Magnapop: Quality is Job One - Page 4

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"The person who you record with completely influences the whole thing," Morris says. "It's scary. You can really blow it more than make it, sometimes... We were making demos, and our A&R; guy said, 'Would you guys want somebody to produce your demos, so you can get a feeling of what you're going for?' Because we were at a loss." Upon the band's first meeting with Geza, they agreed that he was just weird-looking enough for the partnership to work. "He hadn't done anything in ages," Morris laughs, "but the fact that he did do the Germs was like, OK, he knows. But he's a freak. A freak is a freak - you know, Phil Spector is great, but he's a freak." Though they used Geza's home studio, he managed to be late to the sessions almost daily. "He's always doing his Stewart Smalley therapy," Morris laughs again. "You can tell he's got to keep it going or everything will fall down: 'I Am Special. Everything's OK...'"

Despite Geza's unpredictability, the band was so happy with his finished product that they went ahead and contracted him to produce the actual record. "When I heard Geza's tape," Morris says, "it was like, OK, there's bottom, there's top, there's a lot of warmth there. That's all I need. With Bob Mould, we lost bottom. He's lost his hearing range, and you can hear it." Geza, Morris says, "has an amazing range. He hears it all. That's key, because you want your guitar to sound like everything you put down. You want the bass to be there."

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Magnapop, "Snake" from Rubbing Doen't Help
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Hopper's singing was another matter: "With my voice, it doesn't have to be pretty and chimey," she says. "It has to say something, a real emotion. It has to have the feel of the heat of the breath on the microphone." Female singers, the bandmates assert, must still confront most producers'- including Geza's - habit of giving their voices a glossy sheen. Hopper and Morris call it "the girl-group thing." "That was a big problem with Geza," Hopper admits.

As a listener, "I never think female," Morris says. "I hear what the singer's saying." For the first time, she says, some women are breaking pop's "gender barrier": the Breeders, PJ Harvey, Throwing Muses. Still, "It hasn't been broken that much. It's still what we're going up against."

Morris, whose newfound singing voice lends Rubbing a multi-faceted, stereo-effect female sound, says, "I wouldn't make it a point to play with all women, or all men... I want [my band] to be A-level like all the guy bands. I don't want to be B-level. That's what it usually means - if there's a woman in the band, people assume, oh, she's the singer. Or bass player. Or if she's the guitar player, you're a wimpy band. That's other people's preconceptions. I've felt it so many times."

Morris says it was on the band's extended trip with Mould's Sugar that she convinced herself to pursue her singing: "I kept hearing melodies inside our songs every night onstage. I was realizing, God, there are these ideas coming to me, and I'm hitting the notes that I hear in my head, finally... Ultimately I wanted like a Mick Jones/Joe Strummer kind of balance. I've always liked the REM thing, too, those vocals, where nobody has to dominate, especially."


It would seem that Morris provides the bulk of Magnapop's ideas. Has Hopper ever felt threatened by her ambitious partner? "That's a natural feeling," she begins, "but I know from our friendship and our partnership that she's very up front with me and she doesn't lie to me." Regarding the guitarist's developing singing role, Hopper says, "It was more like expanding. The recorded material wasn't necessarily me singing and me harmonizing with myself. [The backing vocals] should be someone else singing, because different voices are where it's at."

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