He recorded and toured with a group of friends under the moniker “Durham,” and made an acoustic-based singer/songwriter record with celebrated jazz producer Lee Townsend. (now available at blacklabworld.com under the title Ten Million Years: songs from the nineteen nineties). “Durham” split, but a deal with Geffen Records followed, a new band was built, and Black Lab's debut was tagged as "one of this year's breakout records" (Billboard). Hollywood called, and the band contributed songs to the soundtracks for Can't Hardly Wait, Varsity Blues, Permanent Midnight, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
After a year of touring, Black Lab was poised to fulfill their destiny as "the American U2" (San Francisco Chronicle) when their record label was quickly shuttered. Over the next two years, Durham left his band, fired his manager and moved to LA. "In the end, all I had were my guitars and the songs I was writing." Durham wanted to control the sound around his voice, so he bought a computer and learned to use it. "I had to get back to how it was in high school -- just me and my four-track." The resulting demos got Durham a new deal with Epic Records.
"The first thing I did was buy a giant ProTools system." The only problem was, he didn't know how to install the software. On advice from a friend, Durham hired Andy Ellis to set up his studio. "So, we're sitting around waiting for the computer to reboot," remembers Durham, "And this guy picks up my guitar, without asking. I was cringing inside, afraid of what he would play.
But he was great. I wanted to sing over the top of everything he played. Pretty soon, we were writing together." At 23, Ellis was already an accomplished guitarist, keyboard player and programmer. He had been working as an assistant to some of the best engineers in the business and knew how to twiddle some serious knobs.
Durham had found the missing link between what he heard in his head and what came out of the speakers. "Working with Andy is the first time collaboration has ever been easy," says Durham. "Instead of the whole hell-is-other-people thing, we have a blast just making sounds. See the Sun has a depth and emotional range that broadens with each listen. Much of the album was mixed by Tom Lord-Alge (Live, Blink 182, Avril Lavigne).
What shines brightest is the band's pop sensibility – the liquid swirl of "Remember," the epic sweep of "See the Sun," the raging loss of "Without You," and the open-armed surrender of "Lonely Boy." “Learn to Crawl” was tapped as the fourth track on the platinum Spider-Man soundtrack. Produced by Durham and veteran mixer/producer Tom Lord-Alge, the song wraps an aggressive guitar riff around what Rolling Stone calls "Black Lab's tightly spun, highly melodic rock." The title of "Ecstasy," a pulsing shadow that wakes to full rock glory, was inspired by Durham's experience recording: "The freedom to do what I wanted – in the studio across the hall from my bedroom – was amazing. I would get up late, go to the beach, then work until four or five in the morning. I got to record this album the same way I wrote it." While See the Sun represents a zenith in Black Lab’s songwriting and production, the band continues to push and expand its sound into uncharted territory, contributing a vicious techno track called “This Blood” to the worldwide hit movie Blade : Trinity.
Black Lab also continues to produce music for television (MTV’s Real World, “What I Like About You,” “The Days”) as well as the upcoming film Lovewrecked. The third Black Lab album, entitled "Passion Leaves A Trace" was released on January 16th, 2007. Highlights include the majestic "Mine Again", the jet-black remorse of "This Night" (featured in the trailer for The Shield Season 6, and on the episode "Out of the Chute" of House), the hook-laden driving force that is "The Real You", and the achingly beautiful "Ghost In Your Mind". All things Black Lab, including streaming and free downloads from the new and past albums, can be found at blacklabworld.com. Read more on Last.fm.
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