World Wide Woodshed


Roll Out Your Own Music

by David Jenkins

What is it like to make your own CD? What do you do while you’re waiting for the world to beat a path to your door with a recording contract and a million dollars? We interviewed one group that decided not to wait.

Xaz is an East Bay band composed of hi tech professionals who decided to make their own CD because they wanted a challenge and the pleasure of passing out and selling their very own CD. The task was full of rewards but also some stresses and strains.


Rich Nosek plays with Xaz (pronounced "Shozz"). His garage is truly a musician’s workplace with giant amps, old guitar stands, wires and strings covering the entire structure. I doubt there’s been a car in there since he moved in.

Xaz plays in garages, basements, lofts, and corporate gigs around the Silicon Valley rock scene. Xaz consists of Jerry Fiddler, guitar; Rich Nosek, guitar; and Joe Pinzarrone, piano. They produced Prized Ale of Non-Drinkers in 1996. Jerry, Rich and Joe wrote all the pieces. Also performing on Prized Ale were Kai Ariel, drums; Carolyn Brandy, percussion; Rebecca Ayer, Viola; Mark Lavelle, guitar; Steve Lavelle, mandolin. The music is a blend of fusion, jazz, and middle eastern modes with dashes of slow reggae and slack key.

"We had no idea it would take so long" said Rich. "But we were superfortunate on costs because we happened to get free studio time" My ears perked up. How did that happen? "Steve plays mandolin, banjo, and bass and had built himself a 16 track studio in his East Oakland converted factory apartment. Steve saw an opportunity to gain some recording experience, and it worked out well." (Steve has since moved his studio to Woodside, California.)

How long did it take? Rich guessed that it took about 70 evenings spread out over a year and a half. "Most of us have families and day jobs, and it all takes time. Some evenings were just one person going over and laying down a single track. I remember that we did all the basic rhythm tracks in one weekend. It wasn’t just the recording time, we were writing the songs and learning them and recording them all at the same time. And," he added, "it wasn’t just playing the songs. They needed mixing and getting the effects right. It was a lot of work."

How much did it cost? Rich thought. "We did have a few costs, for mastering the final tracks, and for printing the CD’s and cover art. We also paid a session fee to a professional musician we brought in to add a few tracks.

"We also had the good fortune to know Paul Shimandle, a really creative graphic artist and musician in the Chicago scene. After hearing some rough early mixes, Paul put together this totally bizarre, surrealistic collage which became the cover art for the CD. It took a couple of tries for the CD manufacturer’s layout technicians to combine it artistically with text and render it to the CD format, but eventually they integrated the whole thing successfully into the finished package."

What advice would you give someone who wanted to make their own CD? "You don’t need the ultimate studio. Remember that the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper was done on a 4 track!" Well said, Rich!


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