The Beatles. David Bowie. Pink Floyd. Supertramp. Elton John. NBD - ha! Ken Scott needs very little introduction to anyone who knows anything about the history of rock music. As one of the Beatles' "big five" engineers and a veritable Abbey Road keyholder, Ken has been involved in the production and engineering of the top tier of sonically-revered records since the 1960s. We had him as our guest over the 2010-2011 holiday season, and what a gift it was to the GS community for Ken to share his wisdom, ideas and techniques with all of us. The best part is that knowledge is a gift that keeps on giving - enjoy the read!

Buy Ken Scott’s book “Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust: Off the Record with The Beatles, Bowie, Elton & So Much More” HERE.

[top]When you are involved in a project in an engineering role, how do you deal with artists who ask your musical opinion? How do you view the boundary between engineering and being a producer? - MarsBot

Hi, I moved into production because I got fed up with making musical suggestions and if they worked, the producer took the credit and if they didn't..."Oh well it was only Ken's idea, but I thought it was worth trying". Do you know that one? Anyway, as soon as I could afford to, I stopped engineering other than my own sessions. It made the line very simple. I have since done "just" some engineering, but it was working with an old friend and I was being very well paid and so I didn't mind putting forth production suggestions.

[top]I would guess you are often asked to recreate the classic sounds you achieved on the Beatles/Bowie/ (insert very long list here)...recordings, as in, an artist hires you because they love the sound you got on Ziggy. Have you recently tried to re-create any of those sounds and vibe using today's gear? - David R

Interestingly I am often asked how I got certain sounds but rarely asked to actually recreate them. Really the only time in the last few years was for a film project that had to sound like the Bowie period and unfortunately after starting the initial recording the star pulled out and the producers lost funding. I'm hopeful that it will eventually get finished because the soundtrack was sounding great.

As far as recreating some of those sounds with today's gear. Highly unlikely. That's basically why I worked so hard on EpiK DrumS, because so many people seemed to like the sounds from back then but it's becoming close to impossible, or at least very costly, to get them these days.

[top]What level of importance do you think fidelity plays in the end? - rene-lemieux

For me there are no hard and fast rules. It's whatever works for the music. Before starting Ziggy Stardust, David Bowie commented that I probably wouldn't like this album because it's more rock and roll. He was correct with regard to the latter, but I sure loved recording it. Musically it was edgier than Hunky Dory and so sonically it needed to be edgier. A tame sound would not have meshed with how the band was playing. Aladdin Sane, in some instances, took it even further. I'm thinking specifically about Cracked Actor. We initially tried just a straightforward harmonica on it, but it sounded lame so I had it put through Ronno's Marshall and suddenly it gelled.

Now something like Crime Of The Century, IMHO, had to be the absolute best we could make it, sonically. There are some grungy guitars in there but they are never allowed to take over. It wasn't that kind of album.

To me it's the difference between Sgt Pepper and the White album. After the sonic perfection of Pepper they wanted a much rougher rock and roll type of album.

Neumann U47

[top]What were some of your favorite recordings that inspired you to become an audio engineer? Do you have a musical background in your family or do you play any instruments/vox yourself? - mappee

I started listening to Elvis Presley, Billy Holly, Bill Haley, all the early rock acts on an old wind up gramophone at a very early age. That was my start with music appreciation. None of my family were into music.

I then got a tape recorder when I was 12 and I used to record a lot of music off the radio and also recorded radio type plays with some friends for inclusion in our English classes. That was the start of my appreciation of recording.

It really finally clicked when I was about 14. I was watching a TV show that featured a young British singer named Carol Deene whom I really had the hots for. At one point the camera panned from her singing into a mic (a Neumann U47 as I later learned) up to a large window with someone sitting behind this table-like thing. Instantly I knew I wanted to be him. Strangely enough the studio she was in was Number 2 studio at EMI and the guy I saw was an engineer named Malcolm Addey who just a couple of years later became one of my mentors and a friend.

[top]With all the advancements in music since the time you entered the industry do you think if modern tools were available to those artists, would they 1) use them, and 2) still sound as innovative as they are? I remember reading that John hated his voice and would try anything to change the sound of his voice. Can you imagine John using pitch correction? - Bossman

I'd have to say that modern technology has made it easier for people to record, NOT make music. Good music comes from the soul, from emotion, from somewhere deep inside the human form. Modern technology has led people to create with the brain, that's not music.

Performance is a huge part of music. Being able to all play together and coming up with a whole greater than the sum of the parts. Now I'll be the first to admit that I've made a lot of records where everyone has played separately from each other. But it's always stemmed from the act of playing together to begin with. They are capable of doing it.

As far as an act like the Beatles pushing the envelope. Yes I can picture John using pitch correction. ONCE. Purely as an effect and then on to something else. He didn't like the sound of his voice, it wasn't that he didn't think he could sing. There are lots of singers like that. The problem today is that there are a lot of people that really can't sing and so they have to use auto tune. There are also, of course, the people that have been raised with modern technology and don't understand that someone SHOULD sound good without all the plugins. But then not using the latest thing wouldn't be cool.

[top]Can you share how you met up with Happy the Man and a bit about the experience of producing their first two albums? The complexity, yet openness of the recording of the first album amazes me. Crafty Hands was equally amazing but seemed a little slicker in recording. I don't think those albums get the recognition they deserve. - Audiobob

I was introduced to the band by Arista A&R man Roger Birnbaum. The first time I saw them I loved them. We recorded the first album at A&M Studio D, the second at Chateau Recorders in North Hollywood.

You're right, they don't get the recognition they deserve. Arista was a great label for top 40 hits but they had this habit of signing primarily instrumental bands that they had absolutely no idea how to market. They did the same thing with the Dixie Dregs after Capricorn folded.

[top]I'm curious as to how careful everyone was back then in making sure there was as little (tape) noise in the signal path as possible when recording? - lmgoldsmith

Hi Larry, First off, we didn't bother about noise. We obviously recorded as hot as possible to keep it at a minimum but we didn't really need to worry that much. We were recording on 1 inch 4 track. The signal to noise was already very good. We had the greatest team of tech guys to make sure that everything was always running at its optimum and the boards were clean. We didn't bother about noise because we didn't have to.

Two other quickies. When everyone's in you don't hear noise. I give talks these days during which I break down multitracks of some of the acts I've worked with. It's great playing guitar tracks that sometimes have more noise than note but then when mixing's completed all that's apparent is what you're supposed to hear. The other thing is that using 4 or 8 track, there are so few tracks with tape noise that it doesn't become a problem. It's when you start to get up to 24 and especially 48 that problems start to occur.

[top]Ziggy Stardust, Mick Ronson guitar and amps used? - Jjvampower

My recollection is that Ronno only used a Marshall half stack and rarely turned it up full. No way did he use a Fender Champ. I suppose there's a possibility of a Fender Twin but I really can't picture it. He was a Marshall man through and through.

[top]You mentioned monitors as being first and foremost as to importance. Do you have particular favorites past and/or present? - Keystone

Hi Mike, My all time fave rave would undoubtedly be Cadacs. Unfortunately not many studios can accommodate them as they were 7 feet tall and weighed a half ton each. Oh, they were beautiful. I did like Lockwood cabinets with Tannoy speakers. I guess I like very smooth monitors. I hate the middle-y ones that were so popular for a time. Of course the other thing is that the speakers, whatever they are, have to work well in the room and it always takes a while to get used to new ones. A lot of rough mixes listened to at home to determine what there's too much or too little of. It's no good having them sound great in the control room but then everything sounds bad as soon as you get it outside.

AKG C414

[top]Is there a polar pattern that you like the best on vocal mics? - JoeyM

I hate to disillusion you but a straight forward cardioid pattern on either a Neumann U67/87 or AKG 414 is all I use.

[top]I am intrigued by Bowie's input into recording from the engineering side. Reading that he likes to stay very much in control, I wonder how much input he had into the recording techniques, equipment etc and to what degree he liked to elbow the engineer off the desk and start riding the faders himself? This is particularly interesting to me because I also recently heard that the final mix for Ziggy was done almost overnight and in his absence? - Richgilb

Hi Richard, I'd love to know either what you're reading or what you're smoking. David did not like being in the studio and wanted out as fast as possible. He never said anything about the equipment or the sound and most certainly the last thing he would have done back then would have been to take over on the faders.

As far as mixing, each album took about 2 weeks to mix and he was virtually never there for the mixes. I can only think of 2 occasions when he chose to assist.

[top]Harry Nilsson Son Of Schmilsson - I'm wondering if you can remember how the horn arrangements happened on that album. - Marcocet

Hi Marc, If I remember correctly the horn parts were worked out on the spot by Jim Price, Bobby Keys and Richard Perry. For more on the recording there is a lot of video, unfortunately, on Youtube and there is a dvd which may include at least some of the Trident footage. You'll see just how people were during the sessions if you check those out. Especially the drunk OAPs.

[top]I was just wondering even though your recording clients are some of the greatest of all time, do you wish there was a band or artist that you could have had the chance to record? - Byerssound

I was supposed to do an album with the Hollies with Graham Nash back in the vocal blend. I found the material, and was REALLY looking forward to it but because of one thing or another it kept being postponed and eventually Graham and I both said "Enough" and the project was canceled. I really would have liked that to have happened.

[top]Crime of the Century: I read an interview about how you edited the mixes together before the introduction of automation. Bloody amazing! Just wanted to say thanks. Your skill has always inspired me. - kellyd

Thanks so very much. It took a while to make it but I think it was time well spent.

[top]What was it like recording Devo? That is my favorite Devo album! That is a really weird sounding album. What was the concept behind the sound? - Nu-tra

As like virtually every act I've worked with, Devo were totally professional in the studio. If a stranger happened to walk in they would become their madcap stage personae but then back to normal after the stranger had left.

The concept behind the sound was no different than any other project I work on, what sounds right for the track and will put it across in the best way. Simple.

EMI TG Console

[top]Procol Harum, A Salty Dog: I'd love to hear any comments you might have about the making of this record? How was it working with the band, especially with Matthew Fisher producing? - RKrizman

I have to say that the title track is one of my most favorite tracks, of things I've worked on that is. It's the only complete album I did on the EMI TG console and surprisingly it still turned out well. Just kidding. Not really, but thought I should say that so as not to offend anyone. None of us liked that board when it was first put in.

BJ Wilson was the first drummer I worked with that left a lot of space and that always allows for a bigger, more bombastic, drum sound and there's nothing I like more than big and bombastic drums. Bob Siebenberg of Supertramp told me that he wanted to work with me solely because of my work with BJ.

Working with Mathew was great. It's teamwork that always makes a good record and the teamwork on A Salty Dog was perfect. So sad the way it finished up.

[top]I've always loved the 2 Mary Hopkin albums on Apple Records that you worked on (1969's "Postcard" and 1971's "Earth Song, Ocean Song"). Are there any recollections or stories from those sessions that you could share with us? - rewind1964

Wow, I've just realized that I have to be completely insane. Here I am listening to the somewhat bizarre Tubes album I did whilst trying to remember working with Mary Hopkin. What an utterly weird life I've led. Oh well.

Postcard. I remember having the prettiest mic set up I've ever seen on one of the sessions for that album. It was just Mary, Paul and Donovan, it was in Number One studio, The really large studio and the set up was just 3 C12s set up in a triangle. One each for 2 acoustic guitars and one for Mary's vocal. It sounded wonderful and just looked so aesthetically pleasing. Strange the things one remembers.

As far as the later album, I didn't even realize I mixed the whole thing. I remember working with Tony Visconti on it but for how long I have no idea. Or anything else about it in all honesty.

[top]The Tubes, Young & Rich album: What type and size of snare would you recommend for this sound? Also , I think I hear castanets in the chorus. Am I correct? They really sound great and add so much to the whole feel of the song. Also, is the "bell sound" on this song a glockenspiel? - mspboy

Hi Mark, Thanks so much for making me pull out Young And Rich to listen to. I haven't heard it in a very long time. Boy they were so good pre David Foster. Anyway, if memory serves me well the drums were slowed down and then of course lots of plate reverb. As far as the castanets, that was the idea of Jack Nitzsche, the string arranger we used for that track, as did Mr Spector. I don't remember using a glock and so what you might be hearing is tubular bells. Hope that helps.

[top]I'm curious if you feel like there was a period where things were just about right (and if so in what ways), or if you are as happy now making records as any time, as long as the artist has talent... - Panam

It's very much different strokes for different folks. I have obviously worked under all conditions. From the virtually live Mahavishnu Orchestra to Missing Persons with Terry Bozzio putting down his drum tracks with absolutely no other instruments playing.

I have often been told that my records lack the feel of a live performance. My answer to that is that it's all about perception. The second album I did with the Dixie Dregs had several numbers recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival. I've always been told that those tracks really feel better. What no-one realizes is that we only kept the drums from the original performance and re-recorded everything else, mistakes included. The perception is that it's live and so the perception is that it feels better.

[top]How do you feel about recording at 96K over 44.1 or 48K do you feel 96 is better? - Arnielarsen

I do. It's still not as good as analog but it's getting closer.

[top]What is your process for delivering work to mastering? e.g. Do you put your final mixes through a 2 buss and vocal as separate subgroups/stems...etc...or do you wait for requests of this nature from mastering? - xaMdaM

Real simple answer. I give the mastering engineer what I want to hear on the final product and as far as I'm concerned it's their job to make the final product sound like what I give them.


[top]I have seen photos of David Bowie in the studio in which he seems to be singing into an AKG C12A. I was wondering if you might have any specific or general recollections regarding the use of an AKG C12A in recording vocals. - Soundbarnfool

You've probably seen pics of David Bowie recording vocals in France for the Pinups album. Yes, I would sometimes use a C12A, or 414, and/or a U67 or 87. If I use both I set them at a 90 degree angle to each other and have the vocalist sing into the gap between the two of them.

[top]I am interested in your workflow and the tools you use today. Is it quite the same as years gone by or very different? - Ollie

As much as possible it's the same as it's always been. I will however often make automation moves in ProTools as opposed to using gates. Generally on drums. And I suppose some plugins, but usually just the standard outboard gear.

[top]The Beatles: Did they do any kind of vocal warm up prior to laying down takes or did they just get out there and do it? Somehow I can't imagine Lennon doing vocal exercises. - Dobbo

They did not. Sometimes the warm up would be doing rough vocals prior to going for the real thing, sometimes lots of takes and sometimes just straight into it. But certainly no official vocal exercises.

[top]With all the advancements we've made in technology I'm wondering what you have now that you wish you had 40 years ago? Is there anything that could have made it better or more enjoyable in hindsight? - litepipe

It gives me great pleasure to say that I wouldn't change a thing. It was the lack of equipment that led us to strive harder and I do believe there are too many choices these days. Actually that's not quite right. We just need people to start making decisions.

[top]Elton John, "High Flying Bird": How do you approach a song with so much space? Do you try to get more of the band playing together live with fewer overdubs or just rely on a good arrangement? Can't wait for your book! - 4score

You know I recently got to mess around with the multitracks of all the Elton stuff I worked on and what really blew me away, something I'd forgotten, the basic live performances by Elton, Dee, Nigel and Davey are amazing. I'd love there to be a release along the lines of Let It Be Naked, the way several others have now done. It would really show why these recordings have stood the test of time. The musicianship is so great. One also gets to hear things that got covered up with the overdubs. All of those recordings were recorded the same way, live, with later overdubs and so why HFB stands out I really can't say. And with regard to the percussion and piano jumping out...I really don't know. I just do what I do what I do.

[top]Do you find that you tend to use a lot of processing such as compression and EQ during tracking? - Chris900

As I started off recording 4 track. I got used to getting the sounds, or close to the final sounds, during recording. I have never veered away from that practice.

[top]I always wondered how the violin was recorded on "Walk on the Wild Side". My guess is a ribbon mic or a U47? Also, is it double-tracked or is there some sort of widening delay? I can't really tell to this day. - MrVelvet

Close but no ceegar. A U67. To the best of my recollection it's not just one violin, at least not for all of it. Unsure about doubling.

[top]I'm wondering how you would approach say a quintet. would you typically use just two room microphones, or a combination of close ups and room? Would you tend to use Neumann's if you could? - Fezzle

It depends on what is required and how it's written, but generally it would be a mic on each, Neumann U47s, U48s, U67s or U87s, and a C12, if possible, on the cello.

[top]Have you ever heard an artist on the radio or other medium and feel like you would like to work with that person and if so, name(s)? - AfterViewer

Very rarely. I would have liked to have recorded Bonham. I did for a brief period want to record Streisand. I'm just grateful that I got to work with all the talented people I did get to work with.

[top]Always loved the sound of Stanley Clarke’s School Days LP. Especially the kit on the title track. Got any insight on what was used for those sessions? Studio? The console? Compression? The kit or Gerry Brown? - jrmprod

It was all recorded and mixed in Studio D on the old A&M lot. I really can't remember what the board was. The drums were my usual set up. The one thing that is totally different about Schooldays is the way it was mixed.

We made the album at about the height of quad, the precursor if you will of 5.1, and still at that time no-one that we knew of had recorded something specifically for quad. They were all later mixes, often done by some guy in a back room who'd mix the entire album in a day. So we suggested to the label why don't we do it all for quad, right from the ground up. They loved the idea and said go for it. We recorded and mixed it all for quad. I walked in to master it and got a phone call from the label telling me they had rethought it and wanted to go with a stereo version first. We didn't have one. Thus what was released and is still the only version available to this day is a stereo fold down from the quad. Luckily it worked.

[top]It is pretty obvious from another question here that 200Hz is not your favorite frequency. If I remember correctly, A-Range did not have 200Hz. I believe they had 250Hz, 150Hz, 500Hz? So on that console, did you find the 250 was your go to cut frequency for many 200Hz areas or did you use external equalizers to get rid of 200Hz? - Ollie

Yes I do cut at 250 on the A-Range. It's close enough for me.

Trident A-Range Mic Pre/EQ

[top]I am curious if you had any comments about Ringo's humor. Any thoughts on English artists singing in an American accent? - aaron aardvark

Hi, Ringo was quiet compared to the others but he did come out with some great lines from time to time. But I have to say that the funniest was most certainly George. He was the one that right in the beginning said to George M that he didn't like his tie and it just continued from there.

I tend to think that the American "twang" appears more from the slurring of the words than a conscious decision to try and sound American. I have tried my hand at singing a couple of times and without any intent to sound like I was from across the ocean it came out like I was from across the ocean. Well maybe about half way across.

[top]Where do you prefer to place microphones when recording a grand piano? - Sean Sullivan

I place them parallel directly hovering over the strings and yes, normally, left, centre, right.

[top]I am curious about when "Sonic Excellence'' is the goal...or whether it happens by bands, labels and management have meetings prior to the start of recording...and state that the record's sonics are a top priority ? - Jlsgear

First off sonic excellence is a totally personal experience. What some consider sonic excellence is considered dull, boring and over produced by others.

I can only speak for myself but I don't ever remember a discussion about going for the best. That's a given as far as I'm concerned. The big thing for me is what works best for the artist and the music. I did actually receive a phone call once about producing the Stones, which I immediately turned down because I don't think what I bring to a project is what would suit them. IMHO they work best with a rougher sound.

As far as extra funds, record companies want everything as cheap as possible. Quality doesn't matter. Actually I have to rebut my own comment. Jerry Moss, the M of A&M, after hearing basic tracks of Crime, said we had anything we needed. We took him at his word of course. LOL.


[top]In another post you mentioned as a favorite the Studer J37s. Would you say the J37 was the best sounding tape machine ever made? And related to this, do you have a recollection of why Abbey Road was so fond of the J37? - Virgil

I can't tell you if the J37 was the best tape machine ever made but I can tell you I loved the way it sounded. Also it was almost indestructible. I remember one was being loaded onto an EMI truck for a remote recording and it was dropped. Upon it being tested to see the damage, not only did everything still work, it also remained completely in alignment.

I can only guess as to why EMI went with the 3M 8 track and that's because it was available whilst the Studer still wasn't ready. Unlike most other manufacturers Studer preferred to get it right before putting their products out. Unfortunately EMI, already considered way behind the times, needed to catch up with the ever increasing number of independent studios and so went with what was already available. But as I said, that's my guess.

[top]Madman Across the Water: could share some information about the mixing process for that record. How much did the sound change during mixing? What were you using to treat the vocals?? The vocal sound on that record is brilliant! Was Gus there for the mixes? I have read he did a lot of fader rides and drastic automation during mixes. Is this true or a myth? I know that Robin Cable recorded it. The stuff he did at Trident in the early 70's still sounds great today. then he kind of disappeared...what ever happened to him anyway??
Madman is still a sonic reference record in my world to this day! - Skybluerental

Let's see, did the sound change in the mix? Yes. How much I really can't remember. I would hazard a guess that it wasn't any more than normal because Robin was a really good engineer.

I really have no idea what I did to the vocals. But please remember, the vocalist wasn't bad so there was plenty to work with.

Was Gus there for the mixes? Are you kidding? Gus started as an engineer at Decca and so of course he was there. Sorry, that's not meant to be as harsh as it reads.

Another thing to remember is that there was no such thing as automation when it came to mixing back then. Every mix was as much a performance as anything played by the musicians. It was all hands on deck. All being Gus, me, the second and sometimes the tea boy as none of the musicians, that includes Elton, ever came to the mixes. Gus liked to control the drums, and would push them for every single fill.

Robin, unfortunately, had a very bad car crash after recording Madman. It was amazing that he even lived as his car was a complete write off. He did make a brief comeback, I think it was brief, but he wasn't the same person. What happened to him then I'm not sure. I know a lot of people are looking for him.

[top]May I ask you if you are still surprised by some engineering techniques you've identified in current recordings or even by new artists in the bizz? - Isham

I guess I have two answers to your questions. Firstly, the constant use of Auto-Tune. I was used to working with talents that could actually sing relatively in pitch and with feeling. Both of these techniques appear to be lacking these days, but even the few that are talented are put through the same treatment and end up losing out because of it. And the second goes right along with the first, the number of non talents, well maybe, just maybe, talented dancers that have successful recordings. They are not even expected to sing at a "live" performance. I remember ELO being sued for that back in the day. Come back Millie Vanilli all is forgiven.

Waves Abbey Road RS124

[top]I was wondering if you've ever used any of the Abbey Road Plug-Ins and what you think of them. Do you think they accurately emulate the original gear you were using? Would you recommend them to someone who loves the sound of Beatles records? - SongShark

Thanks for the nice comments. A lot of the reason those records sound so good is the gear that was in the studio. There has been much written and said by many people about EMI Studios being antiquated and stuck in the past. It was, in many respects, but there was a very good reason for it. They had been in business a lot longer than most and had set the highest standards for themselves and the gear they would allow in the studio. That being said, no plug-in is ever going to sound the same as the equipment we used back then. I have used a couple of the Abbey Road plug-ins and like them, especially the RS124, however they really don't match up to the originals. I hope this helps.

[top]You have mentioned your forthcoming book, could you please tell us the title, when it will be out, where we can get it (UK here), ISBN number, price etc etc. Can't wait to read it. - octopi

Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust: Off the Record with the Beatles, Bowie, Elton & So Much More -

[top]Do you find it somewhat limiting to inspiration and flow that people are now reluctant to make hard, fast and binding decisions and go with their gut as DAW and technology affords them too many options? - Wiggy Neve Slut

One of the things that most p's me off about recording today is that no-one makes a decision, hence 2 years between releases. Unfortunately this is a problem that stretches much further than the studio. How many times have you been to Blockbuster or the market and there's someone on their cell phone describing a movie or a can of beans to the person on the other end because they are fearful of making their own decisions.

[top]I was wondering what the recording process was like for Mahavishnu Orchestra? - bossman

For me recording Mahavishnu was no different than recording any other group, just a little bigger, the drums anyway. That was one of the great things about my EMI training, I'd worked 4 track where most everyone played live and so I knew what to expect.

The band had been playing a lot of the material live before entering the studio and so everyone knew it thoroughly. That of course made it all go very smoothly and very few takes were needed for any of the numbers. If I remember correctly there were very few overdubs, if any at all.

Coles 4038

[top]I really love the Coles 4038 for overheads and I see you use them often for Overheads too. Can you please explain how you position them on the drums to get a nice stereo image and to have the snare and bass drum centered? - Jffmusic

The best way for you to find out about my mike placement would be to go to: Ken Scot - Drum recording special video series with top recording engineer. You should find everything you need there.

As far as distant mics go, I use them when needed and when it's possible to record them. Obviously a small drum booth doesn't work well for distance and if there are other musicians playing live at the same time you can't use them either.

[top]Were you using Dolby A back in the Trident days? Do you currently use Dolby (A or SR) when recording to analog tape or prefer the sound without it? - Philip S Bova

I most certainly was. On occasion only encoding as they added a really nice high end. I haven't used them in many a moon. More because no-one seems to have them than I grew tired of them.

[top]Could you share any insights as to how you mic'd up Billy Cobham's kit on 'Birds of Fire'? - camus

Bill's drums were treated in exactly the same way as I recorded every other drummer at that time. Just more mics. Neumann U67s on toms, D20s or RE20s on bass drums, Neumann KM54 or 56 on snare and ribbons, either 4038s or Beyer M160s, for overhead.

I recently got to work with Bill on my EpiK DrumS collection, recreating the same sound from back then.

You can see the microphones used in videos at: Bill Cobham - EpiK DrumS: A Ken Scott Collection promo video

[top]You had the opportunity to work with some of the finest Moog players (Jan Hammer, David Sancious, Kit Watkins...). What are your memories of techniques used to record the Moog? - TinderArts

Ninety percent of the time DI. The rest of the time through an amp. Absolutely nothing special. Oh, I may have put a synth through a Leslie cabinet on a Supertramp session, but then again that may have been their Wurlitzer, not sure.

[top]I've read a few things about how Lennon's vocal technique was pretty well honed and he would do things like wave his hand in front of his mouth to minimize plosives and sibilant sounds. Is this true? What are your memories of Lennon's microphone technique?
Also, what's your preferred method of dealing with a very sibilant vocalist? - idylldon

I don't know where you read about his vocal technique but all I can say is that I never once saw him employ any of the techniques mentioned. In fact I've never seen anyone wave their hands in front of their mouth to curb pops or sibilance.

EMI used to have really good pop shields which helped with almost all problems, but if we were having particular problems with sibilance the amp room had set it up so we could use a Fairchild 660 as a de-esser.

These days I generally use a Neumann U87 and an AKG 414 at 90 degrees to each other and have the vocalist sing down the middle. That covers most stuff and then one can do so much within ProTools that for anything really bad I do it in the box.

[top]What sort of business models do you see winning in decades to come? Are there labels? - Booob

Hi, I'm sorry, as soon as one starts mentioning business models I see cans of beans in supermarkets. Musical talent was, is and always will be the defining factor of how music is handled. There was no business model that was in place for Elvis or The Beatles. And there will be no business model in place for the next big thing.

Bands, at least the wise ones, have come to realise it's better to sell 1000 records for which they receive 100% of the monies than to sign a deal with the devil and nearly always receive a royalty statement that says that no matter how many records you've sold you still haven't recouped through your meagre 8% after packaging deductions (even on downloads) and all the other little costs they throw in that you have no control over.

The internet will be the saving grace, I believe. The problem is that at the moment it's saturated. Someone has to come up with a really good way to allow the buyers, music fans, to find things they like, and that isn't a computer driven program that tells you if you like this one you're sure to like this other one.

Labels have wanted to do less and less since the 80s. I was working with a band named Missing Persons in the early 80s and we had the number 1 most requested record of the year on KROQ, a highly influential radio station at the time, and had sold out the Santa Monica Civic, a fairly large hall, before we were offered even a bad deal.

I think music has become less and less valuable because what the major labels throw out there is less and less valuable, not because of the MP3. Record companies are only interested in the bottom line at the end of the quarter. And to that end, the sooner you burn out on one song the sooner you'll buy the next. Cheap, cheerful, throwaway music.

[top]How do you think the changes in technology (particularly in the past 10 years) have most impacted musicians, producers, and the record industry? And what are the pros and cons, in your opinion, of this current era brought about by the internet and these changes? - MovingPictures07

Well first of all the new technology has allowed some very talented people to accomplish things they never would have been able to.

Second of all, the new technology has allowed some very untalented people to accomplish things they never should have been able to.

It's the yin and yang. For all the good that has/might come from the advances an equal and opposite force of bad is brought forth. Unfortunately because of the mindset of today's major labels we tend to be bombarded by the mediocre but I'm a firm believer that that will turn around. Throughout history talent has won out and it will again.

If I had to pick out my BIGGEST complaint about modern technology, that would most certainly be that no-one has to (is willing to) make a decision. When working with 4, 8 or 16, even 24 tracks you had to make decisions early on as to how something was going to sound and what worked or not. These days, with unlimited tracks, it seems to be try everything, keep everything and figure out how it's going to all fit together a couple of years down the line when the label is finally saying we need a follow up to your last album. A vast majority of the classics that are still listened to and talked about today were made in 2 or 3 weeks. There are too few that have that immediacy today.

[top]I read that you like the Cadac console, is this true? - Pacoloco

I can't remember which type of Cadac I used. I can tell you it was a period around 1973 to 1976 and the projects were:
  • Supertramp - Crime Of The Century & Crisis, What Crisis?
  • Billy Cobham - (Possibly Cross Wind) Total Eclipse & Shabazz
  • Stanley Clarke - Journey To Love
  • David Batteau - Happy In Hollywood

[top]Jeff Beck "Truth": I enjoyed reading your comments about "Ain't Superstitious". I would love to hear more about your experiences with the recording of that album. - mbrebes

I'll tell you one story. We were recording Ol' Man River and Keith Moon came in to play tymps. He arrived in his Rolls Royce, which just happened to have a public address system built in. We finished, he was leaving and as he pulled out of the EMI car park this little old lady, walking her lap dog, stepped in front of his car. On went the PA and this stream of four letter expletives broke the silence and, judging by the number of complaints received by the studio, awoke many of the local residents.

Now this story may seem similar to one told in a certain book, with John Lennon in the starring role, but I can assure anyone interested that the co-writer of said book had never heard the story about John until he was told the story as told above with one exception. I used the expletives.

[top]Would you have groups playing together in the same room with a bit of bleed, or would you isolate the drum kit etc...overdub guitars etc? Did you ever run into problems with bleed and time-delay that gave away the room too much - Fezzle

I have no set pattern. It all depends on the music. A group like Mahavishnu Orchestra was basically all life in the studio, even Bill's drums. Then with Missing Persons Terry would sometimes lay down the initial track with no-one else playing, just his drums, and then one by one I'd put everyone else on. And yes vocals are left until late. Not always last but certainly after the basic groundwork has been laid.

The only bleed problem I can remember finished up not being a problem. It was on the track Crime Of The Century by Supertramp. The original recording was done at Trident and Bob was in the drum booth with Rick playing piano in the main studio. There was a little bleed but no problem. Later, after many overdubs, the drums in the first half, the song part before the long outro, didn't blend in properly. So we re-recorded them. But there was leakage from the original drums and what we finished up with is a ghost of drums past that can be heard every now and again when the new drums drift slightly and I have to say that it is an effect I really like and have tried on purpose to get again, but the accident has always proved to be better than the purposeful.

[top]John Lennon would have been 70 this year, and the beginning of December is always a sad time. Just wondering what your thoughts are on John...working with him in the studio or as a person or as a musician... - JP11

Yes, it's a sad time. We'll never know what music he may have come up with had he not departed, but maybe that's good. He was an amazing talent, but talent all too frequently diminishes, a former partner of his shows that too well, and his reputation may stand stronger and longer because of his early demise.


[top]Hi. Thanks for doing this, How would you mike the string sections on these albums (what mics were used)? - skip bitmin

I'd visit the Neumann family, as I tend to do a lot. First choice would always be U47/48, then it would be U67 and lastly U87. They would be for violins and violas. The number and placement would vary for size and sound required. Cellos would be AKG C12, AKG C12a or C414 and they would always be one for two celli.

The one thing I seem to do as standard is on the violins & violas and that would be to pull a little of the mids out, around 3.5 or 4, and add a little at 10K. Other than that it's as needed.

[top]After watching your Epik Drums behind the scenes videos, I was wondering a couple things about how you mic your drums. Specifically, I'm curious about your philosophy for using condensers as your close up mics on the snare/tom and then ribbons as overheads. I find it very intriguing when the norm these days seem to be dynamics for close up and the brighter condenser mics for overheads. - Clayphish

The norm? There is no norm in recording. Or is that crying in baseball? Oh hell I get so confused these days. Many moons ago I latched on to a set up that worked for me, the sounds I liked as a basis to work from.

Condensers on the drums was it. I've used others a few times in the past and they turned out fine, but I try to stick with what I'm most comfortable with. And as far as condensers as overheads, I basically find them too harsh. There is a warmth that comes from using ribbons that I really like. But that's me and there is no norm in recording.

[top]What are your thoughts on the way the art of music production is turning to going to a digital world? Are there some things that you use now (digitally) that you didn't have access to back then and say to yourself "My god! I wish we had this back in the day!" - bryan k

Although I believe that you can teach an old dog new tricks, it would be very difficult for me, at this time in my life, to start changing too much about how I do things. I admit I don't use gates these days, I prefer to have the second go through and do it manually within ProTools, but that's just a slightly different way of doing what I already did. I refuse to use anything like auto tune, if they can't sing it properly they shouldn't be in the bloody studio. They do have to play and sing every chorus. I don't care if they've already done it perfectly once, I want the next ones to all be slightly different. I'm just about to say this for the 3rd time, both analog and digital have their good points and there is no reason for not utilising both.

[top]I noticed that monitors seem to be a rare example of gear about which you are kinda picky about? - 12ax7

Yes, I have used many different ones. Some are better than others. I can't give you specifics because so much also depends on the room. I gauge them by playing something I know well and seeing if it generally sounds the same as at home, on a system I know really well, only louder. I like it loud. I need to feel it as well as just hear it and so near fields really don't do it for me.

I've also found that too many so-called experts make way too much by "setting up" a room. I remember only too well going into a studio a few years ago and after listening to something for a couple of minutes I asked how they set up their monitors. I was informed that they had a UREI graphic across each of them but that they were set correctly because they had had in their "expert" the day before to make sure they were set up correctly. I insisted I had to change the graphics and eventually permission was granted. I finally got them sounding the way I liked and work began.

When we arrived back at the studio the next day I was told that they had called in their "expert" again and after running all his tests he confirmed that the speakers were still perfect. Unfortunately he didn't realise that my settings were still in. How can they be right in both instances? They can't. It was all baloney, but he still got paid.

[top]I wonder if you prefer flying by the seat of your pants in recordings or if you structure and plan a session heavily - for example do you listen to demos of songs and plan how to capture them? - Elloelloello

I don't like to have everything planned out because I have found to my detriment that if something then turns out slightly different to the original concept, it becomes extremely difficult to re-focus.

I, to a point, hate demos. I have seen demo-itus too often. That's where someone thinks the demo is perfect and tries desperately, normally to no avail, to recreate it. It almost never works and just finishes up wasting a lot of time and energy.

[top]How you have felt about the industry's move from the traditional LP records we all grew up with to CDs - rdstreets

First and foremost, much as I hate CDs for so many varied reasons, we did need digitised music to come on the market just at the time it did. Records were selling in such quantities that the quality of the vinyl used was becoming of a tremendously low quality. I dread to think what music would sound like today had we kept going with just vinyl. Much as it hurts me to say, I'm pretty sure the sound quality would be worse than mp3s. And thanks to the majors being run by suits rather than music people, I'm also pretty sure that the musical quality would be pretty much the same as it is, abysmal.

I said in another answer here that both analog and digital have good points. We just have to stop thinking in an all or nothing way. Use both. Why does it have to be all analog or all digital? It doesn't. We can get the best of both worlds.

As far as mp3s go, I'm not a particular fan, but considering the musical quality that's foisted on the public by the majors in collaboration with Clear Chanel and the like, mp3s are fine. Once the stranglehold is broken and talent wins out, which it will, it must, then people will start to to treat music as more than elevator style background noise and listen properly again and then something other than mp3s and the bloody awful loudness wars will prevail.

And yes the 12" x 12" packaging was perfect. An art form unto itself. Wow, you could even read the lyrics without a magnifying glass. You see record companies should be offering that format on the internet, but they're too stupid to realise the full potential of the web. All they're interested in is having their trade organisation sue people that just don't happen to be on their mailing lists to get products for free.

[top]Do you prefer analog or digital equipment? - Andreas Leonhard

As far as digital vs analog. They both have their uses. Analog sound is warmer, as far as I'm concerned, but there are ways one can manipulate the recorded material digitally that are amazing. Why does it always have to be one or the other? They work, or at least can work, perfectly well together.

[top]I was wondering if you could tell us something about Scorpio Sound Studios in London? - Sebsebseb

Scorpio was just one studio and it was under the Capital Radio radio station in London. It had a Cadac board, what model I have no idea, and monstrous Cadac speakers. I say monstrous because they were about 7 feet tall and weighed, apparently, over half a ton each. They were amazing.

[top]Procol Harum - A Salty Dog: I'd love to hear ANYTHING you care to share about the making of that incredible record, and especially the title track - wwittman

Yer, A Salty Dog, the track, is one of my favourites of things I've worked on. What amazes me thinking back on it is that that was all recorded on the EMI TG desk. The one we all hated. I remember Gary (Brooker) conducting The orchestra for it, and the musicians didn't like this long hair being in charge. They would very reluctantly ask him questions about their parts.

I also remember mixing it. We'd laid one down and were totally engrossed in listening to it back. There was Gary, then me and to my right Mathew (Fisher), the producer and organist. We're about halfway through and suddenly Mathew's girlfriend bursts out laughing. We all spin around to glare at her, really pissed, and Mathew, not in a particularly nice way, asks what was so funny. She describes how all three of us were sitting in exactly the same positions each stroking his beard in time with the music. We saw the funny side and continued to listen, our hands at our sides.

Trident A-Range Console

[top]Trident Studios, London: I've come to understand that before the Trident A-Ranges were completed and installed, there was, of course, another sort of console in use, Sound Techniques I think? I'm a big fan of the sounds coming out of Trident in the early years, like Nilsson, T Rex, Bowie, Elton John, Carly Simon, Lou Reed, Genesis, Beatles, the list could go on for ages...would you kindly shed some light on when change was made and on some of the differences between A-Ranges and Sound Techniques? - Cole Hankins

I recently met up with both Barry Sheffield, one of the original owners of Trident and Malcolm Toft, the designer of the A-Range, and one of the multitude of things we discussed was the timing of the changes of desks. The best that we could come up with was that the first Sound Techniques board was in for about 18 months before moving into the new mix room, at which point the new Sound Techniques was brought in. Once again, that lasted about 18 months before the prototype A-Range. To me all 3 were sonically about the same. All were really good. The major difference was in the EQ. You progressively had more options. Bear in mind that everything that was mixed at Trident during that period was mixed using the first Sound Techniques board and so that alone should give you a good idea of how that sounded.

[top]I just wanted to ask you about the pianos you used on Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love”. When the song starts, it sounds like a grand piano is playing, but when the breakdown comes in at around 2:25, it seems to "chorus". Did you add any FX to the piano or did you simply change the piano? Whatever you did there, it sounds absolutely AMAZING! - DanDaMan

I believe that what I did was have whoever played the piano, (I can't remember who it was), double the part in question with the varispeed on the tape machine going slightly fast. This made the second piano slightly flat and it creates the piano sound you're asking about. You will also find that effect on Elton's Elderberry Wine and several other things I've worked on

[top]What do you think separates many of the mixing greats (such as yourself), and the rest of us? - Hawkeye

For me mixing is totally intuitive. I have got most everything I want during the recording and then it's time to put the icing on the cake, to show what we have achieved in the studio as best as possible. Well, in what I consider to be the best way at least. To that end I strive to get a feeling of depth, dimensionally not sonically, out of everything. On most things I hate everything in your face. There has to be some distinction between everything. The bigger one thing is, the smaller everything else will sound. I was working on Jeff Beck's There And Back album and recorded Simon Phillips all alone in Studio 2 at Abbey Road. I got his kit balanced and then brought up the distant mics and it was the biggest drum sound I had ever heard, absolutely amazing. As we overdubbed everything it became very apparent that if this was Simon's record I could maybe use about half the level of the distant mics. It wasn't and so in the finished recording there is almost none of those wonderful distant mics, they just overpowered everything else.

I really can't comprehend the use of computers to determine if a mix is right or not. The whole thing of checking frequencies to see if there is too much of any given frequency is complete BS. If you have good monitors you know that when the guitar solo goes up to the high part there may be a slightly excessive amount of high mids, but that guitar sound and volume is what works there and so who cares. Those early reggae records wouldn't have been anywhere near as good if someone had "seen" there was too much bass and removed it. If it sounds good, it is good. Mixing is an art, or at least it used to be, and being overly technical will often remove the soul.

[top]Which ambiance/atmosphere between you and musicians you look for during a session ? - Fbaba

First and foremost there is no right or wrong session psychology, it's what works best for you and/or the act. For me what works best is a happy, enjoyable, as stress free session as possible. It's never that way all the time. There will always be those moments when someone says or does something wrong just at the worst time and tempers will flare. I strive to make that not be me, neither the one that speaks out of place or the one that blows, but I have fallen foul of both. There are other producers that have accomplished great work through intimidation or having the artist be angry or even by bribing them into a good performance by allowing them to see one of the porn mags in his case once they achieve that performance. No right or wrong. The best possible performance is, and always should be, the goal.

I started my working life sitting in a corner, pushing play, record & rewind buttons at hopefully the right times and keeping my mouth clamped shut. Like the best children, speak only when spoken to. This continued, to a lesser degree, when I became an engineer. I was there to get the sounds that the producer and hopefully the artist wanted, not to discuss how the singer couldn't hold a tune or how the drummer's timing was as good as a bowl of Rice Krispies when the milks first poured. My concern was the sound. It was only when I found myself having too much to say artistically and not being able to keep my mouth shut that I knew I had to move to production.

So, on to the producer/artist relationship. I have always considered my job as producer as getting the best product out of the artist in the way that they wish to be shown off. I'm not one to totally try and mould an act into what I think they should be. If I have chosen to work with an artist, I respect them and their creativity and allow them as much freedom as possible, but when necessary I pull the reins in often without them even realising. I'll use a comment from Terry Bozzio as testimony to that. We had had a very bad split after the first Missing Persons album and the band had basically decided they could do everything themselves. After time had healed the wounds Terry and I met up and whilst chatting he said "You made it look too easy. We had no idea".

On the complete opposite end of the scale Rod Morgenstein of the Dixie Dregs tells how at our first pre-production rehearsal, after playing through the first number I immediately jumped up and reamed him a new one for over playing. I don't think I came across as strongly as he intimates but there are always 3 sides to a story. Anyway he carries on to tell how by the time we go in to record his part had been completely pared down and he hated me. It was only once he heard it back for the first time that he realised that the space I had got him to leave showed both the music and his playing off in a much better way and from then on I never had to change anything about his parts and he no longer hated me.

One other point I feel I should raise specifically about my working relationships. I still engineer my own productions. On the whole I find I can concentrate more on the music if I'm not having to relay possible sound changes to another party. I just reach up and do it without really thinking about it and it's done. The only time this dual role causes a problem is when there is some form of technical malfunction. This is usually over with very quickly but one occasion comes to mind where it created a chasm that couldn't be breached. I was supposed to be producing a Cat Stevens album. We had traveled all over the world together in an attempt to find a studio that we both liked and during this time had got on remarkably well. We eventually agreed on a studio in Amsterdam and had done pre-production over there. In to record. I get the sounds, everything seems fine, OK let's do a take. Something was wrong with the tape machine, I can't remember what it was but I, as engineer, had to stay in the control room and be a part of the technical crew trying to fix the fault. As producer I should have been in the studio keeping the artist and musicians happy during this down time, but I wasn't able to and this led to voices being raised and finally a full breakdown in communications. Everyone left Amsterdam the next day and I believe David Kershenbaum finished up producing the album.

Well there you go. It's taken me a while to write on this subject and I hope I have answered your questions adequately.

[top]Could you maybe make a rough guess as to the size of the drum booth at Trident around '71/72? Also, what kind of material was it made out of? And lastly, when you were making a record like "Ziggy," what would have been the ratio of overheads versus close mics used on the drum kit in the final mix? - Jdsowa

I wish I could tell you the size and material of the Trident drum booth. I can tell you that a regular size drum kit, with 3 or 4 toms, fitted in it with room for the drummer to exit, but that's it, a Cobham kit wouldn't come close to fitting.

I also can't begin to tell you the ratio of overheads to close mics. It was so-o-o much what felt right. I should add that I wasn't a fan of cymbals at that time and so I'd hazard a guess that there was less overhead than I'd use today.

[top]I'm wondering if you had to pick one, what would be your all time favorite vocal recording session that you witnessed/participated/engineered? - Dissimili

Hi, I can't answer this in the way I think you wish. I am not a fan of any of my vocal sounds. I admire Mr Bowie as his vocals are 99% of the time first takes, beginning to end. I have been told that Simon Lebon considers his vocal, the one I pieced together, on Perfect Day on the Thank You album his best performance, so that pleases me. But that's down to performance not sound. Everything that George and I went through for the backing vocals, the George O'Hara-Smith Singers, on All Things Must Pass leaves me, in retrospect, in awe. But that's technique not sound. I'm sorry I can't come up with anything to really answer your question.

Electro-Voice RE20

[top]Would you like to explain the idea behind the suspended RE20 bass drum trick? - Kumbari

Unfortunately it's a little difficult to just describe, it really needs to be shown. You'll get to see at least some of it here.

The other choice is to wait until spring when an educational version of EpiK DrumS will be coming out, called EpiK DrumS EDU, and that package will contain a long in depth DVD of exactly how I record and mix drums as well as multitrack ProTools and Logic sessions with Bill Cobham, Terry Bozzio, Bob Siebenberg, Woody Woodmansey and Rod Morgenstein that will allow the user to learn all about mixing live drums.

[top]What are your favorite instances for introducing varispeed whilst tracking? Would you ever use varispeed to track vocals for instance? I was also wondering if it was ever used on Supertramp's Wurlitzer and guitar parts? Finally, what would be an ideal percentage by which to slow down or speed up the tape? - Sunrobot

Hi David, Under most situations varispeed is totally dependent on the situation. I don't remember using it on any Supertramp recording other than something to come a little later. I have used it for vocals. Several times on the Beatles recordings, I can't remember which and All Things Must Pass for the George O'Hara Smith Singers.

One of the things that make a string section sound like a section is both the difference in timing and pitch. Because of this I started using varispeed whenever I double tracked a guitar. Having got the first master track I will engage the varispeed, making the track slightly sharp, and do the double. I feel that this makes the overall sound bigger, but then who am I to say.

Another use of varispeed is on Elderberry Wine by Elton. He played the original piano live and I had him double track his piano with the varispeed in and it's that that gives the out of tune piano sound.

[top]Wondering if you had some awkward moments at EMI as you were a new wave in engineering. From what I've read they had very strict standards? Also some 1st hand thoughts on Norman Smith would be interesting? Did the Beatles get along with him or was it a bit stiff? I've always loved pics of sessions with guys in lab coats setting mic positions and stuff. Was that all for show or was it merited. If I was a client I think I'd be impressed if not intimidated. - mappee

I can't say enough about Norman. Stiff? I don't think he would have lasted as long with them as he did if he'd been stiff, he got on great with them. I really don't think Norm has got anywhere near the credit that he deserves for those early records. He strove, within the strict confines of EMI Studios, to change the sound on each one of the Beatles albums. The changes are subtle but most certainly there, leading to the amazing Rubber Soul.

Now, all that being said, I don't know if the leaps made in Revolver and Pepper would have happened with Norman at the helm. Although one to always try pushing the envelope he may have been a little too steeped in the EMI way to be the facilitator of some of the off the wall practices used on those records.

As far as my own Beatle life. I got fired by the manager at the studio because I agreed with the biggest selling band in the world about the Headphones that were in use in the studio. I did get reinstated but then decided it was time to move on to Trident.

The lab coats have in my humble opinion been blown all out of proportion. They were worn by the amp room guys, the technical wizards, who at times had to deal with situations that may have got their clothes dirty. As with most of the EMI rules it did make sense to have them wear some sort of "protective clothing". As engineers and seconds we never touched dirty cables, went into damp and musty echo chambers or did any tasks that could mess up our garb and so there was no need for us to protect our clothes. Now if jeans were allowed there would really not have been any need for the coats, but as EMI was such an old company and this was just at the point when "the kids" were taking over, they still enforced a strict dress code and jeans or the like would have probably meant an instant dismissal.

[top]Seems that between you, Gus, Chris and Roy you defined what one would consider "classic rock" that people still try to emulate (but can't seem to). Did you all know each other, hang out, talk shop, share tricks, tips, approaches etc? The number of classic albums between you four is truly astounding! - Andrewskee

Hi Andrew, Well Chris and I worked together on the White Album and so we got to know each others techniques. Gus and I worked together on several projects not least of which being 3 Elton albums and so I'm sure we influenced each other. And Roy and I both worked at Trident and hung out together a lot, but he went for very different projects to myself if I remember correctly. All in all we were all four in very close proximity and I'm sure that each rubbed off on the others.

[top]I'm wondering what we hear in the intro to the Beatles' "Good Night" (a high D, with a lot of vibrato, at around 7 seconds in). Is it an Ondes Martenot? I suppose it could be a coloratura soprano, but the attack of the note doesn't sound human. Theremin? Musical Saw? - alubman

I thought I knew but wanted to check and upon listening I can confirm that it's a female voice. I do not remember who it was.

[top]All these years later and to me, still at the top in sonic nirvana. I just love this song! I have so many questions but I'll try three:

How did you make that intro sound? It has always intrigued me, it just seems to come from everywhere.

The voice at the train station, how was that done? What is the huge reverb on it?

When the guys are trading voices back and forth, one is hard right and one is centered. Did you try going hard left, and if so was that just too much, or did it conflict with the guitar going on hard left? - Sounds Great

One of the initial ideas for the album was for sound effects and as I had come from EMI, where they had a vast array of specially recorded effects tapes, I was not happy to make use of any of the disks that were available. We therefore rented a Nagra and when we needed special sound FX we went to places we could record them. I recorded the kids in School from a back yard adjacent to my kids school. All of the Rudy sounds were recorded by Roger and John, if I remember correctly, at one of the major London train stations. The violin leading into the very end section was in fact a street busker that happened to be playing just outside the station entrance.

As far as the voices go, I'm going to answer from memory, OMG, because I can't be bothered to pull it out and listen, but I think the mind set was that Rick was the lead character all the way through and should stay centre as the lead, whilst Roger was a bystander asking questions.

[top]If you were forced to choose only four of each, what mics, mic pres, comps, eq's, and four other effects, would you choose? - Chris900

Hi Chris, Anything?

Mics, 2 Neumann U67s, 1 STC/Coles 4038 and 1 RE20.

Mic pres, 4 REDD 47s. Comps, 2 LA3As, 1 Fairchild 660 and 1 RS124.

EQs 2 Trident A-Range, 1 Pultec EQP-1A, 1 Putec MEQ-5.

Four other effects? Hmmmm, 1 Emt 250 reverb, a Levell oscilator to control the speed of one of the Studers to enable tape phasing/flanging/ADT, maybe a wah Wah Pedal and at the moment I can't think of another effect.

And as a bonus answer, recording devices, 3 Studer J37s and one ProTools rig complete with all the UAD plug-ins, or is that cheating?

Chandler Limited REDD.47 Preamp

[top]What records initially inspired you growing up and made you want to get involved in music? - ShogunAssassin

Hi, My first records were 78s of Presley, Bill Haley and Buddy Holly. They got me into music. The recording side came through being given a Grundig TK25 as a gift for a birthday or Christmas, I can't remember which. I would record all the hits off of the radio and did some radio plays for school, so I was totally into recording. The epiphany came whilst watching a TV show called Here Come The Girls and it was about an English singer named Carol Deene. At one point they panned from her singing into a mic up to a huge glass window with a guy sitting behind this big desk like thing and I knew I had to be him. It was a couple of years later that I discovered that it had been shot in Number 2 studio at Abbey Road and the guy I saw was an engineer by the name of Malcolm Addey who later became one of my mentors. Life is so strange.

[top]I guess that in mastering- the engineer worked out very fine and subtle details in the mix, and some guys involved in mastering killed them and so the very important "main/right feel" of the mix was lost - how are your experiences? - Matt B

Hi Matt, On the whole I guess OK. A couple of instances that I wasn't happy with the finished results but I try to use people that have the same philosophy as me. As an example, I recently had to deal with a remaster of Crime and I just went back to the engineer who mastered the original version, Ray Staff, who is now working at AIR, and I think it turned out pretty well all things considered.

[top]Which editing techniques, if any, were used when recording the Beatles? Did you ever cut tape in order to move a drum hit for example? Did you ever alter tape speed in order to fix tuning issues etc? Or were there, more or less, no editing going on? - Chris900

Hi Chris, Editing to move drum hits? Alter tape speed to fix tuning? OMG.

I guess I'm lucky that I grew up in a time when musicians could play and humanness was called feel. I'm sorry I don't mean to be facetious, I know it's the state of things at this moment in time.

With the Beatles there were occasionally edits done but more between mixes than the multitracks. I don't remember doing edits on 1" or 2" tape until later, after I left EMI and then between takes not to solely fix a drum hit.

Tape speed was adjusted a LOT for the Beatles, but for effect not to correct tuning. They would just go to the piano, hit the notes and tune up to them. The only tuning devices around at that time were ears.

[top]I always find myself scanning that 200Hz range on my eq..a little bit apprehensive about dumping what i know are sort of thumpy, boxy sounds for fear of losing the thickness that balances, or, fills out a mix. Any other of the frequencies you zone in on and check in a routine sort of way? Any tips on how much of those frequencies, db-wise, you tend to remove? - Pchicago

I certainly have favourite frequencies that I always use and they seem very grounded in the EQ that was available to me when first learning my art. I usually use around 80, 150, 3.5, 5 and 10. See, really easy. And then that thing about dumping 200. I will of course modify those from time to time but amazingly not very often. The amount each is used is completely reliant on what's needed. It also helps that I nearly always use the same mics.

UREI Teletronix LA-3A

[top]I was just wondering what your approach to recording electric guitar is (and/or acoustic for that matter). - DanDaMan

For electric guitar I will use a Neumann u67 or more often these days a U87, often with room mics of no particular kind. I only use DI if I'm looking for a very specific clean sound.

As far as acoustics go I will use either the Neumanns or an AKG414. I have on occasion used one of these mics on the rear of the guitar in addition, just for something different.

With both electric and acoustic I will use something like an LA3A and limit quite heavily at times.

[top]I love Missing Persons (and still listen to them today). How did your association with the band come to be? - Force3007

To make a long story short, we were brought together by Frank Zappa and I went on to manage , produce and engineer them. After the success of the first record, Spring Session M, an anagram of Missing Persons for anyone wondering why such a silly name, they decided they could do better looking after their own career.

As you can tell by the behind the scenes video on Terry and I eventually resolved our differences, as we all did, and are now very close. The long story will be in the book.

Interview with Ken Scott-kenscottbook.jpg
Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust: Off the Record with The Beatles, Bowie, Elton & So Much More by Ken Scott

[top]How did the Trident A-Range desk compare to the tube desks at EMI at the time? I've read (in Here, There and Everywhere) that even Ringo had complained about his drum sound not having the same impact on the newer solid state TG console.. Was the tube equipment at EMI superior to the solid state equipment ? How did the tube gear compare to the A-Range? - Bobemmett

As far as A-Range versus REDD, there really is no way to compare. By the time the A-Range came into existence I, everyone, was so used to the new modern solid state sound that it came across as a damn good desk. Unfortunately it took solid state to allow us to achieve the technical heights that we now have, but that meant losing a couple of things along the way. In fact, thinking about those "technical heights" and how they are used, and oft abused, today, maybe it would have been better to stick with valves/tubes.

[top]I love The Tubes, and Supertramp is at the top of my list. In both cases you were involved with my very favorite records by these bands, 'Young and Rich', and 'Crime of the Century'. Beyond the stellar production of these albums, was there anything else you did to really bring out the best in these musicians? - Sounds Great

Thanks so much. Through questions on here I've thought a lot about what I brought to sessions and I've finished up with respect. I respect all of the musicians I have been lucky enough to work with and I try to show that respect by allowing them their freedom. I do know, most of the time, when to say no though. Enough can most certainly be enough, but they are the artists, I am there to do no more than guide them and hopefully make a record that we can all be proud of and like/love/idolize and if other people feel the same way, great.

[top]I would love to know if there is an outtake or demo or something somewhere of John singing Goodnight. I'm guessing he taught it to Ringo in the studio - were you there for that? What was that process like? Was anything recorded that survived? - hAPIguy

I know of no version of John singing Goodnight. We were working on either 4 track or 8 track and so there was no keeping anything that wasn't needed. It was...I think arduous might be the right word to use.

[top]What is your approach to panning ? Do you routinely default to hard L, R and center or is it different from time to time ? When you first started out, was some work still mono or had stereo taken over by then ? If you experienced the mono to stereo transition, what were your thoughts about it (stereo, the new format) back then ? - Gainreduction

Hi Marcus, Generally, hard left, half left, centre, half right and hard right. Although dependent on the situation, anything goes.

I am old enough that I started mixing before stereo had taken over. That's one of the reasons, in the past, that I have espoused that the Beatles music needed to be heard in mono, at least up to the White album. Up to then the only mixes they heard and gave their seal of approval to were the monos.

When first moving to stereo I found it really hard, I'd learned my art on mono and it was hard to change. Nowadays I couldn't do a decent mono mix for love or money.

Unfortunately I really had to find my own way in the stereo maze. We were all going through the experimentation process at the same time and so there really were no teachers. You also have to remember that a lot of the work when I started was still 4 track and so that left very little room for experimentation.

Having mixed Ziggy in 5.1 I'd love to do more of that, I had a blast, but most artists seem quite willing to pass that process on to engineers that really have no idea what we were going for in the first place, but I guess that's up to them. I WILL NOT LET THE GRUMPY OLD MAN LOOSE.

[top]I've seen you refer to the LA 2 as a limiter a few times now. I always see those in compress mode. Do you generally use them in limit mode? - PRobb

As someone that lays claim to not knowing anything technical I have to admit that limit or compress I don't really give a damn. At Abbey Road we used Altec compressors and Fairchild limiters, I know they both had their own distinctive sound but what exactly the difference between limiting and compressing is/was I know only what I've read, not what I've heard, and quite honestly I don't need to know. As I've said a million times, if it sounds right it is right.

With regard to LA2As I've always known them as limiters and never saw a switch on them that changed them from limiters to compressors. I just use them how they sound best. Please, please, please don't get hung up on technicalities. Sorry if that sounds harsh, it's not meant to be.

Universal Audio Teletronix LA-2A

[top]What compressors (if any) would you have typically used on the mix bus for the records you did in the 70's? Thanks so much, you are a hero! - Philip S Bova

Either 2 LA2A/3As or 2 1176s.

[top]I've been curious for years about how significant a role Mick Ronson played in terms of arrangements, material & overall vision for the 'Man Who Sold The World' through "Pin Ups'? - Mellotronic

Major, major and did I mention MAJOR. Ronno was a great guitarist, a great arranger and absolutely a great guy. Without him the team that created Ziggy would never have achieved success. He knew exactly what was needed at exactly the right time. Neither David or I would have achieved anywhere near the success we have without him.

[top]Missing Persons "Spring Session M" is one of my favorite albums. You took technically brilliant and diverse musicians and made an album that was as commercially viable as it was innovative. Such amazing sonics, and songs. Frank Zappa definitely knew the right person to entrust his bandmates to. Whatever you can share about those sessions would be very appreciated. - Mark D.

Hi Mark, What a great band and what a great concept. Some of the greatest musicians around and a lead singer that oozed sex appeal. How could it fail? Well until it became successful it couldn't. Ain't egos great.

A lot of my peers, and friends and relations, said why on earth give up a good production career and get into management. Because I believed in the band and I also did and still do believe that good management is as much about artistry as good playing, good production and good engineering. I would manage again at the drop of a hat if I found the right act and under the right situation. It was the most amazing learning experience. Especially about the way laws are stacked against managers here in California.

One of the greatest rock and roll movies of all time is Spinal Tap and I lived so many of the moments in that movie with/through MP. Not least of which, getting lost when trying to get to the stage from the dressing room. Luckily they never wanted Stonehenge on stage. I hate to say this BUT for once in my life commercialisation is coming first. There will be a book coming eventually (here it is and I must keep things for that and there are some doozies. You'll love the signing party story.

[top]Do you have any preference when it comes to vocal recording? i.e. do you prefer to track vocals in a vocal booth, live room, or control room even? - Chris900

Usually in the studio, possibly with baffles if it's too live. But it all depends on what the song calls for. I've recorded in the bathroom, in a vocal booth (which are normally too dead for my liking), anywhere that works.

[top]Re Billy Cobham's "Spectrum" album. Could you tell us where the recording took place, how long it took to set up & prep his kit, and how many hours or days were spent tracking. Are there any anecdotes of the recording sessions you can tell? - CB_Photo

We recorded at Electric Lady in New York. I had a blast making it and I believe everyone else did. What a joy working with Tommy Bolin on that record.

Interestingly, Bill's kit was easy. Firstly, I already knew what to expect as I'd already recorded Birds Of Fire. Luckily he was still carrying the same billfold we used to dampen the snare. Secondly, Bill's a true pro. That helps so-o-o-o much.

If I'm not mistaken we took a week to record it. Almost everything, if not all, was live. That always speeds things up. That's also why it feels so great. It was all the musicians getting off on one another. No egos, just great playing.

Yer, anecdotes. I am in the midst of preparing for a book about my career (see it here and I'm meeting up with as many people from my past as possible to see what they remember. This is a VERY hard task because we are all much older and none of us knew we'd be talking about those recordings this late in life. I therefore beg your forgiveness but I must refrain from the anecdotes at this point as they are so very rare. LOL.

[top]Abbey Road vs American studios:

Was there a feeling of us vs them?
Some sort of game of one upmanship?
Did you hanker after US made gear? Like API consoles?
Did you jet over there to work? How was working abroad?
Did US producers try to steal your acts?
What was the UK / USA Producer engineer vibe like?
How did you maneuver your career transatlantic-wise? - Jules

Hi Jules, If anything it was the complete opposite of us vs them. We wanted to be them. The Beatles would have killed to get the Motown sound and at the same time Abbey Road received a telex from Motown congratulating them on the Beatles sound and saying how they wished they could get those sounds. The grass is always greener.

I used all the US gear I needed. As far as boards went, I always preferred the English ones. From the EMI REDDs to Sound Techniques to Trident A-Range and last but not least Clive Greens fabulous Cadac boards.

I got into doing a lot of the jazz fusion artists and as the majority of them were based in the States I did jet over quite a bit. Then some Bowie tracks at RCA in New York and finally, the project that got me to move, Crisis? What Crisis in Los Angeles.

No act was my act. If they wanted to work with someone else all the best to them.

No animosity at all. Hell I'd worked with several USA producers in Blighty.

[top]Thanks for doing this, and for capturing those sounds on the Beatles records.Do you remember sensing this special vibe everyone talks about, this "magic"? - Virgil

I was a Beatle fan before I ever started at Abbey Road and so the magic was always there for me. It is my experience that all great things come from teamwork, and they were the greatest team, even when it was only one of them in the studio. Once the team broke up, so did the magic.

[top]It's common knowledge that Paul played drums on Dear Prudence but is that Paul even on the ending when the drums are improvising around the entire kit? - hAPIguy

I don't know for sure but I believe it is Paul on the whole thing. The two things that lead me to that are that Ringo didn't rejoin the band until they were back at Abbey Road and I know we did no re-recording on Dear Prudence. It is actually the Barry Sheffield, Trident, mix that's on the album. Now, as I wasn't at the recordings I cannot say for sure that no-one else played drums, ie. Bernard Purdie, but I really don't think so.

[top]What is your approach towards expanding and gateing? - affe110

I would often use gates on the drums. My preference was always the original Kepex as it was so simple and did the job adequately. I still haven't come across anything better, more complicated but not better.

As far as expanders go, if my memory serves me correctly, which it does every now and again, I never used any form of expander.

[top]Jeff Beck: on "I Ain't Superstitious" it sounds like Mickey Most's doubling trick [with Jeff never playing exactly the same twice]. Did you also use a delay? And if so was it on the upfront guitar or the background one.

On There And Back was the whole band in the studio at once? [That must have been a true marvel to see]. How many passes does Jeff usually do to get "The Take"?

I don't hear a whiff of compressor pumping and with all the dynamic range Jeff uses when he plays that seems almost impossible unless you ride it. How did you do that?

It would be nice to hear you guys work together again. Any chance of talking you into it? - cjeff1

OK. Here goes.

Firstly, Mickie was not at any of the recording sessions and so any decisions with regard to doubles and that kind of thing were made by the band and Mickie's assistant, one Peter Grant. Is that name familiar to anyone?

The guitars on Ain't Superstitious are set up with the live guitar, the one played with the band, being centre and the overdub on the left with a tape repeat on the right.

There And Back was recorded in various ways. Some live tracks and some mostly overdubbed. Either way it's always awesome working with talents like that.

You've got me. I remember recording "The Pump" but I don't remember "The Take". Seriously though, the number of takes varied tremendously. No set pattern.

I did tend to ride the levels both on recording and mixing but I would also have used some limiting/compression. Probably an LA3A, but that's a guess.

And last but not least. I would love to work with Jeff again, whisper in HIS ear.

[top]My curiosity is about the Beatles on either the MMT or the White album. How would you generally approach laying a basic track(which instrument first)....and which instruments were present before you started on the vocals? - Denny C

Hi, Please remember that we were working 4 track for many of the tracks and so there was no "first instrument". It was normally the whole crew. Actually, thinking about it Back In The USSR couldn't have been because Ringo had left the band, but usually the whole crew.

I really can't remember if there was a specific time at which the vocal would have been recorded. It would have varied depending on what other things were going to be over dubbed.

You might check out Recording The Beatles. Brian and Kevin did a very good job of sorting that kind of thing out.

[top]I'm a huge fan of your work, and - as a drummer myself - one of my all time fave drum sounds is from Bowie's 'Pinups' album.

The snare especially is so present and snappy, but still with some meat to it. If I had to guess, I'd say it's a condenser like a Km84 on a slightly dampened metal it top mic only? Top and bottom? - Timtoonz

You are quite correct, sir, about the Km84. When possible I tend to stick to a regular pattern with regard to micing drums. So it would have been U87s on toms and the 84 on top of the snare. On the earlier Bowie records I'd used a Sony C38 on Woody's snare but as this one was recorded at the Chateau D'Herouville I had to move on to using the Neumann. I probably used a D20 on Aynsley's bass drum, although I'm not sure, and I really don't know at all about the overheads. Ah yes, I would have used Kepex gates on most everything as well.

Just don't try and emulate the drum sound on I Can't Explain. We originally recorded it at a faster tempo and after a while decided it wasn't working. We kept the drum track, slowed it down and redid everything else in key.

What else can I tell you? Mixed on a Sound Techniques board, reverb would have been an EMT plate, just a little compression on the overall mix. That's about it. I hope that answers your question.

Neumann KM 84

[top]The acoustic guitar sounds on the first America album are iconic. What can you tell me about how they were recorded? Guitar model, mic, pre, compressor, room, etc. - Thwacko

Iconic? Bloody hell. Well I guess I should say thanks for that. "Thanks"

As you will find as I attempt to answer more and more questions here, there are many things that haven't stuck in my brain over the forty odd years that I've been recording. There were many things that I couldn't have told you the next day, as it wasn't something that had anything to do with what I was doing. Which guitars America used was one of those things. If it had six or 12 strings and they were playing it, it was my job to get it to sound the best I could. Who, when or where it was made had nothing to do with it. I suppose that's my long winded way of saying I don't know.

Now, as far as my end of it, even if I don't know I can make pretty informed guesses. Trident Studio, AKG C12As, Trident A-Range, a little, sometimes a lot, of LA2A limiting and final mixing through a Sound Techniques board.

[top]Thanks for doing this Ken, you have been an important influence on me live and in the studio. I was even inspired by you to suspend Beyer 201s inside kick drums live (it worked great!). Young & Rich was an adventurous record, I love the very unique production style of it. How the hell did you guys come up with the arrangement for "Poland Whole/Madam That's Adam", and the crazy synth, etc, effects as well? Lots of great drums, and drum sounds on that record. Really liked that acoustic guitar sound on the title track. What inspired the incredibly cool and detailed tech liner notes that you wrote for that record? - Beyersound

Yer, Young And Rich was a trip. I learned so-o-o much making that album. More about how drug deals go down than recording but hey, all education is a good thing. Isn't it?

I loved working with them because no holds were barred. They didn't have "a sound" and so I could make every track a completely different style of recording. From Spector (Don't Touch Me There) to good old US vintage rock and roll (Proud To Be An American) to the Philly sound (Pimp). I had a blast. The arrangements went just like everything else, all over the place. Some they'd been playing live, some were sorted out in the studio.

The liner notes. OMG. The band came to me early on asking me to do something on the recording of the album. I said I'd think about it and of course promptly forget, purposely. This happened often enough, they were HOUNDING me, that I eventually gave in. As I got about half way through the first draft I thought this is as boring as *** and tried to come up with something different. The Tubes were, at the very least, a very humorous band so maybe I should go more along those lines. That being said, in their live shows Quay Lewd used to die from his KILL amps falling on top of him, we therefore had to use their specially built Kincaid Instruments Low Level amps to record guitars. The drum mics? I did hear that STC, the original makers of 4038 ribbon mics, had more returned for blown ribbon repairs than at any other time. I'll leave you to figure out what else might be real, not recommended or fake. Needless to say, I eventually had a blast writing it all.

[top]I've been fascinated by that 100 year old Bechstein grand piano at Trident. It's like a superstar, having been a part of so many amazing recordings. Did you have any particular memories or feelings concerning that piano? Any stories of how artists responded to it, or how it was to record? Or was it just a piano. I'm guessing it was used on all of these:
  • Beatles - Hey Jude, Martha My Dear, Honey Pie
  • Bowie - Changes, Life On Mars?, Oh! You Pretty Things, Suffragette city, Lady Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Let's Spend the Night Together
  • The Rolling Stones - Jiving Sister Fanny, Downtown Susie
  • Nilsson - Without You, Gotta Get Up, Spaceman, You're Breakin' My Heart
  • Lou Reed - Perfect Day, Satellite of Love
  • Carly Simon - You're So Vain, The Right Thing To Do
  • Elton John - Your Song, Border song, Tiny Dancer, Levon, Madman Across the Water
  • Supertramp - Bloody Well Right, Crime of the Century, Maybe Queen, T.Rex, Genesis, Stones
- Mark Kaufman

My memories about that piano are that it was the best piano for R&R that I've ever heard. I use R&R loosely because obviously something like Your Song can't really be considered R & R. It was a wonderful instrument. Everyone loved it.

I'm not sure about the Stones tracks but for everything else your list is correct. Not a bad discography is it?

Altec 436b

[top]From reading through the answers, I gather that your basic approach to gear is "Give me any box and I'll get 110% out of it." Your consistently stellar quality over a wide variety of situations and styles certainly confirms this ability. That said; is there any piece of outboard processing gear, vintage or not, for which you have grown a particular fondness? One piece which has served you well over a range of projects? Thanks! - Kennybro

Do I really come across that egotistical. I'm so sorry because that's not what I'm trying to put across. I think that what must have come across that way was my inner grumpy old man feeling that what used to be an art has become more of a science, often pseudo-science. Don't forget, I was taught in the era of Joe Meek. He certainly didn't have the best equipment, but some of the sounds he got were amazing. We never really cared about phase. And guess what, every note sung on most of the greatest records ever made weren't completely in tune. It didn't matter. If it felt right, it was right. It was all about performance. Performance from everyone connected with the recording. Oh boy, he escaped for a bit there but I've managed to put him back in his cage. Phew.

There is no piece of gear that I've worked with that I couldn't live without. I love the sound of a Trident A-Range. The effect of an Altec 436B or a Fairchild 660. All things I've used on some projects, but nowhere near all. One works with what one has to work with and hopefully gets something good out of it.

[top]I see you talking about using the Altec and Fairchild as effects. Where do you think the Altec really shines? - Rick Carson

I used to use it on bass all the time, piano quite often, guitar sometimes and overall mixes sometimes.

[top]I heard somewhere that Elton John would put a basic track down then "leave the production team to it" returning later to a grandiose production… Is that BS? Or is there an element of truth to that? Would he do his bit then trust leaving the rest to the producer(s) - Jules

Very true. Both he and Bowie got bored very quickly in the studio and so got out as soon as they could. With EJ, he would do basic tracks, he'd leave and only come back for his vocal overdubs. He'd come and take a listen when we'd finished in France and then come back in when the rest of the o/ds and mixes were complete.

DB was there for all of the recording but then I never saw him. He didn't even come in to hear finished mixes. The good old days. LOL.

[top]Do you have a "go to" bass chain, or did it/does it vary widely with the artists? And to add a footnote, in the last 10yrs. with the advancement of the digital domain has this changed, and what do you like to use now? - Aa63

Hi, None of them knew what the hell they were doing when they walked into the studio. I had to teach them everything. Yer, right.

Seriously though, the sound is always defined by the players style and what is needed for the particular piece of music we're recording. As with everything in recording there are no hard and fast rules. Well except to get rid of 200 Hertz. I hate 200 Hertz. I detest 200 Hertz. I have no idea why but I will always cut at around 200 Hertz on both bass and bass drum. How much is up for grabs, but I always find that they get a little more pleasurable to my ears without that horrible frequency.

More often than not I will go DI. Not always from the guitar. With Stanley Clarke and Mark King I came out of the amp giving me the high end and low end separately. Then I could get the blend right for the track.

By the way I'm not one for the super duper high end you must spend $1,000.00 for the latest DI. Back in the day they were thrown together by the tech room and it was those that were used for McCartney, Boulder, Murray, Flowers and the list goes on. There is WAY too much emphasis put on the technicalities today. IMHO. The training at Abbey Road was how to get sounds, not whether turning that knob one more notch will overload a resistor and cause harmonic distortion blur blur blur blur. All rubbish. If it sounds good it sounds good. That's all there is to it.

This is good, I'm dealing with the grumpy old man early which should lead to a pleasant day. Unless I go driving that is.

OK. That's it for now.

[top]If you were getting started today and you didn't have access to the great equipment and rooms you had then, what approach would you take to get the best possible quality recordings? - student123

This is such a hard question. My first thought is that whatever it is you are doing you must have the best monitoring system you can. If you can't hear what you are doing properly how can it ever turn out right. To push the point home, I started work on Hey Jude at Abbey Road but what we recorded there was never used. The Beatles had booked into Trident Studios for their first attempt at recording on 8 track and they re recorded Hey Jude. I went and visited them on the last day, after they'd mixed, and was completely blown away at how incredible it sounded. We all eventually heard it back at AR, it sounded awful, and so we had to spend a lot of hours trying to get it to sound the way it did on the eventual release. It turned out that the monitors at Trident really pushed out a lot of highs and so when it left there it sounded REALLY wooly and with no definition.

With patience and a little ingenuity you can eventually get good sounds from most equipment but without good monitors you'll never really know if you're fooling yourself or if it really is good.

I know that doesn't exactly answer your question, but I hope it helps.

[top]I'm curious how the sound developed with the Bowie sessions. Was there a conscious decision before you recorded what type of guitar, amp, effect sounds you would have on the songs or did this just happen by random? - j-uk

IMHO you can never have sounds occur randomly. I think that is one of the reasons recordings aren't what they used to be, because no-one will make a decision until the last minute.

I was trained at Abbey Road to get the sound in the studio and then enhance it in the control room. These days it doesn't seem to matter what it's like in the studio because there's always this plugin or that one that will be expected to somehow turn a sows ear into a silk purse. It can happen, but rarely.

The other thing is that I started with 4 track recording. You have to decide right from the start what the sound is generally going to be because you have to mix so many things together from Take One. You sink or swim by what you do up front.

So anyway, having purged my grumpy old man for a bit and to answer your question, it was a bit of both. We determined from the gitgo what the overall sound was going to be, got the basic tracks and then worked on the sounds of the overdubs to work with the initial premise. And I do have to say that when the team, it's always teamwork, is working properly it all becomes a much easier, fun and fulfilling time, because everyone is working toward the finished thing, not just trying to show themselves off.

[top]Would you please tell us about your EpiK Drums project. How did it come about? What did you then see in other packages out in the market that you thought you could be addressing? - Barish

I'll start with the last part first. I, like many others, have spent an immense amount of time listening to drum samples to find just the right one. Heavy Rock Snare or Tight Bass Drum doesn't really go too far in the way of letting you know what to expect. So I wanted to put together something that was very album oriented. If you listen to Ziggy or Birds Of Fire you know exactly what to expect. I was also tired of the sample collections where an established engineer will try and recreate a sound they once got but without the original drummer, it will never be the same, or a drummer without the original engineer.

OK, so that's what started me off. That and being asked time and again how I got certain drum sounds. I chose 5 drummers that I had successfully worked with in the past, that had completely different sounds and, as I also wanted to capture their styles of playing for grooves, completely different feels. I ended up with Woody Woodmansey (Bowie's Spiders From Mars), Bob Seibenberg (Supertramp), Terry Bozzio (Missing Persons), Bill Cobham (Mahavishnu Orchestra & solo projects) and Rod Morgenstein (Dixie Dregs).

Once they'd agreed it was down to finding studios and gear that matched up with how I originally recorded them, sometimes easier than others. Into the studio we went. They played along with the original recordings so I could match up the sounds. Once that was set they played along with the records and then jammed, leaving it to 2 years of editing and all the technical things that go into a programme like this.

So what is EpiK DrumS? I would suggest that you go to this website to really find out all about it. You can read what it does, hear what it does and watch videos of the recording.

[top]Do you mind telling us a little of your experience with the great Mahavishnu Band? - noiseflaw

I was first made aware of the Mahavishnu Orchestra whilst in France working on Honky Chateau, Elton and Gus Dudgeon would always put it on at dinnertime. The problem was that with all the dinner chatter I couldn't hear it properly and thought it was a bunch of drugged out losers.

Whilst mixing HC I got a phone call that John and the band were coming to London for a TV show and wanted to meet me about their upcoming album. I quickly got a copy of Inner Mountain Flame, sat down and listened properly and totally lost it. They were absolutely astounding and they wanted to work with me. HELL YES. I met with them, heard them and knew before ever setting foot into the studio that these guys mean business. The only difference for me with regard to Bill's drums, and the number of them, was that they wouldn't fit in the Trident drum booth, so I had to set him up out side with everyone else. Other than that it was my typical drum setup, just more of them. If you're interested in what that was like you can check out a video of Bill and I recreating the sounds for EpiK DrumS.

[top]Was curious of the setup for bass on "Walk on the wild side" Elec and upright? - Winey

The bass on Walk On The Wild Side was probably an AKG C12A on Herbie's upright and a cheap old DI box for his electric. I would have probably used an LA2A on each. Vocal was either Neumann u67 or an AKG C12A.

[top]RE Bowie's Ziggy Stardust album. I gather that the sessions went very quickly for this album and, although there is a breadth to the arrangements, it's all deceptively simple when one listens closely. Would you be able to elaborate on some of the ways in which you recorded, particularly the drums, Mick Ronson's guitar, and David Bowie's vocals? And what outboard was available? - AntManBee

Hi Mat, yes Ziggy was most certainly recorded quickly by today's standards, 2 weeks (that's a 5 day week) recording and probably the same mixing. with 2 additional days, one to record the single, Starman, and one to mix it. But you must remember that that was usual back then. Most artists recording contracts stated 2 albums a year, so it had to be quick.

Woody, drums, was in the Trident drum booth and it was Neumann U67s on toms, AKG D20 on bass drum, Sony C38 on snare and STC 4038s for overhead. You can go here to see a short video of Woody and I recreating the sound for my EpiK DrumS collection.

Ronno, guitar, was always a Neumann u67 on his cabinet and occasionally a distant mic, which would have been anything handy. Mick got his sounds via a wah-wah pedal that he'd move slowly through until hitting the required sound and then it wouldn't be touched again. And last but not least, Mr Jones himself, vocals. Either a U67 or an AKG C12A. At times it may even have been a mixture of both. David was great, 99% of the time it was the first take, beginning to end, with no punches. Sure made my job easy.

Outboard gear was minimal and I'm pretty sure that question will come up again later and so, if you don't mind, I'm going to bring this diatribe to a close.

[top]My question is in regards to The White Album specifically. The Beatles were the biggest band in the world, and seemed to have a heavenly aura surrounding them. Was it all crazy, never done before techniques when recording the album, or was it pretty standard? - Deleted User

When I first started working with the Beatles, on the Hard Days Night album and on through Rubber Soul, things were pretty straight forward. The first thing to really change were the hours they worked, later starts and into the wee small hours, but Norman Smith's techniques were on the whole pretty standard.

Once I started working with them again, only this time as engineer, during MMT, they were constantly wanting to try off the wall ideas. As a fledgling engineer, this was a fantastic learning experience for me.

Buy Ken Scott’s book “Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust: Off the Record with The Beatles, Bowie, Elton & So Much More” HERE.