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Adventures in recording

Leslie Brefeld
Special to the Daily
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COPPER – The Boulder-based band, Funkiphino (pronounced Funk-if-I-know), will open the free live music at the Burning Stones Plaza to accompany Copper Mountain’s opening weekend, which begins today.The 11-member, 8-year-old band has just finished a new CD, “Rise Above,” with 12 new songs. The group’s second album began with lofty goals, and came out with epic tracks. Co-founder, and keyboard, organ and vocalist for the band, Chris Fischer described the making of the CD, which took the string section to California’s Skywalker Sounds, added Francis “Rocco” Prestia to the lineup and saw the birth of a baby girl.Fischer knew what he wanted on his second album, partly through what he didn’t like on the first one.

The strings on the band’s debut CD, “Lovin’ Life,” were synthesized. But this album included a few songs with heavier string parts.Fischer said he thought during the process, “We can’t settle for doing synthesized string parts on this. It’s not going to do the songs justice.”So the band went to the opposite extreme. They hired the San Francisco Symphony and flew out to George Lucas’ studio ranch in California to use the Skywalker Sound recording studio. Fischer said they were able to knock out five songs in one day.”It’s probably the best sound room to record in in the United States,” he said, citing the studio’s setup for a 130-piece orchestra.For a couple of songs on the CD, Fischer said he basically wanted to play a tribute to the long-lived funksters, Tower of Power, and wondered while recording, “How would Rocco (bassist for Tower of Power, Francis ‘Rocco’ Prestia) do it?”

This sparked him to wonder what it would take to get Rocco to actually play for the album. Arranger for Tower of Power Dave Eskridge, who was working with Fischer on the album, said to call him up. Rocco and also sax player Stephen “Doc” Kupka of Tower of Power can both be heard on one of the new CD’s tracks.Another lesson learned from the band’s first CD, was on the quality of the horn section.From the very start, Fischer knew he wanted the horns to sound better on this album. After all, he said, “We’re a horn band.” He worked with Grammy-winning producer Matt Sandoski and Eskridge to pump up the horns and get the sound to “the way it’s supposed to be.”Yet as the crew was working on the final mixes, they realized the horns hadn’t been set up properly during the recording. They would have to re-cut all the horn parts.But what could have been utterly bad news – the amount of extra studio time would have put them way over budget – turned out OK.

For one, Fischer had just finished building his own private recording area, Hi-Phi Studios, and so the band could record there for free. And second, it meant that Chris’ wife Jessica – a trumpet player who couldn’t participate during the first session because she had just had a baby girl, Madeline – could be on the album.Young Madeline has become a part of the band’s extended family with nearly nine months of gig time in mom’s belly and many hours in the studio.”She was born in the middle of March and I played into mid-January,” Jessica said. “I couldn’t stand not to be on stage.”Funkiphino will play at Copper Mountain’s Burning Stones Plaza today in a free show from noon to 1:30 p.m. Saturday.”Rise Above,” the band’s new CD, is all high-definition and was completed in six months. Although it is not yet released, there is a sampler CD available which includes three songs.

“When I found out the horns were going to be re-recorded I was so psyched,” Jessica said of being on the album. “We set these ridiculous goals for ourselves … and everybody was able to rise to the occasion.” Vail, Colorado


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