Producer Terry Brown talks about The Joke's on Me
July 2005




On a business level, we had the same lawyer, Bernie Solomon, so Domenic and I knew each other from hanging out together. Of course, I knew about his career and I had worked with him on different records, but we were introduced by Bernie Solomon, in terms of a more formal arrangement.

We had a pre-production meeting prior to the weekend of going into the studio. We sat down and discussed how we were going to go about it. He'd already got all the charts together and he got the tunes rehearsed, and then we basically just went in and did it.

We didn't work every day, of course, but we worked from the 6th to the 31st of January of 1978, and that included vocals, background vocals, and overdubs. The album was recorded at Sounds Interchange with Mike Jones engineering. I had started working there... I used to have a studio in town before that, and we closed the doors around '77. So I had started working there on a number of different projects. I was actually working on a record with Kim Mitchell and a record with Klaatu, so we decided to do it there. At the beginning of the month, we were recording Domenic in the big room, so we had the studio floor. Then when we were doing overdubs, we would use the smaller room. They had a couple of rooms there at the time. We mixed in the smaller room, too... from the 1st to the 12th of February.

Most of the basic tracks were recorded live. That's why we didn't need to take quite as long as if we were overdubbing everything. Most of the stuff was cut live off the floor. Domenic was one of those players who could do that... so take advantage of it! He used to do a lot of work with Steely Dan, working out guitar parts and harmonic voicings and all sorts of stuff. The dynamic of Domenic's band was pretty dynamite. Paul DeLong on drums, Jacek Sobatta playing keyboards, and Dave Tyson... it was a hot band. Paul DeLong was totally comfortable moving to any time signature and not blinking an eye. I remember having a great time making the record with Domenic and the band, because it was such a hot group of players. It was pretty straightforward, because we did so much live, off-the-floor... that's why I did it with Mike Jones, because we wanted to get good sounds and just have them come straight off the floor, record them onto a multi-track, and do as few overdubs as possible. Domenic wasn't really into doing tons of overdubs. I remember that. So it was really a question of getting tracks ready where he was going to cut vocals, and then get background vocals done.

I think there was a certain amount of hesitancy on his part [to cut vocals], but I gave him a lot of encouragement. I think he did a great job. Who better to sing these songs but him, quite frankly. I think he was more comfortable when he was behind the guitar, to be honest. That was really where he was at his best, but he definitely had the ability to do it.

The Aural Exciter System was the latest toy. That had just hit the market around that time. So, of course, we had to give it a try and see what we could do with it. We mixed on a Harrison console and did some of the overdubs in the small room, but the mix was done on a Harrison. I think we had a Neve in the big room. There were quite a number of keyboards. There's B-3 on it, and certainly the mini-Moog, and I’m not sure what else was on there.

The second half of the album - "Road to Hell," "War Zone" - was definitely a concept piece. It's got that real Toronto R&B kind of vibe to it. When we finalized what tunes were going to go on the record, I don't think it could be a concept record, to be honest with you, which might be why it was changed [an early idea of the record as a loose concept album titled War Zone]. With the final line-up of tunes on there, I don't think it made sense.

It was a pretty smooth record, putting it together. The recording went really well, we were on schedule, and we delivered the record on schedule. I think it was relatively on budget. I think we did good in that regard.

We never really got into a critique of it. I think he was happy. I had a bunch of things going on at that time. It was one of three albums that I was in the process of finishing. It was one of those records that came and went rather quickly, certainly in Toronto. It didn't really get the exposure that I was hoping it would get. I don't think EMI really promoted it that much. I don't even recall seeing any sales figures on it. I seem to remember at the time being a little bit concerned about it and being upset about it, but I guess I got over it. It's hard to stay on top of that sort of thing. You put so much time and energy into making records sometimes, and then they don't get the exposure that you expect. You just got to walk away sometimes. I have a feeling that Domenic's record fell into that category. It didn't get the exposure and it didn't do as well as I had hoped it would do, but unfortunately, that's life. It's one thing to make the records and it's a whole other thing to try and promote them and have success. That's a bigger job, quite frankly... especially someone with Domenic's talent. Putting the records together was a relatively simple thing. It came so naturally to him, but actually going out and promoting it, playing night after night and trying to make it successful is a whole different bag of tricks. I think it was tough because it was quite progressive or fusion-y on one hand and then sort of soulful on the other hand, and fairly commercial, but I don't think the consistency was there in the record, looking back. Sometimes that can be a bad thing. Personally, I like the variety, but in terms of marketing the record, I think they had a hard time.


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