Twisted Fish – Upstairs EP

My Mother is from Boston. Newton, Mass more specifically. Needless to say she always had her way with words. And my friends always picked up on it. If not were picking on her. She could dish it back, too, as most of my friends were actually terrified of her. But simply put, r’s became ah’s. And vise versa. Typical Boston accent going on here.

So the band was over one time practicing or something. And I think we were eating pizza and drinking cold beverages in the kitchen and decided it was time to design a flyer for the latest upcoming show. We took our cups and started walking up the stairs to the computer room. “UPSTAAAAY-YAZ?” my Mother spewed. That basically translated to “Upstairs!” That was my Mother saying, “No way in hell are those liquids going to the 2nd floor, bitch.”

And thus we had the name for our first EP.

I don’t really remember much about the recording process, other than it was recorded in my parent’s basement on John’s Tascam Portastudio 424 4-track with a bunch of Shure SM57s. There was a folding table on it’s side for “isolation” on the drums. That worked wonderfully, I am sure. I know the copyright (yes, it’s registered) is dated November 1993. I had been playing drums for about 2 years. Full kit for a year. I think Jordan was on the same time table for guitar. John had no lessons and appeared to have been playing this good since birth.

Twisted Fish
Upstairs

Jordan Hirsch – vocals, guitar
John Argentiero – lead guitar, bass
Matt – drums (I had double t’s then)

All music arranged by Twisted Fish
Mixed by Matt

Note: the opinions expressed after Butterfly are not necessarily those of Twisted Fish. (Yes, we really wrote that in the liner notes).

1. Four

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I don’t really know much about this song. In my head it was really only about the delay on the voice and the panning on the counting at the end. But that was the engineer in me. If I recall correctly the song was about a guy John and Jordan knew in high school that was a total tool. Sorry about the warble in the beginning. It’s on the master. Nothing I can do about it. What I do remember was actually listening to the bass in this song. And finding a spot for it in the mix. I think I did a pretty good job for my first “official” mixing gig. PS. John’s Lenny Kravitz solo ripoff still cracks me up.

2. Shattered

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The guitars are out of tune. I know. It still kills me. That was one of the first things I learned in this business. TUNE YOUR FUCKING GUITARS, JERKO. John is in the left channel. Jordan in the right. And John’s solos are pretty much centered (same track as vocals – so you’ll notice on pretty much all the high school recordings there is rarely a lead or solo over a vocal – simply because we didn’t ever have the tracks to do it.). Jordan wrote Shattered about an ex-girlfriend while we were all in the band, Undertow. I am not sure if he was intentionally overly dramatic or he actually was “shattered”. No one will ever know. Except for the fact that her name was Abagail. Can I say that? This was sorta our “hit.” The fade that comes back at the end was a nod to our then heroes in Soundgarden and the fact that I hated fades. I still do. It’s a complete cop-out.

3. Butterfly

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13 minutes of heartbreak. Not the tightest song ever put on tape. But it was definitely the song that helped me start thinking outside the box as far as engineering goes. Jordan’s vocals did shine in many sections. The first guitar that comes in was picked up from the mic(s) on the drums. There was also a guitar (in the ceter) that was recorded entirely backwards. I was mainly feedback and guitar noises. It drove my Mother nutty getting that to tape. I think this song was primarily recorded with Mat and Jordan very late at night one weekend. John came in a week later and overdubbed the solos. All in one take. There is no bass. And I think Jordan actually broke skin and bled after 13 minutes of rhythm guitars (right channel) – This was also my first attempt at writing lyrics. I probably should have spent more time working on my chops as a drummer. I also think this song, structurally, was based loosely on Starla by the Smashing Pumpkins.

4. 5½ Minutes of Silence

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Our ode to John Lennon. And perhaps my first intro to avant music. I still use “this is the word of the lord” when I am checking mics in a studio. So it’s Jordan on vocals. John on guitar and Mat controlling the delay on the vocals and playing this drum pad trigger feedback contraption thing I built.

5. Kill Fred

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Recorded with a radio shack tape recorder live in the basement. Jordan on vocals. John on guitar. Mat on drums. I am not sure what the deal with this song was. I always attributed (or rationaled) it to how silly ska music was. I take back what I said about Shattered. This was clearly the hit. Hands down. I can still hear it on the radio, even with the “penis” and “licking my neighbor’s dog” lyrics.

6. Todernuw

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There was a lot of resentment that came from being in Undertow, the band we were all in prior to Twisted Fish, sans the singer. This was our “Fuck You” to that time in our lives. Man, we were pretty fucking out there for a High School band immersed at the height of the grunge era.

6 Responses to “Twisted Fish – Upstairs EP”


  • this is audioamazing.

  • Sweet. This EP is one of my main memories from high school. It was recorded during the summer of 1993. Some track by track notes.

    Four – The distortion on Jordan’s guitar here sort of epitomizes grunge for me. If you’re not listening close, it just sounds like white noise. Until the bass and other rhythm guitar come in, you can barely hear chords. Incidentally, the guy this song was written about was the same guy who “stole” the ex-girlfriend in Shattered. He later received a swirlie from our social circle. I never thought anyone actually got swirlies, but it happened, in Jerry’s Pizzeria on Rockville Pike. The echo on this (and most of the other songs) is this badass Digitech pedal I got for $80 at the Veneman’s May Day sale. Slept out for the “can’t beat this price!” deal. It eventually fell apart like the Blues Brothers car, just fell into a little pile of circuit boards.

    Shattered – To this day, I think Jordan is pissed that I changed the solo from the one we used in Undertow. (I did bass in Undertow rather than lead guitar.) I think this was the only song we carried over between the two bands. Also, this actually isn’t a case of guitars being out of tune… it’s the absolutely horrible intonation on my old yellow Yamaha RGX211M. It was only really noticeable here because we’re playing octaves in unison, everything else sounds reasonably ok. Speaking of the overlap of solos and vocals, my sister had to help me time this one perfectly. I overlaid the solos after everything else was recorded, and I wanted the last note to hang as long as possible, but since it was on the same track as the vocals, if I held it too long, we’d erase Jordan singing the 3rd verse. My sister sat and dutifully hit the stop button at the last possible second to make sure this sounded good. Go Linda. For losers out there, the solo is in a Dorian mode, and this is the only time I ever went out of my way to use some of my music theory classes.

    Butterfly – This is my favorite recording from the high school years. I was completely uninvolved. I showed up at Mat’s house one day (no Jordan) and he said “Umm. We recorded this really long song. We need you to play a really long solo.” It was actually two takes… the first one was too maudlin, so I just stuck to major patterns for the second one and it all fit nicely. I didn’t hear it until much later, but the solos here are completely influenced by Steve Hackett from early Genesis. (That’s especially odd, since everything else I’d played to that point was more in the CC DeVille vein.) I’d just started grooving on the Peter Gabriel era Genesis when we did this. Underneath my stuff, Jordan had actually recorded some interesting solos too, and some other remixes we played with here had some really nice counterpoints between the two. In this mix, it switches from my playing to his right around the feedback fest at 11:35.

    5.5 Minutes of Silence – I think we got some cool effects here by running the vocals through a wah wah pedal and then running that through the echo pedal and some distortion on the guitar amp. I remember operating the wah with our hands. I really wish I had the time / creativity to try that kind of stuff nowadays. The main riff was supposed to be a Primus rip off. I think there was a story to the final “If I only had some chicken…” line, but Jordan may have to enlighten us.

    Kill Fred – We tried to do a real studio recording of this a few times afterward and could never nail it. I thought this was one of the tracks we recorded through headphones rather than mics, but Mat may be right that this was the tape recorder. I think it’s a lot easier to get a live practice mix for recording when you only have guitar, vox and drums. I think this was the only vocal track I ever recorded on a release until I got to college.

    Todernuw – This is a backwards remix of “Someone” from the Undertow single “Someone”. We played with the speed control on the Tascam a lot. I remember sitting and trying to figure out how to arrange the letters in “Undertow” so that people wouldn’t think it was Undertow. And everyone immediately figured it out. This track is about as self indulgent as you can get.

    On the Undertow front (I’m not sure if Mat’s gonna post that stuff or not), Twisted Fish formed from the ashes of Undertow. Sort of. What actually happened is that the only other guy in Undertow (Jeff) went to Germany for the summer or something, and when he came back, we had a new band without him. He didn’t hear about it until he saw me selling Twisted Fish tapes. We were assholes. Undertow was a decent band, but it was definitively “Jeff’s Band”, whereas Twisted Fish was “John, Jordan, and Mat”, not “a lead singer and a backup band”. Except for our bassists, who slotted in all the time.

    I found a weird old page from 1997 or so buried on my website with old album covers and commentary about these bands, plus a ten year old “where are they now” section. Fun stuff.

    http://www.argentiero.com/per/bands.html

    Also, I just sent Mat the 4 track master of this, so maybe we can make dance remixes now.

  • And for the really bored, I actually found the copyright info for this, in which Jordan misspelled his name.

    I have no idea if this comments board takes HTML tables, so apologies if this looks like crap. (No preview.)

    Registration number is SR-172-681 on http://www.copyright.gov/

    1. Registration Number:   SR-172-681 Title:   Upstairs / atTwisted Fish. Description:   Sound cassette. Note:   Collection. Claimant:   (c) (p) Matt S. & Jordon Hirsch Created:   1993 Published:   13Nov93 Registered:   27Dec93 Author on © Application:   words, music, performance, recording: acJordan S. Hirsch , 1977-,   acMatt B. S. , 1977-, John Argentiero , 1976- Special Codes:  37/N

  • This is brilliant. I can totally hear the SP and SG influence. It is reminiscent of Temple of the Dog. 8 minute songs with 4 minute solos. If only I could have been in this band in high school! Hehe, I like the repeated use of solos amongst all of the songs. Trilly! Chug Chug Chug Pent-a-tonic! Good stuff.

  • OK, here are my thoughts, in handy bullet form. I’m posting this before I read John’s 2-page opus of comments so my memories aren’t colored (my memory is terrible and his is really good, so I’m sure his comments are full of actual stuff that happened while mine are more in the “i like this song!” category).

    FOUR
    -i had no idea i could sing so much about masturbation.
    -nice jim morrison impersonation, jordan.
    -apparently i was playing in a different time signature than everyone else, as evidenced by my “rhythm” guitar part during john’s

    solo.

    SHATTERED
    -john’s intro solo still makes me weep…not to mention his bass triplets! I can’t actually remember the old Undertow solo, but I

    remember loving it.
    -apparently i was experimenting with my “girly” voice
    -the less said about the lyrics, the better. at least they rhyme.

    BUTTERFLY
    -there would be no “Golden” without this song
    -this is where I learned to stop worrying and love my chorus pedal
    -does the water really “need” fish the way fish need the water?
    -i’ve found this song to the most listenable, 13 years or so later. not bad.
    -once again, john’s soloing powers blow me away. I think i remember that he hadn’t heard the song before, he just came in,

    listened to it once, then laid this down. talented bastard.
    -note my little solo amount 6:02. way to play that guitar, hirsch!
    -I remember that part at 6:30 (the high vocals) were so overly loud you had to pull the volume on the mix way, way down so it

    didn’t sound like i was singing through a loudspeaker.
    -i have to admit, around 9:50 i kind of thought a new song had started and i had tuned out or something. i can just picture john

    thinking: “i’ve been soloing for 5 minutes! does this song ever end?”

    5.5 MIN. OF SILENCE
    -what the hell were we smoking? we didn’t smoke enough of it, obviously. thank god it’s not really 5 1/2 minutes long.

    KILL FRED
    -what can I say? sometimes you strike gold where you least expect it.
    -crowds used to demand that we play this.
    -“i am a goldfish in a bowl of concrete” made it into my high school yearbook on the quotes page.

    TODERNUW
    -what song is this backwards? did we have the rights to do that?

    Overall, Twisted Fish was definitely my best high school experience short of meeting my future wife and falling in love with her (awwww). Seriously, though. We were pretty decent compared to a lot of high school bands, and we knew how to have a good time: hour after of hour of rock, often interrupted by the drummer’s mom telling us to keep it down, pizza, mountain dew, and gigs at Fatty’s. Does it get better than that?

  • OK, now that I’ve read John’s comments, some thoughts:

    -Kill Fred was definitely recorded through the tape player; I can still picture that basement with the tape player in the corner. I lived most of my high school life in that basement.

    -I did not mis-spell my name on the copyright application, a certain drummer thought that would be a funny joke on me. And it was.

    -I tried as hard as I could to make Twisted Fish into a “lead singer and a backup band” type of band, but I never succeeded. Oh, well. It still got me a girlfriend (she claims my singing was a large part of the attraction – she must have meant one of our live shows, obviously not this EP).

    -My last comment is formatted funny. I copied it out of notepad. So there.

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