2010 has seen the 20th anniversary of Jawbreaker's monumental full length debut, Unfun. Not so coincidentally, it also featured the first formal remaster and reissue of the album in 20 years by Adam Pfalher's own Blackball Records. To help go over the five W's Pfahler dialed in for a marathon phone call with Punkews own Rich Verducci. In the first part of this two part interview, Pfahler discusses the process of remastering Unfun, as well has his plans for future Jawbreaker reissue.
So, thanks first of all for taking the time to do this and we really appreciate it.
Ah come on.
Come on. Itâs exciting, you know? Even if I mean for you, its talking about something that you guys did twenty years ago, weâreâ¦Iâm happy about it.
I feel like putting it back together took about as long â¦
I was gonna ask, I guess the first question for the re-mastering of Unfun, you guys you had to bake the masters? Is that correct?
Yeah, I did. I had to bake the masters and then transfer them onto digital files and you have to do that really in like within 48 hours or something or else have do it all again.
I donât pretend to know the ins and outs of why all that had to happen but all I know is that when I busted those tapes open for John he looked at them and he likeâ¦and he smelled them and he was like, "Uh-oh this is not gonna do, you gotta go take care of this." So, I guess they are getting kinda moldy and nasty
Oh, I was gonna say, "He smelled them?"
I think he did. I donât know how but he knew. He just knew right off that, it wasnât happening and I had to go bake them. So I did. I did exactly what he told me.
And for those who donât know what all else is involved with the process of baking the masters?
Iâm not sure. I think they literally put them in an oven at like a low temperature, you know not at 350 [degrees]. Its not like your baking cookies or something but, but you put them in a low heat for an extended amount of time something like 6 hours, depending on how bad they are, I guess. And the idea is you sort of try to take some of the moisture out but like I donât know, I couldnât even tell you what was going on.
But it gave you the ability basically to kind of go back and re-master all the little ins and outs of the album?
Yeah. Well, I had so many parts to work from like, I didnâtâ know how I was gonna go about [the remastering] because I have a CD, which is in itself a sort of like a master. So, I had the CD, I could have work from that. I had the masters themselves, you know, like the mix down. Then I also have a safety master that was maybe kept in a little bit better condition that wasnât in need of baking. So I had to sort of [try] them all and see what sound that we could work from. What could be the best source. Well maybe the fifteen ideas, a safety copy that might have turned out to be better than the 30 IPS master that we baked. I had to listen and listen and listen. It was sort of a tedious process. But we ended up just going with what I had a feeling we were gonna go with, when we started now and, that was the original 30 IPS masters.
So we jumped those down into digital domain. I take that hard drive down and to John Golden and then he works his magic. And we sit in there all day and listen obsessively.
Going over it so many times to listen to it was weird listening to something that you did that long ago, are there any parts that you kinda of cringe at or?
Yeah totally. There were things that kinda jumped out at me. I could really hear us (I canât speak for the other guys but I could really hear myself) really swinging for the fences on some of those songs. Like not leaving well enough alone. Itâs gotta be this much. Like the fills gotta be this much longer and weâre playing it this much faster and itâs crazy. I could sort of hear some of that. But, having said that, I think it sounds awesome. I think it sounds really rad. I think it sounds like a young band whoâs really excited to be in the studio and they are kicking out their jams.
And thatâs what makes it so exciting. So, I hear a lot. Itâs just loud, the whole record itâs just loud, and its fast. Itâs just likeâ¦ itâs a zero to sixty from the first sound to the very end. So that, I think thatâs awesome. I think thatâs really exciting sounding.
Oh yeah, definitely. Is there anything if you had the chance to go back that you would want to change or do you think for that point in time that works out pretty perfectly.
Well I already felt a little bit strange just re-mastering, you know what I mean? Cuz I didnât wanna get too revisionist or something. I donât know if that the right word to use in this situation. You donât wanna tinker too much. So, I already felt a little bit strange but what I ended up doing, what I ended up making me feel best about it was, everything was sort of restored. Like I restored the art to the exact way that it came out when it first came out. I wasnât trying to do too much. Yeah thereâs a couple of little things in there, like just giving people credit where I had forgotten [originally]. I left them off the liner notes or whatever. But just in terms of, what photographs we used and the colors and stuff and just the layout I just want it all to be the same and I didnât wanna make too drastic a change to the audio. I didnât want to make it sonically too much different. But, what I wanted to do was just maybe make it sound richer, a little bit less rough and all that was taken care of when we put this music to the new machinery and the new sampling rate which is twice what it was back when we went in the first time. So automatically, it just had it just had a sort of a wider spectrum. It just sounds a little bit, sort of richer. Itâs hard to talk about music with words. You know what I am saying? Itâs just like without doing too much messing with EQ or anything, just getting a good source and putting it through at a newer sampling rate that just, that did wonders to it, I thought.
Yeah definitely. So, to go back to earlier conversation (before we were rolling tape), you didnât go back and rewrite Star Wars. You havenât gone back and added things and all this, you just kinda cleaned it all up and got it how you wanted it.
All right. So on the re-release, there is the Whack and Blight EP is added .
Right, yeah. So when we went to CD back in â91 or whenever that thing came out, we threw Whack and Blight on there because at that time we figured no one was gonna want to buy those things cuz its not available on record, so whose gonna buy it. And and we can get more minutes on a CD than we could on a record, so we just throw something else on there. So, Mel convinced us on putting Whack and Blight on there and I was happy to do it.
Cuz it was probably, at that time, it was already out in print. Then I was thinking, "What else could I put on here that people might care about," and I thought about the 7" mix of "Busy" I had laying around I didnât end up putting that on the odds and ends compilation that came out a couple of years ago. So I thought, I would just put that in there. It could be looked at as cash grab because I know there are some people who think like, you add another thing and it makes you feel like you gotta buy it and people get bummed. But we were always one of those bands that just tryingâ¦our thing was just, more is more.
People may or may not buy the re-release at all. Sure there are fanatics out there. But I hope just the one song isnât gonna make somebody go out and buy it. I hope they have other reasons.
Yeah really. Letâs face it. If they want to get that, that they could probably download it in about half a second.
Iâm sure, thereâs somewhere where could find it if you really need it to.
Yeah, for sure. But, I also put in, in terms of the our work, I kinda restored the cover and the back cover to what it was. Then, I also threw in the booklet. I also threw a bunch of photographs from the time of recording and practicing for that record. You know, they were just candid Polaroids that we were taking and just kind a goofing around with them in the studio. So, I threw in a lot of that stuff in there too for a little bonus. Some embarrassing shots of us back in the day.
I was gonna say that there is a 24 page booklet in it soâ¦
Yeah and I put all art from the Whack and Blight EP, it had like an eight page insert in it too. So, I just took those Xerox pages, they were the originals anyway and then I just kinda reprinted all that, the way that came out originally too. So, whatever. I just want to make it complete. Make it cool.
Well, between the additions to some of the CD releases of your album and Etc., is there recorded stuff that you guys have, thatâs kind of legitimate stuff or recorded stuff that you havenât put out yet?
Yeah, I mean thereâs things that I have that I didnât put out on Etc. that are stuff from our demo and stuff. But people kinda hold on to that stuff and then kinda of digitized it themselves and kinda put it out. So, I think itâs kinda all out there and available. So, am not sitting on a whole bunch of studio out takes. I got a couple of things. No, you know what, I am lying to you, I am totally lying to you. I do have stuff. I have stuff from Bivouac and I have stuff from 24 Hour Revenge Therapy that you havenât heard.
Any plans on that? Well, I am assuming not, since you forgot about it butâ¦
Yeah, I know. Thatâs gonna come out. Those are the next ones to be re-mastered and you know re-shooting the art work for that stuff and those would be extras. The vinyl would all come out just like it did before and then youâll get a free download, free digital download with all the extras.
With all the additional stuff?
Yeah, its not like terriblyâ¦ you know stuff that we were like, "Oh, we donât need to put this on the record," but, we have like different takes of things, a couple of different mixes of things. We have like an Albini version of "Box Car." I mean "Box Car" is one of those songs like, anyone who knows our band has heard that song, like ad nauseum and they are planning to hear another version of it but itâs kind of a cool recording. Itâs a little bit slower. It has a weird guitar sound on it cuz Blakeâs playing through like an oldâ¦ stereo. Itâs like aâ¦ Itâs like a talk box like for a, for a message machine. Like a telephone message machine.
Its like before they made those little mini-marshals, that you could get at a guitar center. You could take one of those like it was like a little thing that you used to plug into your telephone. It runs on a 9 volt battery. But it had an eighth-inch jack, so you if you had an eighth-inch jack to a quarter-inch you could plug your guitar right into it. They have this incredible distortion sound.
Yeah I would imagine the sound. . . very unusual.
Yeah it was cool. I do have a couple more and itâll come out on this next two [releases].
I want to ask since you mentioned the vinyl. So on this one, for Unfun, you guys are doing the first 2,000 on color?
Yeah, they came out in color. I think theyâre almost all gone.
Is it weird for you to say the first two thousand knowing that it will clearly outsell that?
Well, I didnât have anything to do with how many of these things got press. It wasâ¦ you know it was novel to me. Yeah, I didnât know. I asked Gary, "How many are you going to press?" I had no idea. Because, as you know it is sort of like diminishing returns on selling hard products. Now, that everyone downloads. So I didnât have any idea how many he is going to press. Five hundred? A thousand? So when he id two thousand I was like, "Oh, thatâs cool." Thatâs kind a lot. Thatâs good for a, for a little band. And then I think they did like three thousand or four thousand CDâs, it surprised me even more actually. But, when I put out Dear You, or even when I put out Etc., like, that wasnât that long ago. And yet, those initial runs where quite a bit more. Like, way more. And, that says something about the times. And Iâm bummed on that. I am against it. I wished that peopleâ¦ You know, would go buy fucking vinyl.
Definitely. Well I think few more people are. Is definitely picked up sales I mean in the last I donât knowâ¦ five years I guess.
Thatâs what I heard. I heard from of people, a lot of likeâ¦ that Amoeba [Records] is doing really good with their vinyl sales. And that their CDs are kinda like the dead format. But even with those, I think, weâve always really tried to make our stuff, our records something that you would wanna hold on to your hand and looks through and just check out, you know.
Yeah, something more than just you know the song file sitting in your computer somewhere.
Yeah, and am just learning now. I wasnât a big believer in the difference between an MP3 and an AIFF. The difference between a higher quality digital to vinyl, but then, having listened to this stuff over and over and over again and hearing it back and hearing it on vinyl, hearing the original vinyl, hearing the MP3âs of these stuff versus the higher quality? Like, you can totally tell. Like its easy for me now because I know our music so well that when I am listening back, I could certainly notice the differences and the nuances. Itâs crazy. But yeah man, if you download, you get the song and everything, but MP3s are justâ¦they just donât sound good
No, I mean thereâs, thereâsâ¦ better quality digital releases but if you talk to anyone who really puts a lot of time in it like what you have and listen to it over and over inside out. Thereâs definitely the difference.
Totally. Yeah, Albini was right all along basically, because I didnât think back in the day that I could hear the difference really, but sure enough, you know you get yourself a good pair of headphone and if have like a slamming system, you can hear, you can totally hear it.
I think more and more people think that. Itâs weird as time has gone on [Albini] has become more and more quoted, more and more cited, its kinda of like, everyoneâs going, "Oh shit, he, he was right about all that stuff."
Totally, he knew he was right all along.
Yeah, at least I mean hopefully thereâs some sense of like well at leastâ¦ its better later than never, I guess.
Right, well the next thing am doing is is Bivouac and, and in 1991 when we were making that thing the new technology was DAT [Digital Audio Tape]. And so, we were like mixing down to DAT, which is ludicrous, if you think about it. Cuz DAT is like the size of a mini cassette basically and itâs..it sucks but that was we were doing, because thatâs what we were supposed to do. So, now I am working for DAT as my source and hoping I could beat, hoping I could beat theâ¦ the output.
Yeah, yeah, I was going to say, is it harder to do that coming from the DAT as opposed to the original tapes that you were using from?
You really wanna come from the tapes. I know that, I am pretty sure, the 24 Hour Revenge Therapy tapes donât need to be baked. So, I would just go direct from there. It wonât even be in digital format. Some point, obviously, itâs your CD or download but it still retains some of theâ¦ the warmth, I guess. The charm of the analog. So sue me if you decide get the vinyl anyway.
Yeah, well hopefully people will. People bought 2000 copies of this one. Soâ¦
Yeah, you know, Iâm stoked. I asked them (and Iâm so out of the loop you know), "Mike is that good?" "Thatâs awesome," he said
Yeah , thatâs really good, I mean, thatâs more than some bands selling their entire physical and digital pressing.
Right, and John told me itâs funny because the vinyl sound best on black vinyl and I just thought that was kinda ironic that was the third [pressing], the next press is gonna be the black so its like if youâre a real audio crazed person thatâs the one you get, the one we put on black.