From his early days in New York as a synthesist together with Bill Laswell performing at legendary nightclubs to his renowned career as a producer and engineer, Michael Beinhorn’s eclectic and inquisitive nature helped shape timeless hits across over three decades in the business. Michael worked alongside Herbie Hancock in the avant-garde “Future Shock”, awarded with a Grammy for Best R&B Instrumental Performance, granting him the status of hip-hop pioneer. Soul Asylum’s “Grave Dancers Union”, Soundgarden’s “Superunknown”, Marilyn Manson’s “Mechanical Animals'' and Hole’s “Celebrity Skin” are all just small fragments of what his work has contributed to the music industry. Back in 2013, while writing his blog “How To Save Popular Music'', Beinhorn talked to the GS Community in a Q&A session sharing his wisdom and experience. Later that blog would evolve into his book “Unlocking Creativity: A Producer’s Guide to Making Music & Art” where he weaves a narrative on interpersonal relationships in a recording studio with a unique perspective. We hope you enjoy reading Michael’s answers to our community’s questions!

[top]I've noticed that it's easier for some singers to be in pitch without the compressed/limited signal in their you feel the same, ever noticed this? Any particular setup that works well for you? - cheu78T

Yes, I have noticed this on some occasions. I recently did a session where I sent the vocalist one of the two mics she was recording on to monitor in her Headphones. This mic was completely unprocessed - no eq, no compression. I found she was able to stay in pitch and follow herself better.

I feel that the very slight variances in amplitude and tone that compression brings can subconsciously affect a singer's performance if he/she is sensitive to that. It really informs you that people can be very responsive to subtleties and that every single element in the monitoring and recording chain matters.

[top]Grave Dancers Union - Dan Murphy's 'Black Gold'. Can you please offer some insight into how these sounds were captured? - Whitecat

Dan played gold tops with small pickups- that was his "thing". He had a very good tone and I'm pretty sure the balance of that recording was done with a '67-'69 50 watt Plexi head and some kind of Marshall cab- almost definitely a 100 watt. I also recall an Ampeg V4- although it may have been a V4B and used for the bass.

I think we used a crossed pair of 414's about 4 fingers off the grille. On a few tracks, we used silver 1176's- although I think I asked them to be removed from the chain. Pretty sure the acoustic guitar was a J45.

All the overdubs on that record were done from about 8pm to 9am every single day for several months. With that in mind, I'm amazed I recall anything.

Neve 1058

[top]What were the vocal and guitar chains for black hole sun? - Walth

Guitars - Gretsch single cutaway (or possibly Silver Jet)- Leslie 18 (don't recall what powered it) - I think a single SM57 - Neve 1058.

Vocals - Neumann U87 - Neve 1073 - 1176 LN (possibly a GML 8200).

[top]Do you have any tips for getting hi hat parts nicely recorded? Apart from working with the drummer to naturally balance the kit, what about loud, smashy hi-hats? Hats have always seemed to be a problem at one time or another for me. - 8070

There are many ways to get around this apart from instructing the drummer to emphasize the hats less when he's playing. Not all drummers are quick to adapt to such a radical change, so the next thing is to work on sonics.

Sometimes, a combination of baffling the hihat, creating some separation between hihat and snare (generally a piece of foam/deadening material between snare mics and hihat), micing the entire kit with mics which won't emphasize brightness as much, deadening the hihat itself (a piece or two of tape), changing the hats to something less bright or more appropriate to the drummers style of playing, etc.

In some cases, it can help to treat the hi-hat as an overdub and not initially record it with the rest of the kit.

[top]That's the thing. I've attempted in the past to get a drummer to suddenly change how he's playing, in order to get something that works...and he couldn't do it. It was too difficult of a change...Definitely some good ideas to keep in mind. - 8070

Yes- not many drummers can handle changing their approach to playing, unless they're very good. We overdubbed hats (and the rest of the cymbals) on the Mew recording "And the Glass-handed Kites". Their drummer Silas is an excellent player, and he was able to re-acclimate himself in a short amount of time.

[top]Herbie Hancock - Rockit - Did you know right away that you had something special when you and Herbie came up with this song? - RockRebel

I didn't have any idea how other people might feel about it when we were making it. All I knew was, it didn't sound like anything else I'd heard and I was excited every time I heard it or worked on it. In that case, I felt we had something special.

[top]I watched a YouTube video about the making of the groundbreaking album "Future Shock" and I was fascinated by the technology. - Gear Guru

I remember using that equipment for the first time and being surrounded by virtually every new synthesizer I could imagine- it was kind of an aphrodisiac. Sequencing incompatible instruments together was especially challenging- it took about 3 hours to get a Minimoog sequence I'd made to run with the track.

[top]Michael - Rockit is an amazing track. It's one of the best electro tracks ever. A few questions for you:
a) What was used for the bassline and what signal path did it go through (Sounds very warm and clear)
b) The electronic sounds sound very punchy and crystal clear but there's no sign of harshness anywhere. How?
c) What desk did the track go through if any?
d) Any idea what that vocoder effect was when Herbie says 'Rockit'? - Radic

[top]I was wondering if future shock was made to be played at both 33 and 45 rpm? some of the tracks almost sound drum'n'bass like when sped up. then you have the slowed down voices on some tracks also which seems to me like an invitation to speed things up to hear what they are saying. if this was the case then do you know of any earlier albums that did this? cheers. - Hughbob

DBX 160
Thanks for your kind words. The bass on Rockit was a Steinberger which went DI into the console. I'm pretty sure the DI was a Countryman. The Steinberger just had a very clear, deep, open sound. I'm not sure if there was compression on it- might have been a DBX 160.

The electronics weren't processed in any special way- mine were recorded at the Material studio (OAO) in Brooklyn and Herbie's were recorded at his backyard studio in LA. It was all basic stuff- Minimoog, a Rhodes Chroma and a few other instruments to create the melody line. The trick is probably just great analog synthesizers instead of digital emulations.

The vocoder Herbie used was a Sennheiser VSM201- probably the most versatile vocoder ever made. He did an improv vocoder track throughout the song and you can hear him interject from time to time. I think we asked him to say "Rockit" at the end of one phrase and "Don't stop it" at the end of another. This would be a tip of the hat to "Planet Rock".

Future Shock wasn't made to be played at 33 or 45, although that would have been an interesting idea. The slowed down voices were just for effect. On "Rockit", it's my voice, going, "Ba ba" and "Da da".

[top]I'd love to hear your thoughts on recording to DSD, in terms of your experiences, process, work flow and resulting sonics in general. - string6theory

I feel that any high-rez format is great for music with fast transients and lots of rich harmonic information. As for DSD, I can't say enough good things about it- it's my format of choice and if money was no object, I would own a system. Obviously, there are issues with editing (at least in the Sonoma system) but the sound quality more than makes up for that. In the end, no one who listens to a record is going to hear how easy the editing was for the engineer, anyway. I feel it's always more satisfying from the perspective of a listener to hear musicians work harder when they're being recorded, instead taking the easy way out and having their performances edited after the fact.

I have only gotten to use DSD on a few projects- the mix for Untouchables (Korn- the DSD mix edged out the analog mix), The Bronx record (which was bounced to Pro Tools prior to mix) and a Courtney Love record (which was also bounced to Pro Tools after I left). It is absolutely heartbreaking to hear what gets lost when something which sounds so gorgeous gets converted to a different format. For all practical intents and purposes, DSD is analog since it won't speak to any other recorder in the digital domain.

Because of the downsides, I've had to give up on DSD for the time being. Additionally, the cost of renting these systems is prohibitive on most recording budgets these days. The workflow aspect was brutal and I'm hoping this has changed. The main reason The Bronx record was't mixed in DSD was because the DSD system had to be SMPTE master when we tried to run it with an SSL. At that point, I would have been happy to do a non automated mix, but the record company's meter was running. I'm looking forward to using it again, when time and budget allows. I'm also interested in using the PYRAMIX system which seems to be a step up from the Sonoma in terms of ergonomics and interface ability.*

Serge Wave Processor

[top]Can you describe some of your favorite modular modules and how you use them with typical rock instruments? - Wxyz

As far as individual modules- I mainly use a Serge modular synthesizer with a few other hard patched synths.

For me, the most applicable modules in the Serge are; the Preamp module, the Triple Wave Rectifier and Serge Triple Waveshaper (Wave Processor) are great distortion devices, the Serge Variable Q Filter and Serge Resonant Equalizer. Depending on what kind of processing I want to do, sometimes I'll use the Serge Frequency Shifter, Quad LFO or 8 Stage Sequencer. There is also a Voltage Controlled Stereo Amplifier/Output to pass signals outside.

The patch for say, an electric guitar tends to vary a lot but will normally start at the Preamp in, move to a Wave Rectifier (or Waveshaper) and on from there. It's pretty subjective and based on how things are feeling.

[top]Korn is one of my favs. David was my hero when I started drumming. What was it like tracking him? Anything you can say about the way he played, why you chose certain mics for drums based on their music? With John, did you direct him as far as backup harmonies go? He has added quite a bit more as time goes on in his career.

How was fieldy tracked with his clacky slap style? How do you approach it when he goes from slapping to playing a smooth bassline? Because for him it's truly one extreme to another haha. - Fooman

Putting together David's rig was an interesting experience- we had to change how we would normally mic a kit because of how he tends to choke a drum when he hits. This meant having to mic around the drums to get as much tone as possible. We also tried to de-emphasize the cymbals and underscore the rest of the kit- especially the kick drum.

Jon just did his own thing as far as harmonies and vocals.

With Fieldy, we had to approach his bass from a different standpoint than on other recordings they did. He told me early on that he was a percussionist- not a bassist, but I chose to ignore this and decided to record him as a bassist. He usually gets a very scooped sound with no mids- we added mids and low mids so we could actually hear what he was doing. I've been told that out of all the Korn records, Fieldy is the least happy with the bass sound we got on Untouchables.

[top]Given today's tools at your disposal, if you had a time machine and could record any band in any setting how would you go about it? Also money is no object in this scenario... - Ekedmo

Hahaha- that's very funny, actually. So hard to answer this- I feel that the recording technologies that all my favorite recordings were made on, are a great part of what made the recordings so great. I wouldn't really want to change anything about any of those recordings or any of the work those artists did.

I think I'd rather just be a fly the wall while a record like The Beatles "The White Album" was being made. To be a spectator for something like that would be quite an experience.

[top]My question involves the necessity of the "mastering" process in today's digital environment:

How germane do you feel the mastering process is today, given our assimilation to digital delivery?

Would your work be hindered in any way (sonically) if the mastering process were omitted all together? - gideon352

Regarding mastering- I think it can help a recording, although I wouldn't say it's an absolute necessity either. A lot of great records have benefited greatly from being mastered by a great engineer- mine, included. The fact is, a badly mastered recording can also lose everything that was great about the final mix.

I've encountered mastering engineers who will add massive amounts of compression to a mix, just because this is what everyone else in the world of professional recording does. Some people really like the effect of excessive amounts of compression on an already compressed mix, but this also alters the structural integrity of the mix. In some cases, I've actually felt that having a mastered version which sounds almost identical to the final mix is preferable to a version which has all those bells and whistles.

Working with a mastering engineer can be helpful- it can also be subjective. I guess it helps to know the engineer and what he will do with your mixes.

[top]What I'm curious about is with the progress of plug-in emulations of analog equipment in the past few years, how much have you integrated that technology into your workflow, and why or why not? For example, it would seem to me a much more convenient option to apply 1176 plug-ins, API plug-ins, or whatever other plug-ins you use to channels in the DAW for mixing than if you hardwired in all of the hardware rack gear equivalent to the mix. Are there some circumstances where you will use plug-ins, but others where you won't? I suspect that you, like most engineers today (including myself) have a combination of analog and digital equipment that you're using, so I'd like to know how you're integrating the digital and analog technology into your workflow today. - jon_ethos

I love some plug-ins- it's just a matter of application. I still prefer analog signal processing in a chain and generally use plug-ins as an afterthought, such as if I wanted another compressor on a specific sound, but an analog compressor in that position negatively impacted it. I'll tend to rely on this mainly if I'm working in the box- otherwise, I'd still opt for analog processing, as long as the session is high rez. This is only because I try to avoid extra conversion- even D/A to monitor- and only do this if the session was recorded and monitored through an analog console. I haven't been as happy with stuff that was recorded in the box and then moved over to an analog monitoring/mixing/mastering configuration.

[top]Bode Frequency Shifter - Hi...I was wondering about how you use this in your recordings? Your name seems to always be attached to this! - sirdss

Wow- I'm happy to be associated with such a great instrument.

On a recording, I tend to use the Bode to get stereo frequency modulation/phase shifting effects using the A and B outputs and setting the oscillator at a relatively low frequency. The only issue is the oscillator tends to drift a bit and the oscillator can speed up without warning. The sound is very similar to a Uni-Vibe.

Bode Sound Co. 735 MK II Frequency Shifter

[top]Hi Michael, big fan of your work, specifically Mofo and Superunknown, but I also love the sound of Ozzmosis. Can you tell me what it was like to work with Zakk? - nevefreak

On Ozzmosis, Zakk was an absolute pleasure to work with. He was so enthusiastic- like a big kid- just thrilled about music and playing guitar. We'd hang around in the studio for hours after everyone else had left and listen to CD's.

He'd play a solo and announce that he had to redo it because one note was out of place. He'd replay the entire solo note for note, know exactly where he was, make one alteration and no one could figure out what he'd changed because it went by so quickly. He did a wonderful job.

[top]I'd like to ask you about your way of thinking when you work. Do you use your instincts when it's time to make audio decisions, meaning that, do you sketch a plan in your mind about the particular approach that you're going to take from start to finish or do you make most decisions as you move along based on a basic plan? Also, one weird question...Would you be able to produce the same result in a session if you were forced to do it all again on a different day but in the same place with the same players and same equipment? - haryy

I really appreciate your question. The answer is very simple. Yes - always. Instinct is one of the most valuable and important abilities everyone has and I feel it is absolutely essential to doing any kind of creative work.

Any creative work I do is the result of sensory impressions - not conscious ideas. I can understand how one makes a conscious effort to find a solution to a creative problem (which pretty much sums up recording), but I find that being spontaneously responsive to the situation I'm in is much more efficacious and immediate.

Sometimes, one benefits from incorporating the left and right side of the brain and it helps to allow an idea to develop gradually- to even incorporate logistics into decision-making. As far as being able to recreate a session I've done in the same way, the answer is definitively no. Those are moments preserved in time and they can't be returned to. Any recreation of a previous recording in the same environment, with the same equipment and players would still sound different- even if only slightly. We would all have changed as people- the recording would reflect that.

[top]Your essay A Primer on Feel sums up the mechanics of a rhythm section in a live setting perfectly. I like the example of Led Zep - the Stones take this to an extreme as well. It seems feel is all but a lost art in modern popular music recordings. What's your favorite method of capturing this in the studio while still maintaining relative track isolation? Do you like to use a click track? Maybe just for the drummer and just for reference? - Robby in WA

I have had the best results with the drummer playing without other musicians, or with them in the room but at very low levels in his monitors. One reason for this is I find that certain drummers will not only shift tempos, but also lose their feel because they have gotten used to following other performers. This becomes even more of an issue when they have to record with a vocalist.

I like to have both isolated drums and the best possible feel, but I will err on the side of feel every time. Some drummers are capable of playing like this with a click and can lean on the front or back end of the beat- some drummers stiffen up completely with a click and do better without one.

I also try to provide the drummer with examples of feel-based playing and to demonstrate how it breaks down component-wise if I feel that this can be beneficial. I have worked with drummers who are either too headstrong or naturally play with great feel and don't need any coaching.

In general, it helps to be able to explain things well and be somewhat knowledgeable on the subject. In recording, I stay off any grid, unless the drummer wants and play better to a click. Otherwise, the click gets made to the drummer, post-performance- not the other way around.

[top]With Hole's track Celebrity Skin.. Was that one tempo? A tempo map of changing tempos or live? - Jules

On Celebrity Skin, we cut the drums live and, if memory serves, there were no guide instruments playing along (perhaps one or two tracks?). I would establish the song tempo with Deen Castronovo (who played on the record) who would then find the BPM on a Dr Beat click. WHen the tape was rolling, he'd start the click, then turn it off, count off two bars and start playing. He did about 1-3 takes per song and there were no edits. That's why a superlative drummer makes such a big difference- his performance is always memorable.

[top]Are there any cues or does the drummer memorize the tune? - Robby in WA

Yes, when the drummer plays without other musicians he must memorize the song. With this in mind, many of the drummers I've worked with have the ability to listen to a song, hear the drum parts and be able to play part-perfect within about 5-10 listens. I once saw Dave Grohl sit down, just play along with a track, simultaneously learn the song and jam out his part at the same time.

As for examples, I first like to explain the relationship between the kick, snare and hihat, then, play a few references, such as any popular music from the late fifties to the mid- '70's and various R&B music such as P-Funk, James Brown, The Meters, etc. I go into detail as far as the relationships between the drums in the essay I wrote- "A Primer on Feel".

As far as recordings I've done, everything from Ozzy's record going forward has had this emphasis.

[top]I would like to know what are the most important aspects to you during the preproduction stage. - Jakelorenz

In pre-production, it's first important to assess the material, figure out whether there are enough songs to record and if they best represent the artist. I generally focus on the music, first as individual pieces of music and get a feel for where each piece isn't working. I'm more interested in how music doesn't work than how it does, because building on a piece of music where the structural integrity is bad is like building a stone house on a rickety frame. I try to consider every place in a song where the song flow is being impeded in some way. This can pertain to how the rhythm section is interacting, how the song builds (or doesn't) transitions, etc.

I also start addressing performance issues with the musicians if they exist. Once this has been established, I will look at the project as a unified body of work and envision how everything fits together. Any rewrites or restructuring generally occurs prior to or during pre-production.

Sennheiser MD 421-II

[top]You have referenced renting a "12K Watt Sub Array" for tracking bass and drums. Was hoping you would be willing to talk about your process here. Is this basically using a massive bass playback system for recording a powerful low end? So, running a kick drum mic through a 12KW system, and then micing the output of that system? - Citrusburst

I work with what I can get but in an ideal situation, yes- 12K watts gets the job done. Generally, a dynamic mic because it's more directional and will feed back less (MD421 or SM57) is sent to the array, or if we can use a kick mic, this is sent to the PA from the recording console.

The idea is to enhance the acoustic character of the low end elements in the room. For this reason, I don't mic the subs (which is very difficult given the range of frequencies we are dealing with). A system comes with amps and usually an equalizer or some kind of low pass filter. I generally cut above 60-80 Hz depending on the room.

[top]Do you ever have pushback from artists when you are strongly suggesting a restructuring to songs that they have potentially lived with for a while? - Fooman

Absolutely- in fact, it's to be expected. This is why it's very important to learn how to address people whose work you're proposing to change with as much respect as possible. Being able to take a different perspective and see someone else's point of view goes a long way in this case. From our perspective, we know our idea will work better than what already exists. From their perspective, we are uninvited interlopers who, by critiquing their work, are telling them they have no talent. This may sound extreme but if you look at the situation from the different points of view, this is what it boils down to.

Often, it's also a matter of demonstrating how something will work- essentially proving the efficacy of the new idea and then suggesting everyone live with it for a little while.

[top]Your second paragraph is exactly why I asked haha.

I was just curious as to whether or not those who are recording with someone at your level will rather 'expect' some suggestions. When I am producing, it's often a title I assume rather than am given... Therefore I must tread lightly when suggesting things that have a more substantial impact. The head games we play, for lack of a better term, are intriguing to me. I have assumed that artists at the top of their game would actually be more open to suggestions as they have already proven their talents. If you care to dive deeper into how you will suggest a rewrite, effect, structure change, please do! - Fooman

Simply put, everyone has an ego- some have theirs in check, some don't.

If I have an idea that I know will help improve a piece of music, I present it and am prepared to demonstrate or explain it well enough so it makes sense. Generally speaking, if the idea is sound, it's difficult for anyone to dispute it even if this brings up insecurities in the artist. I'm always aware of how and why I'm presenting an idea- this is to help benefit the project and the artist- not to aggrandize myself or inflate my ego.

[top]So you're basically "exciting" the room with subs and this makes its way into the room mics? Does any of it get back into the close mics? - Drew

Yes, the subs not only excite the room- they also affect the character and subtly alter its frequency response. In this sense, I'm not using it as an effect but an amplification of acoustic instruments in an acoustic space. I guess it's like having a level/tone control for some of the components in the kit (as I will often put snare and toms in the subs, as well).

An additional benefit is that this does affect the close mics- often profoundly. It really pushes the low frequency response of the large diaphragm mics, especially.

[top]Do the drummers enjoy it? And does it benefit the rest of the band in the same room? - Jules

This varies quite a bit and depends on the drummer. Most of the time, a drummer will register an expression of utter delight the very first time he plays a bass drum in a recording studio that is so loud, it causes the room to shake. It's an extremely empowering experience and helps him put more emphasis on that part of the kit.

I've also seen one or two drummers who couldn't handle this, or found it extraneous to their performance. Since my priority is to capture a great performance, I have to roll with this.

A lot of recordings I've worked on, I don't have the band play together, hence this is not an issue. For those who do, I try to keep them far away from the subs for their own physical health and well-being.

[top]Michael, did you use the sub setup on Mechanical Animals? What was used for the kit and how was it mic'd on that one? - Maschinenraum

Regarding Mechanical Animals- I've drawn a blank regarding the kit- all I can remember are the 1057 pres. The subs were very loud and, as I mentioned in another thread, we blew a few of them in the first week of recording. I think they were about 6 dual 18 cabs with power amps and a low pass filter set to roll off above 80 Hz (?). Pretty sure the arrays were flanking the kit with 3 cabs on either side. It was thunderous and shook the entire building.

[top]Thank you Michael, I think you have blown a lot of minds on this thread. The sub reinforcement is a fantastic concept, I'm curious where/when you discovered it. - Kmandude

It's good to share ideas with a community of people in this way. Very pleased if it's helpful.

I first discovered using speakers to amplify drums when Garth Richardson was engineering the tracks for "RHCP Mother's Milk" and rented a small PA system for this purpose. I considered this and later on thought about what I was missing from drums in general- almost always had to do with bass presence. That's where I started using subs only and gradually added more wattage on each new project.

[top]How do you go about picking a snare for an individual song? - Threesymbol

I always pick the best sounding snare. That may sound pat but it's simple. Generally, amongst a bunch of snare drums, there will be one or two which shine. If not, I either rent or if that's not an option, I work with what I have. There are also options with tuning, different types/thicknesses of heads, sticks, etc.

I tend to favor metal snares- I feel they record better but I try to remain open. There are always going to be options regarding mic'ing, etc. I tend to favor the most typical position (about 9 o'clock on a slight angle) but there are so many places to choose on the instrument depending on what sound you're going for. Additionally, one mic can change everything about how the snare sounds in a recording.

[top]You've worked on a diverse range of music over the years, and I've enjoyed the results / output of your efforts; such great stuff. I'm wondering today what your workflow is like, how that may have (or has) an affect on the psychology or approach to your productions, and what and how your current equipment setup has attributed to the process. What is your personal setup these days? Summing mixers etc... - adam_f

Thanks for saying so. As far as workflow - that follows what i'm working on, rather than the other way around. I've matriculated to Pro Tools, partly because the expediency factor helps everyone else's workflow (and the quality has improved since Native). Everything else is determined by the project. I have a decent amount of gear and I'll have large pieces carted (and take some of the smaller ones myself) wherever I'm working.

Setups vary. I've done stuff with line mixers and without a console and can go either way. I feel these days, it's important to be flexible rather than to force people into a box based on my comfort level. My only insistence is that the quality is there and this puts a lot of pressure on the musicians to perform and on us to make everything sound as good as possible. I feel it's important to try to make the highest quality recordings one can make even in the absence of any budget.

As far as the psychology, could you explain what you mean, as I don't quite understand?

Chandler Mini Rack Mixer

[top]As far as psychology, I meant in as much as how a chosen workflow (equipment setup can dictate workflow to a degree) for a given project may affect the creativity, and output result. I thought you had used the Chandler Mini Rack Mixer at one point, and wanted to know how you made that work in your post "large format console" setup / workflow? - adam_f

Yes, I have used the Chandler Minimixer- it's good for some applications and is great as a bussing mixer.

As far as how the change in equipment influences workflow- it's profound, but the real question is always, "Is this way of working acceptable to me"? I feel I can bear any hardship regarding altered ergonomics or topology, as long as what's coming out the other end of the equipment in question sounds wonderful.

There is a difference between listening to music while sitting in front of a console, and listening while sitting next to a summing mixer. With the console, you have everything in front of you, sometimes you're leaning on it and can feel more connected to what you're doing - if that makes sense.

Without a console - you have a cleaner field of audio- less reflections in front of you - but the tactile relationship is missing. Both have their up/downsides.

[top]So you were going mic-pre > mixer > digital (or analog) pre-mixing various mics? Do you use mics in a crossover network to achieve the desired sound one each or highs / mids / lows etc.. or a combination thereof? I've always thought pre-mixing mics / committing to the sound upfront leaves less to ponder later. - adam_f

Yes- that was the chain. I never thought of using mics in a crossover network- generally, just a combination of mics which are tonally pleasing and work well together. I'll have to experiment with a crossover some time to see how that affects tonal balances- thanks for putting the idea in my mind. You can't ever stop learning about this stuff.

I like to pre-mix guitar mics, although I have kept the mics separated until the mix. Generally, even if mics are separate, the balances don't change much as everything else is being built up around them and any shift can alter things radically.


[top]I can't afford a big studio/recordist/mastering/etc...I have Cubase, some old MOTU's and a collection of Chinese condenser mics. I wonder if I will ever be able to make a great record without shelling out $$$ for a big room and access to great mic pre's and outboard gear. - The Suicider

The trick isn't trying to make recordings that you feel are comparable or competitive with other "big budget" recordings- it's about making recordings which are inspiring and expressive to you. In order to do this, you have to search for combinations with what you have that excite you - ultimately, the gear is meaningless.

The Eurythmics made "Sweet Dreams" at home on an 8 track recorder. Frank Filipetti made James Taylor's "Hour Glass" in James' living room with DA88's and a Yamaha 02R. These are just a few noteworthy recordings which were done under less than perfect circumstances and less than perfect recording equipment. Of course, the individuals making them are extraordinarily talented- then again, perhaps you are too. There's only one way to find out.

[top]Masterful job on the production of Celebrity Skin, it's simply beautiful in places. What is going on under some of the choruses, specifically Celebrity Skin and Petals? - gear is cool

My pleasure. Thanks for the comments regarding Celebrity Skin - a lot of work went into getting things to sit right. As far as underscoring- I think that was mainly different guitar textures and background vocals. I did a lot of guitar-synth processing on that record, which may be what you're hearing. I had just gotten a 3 panel Serge modular system for that same purpose.

[top]I have seen a few videos on YouTube with the synth controlling a guitar part, but the style of music is nothing even close to this more 'rock' style that is being discussed here. The fact that it's rock with a guitar synth like this is pretty cool and different to me. - Fooman

Yes- synth controlled guitar processing is great, too- we did some of that on a few Korn tracks. Vocoder controlled guitar (or guitar controlled guitar, a la "Don't You Want Me"- Human League) is also interesting.

[top]Did you have an idea of what you wanted, or was it one of those "lemme see what happens!" kind of events? - Fooman

I just got used to what these instruments sound like individually and separately- how they interact with various other instruments. When I'm creating a patch (or doing any kind of processing), there's no real thought process involved- things generally just fall into place. I get "directed" as far as what instruments to use and how. The two elements combined seem to bring good results.

[top]When is your book due out and where do I pick up a copy? I love reading your blog and think your book will be a dynamite read. - gear is cool

Thanks, guys. My book is done. A link to it is here. My experience with books on record production is that they approach the technical aspects of recording and only seldom address the interpersonal aspects, as well how to work creatively in small groups of artists and an overlying philosophy (at least a consistent one from one specific individual, instead of snippets from a great many). This is a period in time where there are a lot of voices speaking about recording, but less practical information available which can actually be applied to the creative process. I feel that people who are interested in record production can benefit greatly from being aware, not only of "how" to do something, but "why" they do it. My book differs in these ways.

ARP 2600

[top]Can you explain a little bit about your guitar through synth method? - Mho

Yes. I like to use the preamp in an ARP 2600 as a front end to the Serge because it seems to hit it nicely. I generally will use a different "pre-gain" section prior to the Serge. After that, I use different modules in the Serge for various distortion/textures. There are 3 Wave Multipliers and 3 Wave Rectifiers which can be used in a variety of ways with the Variable Filter and Resonant Equalizer modules. In some cases, I'll use the Frequency shifter to create nice Univibe effects.

These instruments are modular so there are many options as far as signal chains, interconnectivity and introducing other effects in the chain.

[top]You've worked with some infamous (and famous) drug-users. And a lot of the albums you list as favorites were done by musicians who were pretty hard drug users. Any thoughts on the subject? - JohnOmix

Yes - there have been some drug users and yes, drug use does not make the job any easier. In some cases, the people I worked with were addicts, in some, they were functional recreational drug users and in others, they had been users, but had quit. I have come to feel that whatever people do outside of their work with me is their own business, however, the moment it interferes with what I'm doing (especially if this work is being done on their behalf) they have just made it my business. If an artist's drug use has become my business, it's then up to me to determine what I want to do about it.

I don't like it when anything extraneous interferes with work, so I'll tend to address things as I see fit. Sometimes this is constructive, sometimes it doesn't go down very well. I actually walked off one project because I felt I couldn't do my job due to this issue.

Drug use has affected the time spent on some recordings I've done, but not all. I am more careful with dealing with SUBSTANCE abusers now, I consider the pros and cons very carefully before diving in. Even if I really like the music they do.

[top]Mechanical Animals is one of my favorite Manson records, sonically and songwise. Can you elaborate a little bit what amp heads, cabinets and stompboxes were used mostly on the records? Is it true that the guitars have been replaced by John 5 after Zim Zum got fired for not showing up.

And what was the most unusual procedure/technique/experiment you guys have done on that record. It's such a diverse compilation of music in terms of the songs and their production. I can see that it's probably not the easiest task to work with the Manson camp (especially in 98 and in LA ) but the result is still outstanding! - KoMa

My recollection of some of the setups on Mechanical Animals is a bit hazy. Twiggy did nearly all the rhythm guitars and mainly used a Les Paul. At one point during the recording, he got a GMP guitar and we used this a bit. I think his amps were Marshalls- it was all very meat and potatoes stuff. I know there were some pedals at certain points- just can't recall which ones. I also did a little guitar processing through my synthesizers.

Zim was not fired - although he did get into a lot of trouble- and John 5 didn't play on the record. Zim has a different feel than Twiggy, and sounded terrible playing Les Pauls through Marshalls, so we spent a few days trying to match a guitar rig to him. His rig wound up being gear that didn't sound good on anyone else. He had these guitars- they might have been Washburns- that seemed to work perfectly for him- we used those.

The overall approach to the recording was exciting- all the electronics and drum machine parts had been well-thought out and pre-programmed, but there was still room for experimentation. We often incorporated things that just showed up- a TC Electronics FIREWORX, synth-guitar processing, etc.. It was also very entertaining working in a pitch-black tent made of theater-rigging for 2.5 months.

It wasn't really that hard working with Manson and crew. When all the pretenses were dispensed, they were there to work and they did a great job.

TC Electronic FireworX

[top]Who actually did all the drum programming on Mechanical Animals? Was it Ginger Fish? One of the things I love about that record is that it's hard to tell which drum parts are programmed and which aren't. I always assumed that was an intentional thing, fitting with the theme of the album. - Electric Sugar

I think Ginger did the drum programming - possibly with someone else (Manson) directing. I don't think the way everything fit together was initially intentional on the part of the band, but it was definitely my intention.

[top]How has your approach to recording Courtney Love's music changed between recording "Celebrity Skin" and "Nobody's Daughter"(If it had changed at all)? Was it easier to record her the second time around with Pro Tools? - krock2009

Probably not in terms of general aesthetics- yes in terms of technology, etc. From one project to the other, many other things changed - different performers, a lot of personal issues for Courtney, etc.

When I was involved in the project, everything was recorded in DSD. It was only transferred to Pro Tools after I left, which occurred before Courtney began her vocals. About 60-70% of the vocals on Celebrity Skin are from Courtney's guides which were done over the course of 2 days.

[top]Why did you decide to use the guide vocal for that 60-70% instead of cutting a "final" vocal? - Sofa King

We spent months trying to get finished sounding vocals and it always felt as if something was missing. One day, while listening to a playback, it suddenly occurred that what we were missing had actually been there from the beginning. When we brought up Courtney's guides, it was really obvious. I comped them together with some of our later vocals for the finished versions.

[top]I've now read your "You Fire Drummers" article (which makes it sound like 50% of all professional recordings have subbed drummers - wow). And what I own of your discography, the drums DO sound stellar. So the drummer is *super* important...So what is a good drummer? When YOU have a guy come in, and he just KILLS it, what are the things that he consistently does (or doesn't do?) that makes him *great*? I'm talking Jazz and Rock, and anything else. What makes one guy just not quite good enough for a major label recording, even if he and his band have gotten popularity, etc? - Grubgoat

There are a few different criteria which are applicable (to me) in this case, but I think foremost is probably confidence. Drums are the foundational aspect of any recording (even if they are added later), therefore, it is reassuring to have a drummer who "knows" he can play the songs with authority. Having this feeling- this awareness, puts weight and conviction behind a drummer's performance. A drummer who is not competent (or any other musician) generally comes into a recording prepared to fail. They actually exude defeat or an air of not wanting to try as hard as possible and do a great job.

The rest is often a matter of preference. I tend to like drummers who can play with a groove, hit hard (but accurately) and keep decent time. I'm not fond of drummers who play like machines and whose performances line up perfectly with a click. None of this matters as much if a band's drummer comes into a recording with the intent to do an amazing job and...they do it.

Recording is about making a document of something (which can be subjective and not always taken literally)- where a group of creative people were at one point in their lives or the result of what they did together, but also about everyone in the process leaving a piece of themselves behind. A great drummer will come in and do this- whether he plays in the band or is a replacement.

SSL 9000J/XL9000K

[top]I was wondering what studios you like to work at and why? - Ekedmo

There are a few studios I really enjoy working at - they have great rooms, maintenance and exceptional equipment:

Conway Studio C - unfortunately, the SSL 9k is no longer there.

Henson A or D.

Studios Guillaume Tell - only there once- great place. Not great for food choices, though.

I've been to a bunch of other great places- but those are my favorites. Bad Animals was good too, but the control room was too big and the acoustics not great. The adjoining Kaye/Smith Studio 2 had a perfect control room - really tiny, lovely old API console and no reflections.

Sunset Sound 3 - great desk, great acoustics, great live room.

[top]What advice can you offer to young aspiring producers at the moment (general or specific, artistic or career-wise)? I know the industry in the UK and the US is a little different, but from what I understand, everyone is facing broadly similar problems at the moment. Are there any things you think an aspiring producer definitely should or should not be doing? - 8875

I'm glad to interact like this - it is a pleasure to share with others.

Probably repeating myself, but my only advice to people who are aspiring to be record producers is to take nothing for granted, be prepared to work incredibly hard for little in return, make sure you are doing as much as you can out of love for the work (as opposed to a need to pay your bills) and, above all else, find whatever it is about you that makes you different and unique from other people who are trying to do the same work and play on those strengths.

The recording industry is generally in the same condition here as it is in the UK. As a result, there are no more traditional career paths in this business and everyone has to make their own way. In fairness, it was the same when I was starting out, the difference was, there was just a little more rope for people to hang themselves with.

Generally, most people on the business side are unwilling to put themselves out because they don't believe in the music they represent or sell. Because everyone is so scared of making a mistake, no one will get behind you unless they see there are literally thousands of other people queuing up behind you or they can figure out how to profit from you.

The only way I know of to make any kind of leap to a different level of prominence is by distinguishing yourself. There are no courses or seminars for this- you simply have to be incredibly talented and be willing to work incredibly hard. It also helps if you love the music you're working with- you will always do a better job and this will show.

You can really only distinguish yourself in this way by creating records that turn people's heads and force them to notice you. When you have done a recording that is undeniably great, others are forced to take notice.

Once you have some recordings which you feel demonstrate your ability, it helps to let other people know what you've done. If you can get someone to pay attention to you, you will probably have one shot with them, so make it your best. Keep in mind that anyone who you want to notice you is besieged all day by other people who also want to be noticed for the same reasons as you. Because of this, anyone who you want to notice your work will only dispense with favors if they can benefit by doing so.

Keep in mind, this process can take some time. If you are dedicated- even prepared for some serious rejection, none of that will matter. It sounds like you are on the right path at the moment. I hope this helps.

Audio-Technica AT4047

[top]I was wondering if you could share some of your thoughts about gear that's not that expensive... Like, what's the cheapest LDC that you actually used and found decent -as OHs or lead voices-? What about SDCs? - JulianFernandez

Yes - the AT 4047 is one of the great, unsung, potentially all-purpose microphones I've used. I've used these on nearly every instrument in various configurations- isn't always the right mic, but the results are at very least respectable. The mere fact that it was a close second to a "legendary" M49 in a massive mic shootout on a large budget recording could be a reasonable indicator of this. I do think the Sanken CU41 is a great mic - however - it's more expensive and really depends on your preference regarding tone.

I don't use small diaphragm condensers a great deal- hence, not a great judge. I've found AKG 451's helpful in some circumstances and I've used B&K 4011's on overheads- just not for a while. I also used a B&K 4007 on a vocal- it was helpful because it's a very neutral microphone and the vocalist had very sharp peaks in his voice.

As for dynamics - SM57's are always handy and often surprising, even if the transient response isn't always great. The AKG/Telefunken D19 is great for fast transient stuff- very tight, but has a bad habit of being unfixable when it breaks.

[top]Soundgarden 4th of July - How did you get that nice, low and heavy sound on the 4th of July ? - BeenASon

I honestly think a lot of that had to do with how the guitars were tuned. Soundgarden have/had a bunch of really cool drop-tunings and some of them literally change the entire character of the guitar. The live room at Bad Animals helped, too- very smooth response and ok (not overwhelming) pre delays.

I think Kim and Chris both played on that song - pretty sure Chris was using one of his Gretsch guitars (silver jet or black single cutaway) into a 50w Marshall/Mesa Dual Rectifier to Marshall cabs (one may have been Mesa). An SM57 and an RCA BK5 was on each cabinet and each mic went to a Neve 1058.

[top]Did you use any compression while tracking the guitars for this or any of the other songs on this record? To this day, it is still a benchmark rock record in my book. - Skybluerental

Thanks for saying so. No - there wasn't any compression used on the guitars. Pretty sure there was a bit of extra eq at the console where the guitars were bussed, but nothing else.

[top]What you discuss on your website about the current state of popular music - even music generally - has been food for thought. How relevant do you feel in the current musical climate? Can you lean your weight of experience on modern recording/musical practice to change it for the better? How can we best operate outside the confines of the current status quo? - dc388e1

I have found that my attitude towards the current state of the music industry is actually shared by quite a few people who work creatively with music in some capacity. The problem is, this view is not the status quo, hence, not popular and the other people who feel similarly don't realize there are other people out there who feel as they do.

You asked if I feel relevant to the current musical climate. I don't think I could feel less relevant at this moment- to the music industry. But I've had to accept that my true necessity is something other than mattering to a bunch of guys in a record company. That's like believing that ants really care about what happens on the planet Jupiter at about*5pm next Wednesday. As far as being relevant to an artistic community, that's another matter entirely. My relevance is in offering a different vision to others and letting them know that there are others like them.

Being relevant to someone or something else is unimportant. Being true to how you feel is most important. Giving up your ethics and your feelings that something feels very wrong to you may appear more practical (and less like you are swimming against the tide, however, in the long run, this is far more debilitating. Honoring your ethics and all your feelings is the key to accessing and harnessing creativity. I feel that sooner or later, everyone has to make the same choice- whether they want to follow the direction in life that feels right, or the direction that society tells everyone is the most practical.

Doing creative work is not a walk in the park. The only guaranteed ease is found in working on something which satisfies you on the deepest personal level- that's when you know you're in the right place.

As far as change - I only know that I can change no one and nothing in any way - I can only change myself. For this reason, I have no interest in altering anyone else's perspective on anything, or being a pedant. All I can do is speak openly about how I feel wherever I'm able. In the likelihood that my words have an effect on someone else, that's fine. I would rather reach out to all the other people in the world who feel as I do, than try and change the minds of all the people who don't.

As far as operating outside the status quo- this is also very hard. Of course, the alternative is trying to assimilate into the status quo and hoping that you'll be accepted, which is just as hard. However, it is possible to make your own way and this is to work from who you are and what you believe. If you have vision and are able to keep working- if you have tremendous talent and tremendous drive- you'll be able to do anything. At that point, the best thing to do is ignore the status quo and the conventional wisdom and do what you do.

Another aspect of working outside the status quo is finding other like minded people and creating communities. In this case, thank goodness for the internet.

[top]I've been DJing for a long time, and always come back to 'Don't Lose Control' by Material. The track is from another planet. Well, planet Beinhorn/Laswell I suppose. Also, I've always loved 'Take a Chance' and wondered if you had heard the italo version by Mr. Flagio, which is a cult favorite. I find these records to be inspiring to this day, in terms of sonics and mood. If you'd care to share any memories of making these tracks and the vibe in NYC in general at that time, I'd quite appreciate it. - ELI-173

Wow - I'm shocked that there are people who are familiar with those records still around. I didn't know of any versions of "Take a Chance" but would love to hear them.

Roland TR-808
As for kit - back then, all I had was a Prophet 5. At one point, there was an Oberheim sequencer (the kind that looked like a breadmaker and had no way to quantize notes, so whatever you played in is whatever came out. A lot of the sequenced stuff was played by hand. I'm hardly a good player, so you can imagine how frustrating that was. For vocoder stuff, I was using a Roland SVC350- the vocoder of electro. Someone loaned me a Roland TR808 which I used on "Don't Lose Control", "I'm the One", etc. Apart from the tape collage, that was about it.

The vibe in NYC at that time was extraordinary- there was never a time like it before and I doubt there will be again. Actually, it seemed like the climax of a post-war/late-fifties boom of art, poetry, music, theater that had been flourishing for decades. The cross-pollination of ideas and media was wonderful- it was like a great big Petri dish full of creative people with no restraints being as expressive as they wanted and being encouraged to do so.

AT the same time, everyone was very childish- it was like a big popularity contest - who was the coolest, who had the most people come to their show, who hung out with Brian Eno at the Mudd Club or shot heroin with Johnny Thunders in some squat on Second Ave. People were scathing, there was a lot of backbiting and if you weren't cool, you'd get publicly dog piled in the blink of an eye. NYC was a tough room back then.

I suppose Bill and I worked together well because we had a similar sensitivity to music and we each brought something to the table the other didn't have. He was also a terrific networker and knew how to chat people up to get them to come and play on our records. I operated better behind the scenes but had instincts for sound construction and gradual arrangement. Rather than working together, we mainly worked off one another.

The stories from this period are endless and could fill a book. Regarding "Memories", it was quite an experience. We wanted Fontella Bass who sang "Rescue Me", but her manager (Lester Bowie from the AACM/Art Ensemble Chicago and her ex-husband) wanted $50,000 for her time, which would have killed our entire recording budget.

Bruce Lundvall the president of Elektra/Musician pointed us in the direction of Whitney Houston who had just started singing professionally. We were very skeptical, as we wanted someone who sounded older and had more experience. In the long run, we were clearly wrong- Whitney was more appropriate- especially her youth and naivete.

When we started recording, everything was going great until Whitney hit the 4th line of the song. At that point, she sang the line exactly a half step out of tune.

It was unbelievable to not only hear her do this once, but to do it several more times. I went into the recording area to show her the melody, then play it for her on the piano. Nothing changed.

She sang that same line for about 2 hours and became more and more frustrated because she couldn't hear it any other way. Suddenly, out of the blue, she began singing the line in key with the song. That was a very interesting day.

[top]Where does the line start when Mixing begins to bleed over into Producing? Or do you find it best to do both simultaneously? - Skillz335

Because the role of all participants has changed (due to lack of proper subsidy and resultant inhuman conditions), everyone has to take a less compartmentalized approach to the work they do. This, unfortunately, leads to more workaround solutions to creative problems and in the end, poorer quality.

Being creative is something which is best done when one can think clearly and act definitively. It is easier to do this when one has more resources to draw from, more time to work with or more personnel to delegate to.

I feel it is best left up to the individual what their requirements are when they have to do everything themselves. Under the right circumstances, it can actually be fun (as I have discovered) having to do most everything yourself, but it's a lot of work and can be a grind after a while.

One way I address it is to make sure what I'm recording sounds close to finished, or at least makes a great rough mix. This way, at least there is a template and an overriding character to everything which helps the record to somewhat mix itself. I like to use anything to make the job easier without using the customary workarounds (editing, tuning, etc) which are more technical and less musical in nature.

From this standpoint, I think you could say the mixing does bleed into the production a bit. I'm also very cautious these days buying into this fallacy that a record needs a great mix engineer (or a "fresh set of ears" as the executives trying to sell you on the idea refer to it) in order for it to be great. Most records aren't commercial successes and will never be- what's the point in trying to make them sound like they are and in the process, change them into something they aren't (and lose a great deal of character)? I've begun to mix my own records, or work with people who don't have a sound/ are more versatile.

[top]How do you decide what/if you will delegate out? and has that drastically affected how you choose your employees? - skillz335

Actually, the balance of my work for the past 6 years has been pro-bono with no budgets or any resources apart from what I or the other people I'm working with bring to the table. In this case, I don't have the luxury of delegating stuff and instead, work at my own pace. As the saying goes- good, fast and cheap; you can only pick two.

I'm interested in approaching the process from a much different perspective now and this has caused me to look at how resources (or lack thereof) can affect work/workflow in many different ways. Unfortunately, resources, or lack thereof really dictate how recordings are made and in many cases, how good they ultimately are. In some ways, having a little budget is worse than having no money at all because where any money is concerned, you're still on a timetable, whereas when there is no money, everyone is in it for the love of the project (and it is a massive sacrifice to work this way, so it must be a great deal of love).

As far as employees- they must still be on top of what they're doing whether or not they are on a paying gig or not. This is for their benefit, as well as that of the project. With no money, I can't really afford to hire people unless they have the same passion for the project as I do- therefore, my ability to delegate roles is somewhat hindered. This does make things more insular, but it also ensures that there are no mercenaries in the pack.

Steinberg Nuendo

[top]I am curious as to what made you go against the grain and use Nuendo in an industry in which (especially at the time) was pretty exclusively dominated by Pro Tools. Also, are you happy with the decision and do you feel that you might have lost work as a result? - Empire Prod

We chose Nuendo for the Korn recording simply because they were the only game in town at that time. Digi (pre-Avid) didn't have a 96 kHz format and it would have been available around the time we were getting done. We experimented with their bit-splitting recommendation (to get 96k from combining a pair of 48k tracks) but it wasn't very good. Initially, using Nuendo was great because of its operability at 96k, but terrible due to interfaceability and the way the company addressed issues in the pro user community. It took them several years to deal with basic stuff- such as having a proper AES interface instead of using a MIDI time code device- which made absolutely no sense.

I did a few more projects after with Nuendo, but kept winding up with Pro Tools due to its ubiquity. Eventually, I heard Pro Tools Native which is a definite step up from TDM. That's what I currently use.

Honestly, I don't think anyone cared if I used Nuendo or Pro Tools, but this could be a factor for someone else.

[top]Does preventing theft of music require that no one can physically own a copy of a song anymore? - Space1999

Due to the negligence and greed of the recording industry, the public now is convinced that it has a right- an entitlement to acquire music without paying for it. I don't necessarily agree with this way of thinking, but until enough, music lovers are convinced that they should once again pay for music, that's the reality.

What remains, then, is to do the convincing. This will only happen if truly amazing music is available to the public that they feel, not only a personal relationship to, but the need to support or subsidize it. The main reason (apart from it being readily available for free) that more people illegally download music is that they feel no need to subsidize something that has little/no meaning to them. I have never before seen people more ambivalent about the value of music in their lives (and existing primarily as a background activity that they can take or leave) and this tells me that there is more going on here than mere commerce.

In this case, yes, a cloud system is a great idea. However, it must be filled with a commodity that people will actually be willing to pay for. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

[top]I agree 100% The public will do anything or pay anything to get what they feel they can't live without! It's our job to provide them with that product. But that product can't be quickly grown in a test tube; it has to be nurtured and tended to with patience and care. Unfortunately that puts us several years out till a better product can be consistently delivered like the string of talent in the 70s. Nevertheless we must get started! - Space1999

Once again- I agree completely. Talent must be nurtured- it cannot be left to fend for itself as the present day recording industry would have it do. This is the height of irresponsibility and it is up to anyone with vision and the courage to do something about it to take a stand in creating their own channel to facilitate this. There is no current system which addresses the development- therefore, DIY must be left to those with know-how, insight, experience and the desire to mentor others.

[top]I was wondering if you talk a little about how you feel about working with hired guns instead of band members(drummers in particular), and if you could share a couple of session stories that you had with some of the Legends (Vinnie, Gadd, Jeff, Jordan, JR, etc.) - JulianFernandez

Drummers are vital to a recording, hence a really good drummer is important and a great one is indispensable. For reasons of practicality, consistency (and good vibes) I prefer to work with a band drummer, however if they are incompetent (as is sometimes the case), they generally must be replaced. I feel that editing a poor drummer is like polishing a turd and even if you have a performance which is metrically in time because it was rescued by a computer, you have something which is lacking in character and emotion and sets the tone for whatever you record on top of it.

The replacement drummers I've worked with are generally more "band guys" (like Jack Irons or Deen Castronovo) and less professional session players. These drummers play stylistically appropriately for the session, understand the politics of a band and are sensitive to the other personalities in the situation - especially that of the drummer they are replacing. I haven't had the pleasure of working with any of the drummers you mentioned, except Vinnie- he was amazing, but in and out so fast, I barely got a chance to say hello.

[top]How do you handle telling a guy he's not cutting it? Do you know it right away or do you spend some time trying to make it happen? How often "ghost musicians" need to be called to save the day? - JulianFernandez

It's fairly easy to tell if a drummer won't cut it on a recording session, it sometimes takes awhile for the truth to set in or for the timing to be right that the issue must be addressed.

I've always tried to be diplomatic- especially when I knew the drummer being replaced was beyond hope and wasn't going to rise to the occasion. The only time I was ever heavy handed was with a drummer who was absolutely superlative and wasn't pulling his weight. He not only rose to the task- he excelled.

I always take into account the fact I'm dealing with another human being who has feelings. I may have a job to make a great record, but they are going to have to live with the shame and humiliation of the decision to relieve them. For this reason, I attempt to handle the situation with compassion by recognizing my responsibility but also putting myself in their shoes. Additionally, for this reason, the decision to relieve the drummer must be made with the rest of the band and cannot be handled independently of them. This is nothing more than a power play and can cause the people you're working with to be uncomfortable around you, rather than respect you.

I can't say how often replacement musicians need to be brought in, but it's always a relief to know they are around to bail out a session in need.

[top]While we are on the topic of session drummers and navigating interpersonal band dynamics - would you care to comment on the Celebrity Skin session, specifically the criticisms leveled against you in the documentary "Hit So Hard"? Do you feel the documentary fairly represented those sessions and the way the session drummer was incorporated? In hindsight, might you handle that situation differently now? - Tejan

Sure. Basically, the only thing that rings true about the movie or jibes with my recollection of what happened is that Patti Schemel was the drummer for Hole, I produced their record and she wound up getting relieved and replaced by another drummer. Just about everything else in the movie that pertains to my involvement with Patti is a complete fabrication - including the factors leading up to her replacement, how and why she was replaced and by whose authority she got replaced.

Given a similar situation, the same variables and the same alternatives, I'd have acted exactly the same way again.

[top]I was just beginning college at the time, and I bought the Material "Memory Serves" album. I'd love to hear any memories you care to share about that era, and that record in particular. Secondly, both you and Laswell have gone on to have amazing careers as producers, albeit with very different aesthetics, and very different sounds. How did that band produce 2 such singular talents? - NewAndImprov

I guess people come into a creative situation (or any relationship) because of their similarities and leave because of their divergences. Working in Material provided us both with a lot of freedom and the opportunity to grow in a very unique way that no other situation would have afforded. I left because I gradually felt like we were becoming formulaic and I wanted to do other things.

The period in New York that we were active (1978-1983) was one of the most artistically fertile periods in popular art and the most fertile I've ever experienced. It was a real renaissance- people from every different form of expression and media literally colliding daily and exchanging ideas. If you went out anywhere in Chelsea or below, within two hours, you'd have run into about 5 people you knew, you'd meet at least one new person and everyone was incredibly excited- either about what they were doing or what was happening around us. You couldn't help but be inspired.

Memory Serves was recorded a long time ago, hence, I only recall snippets. I think everything was recorded in our studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn which was near an old coffee factory. We'd take the subway from Manhattan every day and the walk to the studio was always enlightening. The blocks were very long and about 3 blocks down, on one side of the street there was a coffin manufacturing company (which was next to the Gowanus canal) and on the other side was a tiny, inauspicious looking Italian social club. One day, on my way to the studio, I noticed there was a long line of limousines with their engines running sitting outside the social club. It didn't take much to figure out what was going on.

The degree of talent on that record is pretty amazing. Unfortunately, the only thing I can recall apart from the social club experience is how uncomfortable I was singing. Since no one else in Material wanted to do it, the job was mine.

[top]How did you work Manson's vocals at the studio with him for Mechanical Animals? how did you mix those vocals? The same question goes for Flea's Bass! - Barnymorales

Manson's vocal chain was a Telefunken 251- Neve 1073- 1176 LN- GML 8200. After that, he did all the work. As far as mix, I think Tom had his usual vocal chain- I doubt it was very involved.

For Flea- on "The Uplift '' record, he went DI without any amps. For "Mother's Milk", he had this horrible Mesa 400 (?) power amp/preamp system which we split with a DI- pretty sure we favored the DI. I seem to recall he used a Musicman.

George Massenburg Labs GML 8200

[top]With all the diverse artists you have worked with, on so many fantastic albums, could you share your general approach to production. I.E. When you hear a song by an artist do you instantly hear/see the overall production in your mind, or is it something that grows along track to track, song to song. - Bwgray

I generally have an impression of what a record will be (if not sound) like before any work is done on it. This is a result of focusing intently on the material I'll be producing and I can "see" how it will look in my mind's eye. It's hard to explain, but I always get a mental "impression" around a piece of music and this is part of what causes it to be appealing to me or not. The way it sounds then, is a natural extrapolation of this mental or inner impression.

As far as production - that is a personal thing. Each producer has - or needs - their own way of working with music and sensing what it needs to make it as great as possible. From what you have described, you have your own approach that works for you. If this ever becomes limiting for you, you will seek a different way of doing it. From a conceptual perspective, there are an infinite number of ways to produce a record. The best (and only) approach I know is to follow whatever feels right and turn away from whatever feels wrong. This may sound incredibly simplistic, but if you follow this approach you will always be happy with your work.

[top]How do you approach making an album? Do you do lots of listening to demos and make decisions prior? Do you wait to get into the room with the band? Do you find other albums that have similar touchstones or avoid em? Are there things you try and do on every record because they have been successful (eat well/only do long or short days/use a mono smash mic on kit/tape echo on vocals etc) getting a great record out of it. Do you like to take a long time on a record or are you happy to move fast - even if the budget is there. Do you get in a room with a band to do pre-production and break songs down, or do you prefer it when songs are only kinda there and you can make tons of decisions when tracking? - musicandstuff

When making a record, I try to do as much prep work as possible. This helps me dig into the music I'm going to be working on and formulate an overall approach to it. I also make a lot of notes- arrangement, structure, re-writes, mic'ing combinations, etc. I don't like to save anything for when I'm in pre-production because the less I know it, the less likely I am to connect with the music I'm working on.

All arrangement decisions are made before the recording commences. This provides an immense amount of freedom to make choices regarding tonal combinations and experimentation where it will count the most. Having arrangement issues looming over one's head while still recording seems pretty daunting and unnecessary. I can't do this- more power to anyone who can and makes great recordings.

The only time I listen to other music in order to influence what I'm working on, it's often far different stylistically and is used to illustrate something general (a mood or an approach), as opposed to something specific to imitate or avoid. As an example, I will sometimes play certain ethnic or folk music for artists because it can inform them about creative expression without agenda.

There are equipment mainstays I will return to, but only because I haven't found anything better for a particular application. If I'm in a studio with a lot of equipment, I'll try everything in order to see what it does, what its characteristics and coloration is. I don't like to stand on ceremony or use what I know either because it belongs to me or because it sustains a familiar workflow. That's all fine and good, but it can also be a very self-centered way of working which ignores the artist and the music we're working on together.

Further, time is not an issue for me unless it's a major parameter in the process (ie- budget). When I worked with Marilyn Manson, that record took about 2-3 months to make. With Korn and Hole, those records lasted over a year each. Each project has its own requirements and I choose to adhere to this rather than inject my own preconceptions of what they must turn into. I find that working this way turns everything into a blur and I am less able to connect with what I'm working on.

My only intractable rule is to maintain a high level of quality at all levels and not to settle for anything in any way. From this perspective compromise is a way of downgrading my ability to be discerning and therefore, my true value as a collaborator. That is the kiss of death- especially the mentality of fixing something after it's been recorded instead of while it's being recorded. This is a mindset I don't understand- even though it appears more utile and practical than actually working hard to get great results.

[top]Would you be willing to give a specific example of a song you'd use for this purpose (i.e. title, album?) - scoring4films

Sure- it varies pretty widely. A lot of people can't hear music from other cultural sources because it falls outside their sensibility and they experience it as noise. For this reason, I try to get a feel for which artists will be able to hear/assimilate it and which ones won't.

A great source for ethnic music is the Smithsonian/Folkways catalog which is really extensive. They have great collections of African/Asian/Pan-European/American, etc music such as- Mbuti Pygmies of the Ituri Rainforest, African and Afro-American Drums, The Harry Smith Folk Music Collection, Sonia Malkine- French Songs from the Provinces, etc. The Nonesuch Explorer catalog is great, too- can't really go wrong with their collections, same with Ocora and Harmonia Mundi. It's an amazing experience to listen to this music- really frees you from preconceptions of Western popular music and how commerce-driven it is.

[top]The drum sound on Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" (and entire Superunknown) is one of the greatest I've ever heard. Huge, punchy, with a Bonham-esque feel to some degree. Did you spend a lot of time during pre production, or actual recording, selecting and choosing from various drums, heads and mic placement? What important things do you recall from the session? I've read somewhere you were cutting drums and bass together, and then layered the guitars on top of it - did you ever after having recorded guitars and vocals returned to the drums to cut them again using a different drum set? - keap

Thanks for the kind words. There wasn't a lot of prep work prior to recording, but once in, getting the sounds took about five days. We tried a few different kits, but went pretty deep with snares. We decided on 2 Keplingers, a Black Beauty and one or two others which may, or may not have been used. We definitely used Keplinger's Pipe snare on Black Hole Sun- a very deep snare with a lot of crack and presence.

As for heads - I'm pretty sure we stuck with Remo Ambassadors which drummers hate using because they don't last very long but generally sound great. Generally, all the drums were re-headed and tuned every day prior to recording and whenever the tone started to slip. Mic placement and choice was a big deal and took awhile, too. We also experimented with recording formats- there was a Sony 3324 laying around which I wanted to try to see if it reproduced transients faster than tape. It did, but sounded awful.

Tracking that song in particular, I recall constantly being so sure that it was an amazing piece of work. There are some things you work on where you just know they have something very special to them- this was one of those things. When I heard things like Matt's fills going into the final chorus, the bass overdubs, the Leslie arpeggio motif and finally, the vocal, I was more and more and more certain of how remarkable it was.

We sometimes cut bass together with the drums, but that was usually with the full band and only on a few tracks (Superunknown in particular). We re-tracked everything after this so we could get better performances and better sound for each instrument. Black Hole Sun was cut without bass- I think it was one song where Matt played better when he didn't have to concentrate on the other instruments or vocal. Once the drums were tracked, that was it- we never re-tracked anything.

[top]Did you say Matt tracked 'Black hole sun' without references? I know you said that '4th of July' didn't slow down or 'vari-speed' at all, but, what about 'Black hole sun'?? It's 1/4 up in tuning, and it seems a little forced in tempo. And, what an awesome kick drum (better!!...bass drum) in 'Fell on black days', it's by far my favorite drum recording. Did Matt record the bass drum with the resonant head on and without the hole, and more importantly, without muffling? Another topic is the helium-like voice in the song 'Half'...I read somewhere that effectively, it's helium in the chain. - Zep

Actually, Matt did play with a click, although I think he would use it for a tempo reference and turned it off when the recording started. I agree regarding clicks, although some drummers can still play in the pocket on a click. My own feeling is, it really depends on the player and the type of music being recorded.

None of the songs on Superunknown were slowed down. Any variance in tuning is due to how the band tuned their guitars. I'm actually happy to hear that some of the record sounds slowed down to you just because of the low end connotations.

All the bass drums had back heads with a hole cut out and a degree of muffling. I tend to like muffling making very slight contact with the head so there is some room for vibration but on this record, it was probably tighter.

As for "Half"...I don't know about any helium. I think Ben can really sing like that.

Neumann U47

[top]The kick drum on Ozmosis has a very special sound. I remember listening to the album as a teenager, before knowing anything about recording and mixing, and noticed the kick stood out compared to other albums. Still love that Kick and a great album overall. How did that kick end up like that? Anything special you did? - mattias78

Thanks and yes - the drums are very foundational and support everything else. When we recorded Ozzmosis, I wanted to ensure that the drums had a very unique character. Recording to 2" 8 track format went a long way, as did the mic'ing, tuning, the kit, the room and the drummer. We used a single U47 on the kick, which, I'm pretty sure, was a 28" (possibly DW). These can be hit or miss tonally and then, difficult to record even in the best circumstances.

We got lucky with the kick, but I wasn't happy with the pitch. We finally dropped the back head so low that the lugs were loose. The batter side was tighter, but not much. There was muffling, but it barely touched the head and only when it vibrated a lot.

Through some miracle, even though Deen played incredibly hard, we made it through the entire session with only one head change.

[top]ReNicky Holland - I know you produced Nicky's 2nd album.What was your approach when working with such a talented woman? - Sofa

Yes - Nicky is very talented. I tried to give her as much creative leeway as possible, as she had felt intimidated on her first recording. She had a hand in pretty much everything and this seemed to make her feel more empowered.

[top]Fuel’s “Falls on Me'' is one of my favorites from that time period, and from Fuel. Your recording captured that "sound" perfectly so I'm really interested in how you achieved those tracks. Anyway, what were some of the chains for recording the guitars in this song? Was it similar for both the clean and distorted guitars? What were the chains for the bass guitar? It's super low sounding and fits in just fine, I never understand how that's possible! What were the chains on the drums? Vocals? And final bonus questionThe majority of the music video for Falls on Me is shot in the recording studio. Was it shot at the studio that you were actually recording in, or just shot later to look like they were recording? - Dysenterygary

The drums for the Fuel song was pretty much Neve 1057's on everything and SSL 9K pre's on the metal parts of the kit (possibly, Helios Olympics on overheads). The kick was U47/AKG D36/AT 3000, the snare was SM57/AT 2500/AKG D19(?0, probably, MD 421's on toms and apart from a pair of CMV3's, I don't recall much else.

I should recall the bass chain, but I don't apart from it being a rental Musicman bass into a '70's SVT and one other amp (possibly a sub).

As for guitars, we went through a few chains, but settled on a Diezel/Bogner Uberschall with high wattage (75 watt?) Marshalls. Pretty sure we used SM57's, AT 4047's and BK5's and Neve 1058's- possibly, Neve 1073's. We bussed this in a Massenburg 9100 line mixer- which is a wonderful piece of equipment.

The vocals were done with a Telefunken 251 and there may have been a C12 next to it. The 251 went into a Tube Tech MP1a/ 1176 LN Rev D and I'm not sure about what eq was after that. A little hazy on those details.

The video was shot at a studio in Burbank- the name of which escapes me. I think Linda Perry bought it not long after. We didn't do any recording there.

Tube-Tech MP 1A

[top]Can you explain how you did the "fresh" vocal sample that has been scratched a zillion times? Very cool sound; I can't figure out exactly how you did it.

A little aside about 12 years ago I was looking for studio space in the buildings where the DSW is now (across from Hollywood High). Several buildings connected together that one had to walk through, and at the far west end a little trashed room they were trying to rent. Is that where you worked on the RHCP songs? What a dump! Crazy. But 100 years ago a kid named Chuck Jones lived on that block. So we can thank that bit of property for Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, some great cartoons and the RHCP. And now cheap shoes... - JohnOmix

The "Fresh" sample was really just an accident. Material was working on a song with an artist named Fab Five Freddy who had a track called "Change the Beat". At the end of the song, we had a guy named Roger Trilling get on a mic and say, "Ahhhhhhh.. This stuff is reeaally fresshhh!". Of course, the mic went into a vocoder which was controlling an OBXa. I made some random program with the oscillators tuned randomly and put as many fingers (both my hands) across the keyboard. That's pretty much all it was. It's funny, because that accident became the most sampled sound in hiphop.

Yes, I'm pretty sure the locale you mentioned on Sunset Blvd is the site where EMI records formerly had their office. Judging by your description, the trashed little room for rent was the studio we rehearsed and recorded in. From Chuck Jones to RHCP to DSW...

Royer R-122

[top]Re: The Bronx LP - I LOVE this record. One of my favorite bands and totally kick ass live. I love the way the guitars sound on the bronx record. Can you give us an overview of what the signal chain and gear was, as well as - What did you do with the Guitar Mix Buss (I.e. - are you Compressing, or how do you EQ etc..). - ThatGuyintheBack

Thanks. For The Bronx record, we wound up using some Marshalls (a JCM 800, Joby's which was also a 100 watt, but don't recall the model), I think an AC30 and whatever else was lying around. The guitars were mainly Gibsons- a gold top Les Paul and some of his and possibly his Rickenbacker- although that may have been vetoed.

We mic'd with a combination of SM57's, RCA Bk5's, AT4047's and Royer 122's. These went into an assortment of pre's- API 312's, Neve 1058's and a pair of Helios Olympic's.

From there, they were bussed through a Chandler Minimixer. I'm pretty sure there was no compression anywhere in the signal chain.

[top]Do you feel like there was something present (or missing) in the 90's that really shaped the production of music? If so could you elaborate on your opinions of the sounds of the 90's and the sounds now? - Threesymbol

In a word - yup. For me, it's not so much the sounds as it is the mentality which has changed. I do think people working in music were more open minded and able to express their ideas more clearly. This is also because there was a music industry which- mercenary as it has always been- still supported individuality and artistry (to some extent and then, primarily in artists where originality was the clear source of their ability to generate revenue). That all changed when the record companies started losing revenue and began holding everyone else in the world but themselves responsible for the problem.

The way people make music now compared to then is far more systematic. Everything is done based on a genre or a preconception of what an imaginary member of an imaginary demographic will want to hear.

In popular music, there has always been a need to follow others- trends that bands with no identity of their own got behind in order to be successful. I recall meeting one fledgling band who were trying to be Alice in Chains - grungy, shirtless with dyed dreadlocks. Speaking with them, they were very articulate, ambitious and polite- the whole presentation was a facade. Two years later, they cleaned up, slicked their hair back, started playing pop songs, got signed and had a short run of hits.

Now, the recording industry is only interested in people who reinforce the stereotypes which are universally believed by them to generate success- even if that success is imagined or illusory. They are concerned more with appearances than they are with SUBSTANCE. This mentality provides very little wiggle room for people who are actually trying to be creative- and simply be themselves.

Although it is perceived exclusively this way now, music is not simply a commodity. Twenty years ago, popular music was also looked upon as being a product- but it was a product which was better if it was special and unique. Back then, for every band which came out with a groundbreaking record, there were thousands everywhere who tried to emulate that sound to the letter.

The problem now is that there are no groundbreaking records for those less original artists to emulate. This is due in no small part to the record companies putting all their emphasis on imitation rather than originality because they only want what is familiar to them- not foreign.

I think there is a solution and it's as simple as it's irrational. Keep working and trusting your process and don't believe in all the hype or propaganda you hear from outside. Stay focussed on whatever has brought you to this point- depend on your talent, recognize the impulse you have to please others and when this impulse is interfering with your creativity.

Nothing in the recording industry is going to change on its own because the prevailing formula/perception is completely entrenched. The reason why things have gotten this bad isn't because the industry has found the magic formula which transmutes music into cash- it's because the entire industry is in a state of mortal terror as a result of their business falling to pieces.

When people are scared, they tend to act irrationally. This mentality of fear has trickled down from all the scared record company executives who are acting irrationally to the rest of us who want to make art and make a living at the same time. Because they're scared and behaving irrationally, they're causing the rest of us to follow suit.

I feel the only thing that I can do- instead of trying to change anyone else's mind or hoping that they'll understand things that make total sense to me- is to change my perception about my work- why and how I'm doing it. I can't change anyone else's mind about anything- I can only present my own point of view- in this case, letting my work speak for itself.

The truth is, not everyone is able to sustain a business- let alone make a lot of money- having a studio, producing records, engineering, etc, even in the best of times. Darwinism exists in every field of endeavor- it's always been this way and rightfully so. Not everyone is built to succeed doing what they love

If someone is going to fail or succeed at what they've devoted themselves to- they have the right to do so standing up instead of on their knees.

[top]Red Hot Chili Peppers - Mother's Milk is such a greatly produced and groundbreaking album. I've read that there was a lot of disagreement about the guitar sound but I love the tones you got on that. I can imagine that tracking the vocals probably took a long time? ..and just wondered if you can share any stories from the experience of doing that record. - Waltz Mastering

Thanks for your kind words regarding Mother's Milk. This was an interesting record to make in that there was very little direction, two new people had recently joined the band (Chad, John) and the two principal members were almost never present. For better or worse, it was left up to me to define the sound of the recording.

The initial problem with guitars was that John played a dreadful Ibanez (I think Steve Vai model because he loved Steve Vai so much). The rest of the band (and I) hated this instrument and felt it rubbed against the band's aesthetics. He resisted giving it up, but I remember every time the band came around him, they would chant, "Sacrifice the Ibanez". One day, John showed up and I'd rented a Strat and a Les Paul and said he had to play those instead. He fought against this very hard but in the end, he gave in and the rest is history.

As far as the tones, they were harder than the band's previous music, but I felt that their new songs called for this and John was a different guitarist than Hillel. I think John may have been a little leery about the heavier tones but no one else in the band actually commented on this until most of the guitar had been recorded- by which time, it was too late to change anything.

The only other issue I can recall with guitars was the rhythm part for Higher Ground. When John originally brought it in, it was a 2 part phrase with two half notes in the first part and 6 eighth notes in the second. I felt this didn't support the vocal phrase, slowed the song down and asked him to reverse the order of note values. I don't think he liked this very much but he eventually gave in.

[top]How important is in your opinion having a sound (pun intended) knowledge of music theory (listening skills, harmony, maybe possession of a perfect pitch, score reading etc.) for aspiring audio engineers? Could it make a difference in your choice of an engineer for a project (given all other equal)? - Keap

Probably not deciding factors, although it doesn't hurt. I think having great ears, great musical/creative sensitivity, great people skills, a feel for recording studio protocol and professional/relaxed demeanor are more valuable.

[top]How hard was it to cut Brett Scallions vocals for Fuel's Natural Selection album? I ask this because this was the album recorded right after Brett surgery on his nose. - krock2009

I had insisted that Brett get the surgery before recording because the state of his sinuses was already interfering with work we would do down the road. He had about a month and half to heal prior to recording.

When vocals started Brett was in good shape, however, he would do things like go out and drink the night before he had to sing- against my entreaties and the advice of his vocal coach. Because of this, things took a lot longer than they could have.

[top]How do You approach recording synths? - andrea19837

As far as synth recording, it really varies widely. Depends on the type of music and the approach. Some synth stuff is processing for other instruments, some is tone generated from a synth itself- sometimes, signal wants to go direct and sometimes from an amp (or mic'd directly, if the synth has built-in speakers). I let the situation dictate how it should be recorded.

[top]Would you mind telling us a little bit about your history and relationship with Frank Filipetti? - Empire Prod

Anything I can say about Frank would read like a testimonial. Apart from being one of the most brilliant engineers I've ever known, he's one of my favorite people and a very dear friend.

We started working together on Hole's recording, Celebrity Skin. I recalled watching him dial in a vocal sound and the way he finessed everything- like an artist at an Easel. From that time on, we've tried to work with one another as often as possible- which hasn't been very frequently of late.

One thing I appreciate about Frank is that he is thoroughly unafraid of taking chances. If someone has a crazy idea about how to do something or incorporate some untried, untested technology or approach into a recording, he will figure out how to do it. He loves helping facilitate creative flights of fancy and always adds his own touch. You can never underestimate a collaborator like him.

[top]There have been some debates & theories over "how to" in terms of combining analogue tape tracking with a DAW. What's your take on this?

In terms of the above and of stereo mixdown, what's your go-to A/D & D/A converter and are U picky about converters at all?

Tape has come a long way (including almost becoming extinct!) - distilling your experience through the years, what is your preferred brand & model of tape, and why?

What's on your stereo mix buss, if anything, in terms of compression/eq/etc? - andreaeffe

Regarding digital/tape recording, having tried a few varieties, I prefer recording through the tape machine electronics directly to digital- in effect using the tape machine as a big processor. In this case, the tape machine doesn't actually run but only passes signal. In some cases, I actually preferred this to recording to tape, itself.

Ideally, I'd have both in some configuration. I've acclimated to PCM recording, although I'd prefer DSD/analog, both of which are, in effect, analog. For now, I have to settle with Pro Tools Native, Lavry Blue converters and some kind of master clock (overdue for a shootout). I try to be discerning about everything and will use whatever sounds best in any situation, so yes- I'm picky regarding converters.

As for tape- I always gravitated toward BASF 900 and any offshoot- so, I imagine whatever the latest incarnation of that is (RMG 900?). Other varieties of tape sounded good, but I always preferred that one- the eq curve and transient response sits well with me.

For stereo mix- I love old school SSL G series compressors. They are very crunchy and make everything going through them sound great. And this is one of the problems with them. They are such a recognizable sound and unless I've done all my recording on a project while monitoring through them, I find the tonal balance and quality of what was recorded is completely altered.

Lately, I've been moving away from treating the stereo buss with compression- or anything else. I like preserving the integrity of instrument transients and tones, this often gets lost when these other ingredients get introduced. I'm certain that this is a function of converting information that was recorded into and monitored exclusively from the digital domain. I try to avoid any type of D/A conversion if it can be helped, unless an entire project was recorded that way. If a recording is done with D/A conversion for monitoring, my aversion to 2 mix compression is less severe. With this in mind, I do like the Tube Tech SMC2B. Not crazy about soft compressors but haven't experimented with enough to speak definitively on the subject.

Lavry Engineering 4496 ADDA Converter

[top]I saw you worked on Social Distortion "white light, white heat, white trash". How was working with Mike Ness? What mics/pre's were used on vocals and guitars? - RockRebel

Although you wouldn't think it, that record took forever to make and was very laborious. We went through 3 drummers in two studios, technical issues and everything else under the sun.

So many anecdotes from that record, I don't know where to begin. We were recording in NY at Right Track- trying to do guitars. Put everything down, went out for dinner. When we came back and turned everything on, there was a horrible hum coming out of the speaker cab.

We thought nothing of it and tried to troubleshoot. After a few hours of swapping guitars, amps and speakers, the hum was still there. Undaunted, more equipment showed up the next day, but the hum was still there. This became an issue and the project ground to a halt.

We started going to other studios to see if they had the same problem. We wound up at Hit Factory after throwing a Marshall cab, head and guitar in a cab. We turned it all on and...the hum was still there. The funniest thing about that was Troy Germano - the studio manager - trying to tell us that he didn't hear it.

The next day, people from Con Ed- the power company showed up and tested the building. The studio was adjacent to and shared a back entrance with a peep show which gave the power company technicians no small pleasure as they descended on the peep show, strolled into the dressing area which was populated by scantily clad women as they searched for the source of our problem.

With no solution in sight, they then proceeded to take an assistant with a guitar and portable amp and drove him around the city in one of their vans trying to see if the hum was localized to the studio or if it was atmospheric. Apparently they drove all over New York in this van and found a half block where there was a loud hum being amplified through the guitar pickups.

Apparently there was some kind of horrible EMF/RFI event taking place all over New York. Someone suggested we build a Faraday cage out of copper wire for the guitarist to stand in while he played. We did this as a last resort. Dennis Dannell went into the cage and started playing, but after a few minutes, he began complaining that he was getting a headache. I was incredulous and stood inside the cage- within a few seconds, it felt like my brains were being sucked out of my ears.

Later that week, we moved the project to Los Angeles. Needless to say, things like this kept on happening.

I think Mike Ness is very talented and I enjoyed working with him. However, it took months to get his vocals. He is a very intense live performer, but I never felt he was giving it his all when we were recording. After a very long time (and about 3 more studios) he started to get it.

The record is 100% analog.

Telefunken ELA M 251

[top]Re: Celebrity Skin - This track is so feel good! I remember playing this on repeat when I was in college. Awesome use of the tambourine!!
Couple questions...
1 - Do you remember what amp and guitar combo was used for those guitars?
2 - What mic/pre combination was used on Courtney and do you happen to remember what kind of treatment was used for the effect? - Slikjmuzik

Thanks - I appreciate it. As far as the chime-y guitar sound - that may have been an AC30, but I was actually using a Watkins Dominator a lot (heavily modified, FYI), so that might have been in there, too.

ON a lot of the songs, I used a combination of the Watkins amp, a SansAmp and a Serge Modular synth- especially for distorted stuff. Eric used mainly Fender guitars- I think a Telecaster (and a Jazzmaster and/or Jaguar?). A little hazy on those details.

As far as Courtney- she's singing through a Telefunken 251 into a Neve 1073/ 1176/ GML 8200 chain. I don't recall the effect on her voice- that may have been added in mix.

[top]I was wondering what your Go To mics are for recording guitar? Superunknown has some of the best guitar tones in rock IMO. Are there any mic combinations that you find yourself going back to time and time again? - Ben Dia

Thanks and yes- there are some definite first choice mics, although this changes depending on pertinent variables (room, player, amps, degree of transient response, etc). The SM57 is a great mainstay- I also love the RCA BK5 (A or B) which is a great ribbon mic and takes a lot of SPL (for a ribbon). That combination was the majority of the guitar mic array on Superunknown. There are others- AT 4047, Royer 122, on rare occasions, a U67, etc. I like to have a starting position with the most familiar variables- if only to get a baseline- and work from there. Beyond the basics, there is a lot of room for variability.

Helios Type 69

[top]Listening to The Bronx - S/T, there is this great vibe like they are playing all at once and just having a great time. Everything sounds immediate.Can you give some insight into the process of working with those guys? - Disinfor

Re: The Bronx record - the live feel is there because we tracked the band together live (although we redid most of the guitars). When we began tracking, I stood in the room and started jumping up and down in order to help motivate them. They had to work very hard to keep from laughing but it seemed to help. Thank goodness, I didn't have to do this throughout the entire recording. Jorma was playing so hard that he had a wastebasket behind him which he occasionally turned around and threw up into. It was really intense and exciting.

Before we started recording, I began doing pre-production with them and became aware that Joby was actually a really good and unusual songwriter. He'd sit around coming up with riffs- I'd hear them and encourage him to turn some of the parts into songs. The song "White Guilt" evolved this way.

We recorded the drums on a riser that the band built for me in my studio. I'd never done that before- it just seemed ideal for this project. We used a pair of Neumann M250's as rear/low proximity mics, a CMV3 in the front, a pair of CM51's and a Royer SF24 behind the kit. Everything else was spot-mic'd- SM57/AKG D19 on snare; U47 FET (and, I think an AKG D36 on the kick)- can't recall if it was MD421's on the toms and/or D19's. I don't recall any overheads- not really a fan if I can get away without them.

For guitars, I'm pretty sure we used a complement of Marshall and Vox AC30's and a little of anything else laying around. On one song, we used a Peavey Decade, which is one of my favorite amps because it has such an ungodly honk and can cut through a wall of tube amps. Plus, they can be picked up for about $60.

As far as mic'ing, we used SM57's, Bk5's, At 4047's and Royer 122's. Ross Hogarth engineered part of the record and he turned me on to the Royers for which I must thank him. The signal path was a combination of Neve 1058's, API 312's/550a's and Helios Olympic modules.

I do wish we'd finished the record as we started it - in DSD.

[top]What are some of the tools that you "must have '' with you to perform a mix without feeling under equipped?
Also, as a mixer, what was the biggest "aha!" moment, moment of discovery or 'game changing moment' for you? - Passenger

I have never considered myself a mixer and have only mixed solo a few times. When I mixed "4th of July" (which was kind of sprung on me), I was in a studio with a bunch of effects and no comprehension of SSL automation. I wound up using nearly everything in the room and had the assistant tutor me with the SSL.

Generally speaking, I like to work with someone who can operate the console, but if I'm alone then just having an SSL is fine. I don't like to use a lot of outboard gear because when I've recorded something, most of the effects have been printed (except vocal ambience/delays). Since budgets are tight and a lot of recordings are being done in/mixed in a DAW, I generally stay there. My experience has been that stuff sourced to and monitored exclusively from digital doesn't work well when converted into analog- therefore, I get things to my liking when recording. Of course, I'm open to possible exceptions to this.

As far as "aha" moments in mixing- that usually comes when the mix is over. I like the process but I enjoy making the mess more than I do tidying it up.

[top]If you had to give a cliff notes version of how you deal with getting the kick and bass to blend tightly I sure would appreciate it. Subtractive EQ? Side chain compression? Kick more dominant and bass enhances kick or vice versa? - Csiking

When I'm working on a recording, I try to concentrate on as full a sonic range as possible, as much transient response and clarity as possible- in other words- to "make everything bigger than everything else". In order to work like this, each successive overdub has not only to compete with but in some way, to overtake the previous one. Therefore, if the bass drum had as much low end as it could be recorded with, there will have to be a way- some way to give the bass even more, or to place it in a frequency range where it can still drive the track and maintain it's low end presence.

This is mainly done by feel; envisioning (or, I guess, seeing in my mind) how the tonal aspects fit together and what pieces of equipment at our disposal will generate the desired effect. The approach, therefore, is utterly additive- very little subtracting going on- except in the case of midrange frequencies (especially low and very seldom high) which can create a lot of clutter. As you stated- there is no one size fits all approach (although, I find certain pieces of equipment do the best job for me- like Neve 1057's on drums, etc).

I don't feel one bass instrument should dominate over the other- I'd rather they are equally prominent. Bass tends to be lost on most rock records, but since my feeling for rock is influenced by its roots (R&B, soul, blues), I like to hear both as much as possible. I find they can coexist well in this way.

My primary concern is to create and preserve a feeling of excitement in the recording. This not only makes the music more enjoyable to listen to, it also makes it easier for the performers to interact with.

[top]The recording that I would really like to know more about is Marilyn Manson's Mechanical Animals. If you would care to divulge any recording techniques, anecdotes, or stories from this experience, that would be wonderful. - floater138

Thanks- I'm glad you enjoyed the record. Manson did have a concept for the record (Bowie meets J.G. Ballard, etc) and I had my own idea, which is in keeping with what resonated with you. I felt like it was like a cyborg- a messed up combination of man and machine- disturbing, but beautiful in its own way. I really liked the edge we created - the place where the electronic elements and the acoustic/electric elements met- albeit with a little discomfort. I'm pleased that element stood out for you.

Apart from the story I related above about the vocals, there are quite a few (some of which don't bear repeating). One thing which people on the session (and those who came by to visit) found amusing was the fact that I had a room constructed out of theater drape and pipe rigging inside the control room. This was initially because I didn't like some of the reflections I was hearing in the studio control room (and was trying to create a space as close to anechoic as I could), but it also became a highlight of the session. Because the drape was heavy Black Velvet, we had to light it inside and wound up using fluorescent lights. One unforeseen benefit of this was that we never knew what time it was and could work for hours without needing breaks.

Maestro Echoplex EP-1

[top]I have tons of respect for your work "And the Glass Handed Kites" is one of my favorite records. Songs like "Apocalypso," "Special," and "The Zookeeper’s Boy" are particularly great songs. How and what did you settle on using for the guitars 7 bass for this record? Also, how did you accomplish the crazy detuned guitar intro to The Zookeeper’s Boy?

Record Continuity: This record flows from one song to the next so seamlessly, for many songs in series. How did you manage these smooth transitions? - Drywsef

Mew are a great band and I'm very proud of that record. Bo played mainly Fender guitars (Jaguar and maybe a Tele) and Johan was mainly using a Rickenbacker (4001) bass. We generally recorded the guitars with a pair of Vox AC30's (1 combo, 1 piggyback both with the eq mod on the back which I absolutely love) in really tight, dead rooms with a fairly long throw. Pretty sure the bass went through my 70's SVT head with an 8x10 and some kind of guitar amp.

With the guitars, we discovered they sounded even better when we ran them through the front end of an Echoplex EP1 without engaging the tape. I think that happened after the bass was cut. I generally like to record bass with distortion- either a separate amp or some kind of driver just as long as it doesn't seem extraneous to the overall tone. This often goes to its own channel. I'll also drive the main amp pretty hard as things tend to sound a bit better to me when they're just on the verge of blowing up. A bass through a high gain guitar amp usually needs nothing more than an SM57- in this case, we could have used whatever was lying around- a JCM 800 with a 4x12 Marshall bass cab.

As for the detuned intro to "Zookeeper's Boy".... I don't remember what happened there. Bo seems to be good at creating that type of effect- I think it's just tuned down and multi tracked.

A couple of the songs were written to flow together, in fact, a few were recorded in pieces and assembled as we went. Also, the record works as a unified body of work and was made with that in mind. Dynamically, it functions that way, too. That was reflected in the sequencing, which I wasn't present for.

[top]Excellent info! Thanks Michael! I looked around for info on the eq mod for the AC30, and had a hard time finding anything... who offers it?

Also, if I understand correctly, the songs were pieced together after the actual tracking was complete? It sounds very much as if they had performed that way the inter-song continuity is very convincing, and is a very special feature of that record. - Drywsef

I have never tried this pedal as a booster or tone modifier- but anything is fair game if it sounds great.

As far as the Vox eq mod, it can be found on the back of specific AC30's- right about where the badge is. It's two knobs- they seem to act like bandpass/notch filters. The tonal variations can really bring out the best in an AC30. I've only seen the mod on older amps, but there is probably someone around who still does it.

A few of the songs were pieced together after they were tracked- including the build into "Apocalypso". Most of them were recorded as is and everything came together organically. Any editing that was done is actually a credit to Silas, their drummer who is extremely solid and made the transitions sound very fluid.

[top]The sound of Hole’s "Celebrity skin" is one of the biggest I've ever heard and I often use that song as a reference for bass sound. Can you tell us something about that? - Guybrush

Re: the bass on Celebrity Skin - I'm a bit hazy on some of the details. We definitely cut it with a Fender P, although I don't recall if it was Melissa's. The primary amp was a mid-70's SVT head with an 8x10 cab- probably the same era. Pretty sure we augmented this with some kind of guitar amp for crunch- probably a Marshall- and honorable mention goes to Paul Northfield for that. I don't for the life of me recall the mics we used or the DI- but at that point, I generally integrated Neve 1058's into any bass/guitar recording I did. I don't recall any compression anywhere in the chain, although definitely some eq.

I tend to go for a bass sound that will augment the drum sound- so the drums often determine what kind of tonal properties the bass will have. This approach means that bass- and all instrument sounds- can be highly variable from project to project.

[top]One of my favorite Metal albums is Untouchables by Korn. I would love to know more about the recording of vocals and the guitars, and how much of what we're hearing was printed before the mix stage. What I particularly like isAmbience on the heavy guitars, The warmth and thickness of the guitars, The distinctive vocal effects. I also like the way Andy Wallace put emphasis on the vocals - kinda like a pop record. - Blast9

The record may sound atypical of the genre because there was no emphasis on making a record that could be defined by a specific genre. When I met with Korn to discuss making this record, one of them stated they wanted to make their "Dark Side of the Moon". To me, that recording was a highly expressive, highly nuanced and immaculately recorded artistic statement. It was simply a matter of applying similar values to the Korn project. With this in mind, I envisioned the record as being more orchestral.

I wanted the record to be heavy, extremely dynamic, very expressive, detailed and overpowering. I wanted to record at 96kHz which was a relatively new format- Pro Tools was still using 48kHz as its highest sample rate. Frank Filipetti and I decided to use the Euphonix R1 system to record with Lavry converters and eventually, Nuendo for all our editing, since the R1 editing functions were very clunky and rudimentary.*

As for the guitars- we primarily used their Ibanez 7-string guitars. They used Mesa Triple Rectifiers and I introduced them to Diezel amps- we wound up combining one of each with a pair of Marshall cabs- I think a slant and a straight. We experimented with the space around the amps- pretty sure we used a bit of carpeting in front of them.

We used SM57's, RCA BK5's, AT 4047's (there may have been a few variants here and there) and went into Neve 1058's- possibly a pair of Helios Olympic modules. Everything was bussed to single tracks and some eq added at the console (SSL 9k).

As we started layering, I began to notice that the guitars had created more of an orchestral effect and reminded me more of a vast, Satanic pipe organ, instead of electric guitars. We more or less, had created a very unique orchestral effect with heavily amplified electric instruments. Any ambience you hear is a result of the way everything blends- we recorded the guitars with no room mics. I think we kept the layers pretty tight- generally one per side- sometimes a pair.

For vocals, the idea was to get Jonathan to fit and hold his own against a really intense wall of sound. I had consistently used Neve 1073's, but Frank Filipetti suggested we try a Tube Tech MP1A. We did a shoot out with every pre in the room and subsequently, I never went back to Neve's again. After the MP1A, we had a Rev D 1176 LN, then a MASSENBURG 8200 and, I'm pretty sure an inline1081 from the console at Village Recorder. Later, we added a DBX160SL on the back end of that chain because it seemed to add nice presence and top end.

We did a big mic shootout and settled on 2- an M49 that Barbra Streisand apparently rented when she recorded in LA AT 4047. We were really surprised that it came down to these two, drastically different mics. Jonathan made the final decision when he announced that he refused to sing through a microphone that was neither old, attractive or expensive.

[top]The drums sound hugely deep and massive on Untouchables, very different from any previous Korn productions. Could you explain how you approached things during recording and mixing to get such a fat, super defined yet organic drumsound ? - Kovaks

I pretty much just wanted to get a stunning drum sound for this record. Once again- great room, great drums, great equipment, great engineer.... We used my 1057's on the kit and the 9k pre's on the metals (cymbals, etc). We also had a 12k watt sub array for the kit (kick, snare, toms). We tried a Drumkat which fired samples into the subs when the kick was hit, but there was too much flamming.

We set up and got sounds with the tech for several days. I would estimate there wasn't one square inch of the drum kit that wasn't mic'd. At the end of three days, we got what we felt was a cavernous drum sound.

NEVE 8048
The minute David sat down at the kit, our enthusiasm vanished. Unlike his tech, David choked the heads every time he hit a drum. We basically had to start from scratch with eq's and in some cases, mic placements and choices. It was a really drastic switch from drummer to drummer but in the end, it worked.

The recording translated really well from the 9k SSL to Neve 8048 at Village. Because we'd recorded at 96 kHz, we had a wonderful transient response and when that hit the Neve, it drove the desk in a way I'd never heard before. A massive amount of lovely harmonic distortion.

[top]Were the guitars tracked dry with pedals possibly run later, or did they run all of their own fx? What was the cheapest piece of gear used in the mix? How did you find it mixing a bass and layers of 7 strings that were probably drop tuned, or were they? - Student

The guitars were tracked with all their effects- nothing was added in the mix that I know of. We had a lot of fun processing guitars- a few went through my synths.

Lexicon PCM 41
I can only assume the cheapest thing used in the mix might have been a Lexicon PCM 41 (or 42) since Andy likes (liked?) those. I don't think there was much outside of the console in the way of processing apart from delays. All the cheap stuff was used in the recording.

The bass and guitars are indeed drop tuned- a whole step down from standard. It wasn't that difficult to navigate- the instrument sounds were so different from one another they could easily occupy the same stereo field and be discernibly discreet.

Of course, I had to finagle a bit in order to do this. One thing was to actually add midrange to the bass guitar- something I don't think Fieldy ever forgave me for. He actually had some decent bass parts and I wanted them to be audible instead of a clacking sound.

[top]Re: Korn Untouchables album. Do you remember what speakers you used on the Marshall cabinets? Recording 4x12 cabinets, do you elevate them from the floor? - Jakelorenz

As for the Marshall cabs- they were probably 75 watts and we rented them in town. I seem to recall us putting the cabs on chairs- which is not something I'll always do. Generally, I prefer to couple sound sources to a larger mass- ie- the floor, but this can change depending on the room, the project and the artist. I try to take this into account and to experiment as much as possible.

Obviously, the intangibles - room, player, etc play a major role in this. Even with close mics on a guitar cabinet, anything that changes in the immediate area around it will influence how it sounds and responds.

[top]Re: Thunder Underground - Almost twenty years past, and it still hits me right between the eyes. How did you work on this little piece of dirty magic? - MichalS

You mean the Ozzy song? I'm pleased it had such an impact on you. I was very fortunate- working with great musicians, a great engineer, had the luxury of time and a great recording budget. These elements usually guarantee that something will work in one's favor.

That project was the maiden voyage for the 2" 8 track format. The first time I saw the prototype unit, it had been shipped to us in Paris, where we were tracking. This machine was used exclusively for drums- everything else was recorded to 16 track A800's. At one point, we had two 16 track A800's synced with the 8 track. It was all pretty elaborate, but it sounded amazing. We tracked drums and bass at Guillaume Tell Studios and moved to Right Track in NYC for guitars and vocals. This was the first time I got to use an enormous array of subs with the drums and it sounded immense. The guitars were cut through a single JCM 800 with one of Zakk's Marshall bass cabs which was fitted with EVM 200 watt speakers and was shrouded in blankets, etc.

Most of the depth we'd achieved was lost in the mix, but this taught me some very valuable lessons regarding preserving artistic vision.

[top]I was wondering how you deal with unmotivated musicians, when you listen to a take and realize it's just "ok", not great, yet the band thinks it's "great" or "good enough"? you know its close, the skills are there, but you´re waiting for that magical take. Usually, the singer will get frustrated at this point, because he thinks it's good enough. At this point tension rises, arguments start, and in the worst case the feeling is gone. How do you keep sessions smooth and people happy? - in the red

When dealing with the interpersonal aspects of any situation, I've found that a lot of things can be simplified in advance if I establish an understanding with people I'm working with before we begin working. This is about laying groundwork- a foundation for the parameters of what your relationship will shape up to be.

Obviously, what is required is an open discussion regarding everyone's expectations of one another. In order to do a great job, the artist needs ot let you know what he needs and expects from you and it is important for you to explain to him what you expect from him. If this is done in a supportive and encouraging manner, it makes it easier to address issues which arise during the recording process.

Performing in a clinical environment (recording studio) can be very difficult for some people. Even the most experienced performers can experience anxiety or feeling like they're a bug under a magnifying glass. For this reason, I find it's important for me to be able to read the people I'm working with and sense what they need from me constantly.

Knowing this, it's always best not to get dragged into any drama or emotional outbursts. Sometimes, people get frustrated when they're having trouble performing- either because you don't like what they're doing, or they realize it's not good enough. Once in a while, they need to vent- this is fine and nothing you need to take personally. When the air is clear and everything calms down, you can generally speak with someone who's had a meltdown and remind them about the fact that you are all working together toward the same goal. Usually, a logical, clear head can calm a tense situation.

Everyone benefits from your objectivity and honesty. Some people can handle harsh criticism and others need to hear the truth in more diplomatic terms. The trick is to exercise the same sensitivity you reserve for making crucial decisions in musical arrangements and sonic choices in dealing with the artists you work with. If you can be graceful and flexible with your direction, prove to them that you're on their side and that you have abilities which augment their music in ways they would never have considered, they will generally come around.

[top]I have a lot of questions about your 2" 8 track tape machine experience. I am very interested in using 8 and 16 track 2" machines. What do you think about the sound of IC based tape machines? What convertors do you like for digital transfers and recordings? - [email protected] WOVEN audio

I'm not really clear on what an IC-based tape machine is, but if you are referring to Studers (800, 827), I love them. I don't know the differences between them, component-wise- only sonic differences. I have little experience with many other tape machines, so my knowledge is a bit limited.

As far as conversion from analog to digital- I can't recommend anything because I try to avoid conversion of any kind and I generally don't feel I will wind up with a good version of what I started with. I can recall transferring tracks from analog to a Sony 3348 HR or even listening to an analog mix being transferred to digital (through really high quality converters) and just gritting my teeth because the result literally hurt. There have been a few times I've selectively "forgotten" that I will have an issue down the road with conversion. I've done analog recording with the aim of dumping it to digital later and lived to regret the decision. Having tried at 96/24, the only format I'd feel comfortable with doing analog-digital conversion with is DSD.*Since DSD is a relatively expensive and "niche" format, this is usually prohibitive.

As for digital recording, I do like the Lavry Blues- although I've used them for 10 years and am overdue for a converter shootout. I've been told the EmmLabs/Meitner converters are even better for PCM- I've only heard them as DSD converters and they were absolutely remarkable. Unfortunately, Meitner is only making hifi equipment now.

I can only give my opinion based on what I've heard- which may be limited compared to other people's experiences. If you aren't liking what you have 100%, my experience has been to listen to as many different combinations and varieties of equipment as possible to find what you like best.*

[top]Thank You so much for your work on Superunknown. Got it the day it came out, and it still pops into regular rotation all these years later. A huge influence on me, and I know the sonics were no small part of that. I've been reading your blog on popular music, and am glad that people like yourself are highlighting the issues and furthermore, offering ideas on what to do about it. Quite flabbergasted that labels aren't really interested in having artists mentored by someone like yourself. Do you have any other (quick summary) ideas about what could be realistically implemented in today's mostly small studio world that can improve our popular music? I've spent a lot of time thinking about how the main point is human communication and how far we have generally moved away from that in the last decade or so. - The Bad Motor

It's supremely gratifying to know that Superunknown has been this meaningful for people over 20 years after it was created. Kind of a reciprocal gift that keeps on giving.

I feel that the recording industry en masse (and with extreme prejudice) is no longer interested in originality, talent or even greatness- they only require fodder for their genre-based consumption machine (the criteria for which becomes more narrow all the time). This is because their business is deteriorating, they haven't moved with the times fast enough, have no control over the technology by which music is dispensed (or even made) and they need to find as many income streams as possible to prop their dying business up (360 deals, etc).*

For this reason, if I want to keep making recordings which I find satisfying, I've acknowledged that they may never be relevant to anyone involved in a major label. This has led me to carefully consider what I really believe in- whether I'm doing this work to make money and what my intent is- my motivation for doing it. Over the years, I have played both sides of that fence and I've found that I can only see my work as an expressive art form and little else.

I've heard extremely well-known producers/mixers who work 12 months out of the year, make comments about how this job isn't fun anymore. They've made that choice for themselves, but it is just that- a choice. I can't do that. This work is extremely difficult already- if it were to become a constant source of pain....well, that's how some people develop chronic diseases.

The only thing I can do at this point is to fly in the face of convention while avoiding self indulgence at all costs. My approach then is to make sure that I am completely satisfied by what I do and the quality of what I do. This means avoiding stereotypes, conformity and every element the record company mentality maintains are the very things which get producers on their radar. It also means confronting whatever fear I have regarding not being successful and realizing that the term is very broad and can mean many things.

The fact is, everything that is conventional was new and different at one time. This means that there is still room for unconventional thought, even though everyone on every level, everyplace is being brainwashed to do the complete opposite.

Admittedly, this mentality isn't very popular; it defies logic (practical and fiscal), but if someone is talented and diligent, it guarantees great results. I suppose my credo would be; be great, forebear and greatness will follow. It has always worked for me and I'm still learning. I can't recommend this approach to every person who has a small studio- it may be impractical (or just completely insane)- but I also can't recommend any alternatives.