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In the intervening years, Vaux disbanded, and Tymn went on to play with Ride the Boogie and toured with former Hole bassist Melissa Auf der Maur. During his downtime, Tymn had been sitting in with Halborg and Murphy at Jinxed, the three-hour hootenanny/improv night they hosted at Rockbar in the latter part of the last decade. Unwittingly, those sessions set the stage for him to later join the band. The Swayback was in California for a few weeks, living in the studio and recording with Andy Johns, the revered producer who engineered Led Zeppelin IV and the Stones' Exile on Main Street, when it became apparent that they needed another guitarist. Tymn was the obvious choice.
The group reached out, and when they returned to California for the next batch of sessions at Capitol Studios in May 2009, Tymn was a member of the Swayback. His induction was a trial by fire. Not only was he joining in the middle of the sessions, but he was recording in a legendary studio with a bona fide living legend with a string of iconic albums in his discography — a daunting prospect no matter who you are.
"While he has the right to be an egotistical maniac, having worked with so many of the intangible greats, he is not," says Tymn. "He asked me the golden question one night: 'Adam, even if these cats don't make it to the top, will you stick with these blokes?' I said yes. He smiled at me, and he taught me that it wasn't about 'making it,' but it was about sticking with your mates and making good music. I learned Andy Johns is one of us."
Considering that the band's initial introduction to Johns was probably even more unnerving, though, there could hardly have been a better way to break Tymn in.
The Swayback met Johns through Halborg's brother-in-law, whose company produces live DVDs and had commissioned the legendary producer/engineer to mix the recordings. Bowers thought Johns and the band would make a good fit, and so he arranged for them to spend some time together in the studio. They went with the assumption that Johns had already heard their music and was interested in working with them.
When the band showed up, however, Johns informed them not only that he hadn't heard the music, but that, after hearing the songs, the music really wasn't his thing. Undaunted, Halborg and company rolled through each of the songs on the tape machine to Johns before ultimately resorting to breaking out a guitar and playing him some songs. The guys contend that Johns was making them prove their mettle. The Swayback eventually won him over, and he ended up recording four songs with the band and helping them to refine their sound.
"The biggest thing I took from Andy," says Halborg, "was the notion that Swayback was on a musical path that reminded him of the 'music first' notion that was prevalent when he first started making records. He would say, 'You guys are just cats man, regular cats that just want to play music at any cost. You remind me of the cats I worked with when I was young, like the Stones, Traffic and Zeppelin — blokes obsessed with making music and learning all you can about it.'
"It was something I always felt," he goes on, "but coming from him, it hit me that we were part of a musical tradition that has been going on forever, really. Andy was telling me how musicians these days were often prima donnas and obsessed with making it and business matters, and that he found it refreshing that we came into the studio hungry for nothing else but evolving our songs.
"We were open to his advice because we knew he was a true master at something we hold sacred. He would ask me: 'Where's this song going, man? What's it speaking to? We need it to take us on a little journey, man!' It led us to creating parts on Double Four Time that we would have never thought. Every time I write a song now, his ideas ring in my head. The new stuff I am writing is a shade more complex and laced with Andy's notion of movement and the song's journey more so than anything I was coming up with before I met him."
"Andy is part of the music history that forced me to listen to rock-and-roll records beginning to end," adds Murphy. "The bands he worked with I love, and I love so many of his records. Andy's ears are amazing. Sometimes we did not have the budget to rent equipment from SIR, so we had to use what we had, and he always made everything sound so amazing. He would twiddle with the knobs while I would play guitar, and presto! We would have the sound we were just chatting about."
"We got on really well," says Johns. "He [Murphy] had some good ideas, and the lyrics were quite interesting. They were very eclectic. I helped with their arrangements a bit, like I always do, changed drum parts around a bit, I expect. Came up with some guitar ideas. It went by very quickly. I just remember we had a lot of fun, and I liked everybody and we got on very well."