While attending New York University more than 20 years ago, Matt Turk remembers seeing eventual Hollywood A-listers Brett Ratner and Philip Seymour Hoffman around campus.
He didn’t know those guys back then, but Turk was close with another NYU student at that time who has since done pretty well for himself in Hollywood: David Dobkin, the director of the recently released film The Judge, as well as The Change-Up, Fred Claus and Wedding Crashers.
“We were roommates,” Turk recalls. “I was in a band called The Hour, and David was a fan of the band. When we did a national tour, he came on the road as a roadie and a soundman.”
Lately, Dobkin has served in a different role for Turk: as his producer. Their latest studio collaboration is the recently released Cold Revival, New York singer-songwriter Turk’s follow-up to the 2010 covers project American Preservation.
The Turk-Dobkin production relationship can be traced back to 2007’s Fred Claus. Dobkin, who tends to be very active with the music featured in his movies, was looking for someone to do a version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” for the soundtrack, so he reached out to Turk.
They recorded it at Los Angeles’ Matter Music, which is also where Turk and Dobkin subsequently teamed up to make American Preservation. That project sparked Turk to get back to writing original material, and he was urged by Dobkin to “ ‘just write — get that muscle going, and we’ll see what makes sense,’ ” Turk says.
While in Los Angeles for a gig, Turk played the song “Cold Revival,” and Dobkin liked it right away, deeming it “the emotional center of the next record,” according to Turk.
About 40 other Turk songs were shelved while he and Dobkin went back and forth to find the material that fit Cold Revival’s emotional center.
“I would send him a song as a sketch with the lyrics attached, and he would get back to me,” Turk says. “Sometimes he wouldn’t say anything, which meant that the song wasn’t right and he didn’t have anything to say about it. Other times he’d say, ‘This song is great, but the chorus makes no sense.’ … I got into a flow of just writing and rewriting and working on the craft.”
In the studio, Turk says Dobkin has “a strong but gentle touch,” and his focus is on the arrangement and instrumental balance.
“That works really well with what I do,” Turk says. “I like to layer instruments so that there’s a sonic balance, but I don’t like to double things: I’m not doubling acoustic guitars; I’m not doubling mandolins — just single tracking. I like to have tasteful ingredients but tend to lean more on the lesser side.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Matt Turk on tour (schedule subject to change):
* Oct. 30: The Bitter End — New York
* Nov. 8: Music at the Mansion — Rye Brook, N.Y.
* Nov. 11: The Mill — Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.
* Nov. 13: Birdsall House — Peekskill, N.Y.
* Nov. 20: Rest Au Rant — Long Island City, N.Y.
* Nov. 21: Ask for Music — Kingston, N.Y.
* Nov. 22: Common Ground Coffee House — Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.
Photo by Christina Torpie