It's hard to believe that the crushing sounds of Alice In Chains, Anthrax & The Offspring (to name just a few!) could be sculpted by such a humble and gracious guy. Dave Jerden is that guy - and in addition to being a part of literally defining the sound of alternative hard rock/metal in the 1990s, Dave has also worked on many other incredibly famous records from household names such as Talking Heads, The Rolling Stones, Herbie Hancock, Jane's Addiction, 54-40 and more. It was great having him around for a Q&A back in 2015 as his discography is definitely one of the more significant ones in the history of rock music. Hope you enjoy catching up with this one as much as we did!

[top]Alice In Chains’ Dirt is one of my top 10 albums. Can you talk about the guitar tones you and Jerry Cantrell sculpted? I love the midrange focused guitar sound you achieved. Also can you talk about what it was like to record Layne Staley? - 7f9cade

I always go for fat low mids on guitar and Jerry loved the results. Jerry is a master coming up with interlocking parts. I learned from Frank Zappa the importance of low EQ on guitars. Most people just go for a high end that can sound shrill. 300Hz to 1k brings out the "bark" with guitars. On Laynes voice I used a M49 Mic.

[top]Do you recall the way the Layne's lead vocals were laid down? All doubled, none doubled? other? - Jonas

All vocals by Layne (lead and backgrounds) were tripled. All of Jerry's vocals were doubled. Layne was a master matching himself. And, most of the vocals were one or two takes . I usually lay down 5 tracks of master vocals then I comp them. After I have a master lead track then we double and triple to that. Layne would normally get a master take in the first or second track and then I would continue to try a few more takes to see if he would 'top" himself. He would give his all in every take.

[top]The Rolling Stones are known for their drug use, is this a factor that played a role in record sales? When I listen to Nirvana it gives the sound that bit extra, that bit more drama knowing that Kurt Cobain was heavily addicted, it's like I could hear his pain through the music, it's really weird. - Queensandkings

First, drugs suck. There is no glamor in drug use. Saying that, there is what I call the "cool" factor that is unquantifiable. I have made records I thought were as good as any record I have ever made however (for whatever reason) the band did not click because of this undefinable lack of "something" I could not provide in the sound alone (and NO I will not mention names and YES maybe the record just sucked) . I love the Rolling Stones and it was my goal to work with them. It was because of their music however and not anything else. Having worked with them and personally getting to know them as people I can tell you they are GREAT GUYS and only having worked with them do I know WHY they became so famous. Everyone in that group is a special person. The kind of personality that can light up a room. These are very smart and witty guys who always know the score and (believe it or not) do not take themselves too seriously thinking they are somehow better than anyone else. They work extremely hard and to top it off have the TALENT to back it all up! Image is part and parcel of the entertainment world and I have been attracted (and put off) by an artist or band's image. One thing I have learned is not to make a judgment based solely on image.

[top]How do you approach the issue of panning at mix time? - 12ax7

I normally pan mono signals L-C-R and stereo signals (like stereo synths). I may or may not pan L-R but more often than not I will do 9 and 3 o'clock. What is important to me i.e. clarity. I want to have a mix that sounds clear and all the parts can be heard in such a way that the song is getting what it needs for it to work. I try not to "over record" and I try to combine parts so they cover all the ground rhythmically, tone wise and musically. One good track is better in my view than five. One thing I loved about George Martin's productions was how economical they were. Today people lay down 125 tracks when 16 (or less) would probably do. As I go on I try to lay down tracks that cover a lot of ground instead of a bunch of tracks that ultimately say nothing.

Neumann M49

[top]Americana album, The Offspring: The vocal production quality on this album is excellent. Can you offer advice on how to mix vocals like this? In particular the sibilance and chorusing/DTing, it's so clear and cutting, thanks. - OpusOfTrolls

I get most of the sound in the recording. I used a Neumann M49 with a Summit compressor. I mix at a moderate level (85dB SPL) to place the vocals in the track. I did use EFX in the mix. Harmonizer 3000/delay/480 reverb.

[top]What advice would you give to younger aspiring producers and engineers who want to 'make it' in a difficult business? Is there anything you'd change about your own career path? - Grahamdwc

The best advice I can give anyone that wants to make it in this business is the same advice I was given when I started out. First and foremost ; Always do your best. Never depend on anyone else. Never assume anything. I will say that again NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING . Never assume someone else is going to do your job or everything in the recording process is going along fine.

Be aware of EVERYTHING in the studio...DO NOT BE LAZY. Do EVERYONE'S JOB. In other words (AND I CAN NOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH) TAKE THE INITIATIVE. I hire interns all the time who just sit around looking bored. THEY DON'T LAST 2 MINUTES! When I started out I was ALWAYS asking WHAT CAN I DO? Plus I would constantly ask questions. Any decent engineer or producer is HAPPY to answer questions (just as I am doing now). Sure there are jerks that will not give you the time of day. BE PERSISTENT!! By doing EXCELLENT work. By being ATTENTIVE and by taking the initiative YOU WILL BE NOTICED . Also, never pretend to "know it all" AND NEVER EVER LIE. Mistakes can be forgiven (EVERYBODY MAKES THEM) however a liar is found out and TRUST is our number one calling card. Obviously I feel strong about these points however THIS IS THE STUFF THAT SEPARATES THE MEN FROM THE WANNA BEES!! Lastly, being smart and bright ONLY gets you to the starting line. You are aspiring to be in a biz full of clever people. No one cares if YOU think you're smart. What is important are RESULTS. PERIOD. Be open and friendly with EVERYONE. And please, don't be one of these people always putting down other people's hard work. My father used to say "God Bless ANYONE trying to make a buck in the music business". I say welcome to anyone starting out and he or she has my blessings. Be nice to everyone because everyone you meet on the way up you will again meet on the way down!

[top]I always love the track "Belly of the Whale" by Burning Sensations from the 1980's. It was such a unique blend of "new wave," rock & calypso. Anything you remember or care to share about working on that tune? - Hiandlowtech

That track was all about Tim McGovern and his off the wall sound. Tim is a great guitarist. What made that song special was Tim's Roland guitar synth. I forget the model however it was Roland's first guitar synth. I had a ball working with The Burning Sensations. All the players were great. Tempo (percussion) and Jeff Holly (Sax) were amazing.

[top]What do you like listening to nowadays, music-wise? Tangentially to that, what records from the past do you wish you'd worked on? What are some of your favorite recordings that aren't from your own discography? Finally, are there any artists you've not worked with yet that you'd really love to? - Whitecat

I am satisfied with whom I have worked with. I wish I could have worked with Paul McCartney or any of the Beatles. Today I listen not only to rock but also jazz, old country music and classic rock. I always thought I would have been a good fit with Motorhead! I have had the good fortune to work with some of my favorite bands including The Rolling Stones so I don't complain!

KRK Systems ROKIT 6

[top]What's your favorite set of monitors for mixing? Any particular speakers and/or headphones you prefer? What about second references, do you use any? - Diogo C

I use PMC's, Adam's, NS-10's and my favorites are 6'' KRK Rokits. I also use the VXT by KRK. My favorite headphones are Audeze with a Schitt pre amp.

[top]When editing a drum performance which approach do you take most often? - Rcprod

It depends on the drummer's performance on the subject of editing/aligning to grid. I cut to a click maybe 50% of the time. I go for feel above all. I listen to every beat and then decide what course I will take. If the drum take feels good I may not do anything. OR, if the song demands precision, I will align to the grid. It is ALL about feel.

[top]I'm a big fan. My Life In The Bush of Ghosts and Remain In Light were hugely influential albums, and are still two of my all-time favorites.

- Can you shed any light on how the layering of found sounds and voices was accomplished on Bush of Ghosts, like on America is Waiting and Mea Culpa? Are we talking samplers, turntables, tape fly-ins, or what?

- Any info on how the Dunya Yasin vocals got into the track Regiment from Bush of Ghosts - like whether the track already existed and the vocals just dropped on top, or was the track built around those vocals? Also, how?!?! Sampler, turntables, tape, or what? - Charlieclouser

I love working at night. There were no MIDI or samplers at that time! All the sounds were made by scratch and put into hand made tape loops -recording many tracks on 24 track, bouncing to two tracks and then transferring to two track and then making loops from the two track. ALL the vocals were flown in (no SMPTE) from outside sources such as from the radio. Decisions were made very quickly and if something did not immediately work the idea was dropped. For EFX all I had was a delay unit, Eventide H910 Harmonizer and a Lexicon 224 reverb unit, plus a set of Kepex gates and various compressors. The "magic" came from Eno and Byrne.

[top]I've read an article in which you mentioned having a P.A. system in the live room while tracking drums. What do you send through the P.A.? The whole kit or certain things like Kick and Snare? Does this not cause phase nightmares especially in the room mics? - Agibney

I send the snare, kick and toms to the P.A. I only do this on slow to mid tempo songs because on really fast tempo songs it would just be a blur! Also, I need a fairly large room to do this. I am always aware of phase problems. For that reason I make sure to listen in mono. Also my ears are pretty good at hearing phase problems. One technique I use is to compare different tracks to each other by looking at the VU meters. Let's say I am comparing the PA generated room mics to any other tracks. The rule I use is there must be a -9 signal between tracks. I also use the 3 to one rule where there must be a distance of 3 to one ratio between mics. Listening to tracks in mono is a must in recording. Any and all phase problems become totally apparent. The reason I use a P.A. is to let the kick, snare and toms "compete" with the cymbals on large drum setups. I use a P.A maybe on 20% of the recordings I do. It depends on the song, room and type of band.

By the way, when I recorded Mick Jagger's first solo record "She's the Boss" at Compass Point studios in the Bahamas the room down there was small however to "get a Vibe' on some tracks. I put Sly Dunbar's drums thru a small P.A. I made up with JBL 4311's. There were 3 or 4 drummers on that gig, however, I only did the P.A. bit with Sly's drums because he plays so controlled (not to mean soft). By the way, Sly and Robbie (Bass) are my favorite rhythm team. I have had the good fortune to work with them on several projects.

[top]When you're tracking a record, do you use the equipment (compression, eq, etc) to get the bed tracks sounding more or less like the 'record', from the very start? Or do you leave more of that stuff for mixing? - 8070

When recording drums I commit from the start any compression or EQ I am using. That being said, I try to cut drums as flat as I can however I do EQ the kick and snare. I hi-pass the overheads at around 80Hz to keep out any unwanted low end (by the way, there are a lot of good low frequencies in the cymbals). What I do in the recording is take the drum sound "half way there" to the mix sound. I am not afraid of committing sounds generally. When recording I have the finished "sound" in mind. My whole production technique is focused on the final mix. I have that luxury since I always end up mixing what I record.

Shure SM7

[top]Hi Mr. Jerden, please enlighten me about Perry Farrell's voice. Which was the favorite reverb on the voice? And the general Setup on the tracking stage? - Tribeofenki

Perry sang thru an SM7 and that was put thru his own vocal delay box. I will look thru my notes and get back to you on the model of the vocal box . It was made by Ibanez but I can't remember the model number. I did not want Perry to feel weird in the recording as opposed to his live performance so I gave him a hand held dynamic mic with his own delay box he was used to.

[top]Anthrax's Sound Of White Noise is one my favorite records and in particular the extra thick guitar tone. Could you describe the process of crafting the guitar sound of this record? - MrBeasty

I recorded the guitars on Sound of White Noise the same as I did the Alice in Chains 'Dirt' album. If you check the thread on recording guitars for Dirt I lay out the three amp set up.

One reason Anthrax hired me was because they wanted the same guitar sound on Dirt. One thing I did not mention in my post on Gearspace when I explained my three amp setup was that when all six rhythm tracks (basics and doubles) are recorded when mixing. I hard pan them hard left and hard right . Just to agin list the amps used; Low-Bogner fish preamp/VHT amp/Marshall Cab with Vox bulldog speakers-mid amp/Bogner ecstasy/ hi amp/Rockman pocket amp direct - I split the guitar signal to all three amps through a Lucas Deceiver guitar amp splitter made by Terry Manning (ZZTop engineer). I miked the Low and mid amps with a Shure SM57 and the Rockman I took direct injection. As far as the lead guitars, we used my 1988 Marshall 100/50 watt convertible Super Lead amp (with 6L6 tubes not EL34) modified with an extra pre amp stage (and made 100/50 watt convertible) by Mike Moran. This amp (besides the Bognor Fish pre amp) are my favorite amps. By the way, Bogner custom built and modified the Fish and Ecstasy to sound as "brown" as possible. When recording I compressed all the guitars. We used Summit compressors. I record guitars flat with no EQ so as not to introduce phase problems.

There are two main problems when recording multiple amps at the same time. One is phase from clashing frequencies. I explain in another post how I set up "crossover" points with an SSL's hi pass and lo pass filters so each amp has its "territory" to work. If these hi pass/ lo pass crossover points are not set up then the danger is just creating "mud" for a sound. The other problem with multiple amps and phase is due to the compliance of the speakers being different. All speakers are not pushing and pulling at exactly the same rate. I adjust for this by ear by positioning the mics. (By the way Little Labs makes the IBP Phase Alignment Tool now for this very problem).

When positioning the mics I use headphones and slightly move the mic on one of the two amps (remember the high end amp is direct) until all three amps sound 'locked in'. What I am primarily listening for is the overall low end. Phasing problems are apparent in the lack of low end and a less than 'solid sound'.

By the way, I use Celestion 25 watt 'Greenback' speakers in my Bogner Ecstasy cabinet. And the reason I like using Shure SM7's is because besides being able to handle the SPL level a Marshall Amp puts out I like the phase ports on the side whereas I can adjust the angle of the mic to the speaker for a 'creamy' sound . I place the mic right on the speaker grill half way from the edge of the cone and the center. The closer to the center of the cone the tone gets brighter. I always use Headphones when placing the mic and adjusting the angle of the mic. Sometimes I also use a Fet 47 in front of the cab along with the 57. I did not use a 47 on the Anthrax or AIC multiple Amp setups to keep the phase problems in check.

[top]Being in the audio industry for so long, how's your hearing? Do you do anything to protect it? Just curious from all of us tinnitus people out here. - csiking

Surprising my hearing is fine although (due mostly to the aging process) my high end is down a bit. I have my hearing checked once a year now. I monitor at 85dB SPL which is a moderate level.

[top]What are the most important qualities you look for when you choose a mastering engineer? And (even in case you're not involved in ME selection), are you used to relate with him/her before and/or during mastering or do you prefer to let them do what they think is best? - Karibu

For me picking the right Mastering person is very, very important. I try to pick someone who is familiar with the genre the record is in. A lot of mastering persons today do a lot of Hip-Hop or dance type music and I want someone who knows rock. The last album I just finished , The Shrine, required a "rock" mastering engineer. So, I hired Maor Applebaum for mastering because I had heard great things about him (concerning doing rock albums) and I was so happy with my choice! Maor nailed the sound I was after. A mastering engineer (for me) can really be key in defining what the impact of a record will be. Maor asked me a lot of questions also before he did anything. He is also very intuitive. All his comments about the record were spot on. I used to go to mastering however now I just listen to the results because mastering people know their room and if I make comments in their environment (they know so well) I could be way off base.

[top]As a producer are you concerned in some way about loudness? - karibu

I don't get into the “Loudness Wars". I try to deliver big open mixes that have consistent levels song to song. If I do my bit right, the mastering engineer can concentrate on getting hot levels and proper overall EQ without spending time trying to "fix' my mixes.

[top]Do you use a spectrum analyzer on your 2 bus when mixing? Regarding going for overall EQ or a relatively flat mix, if for example the guitars or vocals are hot at say 3k or even 300 and causing a bump in the mix, but it's sounding right to you, would you be concerned that the ME might drop it and mess your balances up? - GreenNeedle

I occasionally use a spectrum analyzer when mixing in my rooms. I know however I always check an analyzer when mixing in a new room. That being said , I have been mixing for so many years that i know if i am "outside" my normal curve as far as EQ goes. I tend to put a lot of low end in my mixes (300Hz on guitars) and I always discuss my desired goals with the mastering engineer. For instance, The Shrine album I just finished had a ton of low mids on the main guitars. I told Maor Applebaum (mastering engineer) I wanted to maintain that frequency quality. Some mastering people may scoop out the low mids and over boost the high end. I did NOT want that. I wanted (and they DO) the guitars to "BARK"!

[top]How hot are you delivering your mixes? On your 2 BUSS, are you hitting your comps lightly, or do you get it pretty rockin' before Mastering? - druhms

It is a big mistake to think a weak mix or recording can somehow be "fixed" in mastering. In fact, mastering can only highlight the flaws. One suggestion I have is to form a relationship with a mastering engineer and while mixing a project send some early mixes to be checked out. This not only gives a mixer a "progress report" but also lets the mastering person familiar with what is to be mastered later so everyone involved (including the record company) is always on the same page. I always keep everyone in the loop when doing an album instead of just turning in the record cold .

Fairchild Model 670

[top]I'm curious to know a little more about the bass and drum recording process on Dirt. Mics, amps, positions, mixing, vision etc. Both performance- and soundwise Dirt is one of the best rock records ever made. - Thomlin

I recorded the basic tracks (drums and bass) at One on One studio in North Hollywood. I heard about the studio from Lars (Metallica ) and he told me they had a 31" woofer for pumping the kick through . I rented a PA system and put the snare and toms through it and the kick went through the 31" woofer. The drums sounded like artillery going off. I used SM57's top and bottom snare, 421's top and bottom toms, 414's overheads and two sets of stereo room mics. One set close and one far. I also had a Neumann M49 close to the floor about 6' from the drums for the kick. Pre Amps were 1073 Neve's and I used for compression: 1176's Kick and Snare, Fairchild 670's stereo room mics, DBX 160's on the toms, Summit compressors on the overheads.

For the Bass I had an SVT amp plus a Sans Amp track, and I had an EFX track for bass that had slight chorusing /Flanging PLUS a straight DI track AND a VOX Westminster bass amp with an 18" speaker! So I had 5 tracks bass! Pre amps were 1073's, 1176 compressor on each track. EVERYTHING drums and bass were cut FLAT with only slight EQ on kick and snare (API 550's). By the way the tops and bottoms on the Toms and Snare were mixed together, flipping the bottom mics 180 degrees and putting the compressors across the buss after combining.

[top]Did you use reverb to get the great room sound or is it mostly room mics? Was it a M49 on the bass? Did you use a close mic for kick click? - Thomlin

The big sound on the drums came from the room. I did have a dry room type reverb on the drums when mixing. The M49 was on the kick drum not on the Bass (although that would have worked great) I put the M49 about 6'-7' from the kick (close to the floor).

[top]Re: 54-40 - Not sure how well-known these guys are outside of Canada but they were one of my favourite bands as a younger man! I do love their early output especially, which obviously you were heavily involved in. 'Show Me' in particular is an important record - as the producer of that one, how much influence did you have in "polishing up" their sound? It seems like this record defined the sound of that late-80s era for the band and the followup stuff was very much on the same page. Would love to hear any other memories of making these records, especially finding the guitar sounds - Phil Comparelli was actually a pretty big influence on my own personal guitar quest, always loved his tone and his phrasing. Do you recall what kind of synths were being used on some of those tracks (One Gun, for example)? Finally, would also love to know how you felt when Hootie & The Blowfish struck absolute platinum years later with their cover of 'I Go Blind' - it sure seemed an unlikely thing to pluck out of relative obscurity and it's virtually note-for-note. Thanks again!!! - Whitecat

Thanks for the question. I will try to remember as that was a long time ago! First of all, I have nothing but great memories concerning working with 54-40 . Phil Comparelli in particular became a good friend on that album. We recorded that album at three studios. I did the basic tracks and guitars at my studio in Hollywood Eldorado. We then went to Vancouver to Little Mountain studios for the vocals. When we were recording the vocals Aerosmith was in the other room recording their album Pump. Joe Perry was doing his guitar overdubs in the next room and his guitar amp was so loud there is his guitar on the 54-40 vocal tracks! We just left it for a vibe. The One Gun synth was an Oberheim OBX 8 (if I remember correctly). The synth was sequenced and was the first thing recorded on the album. I decided (after recording One Gun), that it needed a bridge so we wrote a bridge up in Toronto (we were there for the Juno Awards) and we booked a studio in Toronto and put it in. After the album was recorded I went back to my studio Eldorado and I mixed it.

Shure SM57

[top]I've read the guitar sound on Dirt was created by blending 3 amps together, one of which was a Scholz Rockman. I have tried to achieve similar results using the combination of 5150 (low), Bogner Ecstasy (mid), Scholz Rockman (high), but couldn't quite figure out how to adequately capture or combine the sounds. Would you be willing to describe how to capture and combine the sounds, particularly the Rockman high frequency part of the sound? Also, it sounds like there is also quite a bit of phase cancellation technique, and perhaps MS technique employed - can you shed some light on your use of these techniques as well? Finally, how much of the guitar sound would you attribute to the use of the Aphex Aural Exciter? - Black Bottle

I used the Ecstasy for the "mid" amp and the Rockman for the top however for the bottom ( And here is where the big sound came from) I used a Bogner Fish Pre Amp ( Modified by Bogner) with a VHT Amp and a Marshall cab with Vox Bulldog speakers for the Bottom. I use SM57s to mic. To split the amps I used a Lucas Deceiver. I did not mix the amps but left them separate to the end ( before mixing) and Jerry "doubled" himself so there was 6 tracks of amps before mixing. The "trick" in mixing is to make crossover points with Hi pass and Lo Pass filters. To this end I mixed on an SSL console that has these filters on every module. For the low amp I set the low pass at only 300Hz. The mid amp was 300Hz to 4k and the high amp 4k to 8k cutoff. I cut everything "Flat " however I did EQ the amps in the mix using a mild EQ curve from AMP to Amp. Phase is the big problem in using muti amps.

[top]Was Talking Heads’ “Remain in Light” Album your first major job? - Deleted User

Yes Remain in light was one of my first major albums but not my first. My first major album was My life in the bush of Ghosts with Eno. I had been recording for three years before this. I learned a lot working with Eno. At that time I was young and willing to try anything. Remember at that time we had no midi or samplers. Synthesizers were still fairly new.

[top]Hi Dave, How do you approach each day at work. You have a new band, new music style, new producer, etc. You are mixing or recording. How do you start the day? What is on your mind? - laperlestudio

INTERESTING QUESTION! I love my job. I get to the studio at about 11:30AM each day. I first talk to my crew about what my recording goals are for that day. I have anyone that has not had any breakfast make sure they eat and we all have coffee. I talk to the band/artist/musicians about what I plan doing for the day. We start recording about 2PM after everyone knows what to do and has warmed up. If we are doing vocals I have the singer warm up with a piano doing some vocal exercises. We work until about 6PM then take a dinner break for an hour. We resume at about 7PM and then work till 9 or 10PM. After that we make rough mixes and square away the studio. I get home at about 11Pm. I try to stick to a schedule and work focused without doing "burnout" sessions. The worst enemy is low energy therefore I don't try to make the whole record in a day. My productions usually work out that each song (including mixes) takes 3 days (averaging). By the way, if I am doing only one song, I can do THAT in one day !

API 550

[top]Re Led Zeppelin’s Symbol album. Do you have any recollection of the mics that were used on bonzo’s kit and room. Did he track through a console? - Klauth

The drums on Symbol were done like all my recordings. Here is a rundown of mics. D-112 and Neumann M49 -kicks , SM57's top and bottom snare, 421's top and bottom Toms, 414's (3) overheads, U87's room mics. We used outboard API pre-amps. I recorded on an SSL so I used the SSL channel compressors on the Toms and Summit compressors on the overheads. For the room I used a Fairchild 670 stereo Compressor. 1176 on the kick and combined top and bottom snare mics. I also had a 451 mic on the ride cymbal (not compressed). The M49 on the kicks (I used one ) was about 6 feet in front of the drums close to the floor. On this mic I used a Telefunken U73b compressor. I cut drums with little or no EQ. My EQing is mostly High Passing the overheads and adding some mids to the kick for "snap". I use the filters on the SSL for this and API 550's for any kick and snare EQ'S.

[top]Are you recording that compression during tracking, or adding it later in the mix? - Juniorhifikit

It depends on the song. I usually use compression on the Drums and bass when recording. That also goes for the vocals. Guitars it depends on the signal . When mixing I always use an SSL Quad compressor at the mix buss even if I am mixing on my Neve. When mixing on an SSL I tend to use more compression. I pick either the SSL or Neve consoles for mixing depending on the sound I am going for.

Eventide H9

[top]Re: Ixnay on the Hombre - I wonder how the vocals were tracked and effected, especially on Ixnay, as on Americana. How was it done? Is it actually double/multiple tracked? room mics? Or just delay / verb / harmonizer? - I-Quality

I double and triple tracked the vocals. And I did use delay/Harmonizer 3000/480 Lexicon reverb . Today i go more dry however I still use delay from my Roland 501 and I love the effects in the new Eventide H9.

[top]Could you talk at all about working with Spinal Tap? - Ragan

First, the guys in Spinal Tap can really play, and they play well. Of course it was a lot of fun , especially when they would go into their characters. The recording was done no different than any other. I had an absolute ball on those sessions!

[top]Hello! I was just wondering how you deal with a situation in which you are working with an artist, and you have presented your idea of the "mix" etc., and they have differing views or desires beyond or perspectives on a song other than your own? - Lestermagneto

How I approach the politics of mixing is to first mix it as I want. Then I talk to the artist/band and get their notes to incorporate their wishes in the mix. And yes, sometimes there is a difference in opinion.It works its way out. I do try my best to give the artist what they want without ending up with something stupid.

[top]Let's face it, a place called Gearspace is going to have more than a passing interest in gear, but most will agree that the driver matters more than the car. Still, a Pinto is not a Ferrari. How important to you is the gear when recording or mixing? And how about the room itself? - Jayfrigo

Gear is very important and I prefer to use analog gear as I always have. The room is very important. I have recorded in many rooms and I seem to make them all work for me. The studio I am working out of now (Sea Horse-downtown Los Angeles) has a big tracking room with 25' ceilings. I prefer a large tracking room however I have got big sounds from small rooms.

[top]What time do you like to start work normally? Did you have to change your usual times when you worked with the Stones? - Jules

I like to work noon to 9pm six days a week. As far as the Stones sessions it was on Keith's schedule: 24/7!

[top]I'm a huge fan of Jane's Addiction album 'Ritual de lo habitual'. I would like to know how the drums were tracked & mixed? - Antti

First, there were no synths on Ritual. I did use some drum samples on the kick and snare. The bass sound was key to this album because all the songs were written around the bass. I can't remember what the pre amp was on the bass, however I got it from Dan Schwartz who was an audiophile friend of mine and it was amazing. Thanks Dan. Three Days is one of my favorite songs. The recording was done in basically one take (with a few guitar overdubs). Recording that song is one of the best times I have had in the studio.

SSL 4000 Series

[top]Are you still rocking a big analog console? If so, which one? Any particular one you enjoy working with? Following up, what's your take on digital audio workstations? - Diogo C

I still use big analog consoles. For recording I always use a NEVE and for mixing I use a SSL 4000. We use Pro Tools however I record Drums and Bass on my 16/24 track Studer (with AMPEX playback electronics). At home I use Logic X. Logic is great for demoing a track or creating sound effects (and experimenting with crazy pug-ins). So I use both Analog and digital. When recording I prefer to use analog outboard gear as opposed to plug-ins. The main problem I have with digital is that it can sound too "clean". I have really nothing against plug-ins and there are some great emulations out there. And as far as plug-ins go I use them on Logic X extensively because they are so handy without having to have all that gear (analog gear) at home. For my Master recordings I do use some plug-ins mainly for effects. I also use utility type pug-ins such hum removal and filters.

[top]I would be grateful if you could share any recollections of working with Big Wreck on The Pleasure and the Greed sessions. - Fash

That record was a blast to record. I thought the songs were great and the band was outstanding. I still do work with Dave Henning (bass). The recording was done at my studio Eldorado. During the recording we had BBQ's at my house and big parties where everyone (it seemed) in Hollywood came.

[top]I've always loved the way your mixes have "space" around the instruments. What sorta stuff do you do to achieve this? - 12ax7

To keep my mixes from being too crowded I make heavy use of HI-Pass Lo-Pass filters on each instrument to focus only on the desired frequencies and to cut out unwanted "noise" on the top and rumble and clashing on the bottom. I also mostly just pan left/right/center. I monitor at a low level to make sure I hear everything.

Sennheiser MD 421

[top]Re-mixing Talking Heads’ Remain in Light and how you mix today. - tk_nacho

My mixing style has not really changed although I of course (because of Pro Tools) do things a little different today than I did when I mixed Remain in Light. First of all, I mix at much lower volumes than I did back then. Back then I would use big main monitors whereas today I use small speakers. Today I mix at about 85dB SPL and I use several different speakers. I use NS-10's, Adams, PMC's and little KRK Rokits 6'' (my favorite). When mixing (and here I am going to quote the great engineer Bruce Swedien) I go for "The Primitive" . Basically this means , what is the basic emotion in the mix am I REALLY TRYING TO ACHIEVE? I ask myself "What do I really need in the mix to make this mix work?"

As for myself, I never try to over record but try to figure out when recording what basically to I need to elicit the desired goal of the song.This is all, I know, philosophical stuff however for me music production is 90% cerebral. The actual tools I use, albeit important, are secondary to whatever skill I have. I do use master buss compression and always have. When I recorded the percussion on Remain in Light I used two 421's on the congas and two 421's for his hand held instruments. I also had 2 U7's (for stereo image) overhead. I told the percussionist to feel free to play what he felt. I did several recording passes of percussion per song then I "bounced" the tracks together in stereo. I never moved the mics to maintain the stereo image . When mixing songs that have a lot of dynamics I must plan my mix as to keep the low parts loud enough and not "blow out the mix" on loud parts of the mix. I do this by going between loud and soft parts of the song until I get a proper "average". Bus compression really helps also.

[top]Locking in the kick and bass can be difficult for us project studio folks. Specifically mixing the two so they're well rounded and punchy. Any pearls of wisdom that you've found work well? - Csiking

The kick/snare/bass balance are crucial. I get these balances on small speakers "Rokit 6" made by KRK are great for this. I monitor at low volume. I dip at 125Hz on the kick while boosting around 60Hz. I boost the bass at 150Hz (sometimes a little lower) and at 1200Hz. I high pass the snare at 80Hz while adding around 2.5kHz and 5k. It really depends on the groove, tempo type of song how much EQing I do. Mid Tempo to slow BPM are the easiest for me to work with. Super fast "punk" style songs are harder because the drums do not have enough time to open up tone wise. I always compress the kick, snare, and bass in the recording and may or may not compress again for the mix. The real trick is being able to properly hear the bass at low levels on small speakers when the mix is done.

[top]You've worked on some of my favorite records and I always wonder if the songwriting and arranging process is something you get involved in. If so, any examples of things you've done to make things better? - slaves666

When it comes to songwriting I do make suggestions. I may suggest a bridge is needed or to add additional choruses or even change some lyrics to make the intention of the song more clear. Having said this my overall philosophy is NOT to interfere, if possible, with anything the songwriter has initially written. I know some producers seem to want to change things just to (as I put it) "piss" on it. In other words, to change the song just to say they did. I always get involved in the arrangements however to make sure the song is presented in the most entertaining way we can make possible (for instance, creating intros or starting the song with a chorus or a thousand other ways to mount a song). As far a examples, I have done work on EVERY song I have recorded as a producer. One story comes to mind. When I was working with Dexter on the Offspring album Americana , Dexter was writing lyrics and he asked me what meaning could he give to the syllables "Walla Walla"? I suggested he write about Walla Walla state prison in Washington State. One more thing: I NEVER take publishing from the artist. Thanks for a good question!

Neumann U 47 FET

[top]I wanted to ask you what it's like working with the Rolling Stones? Are they quite picky about sounds and the way their instruments are captured? - Auralart

The Stones gave me complete freedom to do whatever I saw fit in recording and that includes guitars. The Stones set up as a band when they record. We recorded in Paris in a studio the size of an airplane hanger so I had plenty of space to work and to set them up. I set them up all facing me (in the control room) with "go-bo's" (physical room dividers) separating the different players. I had the drums in the middle and Keith to the right of Charlie. Woody and Bill Wyman were to the left (as I looked at them). Mick was in the front. We used Mesa Boogie amps and I miked each amp with an SM57 and 47Fet. I compressed all the amps with (if I remember correctly ) with LA-2A's or something similar except the bass (amp and DI) i used (as I always do) a pair of 1176's I compress at the buss. The pre amps were the board pre-amps. Neve 1073's. We recorded to 24 track tape. The tape machines were Studer 800's. Keith and Woody were very happy with my guitar tones. By the way, The Rolling Stones were very professional and easy to work with as far as recording goes. Also, Alan Rogan, Stones guitar tech, was very "on the ball" with tuning etc.

[top]I read online that the guitar on "Been Caught Stealing", was Dave Navarro playing an unplugged electric guitar in the vocal booth. To that I say 'You could've fooled me', I thought it was simply a DI'd guitar. My question is what mic did you use on it, and how much compression and EQ, if any, did you apply to it during the mixing stage and were any other effects used? - krock2009

The reason I used unplugged electric guitars was to establish a syncopated groove and tempo. I tried an acoustic guitar but even that was "too big" a sound . All this was done for Steve Perkins to have something more than a click track to record to. I had Dave do three of these tracks of guitars then I bounced them together. I used a 451 mic (my favorite for acoustic guitars because it is the most "flat " mic I have). I compressed all three together thru a 1176. I like the 1176 because of its attack time - I set the attack very slow so as to be percussive. These guitars were not meant to be in the final mix however they did end up being used for more swing.

Universal Audio 1176

[top]I love the Social Distortion, Could you talk a little about how you did that on this album and how you were able to still have the vocals come through so well without the low mid strong guitar taking up the space? Also any reverb delays etc used? - Coldsnow

These mixes were very easy to do. I kept the arrangements "open" . Actually my idea in mixing was to make the sound more like early Hank Williams with big guitars ! Mike Ness has such a strong voice.He was easy to place in the mix . There was a slight reverb (Lexicon 480 digital reverb with my own program) on the drums . I had a slight harmonizer effect on Mikes' vocals. I keep the guitars dry. Believe it or not Mike and I argued about the guitar sound until the end.Then he loved it! I wanted the guitars more heavy sounding to add impact . Mike wanted just a standard Fender "Twang". I was afraid it would sound like a straight country album unless we stuck our necks out (concerning the guitar sound) By the time we got to the second album I did with them there was no argument about the guitar sound. Oh yea, there was some reverb on Mike's vocals.

[top]I'm curious how you approach each part of the album process to not only get the artist in a good place to get their best performances, but also help to get the overall vision/goals for the album reached? - Theskycouldfly

My whole production technique is based on two goals; First is stripping away everything the artist IS NOT and and highlighting/stressing everything that is unique about them.Second ,I am always working towards the mix getting what I need to fill the canvas.From pre production thru all stages I insist that all the players have the freedom to play their parts without any interference. I always take the time to talk to all the players to get them comfortable with me and the process. For me my main goal is "KEEPING THE EYE ON THE BALL". It is SO EASY for a production to lose sight of its original goals and the recording to become unfocused.

[top]Goldfinger's "Hang-Ups" is one of my favorite albums of all time. I want to know what it was like working with the band, and most importantly what your process was when taking on this album? - HookedOnPhonics

I mixed the album on my SSL. I have compression on every channel plus I have a compressor (Quad mix compressor ) on the output buss . Mixing songs that have soft and loud parts are always a challenge. When I mix I get "inside" the song and try to take it on a journey hopefully to initiate an emotional response. Goldfinger was great to work with as they just let me do what I do.

[top]Do you remember which drum verbs were used on most of the drums for "Dirt" AIC? In particular I always liked the snare reverb specifically especially on "down in a hole". - Aramism

The drum verb came from a Lexicon 480 with my own proprietary settings. In fact I use this program on most of my records. By the way , the sound is developed from a room sound and then tweaked heavily and stored on a plug in card I have.

Lexicon 480L

[top]Could you talk about what the overall process was like over the years working with Alice In Chains, from preproduction to the tracking and mixing sessions and how they were broken up to capture everyone's performances, and any highlights that you feel about techniques you've implemented with each band member that were crucial and unique to getting those records made? - RTaps

On both AIC records I did (Facelift/Dirt) pre production was a key component as it is in all my productions. I just don't go in blind and start recording. I need to imagine the finished record before I start. That said , on both records I rehearsed the band thoroughly. The basic tracks went down easy. For Facelift I recorded the basic tracks in Seattle and for Dirt I recorded the basics in Los Angeles. The basics for both records were recorded with Neve boards. The overdubs for Facelift were done at Capitol studio A on a Neve while the overdubs for Dirt were done at my studio (Eldorado) on an SSL. Both records were mixed on an SSL. I have in other threads discussed my technique for the main rhythm guitar 3 amp setup for Dirt. The main rhythm guitars for Facelift were recorded with a Randall 100 Watt and a Marshall 100 Super lead (left and right guitars) . For the lead guitars on both albums I used my 1988 Marshall Super Lead 100 watt modified by Mike Moran. For Laynes Vocals on both records I used a Neumann M49. We triple tracked all vocals. All EFX were from Stomp boxes except in mixing.

[top]How did you make the transition from working with artists like Eno, Talking Heads to Janes and AIC? A lot of times, engineers/producers can get pigeonholed when they have been extremely successful with a particular genre of music. Did the more rock oriented bands come to you, or did you actively seek them out? Were the labels ok with you producing/engineering certain bands or did you get a lot of push-back at first? - reason108

That is a simple to answer question. Having worked with the Rolling Stones I knew I wanted to work with guitars! i learned so much with the Stones it was a natural progression (or regression). Also working with Frank Zappa had a big influence on me. By the way, before Talking Heads I had recorded a lot of Punk Bands.

Summit TLA-100A

[top]I have read accounts of the early Jane's Addiction and Alice in Chains sessions, and specific gear used. There was a lot of talk of lots of use of early Summit equipment like M210 mic pres and TLA100 comps. Can you speak of the studio-gear selection, and process on those records? Possibly what spaces-studios and what gear you have found recently that sounds good to you? - Stitch333

The Summit gear was not used until the Alice In Chains “Dirt” album. The pre amps were API clones on that album. As far as the gear used for the Jane's Addiction albums (and AIC Facelift) I used the equipment at Eldorado, Capitol records and London Bridge. Normally I use (or like to use) Neve 1073 pre amps that to me sound fat and warm. For compressors the Summit gear is outstanding. My favorite compressors are 1176's and LA-2A's. for vocals I use a Telefunken U73b that is an offshoot of the U23. They call the U73b the German Fairchild. All those records were mixed on a 4000 SSL. Oh, I forgot to mention Dirt was tracked at One on One studio, in the same studio Metallica's "Black" album was done.

[top]Re: "Symbol of Salvation" by Armored Saint - How do you achieve such space in the middle while maintaining the guitars that are crisp and forward? Also, how was working with the band? - Combfilter

Thanks for asking about "Symbol of Salvation" That record was very fun to do. The amps I used were the bands and although they were Marshall amps you would have to ask the band about the specific models as I have recorded to many bands since then to remember every detail (I am sure you can understand). I always pan guitars hard left and right to leave room in the center for Bass, Lead vocals and Lead guitar. I do remember using my 1978 Marshall Super Lead for lead guitars ( as I do on most of my recordings) My Super Lead was modified by Mike Moran and has an extra pre amp stage and is switchable between 50 Watt and 100 Watt. John Bush and Gonzo were amazing on that record.

[top]First off, thanks so much for doing this, love a lot of work you've been involved in. Secondly, when I first heard AIC and Jane's Addiction, the vocals absolutely grabbed me and blew me away. Did those bands come into the studio with those vocal styles already in place or was that something that developed out of their time in the studio? - Skeeballcore

My job as a producer is to MAINTAIN a vocalist style so I did not only NOT change anything but encourage Layne and Perry to strip away any other influences. So many times I have seen producers try to get vocalists to try to sound like someone else. To me that is bull****. If I don't like their singing style in the first place, why work with them?

[top]Herbie Hancock’s mid-career work, post Headhunters has prolific use of digital instruments and sounds. It seems he was an early adopter of digital. Can you please describe the attitudes, creativity, and perhaps doubts associated with the then Digital Revolution in jazz and engineering. - progfan49

Herbie embraced all new technologies as they came along. I never saw any doubts with Herbie when it came to new ideas. In fact it was the opposite. The two records I worked on were a big change in his career. His previous album before I got involved was more R&b done in a standard way. Lasswell and Bienhorn introduced Herbie to Hip Hop done New York style. Herbie never once questioned their ideas. It was totally experimental including a very early use of sampling.

[top]My question here is about the first Red Hot Chili Peppers Album, a little less about the technical side and more about the vibe. - KamandaSD

The Vibe was fun and crazy, more like being at a party. The joking never stopped. Many arguments then making up on the first record.

[top]I would think that working with Adrian Belew would be quite a joy (Remain in Light)I - 12ax7

Adrian Belew is a phenomenal guitar player (and a great drummer!) I worked with him on Remain in Light and Jerry Harrison's solo record The Red and the Black.

[top]Hey Dave, when you worked on Rockit, was there any feeling by those involved that it would become such a seminal piece ? In the world of turntablism, this is pretty much known as the birth place. - Bungle

l had no idea the record would blow up as it did. In fact , when we played the album for the record company they HATED IT! While recording and mixing I loved the project because it was so different. Bill Laswell and Michael Beinhorn should get the pats on the back for their production ideas.

MCI JH-500

[top]Remain in Light is still one of my favorite sounding albums of all time. Can you recall any techniques used at the mix phase? - cosmicparakeet

The album was mixed at two studios.One was Sigma Sound in New York and the other Eldorado in Los Angeles. Both Studios had MCI consoles (MCI 500) The monitors in New York were I think ( But not sure -it's been awhile) the JBL 4311s. The monitors in Los Angeles were the big Altec 604E. The trick to a good mix is simply a good recording .Those mixes were very easy to do because I had spent the time sub mixing all the percussion, guitars, vocals beforehand so we were basically just breaking out stems. Much like today when I record and mix with Pro Tools and an Analog board.

[top]My question is, did you know that you were part of a new era sound with Alice in Chains? - Haryy

Thanks Harvy. Yes I did know the AIC sound was something different and new when we started recording. This was a dream band to work with as they knew what exactly they wanted. We had to break down many "walls" to first get Facelift played on the radio. And I do know this sound started a major trend.

[top]Hey Dave, what was it like working with Herbie Hancock? I know he's a perfectionist having met him a few times. He's also very techy for a musician, he was into advanced programming decades ago. He's one of those guys that can easily transition from funk to straight up jazz, a very unique player. - Jim Williams

Working with Herbie was a ball! I set up a studio at his house in Hollywood to record him. And Yes, he is very into advanced programming! He had more gear than anyone I had ever come across and he knew every bit of his synths inside and out. I did two albums with Herbie with very fond memories of just having fun. Herbie is a consummate player with many layers.

[top]How did you like working with the Shrine and what was your approach in producing them? - Gearjones

Glad you asked! I think The Shrine are amazing. The production was done "old school" starting with recording the basic tracks on my 16 track"Stampex" (Studer A80 with Ampex playback electronics) recorded through a Neve board. On this album we got GIGANTIC guitar sounds! I kept the arrangements simple with minimal overdubs for maximum impact. I think Josh Landau (Lead Guitar) is one of the best guitar slingers I have ever recorded.

[top]I wanted to ask about the guitar recordings on Nothing Shocking by Jane's Addiction. How many tracks and how were they panned? Also do you remember what amps, cabs and mics were used? In your opinion what made those guitar tracks sounds so awesome but still left plenty of room for the bass, vocals and drums? - Upchurchmusic

The guitar recording for Nothing Shocking was pretty much standard for me. Although I used Dave Navarro's Amps I also took his guitar through a DI with stomp boxes such as distortion and flangers etc. The Bass sound came from a pre amp (an audiophile pre amp -I can't remember the make) I borrowed from a friend. I do remember it cost Five thousand dollars! I again usually mic the amps with 57s although I may put a back 57 on open back speakers. Ocean Size was straight ahead with 57 going to an MCI 500 console pre amp/eq/fader/buss with an 1176 compressor at the buss. The song that was fun for me was recording the guitar solo for Mountain. Dave and I put that together by adding different EFX step by step through the solo.

[top]Your work with Talking Heads and Brian Eno on two of the most influential albums in my life is intriguing. I suspect that when it came time to mix there were a lot of possible outcomes. How were tracks approached? Were there expectations of a certain feel or end or could anything happen? - Farmboy presents

That is a very good question. My sound on that record was based around the percussion and drums. There was so much ambient stuff plus random sounds going on I felt the sound must be anchored. After that record came out Peter Gabriel told me his record with Shock the Monkey was based around the sound I got on Remain in Light. Also this record was done after My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and many of the recording techniques were the same. Loops and blind recording where Eno and Byrne record tracks at the same time without hearing each other then putting their parts together coming up with something new but created in a random type way. Sounds confusing and it was. There were so many aspects to these recordings I could write a book just on the process.

Neumann U67

[top]Could you talk us through your approach to recording guitar cabs? Favorite microphones? If you use multiple mics, how best to position them considering phase? - jeremyglover

I have always kept my process for recording guitars pretty simple. First it depends on the type of cabinet, Open back or closed. I front and back mic open back . I use only one or two mics on the front. I usually use either SM57s or 47fets for front and if back micing just 57s. Phase is the big problem (always ) in multiple micing anything. With that in mind I close mic anything (pretty much) I record. And this is all looking towards the final mix. I like my mixes to have definition. If I have tracks room miked then the mix image for me gets off. Having said this I may have big room miked guitars cabs in stereo for lead guitars. When doing this I do M/S miking. This means using two figure 8 mics setting up a matrix at the patch bay spitting each mic into 2 signals and at the faders putting one of the 4 outputs out if phase. This makes a gigantic sound. I use two U67 mics for this.

[top]It's been superb having you here Dave! Thanks again for sharing your wisdom, we all really appreciate your time. This has been a terrific Q+A and will make a great expansion to our archive. Don't be a stranger to the forums! - Whitecat

I want to thank Gearspace and everyone who wrote in questions (and to all that read them!). I had fun doing this and I hope I could shine a small light on my career . I tried to be as precise as I possibly could in the light of the time span involved. Personally I can't remember what I was doing last Wednesday and it was tough to remember back sometimes 35 years . I did give accurate information and I did not embellish any answers . I know this site is about gear, however let me stress that the tools are only a small part of it. A bad technician with the best gear can only fail. The heart in making good recordings is in the people involved. Equipment comes and goes . Remember I started making records before we had SMPTE, computers, MIDI , samples, Pro Tools on and on . What we had though was imagination, talent and HARD WORK! These essential ingredients have not nor will ever change. I always tell new engineers that instead of drooling over what you don't have (equipment wise ) learn to REALLY LEARN with WHAT YOU HAVE. There will NEVER be a piece of gear (or plug in ) that will make a bad engineer who does not really understand how sound works be able to make even passible recordings.

Last thing, Good Luck to everyone and always try to push the envelope! Cheers, Dave Jerden.