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The Sonics -- why you should note hope you die before you get old
When legendary Seattle garage rockers the Sonics decided to make their first album since 1967, the group felt there was one producer who would get it right -- Detroit's Jim Diamond.
"We were thinking about Jim Diamond because of his reputation, and he wanted to do it, and that just kept pushing the ball closer and closer to" doing an album," says guitarist Larry Parypa. "There was really no turning back.
The Sonics, whose ages now range Parypa's 59 to other members' early 70s, opted to fly Diamond out to Seattle to record there, and the guitarist credits the producer's expertise and enthusiasm with helping make "This is the Sonics," which came out at the end of March, sound of a piece with what the group released during the mid-60s -- a raw and primal brand of rock that's been cited as a key influences on younger bands such as Nirvana, the cramps, the White Stripes and many more.
"Jim had a real strong idea of what he wanted to hear," Parypa recalls. "He wanted nothing overly produced. He wanted us to play with the excitement we did when we were young and kept hammering on that. In my case in particular he kept telling me, 'I want you to play like a 16-year-old would play. Don't do vibrato. Don't do anything that sounds like blues. Just go in there and trash it.'
"The result is what he wanted, something that was real close to what we recorded (almost) 50 years ago. I go back and forth on it, but it seems like that's the way people want us to sound, so we're happy they're happy."
Parypa says that during the 60s he and his bandmates "didn't have any idea" the music they were making would be as durable as it's proven to be. The original Sonics broke up around 1968, regrouping periodically for occasional reunion shows, while its songs -- particularly a version of Richard Berry's "Have Love, Will Travel" -- lived on in TV ads and movies. After reuniting again for the 2007 Cavestomp festival in Brooklyn the Sonics have largely stayed together, playing festivals and shows until "cumulative" interest led to the new album.
Parypa notes that the group members worked regular day jobs and didn't do much playing during their down time, which he says might have been "an advantage in a way. Had any of us started really learning our craft, becoming better players and getting good at our instruments, it would have been really hard to go back and play the old songs like we did in the 60s. We had the advantage of going back and starting off where we left off years before. It wasn't us simulating the old Sonics; it WAS us."
And, Parypa says, there will be more Sonics in the future. The group has already started discussing another album, and it's enjoying being back on stage and playing around the country, even if the touring is arduous.
"When we play, I think we all feel like we're not old men, and I don't think it sounds that way," he says. "We're always fighting for sleep, but it doesn't sound like a bunch of 70-year-olds in wheelchairs when we're up there. We're still a pretty vibrant band."
The Sonics, Barrance Whitfield & the Savages and the Henchmen
Saturday, April 25. Doors open at 8 p.m.
The Majestic Theatre, 4140 Woodward Ave., Detroit.
Tickets are $25.
Call 313-833-9700 or visit www.majesticdetroit.com.
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