Earthwork artist profile Vol. 7: Ian Gorman/Red Sea Pedestrians/La Luna Recording & Sound
With wizardly genius & generous kindness, Ian Gorman has spun his magic into so many threads of the Earthwork Music catalogue & community. As the owner/engineer at La Luna Recording & Sound in Kalamazoo, producer on many of your favorite Earthwork albums, and core member of the Red Sea Pedestrians, his talents are immense, diverse, and enjoyed by many. I had the honor of chatting with Ian about what's inspiring him these days, exciting developments with La Luna, and some magical moments in his music career.
1. For folks who haven't experienced a Red Sea Pedestrians' show in person, could you paint a picture? What makes this collection of musicians such a dynamic & unique creative force?
One of the things I'm most proud of with this band is our variety of songwriters and voices. We have 4 different writers/composers, and 3 of us take turns singing lead. This allows us to really create an eclectic show, featured many different styles and voices. We often follow a traditional, acoustic tune with a heavy rock song, or a complex instrumental followed by a swing number with 4-part harmonies. We like to change it up!
2. Having recently celebrated your 12th anniversary as a band (congrats!!), what's getting you inspired these days?
We have a collection of shows coming up we're really excited about, including this Sunday at one of our favorites, Salt of the Earth. A great listening atmosphere, with fantastic food and the kindest people you'll ever meet. Later in April, we're playing the Red House Concert Series in Grand Haven, with The Appleseed Collective, a band we really love to play with. We're also playing shows at both a church and a synagogue in the next month or so - Love that variety! Beyond that, we have some pretty sweet things planned for this year's Blissfest, but you'll just have to wait until the official announcement for that one :) We're also keeping busy with other projects in addition to RSP. Cori's been gigging a lot with The Dacia Bridges Project, a really incredible new supergroup featuring Sarah Fuerst (The Corn Fed Girls, Thunderbolt & Lightfoot), Carolyn Koebel (Andro, Fonmohr, Elden Kelly), and of course Dacia. Mike, Ben and I just got done helping co-producing the new studio record from comedian/musician Stephen Lynch "My Old Heart". Should be out in the next few months!
3. Another huge piece of your story and continuing impact within the Earthwork community is your work as owner/recording engineer/producer at La Luna Recording & Sound, having worked extensively with May Erlewine, Seth Bernard, Gifts or Creatures, Red Tail Ring, Greensky Bluegrass, The Crane Wives and many others. Can you tell us a bit about some behind-the-scenes moment that captures the magic of what it's felt like to be such an integral part of creating & recording so much phenomenal music within the Earthwork catalogue?
My favorite place to be is in the studio, working with some of my favorite musicians in the world. One of those beautiful moments that always sticks out to me is a group vocal session we did for Seth Bernard's Eggtones Blues album. We were working on the song "Transition", with a room full of some of the best singers around. After we had gotten some solid takes, Seth had the musicians do an experimental improv pass. Nathan Moore (An incredible vocalist from Kzoo) started singing this beautiful melody, and the rest of the group could feel the magic. Instead of riffing or trying to get compete, everyone else just instinctively felt that something special was happening, and simply backed up Nathan with nice subtle "oohs". We ended up capturing this incredible, moving moment, which is a wonderful closing to the album.
4. Some big changes afoot at La Luna...can you tell us what's up and how you see it helping support your work & Michigan music?
Absolutely! I'm incredibly excited to be moving and expanding my studio, over to the Jericho Town campus, in Kalamazoo's Edison neighborhood. The new space will be an 1800 sq ft, 8-room recording facility, much larger and more evolved than my current space, and feature both 24-track 2" analog tape and Pro Tools HD. Other tenants of Jericho Town include Fido Motors, Fido Motors Cafe, Kal-Tone Musical Instrument Co, Kalamazoo Piano Co., Rootead, Damn Handsome Grooming Co., Stuffed Brain Studios, and Yes Electric. All you have to do is walk across the courtyard for instrument repair, coffee, relaxation and inspiration. In addition to expanding my recording services and abilities, I'm also looking forward to diving deeper into the educational realm, offering private lessons, classes, and workshops. There's something incredibly special going on around here, and I take great pride in helping capture it. My dream is for this space to be a creative home to this brilliant and prolific Michigan music scene, where we can continue to grow together as artists and create albums that will move and inspire each other.
5. Rumor has it that you saw Nirvana live? Wow. What kind of impact did that have on you?
Oh, man! I got to see Nirvana on the In Utero tour, at the Michigan State Fairground, in 1993. They were without a doubt my favorite band in the world then. If I remember right, The Meat Puppets and The Boredoms opened the show. I was always deeply effected by Kurt Cobain's ability to write simple songs with amazing melodies. I find writing a great simple song is often way harder than complex one! Also, the 16-year old me could identify deeply with the ideas of isolation and frustration that he wrote about. I'll always remember the strangeness of an arena full of people singing along to In Bloom ("He's the one who like all the pretty songs/and he likes to sing along...") Seeing them live was fantastic, but of course I had no idea at the time that it would be my last chance to see them.
6. Favorite Beatles album & why?
Changes day to day :) But Revolver is one that's always really remarkable to me. The transition of a band starting to really use the studio as it's own instrument, and reach out in new artist ways. You can feel the excitement and confidence in what they were doing, despite (Or because of?) the huge sonic chances they were taking. Backwards guitars, string sections, sitars, horn sections... But always serving this brilliant little pop masterpieces. It's incredibly creative, but the creativity never detracts from the songwriting. And "Tomorrow Never Knows" stands to me as one of the greatest recordings ever made, a true example of the wild artistic possibility of the studio. It was also 19-year old Geoff Emerick's FIRST session as head engineer after he was promoted from assistant. Unbelievable.