“I was supposed to work with Elliott on a record that never happened. We had a meeting at Inner Ear with Elliott, Don Z., Ian MacKaye, Elliott’s girlfriend and myself. Ian and Elliott were close friends and Elliott was a huge Fugazi fan. Ian had recommended me as a collaborator/producer figure, Don as an engineer. I greatly appreciated the recommendation.
There was a lot of love between Ian and Elliott. Ian cared deeply for Elliott and though he did not say it explicitly, I could tell he was worried about him.
I think Ian was hoping to encourage Elliott to make a simpler, more stripped down, organic (Ian’s words, not mine) record than Figure 8, which was his previous recording. Figure 8 (which I love) had a very far-reaching, ornate, psychedelic presentation. The idea was to try something maybe the opposite of that.
He played us some demos that were stunning. (A couple of the songs I have never heard since. Which haunts me. The tapes have to be out there somewhere…)
It was towards the tail end of his souring relationship with Dreamworks and there was a lot of tension.
This is to say nothing of his physical state, which was quite frail. He spoke very slowly and simply. He seemed to be struggling just to exist. There was a slightly floating quality about him.
The songs were exquisite and smart and sharply honed. Authoritative. Dark and stunning. The man himself, sitting in the control room chair… was significantly more blurred, fragile, faint. There was a marked contrast between the strength and authority and craft of the demos coming out of the studio speakers and the person who made them.
It made me sad.
There was no question he was the real thing. I’ve had the opportunity to be in the room with genius (of varying types) a few times in my life. You can feel it. You try to absorb it if you can, but it doesn’t work that way.
Plans were laid out to do some sessions, but I never expected the record to get made. There were too many forces against it. Dreamworks, for example, was terrified of Elliott going off and making a record in the place most famous for Fugazi — a stridently anti-commercial/anti-mainstream band.
He flew off to Scotland with his girlfriend to try to recover and get away from the things and people that were dragging him down.
I never saw him again.
I think about him all the time, even though we only spent one day together.
I was hoping that some of the songs I heard in that meeting would have made it to the posthumous ANTI release, but they did not.
I still keep hoping they’ll surface.”