I never actually met Simon. The only connection I had to Simon was listening to Simon’s bass parts in my studio and mixing them in Boats Without Oars’ album Places, Pictures. Simon tragically passed away in 2015. The album stands in Simon’s memory, and I was honored to be a part of it.
The goal for the album was simple yet challenging: take 7 home recordings by some talented high schoolers from Denver and turn them into a record. Yes, the recordings were a bit rough around the edges, and I’m sure the band would’ve done things differently had they had the chance to go back and clean everything up. With Simon’s sudden death, there was no such luxury. In hindsight, I think the imperfections only highlight the power of the songs and reinforce the aesthetic of Boats Without Oars…one of those recording “happy accidents.”
After hours of mixing, back and forth notes between the band and me, and revisions, I believed I had succeeded in doing Simon’s memory justice. The album was off to the masterer. It certainly increased the pressure of the project knowing that my mixes were a very concrete representation of Simon’s final musical stamp on the world.
Doing music for so many years, it would be a lie to say I haven’t questioned why the hell I’m still working in this profession. It’s certainly not the glamour (that was only tempting as a teenager). On the surface, my work in general doesn’t create a huge impact on the world. It doesn’t save lives. It doesn’t heal wounds. It doesn’t solve injustice…at least, on the surface it doesn’t. Music has the power to do all of these things in small (and sometimes big) ways. Working on Places, Pictures reminded me that at it’s core recording is just that: a record, a document. Recordings can help us document a certain time in a musician’s life, reflect on that time, and enjoy their art from that period. The album serves as a document of the music of Simon Katz and the band, and I hope it serves as a record of Simon’s creativity, genius, and the other qualities I was unfortunately never able to experience first hand. I hope it helps those close to Simon through their grieving and provides catharsis. Mixing this album gave me a strong reminder that music does impact the world in strong and positive ways.
If you’re a fan of emo, math rock, post rock, or punk, give the album a listen. You’ll hear the thoughts of a great musician that was taken from this world too soon.