw it I was very impressed.

Steve: The DVD is really good. Some nice musical moments and Jeffrey did quite a great job with it, especially the “horror” angle. Haha! I was dismayed to see that I was wearing what appears to be a bowling shirt at that gig. It was my first tour with the guys and evidently I hadn’t found my “Dog style” yet. On a side note, Derri and I took our own bowling balls on a Choir tour in 1988. Derald throws a decent strike ball, but I’m a lot more accurate, picking up more spares and consequently winning way more often.

Terry: I’m pleasantly surprised that this show is half as good as it is. When you’re as uncomfortable as I remember being with the elements (did I mention it was hot in there?), the tendency is to think that the performance is suffering simply because you’re thinking less about what you’re playing than about the fact that you feel faint and your crotch is itchy.

Mike: I was completely shocked! Not only does it sound good, but the visuals have been treated to make us look good too, which is not an easy thing since I was practically dying and all. We didn’t even know we had a gig that day and boy was I mad when I get the call from Jeff asking where we were. We were looking forward to a nice day off and a leisurely drive to the next town. A hideous situation that really set me up emotionally real nice to give a great performance – ha! Somehow I played better because of all this ….. I guess. All I know is that this DVD is a great watch, a great listen, and redeems the entire experience. Get it before it gets you! No wait that’s terrible….

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