Copyright © 2019 Karl Ward
Album notesWay back in 2009 I went to the store-closing sale at Virgin Megastore in Union Square, Manhattan, where some version of the music industry was going out with a discount. An ugly yellow CD called FUCKBOOK by a band called the Condo Fucks caught my eye, I laughed out loud and picked it up. That was my introduction to the Condo Fucks, which is either an obscure punk band from Connecticut or Yo La Tengo in disguise. Anyway I loved the record and loved even more the backstory about the Condo Fucks. See, the Condo Fucks have a whole discography of out-of-print (read: fictional) records. The record covers and song titles show up on the inserts of Yo La Tengo’s 1997 record I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One, and the discography more or less looks like this:
Now that’s funny. I got this crazy idea–what if I wrote one of the fictional Condo Fucks records? The only one of the fictional Condo Fucks records that had all the song titles listed was Condo Fucks City Rockers, so that was the natural choice. I pitched the idea to my band at the time, Ghost Ghost, but it didn’t really get traction because we were busy with a ton of other projects (or, as our in-band joke went, “we got high and wandered off.”) So it didn’t happen, but the idea went into my notebook and stayed there for years. In the mean time, I was working on Death of a Ladies’ Man (another album based on the song titles of songs I had never heard). But when I finished Death of a Ladies’ Man, I decided to dust off the old idea to write Condo Fucks City Rockers.
I started writing the album in August 2018, and it was finished in February 2019. The first song to come together was “(Where’s the) Remote Control?” The rest of the songs were written in this order: “Rock the Grotto,” “Condo Fucks City Rockers,” “New London Calling,” “Guns of Noank,” “Her Majesty (Rock the Grotto Reprise),” and finally “Army Dreamers.”
This whole thing is either conceptual art, or deeply overwrought fan fiction. I’m not sure there’s much a difference between the two. Apparently I enjoy writing songs from really difficult song titles. But more than that, there were two surprises in this project for me. The first: I really, really enjoyed writing about these characters, particularly in the song “New London Calling.” They are very clear in my mind, I hope some of that comes across.
The second surprise was that while I imagined what Connecticut punk was like in the 90s, I came to realize that maybe growing up on the fringe of the 90s rock scene in Houston like I did wasn’t so different from whatever might have been happening in New London and Noank back then. Or for that matter, what was happening in other scenes like New Orleans or Athens, GA. I spent a lot of time listening to obscure Connecticut bands (like Lost Generation), punk compilations (like Nate K’s GREAT Killed By Mardi Gras) and revisiting the Houston bands I remember from back when I was a punk/metal kid. Bands like 30footFALL, de Schmog, Middlefinger, Sprawl, and some I didn’t know from the 80s like MYDOLLS and Really Red, and then Austin punk bands I never heard of like The Dicks and Big Boys. Thanks to John Allen from WFMU for expanding my mind on some of those bands.
I asked Jaclyn Ward to paint the cover art in watercolor, which is based on the art for “Clash City Rockers” by The Clash. Then I defaced the cover with the scribbled CONDO FUCKS just like the cover art for the fictional record. Jaclyn also took the picture on the back cover somewhere on the Atlantic coast, and we collaborated on the art for the lyric insert layout.
Recording notesEverything was recorded at the Pink Ark, my basement studio in New Jersey. I played everything and sang everything. The drums are my father’s Ludwig Club Date kit from the 60s. The drums were recorded with the Glyn Johns microphone setup (more or less), using two BLUE Bluebird condensers for overheads, a Shure Beta 52A for the kick, and a Shure Beta 56A for the snare.
Vocals were recorded with a BLUE Bluebird. A Focusrite ISA428 was used for all recording, on vocals and everything else.
I managed to use every electric guitar, every electric bass, and every amp I own on this record. The bass was generally run through an Electro-Harmonix Black Finger compressor into my Sovtek MIG-50 head and a Marshall JTMC12 cabinet. The bass was recorded with a Shure Beta 52A, and also through a DI. The guitars were either run through the Sovtek or a Fender ‘65 Twin Reissue, turned up very very loud. The only microphone used for the guitar was a Shure SM57.
The record was mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side Music, then lathe cut to vinyl by Jon Niess at Austin Signal. I love working with both of these guys! Don’t tell anyone, Niess cut it to clear vinyl at no extra charge and it looks amazing.
- Release: Condo Fucks City Rockers
- Artist: Karl Ward
- Date: March 25, 2019