Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jun 09 2007

Recording with Chalaw

Thursday evening after work I took a cab through the unrelenting downpour up to Chongqing North Road Section 4, to a part of town I don’t go often, i.e. the spit of land between the Danshui and Keelung Rivers, to record some music for my friend Chalaw, of the Betelnut Brothers. He wanted David Chen and me to lay down some tracks for his upcoming CD.

The place turned out to be situated along a wide stretch of road dominated by neon betelnut stand signs shining on the wet pavement. A major trucking thoroughfare, no doubt. David was already in the 4th-floor walkup studio, playing his shiny Art Deco-style Dobro guitar behind thick soundproof glass framed in wood. Chalaw and his assistant sat under a cloud of cigarette smoke in front of a bank of recording equipment connected to an old grey Mac. I sat behind them watching the process. I’d never really done proper studio work before. It looks easy, but once I got in the cold, dark room myself, I found out how hard it can be. My trumpet sounded tinny and dry, and the pressure of “getting it right” made me overly cautious. Between takes I stupidly left my trumpet in the cold room, so every take was like warming up all over again. It was night and day from the stage.

David Chen recordsThe night wore on towards midnight, and we drank Oolong tea brewed by some of the assistants to stave off any thoughts of sleep. Betel nuts were also passed around, but I declined. During that time, we went through two songs, with mixed results. Chalaw said he chose me out of the hordes of more competent trumpteers out there because he felt the feeling of a musician was more important than technical prowess, at least for his purposes. Also, he knows me and we’re almost exactly the same age.

Eventually I clued in to the fact that I should at least keep my mouthpiece warm between takes, which improved things somewhat. It was a rough session, but I think we did some good work. David certainly did, not only on the dobro but on the uke as well. The trumpet line for one of the songs reminded me strongly of a 60’s-era Morricone spaghetti western soundtrack, a classic style I can’t get enough of. Both songs were in B, which isn’t the best key for b-flat instruments: all sharps and flats. One of the songs goes from minor to major and back again, which normally doesn’t trip me up but did in that environment.

It was the wee hours of the morning by the time we were done. Chalaw was nice enough to drive David and me back to our respective homes, before going on to his home in Taoyuan. We were supposed to have another session on Friday, but Chalaw had to go on TV at short notice, so we’ll probably do it next week. In the meantime, I’ll have to do some practicing.

posted by Poagao at 1:50 am  


  1. Hey Poagao,

    I came by looking for your contact info. I can’t find it. So, this is the next best thing.

    Anyhows, a friend of mine and I are looking for a place here in Taipei to play some music, so I wanted to know if you knew of any studios that aren’t too expensive where he and I could get together and rock out. We don’t need to record right now, so we just want an inexpensive place with some PA equipment (and maybe a drum kit), so that we can put some stuff together to, maybe, start playing in some bars around Taipei.

    I’ve heard such places exist. If you could point me in the right direction, my ladyfriend can do all that wacky 中文 stuff to help us set up a time to play.

    My email’s rmaguir{ 在 }yahoo( 點 }com.

    Have a good one.

    Comment by Robert — June 13, 2007 @ 1:04 am

  2. Robert, I don’t know the scene that well, but you can ask on Forumosa.com, people there might be able to help you out.

    Comment by Poagao — June 20, 2007 @ 7:04 am

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