The Story Behind the Solo Recordings.

June 2015 - I've been meaning to upload this for years!!! I will link the text to instruments and other people when I have the opportunity. If you enjoy or not, let me know. After initially loading the page, It may take a little while before the songs and player become available. If you don't feel like reading, you can jump to the first song.

Note: All songs (c) David Kaufman unless otherwise noted.


During the early period of The Nails, I was new to composing music.  I first collaborated with Marc while with The Ravers and continued during The Nails' early days. This allowed me to learn the craft of songwriting, arranging instruments and vocals and adding instrument fills to keep the music interesting.  I also learned how to record using the technology available to me at that time, incorporating the new devices I acquired, whether it be echo devices for ambience, drum machines for rhythm, my first synthesizer and even Midi (musical instrument digital interface) as the computer age dawned upon us in the mid-80s. 

I learned the craft of my instruments, primarily keyboards.  I taught myself punky electric guitar.  In addition, after moving in with my brother George (1979, The Nails' bass player - d. 2009) at the living loft that became 151 Studios in the Chelsea section of New York City, I had the opportunity to learn how to play drums because of the several bands rehearsing there and the availability of different instruments for me to play including bashing the drums.  I was into multi-track recordings whereby I could play all the instruments and sing all the vocals by myself.  I learned the recording process, how to produce and engineer my own recording sessions.  I wrote, played all the instruments and sung all the vocals, except where noted.  Perhaps these will give you insight into my point of view and what I contributed to The Nails.

After The Ravers moved to NY, and I procured my first apartment in November 1977, I began to write songs in earnest.  I was paying $130/month(!) for a furnished studio in the East Village.  I had primitive recording equipment to record my songs.  I had a Wurlitzer Electric Piano and later a Crumar Electrapiano, a solid-state electronic piano.  And then … my brother George’s Hagstrom 6-string electric, but also used a Hagstrom 12-string guitar in one of my songs.

I recorded using a Sears? or Lafayette? two-track tape recorder.  I don’t remember the exact method but it was probably recording a part into 1 channel of the tape recorder. While that part was playing back through a cheap speaker, I played a second part.  Therefore, both parts were now on the second channel.  While this was playing back I added a third part on the first channel, so then the first channel had all 3 parts, and so on. This was a primitive version of bouncing tracks (see below).  I continued to record and layer parts until I realized the arrangement I heard in my head after completing the composition.

Most of my lyrics dealt with the American rite of passage of living alone after leaving your parents’ residence.  I also wrote about being alone as I did not have the social skills to relate to women. When I met one and got along, we’d end up having a one-night stand or not at all because either way, I was unsure of the next step.  So without any further adieu, here are my versions of The Shaggs.

Caution:  these are very primitive-sounding recordings. Some songs have out-of-tune instruments; some I sung out of tune, but I improved as time went on. At least I think I did! And the cassette player I digitized them with was not of the highest quality and probably a bit fast altering the pitch of the songs.

1978 Apt. Sessions Lower East Side (Age: 24)

  • Commuter Blues – before I got my studio apartment I lived at my parent’s house in Long Island suburbs for 2 months working for my father.  I commuted on the Long Island Railroad to Manhattan.  These were my warped observances.  Remember this was way before Smartphones, Tablets, iPods and even Walkmen!  There were no cell phones, handheld games, or laptops.  Also, as one of my early songs I was comfortable with the blues format.
  • On My Own – Extolling the virtues of being alone and that I’d eventually learn the social skills I lacked.  23 years later when I got divorced and began dating in 2001, I had an abundance of social skills.  Also revived my harmonica playing from my college days.  More blues.
  • Blue Haze – TV song (re-recorded with George - see below.)
  • Dull World – More warped observances with baby-boomer references. Google caps on the curb if you’re curious! (Also re-recorded with George, also performed live with The Nails once.)
    Electric Guitar Song – It's about my newly learned skill of playing guitar, or it's a metaphor. You decide.
  • You've heard it all before (Rock and Roll) - I was pretty bad but enthusiastic! Inspired by London instrumental (I had not yet been to London) – I was also comfortable with the instrumental format prior to my being able to “say” something with my lyrics.  During this time I loved playing fast solos on keyboard. It is something I learned to rein in as I refined my sound and approach. 
  • The Dr. Is In – an instrumental I wrote and performed with The Ravers.
  • Makin’ the Scene
    My first nightclub song. When you're young and shy, you attribute personality traits to a stranger based upon what they're wearing! Introduction of an Electro-Harmonix Rhythm 12 drum beat machine with 8 or so repeating patterns and a speed knob, the beginnings of the electronic drum revolution.  Also explored guitar textures. I also believe I procured a Shure SM57 microphone so my voice started to sound decent.
  • You Still Got You – self-affirmation.
  • Tough Life Never Changes
    My life was not as bad as these songs depicted! The lyric about cracks in the street. I frequently worked for my father who is a long-retired personal injury lawyer. Sidewalk and street falls due to cracks was one of the injuries. We had to take pictures to make the cracks look like the Grand Canyon. Mind you this was way before Photoshop.

1979 – First Loft sessions (mono) (Age: 25 years old)

My brother George (GK) collaborated with me with better tape recorders (Teac – a 4-track and 2-track Teac and Pioneer for 1 weekend before we returned it.  See below for recording techniques), arrangements and microphones.  And George could play guitar!

  • Blue Haze Song about TV with a nod to that other colorful "Haze" song. Back in the day many people had black & white TVs which gave off a blue haze when you're outside looking up into apartment windows. 21st century you see huge screens on the wall!
    Me:  keyboards, lead vocals, GK: guitars, bass, back vocals, Electro-Harmonix drum box.
  • Dull World The exciting world in which we live.
    Me: keyboards, backing vocals, GK:  Lead vocals, guitars, bass and drums!  And not a bad drummer.  Experimented with a “reverse” guitar solo. This required turning the tapes over so we would hear the song played backwards. While you’re hearing this, you play a guitar solo.  When done, you turn the tapes back so the song plays back forward, and the guitar solo is in reverse where the notes begin faded, get louder then end.  Not new, but new for us.

1980 – Tortured Soul sessions (simulated stereo) (26 years old)

151 Studios, NYC.  At this point I began to work with a 4-track Teac tape recorder.  I would record 3 parts, then “mix” the 3 parts onto the 4th track (this is actual track bouncing).  Mix meant balancing all the parts so they would sound just right.  This would free 3 additional tracks or more if I recorded 2 more tracks, then “mixed” 3 more tracks onto the free track where I’d now have 5 parts recorded.  The final version would be mixed onto a different 2-track machine so I was no longer stuck on one tape recorder. The simulated stereo came into play via a switch-box where I could cause the last 2 parts to be separated into right and left channels.  Only two parts are separated with the remainder of the recording being mono.

  • Tribute to the 60s
    My first attempt at drums and a wealth of instruments including a Hagstrom 12-string guitar. This has the kitchen sink of instruments including a bass guitar outfitted with a “gizmo.” This was an electrical device consisting of 4 wheels hovering over the strings, with 4 buttons corresponding to the 4 wheels. When you pushed down on a button, the spinning wheel would make contact with the string, thereby making a cello-type sound.  It was pretty cool!  Besides that were a variety of guitars and keyboards.
  • Tortured Soul
    If I died young, people would’ve pointed to this song as to why.  I was new to my CAT brand SRM synth and went wild, sometimes playing 2 solos on 2 instruments at the same time, but what the heck! Listen to that footswitch that kicks in the echo sound!
  • Apologies
    One of the fan favorites due to its important lyric and feeling. Classic Wurlitzer electric piano, some acoustic guitar, my cat synthesizer, fender bass and the all-important foot switch sound for echo effects. My ex-wife said Phil Collins stole this riff for his Grammy winning Another Day in Paradise. No I never sued him for a variety of reasons. You be the judge!
  • Truth Has No Meaning (Anymore)
    I added true stereo drums a year after I recorded the song.  I was against the squeaky wheel gets the grease (or woman) philosophy because I didn't have those skills to "sell myself" and was a curious, maybe envious? observer of those who did.
  • Another Song
    Warped observance after a 1-night stand with a beautiful (or so I thought) young lady. Yes, she left an earring in the bed. Wherever she is now, we're both close to being senior citizens!

1981 – Not Fashionable Sessions

151 Studios (stereo here on in) (27 years old). I mic’ed The Nails’ drummer’s (the late Tommy Cotogna) drums with 7 or more Shure SM57s and proceeded to record these stereo drum parts during 1981.  I’d record the bass part first to a metronome (called a click-track in recording circles), then do my best to hear the bass part I recorded while I bashed the drums.

Another band (The Mental Notes) rehearsing at the loft had acquired a better Teac 4-track, which recorded at a faster speed (15 inches per second (ips)) as opposed to our 7 1/2 ips 4-track). This allowed me to “bounce” to two tracks on the second recorder thereby preserving a stereo “mix.” Then I would add two more tracks, mix again, and perhaps add two more tracks for the layered sound.  The increased speed of the 2nd recorder contributed to enhancements in the fidelity.  We also had a decent Kelsey PA and then Teac mixing board where I was able to balance the sounds more accurately than before as well as adding effects (reverberation, repeating echoes, etc.). 

I developed a more positive lyrical point of view when I was 27 but still with the proverbial dark side.  I must have spent many weekends alone to record these.  It probably took months of weekends since The Nails did not rehearse on weekends except for Friday nights.

  • Momentary Thrill
    Another one-night stand type of song. This features my red Farfisa Combo Compact "portable" (40 lbs) organ being played through a relatively small piece of furniture called a Leslie speaker. The organ had one handle and also appears in The Nails' video for Let It All Hang Out.
  • Silent Abuse (Enemy from Within)
    We are our own worst enemy?
  • I See Your Eyes
    Connie Garcia: lead vocals (she had recently sung lead vocal on The Nails’ Hotel for Women), Douglas Guthrie (The Nails' sax player): sax.  A nod to The Nails being a ska band.
  • Do You Want To?  --
    Another nightclubbing song. George helped me with my harmonica playing but I don’t remember how.  Kitchen sink of effects:  More reverse guitar soloing, harmonica playing, and “munchkinizing” of my voice by playing the tape recorder back at half speed, saying the lyrics slooowly to coordinate with the 1/2 speed.  Then speed up the tape to normal speed so the munchkin voice says the words at normal speed, but a high pitch.  See Alvin and the Chipmunks for reference. This type of effect can now be done in real time but the cost of those devices in 1981 was prohibitive for a home studio. Note on "profile" lyric. I saw Tom Hanks, probably on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Tom mentioned every actor had a "good" and "bad" side relating to their profile. And it was true for him!
  • Suzy (Rock’n’Roll Name)
    An obligatory “cowbell” song.  First song with no keyboards. I mused about how Bruce Springsteen named women in his songs at that time. They all had y’s at the end of their names. So I did the same.
  • Proposition Song
    Hey if I couldn’t say it to a woman, why not say it in song?
  • Too Many Things (Parts 1 & 2) –
    Actually the first song recorded in this bunch as I explored my reggae dubbing side.  Too bad I forgot to drop out the bass. This was the negative effect of track-bouncing. Once bounced, they were etched in stone.  Otherwise I don’t remember how I managed creating this one-person dub section. There must have been a method to my madness.

1982 Sessions - 1 song (Age: 28 years Old)

1982 brought me to the end of playing drums and using electronic drum machines, the first one being the Roland Drumatix TR606. You can program I believe 16 patterns then string them together into a song. led lights on the cute little silver box would give you a rough sketch of the pattern you created.  Its output was mono but full-bodied.

I always treated drum machines like real drummers. I don't like songs that have repeating patterns or loops with no variation. To me, that is disrespecting and minimizing that part of an arrangement to rhythm only. I always tried to insert fills, stops and starts, so, hopefully the songs sound like groups as much as possible.

The Nails were pretty busy that year. Also rare for me, I had a girlfriend for 6 months, so I wasn't always alone for the weekends!

  • Surf Sound '78 -
    This was an instrumental that Marc wrote when The Nails were a 4-piece with Tommy, Marc, George & Myself in 1979, and early 1980. This was when we began playing The Tramps club on W. 15th Street in Manhattan. I turned it into an ethereal electronic surf piece.

1983 Hello sessions, 151 Studios, NYC (Age: 29 years old)

I recorded 7 songs with the Roland Drumatix 606 using the same technique as Not Fashionable.  I believe we had a Teac mixing board at this time, which facilitated easier mixing of the songs, and more outboard effects, such as a Furman reverb and a Simmons claptrap.  More weekends alone but well worth it!

  • Hello
    One of my all guitar songs. I am introducting my 1983 self to the listener.
  • Everybody’s Got a Girlfriend
    There’s a sly Beatles’ reference in the music. Anyone know what it is? Another song about my lack thereof, of acquiring women-friends, though having a gf in 1982 gave me some false hope.
  • Standard of Living (Marc Campbell) –
    This is a remake of a Ravers tune that Marc wrote.  I always loved this song.
  • Trails of Love
    Roughly based on John Williams’ Close Encounters of the Third Kind theme. Another song of longing for you know what.
  • Your Love (Don’t Keep Me)
    Pure pop, a little country.? Trying to harmonize with myself.
  • What’s the Use
    Not exactly a suicide song with a nod to Bob Dylan, an updated version of the folk song form.  What if Woody Guthrie had a synthesizer?
  • Headphones
    My "Walkman" song, now for the MP3 generation. (Re-recorded several times)

1988 Don’t Walk/Midi Machine sessions, 151 Studios (32 years old)

During The Nails’ heyday I wrote some of these songs but did not have time to record.  After The Nails got dropped from RCA I took a break from The Nails (opted out of the Corpus Christi sessions) and put this together ostensibly for my own record deal. I was unaware that nobody cared about me, a major label keyboard player with no following, management and a “failed” track record.  This project introduced major technological changes:

An 8-track Fostex tape recorder where I no longer had to bounce tracks.  I did need to “sync” the tape recorder to the Midi tracks using a box – to be discussed for early 90s sessions.

Midi sequencer for my Commodore 64 and then Atari 1040ST computers.  These programs allowed me to create the parts with software and the computer played back the parts exactly to my specifications.  I was able to correct wrong notes yet also was able to have accidental mistakes so the songs didn’t sound, I hope, too mechanized and I still had to sing!  Many of the parts I played into my computers live and then corrected the timing by "quantizing" so the notes are near or on the beat. The Commodore had limited memory causing me to repeat some sections and program directly on the drum machines. The Atari had seemingly unlimited memory with a whopping 1mb of RAM. I never had to repeat anything unless I want to.

Programmable stereo drum machines that had real sampled drum sounds within.  Because of midi sequencing, the drum parts could be programmed from the computer, instead of the drum machines themselves. The 2 used were a Korg DDD-1 with various optional percussion cards and a Roland TR707, a digital sampler ultra large version of 606.

Addition of Casio CZ101 and Yamaha FB01 synths and modules (synth without a keyboard; you play it with an another synth with a keyboard via a midi connection).  The Yamaha was called “multi-timbral” because you can program multiple parts via a midi sequencer, up to 8 different independent single-note parts or combos therein. I usually used a bass for 1 part (the end of my bass guitar playing), a 3-note chord part, and two 2-chord parts for accompaniment.  I had a Korg Poly800 (analog synth with digital controls, no knobs) from The Nails, which I also used in this project.

On the negative side, some of my instruments got stolen from 151 studios, including my Cat synthesizer and my Roland VK09 organ.  The crazy analog synth sounds used for previous parts were gone.  Other crazy stuff was in its place.

  • Headphones
    Doug Guthrie Sax.  I re-recorded some of my songs several times. More backward tape experimenting including “printing” (recording) an effect on my vocals while playing the tape in reverse.  Thus when you hear the song, the effect begins before the voice does.  Again, not new. I also experimented with a reverse cymbal crash (via drum machine) similar to what was done in Let It All Hang Out. Could this have been a hit?
  • Love Will Last
    Bonnie Pearlman backing vocals, Doug Guthrie sax.  I’ve had misgivings about the unusual vocal melody but now I don’t mind it. I was doing temp word processing as a job, which is how I met Bonnie, a fellow temp word processor. By this time I was married so my outlook was a bit more positive.
  • Break the News
    Maybe this was the problem with my marriage, too much independence!
  • Almost Our Time
    A heavy metal-ish (w/o guitars) plea for the younger generation to kick us the hell out.  I invited people over to sing background vocals, including my Nails’ guitar-mate Steve O’Rourke, his friend Joey Romano and my friend Scott Severin, who released his first ever solo CD in late 2004 and currently lives in Omaha, NE.
  • Where You’re Goin’ To
    George played acoustic guitar on this one.  I believe I had the Atari Midi Sequencer (called Dr. T’s music software.  Where is Emile Tobenfeld today?) do a determinative solo based on some software parameters.  I don’t think I played the synth solo, but Atari did it!

1989-1990 East Harlem Apt. Demos (35-36 years old)

I call these demos because I created the songs on my Atari and then recorded the vocals live into either a reel-to-reel or cassette recorder, I don't recall which. I also frequently played guitar live while I sung the vocals. I must not have had multi-tracks at the time though the music sounds fairly complete due to midi instrumental arrangements. This was in a 4th floor walk-up on East 99th Street. The bathtub was in the kitchen. Rent was astronomical at $450/month for a 1 bedroom.

  • Apologies -
    Another version with drums and a guitar solo. Although I think the guitar solo is good for what it is, due to my limited technical ability, I could not play something better or fancier.
  • Hard-Easy -
    This was an attempt at a dance number with a rumbling bass line similar to M. Jackson's Billie Jean. I tried to have a minimal drum track with subtle changes as well as the music echoing the lyrics with the "hard" lyrics in a minor key and the "easy" lyrics in the major key. Of course there's a lot more in the music tracks, solos, horn parts, fake ending, you name it!
  • Penn. Station -
    I tried to make a "train" song regarding landmark preservation, but I don't think it quite worked. The music chugs along like a train, but stumbles at the bridge.
  • Trails of Love -
    A remake from the Hello sessions of 1983, more electronic version.
  • Trust Me -
    This is the reason I'll never compose a hit record. One of the aims of this song, which I have accomplished is a 4 whole step chord change. How many rock songs have that?
  • No Overnight Sensation -
    This was a riff for a potential Nails song that never got out of rehearsal. At the time I liked the angle of the song, my likening a love affair to fame, but now I think the lyrics are too wordy and don't quite work. That being said, I recorded this song twice more. I used the FB01 for simulated slide guitar, and some real guitar.

"Broccoli Rabe" Demos - 1990 (36 years old)

I saw an ad for a management agency in Village Voice classifieds. I sent them a tape and they liked my songs and wanted to record 2 songs in a Caldwell, NJ studio called Broccoli Rabe. Based upon their scant experience I probably shouldn't have let them do it, at my expense of course. The 2 songs turned out to be more demo-like than full-blown recordings, even though the recordings themselves had higher sound quality than my home recordings due to being in an actual recording studio. Unknown musicians made the music tracks and I only did vocals. Nothing came of these. They don't sound soooo bad, but the vision is not what I had for these 2 songs.

  • Headphones -
    The third and last recording of this song.
  • Break the News -
    Where did they get this semi-hotshot guitarist?

Forest Hills Sessions (1991-1993, 37-39 years old)

We moved to Forest Hills in Queens, NY to a more spacious apt. in an elevator building with laundry in basement. A step up! I acquired George's 4-track Teac as well acquiring an Atari Mega STE, a more powerful Atari. Dr. T's Keyboard Controlled Sequencer (KCS) became Omega and Omega 2, a more graphically oriented midi sequencer than its previous iteration as a list of musical notes with the only graphical portion was a multi-track tape recorder. I also acquired an Emu MPS digital synth the first one with sampled sounds: more realistic guitar sounds, even acoustic, as well as shimmery keyboards and many effects, echos, reverbs, flanges, all easily controlled by midi control change (cc) events where almost every parameter of an effect as well as sounds can be altered at any time.

I also used a midi sync box that recorded an audio track onto 1 track of the Teac that caused the Atari to play back the Midi tracks. This allowed 3 tracks of vocals, which I mixed to a VHS tape on my then VHS recorder. Supposedly the audio quality was high due to the "helical scan" which was equivalent of mixing to high quality high speed audio tape.

  • Trust Me -
    Sounds like I haven't gotten the Emu yet, a brighter, louder version of the 1990 song. I'm not sure why I re-recorded.?.?
  • No Overnight Sensation -
    2nd recording with harmony vocals and fuzzed guitar.
  • Break the News -
    The 3rd version, sort of the way I would've wanted the Broccoli Rabe recording to sound if I had creative control.
  • My Old Girlfriends -
    This was definitely the first song with the Emu in 1993, along with all my other stuff, Casio electric piano sound, pedal steel sort-of with the Yamaha FB01, and the shimmery piano, acoustic & electric guitars courtesy of the Emu MPS.
  • People Don't Talk -
    Musing about fame again. I took advantage of the digital fuzzed out guitar sounds of the Emu along with multiple solos at the same time.
  • Best and the Worst -
    This was originally written about "riots" that occurred in 1988 in NYC's East Village's Tompkins Square Park. The residents rebelled against yuppie gentrification by rejecting a curfew that closed the park. Police beat up protesters, without ID badges. I'm not sure if I'm remembering it correctly. Lyrics are still relevant today, in my humble opinion.
  • No Overnight Sensation -
    3rd recording with harmony stereo vocals and Emu MPS simulated guitar.

Age of Digital Audio - Forest Hills (1995-2002 - 41 to 48 years old)

In 1995 I acquired my first Mac, called a Power Mac, forgot which model, but had a horizontal tower configuration with a built-in CD drive. George recommended a program called Deck. You can record 8 tracks of audio and syncs with MIDI. Therefore I aid all the MIDI stuff on the Atari Mega STE. Once the MIDI tracks sounded reasonably balanced, I'd record that on 2 tracks of Deck, then record vocals on the remainder tracks, then mix to a stereo AIF file. I only recorded 1 of my songs using Deck and another of a friend's song who had a baby in 1998.

I then "graduated" to Cubase, which had some internal instruments as well as using external keyboards which needed to be recorded into Cubase. I only recorded 2 additional vocal songs using Cubase as well as 2 instrumentals based on the General MIDI spec.

  • Whisper -
    1996. My nod to new age music? I played fast and loose with timing especially with the Emu MPS drums, but enjoyed the multitude of effects. Deck also had some built-in effects. This song was also covered by The Motives when we played and toured in 1999.
  • One Last Night -
    Instrumental - This was inpsired by pianist Floyd Cramer's song Last Date. I composed the inverted version of his song when I heard of his passing in the late 90s.
  • Net Surfin'-
    Instrumental - Fooling with some simulated guitars, organs, bongos.
  • Oh Yeah -
    2001. Not you, but a girl just like you! This was the first song done with Cubase and a return to the dirtier sound of the Korg DDD1 drum machine. Sometimes the Emu sounds too "clean."
  • Lipstick -
    2002. Compositely based on some real-life events. I could not play the guitar chords so I used a capo. Added effects threw off the guitar solo timing which I would like to re-do and fix some day ...

Future? (circa 2015 - 61 years old and beyond)

I no longer have Cubase - I now use Logic Express and fooling with Garage Band on an iPad but I don't do as much music as I used to, but I have 2 songs in progress the last couple of years I have not finished plus on in Logic Express I orig. wrote in 1999. If they come to fruition you will see them here.

Thank you for taking the time to read and listen. - Dave K. (April-June 2015)

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