A Day at United. The name practically says it all. An album recorded in a single day. No rehearsals. No second takes. Just Mocky and friends. Some instruments. Some songs Mocky sketched in the week leading up. Oh yeah, and a recording studio. United Recording, in fact. The legendary independent studio, financed by Sinatra among others. A refuge for artists seeking more control. Or maybe ‘less interference’ is a better way to put it. Because this is not an album about control. It’s about putting certain conditions in place — creative limitations, even — then letting go. Letting the magic happen. Letting the human happen. In an age of computer-led precision, this is an album about the struggle for imperfection.
“I’ve always been inspired by the story of Miles recording Kind Of Blue,” says Mocky, “going into the studio with Coltrane and Bill Evans, bringing melodies jotted on scraps of paper, and making an album in real-time.” Other precedents come to mind, as well. The Art Blakey model, for example. Drummer as composer -bandleader. Not that Mocky, who led the session from his drum kit, compares himself to the jazz greats. He doesn’t even call himself a jazz musician (any more than he calls himself an electronic musician or whatever else). If this is his ‘jazz album’, it’s because of the process that yielded it. There are no solos here — none of that jazz. Think of this as jazz composition.
The process began with a recording date: “I was like, wow, we can get the studio in 10 days? The same studio Sinatra recorded in and the same room where Ray Charles recorded the epoch defining 'I can’t stop loving you'? Ok, let’s see who can make it. So I started calling around. And when someone like Miguel [Atwood-Ferguson] confirmed, I could start writing melodies that reflected, say, his lyrical way of playing.” Mocky composed the songs in his head, mostly while strolling Lulu, his newborn, around Silver Lake. And to ensure a 'classic' quality of the record, Mocky got together with the legendary producer Justin Stanley (Prince, Beck Leonhard Cohen, Paul McCartney) who ended up recording and co-producing the album. Mocky finally ‘heard’ the songs the same time the others did. “When everyone was in position, the charts in front them, the sticks in my hand, it was the first time I actually considered what I was about to do on drums. It was free-styling. Hearing the songs as they were being recorded. Complete real-time.”
Looking back on the origin of the album, Mocky sees it as an extension of his free-flowing Mocky and Friends nights. Picture a revolving cast of collaborators and co-creators, convening on the rooftop of the Ace Hotel in downtown LA, making music in the moment. “I wanted to attain a level of intention that was different from anything I had done on an album before,” Mocky says. “Rather than playing all the instruments, I just drummed and let the ideas filter through this group of artists in real-time. If you multi-track or edit, the intention becomes a conceptual thing, considered and refined. At United, it was about this creative urgency. For me, it was waking up one day and, at the end of it, having an album done. It seemed like such a preposterous idea. Until I just did it.”