The Straight Eight – Eric Ambel

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Eric “Roscoe” Ambel is a New York City–based guitarist and record producer, originally from Batavia, Illinois. He has worked with a wide range of artists including Nils Lofgren, The Brandos, Steve Earle, the Yayhoos, Del Lords, The Bottle Rockets, Joan Jett, Mojo Nixon, Blood Oranges, Blue Mountain, Freedy Johnston and Mary Lee’s Corvette.

1. So why make records?

Because you absolutely must.  For me that is the only valid reason to consider undertaking the task of making a record.

2. Can recordmaking be a politically and/or socially significant art form?

Absolutely.  There is a rich history of artists who have had really important things to say.  It’s sad to see less of it now than when I was a kid (graduated high school in ’75) but I’m proud to have played and recorded with Steve Earle on some of his most political records ever including the Grammy winning “Jerusalem”

Why do you think so few women are recordmakers and audioworkers?

I don’t know why.  I’ve owned a recording studio for over 16 years.  I get e-mails about interning and assistant jobs all the time.  I’ve never gotten one from a woman.  In 35 years working in studios (as a band member, session musician, engineer and producer) I have worked with 3 female engineers.  2 were dedicated professionals the other wanted to go from M-box owner to Producer in 2 days.  I’ve been in bands with female musicians/artists and produced many bands with female artists including many over the course of years/multiple projects.

4. What do you imagine recordmaking will be like in 100 years?

I hope it will have people still recording in a room together on acoustic or electric instruments that require skill and dedication to master in order to impart a unique, individual sound.

5. If you could change one thing about the field of recordmaking, what would you change?

I’d like to see the real estate part of the equation be at least a little easer for us who decide to put everything we have into making studios for people to do great work, especially in the insatiable NYC market.

6. What was the last record you heard that truly blew your mind or touched your heart? How so?

Glenn Campbell: Ghost On The Canvas.  Truly beautiful.  An artist I’ve loved since I was a kid, gets help from a terrific producer who I’ve never heard of who rounds up a fabulous batch of songs and really takes time to get to know the artist to the point of using bits of their conversations as lyrics in the new songs.  The sound references the classic recordings that Glenn did in his past without being a slave to them.  Glenn’s Alzheimers disease is creeping up on him as he makes this record but it seems to have no effect on his beautiful voice and crazy flowing guitar playing.  On top of all that the producer puts some wonderful ‘interlude’ music between the songs that give you time to think about the truly stunning things that you just heard.  I can’t imagine this record ever being dislodged from my personal all time top ten of life.

7. What is your greatest fear when making a record?

”Good enough.”  I’m not here to do “good enough.”  Good sucks when great is possible.

8. What is your greatest joy when making a record?

Doing something new, learning something myself, teaching something to the artist and players, helping them get where they might not have even known they were going