Just Water - The Riff LP. Sealed private press punkish rock record from 1977. (sealed)
Just Water was among the very first bands to embrace the do-it-yourself approach that became so commonplace later with the advent of the Internet and home studio programs like Pro Tools.
"We simply refused to wait for record labels to decide our fate. We wanted to make records, and we used every dollar we had, every connection, anything to get us on tape".
The Riff (1975 - 1977) was made for less than three thousand dollars, including recording studio fees, mastering, and pressing the first few hundred copies.
Thankfully, Just Water teamed up with Neal Steingart, who wanted to record music with the same "go for broke" enthusiasm as the band wanted to be recorded. Neal built Fly Studios on Kings Highway in Brooklyn. He built the mixing console, built the speakers, and assembled everything else from a Frankenstein chest of old machines and spare parts. In the end, Fly Studio was one fabulous 8-track studio, and Neal as great an engineer as anyone in the business. Legend has it that Neal couldn't afford the Fly Studio electric bill, so he crawled out the back window and tapped into the electricity that kept the meat frozen in the butcher shop downstairs.
The Riff was self produced - just the band and Neal, and the butcher's electricity.
When recording was completed, the band decided to press a few copies to send to record companies and sell to fans. This was still the age of vinyl, and Just Water found a blind mastering engineer in Brooklyn to cut the tape onto vinyl. He was probably deaf as well, because the result was a disaster. You could hardly hear on vinyl what Neal had put on the tapes.
Just Water decided to cut it professionally, which meant using one of the few top mastering labs, which was totally out of the band's reach financially. Luckily, their friend Paul Jansen (whose art work now graces Mitch Dancik's home and office) and his brother John Jansen (record producer, and the engineer on Meatloaf's Bat Out Of Hell) knew Greg Calbi who mastered records at Sterling Sound, the top lab in NYC. Greg, obviously a true music lover, agreed to do it in-between paying sessions. Thanks to Greg, who worked with Neal on the final master, Just Water now had a vinyl record that sounded almost as good as Neal's master tapes.
With a homemade album cover and an initial pressing of 2500 copies, Just Water had one of the first albums to come out of the NYC punk scene. Max Bell, a writer for England's New Musical Express (The NME) picked up a copy of The Riff soon after its release. He had recently called the first Television album the best record yet from NYC. However, his review of the The Riff proclaimed it "better than Television". Unfortunately, Just Water failed to seize the moment. They did not release The Riff in England, nor did they travel there, even when invited to be on a tour sponsored by Stiff Records, which featured Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, and Ian Dury.
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