Darrin Doyle, a Michigan-based author and English professor, loves when he can head into the recording studio with friends or collaborate using Garage Band from home. We talk about his newest novel The Beast in Aisle 34, the bands his been in over the years and what it might be like to record with Pink Floyd.
Darrin 0:00 Hello, my name is Darrin Doyle. And my favorite thing is recording music.
Announcer 0:06 Welcome to the Finding Favorites podcast where we explore your favorite things without using an algorithm. Here's your host, Leah Jones.
Leah Jones 0:18 Hello, and welcome to Finding Favorites. It's Sunday, October 24. It's sunny in Chicago. There's the nice sounds of fall ball being played outside of my apartment. Maybe it's rugby. I haven't looked outside yet. This has been a good week, I got back to work started healing up from my oncoplasty. That happened last week. So I'm definitely feeling better, spending more time awake than asleep. So I think that's a good thing, and got good, all good marks from my plastic surgeon so far. This was a nice week without -- it's kind of like my only week without doctor's appointments until the end of January. So I really enjoyed that as well. This week on the podcast, we have author Darrin Doyle. He's a professor, and his new novel is called "The Beast in Aisle 34."
Leah Jones 1:15 It is available now. We have a really fun conversation about recording studios and we listen to a little Pink Floyd. So if you need to go into your archives and pull out some Pink Floyd records know that we've got a little Pink Floyd chat coming up, not the main focus ... but despite having grown up across the hallway from my brother who loved Pink Floyd and played it through our shared heating vent const antly, he pulls up a song that I didn't know about. Looking to the week ahead, I am trying to get my COVID booster. I'm allowed to get it now. But it's just a little difficult to figure out if I'm supposed to schedule it or do a walk-in or whatever. So I'm working on getting my COVID booster. I got my flu shot last week. And then this week, I get my port put in so that chemo can start in about two weeks, which is a pretty -- taken a long time to get here and so I am happy to finally be at this point. So, enjoy this conversation with Darren Doyle. Thank you to Dave Coustan for editing this week. And wash your hands, wear a mask, and keep enjoying your favorite things.
Leah Jones 2:45 Hello, and welcome to Finding Favorites. I'm your host, Leah Jones. And this is the podcast where we learn about people's favorite things and we get recommendations without using an algorithm. This evening, I am joined by Darrin Doyle. Darrin is an author and professor, he teaches at Central Michigan University. And he's joining us tonight from the great state of Michigan but I don't know where on the mitten he is. Darrin, how are you doing tonight?
Darrin 3:14 I am doing great. Thank you.
Leah Jones 3:16 I mean, it was a big assumption that you are actually in Michigan tonight. So --
Darrin 3:20 Oh no, that's true. Not too much of a stretch. I'm right dead center of the mitten if you hold your right hand. Okay, point to like the absolute center. That's about where I am. Give or take a few miles.
Leah Jones 3:34 That's like a good place for a Central Michigan University.
Darrin 3:37 Exactly. Thus the name. Yeah.
Leah Jones 3:39 Yes. Great. How was your fall? Are your students coming back on campus?
Darrin 3:45 Yeah, everybody's back. Um, you know, almost all the classes are face to face. And, we know, everybody wears masks and yeah, so far knock on wood. It's going well; I'm so happy to have students back in the classroom. I'll tell you that. That's so much better.
Leah Jones 4:05 So now your bio ends with "He knows what skeletons do." Are you a biology professor, or are you a writing professor?
Darrin 4:16 I am a writing professor. Okay. I can tell you where that came from, if you want.
Leah Jones 4:21 Please do. I feel like it's a cultural reference that -- it's revealing that I don't know it.
Darrin 4:27 It's more of an inside joke. I have two sons. And they were pretty young, maybe one of them was about five and the other was like three and my older son or my youngest son said to my older one, "You know everything." And he said, "I don't know everything, I don't know what Japanese things say." And then my my youngest one said, "But you know what skeletons do." [laughter] I don't know what he meant by that. But it was such a great phrase, I had to steal it -- "I know what skeletons do." So, that's the story behind that.
Leah Jones 5:09 That's awesome. Are they grown up enough now to be embarrassed by that story or do they think it's a charming dad story?
Darrin 5:17 Oh, they think it's pretty funny. My youngest used to say pretty wild stuff like that all the time but they're - yeah, they're my oldest just went to college and my youngest is a junior in high school.
Leah Jones 5:32 So they're happy also to be back in real school I bet -- I don't want to say that -- to have returned to in-person classroom.
Darrin 5:40 Right. They are. Yeah, very much so.
Leah Jones 5:43 Did you have any summer adventures?
Darrin 5:50 Let's see, we went to Mexico. That was exciting. It was kind of the thing where we just wanted to get out of town and travel has been so limited. It was the one thing that we could do. And we had intended to take a trip the year before, and that got canceled. And so it was, you know, basically just a very relaxing, kind of resort thing. And we'd never done that before. So it was it was cool. You know, not my favorite kind of vacation. I like to actually travel around the places I go to. We were kind of stuck in that spot. But yeah, it was lovely. So, yeah, how about you?
Leah Jones 6:33 Not a lot of summer adventures. I was starting to plan to go to Mexico next month. So, early this summer, I was planning a trip to Mexico. The Just For Laughs comedy festival was doing a resort takeover. Oh, wow. And Nicole Byer was performing. And so a couple of my girlfriends and I were like, ah my gosh, a Nicole Byer resort takeover? That seems amazing.
Leah Jones 7:05 And then the lineup came out and it was pretty like bro heavy. And we were excited for like a Nicole Byer weekend and not like a Just For Laughs weekend. So we didn't book that and get on my health took a turn. And so I've gotta be in town this this winter for treatment.
Darrin 7:32 Bummer. Well, always next year.
Leah Jones 7:37 And, but I do have -- I am hopeful, I have a trip to Boston planned in early February. Oh, great. So that is, I hope I can travel for that.
Darrin 7:49 Yeah. That's a cool town.
Leah Jones 7:51 Yeah. I've only been once and only for a couple days. So this would be to see one of my favorite comedy podcasts live.
Darrin 7:59 Oh, cool. Yeah, sounds great.
Leah Jones 8:02 Yeah. So, that's what I'm pinning my winter hope on. And if you can hear the rumbling in the background?
Darrin 8:11 Yeah.
Leah Jones 8:12 I've recently started putting cat toys inside of a big box and two cats are in the box playing and it is very funny. Two grown cats, two senior cats.
Darrin 8:24 That's funny.
Leah Jones 8:27 It is a lot of fun. So Darren, you have your this is your fifth or sixth book just came out?
Darrin 8:37 Yes. My sixth book.
Leah Jones 8:38 "The Beast in Aisle 34." Yes. I have not read it yet. Because COVID ruined my reading skills, it really destroyed them. So. I'm not going to pretend that I've read it. But I am obsessed with this cover.
Darrin 8:56 Oh, I'm, I'm happy to hear that. I mean, the inside is pretty good, too. But the cover is really, really terrific.
Leah Jones 9:03 It's a cover that I would be intrigued. . So tell me -- was it an illustrator you knew or someone your publisher introduced you to?
Darrin 9:15 No, it was somebody the publisher found, and we had gone through a number of different versions of the cover. I had a friend of mine working on it; he had done a couple of my covers before. There was a holdover from that with the name tag on the front cover was something we thought would be cool and that was kept from the original design, but the main illustration was the editor's idea at Tortoise books. And he did a great job, and there's some cool -- the yellow really makes it pop and the back cover has a little bit of ominous blood spatter. So I thought it turned out great.
Leah Jones 9:59 So tell me a little bit about what sets this book apart from -- you've got a short story collection. Is this your first full length? No, this is your second novel.
Darrin 10:13 My third, actually.
Leah Jones 10:14 "Teacher's Pet" is also a novel.
Darrin 10:16 Yeah, that's right. So my first two books were novels, and then the next three were short story collections. And this is my first novel in about a decade. And what sets it apart, I think it still has some of the things that I'm interested in. A lot of my stuff has magical realism elements but this one's more in a kind of genre with being a werewolf novel.
Darrin 10:44 But I've always loved werewolf stories, ever since I was a little kid. And I had this idea, bouncing around for years before I actually tried to write it. But it's definitely not strictly horror, it leans toward comedy a lot, too. So it's kind of a dark comedy, horror. And, you know, hopefully, it touches on a lot of real human elements as well, questions of identity. You know, "What am I doing in this life?" and that sort of thing.
Leah Jones 11:17 Yeah, I've been, I've talked to a number of authors recently. And I'm curious, because you're publishing it in this moment in time of the pandemic, I'm not gonna say at the end of because it's not over. But, did you do any of the revisions during COVID? Did COVID impact the final product?
Darrin 11:45 Not really, it actually may have helped me get it done. You know, honestly, I had this other book come out, that was supposed to come out in March 2020. "The Big Baby Crimespree" was a collection. It was supposed to come out in March 2020, but then that got bumped, for obvious reasons, because of the pandemic. But then, it ended up coming out this year. So, what I want to say is, like, last year, you know, there was probably a lot of stuff I would have done to promote that other book that I didn't get to do. And so it kind of freed me up to -- I was close to the end of this one. And I really buckled down and finished it. And then we did edits. The editor really liked it. And so we did revisions up through December last year to get it ready. So it may have actually helped get this one on the way faster.
Leah Jones 12:44 So are you are you doing any, like double duty book nights where you're saying, "Here are my 2021 offerings?"
Darrin 12:55 Yeah, I'm actually gearing up to do my first reading, you know, since February 2020. So, we're doing one on campus, a faculty reading. So yeah, I'll definitely be promoting "The Beast in Aisle 34." But I'll also mention that other one as well, because I would love to, you know, give that one a fair shake, too. So that's coming up in a couple of weeks. I'm very excited about that.
Leah Jones 13:24 I got to do my first, the event is called 20x2. And it's 20 people are each given two minutes to answer the same question.
Darrin 13:37 Oh, interesting.
Leah Jones 13:38 So it's not quite live lit. Because we're not all doing -- some people are doing videos, some people are doing presentations. But that was my first time back on stage in front of a real audience since 2020. And it was, I was just like high as a kite.
Darrin 14:00 There's energy, you can't replicate it online. Online readings are great. And they have a broad reach -- that's a definite advantage. But when it comes to feeding off an audience, you just can't get that from avatars. And, you know, remarks and things like that. It's just not the same. So let's hope it stays.
Leah Jones 14:25 Yeah, I hope we are able, I am hopeful that we are now at a place where we understand the mitigation strategies.
Darrin 14:34 Yeah, that's right.
Leah Jones 14:36 So we can keep doing -- I've got tickets to a musical in November that I would like to be able to go to and "Rent" opened last night in Chicago, like the 25th anniversary tour. And so some friends went last night and I was just like, "Tell me everything! What was it you like to be back in a theater again?"
Leah Jones 15:07 Yeah. Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
Darrin 15:14 Not consciously, but maybe unconsciously I did. I certainly valued reading my whole life. And I, the story I've told is that really, I mean, I always liked to read even before this time, but I remember being in seventh grade and being given an opportunity to do some kind of presentation. I can't remember what the assignment was. But it certainly wasn't to read a whole short story aloud to the class. But that's what I did.
Darrin 15:45 I remember, I read to "To Build a Fire" by Jack London. Because I love that story. I don't even know where I saw it first. But you know, the man versus nature kind of story, a guy out, you know, who's kind of egocentric, egotistical, thinks he'll be fine. But it's like sub, you know, 100 degrees below zero. And he's got a dog with him. And he has to basically is trying to get from point A to point B, and he's never named even.
Darrin 16:14 He's just called The Man and -- spoiler alert -- he ends up dying, you know, and so it's really a bleak story, but I loved it. It was so impactful to me, that I read it to the class. And now I see that story; I'm like that was a pretty long story for a seventh grader to read out loud. And so I was really taken; once I got into that, then it was, you know, Edgar Allan Poe and Camus, and Shirley Jackson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, a lot of the classics, and stuff like that. And so, I didn't really think I'm going to be a writer, but I just knew that I loved to read and I started to love to write my own stuff, but I just did it for fun. Never really shared it with anybody, but a good friend of mine. That really continued for years and years.
Darrin 17:06 And it wasn't until I went to try to finish up my bachelor's degree when I was 25 years old. And I had taken one creative writing class when I was 18. But after that, I hadn't taken anything. And so I just decided, I'm going to just finish an English degree and take some creative writing. And the teachers told me, "Hey, you could go to grad school, hey, you might get an assistantship." And everything changed after that. And it just gave me -- I just started writing more seriously. And really immersing myself in, you know, the literary world, I guess, for lack of a better word. So that's when I really decided.
Darrin 17:06 Wow, that's great that you had a professor that, like, illuminated that path for you?
Darrin 17:57 Oh, my goodness. I know. I'm sure I've told him before, but it has been a long time. But I now I see that, and I try to tell students; just opening the possibility that they might not even know about and know that they're good at it. Just hearing you're good at something, and that there might be a path for you in that direction, is so important. Yeah, it changed everything for me.
Leah Jones 18:25 And where did you finish up your undergrad?
Darrin 18:27 Oh, that was at Western Michigan University.
Leah Jones 18:31 All these Michigan schools were in my region in college so I have vague memories of --
Darrin 18:38 -- what region do you mean?
Leah Jones 18:40 Great Lakes.
Leah Jones 18:43 I was a housing nerd. So I went to a lot of R.A. [Resident Assistant] conferences and student housing conferences.
Darrin 18:50 Interesting. Yeah. I didn't know there was such a --
Leah Jones 18:53 Yeah, it's okay. So clicker was the Great Lakes area of college and university residence halls. So all these Michigan schools, that you're mentioning are schools that at one time I had like T-shirts or, like traded lapel pins, that sort of stuff.
Darrin 19:14 I see. Interesting. Yeah, I'm from Michigan. I've been here my whole life. I mean, it's kind of just very fluky and lucky that I ended up back here, you know, because I had a lot of jobs after grad school trying to find a permanent job and I really just happened to land a tenure track job in Michigan, which I was really happy about.
Leah Jones 19:38 Yeah, the friends of mine who have pursued academia have gone to live in far flung college towns and that I had never heard of before.
Darrin 19:49 Yeah, that's yeah, that's what happens. You know, you have to take the job so you can get and they're hard especially in the humanities in English. They're hard to find.
Leah Jones 20:02 So, people can get "The Beast in Aisle 34." It's available now, they can get it on Bookshop, which I love to link to bookshop.org because it supports independent bookstores. Is there a Kindle version for folks who are interested in the digital download?
Darrin 20:24 Yep. It's we're Kindle and paperback. And I'd love it if you'd check it out.
Leah Jones 20:30 Great. So one thing that when I was getting my horse of many colors, what you couldn't see that it was sitting next to is one of the things that I collect are translations of "The Stranger" by Camus. Oh. Which I mentioned only because you said "Camus."
Darrin 20:49 Yeah, I love that book.
Leah Jones 20:51 It's kind of a weird collection to get going.
Darrin 20:51 That is. I love awesome little collections. Like I used to collect Joker cards. Yeah, not decks of cards, just the Jokers. I kind of stopped, but I had some pretty weird ones for awhile there.
Leah Jones 21:12 Yeah, this was just - the translation I started with had a forward about how important this modern translation of it was. And I was like, "Oh, that's interesting." It was the first time -- I was 18 -- I hadn't thought about how the translation of a work impacts your understanding of the work. You know, then I tried to find the original English translation.
Leah Jones 21:38 And then as I started to travel more, realized, this is a lightweight souvenir that I can probably find when I travel. So I've picked up I've got a couple of Spanish translations. I've got two copies that I bought in Paris, one in English, and one in French. And then a friend who went to China got me one in Mandarin.
Darrin 22:00 Oh, wow. That is cool. Well, I'll keep my eyes out. And if I see one, I'll pick you up one.
Leah Jones 22:20 So Darrin, we're not just here to talk about jokers and --
Darrin 22:23 -- Camus translations.
Leah Jones 22:28 But also other favorite things. So what are we here to talk about tonight?
Darrin 22:33 Well, I'm glad you asked. Um, I mulled it over. And I have to say the one thing that came out on top for me was recording music. One of my favorite things. Yeah, I played music for - I still do - for many years. So, you know, I've done many, many live performances over the years, in different bands and so on, but I'm specifically talking about recording music.
Leah Jones 23:02 Okay. And are you, is this in-studio recording music, you wrote yourself? Is this a cover band recording? Is this you playing every instrument at a home studio and melding it together? What's your universe of recording?
Darrin 23:20 It's kind of all of the above. I mean, most of the bands that I've been in are primarily originals. But I started out, really the beginning of it, was a friend of mine and I were both starting to play guitar together when we were young teenagers. And we would just record on a boombox. And then you start to think, "How can I get more tracks in here?" Just the guitar and a guy singing live, you know, but then we would record other things on to other tape recorders, and play those with us while we were playing.
Darrin 23:58 So I was very primitive, like multi-tracking. But then I got a 4-track recorder, an analog, you know, which means like, a cassette tape 4-track when I was 15 or 16. And that thing was just amazing. You know, I can't remember how much it was, it was expensive for me at the time, you know, I saved up my paper route money and bought it.
Darrin 24:23 But you could, multitrack, you know, it had four channels, and you could even ping pong, it's called ping ponging -- you could like record on the three tracks and then bounce them all down to the fourth one and then add three more and then bounce those. So you know, over the years, I've done a lot of home recording. Now it's all digital, of course, but I've also been in a number of studios as well. So from, kind of smaller university studios to a few bigger ones, you know, associated with record labels and stuff like that.
Leah Jones 24:57 So when you and your friend were recording as teenagers? Were those covers or were you already dabbling in original music at that time?
Darrin 25:10 Yeah, we were definitely dabbling in original music. Yep. We had songs like "Big Bad Bart," and "Where has Sister PV gone?" There was a teacher at a school named Sister Peter Verona. Sister PV. But it was it was kind of acoustic punk. You know, we listened to a lot of punk rock and, you know, Pink Floyd and the Beatles and things like that. And so definitely, mostly original. I'm not saying they were good, but they were original.
Leah Jones 25:46 Did you also ever get - did you guys play out?
Darrin 25:51 Eventually. We played a show in high school, there was this class that we were taking an after school class called Music Appreciation. Taught by this kind of hip dude, Mr. Lavallee. And he let us have a concert at night in one of the study halls. It had just been me and my friend up to that point. So, we recruited this guy I went to grade school with who played the drums, just for one show, and had a great time. But it wasn't like we were playing out or anything like that. And then a few years went by, and we started doing it more. Freshman year of college found a person who played bass, found a drummer, you know, then we started playing more regularly, mostly in Kalamazoo, but occasionally Grand Rapids other places like that.
Leah Jones 26:49 In what was that band called in case someone's listening who was there?
Darrin 26:53 Yeah, well, I had a high school band, I guess I should say, I kind of skipped the part that I did have, we did put together a band in high school named 42 Gehennah. And we did play a show that was after that high school show I was talking about. Mostly just practice, but we did do a few shows there. And one was that like this bar named Froggies, for an open mic, and I was really scared, but it was cool. And then we went off to college. Then, we started a band called King Tammy and that band lasted in a few different, you know, with a little different lineup changes for like, eight years. And that was the primary thing that I did.
Leah Jones 27:46 And did King Tammy go into a recording studio? Did you home record? What were some of the recording opportunities with that group?
Darrin 27:55 It was a range of them, you know? Originally, we did a couple of studio ones just to record like, three or four songs. But studios always cost more money, of course. So then, I think we found somebody who had some decent recording equipment and we recorded at their house. And that was an album that we called "Criminals Like Cheeseburgers, Too." [laughter]
Darrin 28:28 And that was a lot of fun. And then, we did another one like that. Eventually, we did another one like that called "Steal Wheels." But the Rolling Stones had a album called "Steel Wheels." S-T-E-E-L but ours was S-T-E-A-L -- "Steal Wheels," it was just a joke on that. We were very clever. You can tell already.
Leah Jones 28:53 Oh, yeah.
Darrin 28:56 Yeah, so I'd say it's really hard I if I'd have to add them up. But our first big one was when we drove to Minneapolis, probably 1992 or something like that. It might have been '91. To record at this studio called Amphetamine Reptile. The name of that is AmRep -- AmRep Studios used to be a pretty big indie music label and they had a studio. So we weren't on their label or anything like that. But we you know, we wanted to go outside of the local studios and try something you know, bigger and so that was a very cool experience. It's so fun when you're there, and you have a very precious time of like two days, with just these friends and you sleep in the same room and you hang out all day. And all you have to do is get up and go to this really cool studio, have this awesome equipment around, and just record and have these amazing sounding -- your own music just sounds all professional and stuff like that. I love that.
Leah Jones 30:12 And when you get -- I mean, Minneapolis in the early '90s is Prince, obviously. Now this is I'm gonna mess it up -- are The Replacements fromMinneapolis? They're Scottish. They're from Minneapolis, right?
Darrin 30:27 No, they are, yeah, I think they are. I don't know-- I've never been a huge Replacements fan -- don't hate me for that, everybody. I think they're from there. I want to say they are. I don't think Chicago, but yeah, I think Minneapolis. I think that's a good guess. But well, if we get it wrong, then we'll post a huge apology.
Darrin 30:46 I probably have the internet here, but I'm not gonna look it up.
Leah Jones 30:49 I just did a quick fact check. And they are Minnesota.
Darrin 30:54 Okay. Yeah, I mean, a lot of these cities were real hotbeds of of music, including Kalamazoo. There were just a ton of really interesting bands, a diverse group of musicians. So it's a really vital time. And it was really fun to be a part of. Even before Nirvana broke, it was already happening in a lot of towns. A lot of people might not know about that era, is that happened to be who got huge and a few other ones, too. But, it could have happened anywhere. Could've happened to any place or band, you know?
Leah Jones 31:34 Yeah. I'm trying to -- '91 sort of puts you like, at the beginning, not the beginning, beginning of CDs, but early. So where you were you pressing vinyl? Were you doing CDs? Was it cassette tape? Like what were you doing with your masters?
Darrin 31:57 We did do CDs at that point. They were so new that vinyl, like had kind of gone out of favor. It's back now, you know. Even even like a few years later, we recorded a precedent album on vinyl. But yeah, it was definitely CDs at that time.
Leah Jones 32:18 Yeah. I didn't have a car with a CD player until -- the car I have now. So, I was probably buying tapes longer than necessary.
Darrin 32:30 I think a lot of us were. Yeah, you kind of had to -- like you said, you don't have the players everywhere. And it was still fun to make mixtapes back then, before you could do it all digitally and stuff like that.
Leah Jones 32:45 The only I have a box of cassette tapes, and the only tapes I have at this point are mixtapes that people have made me. And then my CD collection. I have almost every mix CD that I -- the mix CDs and the mix tapes are so special.
Darrin 33:03 Yeah, they are. Yeah, it's kind of a its own little art form. I think it's great.
Leah Jones 33:11 And I don't think a Spotify playlist is --
Darrin 33:15 -- it's not quite the same. When you would make them for each other, whether it's a platonic friend or a romantic interest -- the person you give it to knows that you had to sit there and think and go through stuff, and actually physically in the case of records, find the spot on the record and put it down and wait for the exact moment and hit record. And then hit stop at the right time. So they actually had to sit and experience every song as it happened. And you didn't just plug in titles and bam, you're done. It was actually very hands on, and it made it all the more you know, meaningful to whoever you gave it to. And yeah, it was pretty cool.
Leah Jones 34:03 Yeah, I did make some -- I was going through my box of tapes. And I did start making some Spotify playlists of some of my mixtapes from college. There were mixtapes I made when I was studying abroad, which meant I was making tapes based on only the tapes I had taken with me. And I think I really miss having a time-bound condensed soundtrack of a moment. And that's what like tapes and CDs and mix CDs especially, and mixtapes, gave you is -- this road trip had this music because that's what you put in the car.
Darrin 34:45 That's exactly right. Yeah. Like we lived in Japan for a year and just had the CDs that we brought, you know, you had to really pick and choose what you want to bring. And there are still ones now, I hear them now, and they bring me right back there; they're they're permanently tied to that experience.
Darrin 35:06 But the other recording then is, I think a few years later, we recorded at a studio called Noise New Jersey, which maybe nobody's heard of, but it was another fairly big indie label. And that was another really cool experience. I think we recorded, they told us -- unless they're BSing us -- I think it was true, they had the same soundboard -- which is the big thing with all the you know, all the different tracks and dials -- that they used for Dark Side of the Moon, and that was pretty cool.
Darrin 35:51 And another just really fun experience. It was in New Jersey, right across from from New York City. And the guy who ran it, his name was Kramer (not to be confused with Seinfeld's Kramer). He was a great bass player who played in -- he was in the Butthole Surfers for a little bit and played like with Bongwater. And he played in a band with Penn Jillette from Penn and Teller. So it was just cool to see this person who had all these kinds of connections. And of course, the recording just sounded great, too.
Leah Jones 36:33 Yeah. So and this is all King Tammy. Yeah. And over the years, the shape of the band kind of morphed with who was around What are your primary instruments? Because you do on your website list a *lot* of instruments.
Darrin 36:48 Yeah, yeah, I tend to just try to play anything that I can get my hands on, but my first instrument was drums. But, I didn't really have a full set right away. So, I was just playing a snare, and I got kind of bored with it. Then, I got a guitar when I was 14. And that's been my primary instrument. But yeah, in that band, it was definitely guitar, but in other - you know, you have side projects to side groups that you're in, like I said, there were a lot of different bands around.
Darrin 37:24 So, there was a lot of cross-pollination. So I played bass, and I still play bass and mandolin and banjo and ukulele and I play drums and piano as well. I've gotten a lot better at those over the years, as well. So I just kind of I tinker. I do do a lot of recording at home, and always have done recording myself, too. Like you said, playing all the instruments, just for fun and that kind of stuff. But in that band, I was definitely guitar and mostly backing vocals.
Leah Jones 38:06 What's one of the most surprising recording sessions you've ever had? Either you didn't know it was going to happen, or you were really surprised by the outcome or someone who dropped in?
Darrin 38:20 Ah, that's a good question. I mean, those Noise New Jersey ones are really special. As far as having access to some sweet stuff, like there were these huge chimes that you could clang on, and we added that to a song. We weren't adding a ton of weird instruments or anything like that, but, for this one song, for a couple songs, I should say -- Kramer, the guy that was -- he wasn't the engineer, the engineer's the guy -- or girl who sits -- woman -- sits there and you know, does the controls and all that stuff.
Darrin 39:02 But, Kramer was the producer, and so he after everything's recorded, mix it and master it. But he volunteered to play piano on a song, and he played this giant organ on a song - this church organ on a song.
Leah Jones 39:23 Ooooh.
Darrin 39:23 Yeah, it sounded really cool -- the same one that we added the chimes to. And also played bass on a song that we weren't even planning to add bass to. Just seeing him excited by the chord progressions and stuff, it was very flattering. And you know, that was really cool and unexpected.
Darrin 39:44 And I guess I would also have to say, King Tammy has been non-existent for a while now. But, I have been playing in a faculty band here at Central [Michigan University] with me and two other two other poets here. And we recorded an album, and I just had a great time. It was in the studios here at Central Michigan, and the guy who engineered it did such an amazing job. And, I think that was surprising -- just his level of detail, attention to detail was so great. And we ended up adding lots of multi-tracking vocals, sounds and stuff like that. That's what I really love, is when you go and you have like, a blueprint of what you want, but then it becomes a collaboration. And just exceeds everything you think it's gonna be.
Leah Jones 40:44 Was that a music professor who was your engineer? Or was it a student? Or just?
Darrin 40:50 Yeah, I was a grad student. Yeah, which was so great. He, he just had such a great year, and even talked about things that I don't remember any other engineers talking about, like balancing out, frequencies, having things with different -- not having everything with the certain low end frequencies versus high end. I mean, that sounds, basically intuitive, but I've never heard anybody talk about that before. And so that was just really neat. And we would come in there, and he would like have other songs, you know, famous songs, and say, like, "What we made it kind of sound like this?" As far as the the atmosphere of it or the tone of it, things like that. And it's so cool when somebody else is bringing ideas to the table like that.
Leah Jones 41:45 instead of just, like punching their timecard and hitting record.
Darrin 41:50 Exactly, exactly. And going like, "Okay, I got the recording now -- go away." He truly seemed to care -- and not only cared, but wanted to contribute. And so that was, it's so important, because, I can record stuff at home and I can record on my GarageBand. But I'm not a music engineer, not trained in that same way. And so, to have that is exactly what I love about it.
Leah Jones 42:26 I went to -- my undergrad was at Millikin University in Illinois, and they had a big Music Business department. That now is headed by Martin Atkins from P.I.L. [Public Image Limited] the drummer from P.I.L.
Darrin 42:43 Yeah, I was gonna say that name is familiar. Yeah. Wow. That's, that's interesting.
Leah Jones 42:47 Yeah. I met him in a previous life. I used to teach social media to rabbis and rockstars. And he was my gateway to musicians, Martin was. And now, he's teaching at my alma mater, and it's really something else to see what people -- you know, it's like sommeliers who can taste everything that's in a wine. You just train one of your senses, to be able to have an ear that is trained in that way. And that you can translate from one thing to another how to apply it? I think it's such an incredible skill.
Darrin 43:37 Absolutely. That's a great analogy. Yeah, that's right. You know, you can be a great musician, but you might not have any kind of concept of that kind of stuff. So, that's where it's terrific to have that input. That's why the Beatles have always been one of my favorite bands. And, you know, but I know the Beatles have been taught to death. But, you can't understate just how important it was when they decided to go only to the studio, they stopped touring, they decided just to be a studio band. And George Martin was this amazing influence on them who just did exactly that -- brought them things they had no idea about. And I'm not super, you know, like, I don't dig into all the history of every song they recorded. But, the ones that I've heard, are just really interestingly experimental, and are just this amazing collaboration that created these pieces.
Leah Jones 44:43 Yeah, I had, um, I had someone on Nick Krefting to talk about the Beatles. And he brought that up - that George, the producer, the engineer, Martin - that like John Lennon could just say, explain it or sing it, like he could explain it, and George could interpret it in a way that seemed magical.
Darrin 45:10 Yes. Yeah, that sounds what I've heard too. Oh, and he would just like, a song like "In My Life," you know [sings] "There are places I remember ..." You know, very straightforward song. It sounds not experimental at all. But, George Martin wrote the piano part, there's a piano solo in that. But it's not just a piano solo, it was recorded at a slower speed, and so when they play it back, it's sped up, and so it sounds like a harpsichord.
Darrin 45:47 I didn't know that for years and years, but then when I heard that was like, yeah, that makes sense. Because it sounds there's something about it, it just sounds a little not like a straightforward piano. These little sly, experimental gestures that I think were his idea. Yeah, he certainly wrote that solo. And I'm not taking anything away from the Beatles, but --
Leah Jones 46:13 They were okay. They had some songs, they did some things ... [laughter]
Darrin 46:17 But you do see what I mean, if they didn't have him as a producer, you could imagine it being a really different band, you know, just not be the same. Stuff like that. It's, and I just I envy that they just all they had to do is show up and be in a studio all the time. They could just mess around, whatever and do whatever they want. And that was always kind of my dream job. You know, but of course, not everybody gets to do that.
Leah Jones 46:51 No, no, some people have to be professors and write.
Darrin 46:55 That's right. Yes, exactly. I'll take it.
Leah Jones 46:59 Yeah. Now, when you travel, are you someone who will go and take a tour -- if you were going to Nashville, would you try and do a tour of a studio? Or do you only go in when you've got recording booked?
Darrin 47:15 Yeah, I think I would only go in if I had it. I mean, I, would just be, you know, chomping at the bit if I actually went in and had to just look at it. I'm not gaga over it unless I can, but if I can sit in -- there's some kind of magic that I feel in places like that, for sure. But, if I can't -- I'd want to sit down and be like, let me just put down a quick track, you know? So, I feel lucky that I've been able to be in some of these top of the line ones as well as just people's basements. And that also has a certain huge charm to it, as well. So, it's so cool nowadays that people like Billy Eilish are recording just in their bedroom. It's amazing to have that technology available.
Leah Jones 48:15 I'm the immediate past president of my synagogue. And one of the things I wound up doing a lot of was recording or video, editing audio. And something I never mastered was like the acapella video or layering -- like this person played guitar, and they sent me the video, or they sent me the sound, and this person did the drums. And these two people did audio. So I'm curious if you did any remote recording sessions over COVID?
Darrin 48:47 Yeah, we've started we started doing that -- I have this side band called Loop de Loop. I've done that for almost as many years as King Tammy had been around, but this one has continued. And in part, it's continued because we have been able to do some remote stuff. And yeah, cuz I was living out of state, out of Michigan, for a number of years. And the other guys would get together and record something and then I could, I could add a piano track.
Darrin 49:30 It's really a friend of mine who handles the high, high end recording stuff, but I can do enough - I have enough experience from when I did those, four-track recordings at home, I know how to multitrack, and GarageBand is pretty simple. I just try to keep it simple. It's great, we've started doing some new stuff recently, and it's just a whole lot of fun because somebody can just record a guitar and a vocal and say add some stuff to this and people add harmony, people add whatever, and you can build a song from a long way away. So that's pretty, pretty cool.
Leah Jones 50:11 Yeah, I have a friend who her performing persona is the Klingon Pop Warrior.
Darrin 50:24 Wow, that's awesome.
Leah Jones 50:27 She translates pop songs -- it is exactly what it sounds like -- Klingon pop songs and she dresses like a Klingon warrior.
Darrin 50:37 Oh my gosh. So she sings pop songs in Klingon ... that is amazing.
Leah Jones 50:44 She was a musical theater person at Milliken, who did improv and eventually made her way around to Klingon. She does her own translations, and her recording, she'll sing the song, and then she'll send it off to the people collaborating, and they'll just build on it in the creative brief of what a Klingon band would sound like?
Darrin 51:16 Oh, that is fantastic.
Leah Jones 51:18 Yeah. And from her was how I learned about I had never considered before that you might record remotely, and not even all have sheet music in front of you.
Darrin 51:30 Yeah, I've never used sheet music in my life. I mean, there's different kinds of musicians out there. And, you know, I'm definitely a play by the ear. I've tried. I've tried to learn it. It's just not in my DNA to learn sheet music. So, just give me the chords and I'll figure something out, or I'll figure out the chords. And, but that sounds amazing on so many levels. The fact that Klingon is a robust enough language that you can do all these colloquial you know, songs. It's crazy.
Leah Jones 52:10 I think she's done now four EPs.
Darrin 52:14 Wow. And those are available?
Leah Jones 52:18 They are, yeah.
Darrin 52:20 What is the name of the act again?
Leah Jones 52:22 Klingon Pop Warrior.
Darrin 52:24 Klingon Pop Warrior. All right, it's pretty cool. It's a Chicago person?
Leah Jones 52:31 She's in Chicago. Yeah. And she travels to Star Trek events. And she's --
Darrin 52:42 -- does she teleport there?
Leah Jones 52:42 She teleports there. She's reached that level of fandom where they gave her the technology that they have withheld from everyone else.
Darrin 52:53 I knew it.
Leah Jones 52:54 Yeah. It turns out the owner's guide for teleportation was in Klingon.
Darrin 53:01 We should have all been studying Klingon.
Leah Jones 53:04 Yeah, the whole time.
Darrin 53:05 The joke's on us.
Leah Jones 53:19 So what is your band with the other professors?
Darrin 53:23 Oh, thanks for asking. Um, we are called Darryl and the Beans. It's kind of a long story, not that long, but it was suggested by a student. It's me and Robert Fanning and Jeffrey Bean. And so his last name has Bean and a lot of people mistakenly call me Darryl. My name is Darrin Doyle. And maybe that confuses people. So, somebody suggested calling us Darryl and the Beans. And so that just makes it even more confusing to people.
Darrin 53:59 But yeah, that that's the name. You know, we're all fairly busy with our teaching jobs. But we try to play at least a few times a year, live, and we did we also did record that album. It's called "Burning the Eagle," and it's out there on Bandcamp. And if anybody wanted to pick up a copy of it, all the proceeds go toward a creative writing award in our English department. So, you know we don't make any money off of this. It's for a good cause.
Darrin 54:33 And yeah, we play a lot of -- it's kind of acoustic based, three part harmonies, more covers, but we do unique versions of cover songs. We do an acoustic metal version of CMU 's alma mater song that you must check out. It sounds very gothic and very cool, grandiose and things like that. And yeah, we played for 1,000 people when we opened up for Jeff Daniels a couple years ago. So, that was probably the biggest show we've ever had, and that was a lot of fun. We played a couple of the summer concert series here in Mount Pleasant. But we're we're really itching to get back and do some live shows. Because it's been a while, and it's a lot of fun.
Leah Jones 55:35 Has there been an all professor Battle of the Bands yet? Are you guys facing off against chemistry or ...
Darrin 55:41 I wish. We're the only ones. We could have and just destroy all the non-existent competition. [laughter] I'm shocked, too, I don't know.But we've got the market on that. But we do some originals as well. You know, I've worked in some couple of Loop deloop songs from that other band, you know, that fit well with this one. So, we're trying to actually expand into doing more originals. But people like to hear the covers, too. So you gotta try to do both.
Leah Jones 56:22 And do your sons ever play with you? Are they into music?
Darrin 56:28 Oh, thanks for asking that. Yeah, they are very into music. They did the School of Rock, and so both of them play drums and keyboards. My one son did tinker with the guitar a little bit, but not that much. And when they were younger, I would play with them. We definitely had, you know, seven or eight songs that we would play in the basement. That was a lot of fun. But we hadn't done that a while.
Darrin 57:07 My oldest son is just, they're both good, but he's a spectacular drummer. And I don't even know how he did it, how he learned it. Because there wasn't like the School of Rock songs are playing like he plays, he plays -- he loves video game music and there is such a huge -- I feel like that's it's a whole genre unto itself. And there's some amazing music that he's played for me. And he plays along with that. And it's just fast and precise and like, bizarre time signatures, and it's very impressive. So, they both continue to do their thing.
Darrin 57:50 You know, he also loves to record music. He'll like program the notes. He does a different kind of recording on like, Froot Loops, I think it's called? Yeah, it's called FL Studio -- Froot Loops. Hmm. And, and it's not so much he doesn't like plug in a microphone and play some drums, he programs -- it's not sampling, it's programming, you know, a violin sound, these particular notes and stuff like that, and he comes up with amazing stuff. And that's a type of recording I don't know anything about, but it's pretty impressive.
Leah Jones 58:35 Wow, that's really cool.
Darrin 58:40 Yeah, I'm happy at least I did enough to, you know, they had guitars and piano and drums in this house their whole lives. And it took them a little while -- for a while there, they they just didn't give a crap. It must have been like this is Dad's thing, and eventually, they came around to it. And they both do it. So, that's pretty cool to see.
Leah Jones 59:02 Yeah. My twin sister just got a drum set and started taking drum lessons from someone we went to school with. And they do it on FaceTime. And her husband plays bass and her sons both have instruments, and so she was trying to figure out -- we played wind instruments in high school, which isn't necessarily a family jam band instrument. So, she wanted to be allowed and take more space, and so she got a drum set for her wedding anniversary, and it's so cool. So, now they're all learning. She takes the lessons and then she teaches her sons the next night.
Darrin 59:50 Yeah, that's very cool. Oh, yeah. It's fun. And you said they FaceTime?
Leah Jones 59:56 Yeah, they do FaceTime for the lesson.
Darrin 59:59 Oh, For the lesson, gotcha. Not like their band doesn't do it in FaceTime. Yeah, I was taking drum lessons there for a little bit too, during COVID, just because I've always wanted to get back and take some lessons just for the hell of it. And yeah, that works, you know, you can actually pull it off with that kind of format.
Leah Jones 1:00:27 I just did an interview with an author who was also a voice teacher. So, she would play the piano over a Zoom lesson, and they kind of all learned the rhythms and the sound delay to make it work. And she said that when she got back to teaching in-person lessons, her brain had reprogrammed and she was constantly half a beat behind her student and they had to stop and restart, so she could she could play the in-person actually playing together rhythm.
Darrin 1:01:03 Wow. Yeah, that's wild. Yeah. Cuz there, I was gonna say we've not figured out a way to do it remotely, because there's this weird lag and wow, that's good that you can do it, but that's very interesting.
Leah Jones 1:01:20 Let's say that you were doing a tour of your dream studio with a band from any era, and they would invite you to drop in. Oh, so this can be the Beatles Abbey Road. This can be Prince, this can be those are obviously the bands I know. This could be Nirvana, Sub Pop. What is a band and a studio that you wish you could like, drop in and jam with?
Darrin 1:01:53 You know, obviously, to me, the Beatles are kind of the gold standard. But I would say a close second to me is Pink Floyd. Kind of depending on which era you pick, it would be a very different experience. I don't know if you know much about them. But their early days with Syd Barrett, probably very different than the later days with like "The Wall" album. But the album, "Umma Gumma," that album where it's just really experimental. It's after Syd Barrett. It's before like, "Wish You Were Here" and before "Dark Side of the Moon." One whole side is, you know, basically Roger Waters songs that are totally wacko. And I think that'd be my ideal because that's when they're most free. They're most just do whatever you want, you know, there's no huge expectations.
Darrin 1:03:03 Like even the Beatles, the Beatles had a lot of freedom for a huge band like that. Good grief, they could do whatever they wanted. But, I think the Beatles freed up a lot of people to do even more, and I think Pink Floyd was kind of one of the ones that was able to take advantage of that newfound freedom and just say like, "We'll do whatever the hell we want." I don't know if you've ever heard that song "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict?" That is on "Umma Gumma." But if you ever play this back, look up that title on YouTube, "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict," you'll see what I mean. It's pretty wild.
Leah Jones 1:03:57 I'm certain I have heard it.
Darrin 1:04:01 You maybe have, it's really just like voices and chatter and it's not really instruments at all. Just a lot of them on that album are just they're just all over the place and I love that.
Leah Jones 1:04:17 Here -- I'm gonna share my screen, share sound. I want to see if I have this memory hiding anywhere. [starts song]
Darrin 1:04:41 You got to sit through this [sounds of birdsong]
Leah Jones 1:04:43 This is how they get you to pay for the free ...
Darrin 1:04:46 Exactly. Takes a little to get going, you need patience. Okay, you can skip ahead about a minute. It starts to get pretty crazy,
Leah Jones 1:05:55 I take it back. I don't think I have heard this before.
Darrin 1:05:59 Yeah, it's pretty wild.
Leah Jones 1:06:04 If I've heard it before, which is possible, because my brother was a huge Pink Floyd fan, and our heater vents were connected. So I absorbed a lot of Pink Floyd growing up. But I have never heard this in stereo. I wear like, big over the ear headphones, and mostly I just listen to podcasts. Like, I don't listen to things in stereo very often anymore. And that was like, having my eardrums tickled. It was so weird.
Darrin 1:06:36 Yeah, I agree. And that's after they had already done like, you know, "Top of the Pops". And done whatever --
Leah Jones 1:06:47 -- Bandstand --
Darrin 1:06:50 -- yeah, American Bandstand with Syd Barrett. So this is like they're a known quantity at this point. And they come out with this. Yeah, that was just like, I love that kind of freedom. And yeah, you can hate the song, but you can't hate the the joy that they had in making it and just the pushing the envelope, you know?
Leah Jones 1:07:12 Yeah, November 1969.
Darrin 1:07:17 Oh, wow. Yeah. Interesting.
Leah Jones 1:07:21 It's also interesting, the cover of that album, is a repeating picture with each of the members of Pink Floyd and they're sitting in an identical place, but they keep changing. They're, they're like rotating through them in this infinite mirror situation.
Darrin 1:07:42 Right. Yeah. That's a really cool cover. Yeah.
Leah Jones 1:07:46 We'll have to see if my brother will come on and talk about Pink Floyd.
Darrin 1:07:49 Oh, that'd be cool. Let me know. Yeah. Tune in for that, for sure.
Leah Jones 1:07:53 It's not his favorite anymore. But he might be willing to talk about it. Darrin, is there anything about recording that I didn't ask you?
Darrin 1:08:05 No, I don't think so. We've covered a lot.
Leah Jones 1:08:09 What's your home setup? GarageBand, and ...
Darrin 1:08:12 Yeah, I use GarageBand. I have a Snowball mic. And I just I stick it in front of an amp and I'm pretty low-fi still. Yeah, I stick in front of my amp or stick in front of the piano and then go to town. And then hopefully, if I'm sending it to my friend, he can clean it up a bit. So, when I record at home myself, I'm just doing it for fun and doing it for me, so I'm not even that concerned with -- perfection doesn't interest me at all.
Leah Jones 1:08:50 Do you want people to be able to find you on the internet?
Darrin 1:08:53 That would be great. My books and stories, a lot of them can be found on www.darrindoyle.com. And I'm on Twitter, @doyledarrin and I'm on Instagram. I have an author page on Facebook, but truthfully, I don't use it that much. But really, yeah, the website is a good place to find me.
Leah Jones 1:09:31 Great. Well, thank you so much for spending, at least in Chicago, a rainy evening. I don't know if this weather has gotten to you yet.
Darrin 1:09:39 It's been raining for days. It's off and on. It's gloomy, but this makes it all better. It's been really fun to talk to you. I appreciate your questions and your enthusiasm. I'm very impressed you can talk about any subject that gets sprung on you at the last second.
Leah Jones 1:10:00 There's only been a couple that have been really difficult. I find -- because for the most part you're asking someone about what they love. And it is often a subject that people don't give us time to talk about. You get to you get interviewed about your career, you might get asked like what your love story is, but as far as like getting to like really nerd out on like a hobby or an interest. Like, we're just not given space to do that.
Darrin 1:10:35 That's so cool. Yeah, I love that. Yeah. Thank you so much.
Leah Jones 1:10:39 Thank you.
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