WHAT'S THIS? 1976 – 1979
The tracks for what ultimately would become What’s This? 1976-1979 were recorded in three separate recording sessions.
On August 26, 1976, Skafish took his band into the studio to record and mix a 4 song demo tape, which would later become the first four songs on this album. In September 1976, these tracks were heard by 20th century jazz legend Stan Kenton. After one listen, Kenton exclaimed about Skafish, “He’s a genius.”
The next four recordings, tracks #5-8, were recorded on October 12, 1977 and produced by Robin McBride, who at the time was the Head of Midwest/International A&R for Mercury Records. McBride, who had served as Producer/Executive Producer for such pioneering artists as David Bowie, Kraftwerk, Tony Bennett and Dave Brubeck recalls in November 2007 seeing Skafish first perform in Chicago in 1977: “In a club/bar on Lincoln Avenue, I saw and heard the most unusual apparition and original music/lyrics of my experience. Everything on stage, and the music that came off the stage, seemed to fly in the face of both musical and social conventions.”
Tracks #9-11 of What’s This? 1979-1979 were recorded live on a 4-track recorder in Skafish’s basement on July 16, 1978 by engineer Ken Rasek. Then on August 3, 1978, Skafish took his band into Pumpkin Studios in Oak Lawn Illinois with engineer Gary Loizzo to perform the vocals and add a few musical extras. Regarding recording Skafish, Grammy Nominated engineer Loizzo said, “It was the most fascinating project I’d ever worked on, and listening to his lyrics made me feel as if I was inside his head. I couldn’t wait to hear the next line to find out what he was thinking.”
Only two of these tracks, Disgracing The Family Name and Work Song, were previously released. In November 1979, Miles Copeland released these two recordings as a single in England in Europe. In referring to Skafish, Copeland repeatedly proclaimed to anyone within earshot, anywhere in the world, “He’s a fucking genius!”
All of the master tapes to these three recording sessions were thought to be lost. However, with the first master tape being discovered in April 1997 and the last master tape found in October 2006, what was thought lost was ultimately found. On November 15, 2006, Skafish himself performed a 5 track spoken commentary to set the record straight and then gave all of the recordings to Trevor Sadler in December 2006 for the purpose of mastering them for release in a digital format. All of the tracks were recorded on take 1 or take 2 and no remixing or editing of any kind was done to the original tapes.