Dishwalla Makes CD/DVD History

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The release of Dishwalla's third album Opaline, their first since 1998's And You Think You Know What Life's About, this week marks more than just a comeback for the band. It is the first time a new music release has hit stores in both CD and DVD Audio formats.

"Day and date" was the mantra of the DVD industry when movies were initially released in that format. The first time a studio put out a film simultaneously on VHS and DVD ("day and date"), it was a big deal, essentially legitimizing the then-upstart technology. No one really talks about "day and date" in home video these days, though, because it's taken for granted that all new titles will come out in both formats at the same time.

In the audio world, Opaline has just answered the "day and date" cry. "We have our own production studios, so we're all familiar with the technology," says John Trickett, chairman of the 5.1 Entertainment Group, which includes Dishwalla's label, Immergent Records. "The band fell in love with it early on. It's the early days, but the format is taking off strongly. We want seminal artists to go out day and date. We feel that DVD Audio is the future."

"I'm a big fan of the format," enthuses Dishwalla singer J.R. Richards, who has a home theater system equipped with surround sound. But he hadn't thought much about recording this release in 5.1. "We were just concentrating on making the record, and we thought DVD would be down the line. "5.1 Records had the studios available to mix [for surround sound]," Richards says, "so we realized this was something we could do pretty easily."

The band recorded simultaneously for both CD and DVD Audio, splitting the signal into different consoles, and then gave the DVD-ready tracks to mixer and engineer Gary Lux. "We didn't get too crazy, throwing stuff all over the place," Richards explains. "We tried to duplicate as well as you can what you hear in stereo. And then we put some things -- maybe a lead guitar or a vocal -- in the center." After Lux had done his mix, the band came in and listened to each song, giving suggestions. "Some songs," Richards says, "we took farther. With some of the cool keyboard sounds or ambient sounds, we had them wrap around your head."

How does he feel about the final products? "Song by song, I like one version or the other better," Richards says. "Some songs are really effective in surround, some are very similar to the stereo." But Richards sees a future filled with DVD Audio. "Stereo is old hat, like mono. Everything will soon be in surround," he says. "[5.1] opens a huge door creatively with all those channels. It can change the whole writing and recording process."

And Richards is enamored not just of the superior audio quality, but also of the opportunity to use the expanded storage space on a DVD to give fans a broader experience of the band. "One of the coolest things about DVD compared to CD," he says, "is that the DVD is not just about the music but about the group -- we can put on other things, like video of us working on the record, or commentary about the writing and recording. We can let people in on who the band is, who the people are, more than just listening to the music."

"It's just the first of many," says Amy Jo Donner, Executive Director of the DVD Entertainment Group, of Dishwalla's day and date release. "There will be more coming." And 5.1 Entertainment and its subsidiaries -- Immergent, Silverline and Electromatrix -- are not the only label coming out with DVD Audio releases. Both majors and independents have already released dozens of DVD Audio discs, from new recordings to catalog material. Robert Fripp's Discipline Global Mobile label just issued a live recording from Bill Bruford (the drummer long associated with King Crimson) and his jazz ensemble, Earthworks. Footloose and Fancy Free is a live two-CD set, and DGM simultaneously released Footloose in NYC, a DVD Audio with concert footage from a different live performance.

Warner Bros. is working on a day and date release for the new Linkin Park at the end of June or in early July, according to Senior Vice President John Beug. And that's really just the beginning. "It will be standard operating procedure in the immediate future," Beug says. More than 32 million DVD players have been sold in the U.S., and more than 2 million homes feature "home theater" setups built around DVD. And the introduction this year of DVD Audio into high-end automobiles is expected to further fuel the demand for recordings mixed to take advantage of the six-channel format.

As for Dishwalla, they may soon help consumers who are looking for more favorites in the new format. "I hope to go back to redo the first two albums in 5.1," says Richards."