Exploring Bob

Bob Hoag may orbit the moon, but he may just launch your band into the stratosphere

Musicians say they are drawn to Hoag's work because of his attitude toward studio time. Hoag does not charge by the hour. Rather, he charges by the recording, since he feels time limits impede creativity. Plus, Flying Blanket is like a nostalgia trip back to high school, like walking into your best friend' s basement. It features a couple of beat-up couches and a plentitude of guitar magazines and Weekly World News tabloids in scattered piles. The mixing room ceiling has wood shingles reminiscent of a tiki bar.

"Everything is organized in his own way in that place," explains Kelly Reed, the drummer for Before Braille, burgeoning Mesa faves. "If you ask Bob to find you a CD, he'll look around for two hours and finally find it underneath a couch." Despite the clutter, the environment has proven instrumental to some stellar production feats.

The EP Hoag recorded with the Format, simply titled EP, may well be one of Phoenix's greatest recent success stories. Hoag helped the pop duo arrange its harmonies, played the drums, added background vocals, and wound up producing what was originally intended to be a five-song rough edit, a first draft. The ridiculously catchy EP burned through its first 1,000 local copies and helped bandmates Nate Reuss and Sam Means land a major-label deal with Elektra Records.

"I need to feel like  a punk rocker:"  Bob Hoag, post-modern anachronism.
"I need to feel like a punk rocker:" Bob Hoag, post-modern anachronism.

"It was pretty awesome to see them do well," Hoag says. " I'm happy to hear that those guys are getting the opportunity to do things in the big leagues."

"We recorded with him as a full band and it was awesome," says Reuss. "He did his job and a very good one, at that."

Yet like other eccentric minds, Hoag can be a nonconfrontational dude, like when he wanted to watch E!'s Celebrity Dating and his live-in nephew would turn to sports instead. Hoag wouldn't fight, and would retreat to his room. Sometimes this passivity transfers into Hoag's professional life. When the Format posted the following comment on the journal section of its Web site, he hesitated at first to comment: "last nite we finished up the first single minus harmonies and some stuff in the bridge... it sounds sooo awesome... im shocked... I didn't know the song could be this good... we changed the vibe of the song and added a lot of guitar and synth layers... and a disco bass line... its really cool... to me its 10000000 times better then the original . . . Walt [Vincent, who also produced albums for Pete Yorn and Fastball] sure knows a thing or two about producing. ouch."

Reuss says "the paragraph in no way has anything to do with Bob... it's in regards to Walt, our producer, and some of the experiences he's had, as well as the other producer's perception of The First Single.'"

Still, Hoag says he feels slighted. "I wish I could believe [that it wasn't directed toward me]," he says. "If he hadn't put that ouch' in there, I might believe it... but I feel like I've been betrayed by friends."

Regardless of that touchy subject, Bob's methods continue to pay off with other bands. After he recorded an EP with Before Braille, the band signed with independent Aezra Records and negotiated for Hoag to do its full-length album.

"If he charged by the hour, he would have no business," jokes Reed. "He always spends the first couple of hours you're in there talking to you about the Beach Boys."

Hoag is notorious for diatribes. Don't even get him started on reality television.

"I really like the dating shows," he spews in an infectious, ultra-long detour. "I get really angry, like, Why is she buying his crap?!' I love Dismissed, especially when they have three dudes all on a date. I started watching Star Dates. I watched Screech and his date. They got along great. He was really nice, regular guy, genuine fella."

Another of Hoag's latest obsessions is Burt Reynolds. Yes, Burt Reynolds. Hoag recently acquired a 1970s tell-all book about the former Cosmopolitan centerfold. His favorite picture shows Burt leaning against a Corvette with a glass of champagne in hand. The caption, which Hoag finds hilarious, reads, "Burt is a class act."

"One day I'm gonna find Burt and have him autograph it," he says. "I don't know, though. I think he'll want to fight me."

Either that, or Burt'll cast him in Cannonball Run IV.

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