30 Years Ago: BITCH MAGNET release Umber

Daily Noise - / 2019

30 Years Ago: BITCH MAGNET release Umber

People seemed to like it, it got really good reviews. I knew it was a really good record. I knew that after Star Booty we had something really powerful up our sleeves, I just knew it. We all knew it. It didn't matter that no-one else knew, and it didn't matter that we were playing some godforsaken show in Youngstown and 20 people were there, we knew that we were on fucking fire. That's a really powerful thing to feel.

Jon Fine / Bitch Magnet interview, The Power of Independent Trucking, 2011

BITCH MAGNET released their debut album on this day in 1989 through Glitterhouse Records.

Umber was recorded three months earlier at Waterfront Studios, New Jersey.

Shortly after Sooyoung gave me a rough version of the song ["Motor"] on cassette, a brand-new guitar slide materialised, taped to my mailbox at school. An honorarium for you, the note explained, in Sooyoung's neat, tight handwriting. He wanted me to use it during the intro. A brilliant idea, and I started smearing abstract slide guitar over Sooyoung's crashing, distorted bass chords and Orestes's bastardized Dixieland snare rolls. Sometimes you know right away a song is a great leap forward and "Motor" so exploded me with joy that for a while whenever we played it live, excitement ran so far ahead of me that i often couldn't play it correctly. Sometimes I'd end up on the floor at its ending, pelvic-thrusting with each chord flourish, wondering afterward, Where did that come from? It made me want to jump high enough to band my head through the ceiling. It made me want to run with it through a brick wall. it made me want to set my guitar on fire, and maybe myself, too.

excerpt from Your Bands Sucks: What I Saw at Indie Rock's Failed Revolution (But Can No Longer Hear) by Jon Fine
Bitch Magnet - Motor

The originally intention was to record with Steve Albini in January 1989, but conflicts within the band pushed everything back six months.

...'pretty unbearable' is how I'd describe Jon. We needed a break to sort things out.

Sooyoung Park / Bitch Magnet interview, The Quietus, 2012

Jon completely drove me fucking crazy. Not musically but personality-wise. He just couldn't chill the fuck out. Got on my fuckin' nerves. When you're 18, 19 years old, you don't know what the fuck you're doing, you don't realise sometimes that music has to be a collaboration between people, that Bitch Magnet as a band didn't need someone thinking they were the driving force and acting like a rock star. Me and Sooyoung had had enough.

Orestes Delatorre / Bitch Magnet interview, The Quietus, 2012
Bitch Magnet - Big Pining

Despite this, the band managed to come together - with the addition of guitarist David Gait - after graduating college that May, to spend an intensive few weeks rehearsing before entering Waterfront with engineer Mike McMackin.

We could tell, on things like 'Joan Of Arc', 'Douglas Leader', 'Navajo Ace', we were doing something new, something to this day that I'm really happy to have been part of. Looking back, the six month delay on Umber really made us hone those songs, and gave us the opportunity to work out the musical complexities you can hear on that record, all the different guitar parts going into it. That time together is what you can hear.

Jon Fine / Bitch Magnet interview, The Quietus, 2012

You can tell, on Umber that we've been in the van, we've been playing a lot. It's only then that you can start figuring out what you SHOULDN'T be playing, when you should keep quiet. Umber has way more space to it than 'Star Booty' and so the songs come across stronger.

Orestes Delatorre / Bitch Magnet interview, The Quietus, 2012
Bitch Magnet, 1987

"Americruiser" is funny. Notionally I don't love it, because structurally it's not really that interesting, and the parts individually aren't that interesting, but when I started playing it again with Orestes, I was like, "oh yeah! I remember!" He just fucking elevated it. The conversational aspect of it was nice. It's all feel. The feel of "Americruiser" is really right, and just came out really nicely in the studio, almost accidentally. At the end, it was 5 or 6 in the morning, I was alone doing overdubs, and I just jammed my fucking guitar up against the speaker and let it go "wrurrrrhhrhrhhhrrrrr" and it turned out to work. There was no forethought to it. It was the feel, that Orestes was kind of hanging back a little on the beat, the control in his playing, little weird rhythmic fill-ins here and there that really make it.

Jon Fine / Bitch Magnet interview, The Power of Independent Trucking, 2011
Bitch Magnet - Americruiser