On ‘Heart Attack,’ the drums came first, then I’d do guitar, lay the bass, one part at a time.” In the case of that tune, everything but the original vocal and some of the drums were stripped when Saadiq decided to take the song in a different direction, and then he rebuilt the parts.Since he’s often recording one instrument at a time, Brungardt is able to use one or both of his beloved Neumann U47s on almost everything.We always loved the vocals, but we weren’t so set on the music.At the same time, we started listening back to the few songs we had when we went fullsteam into this project and we both felt it wasn’t the direction we wanted the next album to go.“It thickens stuff up nicely if you record something that’s a little too bright.I usually go a lot for darker tones when recording and mixing.For the past several years, Saadiq’s principal sonic partner has been an engineer named Chuck Brungardt.Originally from Modesto, in California’s Central Valley, Brungardt got a degree in computer science from the University of San Francisco but fell into the recording world. You have to have the tools you need.”“Before we did Joss’ album,” Brungardt notes, “we are already playing with doing Raphael’s like samples; maybe we’ll put drum machine programming over it.
On a cold Thursday night in January, we find Saadiq and his quintet (guitar, bass, drums, two singers) sitting on stools under a dimly lit crystal chandelier in a spacious suite on the 16th floor of San Francisco’s classy Clift Hotel, breezily running through a few tunes from his new album, , which was shot on a set made to look like a swinging bachelor’s penthouse apartment, that’s what this room looks like.Another thing we like to do is re-amp guitar parts.He’ll go through one of those Avalon DIs, and we’ll take that signal and re-amp it through a ’67 Twin, or on some songs we’ve used an older Vox AC-30.—would be to offer audiences more of the same sound they love.But on , Saadiq has moved away from the hard-core Motown sound and embraced a whole new set of influences, like the ones mentioned above, and also the more expansive orchestral sound of post-Detroit Motown recordings and the great Philadelphia soul records of the ’70s.Those kinds of things helped us get closer to the sound we liked, and we also studied the “I love gear! “Old keyboards, like [Hohner] D6 clavinets, Hammond B-3s and trickedout Leslies, old mics . The first time we recorded ‘Heart Attack’ was maybe six months after , when he was taking a break from touring.Originally it sounded more like that record—it was more of a Motown shuffle.But another bond they share is their love of collecting gear and musical instruments, and a fascination with historic recording techniques. We spent on that stuff, and not just trying to make it sound ‘old,’ but to put our stamp on it. It’s not like I’m always looking for things, either, but I can’t close my ears to any music.“I was always into collecting gear on e Bay, even back in San Francisco,” Brungardt comments, “so we started buying things like [Telefunken] V72 preamps and old Ampex tape machines—we’d take the preamps out of those and rack them up. Chuck really goes to the wall for me when I’m dreaming all this stuff up. Any guitar, any drums, any rhythm section— I’ve always been open to those things, trying to understand what makes them work in a song.”Brungardt reveals that the move away from the Motown sound “was kind of an accident.More complicated parts and solos generally take more time and involve greater experimentation.Saadiq likes to record his vocals alone in the control room, and uses a dynamic mic, usually Shures.On this one, I wanted to play around with some of the more solid-state gear, like using some Neve pre’s and EQs [1037s and 1272s] and some Scully pre’s.“Later, we revisited ‘Heart Attack’ and a lot of the music we were listening to at that time was indie rock—groups like Spoon and MGMT,” Brungardt continues. In so much R&B, people want it up-in-your-face and polished, whereas indie rock was going the other direction.They were looking back at some of the same records Raphael was inspired by—Howlin’ Wolf and Sly, and all that—and taking elements from them and using them in different ways.Working at a software company by day, he also interned at Moulton Studios in San Francisco for a period and eventually “caught the ear of the producers Jake and the Phatman [Glenn Standridge and Bobby Ozuma], and they worked with Raphael a lot,” Brungardt explains. It was right when he finished the album [in 2004].”Brungardt interned at Saadiq’s Blakeslee Studio in North Hollywood and learned more about engineering there from Standridge and Danny Romero. Because real players are more interesting and dynamic than an 8-bar or 16-bar loop.