Brutal Panda has reissued Zozobra's 2013 album Savage Masters for its 10th anniversary. Zozobra was masterminded by Caleb Scofield (Cave In, Old Man Gloom, etc.) and, for this album, featured Scofield's long-time Cave In bandmates Adam McGrath (guitars) and J.R. Conners (drums). Savage Masters was produced and recorded by Andrew Schneider (Unsane, Pelican) and contains stunning artwork by Glyn Smyth (Unearthly Trance, Wolves In The Throne Room, Cough).
The following editorial on Savage Masters was written by Conners, and you can pick up the reissue via Brutal Panda here.
I have vague bits of memories that come to mind when I think of the recording of this record. I remember being super excited to record with Andrew again, and when we got to NYC and started describing what we wanted the record to sound like, he was immediately on the same page. We wanted to make a brutal, fast paced, "barn burner" of a record, and he certainly delivered! It still holds a top spot in the best sounding recordings of any project I've been a part of.
I remember loading up Caleb's truck with all our gear and taking a quick trip down to NYC in the depths of a very hot summer, listening to the just recently released Rush album Clockwork Angels, and stopping to grab bites at "Dunkies" along the way. Very much a New England vibe.
"From this point on, the memories get muddy and the sequence of events is all messed up. But, once we got to NYC we were greeted by Andrew and Brady playing catch in a desolate looking parking lot with beat up old box trucks everywhere. Loaded in the front door directly into the live room, set up like we would in our rehearsal space and got down to business. I remember drinking too much whiskey while tracking, sleeping on the floor behind the drum kit and sweating profusely for several days straight. Even then, most of the tracks were one takes. But, you can hear the whiskey in my system during the double kick part in the very first track of the record, loose! I wouldn't be able to survive that shit if I tried it these days, and don't recommend it. My time in Zozobra was the last of my whiskey drinking days!
I don't even remember heading back home. But, I do remember being absolutely stoked on how the record came out and feeling honored that Caleb had me along for the ride!
In addition, the follow photos and descriptions of each were provided by McGrath.
Caleb composing lyrics while playing my Les Paul hanging with Brady the dog on the studio couch. I remember Caleb showed up to the sessions with skeletal ideas and fragments for song lyrics. He definitely finished many of the lyrics minutes before he stepped up to the mic the record them. I remember he worked great under pressure and never sounded intimidated by the moment.
Producer and engineer of Savage Masters Andrew Schneider with Brady the dog on the studio couch in Brooklyn NY. We all met Andrew playing with his former band Barbaro around Boston in the early 2000's. Caleb had a lot of faith and trust in Andrew's work after recording Zozobra's Harmonic Tremors as well as great experiences with past Cave In recordings. Caleb knew Andrew would deliver on another great Zozobra record with this particular line up and made the session happen with Brutal Pandas help. We were all very comfortable with Andrew and knew he would get the best out of us.
This photo was taken on a "smoke break" between recording takes in the parking lot behind the old mill building which housed the recording studio along with band rehearsal spaces. We stayed and slept onsite in the studio the entire duration of the session in Brooklyn NY. What can't be seen in this photo is that behind the parked box trucks ran an old muddy polluted canal. In October 2012 Hurricane Sandy would flood this canal ultimately destroying this facility. The studio and rehearsal spaces were completely lost to the flood.
A picture taken by Andrew Schneider from the control room of the Savage Masters line up tracking a song in the live room. You can tell its summer time by the tank tops, sandals and industrial fan. I believe all the music for this record was tracked in three to four days.
A cool moment captured between Andrew and Caleb. Andrew is ready at the helm for whatever is next to be done while Caleb looks down at the song list on the mixing board contemplating which song to track vocals next.
This picture shows part of the studio control room carpet. For whatever reason the goats seemed intriguing staring at them for the intense long hours we put in during the session so I took a photo.
I can't tell if this picture shows Caleb trying to get himself into some sort of zone and character to track vocals or if this picture is Caleb celebrating that all the music for the record had been tracked and completed. Either way, it's one of the moments.
This picture is the guitar and bass gear Caleb and I used to live track basics for the Savage Masters album. That guitar pedal board certainly marks a particular time for me with the plywood base and zip tie fasteners. I went between the Boss OS 2 and the ProCo Big Box RAT for distortion for this recording. I really started to get into mixing slow phase with Tremolo at that particular time for effect. I was also very inspired by Robert Fripp's playing on Daryl Hall's Sacred Songs at this time. Caleb had a very simple set up with a Fuzzrocious small box Rat Tail and a boss delay pedal. I still have the three humbucker Les Paul custom and Nate Newton currently owns Caleb's white fender P Bass. When Caleb first got that bass he called it his "Dee Dee Ramone Bass."
These pictures were taken by Terri Christopher at the now defunct Studio 52 practice space in Allston, MA. A very standard DIY photo shoot using whatever tools we had available at our disposal including a red light. Many of the pictures are the stock staring at the camera looking angry pose while others are three friends having a good time together. The other thing I noticed looking back at these pics is that I'm wearing the same Lake Tahoe shirt I would wear over ten years later in the Cave In "Reckoning" video.