Shadow Comes To Light – An Interview with Big Nice

Big Nice, aka Bradford Krieger

Big Nice, aka Bradford Krieger

I was floored the first time I clicked play to hear the music of Big Nice, a recent solo EP by Bradford Krieger. I’m constantly listening to music and it’s become rare for me to jarringly halt mid-step, akin to car crashing into a wall of awesome, and exclaim, “Who the fuck is this?!?” but that’s exactly what I did upon hearing Big Nice’s EP 1. There’s a fantastic mix of skill, looseness, & fun melded together in this short but ambitious EP.

Visions of the Unexcused:
You’re the Chief Engineer and Co-Owner at Hanging Horse Studio in Norwood, MA. Was there any inherit difficulty in recording your own material as opposed to others?

Big Nice:
I like to be super hands on when I’m working with bands in the studio. I find we get the best results when we’re all working together as a team, fully focused and immersed in the project. When I’m working on my own stuff, I prefer to be a little more free flowing and relaxed. It can definitely be more difficult when you don’t have a whole crew collaborating and backing each other up, so I need to be really self motivated when recording my own material. The logistics are a bit of a challenge as well, running back and forth from room to room, adjusting levels and recording takes.

Visions:
Two questions – were there others whom helped you record on EP1? You play in a bunch of different bands (Soft Fangs, magic magic, Holiday Music, and 14 Foot 1) were any of these tracks potentially slated to be played with one of them? What made you decide to pursue Big Nice as an additional outlet? Ok, I lied, that was like four questions, lol.

Big Nice:
I don’t do a ton of writing in a lot of the bands I play in, so I wanted to focus on my own work with this project. All of the tracks on this record were written and recorded (with a few overdubs added later) in one day studio sessions, solo. I would book a day out, go in, and kind of run around like a mad man from one instrument to the next. Big Nice is really rewarding for me as someone who constantly produces and engineers other folks’ work. I get to play music with all my talented buds, then retreat back into the studio with their influence on me in mind, and churn something out.

Visions:
Wow, that’s impressive – I can barely put vocals over a guitar, let alone create the layers you have here. What was the process like for a song like “Vino”? In three and a half minutes there’s quiet the journey – it sounds like a refined jam. Was there indeed some wine involved?

Big Nice:
Wine, of any kind, is the most essential tool in the studio. After corking, I laid down the initial guitar track and worked from there. I usually start with guitar and layer upon it, and lyrics are always last (or in this case nonexistent). I left the room mics on as I tracked all the instruments, and mixed them high, particularly for the bass part. I’m really crazy about the bass lines on this song – I thought it was a little too wanky at first, but I kept listening to my initial mix that I made that day and decided to just go for it. I was listening to Hot Rats that day and really digging Frank’s solo section on Peaches En Regalia; he played back the track at half speed and recorded his part, then sped the whole thing up. It gets this tinny, crystal sound that’s fantastic, so I copied the technique. My friend had his timbales at the studio, so I figured I would toss them on as well. I think the jammy feel comes from the fact that I did everything so quickly with the intention of chopping and altering things later but then just decided to keep everything the way it was. The only overdubs on this song are the key parts which I added weeks later.

Visions:
Wow, I consider myself something of a “Zappa Head” and did not realize that. Super cool technique. Two performers whom I kept referencing when listening to EP1 were Cornelius and Nigo – both of whom happen to be Japanese musicians and producers.On tracks like “Ta Dum” the  gorgeous sunshined Beach Boys vibe over those drums really remind me of those two cats. Is that just a coincidence with my ears – or are you a fan of their work?

Big Nice:
I’ve never heard of them but I’m super excited to check them out! I think for aspiring engineer guys my age this may be a cliché, but Phil Elvrum’s “keep the mistakes in” style of recording has really been my biggest influence in writing and production. The sound of an ambulance in the background in the opening of Sand (Eric’s Trip) was a moment of epiphany that’s always stuck with me.

Visions:
Any plans to play out as Big Nice? What’s Next?

Big Nice:
I have some things cooking for a live version of Big Nice. I’ve run the songs with a few pals and I think I’ll start playing out in early 2016. More importantly, I’m just looking towards being locked up in the studio working on the next batch of tunes!

Visions:
Last question, I’m starting to put together my Best of the Year podcast for 2015 – what are some albums that came out this year that readers shouldn’t miss?

Big Nice:
Grape Blueprints Pour Spinach Olive Grape by Dilute is one of my absolute favorite records and it was reissued on vinyl this year and everyone needs to hear it. Besides that, this year I had the incredible honor of producing a record from the absolute best band in Boston, Horse Jumper of Love, but you’ll have to wait ’til 2016 to hear that masterpiece.