Jack Endino- July 2004
with Eric Hutchinson
How did you get involved with Bruce?
I worked with an Irish band called Kerbdog that had the same management company,
Sanctuary. Bruce liked their record, so one day he just called me up.
What were the initial conversations around how they wanted to sound etc ?
Bruce wanted to try to get away from the Maiden sound. He is a big fan of more modern rock stuff and still keeps his ear to the ground. He knew about lots of the other bands I had worked with besides Kerbdog, and he told me he wanted to make a modern-sounding rock record, but still heavy as hell. I said, "I can do that." This sounded to me like a great challenge.
Did you like or follow Bruce's work prior to SkunkWorks?
No, although my wife dug up her copy of Tattooed Millionaire for me to listen to. I was an early Maiden fan though, but I lost touch with them after Piece of Mind.
What was it like working with Bruce and the rest of the band?
They were professional, it was a lot of hard work but a pretty good time. They were still writing songs when I started working with them, and they invited me to give my opinions. I wound up having a lot of input on the song arrangements, which is one of my strong points, though I didn't contribute any actual musical ideas or lyrics. I pretty much watched this new band come into existence right before my eyes.
Were there disagreements between Bruce and the rest of the band? If so what were they and did you help resolve them?
Everyone got along personally just fine. Differences were "artistic". The band guys had this idea that they didn't want to get too conventionally "metal", even though they were in a band with Bruce Dickinson! Bruce had a few ideas himself which, if fleshed out, would have been sort of Sabbath-y, which I wouldn't have minded. But the band guys had another direction they wanted to go, a more modern take on heavy rock. I had to steer a middle course somehow. Bruce wanted it to be a "band" and was not interested in being a dictator, and I'm not that way either
What are your favorite songs from those sessions?
Death," of course. "Meltdown," cause we used the "Back in
Black" snare drum; Nicko owned it. "Space Race" is great, though
I don't like the mix now. Then there's "God's Not Coming Back": at
one point I was getting annoyed cause the band (not Bruce) just refused to play
anything "too basic" so I threw down the gauntlet and dared them to
write a fast 3-chord rocker with a one-note guitar solo. Only 3 chords, no more!
So they did... they didn't take it too seriously but it's one of my faves from
the whole session!
Bruce decided we would make it a sacrilegious sort of "Christmas song", just to compound the lunacy... note the lyrics. I think it became a B-side. There's others I could mention, in fact there's really not a bad song on there, I just can't remember the others at the
What studio stories do you recall? Favorite & least favorite memories.
Favorite? Bruce bringing his complete set of "The Prisoner" for me to watch while we were staying at Great Linford Manor, which was itself pretty cool for a studio. Walking around the surrounding countryside in the mornings... there's an old railroad bed that's been converted to a walking path, it goes along an old canal, goes for miles out there. Some of the goofy humor of the band and Bruce. Least favorite memory was trying to mix it and getting a horrible cold. First few mixes were great, then they started getting worse and worse as my whole head and chest clogged up. I went home and then Bruce let me come back and try mixing it again, cause he had seen the mixes go from good to horrible as I tried my best. Sometimes you just have bad luck. I went back and got it right.
Did you know that this lineup would not be around after recording SkunkWorks? Was there talk of doing a second album with you?
No talk, but Bruce was imagining that this was his new band and his new sound, and he was ready to take it totally seriously, if people (the fans) accepted it. But... I knew by the time I finished the record that the band would not stay together very long. Why? I had been dealing with those "creative differences" between the band guys and Bruce, probably more than Bruce even knew. I could see that the band guys didn't really have their hearts in it. That's why the record was hard to make. Good songs, good playing, good singing, good recordings, good conditions. But the band was not really a band in the natural organic sense; they were hired guns. I managed to make them play and sound like a band though, that was the trick.
How much creative license did you have during the recording?
Lots of input, but mostly arranging ideas (song structures, keeping things
moving) and lyrical criticism... we made a rule for Bruce, no dragons or wheels
or monsters. "Nothing Dio would sing." He took it to heart actually,
and went with it. It forced him to try some new lyric ideas. In fact I think
I got him to try several
things he had never done before on a record, stylistically. Our whole plan was not to sound like anyone else, and being so into the history of heavy rock myself, I could sound the alarm whenever anyone was approaching "rock cliche" territory, either with the riffs or the words. The whole thing was a big experiment for Bruce, and he was enjoying it.
Bruce mentioned that you said it was like stitching Frankenstein together because of there musical differences. Please explain. How difficult was it to work with them?
Frustrating at times. Keeping them focused on the goal was hard. At the same
time, it was a talented band, the whole lot of them. All great rock players,
great influences, and each one of us a virtual living rock encyclopedia, so
the in-jokes were flying pretty thick. Everyone did share an admiration for
vintage Deep Purple, for instance, but also for Spinal Tap. But while Bruce
takes his heavy rock quite seriously (after all it's made him a rich man), it
became apparent to me that the other guys didn't really. In fact, they don't
take much of anything seriously, as you can tell by the admittedly brilliant
Sack Trick stuff they were already writing together while were making Skunkworks.
I know how ridiculous heavy rock is in the grand scheme of things, yet I know
you have to get serious long enough to make it work. Suspending your disbelief
is how you create all art. I didn't get that "we're in this together, all
for one and one for all" feeling after spending two months with this band,
so I knew it probably wouldn't last too long, though I couldn't say that to
Bruce, cause saying that might be self-fulfilling, and I'm not omniscient. I
could have been wrong, and hoped I would be. But a couple years later, after
it fell apart, I saw Bruce in LA, and that was when I made my Frankenstein remark,
as I had some time to reflect on the experience. He understood me exactly, and
joked that the monster did at least open its eyes and maybe even sat up, which
is exactly how I felt while making the record, like I can't believe I'm making
this work, but it's working. What a totally mad record. I just concentrated
on making the best record possible, and getting everyone to play their asses
off. I think we made a very good record. It was pretty much exactly the record
Bruce wanted to make. Instead of a Bruce "solo" record, it sounds
like a band, with a very strong identity of its own. It sure doesn't sound like
Maiden, or anyone else for that matter. Too bad, that's why the fans didn't
go for it at the time! It didn't help that the record label (Castle) seemed
to be having difficulties right when the record was released. I don't know a
single person in Seattle
who has ever seen or heard it. And I don't think the cover art was very strong either.
Do you keep in touch with any of them?
Yep... I'm on the Sack Trick mailing list, and am eagerly awaiting their Kiss tribute record.
Why is Oggi Skinner given producing credits on the B-Sides in stead of you?
I did produce some of 'em... there were three or four we did, including Gods Not Coming Back, Rescue Day and Armchair Hero. If a song sounds like Skunkworks then I did it. They did another session of B-Sides between my trips to the UK, with Oggi, the house engineer at Mayfair studio. I think that's where Italian Drummer came from and there may have been two more. Italian Drummer is really, in a way, the very first Sack Trick song, and is the guys revealing their future direction! I might have even remixed one of those, later, I don't remember.
What, if anything, would you have changed looking back 8 years later?
Hmmm.... I wish we had full ProTools capability and that I had known how to use it the way I do now. It would have saved us a lot of time. On the other hand, it wouldn't have sounded like it does... 100% analog.
Any thoughts on Bruce's post Skunkworks solo work or Maiden?
Yes... after Skunkworks, which was explicitly supposed to NOT sound like Maiden, his next solo records sounded exactly like Maiden again, though even better if I say so myself! (Maiden at the time was not sounding so good.) Especially with Adrian back in the band. Chemical Wedding seemed like a good disc. So he went back to a Maiden sound, and now he's back in Maiden, so I guess I got to make his only record that ventures outside that sound.
What are some of the latest projects that you have completed or are working on now?
Just finished a Zeke record for Relapse, and a record for a UK band called Winnebago Deal, which slays. Also a soft-rock band called Going South featuring singer Katy Cornell, sister of Chris actually... she has a voice as killer as you would expect. Her husband Gene also sings for a band called Buzz Factor, and I just finished their record too... in fact, oddly enough, it sounds a little like Skunkworks, a little Soundgardeny too, huge Seattle riffs and good playing, but Gene doesn't sound like a Cornell or a Dickinson, he's got his own sound and singing style. A punk band from Portland named Lopez... a brilliant Seattle band called Upwell...a Swiss band called Zamarro... the Feederz reunion record... Kultur Shock... Harkonen... Camarosmith... and two days ago just finished a new record for the Makers, for the Kill Rock Stars label. And I've got a solo record that is finally done after too many years, at least I think so (...)
Special Thanks to Jack for taking the time do answer these questions. You can get more information on Jack Endino at ENDINO.COM