Our Last Enemy - Exclusive L.A. Studio Diary, Part 1

Young Aussie act Our Last Enemy had an awesome year in 2008: not only were they signed to Riot!, but they also scored the opportunity to record their debut full-length album in Los Angeles, with Christian Olde-Wolbers - while staying at Christian's house. This is the first instalment of Our Last Enemy's studio diary - written exclusively for Metal as Fuck.

 

Days 1-2 We arrive at LAX (LA International Airport) after a long flight. We bunk down at a cheap motel in the heart of Hollywood, just underneath the Hollywood sign. It’s nothing fancy, but this venture is all about cost-cutting. On Day 2 we go for a walk and almost get sucked into a Scientology scam by entering the Museum of Death which turns out to be an anti-psychiatry cult initiation.

As we leave the Scientology nutters' place we meet some locals who seem to be your local Hollywood crack addicts, they seem to take a liking to us and chat to us for about 45 mins on the street. There was three of them, and we could practically see the needles coming out of their arms. One dude had the the shittiest tattoo done on his face, apparently it was done in prison, and he talked to Matt about U.S – Aus relations. It was funny, all the stuff a crack addict knows – they were cool, and later they showed us the local alcohol, and we hit a bar to watch some American football and have a few beers.

Down the road Britney Spears is auditioning dancers for her new show and the paparazzi is out in force. We toy with the idea of trying out, then return to drinking.

We start our burger mission in earnest, to attempt to try all the fast food joints in the states we don’t have. I think we managed 3 burgers a day each over 3 days, hitting In n Out, Jack in the Box, Carl’s Jnr, McDonalds, and a bunch of diners, like IHOP and Denny's.

We are living the supersize me diet for real. (This will come to haunt us as we get rundown and sickness starts to attack).

Days 3-5: We wake up and go out for breakfast, today is the day we go to Christian's and start working on the album. We catch a maxi cab from Hollywood to Christian’s place, which is about 30 mins away. Surprisingly, we weren’t nervous: just anxious to start work. We rock up and get our stuff together; meanwhile the taxi driver becomes annoyed with us as we’ve forgotten to tip him, so we all find extra money to pay for his tip. It’s our first sign of culture shock, and we make this mistake a few more times!

Christian greets us with 'Australians!' as he came out of his door. He jokingly says 'I told you all to wear white,' as we were all in black. He takes us inside, where there are gold records all over his walls. Lots of Fear FactoryDemanufacture, Obsolete, etc. He also has some from other bands and artists he’s worked with, like Snoop Dogg, Static-X, Soulfly and a few cool things of Metallica, Slayer etc, that he has collected, along side signed action figures of Ozzy, Dimebag and Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre! So he is a fan boy too haha!  Needless to say, we spent a while just staring at everything.

Christian shows us to a huge pile of t-shirts and says ‘take your pick, I get too many sent to me’, so we rummage through them like a Vinnie’s worker at Christmas.

Everything was great at Christian's, except for one thing: his dogs. He has two SWAT-trained dogs out the back, which just started barking their arses off. He tells us to stay away from the window, coz they’ll most likely break the glass to get at us! He eventually opens the door to let them in so the dogs will get used to us, he tells us to just sit on the couch so they don’t get startled and attack… no eye contact! So we end up sitting on that lounge for like two hours. He forgot to tell us that he put the dogs away… pretty funny.

That night Christy comes to the house (she manages Fear Factory, God Forbid, Otep, Fear and the Nervous System, and is president of Munky's (Korn) label Emotional Syphon Recordings) and says that they are taking us all out for Mexican food (which is the big food around these parts). 

So we all go to this great authentic restaurant, where we had no idea what the waiter was saying – his accent was so thick (and he had no idea what we were saying either). Christy’s assistant shows up for dinner as well, who’s name is Kristy…. Confused?? We called them Christy 1 and Kristy 2. We are informed she is now our assistant too, whatever we need not hesitate to call her. It was pretty LA to have an assistant; we knew it was going to be a slightly surreal experience here!

The next day was a chill out day to relax before Jeff starts his drum tracking. We get to hear the demos of Christian and Raymond’s new band Arkaea, which were excited to hear. Christian plays us the tracks and even asked us for advice on sections. It was kind of weird to have him listen to ideas for this big-time record from a bunch of Aussie kids!! – such a cool dude. 

 

Later that day we go to the ESP factory to get the Guitar and Bass that ESP were nice enough to give us to record the album with (free stuff worth heaps, around four grand for the guitar alone!). Jake got a Kirk Hammet signature guitar, and Matt got the ESP Standard issue bass but with some Killer emg-hz’s put into it. Both guys were excited like kids at Christmas with the guitars – Thanks ESP!  

Later that night Jeff went to a dinner with Christian, Raymond Herrera, and Raymond’s drum tech Marco, who is one of the best techs around apparently. He actually drum teched for Jay-z when he performed at Barack Obama’s inauguration... Historical! 

We start to realize we are going to have a seriously pro team behind us. They all discussed ideas and drums sounds for Jeff’s drumming, over Mexican food (again). Jeff soaks up the inside stories on the big drummers in the music scene: who’s real, who’s not, who can or can't really play, the nice guys and the arseholes (no names! Sorry!) crazy stuff! Pretty cool dinner to have!

The suburb we are staying in is Reseda, where most of Terminator 2 was filmed. Now that’s metal! We go to the storm drains where the infamous chase scene happens and fan boy it up, plus the Galleria where the mall scene happens ‘…the galleria? The galleria’.

To top it off we go to Mr. Miyagi’s house (Karate Kid) and whip out a few crane kicks.

The next day all five of us decide that we’re bored and want to do something on our last day off before starting recording - so we decide we’ll go to some shops. We Google the local area and decide where we should go: 'Yeah that place looks pretty close' - as we pointed out a Westfield’s near by. And the thing is, we didn’t know how to work the public transport in LA, and we weren’t paying for a cab, so we decide to walk. 

We left Christian's place at 2 pm, and we arrived at the shopping centre around 6.30 pm – it was a brutal walk. We fucked up! We had crossed the LA River where the gangs start coming in, and here were five Aussies not knowing where the fuck they were. We ended up finding a bar, called The Rack, and it’s a really cool pool hall as well. We end up drinking there for a while, with beer and Jager shots, and they free pour here, so you get a lot of liquor for your money. 

Jeff has a Jagermiester and instantly says, 'my drinks been spiked'. We all laugh our arses off at him. He goes, 'guys I’m serious… I can't see properly,' and looks up, almost cross-eyed, from the table… then starts laughing with us. Who knows if his drink was spiked or not – he had fun! 

We then get kicked out of there, find another pub, get kicked out of there, run around the streets (Matt broke one of those big industrial sprinklers – Oli stole a huge movie poster out of a locked display at a bus stop – chaos and metal shenanigans) - then we try and find our way back. We walked into a Hilton, or what we think is a Hilton, and Jake gets them to call us a cab. End of night, we all got our metal drink on, drums tomorrow!

Days 6 – 9: It’s now that we realise John's not well. In fact, he has a brutal cold/chest infection. He spends most days for the next week wrapped up in bed coughing his hole up. It’s a brutal metal cold! We had to end up in LA the one year they actually have a cold winter. We should never have written that black metal song for the album!

We start recording drums today. Well it’s more like tonight, as we have our sessions booked for the evening after some big name locals finish up (the studio is a hot-spot for everyone from metal bands to hip hop and gangsters). 

One thing we notice is the intermingling of music scenes. Whereas back home, a death metal band doesn’t usually hang out with a rapper; here it’s all just the music industry. It’s kind of cool! The studio we’re tracking drums in is called Temple Studios (formerly CornerStone) and is owned by Raymond Herrera from Fear Factory and B-real from Cypress Hill. I guess that plays a big part in the two distinct groups of people who work here. 

There’s a lot of history in this place, Fleetwood Mac recorded here, Motley Crue did Dr Feelgood here, and parts of Evil Empire by Rage Against the Machine were tracked here amongst many others. Christian shows us the pedal Tom Morello used on People of the Sun, which we try and pocket before anyone notices (kidding). 

The guys from Cypress are using the studio during the day – working on their own music and a bunch of big name clients like Snoop Dog and Xzibit. Jake and Jeff actually eat fried chicken with Xzibit at one stage, which feels strangely like a scene in a movie, before he busts a freestyle rap in front of them - haha!

We get to the studio and Marco (Raymond’s, and now our, drum tech) is setting up drums for Jeff and tuning them. Jeff ended up creating a custom kit, getting parts from Tama to use (thanks guys!) and parts of Raymond’s kit. Raymond’s full kit was set out a little different to how Jeff’s usually is, and his kit is connected to the drum riser! So it was decided to create a new beast for Jeff to destroy. So Marco, Jeff, and Raymond organise all the different cymbals, and find the best place to record the drums in the room. Raymond has the biggest selection of snares, cymbals and toms ever; it’s like walking into Billy Hydes or some big store and having your pick.

 

Jeff starts getting drum sounds all night with our engineer Jeremy Blair – one of the coolest people we have met so far. This guy has worked with so many people, from Guns n Roses to DevilDriver and everyone in between, and he knew his stuff inside out.

He helped us straight away with some compatibility issues with our pre-production files, and showed us how the pros act in these situations. He would tell us crazy stories of when he worked on the GNR albums back in the day and would be lying around a pool, getting paid thousands of dollars to do nothing, awesome stories! So that whole night consisted of Jeff just getting the right sounds out of his kit, the room, and the systems we were using some killer gear that we had hired from Rack Attack. To make it world class brutal!!

The next day we started tracking. It was hard work for Jeff. He’d start around 8 pm, as we’d wait for the Cypress guys to finish, and we would finish anywhere from 3 to 6 am, so it was brutal work for Jeff, but the tracks are sounding solid. Huge to be exact!

The first few nights we get to the studio, we all took our cameras and took photos and film of the studio while Jeff was tracking. It’s located in Chatsworth… porn capital of America! We find out the studio used to actually be owned by some of the guys in Fleetwood Mac and some of the engineers showed us where Stevie Nicks used to do her cocaine – there was a marble table top with a chair in the bathroom, especially for it. We make sure to sit at it and soak up the vibe… just the vibe… maybe more than the vibe? We also find out the huge couches we’re sitting on in the studio are actually Carmen Electra’s… we all seem to be touching the couches sensually now – how many times has she been naked on this?

We were taking pictures of Raymond’s gold disks, and B-reals Cypress discs, there was ones with like 10 million sold underneath! We try to act nonchalant about the whole deal, all the while wanting to take pics like an Asian tourist!

The studio also had flat screen TVs and five Xbox 360’s – among other stuff that I don’t think we would be able to mention publicly. Let's just say, these guys mean everything they rap about!

The next night we get there, a few of us decide to go on one of our many beer runs… which is about half hour walk away – it was Jake, John and Oli on this walk. This is where one of our many funny stories begins. The guys end up getting pulled over by the cops on the way back, with a case in their hands. 

Expecting ID and passport checks. The cops ask where we are off to, and in our thickest Aussie accent say 'hey mate, we’re off to the studio down the road, we’re a band, recording an album’. The cops go, ‘you boys aren’t from around here are you?’ 

They go on to let us know they just got a call saying there are some gangbangers (in America gangbangers means gangsters – not an orgy like we thought) going around these blocks robbing people at gunpoint. Jake says, taking the piss (which people don’t seem to understand as much here haha) ‘well why don’t you drive us!’ Again they ask us where we are from exactly, we say Australia, and he’s like, ‘oh fuck, get in the car, you're going to get slaughtered’. 

So we hop in two cars and get taken back to the studio. On the way, they ask what kind of music we play. We say metal, expecting them to not care, when the sergeant goes, ‘I fuckin love metal man!' Then they ask at the door if they can come in and hear a tune. We thought the shit had hit the fan, like what the fuck, you never tell a cop no, or they’ll think something is up, but like the guys from Cypress were barely out of there an hour ago… What would everyone in the studio think – stupid Aussies been here for 4 days and they're already bringing the cops into studio? We thought major fuck-up number one was upon us!

At the time that they arrived back, Matt and Jeff were outside smoking and thought 'what the fuck?' as the cop cars arrived with the rest of the band, and we were all there when we heard the cops say, 'can we come in'. So we quickly go, 'Hey Christian the cops are here, they brought the others back, they’re hanging outside, we think they might come in'. Christian goes, 'hide the bongs', gets to the front door and says, 'hey thanks for bringing the boys back', the cops are already on their way in, followed by the band, and we thought ohhh shit, we’re fucked.

The cops walked in and looked around, they seemed really interested in all the equipment, and were asking Christian questions, then said 'ohh yeah I’m a metalhead and play guitar everyday, I love Slipknot, Machine Head, and my favourite band at the moment is Threat Signal'. – we all went 'No Way – fuck off', he’s like 'I’m serious'. We all start laughing, considering Christian produced their last album, and his new band has Jon and Pat from Threat Signal on vocals and bass. Christian goes, 'no way – I produced them, and two of them are in my band, and they’re living at Raymond’s house right now down the street'. 

The one cop was blown away and once he knew who Christian was became totally cool. We found out he was an ex-marine who was now the sergeant of the whole area! He became a little star-struck which worked in our favour. Pretty cool guy to have as a friend, said if we needed anything or got into any trouble to hit him up. He hit it off with us all, it was fun. The cop would tell us brutal stories from being in the force, and Christian would tell stories of touring and different bands…. It ended up being a pretty metal night after all.

The next night we go in two different lots to the studio, and turns out that on this night we didn’t start till about 1 am; the reason being that Xzibit was in the studio today, laying down rhymes and was just generally hanging out with his crew. MAKE WAY FOR THE METAL HOMIE! But they ate into about five hours of our studio time, our engineers were fucking pissed, they wanted to get to work on our drums. Jeff and Jake thought it was cool, and Matt, John and Oli just wanted to get down to the studio. X to the Z seemed nice enough, he did say, 'hey we should get some chicken, you know you want some chicken,' then started freestyle rapping in front of Jake and Jeff, lit a cigar, then walked out of the room. Surreal! Pimp my ride bitch!

 

Day 10 - 11: The next few days we ended up having off, as Christian gets a phone call from Terry Date (mixed HUGE albums from Pantera, Deftones, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins etc) saying he will mix their (Arkaea's) new album, but they need to get it to him by the end of the week or he will have to move onto another project. So Christian spends next few days finalising his pre-mix on the Arkaea album and we chill. 

It was funny to see him star struck a little by someone in the industry (just as we are by everyone we meet!). Terry Date is a big deal to mix your record; Christian said he had been waiting 15 years to work with him, so for him it’s a dream come true. We blame it on the luck of the Aussies! 

It's around this time that Christian starts picking up on our sayings, and finds it so funny how we say ‘heaps’ a lot. ‘That’s heaps cool’, ‘man there’s heaps to go’, ‘its heaps cold ey!’ He thinks we say apes, and he starts our next catch phrase, Planet of the Heaps. We have a few chill out days, smoked a lot, cooked meat and drank beer. Metal!

Oli was in the Kitchen and heard a knock at the kitchen window, he looks outside, and there’s this real gangster looking guy at the window. He says to Oli 'the wolves up?' Oli’s like 'huh?' He says “'Are the wolves up??' 

Oli, still not getting it, goes 'ahh hang on' thinking it was some sort of code or language barrier thing, and went and got Christian. Christian goes, 'is he gangster-looking?' Oli goes 'yeah'. Christian laughs, puts the dogs out the back (that’s what the question was – are the dogs in the house) opens the door, and its Eminem’s DJ, Salam, come to hang out for a bit. Pretty funny! Another thing we notice is so called ‘rock stars’ interacting like normal people. Like, to him it’s his mate down the road come to borrow a bottle opener, but to us it’s like ‘dammmn I seen you on TV fool!’ haha...

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Our Last Enemy's exclusive studio diary - due to appear in here in a week's time.