Boston founder still does it the old-fashioned way

By Mark Voger
Asbury Park Press

Those catchy chords, those perfect harmonies, that soaring guitar. In 1976, you couldn't turn on a radio without hearing "More Than a Feeling" by Boston, newcomers whose self-titled first album became the fastest-selling rock debut up to that time.

It seemed to come from out of nowhere.

"Where it came from was out of my basement," says Boston founder Tom Scholz with a laugh.

"That's why it seemed like it was from nowhere; nobody knew what was going on down there."

Because Boston may have been a fleshed-out band at the time of its first tour, but it was Scholz -- a Massachusetts Institute of Technology alum, onetime Polaroid employee and musical innovator in a league with Les Paul, George Martin and Todd Rundgren -- who created Boston's sound during years of laboring in obscurity.

Recalls Scholz: "That album was the result of six or seven years of working with almost the identical recording technique I still use today: laying down a drum track and then just sitting there and putting overdubs on, one track at a time. You know -- a guitar part, then a bass part, then go back and change the guitar, then go back and change the bass, then add a keyboard part, then change both of the others.

"It's this iterative, very slow, 'two steps forward, one step back' approach to arranging and recording music.

"So it didn't really come out of nowhere from my perspective. From my perspective, there was seven years of very hard work and my entire life savings. "Today, basically, I do it the same way. I'm still in a basement studio putting parts on one at a time. I have help, though."

Boston's latest album, "Corporate America," was released in November by Artemis Records. (Scholz on going with an independent label for Boston's comeback: "I'd just had it with those corporate types thinking about nothing but the bottom line.")

In 1975, Scholz landed a deal with Epic Records on the strength of those painstakingly produced demos. "Boston," the album, largely consisted of Scholz's home-studio tapes, though some tweaking preceded its release.

"Most of that first album was actually physically recorded in the (basement) studio," the Ohio native, 56, tells CELEBS. "It was mixed in L.A., but the basics, all the overdubs, were put down in my studio, except for, I believe, one song.

"So I did go back in the studio and re-record tracks for that particular album. I've never done that since, but on that one, I did."

Did this mission irk Scholz?

"That was really a walk in the park compared to the six or seven years of struggling and working with no particular reason, not expecting success, never planning on it or counting on it, and going through that pretty much alone," he says.

"Once I got the deal and just had to re-record the tracks and remix, that was a piece of cake.

"Of course, I had (singer-guitarist) Brad (Delp) to come down and sing vocals on the tracks that I got ready, and a friend of mine to put down drum tracks for me. But other than that, it was pretty much a solo enterprise, really." Scholz then faced another mission: to put together an "instant" band to tour behind the album.

"Finding the band was a simple matter," he says.

"We just got some musicians out of a local club, actually. The songs were done. The parts were all worked out. All the parts were there, so people just had to learn the parts literally by listening to the record. So I thought, 'All we need are some musicians who know how to cover songs.'

"Brad and I were the only ones on the contract. I picked the guitar player that I had worked with and was something of a friend of mine (Barry Goudreau); I didn't know the other two guys (bassist Fran Sheehan and drummer Sib Hashian)."

As for the tour: "That was a snap. I won't say that the singing live was something I would necessarily want to hear again," Scholz says, laughing again, "but the rest of it was pretty easy."

Scholz -- who invented the Rockman guitar rehearsal system -- believes musicians owe a debt to his fellow inventor-slash-guitarist, Les Paul.

"Les Paul, of course, invented the multi-track tape machine," Scholz says. "He was far ahead of his time. Kind of like I did when I was at Polaroid -- built my own -- he did the same thing and made the first multi-track recording.

"It seems like a simple enough idea, but it wasn't then. Nobody else had thought of it."

Boston is scheduled to perform at 8 tonight at the PNC Bank Arts Center, Exit 116 off the Garden State Parkway, Holmdel. $18.50-48.50. (732) 335-8698.