INTERVIEW: DAVID KAUFMAN FROM THE RAVERS AND THE NAILS
By Icepick Phil
Editor's note: David Kaufman was the keyboard player, co-founder, and songwriter with Boulder's original punk band ("Colorado's Godfathers of Punk") The Ravers in the late 1970s. The band like many others from the Rocky Mountain State left Colorado and relocated to New York City in the summer of '77. Renaming themselves The Nails shortly after their arrival in New York, they had a "new wave" hit in '82 with their classic song 88 Lines About 44 Women and in '85 and '86 released two albums with RCA Records. They continued to perform and release music well into the 1990s.
When this site launched back in '00 David kindly helped write The Ravers page. We recently caught up with David to find out what was going on with the Nails' catalog and it's recent reissues along with new developments on the band's website which he built and continues to maintain. We've also asked David to stretch his memory a bit to try and recollect some details from his late 70s Boulder and Denver days performing with The Ravers. Many thanks to Mr. Kaufman for taking time to do this interview.
What's new with The Nails' website? Any future plans for it?
We're always updating the website. At the end of last year we created a page containing a bunch of free mp3 downloads for our fans. At the beginning of this year, we created a scrapbook page consisting of images of tickets and posters from various shows performed back in the day, as well as newspaper articles.
We're currently working on lyrics for the songs on Hotel for Women. That will take time. If your readers are willing to volunteer, let me know! (-:
When did you create it and why?
It was originally created in 1999 as part of my personal "outworld.compuserve.com" page. I created it because I was interested in learning some basic web design and thought there would be an audience for it since 88 Lines about 44 Women had far more staying power than anyone in the band would have thought, which staying power continues to this day. When domain names and host servers began to appear, "thenails.com" was not available so we purchased "the-nails.com" and never looked back.
I know you've worked very hard in recent years to get several titles from the Nails back catalogue of LPs and CDs back into print. Can you tell us a little about your efforts and their results?
Because of our lack of success regarding the RCA albums, we used to sell expensive bootleg CDs of those albums (Mood Swing and Dangerous Dreams), mastered from old cassettes. Though most liked them some thought the sound quality was lacking. I couldn't disagree.
In 2005, I sent a "To Whom It May Concern" snail-mail letter to BMG Music Special Products. To my surprise, several months later, I received a phone message from a woman at Sony Licensing. I had no idea that Sony had merged/purchased BMG Music division and had taken possession of their masters. After some negotiation we visited Sony's NY offices and signed a licensing agreement to release our recordings on CD. We were very thankful to Sony personnel because this deal is worth practically zero to a huge mega-corporation such as Sony. We were lucky to find someone in their licensing dept. who cared. Our recordings could have languished in the vault forever.
Sony also offered us a reasonable deal to have one of their Grammy-nominated mastering engineers (Vic Anesini) remaster our recordings from the original master tapes at Sony's now-defunct NY studio. In August of 2006 my brother George (The Nails' bass player) and I attended and assisted in two mastering sessions with Vic, one for Mood Swing and one for Dangerous Dreams. Our guitarist Steve O'Rourke also attended a session.
During that time, Vic gave us a tour of the many recording and mastering studios in the Sony Studio complex. Jerry Lee Lewis was taping a TV special, Last Man Standing, at their huge sound stage. While we were leaving that day, Ron Wood entered through the door, ostensibly to contribute to the show.
After the remastering, we worked with our artist to recreate CD covers, and released both Mood Swing and Dangerous Dreams in 2007. They continue to be steady sellers.
So you now have your own record label that presses physical CDs as well as markets digital downloads through iTunes, Amazon, etc.? Are your only releases these vintage Nails albums?
Yes. These are our only releases.
What was the greatest difficulty you faced in getting the rights to re-release The Nails' two 1980s RCA albums? What about Hotel for Women?
The greatest difficulties were (1) finding the responsible party since RCA was long gone, and (2) finding anyone willing to listen.
Hotel for Women was much easier because there were no licensing issues. We owned all the tapes, at least whatever we can find. And I had the master tape of the original version of 88 Lines about 44 Women.
Fans were asking for Hotel for Women for years but an impediment to this release was mainly that it was a 3 (or 4) song E.P. which was not enough material for a CD release. But the digital download age had come upon us so a physical CD was no longer the only option. George and I discovered tapes consisting of unreleased Hotel for Women and other sessions from 1981 and 1982, some of which were in the possession of the original engineer, Doug Epstein. Most songs were recorded at the then well-known MediaSound Studios on 57th Street near 8th Avenue. That studio has long been closed. In the early 2000s it was the home of a night club called Le Bar Bat but I'm not sure what is there today.
After George unexpectedly passed away in March 2009, I sought to accelerate the project and decided on a CD release because we now had enough material after discovery of these tapes. I went to Doug Epstein's home studio and began the process to remaster whatever we had. We even rented a reel-to-reel recorder that handled 10" size tapes because any reel-to-reel recorder was hard to come by in this digital age.
While being remastered, we worked on restoration of art work, song order and eventually released the Hotel for Women CD in November 2009. We did a promotion in 2010 which got Hotel for Women played on over 100 radio stations during Summer 2010.
Could you please give us a rundown on the history of your band's best known song 88 Lines about 44 Women? How many versions/mixes and where were they recorded?
The original version was recorded in The Nails then loft in Chelsea we called "151 Nails Studio" on W. 25th Street in Manhattan. Subsequent versions were recorded at MediaSound Studios in 1982, which were unreleased until the recent Hotel for Women CD. The popular version from Mood Swing was recorded at Electric Lady Studios in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. Two additional versions were recorded at 151 studios for Corpus Christi. I contributed an electronic bass line on one version. The other was what they called at the time a "house" version.
The Nails perform 88 Lines About 44 Women in May 1983 at The Bottom Line, New York City.
Wasn't it used in an automobile commercial a few years back?
It was used for Mazda Protégé in 1998 and 1999. It was also used to promote the Dexter TV series in 2007.
Is the Live in Canada album still available?
One song from Live in Canada (Toronto actually) is on the Dangerous Dreams CD. The remaining songs are on the free mp3 web page.
What about the other Ravers/Nails recordings? Any thoughts about releasing a collection of the Screwball Records recordings made in Boulder in the late 70s?
The 3-song EP entitled Cops Are Punks appears on the Colorado punk compilation Local Anesthetic. Two additional formerly unreleased Ravers' songs from the Cops Are Punks recording sessions appear on the Rocky Mountain Low compilation. I'm not sure of who would be the buying audience for The Ravers or early Nails material. Some songs appear on the free MP3 page.
I have amassed a fair amount of material including The Nails' (Ravers actually) recording session in Soho from which the Rock'n'Roll Show/Backstreet Boys single emanated, and an extensive live set from both Ebbets Field in Denver and Max's Kansas City in New York with varying degrees of sound quality as the cassettes are quite old. Maybe a digital release can work.
What's the status of the Corpus Christi album from 1993? How come you didn't play on that one?
Corpus Christi has been "disowned" by The Nails, mainly due to The Nails never having received compensation. I was working on solo material at the time and was not interested. I attended a mix session on Long Island and got a splitting headache afterwards, which I suppose validated my feelings about participating. That being said, songs I composed and contributed to appear on the recording.
The Ravers had a few songs on the Rocky Mountain Low compilation album that was released a couple of years. Any thoughts about that album?
I love both it and the Local Anesthetic compilations. They're fun to listen to and I am glad the purveyors released them. I contributed material to both, especially Rocky Mountain Low. I had quite a few conversations and emails with Joseph Pope during the time of its creation. He stirred up my memories of the distant past, almost 35 years ago!
Is the band actively performing and recording at present? If not, why? Are they working with you on the Nails website?
No. Marc (singer) lives in Texas which is an impediment to playing. In addition, my brother George played bass and passed away in 2009 so we would also need a bass player. I suppose we all lived our separate lives without The Nails. In 1999-2001 I played in a fusion reggae band called The Motives with Nails-mate Douglas, along with Bela Fleck's brother Louie and Philip Glass' son Zach. I also did occasional independent session work, from the early 90s to as recently as 2009. Steve and Mike played together in the mid-2000s in a band called Shroud of Lowell, and both might be playing somewhere.
We are exploring another recording project based upon rehearsals from 11 years ago that never came to fruition. We'll see. I do the website myself though I ask for advice occasionally. It is only band-related items and my band-members would complain to me if it was otherwise.
We're going to backtrack to the late 70s and the time the band spent in Colorado. When did the Ravers begin to consider the idea of relocating to New York? Was everyone in the band into the relocation idea?
In retrospect, I'm not sure when, but we were young and "hungry." I grew up in NY area and my family was there so I was planning to return. Music critic for Boulder Daily Camera Kenny Weissberg wrote an article in June 1977 The Ravers leave home (paraphrasing a Ramones album name) because staying in Boulder was a dead end regarding music as a career.
The underlying factor of original drummer Al leaving New York so soon was money, and probably the reasons for Jon and Artie eventually leaving.
Please tell us about a few important shows the band played in Colorado: - opening for The Ramones at Denver's Ebbets Field in April of '77
Joe Pope helped me remember some of this, and I'm still not sure what is accurate as this was so long ago. The Runaways played with Ray Manzarek's Nite City group a couple of days before and Ray's Hammond B3 organ was left onstage for me to play the second day of The Ramones stay at Ebbets Field. I recall playing the organ and playing material from the CBGB compilation, wearing leather jackets just because it was "punk." I also played the melodica (keyboard with a mouthpiece that you blow through) on some songs. I remember getting a pretty good reception.
I recall Ebbets field did not have seats but rather church-like pews! I also remembered being blown away by the sheer power and volume of The Ramones. The Ramones were so loud despite their Marshall amps being turned inward facing the back wall! I was not into The Ramones the way Marc was. I was into more esoteric and more "musicianship" such as the group Television. Nevertheless it was an eye-opening experience.
WaxTrax party with The Nerves (from Los Angeles) in '77
There are 2 pictures on The Nails website picture page of this show. The memory is hazy and may not be accurate. I remember the show was upstairs in a house? near Colfax Avenue, not a great neighborhood. Some of us ate at a Japanese fast food called Beef Bowl which served only 1 item, a bowl of beef with rice and vegetables. It was appropriately named. I suppose Yoshinoya fast food is its successor. I also remember my first "groupie" experience of meeting a girl there who, along with her dog, spent the weekend with me during the Boulder Free School show, a week or two later.
Ravers farewell party at the Boulder Free School with Driver and The Front in May of '77
I should have treated the young lady better but I was, at 23, still a neophyte regarding female relations. The dog saw everything. I recall the show being pretty crowded. There was a camaraderie among the bands, especially Driver — I don't remember The Front. It was our farewell show and believe we were already packing for the van ride across the country to New York City. I also had a friend named David (lives in Longmont now) who just got his driver's license and was courteous enough to drive me (and the young lady) to and from the school. The dog did not attend the event.