Producer Crosstalk: The Title Trackers

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The members of Los Angeles-based the Title Trackers––David Tokaji, Russell Wiener, Andy Hill (all possess a production background)—have years of experience with bands. In 2006, Wiener and Hill had tickets to see the Rolling Stones. They fell into a game of leaving voicemails with each other joking about songs they hoped the band would play. The list grew to include numbers such as the title track from Exile on Main St., which, of course, doesn’t exist. What if it did?

Cut to March 10: the band self-released Lost Title Tracks, a collection of satirical tracks for Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever, the Stones’ Exile on Main St. and Springsteen’s Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. Each original song is crafted in the style of the artist(s) that inspired it. Since this is satire or parody, no special licenses or permissions are required.

“We did ‘Living in Exile on Main Street’ to see what we could come up with,” Wiener recalls. “We did a decent job capturing and satirizing what we admire about [the Stones]: their attitude and their idiosyncrasies.”

Creating non-existent title tracks isn’t simple. “What makes this art and not science,” Tokaji asserts, “is that you have to exaggerate certain elements of the sound; identify all of its CrosstalkARTcomplexities and figure out which parts to escalate. What comes across isn’t just pure imitation. It’s meta-imitation––what we call ‘parody’ or ‘satire.’”

To recreate a record’s unique character, the physical recording had to be given due consideration. “For ‘Exile,’ we recorded guitars, drums and a scratch vocal live,” Wiener explains. “Glyn Johns, the original engineer on Exile on Main St., has a famous minimal mic technique for drums. I looked it up, did it and it sounded great. We didn’t have any EQs or outboard gear. It was all straight into the computer.”

“We were wary of overcomplicating it,” Hill adds. “Since the original albums were recorded, technology has advanced. You can get into a rabbit hole of problems. We found that performing songs live with simple gear and miking techniques while driving the performance aspect [was key].”

Vintage amps and guitars were utilized on a few songs: “Checking In To The Morrison Hotel” and “Who’s Next: A Meta-Rock Opera.” For the remainder, the band went with what was handy. “On ‘Exile’—a Squier Bullet plugged into a Dutch amp,” Hill recollects. “That’s not what Keith [Richards] used, but it sounded right. If it hadn’t, we would have made it better.”

“On ‘Who’s Next,’ we used a Gretsch 6120 into a vintage Fender Bandmaster,” Wiener adds. “After doing it, it sounded no more like [Pete] Townshend than my own gear. No one’s going to say it doesn’t sound like him because the tone is wrong. It would be because of the playing.”

Lost Title Tracks released on the group’s label, The Title Trackers, LLC. The band is already exploring ideas for a follow-up, including tracks for artists such as Bob Marley and the Go-Go’s. They would also like to expand into other genres. “We can imagine a rap or country album, none of which we write,” Wiener says. “We could produce it or be the label.”

The band may have pioneered an entirely new genre.

Contact Susan von Seggern, susan@susanvonseggern.com; thetitletrackers.com