Baby Dee:

I’m sitting in my living room listening to the test pressing of the vinyl for Regifted Light. I haven’t heard it since Andrew WK played the final mix for me in his little studio up in the clouds over Time’s Square. It’s been almost exactly a year since we recorded it at my home in humble Ohio.

Where I’m sitting now a B flat tuba sat and there was a sousaphone and a bassoon in my kitchen and close to the fire the strangest drum kit you could ever imagine complete with the wonderful and exotic danmo. A cello and a Steinway D piano are in what used to be my parent’s dining room. There was a over a foot of snow outside. And I’m very happy right now because I’m hearing just exactly what I hoped I would hear. I’m hearing things that aren’t there.

In the sound of the piano I can hear the bassoon playing and I know for a fact that Mark Messing wasn’t actually playing in those moments. The same goes for Jon Steinmeir’s Glockenspiel and Matthew Robinson’s Cello. There’s a magic thing that happens when a really great piano is played with other instruments. It’s as if the piano has a memory of its own and snatches up the sounds of those other instruments and remembers those sounds and incorporates them in its own sound and the end result is a kind of aural mirage and the listener hears things that aren’t actually there. For me It’s not a subtle thing. It’s a shocking thing, like seeing a ghost or hearing voices in your head that are clearly not your own thoughts, And no. I’m not nuts. But trying to describe this thing makes me feel a little like a lunatic. What can I say? You’ll just have to take my word for it that not everything you hear on this record is actually being played. A great deal of it is in your own mind. Anyway, I didn’t know if it would be possible to get this little miracle to work on a record but apparently it is possible and it does work and I’m very happy about that.

All the songs and instrumentals on Regifted Light have this in common. They were each written on and for this amazing piano. And they were all recorded in a very happy three day period, snowed in with Andrew, Mark, John, and Matthew in Cleveland.

January 2011

Andrew W.K.:

As a human being, I’m always in search of this certain “thing” — it’s a feeling, it’s an idea, it’s a sensation — it’s something beautiful and elemental and the best word I’ve found to describe it is “joy”. Joy doesn’t necessarily mean happiness to me, it just means total feeling — not even a specific feeling, just pure physical, emotional, and spiritual feeling. Baby Dee is someone who seems to effortlessly emanate this feeling — this joy — and it comes through in huge rolling waves. When I first heard Dee’s music, it was like a discovering a miracle. I couldn’t believe that this musician was able to get to the feeling again and again and again. It was like the perfect music I had always been longing to hear. I mean, it really, really feels perfect to me. I can’t imagine a different note, or a different lyric, or a different sound than what she plays. It is what it is, and it’s tremendous. As I sat in my living room, listening to her music for the first time, with chills washing over my body, I decided that somehow I had to work with her. I didn’t know how that would ever happen, especially considering that I’m the crazy, bloody—nose party music guy. But the dream of working with her was strong and clear, and that’s usually all that matters — it felt like destiny, no matter how absurd it appeared on the surface. All I wanted to do was be around the person who made this music — just watch how they exist and where they pull this from. How does she do it? Even after making this record and playing lots of shows with Dee, I’m still not sure how she does it. And I’m OK with it being a mystery. All that matters is that she can do it, and does it with enough consistency to prove that it isn’t a fluke. This is what she does! I don’t know if even she knows how she does it.

A few years ago I bought a huge Steinway and Sons concert grand piano — a model D. I had it in my old apartment in Manhattan for a few years, and when I first met Dee, she came over and played it. It was the best the piano had ever sounded. They say that pianos become better when they’re played by good pianists. Ever since Dee touched that piano, I swore it sounded better. She loved the piano and is one of the only people I met who could really appreciate it as an instrument and use it for all it’s worth. I moved to a new apartment that’s much better for living, but not as good for 9 foot pianos. It’s a skyscraper and we couldn’t get a crane high enough to lift the piano in. So I asked Dee if she wanted to keep the piano in her house in Cleveland. She said yes, and that’s how she began writing the new songs that would become Regifted Light. I actually traveled to Cleveland before we recorded Regifted Light to record my own piano album called 55 Cadillac. It was obvious that the time the piano spent at Dee’s was worthwhile. It sounded better than ever — new pianos need time to settle into themselves — it takes a few years. But nothing helps a piano more than being played by someone who loves it. Dee really took the piano under her wing and it returned her love with the best sounds it has to offer.

Our approach to recording was to capture the sound of Dee’s room — where the piano lives. We had the option of taking the piano to a professional recording studio, but instead opted to bring the studio to Dee’s house. We set up a ProTools computer rig upstairs and ran all the cables down to the various rooms. We had mics in the kitchen for the brass and wood wind instruments. We had mics in the living room for the drums and percussion. And of course we had mics in the dining room for the piano, cello, organ, and Dee’s vocals. We wanted it to sound to the listener the way it sounded in that room — we wanted it to have a lot of atmosphere, tension, and presence. I’ve never made a record like this one — it has so much personality — it feels very exposed. Dee is strong enough to record this way. She only had to do a couple takes of each song. Amazing consistency — a real master musician. It was a dream come true to make this album with her. I’m extraordinarily grateful for the experience, but even more grateful for the music she created.

January 2011

All photos taken by Jon Steinmeir during the recording sessions in January 2010, in Cleveland, Ohio.

The making of Regifted Light

release date: 22/3/2011

label: Drag City

catalog number: DC462

media: LP, CD, MP3, Flac

order now at Drag City

For sample tracks, video clip and more info on the album, see
Regifted Light