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The Creative Music Recording Magazine

Fred Foster
Roy Orbison, Ray Price, Kristofferson
Mike Shipley
on Def Leppard & Mutt Lange
w/ Thomas Dolby & Corky Cortelyou
Justin Cortelyou
Bob Ezrin, Phish, Alice Cooper
Gus Seyffert

Norah Jones, Beck, Michael Kiwanuka
David Porter
Stax, Songwriting, Memphis
Elliott Smith’s


Gear Reviews

Issue No. 118

Mar/Apr 2017
Hello and
welcome to
Tape Op
10 Letters
12 Elliott Smith
16 Mike Shipley
24 Justin “Corky” Cortelyou
28 David Porter
34 Gus Seyffert
p a g e

42 Fred Foster
58 Gear Reviews
74 Larry’s End Rant

A lot of times during recording sessions people ask me if
I’m able to listen to music outside the studio without being
super critical of what I’m hearing. Usually this follows 30
minutes of using iZotope RX to remove little noises that I
find egregious on a singer’s track, or perhaps meticulously

comping vocal and instrumental takes, or some other

process that makes me look a bit overly concerned with
some of the details of recording. I always answer, “Oh, no.

I listen to the music, the songs, and the performances, and

I try to always enjoy the experience for what it is.” And, to

be honest, most of the time I do! But sometimes my

“engineer/producer” hat slips back on outside of work, and
I hear sounds that I question. It could be out-of-phase
stereo guitars, drums and percussion that are out of time,

flat or sharp vocals, overly loud mastering, or sometimes

just odd arrangement choices. But the truth is,
many of these details don’t matter.

If it’s a great song to start with, and the performances do

the song justice, then it’s highly likely that the song is
worth listening to. And then I think back to sessions where
we were obsessing over tiny details of timing or pitch, and

I think to myself, “In the future, relax. Don’t worry about

everything. Just make sure it feels good. Make sure it
reminds me of records and songs that I love.”

Every day we have opportunities to learn more. Another perspective on the Lego Studio built by Brad Boatright and Wes Boatright for this issue’s cover.
Thanks to Scott Evans for helping to set this up.
Larry Crane, Editor Photo by Jason Quigley.
The Creative Music Recording Magazine

Larry Crane
Publisher &!Graphic Design
John Baccigaluppi
Online Publisher
Geoff Stanfield
CTO & Digital Director
Anthony Sarti
Gear Reviews Editor
Andy “Gear Geek” Hong
Production Manager & Assistant Gear Reviews Editor
Scott McChane
Contributing Writers &!Photographers
Cover Photo by Jason Quigley Photography <www.photojq.com>
Lego Studio built by Brad Boatright and Wes Boatright <www.audiosiege.com>
Will Watts, Joanna Bolme, Jake Brown, Kyle Lehning, Bergen White,
Suzanne Allison, John Brown, Dana Gumbiner, Micki Foster-Koenig,
Jonathan Saxon, Dave Cerminara and Pete Weiss
Editorial and Office Assistants
Jenna Crane (proofreading), Thomas Danner (transcription),
Maria Baker (admin, accounting)
Tape Op Book distribution

c/o www.halleonard.com
TAPE OP magazine wants to make clear that the opinions expressed within reviews, letters, and
articles are not necessarily the opinions of the publishers. Tape Op is intended as a forum to
advance the art of recording, and there are many choices made along that path.
.c Editorial Office
(For submissions, letters, music for review. Music for review is also
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8/Tape Op#118/Masthead www.tapeop.com
I’m a Belgium-based One (final) response to John Baccigaluppi’s “Give
director/bass player, Me A Hammer, Part 2” End Rant from Tape Op #115:
but most of all a really I found John Baccigaluppi’s End Rant regarding
big gearhead. I’ve been Apple mystifying. I have been running and
reading Tape Op for maintaining Macs since 1986 and have never, ever
y e a r s n o w. I ’ v e encountered the problems he sets forth. Yes, the
obsessively read both transition to OS X in 2000 was slow in coming, in
compilation books so terms of speed and stability, but since 10.4 the OS
many times that they are has been very stable. The hardware, up until recently,
Thanks for the article on Clarence Kane and ENAK literally falling apart. So when I got the new Tape Op was always faster and more efficient than the
[Tape Op #116]. I had the opportunity to meet issue in my mailbox today, while reading, I thought previous generations. It is only recently that this
Clarence and see him in action at his workshop a few to myself, “Goddamn it, what this Larry Crane is steady increase has slowed. This has more to do with
years ago. I needed an emergency re-ribbon on one doing has given me so much joy and knowledge, over the Intel chipset architectural roadmap, which has, in
of my 1970s Oktava ML-19 microphones, and Clarence such a long time. This guy deserves a serious pat on recent years, been concentrated on power
agreed to do a “while you wait” repair. I got to check the back.” So, hey Larry, what you are doing is consumption and manufacturing processes.
out his amazing microphone collection and see the freaking awesome! Thank you. Regardless, any Intel machine is easily able to handle
vintage repair station that he bought from his days Toon Aerts <toon@czar.be>
He was very friendly
at RCA.
graphics, video, and audio with aplomb. My current

and happy to explain the whole process as

Thank you! Don’t forget to offer my awesome partner,
John Baccigaluppi, a pat on the back too, plus our
setup includes a six-year-old system running Logic
Pro X, and a three-year-old system running Pro Tools
he worked. After he finished and tested the mic he amazing staff! I think we have the strongest Tape Op 12. My mobile rig is a 2015 MacBook Pro, which
said something to me that rocked my world, “This mic team ever right now. -LC easily handles any of my requirements. I don’t know
sounds as good as an RCA 77.” I always had the what John Baccigaluppi is up to, but it seems that
illusion that I would need an expensive, antique RCA I’m (kinda) new to Tape Op. It’s amazing. I really love
it a lot. But its focus (and I’m really not dissing, this is there is something wrong with his install. My six-
mic to achieve that sound, but here was an expert year-old Mac handles sessions easily, except for the
telling me that I was already in the league. It totally meant as constructive criticism) seems to be on A) Tape
(yeah I know, the clue’s in the title); B) The Good Ole limits of my interface. I am able to record 16 plus
changed my idea of what I needed to do to get the tracks at once, with no hiccups. The system does bog
sounds I’d been working towards. Now that that’s Days; C) Dead producers; D) Tape; E) The USA. There’s
other stuff out there that deserves at 44 to 48 inputs at mix down, usually the result of
said, I’ll never sound like Ocean Way Recording or poor housekeeping. Those instances are rare.
United Western Recorders, but I do have a few of the exposure in your lovely (did I mention that?)
Windows 10 is a fine OS, not better in any way than

same tools that they have. Thanks Clarence! magazine. And you know, your younger readership might
like that. Anyway, I love it; carry on. Apple’s, but surprisingly good. What we have found is
Harley Fine <studio@harleyfine.com> that a Windows 10 forced upgrade will kill the Pro
LM <muraglia@gmail.com>
Tape Op, I used to get you at Bananas at Large Tools installation with no warning, and no
A) The phrase “tape op” refers to a person who is
here in San Rafael, but they stopped giving them
away. I saved all those copies, and occasionally refer
lowest rung in the control room (or adjacent machine
convenient way of rolling back. It works fine, but the
downtime we experience under Windows is
to them. I’m currently recording on a 32-track room), who is essentially learning and watching the significantly higher than Mac OS. If you quantify the
TASCAM. I did buy equipment that I read about in process of recording. It doesn’t actually mean there time spent fiddling around with drivers instead of
Tape Op. I feel like I’m hooking up with an old friend. has to be tape used. Tape Op, the magazine, is about it does
relying on Apple’s Core Audio,
I look forward to receiving you again. Thank you all, learning the recording process and empowering our indeed add up to a significant

and continued good luck. readers. B) Tape Op is respectful of the history of amount. Also, since we rely on high-speed
John <borzini@att.net> recording, and most of our interviews follow a person’s RAIDs through Thunderbolt (of any variety) there is a
career path. We don’t believe in naïve nostalgia, but dearth of support for the technology under Windows.
You don’t have to wait for them to be stocked at

we do honor pioneers, visionaries, and people that Windows has come a long way, but John Baccigaluppi
your favorite store – subscriptions are free and sign up have come before. C) What? D) See A. E) By my
is available on our website! -LC is in for a surprise if he decides it’s the better

calculations, at least 30 percent of the previous year’s alternative to Mac OS.

Hi there across the pond. Thanks for the mag. I content featured non-US based artists, producers, and <terrym10@me.com>
eagerly await its arrival in my inbox. Like a breath of engineers. I can guarantee you that every issue is
sweated over, as John and I look for the widest variety Terry, I’ll answer for John on this as I think he’s
fresh air, and not just another computer user manual

of content, people, and opinions for each issue. Plus, grown a bit weary. The telling comment you make here
to agonize through. Large diaphragm condensers and
we always welcome actual interview suggestions, as is, “I am able to record 16 plus tracks at once with no
mixer to tape. What’s not to like? I play back 30-year
opposed to broad critiques. -LC hiccups. The system does bog at 44 to 48 inputs at mix
old tape and it sounds great. Keep up the good work.
down.” Both John and I run professional facilities

Dow Fereday <www.ltsstudio.com> Looking forward to my coming issues! How about a that, many times, are working far beyond these
After reading “You Can’t Buy Loyalty” by Marc few articles on us old farts still making great records on parameters. If our systems cannot handle 32 inputs
Golde [End Rant, Tape Op #116] this sentiment hit old school analog gear? and 160 track mix downs without problems then we

me: What an incredibly high-quality, straight-up, and Profphunk <profphunk@gmail.com> are in trouble. And working with a computer system
pragmatic magazine Tape Op is. Thank You. Content, content, content. I just listened to your that is leaning more and more towards iOS, social
C. Smith <gpj333@aol.com> Jack White podcast after listening to the Brian Eno media, messaging, emojis, and non-customizable OS is
I love Tape Op. Always have, always will. I used to podcast. We all like the toys, but the ideas are what just getting annoying in our world. -LC

have a subscription a while back, and then got actually get us out of bed in the morning. Thanks for
personally busy, but now I’m back and thank the bringing us these great insights into the creative process.
heavens you are still here! Tape Op is the best. Fuck Andrew <drewski9@me.com> Send Letters & Questions
all else! Thank you for your awesomeness! That’s right! The Tape Op Podcast is here! to: editor@tapeop.com
<cfd7600@gmail.com> <tapeop.com/podcasts> -LC
10/Tape Op#118/Letters/
The Recording of
Elliott Smith’s
by Larry Crane
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Either/Or, the third
album by my late friend and co-conspirator Elliott Smith. I was
asked by his family and label, Kill Rock Stars, to oversee the
remastering process for this record [Either/Or: Expanded Edition],
source and mix bonus tracks, as well as to come
up with text for the liner notes. What follows is
an adaptation of the liner notes, along with
extra information added about the recording
process and the gear Elliott, and his
co-producers Rob Schnapf and Tom Rothrock
[Tape Op #9], used in the making of this well-
respected release. All quotes from Elliott are
from the interview I did for Tape Op #4, as he
was wrapping up the sequencing of Either/Or
before the original mastering by Don Tyler at
Precision Mastering in December 1996.

l .c c Will Watts

Elliott Smith labored over Either/Or through the off we went. It was a lot of fun conquering the You Out’ for me, and it was very new. We went to
years 1995 and 1996, while simultaneously finishing limitations (drums in the dining room, guitars in the Heatmiser studio one night and we recorded it
Heatmiser’s Mic City Sons (the third, and last, album by the kitchen) and making a cool record.” right away. Elliott played everything, and I sang. I

the band he’d started in 1990 with Neil Gust and Tony Heatmiser’s other songwriter was the talented Neil always loved that song but, for some reason, Elliott
Lash), promoting his second album (the self-titled Gust. didn’t. It was an honor to work with him.”

Elliott Smith), and embarking on various solo and band Neil: “The songs felt interchangeable between In January of 1996, Elliott signed a deal with BMG
tours. It’s important to note that Mic City Sons and his solo work and the band. The band would work Music Publishing. The advance payments allowed him
Either/Or not only were written close to the same time on songs. Sometimes he’d drop them, then later to quit his day job and focus on writing and recording.
frame, but both share the co-production of Rob pick them back up and revise them on his own. This His housemate and friend, fellow musician Sean

Schnapf and Tom Rothrock. Heatmiser had signed to wasn’t on Either/Or, but there’s a riff in ‘Christian Croghan, shared two different homes with him during
Virgin Records in 1995, and rented a house in Portland, Brothers’ [from the self-titled Elliott Smith] that’s this time.
OR, to record in, known as The Heatmiser House (SE from one of my songs that we abandoned.” Sean: “Once Elliott got some money for

Ankeny at 20th Ave.). With this makeshift studio accessible to the band publishing, he invested in recording gear. He was
Elliott: “We got the check from Virgin members, Elliott also began recording songs that spending days learning how to use his new gear. He
[Records], and we were on a big do-it-yourself would end up on Either/Or, possibly “Punch and Judy” was recording himself, with perhaps the help of
kick. We were totally paranoid going into that deal. and “Cupid’s Trick.” He also wrote, recorded, and Joanna [Bolme] and Neil. The bulk of Either/Or

We held out for a year, for total control, and then produced “I Figured You Out” for Mary Lou Lord at this was recorded in our house on NE 16th Ave., north of
went so far as to buy our own equipment. They house (for her Martian Saints EP). His earlier demo Fremont Street. We set up the basement for
[Virgin] never bothered us at all.” version of this song (which Neil plays “doubled drums” recording, as well as for band practice. He would

Rob: “I know we had been talking about doing on) graces the bonus disc of the reissue. record and mix to cassette, and then walk around
something together for a while. Possibly recording Mary Lou: “I was sent to Portland by Sony [The listening to what he was working on on his Walkman.”
at my house, like we had for parts of Beck’s Work Group] for a week to hang out with Elliott Elliott: “The [first two solo] records were
Mellow Gold, but it didn’t come together. Elliott and see if we could brainstorm on some new songs totally limited, and there was no choice about what to
called me and said they were in a bind on the I had in the works. Elliott helped me finish a few of use [gear-wise]. Then I got an 8-track [Tascam 38],
Heatmiser record. I pitched Tom on the idea, and my songs, like ‘Seven Sisters.’ He played ‘I Figured and I had a choice between a couple of different
12/Tape Op#118/Mr. Smith/
mics. I got a compressor [Behringer Composer] and Not all of Either/Or was recorded in Portland living Rob: “It was all quality; it was just shaping the
one of those [digital effects] boxes that will make any spaces or offices. Elliott would load up his car with record, really. Elliott already had certain
effect that you have the patience to try to program guitars, his 8-track Tascam, and his 4-track cassette parameters. We’d encourage experiments. ‘Don’t
[Digitech TSR 24S]. Most of [Either/Or] was done at player, and drive seven and a half hours down to Arcata, force it, and have fun doing it.’ We could control
my house, some was done at Joanna’s house on a 4- California, to work in The Shop with Rob and Tom. the budget there, since it was our studio. So we
track, and some on 16-track in California [at The Tom: “I built The Shop in our family barn, where could spend as little or as much time needed,
Shop]. Everything sounded different.” I’d spent a good portion of my childhood hiding without the threat of the clock ticking.”
Either/Or’s opening track, “Speed Trials,” was the
from the rain and building things. It’s a small, late Elliott: “I learned a lot of things from Rob
song that was recorded on 4-track cassette at Joanna
1800’s dairy barn that sits on a river in the redwoods, and Tom. They have a feel for the event of a song.
Bolme’s apartment, on SE 34th Ave. at Hawthorne Blvd.
a few miles from Mad River Beach.” They would always be zooming in and out.
Rob: “The Shop was in the redwoods on a river [They’d be] into the details of how the compressor
in Portland.
Joanna: “It was an apartment, not a house, and
near the ocean – a pretty idyllic setting. The large was set, but then they’d zoom out and see how that
we had a neighbor below. Maybe he sang it while I barn portion was the recording space, and the hay fit into the song.”
was sleeping. I worked late at the bar [La Luna], so bale/upstairs part was both bedrooms, as well as Tom: “Sometimes we transferred the skeletal
I always slept in until noon. I’m pretty sure he another recording space. There was also one bones from Elliott’s [8-track] tape to our 16-track
tracked the drums and guitar while I was out.” isolation/entryway, and a nice control room. It was Stephens deck [Tape Op #54] to continue recording
Due to the quiet recording, and the sonic limitations
slightly haunted!” and exploring. Sometimes we started recording
Tom: “The last thing we did with Heatmiser, after from scratch.”
of 4-track cassette, the song has a unique sound that
gives the track a haunting vibe.
recording Mic City Sons, was mixing the album at The Rob: “We would listen to what was started, and if
Shop. From there, it seemed natural to meet Elliott it was something good to build on we would transfer
Some of the later sessions for Either/Or were done at for his next album sessions again in the barn. All the it over to the Stephens with the 16-track headstock
JJ Gonson’s Undercover, Inc., in the Oak Street recording, beyond Elliott’s home-recorded bones, on it. If it was better to start from scratch, or a new
Building on SE Oak at 3rd Ave. in Portland, where JJ was done in the barn. We mixed it on the idea, we would do that. We could’ve pushed more,
had rented a spare office room. Joanna helped mix API/DeMedio console (from Wally Heider Studio 4) production-wise, but didn’t because Elliott wasn’t
“Alameda” in this space. there as well.” ready to do that yet. Elliott never did something he
Joanna: “He would sometimes recruit me to The API/DeMedio custom console was designed in didn’t want to do, and those records lay ahead of him.
tape op or move faders, if I was around when he was 1972 by Frank DeMedio, and based on the API 312 This was the stepping stone. You could see how the
recording or mixing. That’s where I first started preamp card with modifications, like a different input light bulb went off [in him] for the studio to be an
learning how to do multitrack recording.” transformer and no decoupling capacitors.

expressive tool.”
l .c
m ai

Elliott and Sam Coomes

at Abbey Road, 1998
c Joanna Bolme

Mr. Smith/(continued on page 14)/Tape Op#118/13

Tom: “The creative process for the three of us on tracked this same way, with iterations of the same take Mixing began at The Shop with Tom and Rob; later
Either/Or was the beginning of what would continue, showing up on three different reels, with slightly Elliott mixed “No Name #5,” “Rose Parade,” and “2:45
and naturally deepen, over the coming projects and different lyrics. The Alternate Versions From Either/Or AM” at Undercover Inc., and co-mixed “Alameda” at
albums together. At times it felt like we were merely release from 2012 features a mix with some unique lyrics. Undercover Inc. with Joanna. All of Either/Or was mixed
recording for our own enjoyment. Just us, and the In other cases, like the song “Alameda,” the drum to DAT recorders. Tom Rothrock also had an early digital
trees around the barn.” mics were mixed together live through the Mackie 1604 recorder/editor by Spectral Synthesis, with SCSI drives,
In the middle of this process, involving at least two to one track live as they were recorded, with 8 tracks, and a sweepable, two-band EQ. Some tracks
drives to Arcata, Elliott recorded in another Portland compression from the Behringer Composer added at the were flown in during the mastering process with Don
basement, my Laundry Rules Recording in my home at same time as well. Knowing Elliott, I’d speculate that he Tyler, as well as in the Spectral Synthesis unit. For
SE 32nd Ave. at Yamhill St. in Portland. Elliott would go did test passes of the drum mix until he felt it would instance, the intro organ on “Angeles” was lifted from a
on to help me open Jackpot! Recording right before work well in the final mix. “Alameda” was also dumped version of the song previously tracked by Greg DiGesu at
Either/Or’s release in 1997. Elliott and Joanna were over to 16-track at The Shop, where some vocals were added Waterfront Studios in Hoboken, NJ, in April 1996. There
at my house for a party one day when Elliott asked to (see Alternate Versions… for this iteration), but for the is also a descending guitar part (at 2:20) that is not on
see my home studio, as we owned the same model of album release Elliott chose to return to the original the original 8-track reel for “Pictures of Me” that I had
Tascam 38 tape decks. His Mackie 1604 mixing board 1/2-inch master and mix from those tracks, possibly recorded on. Because of this, the 2016 remastering for
after recording an “updated” vocal. the songs “Pictures of Me” and “Angeles” had to be
was broken – he needed to finish vocals before
sourced from the original masters by Don Tyler, as was
returning to Arcata for mixing. The next week, on “Between the Bars,” one of Elliott’s best known songs “Punch and Judy” since no pre mastering version was
July 25, 1996, Elliott came over with a reel that due to its use in Gus Van Sant’s film, Good Will Hunting, found on the DAT tapes.
contained a stereo mix of the music for “Pictures of Me,” was tracked very simply. Two passes of live acoustic
and we recorded six vocals on the remaining open guitar and vocal form the core of the take, and two When archiving these reels and DAT tapes, and
tracks. It was the beginning of our collaborating; we did subtle acoustic guitar melody overdubs (at verse two) working on the New Moon posthumous release in 2006,
a session with Sean Croghan at my house, and later I were added. A previous recording was attempted in a it was telling how much time had been spent writing
borrowed Elliott’s Tascam 38 (when mine broke) to higher key, with more overt guitar melody tracks. songs, reworking lyrics, setting songs aside, and picking
record Junior High, with Sean, Joanna on bass, and It’s amazing how different the takes feel, and how the the best songs for Either/Or.
Janet Weiss on drums. lower guitar tuning (or key) gives the song a Either/Or: Expanded Edition was mastered for CD,
Elliott Smith’s darker/deeper tone and feel. “Say Yes,” Either/Or’s vinyl, and downloads at Telegraph Mastering by my
Recording Equipment, circa 1996 optimistic closing track, was recorded in a similar way, friend, Adam Gonsalves, in June of 2016, while I
with doubled live vocal/acoustic guitar takes, three supervised and did multiple listening tests. The release
Tascam 38 8-track reel-to-reel 1/2-inch tape deck
tracks of harmony vocals (for the bridge), and three also features a bonus disc, which I helped source, and

Mackie 1604 console
tracks of guitar melody overdubs. This song was also was mixed at Jackpot! Recording Studio, nearly 20 years
Panasonic SV-3800 DAT recorder
attempted earlier on the same master reel, with after I had first recorded Elliott Smith in my basement.
Audix Studio 1A passive monitors
a slightly different arrangement. r
Behringer Composer compressor
Digitech TSR 24S dual channel processor “Cupid’s Trick” still remains a mystery to me,
.c <killrockstars.com>
Ibanez AD 202 analog delay tracking-wise. I’ve found what sounds like the original Thanks to everyone interviewed, Tony Lash, and Kirt Shearer
AKG D112 dynamic microphone acoustic guitars and drums on a DA-88 digital tape, but <www.paradisestudios.net> for information on the Spectral
Audio Technica Pro 37r small diaphragm condenser mic none of the other elements are present. The two Synthesis device.
Shure SM57 dynamic microphone 16-track, 2-inch reels we have from The Shop are

Langevin CR-3A large diaphragm condenser mic labeled “Elliott @ the Shop either/or #2” and “…#3,”
leading me to assume that there is a missing “#1” 2-
Elliott also owned an Orban Compressor/Limiter 414A
inch reel from this album. Bummer.
and an Orban/Parasound Dual Reverberation 111B spring

reverb, but this gear never seemed to work properly

when we installed it at Jackpot!, nor can I hear it being

used on any of his recordings from this period.


Some of the songs on Either/Or Elliott’s rig at

used a reduction process, like Undercover Inc in 1996.
“Pictures of Me,” where initial multitracks c Larry Crane

were mixed down to stereo (usually to a DAT

machine), with this new mix dumped to an open
spot on the multitrack reel, and then more overdub
tracks added. One of the bonus tracks for Either/Or:

Expanded Edition, “Bottle Up and Explode! (alternate

version),” used this process. In mixing, I was able to use
Pro Tools and sync the original drums and instruments up

with the later overdubs and have around 14 tracks to

work with for the final mix. In the case of “Pictures of
Me,” the song had originated on the 8-track Tascam deck,
was dumped to 16-track at The Shop, instruments were
added, and then a stereo mix of this was recorded back
onto the 8-track deck. “Ballad of Big Nothing” was also
14/Tape Op#118/Mr. Smith/(Fin.)
We were recording Pyromania on 24-track, and we spent
a lot of months on that record. By the time it came to
mixing, the tape was peeling off in 2-inch pieces. It
became clear from the intensity of working on a record
like that, going over and over and over, blocking out
backgrounds, changing arrangements, and all that. I’m
surprised we ever got it finished, because the tape
literally fell to pieces. It was experimental; we were
using a Fairlight, trying to sync that whole thing up
and work like that, and we hadn’t figured out ‘til the
end how we were going to do the drums. So even
when “Photograph” was about to be mixed, Mutt
decided to change the chorus. Songs would evolve,
and he wanted to have control until the last minute of
what the feel was going to be. Rather than commit to
the drums, and have to re-cut them and re-cut them,
he thought this was a better way to do it. I don’t think
anyone had done it before, but we decided to give it
a shot – scary as it was – and we just went on blind
faith. It was more about being able to change the
arrangements at the last minute, which was very
important to him.
You’re a drummer. How has being a
musician helped inform your process
Unfortunately Mike Shipley passed away for too soon in
as an engineer/producer, and who
2013, but we are honored to present his final print interview
were some of the players who shaped
from that year courtesy of our contributor Jake Brown. -LC
your sonic preferences for recording
and mixing drums?

Mike Shipley I was always intrigued by drum sounds. Back in the day,

I was a huge Led Zeppelin fan. I was a fan of The Who,
The Kinks, and early King Crimson; those more
From Pyromania to Hysteria to Paper Airplane progressive-type rock bands. The mainstay back then
by Jake Brown
were English rock bands. I was a fan of Andy and Glyn
Justin Cortelyou and Thomas Dolby interviews Johns [Tape Op #39, #109], Ken Scott [#52], and all
those amazing English, out-of-the-box, record makers.
by Larry Crane I was very much into rhythm – drums and bass – and
drum sounds, in a big way. Everything else is great

“Mutt’s whole thing was, ‘Kids these days don’t want to hear honky little snare drums. They’re too, but drum sounds have always been a really
all out watching Star Wars and having visual experiences, so let’s make records like that. Rather important and impressive thing to me.
than going the natural route, let’s make something larger than life!’” Mutt Lange invented the “layers upon
Famed engineer/mixer Mike Shipley recalls the moment when legendary record producer layers” approach to recording walls of

Robert John “Mutt” Lange first expressed his vision for Def Leppard’s 1983 album, Pyromania. To guitar and vocal tracks stacked
date, one can still shake their head thinking back about how cinematic and epic the record’s sound throughout that album. What was that

was for the time. Shipley explains how he was the right-hand man to Mutt Lange, and how he construction process like in the studio?
helmed many mixes and albums on his own. Because of the nature of the way that band played, and
You and Mutt were trying something I sampled them into the Fairlight and detuned them. the inversions they used, it was very hard to get the

truly revolutionary, compared to the We’d sample them in at half-speed, thinking that we’d right – what Mutt had in his head as – “commercial
way rock drums were being recorded get a better sound, because that’s when Fairlight was at distortion.” We had hundreds of amps and cabinets
at that time. 8 bits – you had to get around that part of it. We sampled in that studio; from AC/DC amps, to little combos, to
big stacks. Everything you could think of. We spent

[Ludwig] Black Beauty snares, other snares, and all kinds

The previous Def Leppard record, High ‘n’ Dry [1981], was
recorded with real drums. On Pyromania [1983] Mutt of bass drums. We ended up with something that Mutt weeks and weeks trying to get a commercial sound
liked that we could detune a little bit. When we were
wanted to be experimental and leave the drums to the for those inversions, rather than the [raw] crunchy,
sampling in the sounds, we used [Neumann] KM 84s and
very end. He would keep changing the arrangements, so distorted sound. I’m pretty sure we ended up with

we used [Shure SM]58s. There were so many mics. The

therefore the drum parts would need to keep changing. just a little Marshall combo amp after we’d tried
toms were primarily Simmons toms back then, which
We had to figure out how to sync that up. It was on the everything. It’s funny, because after a while you get
cutting edge, but somehow we managed to put it all were electronic. We experimented, EQ’d, and mangled the so fatigued that nothing ever sounds good enough.
sound up a little bit to come up with the drum sound. It But we had to start recording at a certain point, so

together. Take “Photograph,” for example. Like all the

was pretty unnatural, but that was kind of the point.
other songs on the record, the song’s drums were all we found a good combination that worked, and used
samples from the Fairlight [CMI (computer musical The Fairlight seems like it basically condenser mics, [Neumann U] 87s and [Neumann U]
instrument) sampler]. There are no real drums. The became like another member of the 67s, on the amplifiers.
cymbals are played, but the bass drum, snare, and toms band. What kind of role did it play as What do you remember that process being
are all machine. We had all kinds of drums in there, and you got near the end of tracking? like for the guys in Def Leppard?
16/Tape Op#118/Mr. Shipley/(continued on page 18)
There were certain points where it got very hard, because make it work. We were working 18 hour days, seven days basic LinnDrum 16th-note hi-hat guide drum part. The
Steve Clark [guitar] and those guys were used to going a week, for that whole record. This kind of commitment drums and bass were all written in the mix. It was all
in and just laying it down. But Mutt’s brilliant as a was necessary, because Mutt wanted big, larger than life done as part of the mix process, and therefore that
diplomat, which worked as a strength for him at certain on everything. They were all very lengthy records to mix. meant getting the sounds. It was quite difficult, because
points because of the length of time involved. It was A lot of time was taken, more than what most people Mutt had been listening for quite some time to just
hard for Joe [Elliott, vocals] because of how much Mutt would think, especially later on, in terms of records like guitars and maybe a rough bass, but no real drum or
would work on the vocals, but they understood he had Hysteria. We spent a long time, and if it wasn’t working bass parts at all. He’d been concentrating on the
a vision and that everything was coming out great. It we’d just start again. Given those machine sounds, it guitars, vocals, and arrangements, so it was very
was tough for them, at the same time as being great for was really quite difficult – we were so lost in the difficult. To put in the drums – to do that very last of all
them. Mutt was very, very hardcore about the lead vocal. process. We had an end vision in sight, and I would – and do the bass was a very monumental task. The
We’d spend the longest time on the vocals; Joe would work, and work, and work. Mutt wanted to make things drums were in the Fairlight, so I had the ability to mess
get frustrated about it at certain points, but he was an as 3-dimensional as possible, sonically. around with the tuning of the snare. We wanted
excellent sport. He’d have terrible headaches because From Pyromania you went to The Cars’ something fat and different, so once I had the sample I
Mutt was just relentless about it. We used a [Neumann Heartbeat City LP. What drew you to could experiment with detuning. I found a nice fat
U] 67 pretty much for everything vocally on Pyromania. that project? sound that worked for Mutt once we’d EQ’d it, and it was
Mutt always had specific ideas about delays, and we just I had actually moved back to Australia at that point, for [pitched] down quite a lot from the original snare
had to figure out how to create them. We used all kinds family reasons. Mutt had started mixing that album and sample. Over the snare, there were different samples
of delay lengths on Joe’s lead vocals; they might have spent quite a few weeks trying to work on certain songs, that we layered: a white noise sample, an ambient
been created by a tape machine, because there wasn’t but he was not well. Nigel Green, the engineer who had sample, a Simmons sample, and a sample of the
that much “long delay” outboard gear out back then. been working with him, was not that well either, because [Eventide] Harmonizer with the feedback full up. That
The reverbs were usually regular EMT 140 plate reverbs, they’d both been working so hard. The band was getting added length to the note. The same with the bass drum;
which we had four of at that studio in a plate room. a little frustrated, so I came over to England to work on we’d find some [sample] we liked and detune that. We
After that record was out, the AMS [RMX-16 digital it with Mutt. We again spent a certain amount of time used multiple tricks to try and get a unique drum sound.
reverberator] came out. We also used to use a lot of the trying to mix the songs, and Mutt kept asking, “Is there I remember we had the biggest console we could get in
old, original Lexicon delays; I remember this huge box. a console big enough in this country to mix this record those days, which was a 64-input SSL; the first one they
The other delays we’d use would be multitrack delays, on? I think the only place big enough to mix this record ever built! We’d always been on the cutting edge of
where we’d make up the delay length by going into on is in New York. Today’s Thursday, so Friday can you get consoles, so with every SSL console we’d be guinea pigs.
different channels in [record on the] multitrack to get on a plane, fly to New York, and mix it at Electric Lady Mutt put the studio in his house, so we had no
different delay amounts. We also used a flanger, and a Studios?” I got on a plane with these multi-tracks and distractions. I think it took nine or ten months to mix

couple of 2-track tape delays. We didn’t use [outboard] arrived at the studio thinking they had this large console. Hysteria, because we’d be redoing parts and the whole
mic preamps; we just used what was in the SSL When I turned up to the studio, the owner was going to drums and bass thing. We’d spend months on songs
[console]. When we were recording harmony vocals, in lunch, and I wanted to go upstairs and get a look at the sometimes, and then redo it.
order to keep the distinction away from the lead vocals, console. He says, “No, it’s all good. Come out to lunch What kind of outboard gear was at play in
the backgrounds were usually Mutt and Rick Savage with us.” I told him I wasn’t hungry; I’d just gotten off the production of the “Pour Some
[bass]. They would do 20 or 40 tracks of one part, then the plane and I wanted see where I was going to be Sugar on Me” drum sound?
dump down 20 tracks onto one track, then do 20 more working, but I begrudgingly went to lunch with the I was working on the new version of the Fairlight, and I
tracks and dump them down onto another track to make owner. Well, we came back, went up to the studio, and brought samples I had sampled in Los Angeles – and
up a stereo pair. Then they’d add the backgrounds to it was not as described to Mutt on the phone by the had also sampled in Mutt’s studio in England – to come

that part, bounce them down two tracks, and then studio owner. I had to wait in New York for two and a up with a drum sound. The basis of the bass samples I
hand-sync them back into the choruses. We’d EQ them, half weeks while they built the control room to Mutt’s used were from a friend in L.A. I was tuning them and
bounce them onto a 2-track machine, and then I’d have specifications. That was a hard record to mix, because adding synthesizer to the bass to give it a bit of a
to get the timing right, hit the play button, keep going the control room wasn’t set up correctly. What I was different sound. For “Pour Some Sugar on Me”

until we got the timing right, and slide them in. hearing wasn’t really what was happening. I had a very specifically, the samples all started out dry, and then
When I listened to a new Def Leppard album funky version of a new Neve console that didn’t work we’d get pretty detailed about gated reverbs and

back in the ‘80s, it always felt like anywhere near as creatively as an SSL, so I was painted different kinds of effects, whether it was hard-gated
listening to a futuristic experience. into a corner. We basically ended up where Ric [Ocasek] AMS [reverbs] or gated tapes. We’d use various amounts,
What was Mutt paying most attention to and the band said, “Listen, you’ve got to slash through having triggers for length in the Harmonizer. There’d

in mixing to achieve that sound? this stuff. We’re used to working fast.” I set up the best always be a delay on the snare that would come from a
Whenever we were mixing, regardless of the band or style that I could. I spent a day and a half per song, where unit that could put out fast reflections, like 20 delays to
of genre, we went for what seemed to be the right thing Mutt would have spent two or three weeks per song. I different increments – just to give an interesting
to do. We’d listen to the song and say, “Okay, this is would get it done fast and do the best that I could. perspective that would add to the width of the snare.

what it needs to be like,” and go for that. It’s always After The Cars, the saga of making Def The hi-hat and cymbals were samples as well. Mutt
been a gut thing, as well as a technical thing. Not really Leppard’s Hysteria began. The record would leave me for four or five days and say, “I’m going
worrying about any rules or regulations about EQ, what took three years to make, and put the off for a few days. Come up with a drum sound, figure

backgrounds should sound like, or what drums should band $4 million in debt to their label, some stuff out, and come up with something unique and
sound like. It’s about carving out the space so things due in part to drummer Rick Allen different.” I learned to experiment and figure out how
could be intentionally soft but still very audible, because losing his left arm in an auto accident. to add to his tracks for the drums to make it different.
it’s still about depth of field as well as everything being Would you consider drums to be the You can hear huge handclaps going on in “Pour Some

in your face. We’d just need to carve out the right space most experimental part of production Sugar on Me.” Those are actually 100 tracks of handclaps
for the instrument. That’s something Mutt taught me you worked on from that album? detuned and EQ’d. That ended up sounding like
how to do, and I’d end up doing it by second nature. It All of the guitars and vocals were already tracked with the ambience in a way, and definitely had a unique sound.
was one of those things that was experimental, but he’d album’s other engineer, Nigel Green, before I got there, He’d say, “I’ll come back in a few days, see where you
find a place for it. He’d have a sound in his head, and but there were no drums and bass. It was just a very are, and we’ll go from there.” That’s how it worked out.
18/Tape Op#118/Mr. Shipley/(continued on page 20)
“Five milliseconds off” Is it true you guys recorded all of the was one of those albums that had such a particular sound
Justin “Corky” Cortelyou worked guitars for the album on a [Scholz to it, that we had to stay that course until Mutt felt it
with Mike Shipley for a little over R&D] Rockman [guitar headphone was as perfect as it could be. In comparison to the way
two years in the late-2000s. amplifier]? they make records today, we were very, very lucky back
Yes! All those guitars are from a Rockman! Not amps, then to be able to experiment a whole lot. I’m definitely
because that’s the only way we could get that kind of proud of that record.
distortion. There might have been a couple passes of Mutt was notorious for keeping the label
clean guitar through a small amp, but most all of it was out of his creative process during
recorded through a Rockman. That meant an awful lot recording and mixing. After so long
of EQ’ing and processing. All the clean sounds, all the of working on this record, what was
jangly parts, and all the distorted guitars were Rockman. the reaction once you handed it in
It would get a bit irritating, because we’d try everything to Mercury?
and just keep going until we found something that There was no involvement from the label at all in the
worked. Because we did it for so long, it never was that making of that record. They didn’t listen to one note.
satisfying; we’d just look at each other after weeks of Mutt wouldn’t allow it. He didn’t like involvement from
working on it and just go, “I guess this is the best we people; he just wanted to do his own thing. And I
What was your role in working with Mike could do,” and that was it. remember when A&R heard it for the first time, they
Shipley? What kinds of effects were you applying to said, “What the fuck is this? You can’t hear the vocals.
Mainly editing. It was all that Mutt Lange kind of specific Joe Elliot’s voice on Hysteria? It’s all weird sounding. What have you done?” Everyone
thing. It was the most tedious work. As far as vocal effects, I can’t even begin to recall how was kind of surprised. At the time, it freaked both me
Like tightness and pitch? many AMS reverbs we used. There were harmonizers, and Mutt out. As we finished that record, and as the
Yeah. I had to make it perfect. If there was string noise, delays, reverbs, and EQs for every different section. tape degraded, so did the sonics to certain parts. The
then I’d find another note and put it in. Edit everything, There were so many effects going on in the background: first time we mastered Pyromania, we mastered it in
depending on the song. But a lot was pop or rock, and long delays, short delays, backwards reverbs, and ones England, and the mastering engineer sent it back
he liked it really tight. So it was right on the grid. It was you could barely even hear, just to add to the depth of saying, “Mutt, this record is unmasterable.” And Mutt
kind of terrible, but it was also like editing boot camp. field. The kitchen sink; really everything we could think looked at me with this look, like, “Oh, my god. What
I’d spend a day on a song, just editing everything. Then, of. Mutt wanted to keep Joe’s lead vocal distinct, so as have we done?” Then we sent it off to Bob Ludwig [Tape
one time, he called me in and was like, “Come here, mate. we’d done with Pyromania, on Hysteria the harmonies Op #105] and he said, “This is groundbreaking, amazing,
See, this kick drum is five milliseconds off. It’s got to be would be a combination of Mutt, Rick Savage, and Phil and brilliant.” Fortunately, we went from, “This record is

dead on the grid. Spot on. Spot on.” Collen [guitar]. They would work up a blend, and Mutt terrible and unmasterable,” to Bob being able to master
Do you think he did hear that, or did he would dictate somewhat how the words would be or it. It is what it is.
just randomly zoom in to pick on you? what the parts were. But those guys were excellent When did it first hit you that Hysteria was
I don’t know. It could be either one. I felt like he was singers, so the three of them together would
.c create the on its way to becoming the phenomenon
always watching over me. It wasn’t easy. He had a guy sound, and Mutt would do some on his own as well. it did?
who would sit with him in the mix, assisting. I started Can you describe how you were feeling I’d come to Los Angeles after that to work on a completely
covering for him while he was out. A little bit of as the team neared the end of different project with Joni Mitchell [on Chalk Mark in a
assisting, and then a lot of editing. It was such a cool production? Rainstorm], of all people. I was walking one morning
setup – it was a house that he had turned into a studio. It was incredibly taxing and very intense. It would be song down a boardwalk in Santa Monica in the summertime,

The living room was just gutted. It was a great sounding by song; but with that kind of process, because we’d and coming out of every frickin’ boom box on the beach
room. My editing suite was upstairs and we ran KVM spend so long, it was not like doing a song in a day and was “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” It was like, “Holy shit!
[keyboard, video and mouse] switches. There were two a half. When you work that long you’re so overfamiliar This doesn’t sound too bad, from a distance. I’m not
with the sound, and you’re so done with the sound, that sure I could listen to it through a set of speakers again.”

monitors, and keyboard stations downstairs. Mine was

upstairs, so I could switch over and watch his screen. If it was very hard. We’d work away and almost abandon it, I came over to the States and it was just everywhere!
at a certain point. We’d spend as long as we could spend, What did mean for your career in the

he had a problem I could do it all from upstairs. His mix

could come up on my system upstairs, so I would just sit and there had to be a point where we’d put it down; a aftermath of its release? Did you find
there when I finished work, or took a break and watch point where we’d messed around with every permutation yourself being typecast as a metal
him mix and listen, and really hone in. I couldn’t see of what it could possibly be, be it delays, treatments, mixer?

what he was doing physically, or what he was listening bounces for the guitars, or vocals. Because of the process I definitely didn’t want to be tarred and feathered by it.
to. I really had to pay attention to what he was it’s a hard thing to explain, but there just came a point Certain people will think of you as being that kind of
adjusting. I was thinking, “Why is he adding this? What where it wasn’t like, “Oh, yeah, man. We rocked this one,” producer. After that, when the whole cliché grunge
thing came in, I was painted as a “rock” guy, even when

is he doing there?” It was like watching Picasso paint. His but more like, “I guess we’ve done the best we can. We
attention to detail and everything was incredible. better put it down.” It’s like, “What else can you do?” We that’s not who I am. That’s just what we created at the
What were you guys working on back knew that the song was great, but the mixing process was time. We did what we needed to do for that record. Up
then? really, really hard. We would spend weeks on a mix, and to that point I’d done punk bands, and all kinds of

We did the Nickelback song “Photograph.” Mike mixed the obviously the time involved would be a whole lot longer, different styles, but on the bigger ones, like Hysteria,
singles off that record [All the Right Reasons]. A band because we were inventing drum and bass sounds at the one can get labeled as “that’s your sound.” You do get
called Damone. Rock Kills Kid – we did some cool stuff with same time. But we’d get a mix to a point where Mutt pigeonholed, because people like to put you in a corner
would say, “Okay, let’s take it.” And then he would hear – in a box – and say, “That’s what Shipley does,” or,

that. Days of the New; that was a great record. He was

doing a lot of work for Maverick Records. It kind of dried something and go, “I think we need to zero the board, “That’s what Mutt does.” That’s why after that I went
up a little bit, because all of the Maverick work had left. start again, and see what we can do.” Sometimes the and did the record with Joni Mitchell, and worked with
mixes would end up being four to six weeks per song, Shania Twain [Come on Over], Alison Krauss, and other
Read more of Justin “Corky” Cortelyou’s interview on page 24.
because he wanted something different and wouldn’t projects that were completely different. I took my career
settle for anything better than the best we could get. It out of that box.
20/Tape Op#118/Mr. Shipley/(continued on page 22)
Thomas Dolby Outside the realm of Mutt Lange and Def problems doing that record. The sound of the console
Leppard, what album are you most would change daily, with levels changing and EQs

Meets Mutt Lange proud of in your catalog?

One of my favorite ones, that was a complete surprise
being different, just because of the heat. We did it in
the middle of summer. But it was something different
to me, was when Alison Krauss asked me to do Paper to do from the traditional studio, so we did it that
In Thomas Dolby’s recent autobiography, The Speed of
Airplane. She’s an artist who I’ve always been a huge way, and it was fun nonetheless. I love those guys,
Sound: Breaking The Barriers Between Music and
fan of. To spend the time that we did with that and it was a lot of fun.
Technology: A Memoir, he talks about getting called in for
particular band [Union Station] – who, to me, are What still gets you excited about sitting
studio sessions with Mutt Lange. We dropped Thomas a
the most awesome players in the world – was down behind a console?
line to learn more. Look for the complete interview we did
absolutely fantastic. She liked some of the vocal I know it sounds crazy, but every day that I can walk
with him in our next issue.
sounds we’d gotten before, and I was like, “Where do into the control room, I feel like a kid. It’s like, “Oh,
Reading your book, I saw how you were I sign?” We spent quite some time doing that record. my god, I can do this again? This is unbelievable.” I’m
really inspired when working with Mutt I hadn’t engineered a record in ten years – I’d been glad to have done the work with Mutt, Alison, and
Lange on Foreigner’s 4 and Def Leppard’s mixing all the time. While it’s something you never some of the records I’ve done with Joni. Everything’s
Pyromania [as Booker T. Boffin]. What forget, I went for a deliberately sloppy, wider sound, been a highlight, and there’s always a redeeming
were some of the things you took away versus everything being mono. I stereo mic’d factor in everything because it was all so different;
from Mutt, as far as work ethic, everything, and had some fun with that. It was that’s what’s so great about it. There are lots of things
workflow, or just being in the studio? primarily tracked live. It was an unbelievably good- I’m proud of, and they were really good experiences. I
Well, the work ethic is terrifying, because he’s got really sounding record; and to win a Grammy Award for had a lot to learn, and so many of them were fantastic
good ears and he drives everybody nuts with that! It’ll be Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical in 2012 was a musical experiences. I’ve been lucky enough to work
four in the morning, and you’ll be working on a phrase complete surprise, and a fantastic honor. That was a with some of my favorite artists of all time. I can walk
with six notes in it. He’d say, “Oh, the end of the fifth notewonderful experience for me, so that one is into the studio, and it’s exciting every day. I’ll just
is not quite right.” “Do you want to just punch it in?” definitely a highlight. come sit in the control room sometimes when I’m not
“Nah, let’s do it again.” That would happen all the time. Speaking of highlights, you worked with even working, just to be in here. It’s all been great!
The work ethic was definitely not something that I wanted the Sex Pistols on their legendary r
to learn from Mutt. But what I did pick up from him was debut, Never Mind the Bollocks, Award-winning author Jake Brown has written 43 books
the fact that after hours of being hunched over, focused Here’s the Sex Pistols, before you covering the world of music.
in a microscopic way on a particular sound or part, you started working with Mutt. <jakebrownbooks@gmail.com>
can sit back and run the sound from the top. You watch It’s not like it is these days, where you can be a runner
him, and it’s like a stranger just walked in the room and for x amount of years before you get into the studio. Thanks to Justin Courtelyou for helping us acquire photos.

is hearing the songs for the first time. We’d get to the end In those days you were basically given a couple of
of it, and he’d make a comment that was like a fresh weeks to learn the ropes, and then you were in the
comment – like when you bring a stranger into your mix session. In England there were lots of tea boys, but
session, and they listen with fresh ears and you pick up luckily at Wessex [Sound Studios], we had Betty
on their vibe. You know the comment that they make may [Edwards], the tea lady, so it was brilliant. She was
be painful to hear, but it’s very valid, because they’ve got an absolute character, and every band loved her. So
more distance than you, as well as a lot of objectivity. I
that’s how Bill Price ran the studio. I got to learn
think all the best producers I’ve worked with, including the ropes and went straight in. The first record I got

Trevor Horn [Tape Op #89], have that ability to separate thrown into was the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the
themselves, despite how much they’ve got invested in Bollocks… working with [producer] Chris Thomas. It
what’s down on tape, or what’s already been recorded. was a lengthy, involved record. It stopped and
They can back off for a minute, see the big picture, and started, and went on for quite some time. For me,

make crucial decisions. I don’t know if you’re born with being more of a rock head, it was like, “What is
that, or if you acquire it? Certainly you can acquire that

this?” It really was the first of that type of music,

skill, or improve on that skill over time. But it’s unusual and it was just a staggering and incredible
to see that in young musicians and young producers. experience. Getting chased from the pub by Hells
I think it’s a lot of training of oneself to be Angels, and all kinds of funny stuff. Sid [Vicious]

able to shift perspectives in how you was in and out of the studio, because he was in the
perceive sound to try and be able to pull hospital a couple times when he got ill. While Glen
that trick off that you’re discussing. Matlock played a lot of the bass, Sid was around too.
Yeah. And there’s a lot of soul searching. I always had a lot Sid was a very simple player, but he was musical. The

of self-doubt. I’d have moments where I really questioned whole band was sort of learning as they went, with
what I was doing. Generally, that means it’s time to go the help of Chris Thomas.
home and go to bed. Aerosmith pops up on your résumé too. I

<www.thomasdolby.com> understand that was a guerilla recording

experience, for you and the band?
John Kalodner [A&R] had asked me to work on that
record [Just Push Play]. The band didn’t want to go

into the city and spend insane amounts of time

waiting around in hotel rooms, so they tracked in Joe
[Perry]’s house, primarily. We set up a studio in the
living room of this small, old farmhouse outside of
Boston. We had the most unbelievable technical
22/Tape Op#118/Mr. Shipley/(Fin.)
“ ne
stin Cra
Ju arry
by L
Ending up in Nashville after growing up in Pennsylvania, Justin Cortelyou
has carved out a solid career as an engineer working under studio
legends like Bob Ezrin [Tape Op #31], Mike Shipley [#118], Chuck Ainlay

[#97], and Bil VornDick. In sessions, he’s engineered, edited, and mixed
artists like Phish, Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney,
Deep Purple, Hollywood Vampires (Alice Cooper, Joe Perry, Johnny Depp),

Ke$ha, Jerrod Niemann, Meghan Linsey, and KISS.

c Larry Crane
We met up at Bob Ezrin’s Anarchy Studio in Nashville’s Berry Hill

neighborhood for a post-session chat.


How did you enter the recording world? An amazing engineer and mixer. Later, just being young flew back to L.A. I talked to Mike a couple of times
I played trombone and guitar in a band in high school, and dumb, I called Sound Stage Studios, asked for and he gave me some pointers. He got busy and said,
but I didn’t like practicing that much. If you’ve ever Chuck, and said, “Hey, you want an intern?” He “Hey, do you want a gig?” I said, “Yes, I do!” They
seen a trombone symphonic score, it’s 191 bars of thought I was Justin Niebank. He’s like, “Hey Justin, actually moved me out to L.A. He paid first and last

rests, then a whole note, and 120 bars of rests. It how’s it going?” I said, “Oh, you remember me?” month’s rent, and then I started working with Mike.
wasn’t for me, but I loved getting those Guitar Luckily I still did an internship with Chuck after that. That was unbelievable.
Center, Sam Ash, and Musician’s Friend catalogs! One I worked as hard as I could. He put in a good word After working for Mike Shipley for

day I got a copy of Mix. I had no idea what an with the studio manager, and they hired me on as the several years [see Justin’s excerpt in
engineer did. I saw an SSL console with a computer night manager. I worked a couple of years at Sound on page 20], what did you do?
in it. I thought, “That guy’s got a cool job.” I ended Stage. I ended up covering one day when Crystal I went and worked with another producer and
up going to MTSU [Middle Tennessee State Bernard was doing vocals. She was struggling with songwriter, Tommy Henriksen, who now plays guitar

University]. I got an internship with Bil VornDick, an some lines. I was supposed to punch in and out, and for Alice Cooper. I worked with Tommy for a little
amazing bluegrass producer and engineer. The first not to do anything, but I helped her out on some while, and convinced him to move to Nashville after
day that I did my internship with him, we were lines; we got a good chemistry and flow together. We a couple of years. We worked with this band, Runner
transferring some Jerry Douglas files. Chuck Ainlay worked through the night. She helped me take out Runner, trying to shop them for a deal. The first week
was going to mix it. I got to meet Chuck. the trash! We finished her demo, and it turned out we were here we met Bob Ezrin. He wanted to sign
Another nice guy. that she was dating Mike Shipley at the time. She them; it didn’t work out, but Bob and I created this
relationship. I’m not working solely with Bob, but he I assume you engineer on these Yeah. I guess Johnny [Depp] and Alice met on that movie,
has so much work, so I do a lot with Bob. Bob has a projects? Dark Shadows. Alice was telling him about the
school in Vancouver [Nimbus School of Recording Yeah. Tracking, mixing, as well as all the editing and Hollywood Vampires. “Wouldn’t it be great to get the
Arts] with Garth [Richardson, Tape Op #28]. He lives overdubs. With mixing, Bob is such a hands-on band together?” Johnny plays guitar – he’s a great
here, and he lives in Toronto. Where he lives is producer. It’s definitely a shared experience, which is guitarist. It’s a bunch of cover songs of what Alice calls
dependent on what day it is. great, because he has a very specific sound. There’s the “dead drunk friends.” One after another, all these
How long have you been working with some headbutting, for sure. legendary artists came in to sing on these songs. It
Bob? Probably good. started out just having Johnny in there, who’s awesome
I think it’s been about eight years. We’ve done Alice I think it kind of stretches both of us. and super cool. Then Brian Johnson [AC/DC] came in.
Cooper’s Welcome 2 My Nightmare. Alice Cooper calls it At this point are you using Bob’s studio He was singing in the control room here with a [Shure]
the “shriekquel.” We did the Hollywood Vampires’ [self- space when you need to do personal Beta 58. It was a little bit surreal having Brian Johnson
titled] record. We did Phish’s Fuego, Deep Purple’s Now things? sitting right next to me, singing in my ear.
What?!, and a Kristin Chenoweth record. She’s amazing. I’ve got a little setup at home also that’s nice. I have my Man, that’s crazy.
She’s the sister in Four Christmases. PMC monitors, a few pieces of outboard gear, and a We started doing a lot of the recording at Johnny Depp’s
Yeah! We did 2CELLOS. That was a crazy record, but cool Dangerous D-Box. But I do a lot of sessions out of house.
to do. here. Bob and I just work it out, as far as cost and all In L.A.?
It was a different kind of challenge? that. Yeah. Joe Perry was hanging out, so he started playing
Yeah. Johnny Reid is one of the biggest artists in Canada. Do you find yourself still doing a lot of on a bunch of songs. Then Paul McCartney. I mean,
His voice is like Joe Cocker, meets Rod Stewart, meets Mike Shipley-style, detailed editing? come on. I got to record him playing piano, playing
Bryan Adams. He’s such an amazing singer, and a great Those skills come in handy. Every now and then, bass, and singing. That day was incredible. I woke up
guy. Those have been a lot of fun to record. we’ll hit a song that needs to be just perfect and in a hotel room to a text that said Jerrod Niemann’s
What’s it like working with Bob Ezrin? chopped up. I got pretty quick at editing. I kind “Drink to That All Night,” which I had engineered and
He’s seen enough, and he will put the fear of god in you. of do a little bit of everything here, which is fun. mixed, had gone to number one. I went up to Johnny
If you can make it through the boot camp stage with The Hollywood Vampires’ self-titled Depp’s house and set up for Paul McCartney. It was
him, it prepares you for so much. You can take album sounded like a crazy session. the best work day that I’ve had. He was so nice.
anything. But it’s great, because it saves time. You It’s based on John Lennon, Harry Was Bob Ezrin producing this album?
know exactly where he stands, and you know if he’s Nilsson, and Alice Cooper hanging at Yeah. He had to leave – it’s kind of a funny story. He
not happy. When the red light goes off, he’s the best the Rainbow Bar & Grill in the mid- produced the band. The band on the floor was Abe
guy ever. He’s not mean, necessarily; just intense. ‘70s, right? Laboriel Jr. on drums, Johnny Depp on guitar, Joe

“You’ve got to be ready to roll. .c
While they’re running through
the first song a couple of times,
I’m tweaking, running out there,

and changing some mics around.

It’s not the luxury of having a

day to get drum sounds.”


c John Brown
Mr. Cortelyou/(continued on page 26)/Tape Op#118/25
capture what they’re hearing in their instruments, but
Bob Ezrin & Justin also something that’s going to translate in the song.
I love the engineering side. I’ve produced a few
records on my own. I do love it. Bob’s been working
me in on a few projects where I’m co-producing with
him, which is a great way to begin. We do a lot of
Do you get a lot of mixing work that you
didn’t track?
Yeah. I’ve done a lot for Meghan Linsey. She was a
runner-up on The Voice. I’ve been friends with her for
years – she’s so talented. And JJ Shiplett, out of
Canada. He toured with Johnny Reid. That [Something
to Believe In] was such a good record. It was one of
those records where I couldn’t wait to finish mixing it
so that I could just put it in my car and listen to it.
I’ve done some mixing for Will Hoge. His song
“Strong” was in a Chevrolet commercial.
c Suzanne Allison What about records where you track but
Perry on guitar, and Bruce Witkin was playing bass for Do you feel like getting your start in you don’t mix?
tracking sessions. Paul was on piano and singing, Nashville was an advantage for your I was on a fishing trip in Canada when they needed the
Alice was doing background vocals. It was so much recording career? last Jerrod Niemann record. I was also finishing the
fun. Then Bob produced the vocals. Bob was actually It definitely helped me out. It wasn’t easy, but if you’re Hollywood Vampires, so Justin Niebank mixed Jerrod’s
in the live room with Paul. It was a cool interplay and in the right position... If you’re over at Blackbird album. It was cool to go over and hang with Justin
energy between the two. Studios, you have the best of the best coming in all and make sure he was happy with all the sounds. It
Both are very good arrangers. the time. I was at Sound Stage, and luckily an created a cool relationship between he and I. It’s nice
Yeah. Then Bob had to leave for dinner with his dad, so opportunity came up and turned into a gig with Mike to know that other engineers can deal with the
I had to man the helm for Paul’s bass overdub. He was Shipley. I find it easier to network here; to meet projects that you track.
playing his Hofner. He had finished a take, and he was people, and get my name out there, and get work. It’s I don’t think any time in this job you

like, “Alright mate, that should be good” But he never definitely easier here than it was in L.A. Also, here walk away and go, “I’m so fucking
quite got the middle section. I had to get on the they generally expect to pay you if you work on perfect, and everything I did was
talkback and say, “Paul, I think the middle section something. correct.”
could be a little bit tighter. You never quite honed in It’s always been a music business hub Yeah. If you do, you’re not doing it right. I hear things
on it. So if you could give me one more pass, that’d here.
.c all the time. I find that if I go back a year or so and
be great.” I thought to myself, “Paul McCartney’s bass Yeah. For the most part everyone realizes that if you’re listen to something I did, I personally go, “Oh, what
playing wasn’t quite up to your standards?” But he going to work on something, they expect to pay you, was I thinking? That was so dumb.” But if I go back
nailed it, and I’m glad we did it. Then he came in, sat which is way nice. two or three years later, I think, “Oh, I like what I was
next to me, and we worked out a vocal sound on a Do you also feel like in Nashville, doing there. That was pretty cool.” I don’t think you

distorted vocal part. It was such a cool experience. especially being a dad with young can ever be perfect.
The day before that we’d recorded Joe Walsh. He was kids, that you’re able to have a home What are you working on right now?
incredible. Joe Walsh pulled out a V-shaped Fernandes life and come home at a reasonable We’re on a tight deadline for the Phish record [Big Boat].
guitar. He could pick up anything and it sounds like hour? Is it mixing time?

him. I think he had a Fender Squier that he also Yeah. There are definitely some late nights and long days, Yeah. It’s a big record. Lots of songs, and one,

played on one song. It’s all in the fingers and the but generally I have my weekends pretty much “Petrichor,” is 13 minutes long. It’s about 180 tracks
person playing it. We had Marilyn Manson drop in one untouched. Every now and then I have to work, but and 36 different sections, where there are all
day and put a vocal down. Also Perry Farrell; watching it’s way easier to have a family and to buy a house. completely different arrangements. Mixing is like
him in the studio was just like a live show. I think we Easier here than L.A., that’s for sure. People are nice. walking through quicksand, because you have to mix

had a [Shure] SM7 on him for that. He picked up the The music community is very close, which is good and each section differently. It’s an amazing song. At the
microphone stand and was going in circles. It looked bad. If you do something wrong, or if you don’t pay end of the day, your brain is totally melted.
like he was on stage, and it sounded like it too. It was (or abuse) musicians, word gets around. I think Sometimes it’s like doing a day of long division. You
just get so cross-eyed.

amazing, the energy that came out of him. everyone wants the same goal. They want to make
A lot of these artists have worked with good music and be able to have a life. There’s no Where was that record tracked?
Bob before. Was he calling in a lot of shortage of amazing musicians and engineers here. We tracked it at Ronnie’s Place, Ronnie Milsap’s old
favors, or were Johnny and Alice You’ve worked under a lot of producers. studio over at Sound Stage. I feel like it’s one that’s

calling in favors? Is focusing on engineering a specific not utilized a ton, but it’s a cool, old wooden room.
I think everyone did, but it got to a point where people choice you made? It has tall ceilings. I like the way tracks come out
wanted to be involved. Slash put a solo on, and Zak For a while I wasn’t into producing. Now I’m itching to there. It’s still a big band for that space. We did the
last record [Fuego] there, and it came out well so we

Starkey played drums on three songs. do more production. I love mixing – I love getting
How long does a record like that take? deep into the mix. You feel it. All the moves are stuck with it.
We weren’t steadily working on it the whole time, but musical moves, like a conductor at the orchestra. I would feel like everybody’s got a lot of
that one took maybe two years. It changed so much “How’s it going to elevate the song? What’s going to different instruments and amps in
over the course of the recording. We did the main communicate the message of the song?” In tracking that band.
tracking at The Village’s Studio A in L.A. sessions, I love working with the artists and trying to We’re used to cartage guys with little box trucks coming
26/Tape Op#118/Mr. Cortelyou/ in with gear, but Phish bring in an 18-wheeler, and it’s
a huge set up. They have two instrument techs with their
own benches. Phish also has their own engineer, Ben
Collette. He knows their sound, and knows what they like.
He’s awesome to have – he has everything organized. He
took out all these mic pres from their console, so we had a
ton of great gear to use. Then Drew Bollman, who works
with Justin Niebank a lot, was shadowing me – since my
wife was due with our child. As soon as I had to go, he was
right in there.
As a music listener, have you always been
pretty eclectic?
I guess so. Not on purpose, or anything. But for a while I
listened to Miles Davis Kind of Blue and wore it out. I loved
Phish’s Junta. I had Tom Petty’s Greatest Hits. Growing up,
I played in symphonies and jazz bands, as well as these
weird little ensembles. It was always something different. I
was on a metal kick for a while. I was in a hair band; I was
a shredder! The one thing that stays the same is that it’s all
music. It moves you in a certain way, and you follow where
the song takes you. Sonically you let the song guide you.
It’s been a lot of fun working on all different things, going
from Phish to Deep Purple. We did the Canadian Tenors,
which is very orchestral and classical-sounding. A full
orchestra with big vocals. I love working on country music.
Jerrod Niemann’s records were so much fun. I worked a little
bit with Keith Stegall on a few songs, and did a little of
Blake Shelton’s editing work.
In studios in Nashville that are working on
bigger projects, the engineers have to be
good. You can’t be messing around and

No. You have about 15 to 20 minutes to get everything in
order. The night before you’ll roughly place the mics. Half .c
the time they don’t bring the guitars, keyboards, and drums
in until the morning. They’ll show up a half hour or fifteen
minutes before downbeat. I like to tap the drums and listen
to see where they’re ringing. I use my ear to hear how far
off the tone develops. It works, for the most part, without

any big “oops!” afterwards. But you’ve got to know your

setup. You’ve got to be ready to roll. While they’re running
through the first song a couple of times, I’m tweaking,
running out there, and changing some mics around. It’s not

the luxury of having a day to get drum sounds. On the Deep

Purple record, we had three different rooms we recorded

drums in. Most of it was cut in the main live room, and we
did one in the stone room. Then we did one song in a tight
booth. That’s a cool sound too – it’s old school. r


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Mr. Cortelyou/(Fin.)/Tape Op#118/27
And Arthur Alexander.
Yeah, exactly.
Do you still sometimes feel like the kid
that worked at the grocery store
across the street from Stax?
I’ve had a chance to have a little bit of experience. After
75 years, I vividly remember being the young kid at the
grocery store across the street and coming over to that
building. A country-western label had just moved in
right across the street, and that was the beginning.
They had the record store in the front?
They had a record store in the front that was an old movie
theater. The Capitol Theater. The neighborhood was
changing over. Whites were moving out and blacks
were moving in. It wasn’t all the way at that point, but
the transition was going on. Jim Stewart and Estelle
[Axton] got this building. I knew they were making
music over there, but I didn’t know what kind or
anything like that. I was working at the grocery store
across the street, so I just went across [and introduced
myself]. I said, “I like to do music. Would you be, uh,
could I…” Estelle said, “No, we do country.” I said,
“Well, will you listen to some of my music?” She said
again, “No. We do country.” That was my introduction.
Because there was a record store in front of the
building, and Estelle Axton was such a beautiful,
spirited lady, I was able to start conversations with her
and that ran into getting inside.
Did you ask them about buying soul

records that you wanted to hear at
the record store? Did you get to listen
.c to things that were currently out at
that point?
No, I can’t take claim to being that smart. With that
record store being what it was, they were putting hit
records in the store. WDIA [radio] had just launched,
in a powerful way. Those records had an appeal to the

David Porter

community that was making that transition. Estelle

was buying what was working on radio; I was just a
kid coming over and listening to what they were

Making Music in Memphis

playing inside the store to sell. She just saw my

interest and excitement for music and befriended me.

I befriended her as well.

by Larry Crane You’d been playing music before, as

well as in school?
Yes, I had been. As a matter of fact, I had a record out

In a recent visit to Memphis, Tennessee, I made time Growing up on the West Coast, I always right after my senior year in high school called
“Farewell”. This was before I got into Stax. I did
to chat with legendary songwriter David Porter. David thought rock ‘n’ roll and soul music
was one of the early employees of Stax Records, terrible with the record but, needless to say, I was
were from different places, and
venturing from his job at the grocery store across the already making music. I was singing around clubs. I

different times. Then I came to

street to work as a songwriter, producer, and artist. His thought that I wanted to be a recording star. I was
co-writing with Isaac Hayes generated some of the That’s exactly right. A lot of the music you hear is not thinking in terms of [being] a songwriter.
biggest hits, including Sam & Dave’s “Soul Man” and
influenced by R&B. The motivation for me was always,
Did Stax finally relent? Or did someone

“Hold On, I’m Comin’,” as well as Carla Thomas’ “B-A-

“How good is the material?” I was always trying to
say, “Let’s do something with you”?
B-Y” and many others. These days David is still What happened was I was given permission to come
find out what “good” meant. When I was a young kid,
musically involved, and with Made in Memphis inside. I was going into the record store, and Estelle
I loved, “I’m so young and you’re so old/This, my
Entertainment there is a plan to bring the Memphis actually got comfortable with me. I finally was able to

music scene some excellent exposure and support. I darling, I’ve been told” – “Diana” by Paul Anka. If it
ease my way into the recording studio. In the
dropped by their complex where I found studio designer was good, it was good. I didn’t care. I was passionate
building at the time was a fellow by the name of Chips
and architect Michael Cronin getting his hands dirty about learning all of it, but I also found a lot of
Moman. They didn’t call it A&R at that time, but he
while putting together some impressive recording inspiration. Having met Elvis and finding out his
was the guy who worked for the label. They had two
spaces. David and I sat down in one of the completed biggest inspiration was a guy named Roy Hamilton?
artists: Nick Charles and Charles Heinz. I heard them
studio spaces to talk about the past, and the future. It just amazes me.
do the country music, and I just started pestering.
28/Tape Op#118/Mr. Porter/(continued on page 30)
“Jim, would you give me a chance to record?” I was record with Barbara Stephens called “The Life I Live.” We financed the record. We gave 25 percent of
pushing him to give me a chance. That was actually That’s one of the very first records released on Stax ownership of the record to Chips Moman. He had
the opening of an opportunity there. On the demo [previously Satellite Records]. I knew that writing was started a new deal over at a place called American
session I was doing, I brought in Booker T. Jones, my path, so I started working hard to develop that. Sound Studio, so we recorded it over there. There was
who played baritone horn, Andrew Love, who played It’s interesting that it does become a bit a disc jockey working at WLOK. Not the right thing,
tenor sax, and William Bell, who sang background. I of A&R, because you’re thinking but we gave him a part of it; we didn’t know the
changed the words to a song called “The Old Gray about who would be good to work record business at that time. Isaac and I created that
Mare,” and that was what was recorded. That was the with or write for. record, after which I was inside the Stax fold. We
entree to getting into it. Then, right after that, Stax It wasn’t a big artist roster, at that time. They were wrote some for Ruby, and we were able to develop a
was working with Carla and Rufus [Thomas]. considering acts to sign, and I was trying to write good bit of respect in short order after that. It wasn’t easy,
Wasn’t Rufus doing radio? songs, because I was it as far as writing staff was but the door was cracked for us.
He was a disc jockey on WDIA; a signature voice of concerned. I was trying to help bring other energy inside When Steve Cropper came in to replace
WDIA. DJ Nat D. Williams was a history teacher at the space. It ended up being of value, in that respect. I Chips, did you find that a little more
Booker T. Washington High School, a high school that would think in terms of, “Okay, this person can do this conducive with you as well, to
Maurice White, William Bell, [drummer] Al Jackson Jr., song,” or, “This person can do that song,” for the few collaborate with Steve, as he’s more
and I went to. All the radio personnel had signature artists that we did have. But I was also looking for other of a musician/bandleader/producer?
voices. Rufus was a noted and respected disc jockey people who could contribute in a creative way. Marvell Yes. Steve was much, much easier to grow and to work
because of that. lasted a short period with me. I ended up writing some with. When Steve came, he was very anxious to learn
I assume that connection between initial material with Steve Cropper. I was still looking for and to grow. He was playing a different kind of music,
what was on the radio, what people a partnership that could ultimately have me competitive but he had a rhythmic sense that was tremendously
were wanting to hear, and what was to the Holland–Dozier–Holland level. I had high special. It just so happened that he found the right
going to be recorded was kind of the ambitions, right? kind of linkage with Al Jackson Jr., the drummer who
catalyst for you. There were great songwriting teams was playing the sessions there. Al Jackson Jr., if truth
Exactly. It was. Rufus had that straightforwardness. He back then. be known, was really the foundation of the pocket of
was not apprehensive at all about seeking out an Burt Bacharach and Hal David as well as what became Stax. Out of that pocket that Al Jackson
opportunity. I wasn’t privy to any of the conversation Holland–Dozier–Holland were the two that I had Jr. was able to do, Steve was able to find rhythmic
that facilitated it being recorded, but I can only ambitions to emulate. There was such beauty out of essences that gave identity to him, and also to all
imagine, knowing Rufus. He was like, “You’ve got to the Bacharach and David writing and composition, those records that were coming out of there. The
hear me. You’ve got to hear my daughter.” I think Carla and there was such energy out of the combination of those two was tremendous. Steve was

Thomas was the voice that probably had a greater Holland–Dozier–Holland team. I was trying to find a a person who grew tremendously fast. He was easy for
appeal to Jim, at that time. So they recorded “Cause I way to find a niche for myself. So I was looking for me to work with. The first Sam & Dave song was a
Love You” as a duo, and the rest became history. the right partnership. record that was produced by Steve and I was called “A
Did you start to realize that you could be Yeah, I think his name was Isaac! .c Place Nobody Can Find.” I wrote that by myself, that
more of a facilitator and writer? His name was Isaac Hayes. Isaac and I knew each other was before Isaac and I did anything on Sam & Dave.
My ultimate end [goal] was to get in, but I froze during from high school. He went to a rival high school, The B-side of that was “Good Night Baby.” That’s
the session. I was singing flat. I had Booker T. Jones, Manassas High School, and I went to Booker T. before Isaac and I started working on Sam & Dave.
Washington. We would sing on Wednesday nights at When they were tracking songs that you
Andrew Love, and William Bell. I thought I had
enough ammunition to cover for me, but it wasn’t the Palace Theater on Beale Street. At that time there had written, were you in there as

enough. I didn’t feel like that would get me in. I were talent shows, and we’d compete for $3 for first part of the process?
started asking for other opportunities to write songs. prize. He had a group called the Teen Tones, and I had I was very much a part of the process. I was doing
“I can write.” It was not an anxiousness to get an a group called The Marquettes. He was a bass singer production at a time when I didn’t understand what
opportunity to write, but I kept pestering for that at the time. All the doo-wop groups featured bass that was. Isaac and I were producing records, really,

position. Ultimately Estelle, once again, convinced singers, and Isaac had a beautiful tone. I was the lead without a total clarity of what that was. We were also
Jim to give me a chance. I got other people to vocal singer with The Marquettes. I was a huge fan of giving away credits, because we were trying to have

audition for them to take a listen to as well because an artist by the name of Clyde McPhatter. the time to grow. “Soul Finger” from The Bar-Kays was
I was trying to protect myself, as far as my position Yeah, as you should be. a song that was really created by Isaac Hayes and
there, and I wanted to prove that I had value. I didn’t So we knew of each other. I didn’t know the level of his David Porter, in the respect that Isaac came up with

realize it at the time, but I was doing A&R work. talent, but I knew that he was good at singing. We the title “Soul Finger.” I heard the track, went and got
Right. So you were bringing in other were both gigging around Memphis, so we ended up 25 or 30 kids off the street, directed them like a choir,
artists and saying, “I’ll write or co- talking to each other. I talked about what my and brought a couple cases of Cokes in there. When I
write,” or whatever? aspirations were. I wanted to have a successful waved my hand up and down, I asked them to

I was given the opportunity of a trial period. They didn’t songwriting team and I needed a partner. Would he scream, “Soul Finger,” and they’d just scream. We put
have very much money, but they said they were going consider that? I brought him in while I was on staff that in as the energy on that record. It was the kind
to give me a trial period, and I had six months to at Stax. Jim didn’t hire him, or anything like that, but of thing where we were doing production at the

write them some hits. In those six months I was I brought him in for a hot minute there. That was his company for other folks, and didn’t really realize that’s
introducing them to some other talents. I brought entrance into Stax. what we were doing.
Homer Banks there, a classmate of mine from high Were you writing for a certain artist at Did you get into official production
school. Also Maurice White, who founded Earth, Wind that point, or was it just to come up later on as Stax went along?

& Fire, but Maurice left and went to Chicago. I started with songs and see where they landed? No. That was a part of the process from the get-go. It
bringing other people and saying, “These people are No, there was a small roster at that time. Ruby Johnson was an experience where everyone was learning,
good.” I was writing at the same time. Chips Moman was the first artist we wrote for; a song called “I’ll Run everyone was growing, and everyone was doing
left, Steve Cropper came in. The first person that I Your Hurt Away.” But even before that, he and I did whatever their skill level enabled them to do. We were
officially wrote with was Marvell Thomas. We did a a record on Homer Banks called “Little Lady of Stone.” in there working on different records, different songs,
30/Tape Op#118/Mr. Porter/(continued on page 32)
and with different artists. We were just simply trying to they so choose to, because of technology today, they To develop places that really get serious about making
make something work. I started producing records with can actually make records in each of those writing music resonate with people is a good ambition to have.
Barbara Stephens on “The Life I Live.” That goes all the rooms. But I think the motivation for that comes out It’s already been proven that it’s successful, based on
way back. I just didn’t realize that’s what it was. If you of what Stax taught me, as well as the credibility that the catalog value of so many great artists. I think that
notice on some of the earlier records at Stax, you’ll see Memphis earned. It also comes along with what artist development, and that role, is a role that I’m
“Produced by Staff.” Well, in actuality it really wasn’t happened at Hi Records over there with Willie Mitchell, willing to work hard and passionately on to prove the
produced by the staff. There were individuals who were, and with what happened at American Studios with validity and credibility of it.
in fact, producing records. But there was a communal what Chips Moman was doing. Just to know that you Do you feel like Memphis hasn’t been
spirit and energy there. It was a family. No one was could pull all this great energy together, that’s what well-represented in the music
hung up on getting credit or anything. But those this is all about. We have some great, great talent in business?
pennies could have happened. our city. I think it would be true to say that there has been a lag.
You were working with great musicians How do you gather the right people and But it doesn’t mean that it’s a lag because the talent
whose instincts are spot-on. They’re build the right teams? doesn’t exist here. The talents that have existed here,
going to play well and say, “What about The great thing about this is because of the respect that though many of them have chosen to leave and go to
if we do this?” Memphis has as a place of music that has happened in other places. Justin Timberlake was here. Three 6 Mafia
That was the magic of what happened at Stax Records. We the past, and because, knock on wood, I’m still here, I was here. Stevie Wonder’s touring band; these are
were trying to compete with some mammoths, like think that I have a potential audience of people; young Memphis kids. The Bruno Mars band members are
Motown and Atlantic Records. No one had so much folk, who will listen to me, and come as a gathering Memphis kids. The list is long. The talent has always
cockiness or confidence that they felt it was all them. spot to a place where they can show their wares. When been here. Now we’re working to show that talent can
We knew we just had to make it happen. There was a that happens, we show them how proficient we are at stay here; let’s make the message of credibility
communal spirit. We’d all pitch in and try to help make doing a level of quality they’ll be happy with. That resonate as a base out of Memphis. Let’s have a vehicle
each of these records as good as possible. That’s where enables them to have energy to let their own where you can rest assured that we’ll get that message
the family essence came out in the Stax environment. creativeness come out. I think the artist development out. That’s what this is. We’re doing all the due
Then Jim wanted to develop it into a system in which part of that concept lives inside of that world. If you’re diligence. We’ve not even promoted that we’re here yet,
people could get paid for it. So that was why we started good enough to get into the place initially, you can and we’re almost finished with two albums. We’ve
giving proper credits and that kind of thing. grow. That was the thing at Stax. If you were good almost finished with the total construction of the three
People want to be compensated, or enough to get in, you’d have the opportunity to grow. main recording studio rooms. We want to be able to
credited at the least. We saw what happened. I believe the same thing can say, “Not only are we here, but this is us.” We’ll be off
Yes. Folks didn’t understand how that part of the business happen here. We have the facilities here. and running in a very powerful way in 2017, with
How do you vet the people who are

works. It was a communal thing. Jim would take care of marketing, promotion, and the whole nine yards. That’s
folks. You still needed to have the business part of it coming in? the reason why we’ve kept it quiet, up until this point.
taken care of properly, so there was a willingness on his Part of that lives in this concept. In the Consortium MMT, We want to do our grunt work on the front end, so that
part to make sure of that. we shop those talents throughout the industry. We send
.c we don’t have to talk about what we’re going to do, but
You’re starting a new family here, out notices to all the major companies, that they need rather can talk about what we’re doing. I think that the
basically? With Made in Memphis to come to Memphis and tap into some of this talent. community itself will be extremely proud. We certainly
Entertainment. We just had a showcase – sponsored by Universal Music saw that just a few nights ago when these major record
Yes. The whole experience at Stax was a tremendous thing and Concord Music Group – where A&R and publishing companies came, and they were blown away. The talent
for me. It gave me a level of success that I never, ever folks came and listened to a talent pool of several was exceptional. I think that there’s tremendous hope

imagined. It also taught me the beauty and the power different writers, producers, and artists to consider for and excitement for what can be coming out of
of a community working together to make something signings. Because I’m a founder of that organization, Memphis. It’s an exciting time for Memphis. I want to
meaningful happen. Having learned some of those Made in Memphis can’t touch that talent – at least for build a credible, creative community in this city again
principles, I used it with a non-profit that I started a year or two. That would be a conflict. But some of the before I’m out of here. r

[Consortium MMT (Memphis Music Town)]. I also am people who don’t make it to the Consortium program, <mimecorp.com>
using that with this record company [Made in but want to be in the music industry, can simply come

Memphis], and what we’re doing here. This is bigger and seek an audition for this company. Some of them Thanks to Angelia Bibbs-Sanders and Gebre Waddell for
than just building a studio. This is building a credible, have done that. This community is evolving into a making this interview happen.
energized industry again for the creative-minded recording mecca again.

appreciation for music. There’s a process to getting We hear a lot about how there isn’t a
there. This space and this building is going to be studio system these days, and you don’t
geared toward coming up with informational ways to bump into so-and-so in the hall and
pass it on to young folk. The fact that I’ve been a part collaborate. Or the way Stax was

of what happened before – and saw that, even though working, where you’d have a variety of
it’s a lot of work, it can happen – I know, with total people in and out, doing different
confidence, that it can happen again. That’s what this things. Do you feel like this will help

whole operation is. It’s a goal of putting together artist create that?
development; a creative foundation in such a way that I think, without a doubt, that this will play a role in
people grow together, but also create a signature changing that mindset. People live off the credibility of
identity for an area that already has a brand that’s music. It has an emotional connectivity to people

respected all over the world. I think that happens, first that’s inescapable. If that’s the case, if you find that
with creating an environment where people can work people have to have music like they have to have food,
and grow together. That’s why we have three recording why not work on elevating the quality of it into
rooms inside of this facility. We have three additional something that people want to hear? Why should you
recording rooms that writers can write material in. If run away from emotional connectivity through music?
32/Tape Op#118/Mr. Porter/(Fin.)
Jake and I were both obsessed with The Beatles. This is

Gus Seyffert before they released all the CDs in the ‘90s, so nobody
in our class really knew who The Beatles were. Vanilla
Ice and MC Hammer were popular. I guess I didn’t

Always Working totally realize that there were different generations of

music. I’d go to school and they’d be like, “Check out
Vanilla Ice!” And I’d say, “Check out The Beatles!”
They’d say, “What are you talking about?”
Where were you getting information on
The Beatles?
Those were the records that my parents had in the
basement. Oldies 95 FM [KCMO] was my station. From
a young age it was Motown, The Beatles, ‘70s rock,
and music like that.
What do you think was the attraction for
You know, it’s hard to say. Now I think, from the
perspective of where I’m sitting now, I could rattle
off, “Oh, it was a live band, or it’s tape, or the
by Geoff Stanfield recording process was different.” It was just a
connection to the music. It sounded good, and made
me feel good.
At what point did you start dissecting it
from a production and recording
I think it was when Jake and I discovered the early Paul
McCartney records and realized that he did everything
himself. When we got access to the 388 it was mind-
blowing. Jake was really good at playing all the

instruments. I always tried to do that, but couldn’t do
it as well. The school would let us take the machine
.c home over the summer, and that’s when we started
writing and recording our own music.
Did you have anyone to show you the
recording ropes?
We were really lost. Kansas City, at the time, was not a
very hip town. We had something like a [DigiTech

GSP21] Legend effects processor, and were like, “What

is this thing, and why does everything sound like
shit?” We did recordings on the 388 with about three
mics. We’d tape one mic to the ceiling so it was

hanging down, like a little mono overhead, and then

another one on the kick drum with a pillow in it.

When we were a little bit older we got some money

together to go record at a studio in Kansas City that
we knew. We recorded to [Tascam] DA-88s through a

Gus Seyffert may not be a household Can you tell me a little bit about your pro Tascam console. I don’t know how many mics the
name, but his behind the scenes early interest in music? guys put up on the drums, but we did this whole
I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. The government was recording and it was like, “Wow, this is terrible.” I
involvement would make you scratch
doing an experiment on our school system to try to think that’s when it finally snapped for me. There was

your head and wonder why. From integrate the schools, and they had a magnet school something that we were doing before that worked
playing live and/or in session with The program. In middle school I went to a performing arts better for what we were trying to do.
Black Keys, Norah Jones, Roger Waters, magnet called Kansas City Middle School of the That’s advanced thinking for that age.
and Sia – to producing and engineering

Performing Arts, KCMSA. I’m dyslexic, and I always Yeah, exactly. I think that’s been something that’s kind
artists like Beck and Michael Kiwanuka, struggled in school. I did just about everything I could of followed me along.
Gus has contributed significantly to the to get out of doing anything academic. I took classical You started your music career as a bass
sound and spirit of many great records. As guitar, was in an orchestra playing upright bass, played player.

in the jazz band, and took recording studio class – all I started young, working as an acoustic jazz bass player
we sat down in his Echo Park studio in Los
at a pretty young age. KCMSA had a Tascam 388, so in Kansas City. I went down about a ten year “jazz
Angeles and chatted, it was crystal clear that was what I learned on. It was there I met my still guy” road where I didn’t want to play electric bass. I
that he didn’t arrive where he is by sitting best friend, Jake Blanton, who’s a great musician. wanted to play swing. I went to CalArts and studied
around waiting for something to happen. What music were you listening to? with Charlie Haden, moved to New York for a short
34/Tape Op#118/Mr. Seyffert/(continued on page 36)
while trying to do the jazz thing, and then came back either, and was totally bummed. Then, a few days When I was on the road with Norah, I met Pat Carney
out here and decided I wanted to transition into a later, he called me up and said, “Hey, do you want to [Black Keys’ drummer] at a bar and we hit it off. When
different style of music. At that time in jazz everybody go get coffee?” All of a sudden I was doing sessions they wanted to add a bass player and a keyboard
was trying to be the more mathematical player. Play with Joey Waronker. I bought a 388 and started doing player, he called me. I think he thought I was a
faster, play louder, make it more complicated, and recordings here. A great songwriter, Benji Hughes, and keyboard player. I said, “Yeah, I guess I could do that,
write compositions that nobody can play or listen to. I were hanging out, partying, writing weird songs, and but I’m really a bass player.” His management called
I got so burnt out. Even the jazz, I like it simple; the I was recording them on the 388. Joey would come by me and said, “They need bass too.” They had a couple
‘50s and early-’60s. When it gets to the mid-’60s, jazz and play drums for fun. Benji was making a record [A other guys, Nick [Movshon] and Leon [Michels], who
starts to lose me a little bit. I was out here trying to Love Extreme] for New West [Records] with Keefus were playing, but they had their own thing too. They
get a gig on bass. I had studied at CalArts with a Green [Ciancia]; a really cool producer. They were needed somebody to fill in for a tour; they called me
couple different people who were trying to get me to finishing up the record and were like, “Hey, we want up and asked if I could do it. It fit right in the middle
play five and six string basses. One guy was trying to to use the songs you recorded on this record, so you’re of a gap we had with Norah Jones. They said, “Hire a
teach me how to comp and tap on six-string bass. At going to be the producer of these songs.” At that point keyboard player, learn the material, and show up in
the time, I was listening to records like The I was like, “What’s a producer? What do you mean?” Buffalo. Our first show’s on this day.” I showed up and
Headhunters, Tower of Power, Chicago, Motown, and of Your first production credit and you didn’t we literally ran the set at soundcheck. That was it!
course The Beatles. I bought this horrible six-string even realize you were producing? That was right before they blew up. I think it was the
bass, and thought, “Why can’t I sound like Motown?” Exactly. Once I realized, “Oh wow, that’s cool. I can help promo tour for Brothers.
I was literally looking at all these old albums and saw somebody with their songs to try and get good sounds Is your studio strictly analog?
that in every picture of the band the bass player had on them.” Then I went down a huge rabbit hole. Joey No. I love tape, I love that process and I think it saves
a [Fender] P Bass. That’s when I went, “Okay, I’m pulled me out on the road to play guitar with Sia for time, but I’ve done a lot of projects in Pro Tools. I used
going to get an old P Bass.” That was the beginning a couple years. Then we played on Norah Jones’ record, to really fucking loathe Pro Tools, but lately I feel like
of the whole transition to where I am now. I bought a and she asked us to go on tour. I started making it’s gotten easier. A big turning point for me were the
‘72 P Bass, but it still didn’t sound right. Then I heard money and started buying old gear. I was obsessed UA plug-ins. Once there was modeling of vintage gear
about flatwound strings. I put them on and was like, with finding the cheap old shit that people didn’t in a good way I could set up in-the-box the same way
“Oh, shit. Now I’m starting to sound like these bass know about. as I do on my console. I frequently work that way now
players I’ve been listening to all this time.” There was What were some of your first acquisitions? when I know I’m going to have a lot of recalls. But if
nobody there to tell me, “If you want to sound like the The Auditronics Grandson [110] was my first console. I I get a band in here that’s down to do it the old way,
old guys, you put flatwound strings on an old bass and had that forever. I actually just recently got rid of that, it’s so much fun. I just did a record recently that we
play through a tube amp.” What I was being told was, as well as an 8-channel rack that had I used forever. did completely analog.
Then it was weird old tape machines. I got some Where do you see the value of doing a

“You need to learn how to tap and comp so you can
play in a coffee shop.” [laughs] Scullys for nothing. Eleni Mandell sold me a 4-track project all analog? Is it the workflow
At CalArts were you just playing and Scully and I restored it. Mark Linett [Tape Op #47] and focus on performances?
studying bass? bought it off me because he was transferring Brian Yeah, there is a sound thing that happens. I still love
Yes. No recording there. They did have a studio, but it Wilson’s tapes. Then I bought a Tascam MS-16 the 388 and will do weird demos and recordings on
wasn’t something I was interested in for a long time. thinking I’d be super dope with a 1-inch, 16-track. I that machine. I’ll do stupid shit, like record with the
When did you make the jump to playing hated it. Somebody was selling these Scullys I have dbx [noise reduction] on and then turn it off. It has
with bands and making records?
now, so I bought two of them; a 1-inch, 8-track and a this insane, fucked-up compressed sound. There’s
It’s all strange how it went down. I was trying to 1/4-inch, 2-track. That, along with the Auditronics magic in the tape recording that isn’t in Pro Tools. I

transition out of the jazz world. I was looking for a Grandson, was my rig forever. I did a lot of fun don’t think there’s any one way to do it, but for me a
band and was auditioning in L.A. There’s this guy I recordings on that gear. lot of this is just the process. It’s so easy to get stuck
think is still around named Barry Squire who does You’re still playing and touring, right? in Pro Tools thinking, “I can make that better.” With
these “cattle call” type auditions. He’s a sweet dude, Exactly. Still touring, and spending every penny on old tape, I like to make decisions. It will probably need

but I’d get called in for weird Christian rock bands, or microphones. I started to do more sessions and meet some mixing and processing but, for the most part, I
a Disney band. I’d be in a line of 20 people to go play all these great producers. I started working with Glyn can put the faders up and shit sounds good. I got to

the worst fucking music you’ve ever heard in your life. Johns [Tape Op #109], Ethan Johns [#49], Nigel work with Glyn Johns on a record, and something he
I was trying to latch onto something and couldn’t find Godrich, and Brian Burton [Danger Mouse]. I was did blew my mind. When it was time to mix, he
anything. Then Charlie Haden told me about his being a real geek, and becoming friends with some of brought the fucking console up to zero and that was

daughter’s band, The Haden Triplets. They were playing these people. I would pick their brains, or be looking the mix. He was printing it. I thought, “Well, fuck.
old Carter Family and Haden Family tunes. I went to over their shoulder trying to figure it out. One of the That sounds good.”
see them play; they were amazing singers and the biggest influences was Nigel. I was tight with Joey How do you approach each of your
music was great. I went up and said, “You guys don’t [Waronker], and he [Nigel] was working with Joey a projects, in terms of what your role is?

have an acoustic bass player. I studied with your dad. lot. He’d bring me in on a few things. We ended up It’s always different. One of the important things is that
You should hire me.” They were like, “Yeah, I dunno.” doing some recordings at my old house where we were I’ve got to be able to grab onto something in the music
I called up Charlie and said, “Tell your daughters to fucking around, trying to write music, and using the that I feel like I can improve upon. It’s easy enough to

hire me.” They called me back and said, “Dad says we bare minimum of equipment I had, like the Auditronics record somebody that is great. That seems easier than
should try you out.” That’s the first thing that got me console, a Digi 002, a RØDE MK1 mic, and a few other taking on a challenge of somebody who comes in who’s
into the beginning of what was the Silver Lake scene. microphones. He’d place them in a certain way and a little bit lost. It comes down to the songs, the
I was working, and people were asking me to play on we’d make these incredible sounding recordings. It’s performance, and what they’re doing. I have such a

their recordings. I guess through all that I got an like, “I won’t fucking touch that!” It was inspiring to knee-jerk reaction – taste-wise – to everything. I’ve
audition to play with Beck. He ended up going with see somebody like that come in, use minimal gear, and learned to try and trust that. It’s not to say that I’m
another guy and not hiring me, but somehow make it sound great. always right, but when someone comes in and there’s
[drummer] Joey Waronker heard about me, and he hit How did you end up playing with The something that hits me like, “I don’t know if I can
me up to do an audition. I went in, didn’t get that Black Keys? record this song,” I’ll get nervous about it and talk to
36/Tape Op#118/Mr. Seyffert/(continued on page 38)
Well, I spoke about Nigel and meeting him. I’ve learned a
lot from watching him, but a couple of the guys I
worked with a lot were Darrell Thorp and Hugo
Nicolson. They worked with Nigel a lot too, and they’re
both great engineers. I would have them mix projects
for me, or come over and work with me in my studio. I
was self-taught with tape – I was doing everything the
long way. I’ve always edited tape, but I didn’t know
how people did it. I would put way too much tape over
the edit. They would watch me and be like, “Most
people do it more like this.” When doing reverse tape
effects, I would take the whole reel off the tape and
somehow try to put it on backwards and find the same
place. Hugo was like, “You can just flip them over.”
Did they influence your aesthetic in the
way you hear and how music filters
through you?
No, I don’t think so. I think they were able to be like, “We
see what you’re doing, and here’s a way to do it better.”
I feel like I’ve had a very strange aesthetic that
everybody’s been helping me develop. They taught me
things, like if you’re using a Neve, 700 Hz is good place
to take frequencies out.
Can you tell me the story of this Neve in
front of us? They all have a story…
As I said, I had a little Auditronics Grandson, which I
loved. At one point I acquired – on permanent loan –
a mid-’60s, 18-channel Neumann [console] that was
supposedly one of Chess Records’ consoles from their

B-room. I used those together for a long time. At
some point the owner needed that back. I was using
the Neumann as front-end, and monitoring on the
“Giving people the space to be creative and .c Auditronics, and that was working well. My buddy,
find the right path, without being involved, Jonathan Wilson [Tape Op #96], had just bought a big
Cadac console. I knew that Nigel liked Cadacs, and I
is something I’ve been trying to work on a think Radiohead has one. I asked Jonathan, “What’s
little bit more.”
up with these Cadacs? Do you know where another
one is?” He said, “No, but if you want to get into the

big leagues, I have a Neve I just bought.” This board

was at Jackson Browne’s [Tape Op #105] studio in
the artist. It’s like psychotherapy. I have to be able to Santa Monica [Groove Masters]. Jonathan kept the
“What pedal are you playing right now? I don’t really like
Flying Faders [automation] and sold me the unloaded

gain this person’s trust and talk to them in a way that that one. Do you want to try this thing?” Once we get
isn’t going to turn them off or get them defensive. I console. I wouldn’t say it was cheap, but I was able
the sounds right, I might say, “This section’s weird, and

have to find out what it is about the song that’s good, to do it. It didn’t have panning and none of the mute
the way you’re singing this is a little too much. Let’s
as well as be able to convey to them what’s good about hone this in.” I’m pretty heavy-handed. or solo switches totally worked. We recapped the
it and be positive. Then it comes down to every How do you think your process has whole thing. It was a 48-channel console, but that
instrument and every performance. If I’m bringing a changed over time? wasn’t working out right, so we pulled out the logic

system. Now it’s an inline console, but you can only

band in here, I’m watching the drummer. I want to see I do think that sometimes I can be a little bit overbearing.
how he hits the kick drum. Does he bury the pedal, or use 24 at a time. It’s got 11 sends, and we fixed it so
When I have great musicians in here, it’s about letting
does he hit off of it? I’m going to put a different drum that I’ve got pre and post fader and off. Now the off
them come upon things on their own in the same way

up for different things. I don’t like people to bring their position is actually a send as well – it comes straight
that I would. Giving people the space to be creative
drums in here. I have my drums, and most drummers will out of the mic amp. If I want to mix straight to tape,
and find the right path, without being involved, is
come in here and be totally happy with what I have. I can do that. Everything comes to the console. My
something I’ve been trying to work on a little bit more.
Sometimes you get guys who are a little less experienced Pro Tools rig and my 16-track are all normaled to it,
So much of the time I already know what I want, so to

who say, “No, I need to bring my drums.” I say, “You can so I can flip back and forth between the two. I’ve got
save time I’ll say, “Hey, can you do this?” before they’re
bring them. Just set them outside for a minute, come in direct outs on all the channels. We put in new solos
ready. I’m still learning a lot about recording and
here, and go through and tap on these drums.” I know and mutes. It’s been a huge process, and a huge pain
engineering and [that aspect of it has] changed a lot.

how everything in here works, and I know how to get in the ass, but it’s been great. I never would have
I guess that’d be the big one; trying to let people find
the sounds that I want. I’ll usually set the band up and been able to afford a Neve, especially loaded. I have
their own thing, unless they’re going in the completely
get them playing. They can start with their own gear, fucking wrong direction. a good friend of mine who’s been loaning me his Neve
and then I’ll walk around as they’re getting sounds in Who are some other producers or channels that he’s not using, so I have four old 1073
[the live room]. “That guitar sounds a little harsh. Why engineers who have inspired you Neve modules.
don’t you try this one?” I’ll go and tweak on their amp. along the way? And the rest are all BAE 1084 modules?
38/Tape Op#118/Mr. Seyffert/(continued on page 40)
Yup. It’s great. The old Neve consoles are incredible, but I’m happy with the BAEs because
they’re a little more consistent. I’m filling it up as I can. I’ve got about ten so far. I’ve
got four on loan. Every time I have a little extra money, I get a couple more 1084s.
All the music you sent me before this interview has a very distinct,
classic vibe. The intro riff in the Beck tune [“Heaven’s Ladder”]
reminds me of Paul McCartney’s “Too Many People,” and the
synth sounds are very Wings-y. Do you feel like people are
coming to you looking for that specific thing?
Yeah, exactly. The people that come here I think mostly know what they’re getting into. I’d
say it has very little to do with the desk. It’s a specific thing that I’m doing. I try to be
versatile with everything, but there is a sound that I gravitate towards that usually works
for people. Most everybody comes out of here happy.
Tell me about the Michael Kiwanuka sessions.
When I was on tour with The Black Keys somebody had sent Dan [Auerbach] Michael’s EP
before his first record came out. We were backstage in the UK, and he said, “Gus, check
this out.” Dan plays me this and I’m like, “Wow, that’s fucking incredible. Is this some
old Stax recording, or Motown, or something?” He said, “No, it’s this new guy.” We were
both thinking, “Wow, it’s amazing. I can’t believe it.” So Dan called his management and
said, “Who is this Michael Kiwanuka? I want to meet him.” They reached out, found out
who his management was, and his management said, “We’re looking to do another song
for the record. Would you want to produce something?” He booked a session to record a
song for the record, which I think ended up being a B-side in the UK, but one of the
songs on the American release of [Home Again]. Michael has a really great bass player,
so I was bummed. I was like, “You’ve got to include me somehow!” He said, “I don’t
really know what you do.” I said, “Let me engineer.” So we went into Konk Studios; the
Kinks’ studio. Joey Waronker happened to be in town, and I facilitated getting him
involved in it. We recorded a track in a day, and I mixed it on their Neve the next day.
That’s how I met Michael.
And you’ve worked together since…

Later on he reached out to me to do a tour playing as a duo opening for Alabama Shakes.
It didn’t pay great, but I wanted to get to know this dude! I thought, “I’ll go on tour
with him and try to get him back into my recording studio.” We had a great time, but I
was constantly like, “You’ve got to come check out my rig.” I kept trying to play him
projects, but he wasn’t really impressed. One day he called me up, because he needed to
do some [music] for the Mohammed Ali documentary [Muhammad Ali: The Greatest]. He
was living in Austin and asked, “Can you come out to Austin and record me? It’s just
acoustic guitar and vocals.” I said, “Why don’t you come out to L.A.?” He didn’t want
to, but I convinced him. We were only supposed to record one song, but I think we did

[probably] four. It was all tracked to my Scully. We had such a great time, and it was
some of the best music I’ve ever been involved in.
He’s fantastic.
He’s so fucking good! It was supposed to be just acoustic, but I produced the shit out of

it – I felt like this was my opportunity. We got done with those four songs and he said,
“I don’t want to leave!” We kept going; I think we recorded fifteen songs! We were so

stoked on it, but we turned it in and the label said it sounded too “American.” His record
was finally released, but I think that they shelved at least two or three different [versions
of the] record before it came out. Danger Mouse finally got involved and did some of the

songs. It’s a bit of a bummer when you don’t make the cut, but to this day I still play
people what we did.
Do you think that the gear influences your sounds, or are you
going for something and that’s why you have the gear?

It’s funny. It’s something that I struggle with a little bit, because I go back and forth on
that. What is it to be a great producer? All the great producers have such a unique
sound. You could spot them from a mile away with almost any of their recordings. I

don’t know that I am intentionally trying to do that. Sometimes I feel like I should be
a little more broad. I don’t want all my work to sound the same, or have artists come
record with me and be like, “I really like this record you did. Can you make me sound
exactly like that record?” I don’t want it to be identical. I think I have always gone for

a certain aesthetic and sound, without trying. But I don’t know that it’s the gear. I think
the gear has helped and changed over the years, but even back when I was recording
on a 388, the idea didn’t sound nearly as good as what I’m doing now. The vibe of it
has always been the same, with tight drum sounds, and the snare and kick up too loud.
Things like that.
40/Tape Op#118/Mr. Seyffert/
Is there a piece of gear that’s absolutely indispensable to you?
There are a couple of things that I feel attached to. I love my Scully tape machines,
especially the 2-track. It does a thing when you hit it hard. Those machines don’t have
a ton of headroom, but they add a thick layer of aesthetic to whatever you give to them.
Because I’ve always mixed really dark, and with a lot of low-end, that machine would fix
that for me. I had a tech named John Hinson who made me a copy of the EMI RS124
[compressor]. My buddy Hugo [Nicolson] started this company, Lisson Grove, that copied
it. I have one of those that has been on loan. I like those for certain things. When you
crush them on a room mic on drums, you start to get that Beatles-y thing going on.
I wanted to ask you about your own band, Willoughby.
I’ve been working on a second record for such a long time; I keep getting distracted by other
projects and putting it off. But I love that project and I have a group of guys I love
working with. The first Willoughby record [I Know What You’re Up To] I did was such a
long time ago. I did that on the 388. A lot of it was just me. Joey Waronker coproduced
some of that record and played on it. I love doing that project because I do go a little
bit wild when I’m hanging out with my friends. I always record to tape when I’m recording
myself, and I get into some weird stuff. Some Joe Meek-inspired ideas, like speeding the
tape up and recording vocals, or cutting tape up and turning it upside down.
It sounds like you’re doing things you might not go for on someone
else’s record.
Well, it’s not to say that I wouldn’t do that; but I feel freer, and more willing to do it,
without any other backup or any other plan, when I’m doing my own music. It depends
on who’s game. I just did a project where the band was completely up for whatever. They
loved watching. It’d be like, “I’m going to edit all these takes together, turn something
upside down at the end, and do this big reverb smash.” They’re all huddled around me,
watching me cut tape, and completely freaked out.
Are there some ideas that you feel like you’d like to pass along to
people who are budding producers or engineers?
A big part of recording that gets lost in all these conversations is how you play the

instrument. Getting the sound from the string to the bass or guitar, then into the
amplifier, and making sure that whatever it is you’re doing speaks. If you’re playing the
drums, how are you playing the drums? Some drums speak really well when you hit them
hard. Some speak really well when you hit them lightly. That’s the thing I’m often
struggling with with other musicians; trying to get them to play these instruments. I’ve
figured out a way to make them speak for me, and I am trying to get other people to be
able to use them in the same way. I think that’s such a huge part of it that often gets
overlooked. Like tuning the drums. I’ll see so many engineers where there’s a drum set
there and the drummer comes in, sits down, and doesn’t think about it. The engineer’s in

there trying to fight it and find a way to make the drums sound good. If I’m on a session
like that, I’m always biting my tongue, like, “Can we work on the drums a little bit? Let’s
get them so they sound good in the room before you start throwing mics up.” I think
that’s a big part. Also, I’m into having limitations.

What do you see as the virtues of limitations?


I run into more problems with the more options I give myself. That’s another reason I
love recording – at least the basics – to tape. Sometimes I’ll record to Pro Tools and
have 10 or 20 playlists of a track, and I’ll be editing and scooting things around for
hours and hours. Usually by the time I’m done I’m thinking, “Why isn’t this working?”

It doesn’t feel right.

What’s your next move?
In the last couple of years, I’ve made a conscious decision to try to be off the road and
focus more on producing. It was always something I did in my spare time, along with

writing and recording. I’d been with The Black Keys for four years, and then Beck wanted
me to go on the road. It was a short run. I had just bought this house and was building
it out. I had saved up for a long time to get all the gear. So that’s the big thing. We did

all the windows with 1/2-inch glass so that I don’t bother the neighbors. We built out
these two rooms fully, and installed studio air conditioning. I’ve been lucky with my
touring and recording career as a session musician to get to this point. But now it’s this
leap of faith to try to be a producer, songwriter, and artist full-time. It’s hard to keep

things steady, but it feels like I’m always working. I’m sure I’ll probably end up doing
more touring, at some point, but for the moment I’m enjoying this. I’m hoping to get to
the point where I can do it a little more comfortably, and pick my projects so there’s more
space in between them. r
Mr. Seyffert/(Fin.)/Tape Op#118/41
founded by J. Willard Marriott. They kept promoting

Fred Foster
Monuments of Sound
me until finally they brought me in to run the
commissary. The commissary covered one city block,
curb to curb. Ground floor was the butcher shop,
where they brought all their meat from out in the
stockyards. Next one up was a kitchen. Next floor up
was a bakery. Top floor was personnel. When they told
interviewed by Larry Crane me they wanted me to take over, I said, “Wait a
and Kyle Lehning, minute. I don’t think I’m qualified to do that.” By this
with Bergen White time, they had 34 restaurants and catered all the
airlines out of Washington. You could go into any one
An expanded of the Hot Shoppes and get a barbecued hamburger
version of Fred’s or a cheeseburger; all the meals were done in the
interview, with commissary, put in insulated cabinets, and shipped
more questions out. Now I had to judge how much each one of the
and stories than restaurants would be using. And the inventory, man...
the print edition. KH: What year was this?
1951. Anyway, they said, “Yes, you can handle it.” It
was stressful. After a while I told the personnel
director, “I need to get out of here for a few days.”
He said, “Why don’t you relieve a couple of curb
managers? They’re going on vacation.” So the second
day I’m out at the 14th Street Hot Shoppe on the
other side of Washington and I see this Cadillac in the
lot at about five in the afternoon. He screeched to a
halt, started blinking his lights, and blowing his horn.
I go over and tell him I’ll have someone with him in
just a minute. He said, “We’re in a real hurry. Just
bring us two barbecues and two chocolate shakes.”

All the guys were busy, so I did and he tipped me a
dollar. The girl who was with him was movie star
beautiful. The next afternoon he’s in the lot again
with a different girl, just as gorgeous. This went on
.c for ten days. Different girls. So he said to me one day,
“When’s your day off? Why don’t you come down to
my club?” So I went on my night off. He was a great
emcee; the greatest I ever saw. Tennessee Ernie Ford
picked up a lot from him.

KH: What was his name?

Billy Strickland. He played steel guitar, electric guitar,
and acoustic guitar really well. He had a persona that

was magnetic. So I’m down in the club one time and

there were about 1,400 people in there. He said,

Mention Fred Foster in Nashville and the room LC: You started really young, as a “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re so fortunate tonight to
goes silent with respect. While many of his songwriter, writing lyrics for a have a dear friend of mine in the house. He’s one of
contemporaries worked for major record labels, Fred production company? the great songwriters of all time. I’ll venture to say he
ran his Monument Records independently, self- It was in Washington. I left the farm in North Carolina said that if you name your three favorite songs, at

financing sessions and producing records on his own because my dad had died. I kept the farm going for least one this man will have written. Why don’t we
terms. In 1964 he opened Fred Foster Sound Studios in two years by myself; it nearly killed me. I said, “I give a big Washington famous welcome to Mr. Fred
Sam Phillip’s former Nashville studio outpost, and gotta get out of here.” I had a sister in Washington Rose?” I knew of Fred Rose. He’d written one of my
later opened Monument Recording Studio at the end

who worked for the government, so I called her and favorite pop tunes, “Deed I Do.” I was spun when the
of Music Row (now Zac Brown’s Southern Ground). spotlight hit me in the face. He said, “Now, ladies and
said, “Polly, I need to get out of here.” Her husband
Monument Records saw success with a number of its gentlemen, Fred and I are such good friends. I don’t
was a really great guy, and he said, “If I were you, I
artists, such as Dolly Parton, Ray Stevens, Boots
would go to someplace where you have a lot of think it would be unduly opposing upon him to ask

Randolph, and Kris Kristofferson, but it’s Fred’s

freedom. There’s a chain of restaurants here called the him to write a song before your very eyes.” Oh, the
production of Roy Orbison’s timeless hits that still
Hot Shoppes. Curb service, drive-in, and they have place went berserk. I thought I was dreaming or
inspire listeners across the globe. Fred is still at
good restaurants. You can make money in tips.” So I something! Can you imagine? He said, “Take Mr. Rose
producing, having worked on records by Ray Price

and Willie Nelson in the last decade, and was inducted went to apply and got the job; $12 a week, plus tips, something to write on.” Someone ran over with a
into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016. in 1949. I got a tip one time for $100, because it was legal pad. People started hitting the tabletops like
Engineer/producer Kyle Lehning [Tape Op #108], and a congressman who wanted to park in a hidden place rain and were lining up for an autograph. I tried to
noted arranger/musician Bergen White, have worked so he could visit with his “sweetheart.” I put him get out, but I was in a corner booth. I’d written a
with Fred over the years, and we met at Fred’s home behind the equipment shed and got them cokes. Hot little bit of stuff in high school, so I wrote a poem. I
for an afternoon chat. Shoppes kept promoting me. The company was sent it up to him. He looked at it and said, “Hmm,
42/Tape Op#118/Mr. Foster/(continued on page 44)
you all are going to love this.” He turned around to his Jimmy was as nervous as a cat in a dog show the whole
band, called the chord changes, and kicked it off. It two days, and would just break down and lose his place.
didn’t sound bad! The place went crazy. Before I could He was just a basket case. I went across the street,
get out, he had sung it about ten times. He made $1,300 bought a pint of whiskey, brought it back and poured a
in tips singing my song. He said, “We wrote a pretty water glass about half full, and handed it to him. I said,
good song. We need to do more of it!” Long story short, “Drink this.” We got two songs that afternoon. “Bummin’
we started doing that. Around” and “Picking Sweethearts.” Bill said, “Send me
KH: You started writing songs with Billy the stuff as you get it.” So I fired those two songs off
Strickland? and they said, “Great! We’ll release these.” That was in
Yeah. One night this guy [Ben Adelman] comes in, goes up August of ‘53. Anyway, I keep looking at Billboard to see
to Billy – because he’d just sung one of our songs – and if he’s making the charts. Well, in August it wasn’t there,
he said, “Who wrote that song?” Billy said, “My friend, September it wasn’t there, October, November, so we
Fred Foster, and I.” He said, “I want to publish some of gave up on it. In January I picked up a Billboard and it
these songs.” So we agreed he could; we had no said, “Houston, Texas, “Bummin’ Around,” Jimmy Dean,
publishing. Then one day he announced that he would number nine.” I thought, that’s gotta be a misprint! I
like to write with me. He said, “I’m an accomplished didn’t say anything to anybody. Next week I picked up a
musician. I was first violinist in the Navy band. We’ll get Billboard. “Number four.” I called him and said, “Jimmy,
Billy a record deal, but I really want to write with you. you’re making some noise in Texas.” He said, “Don’t play
I’ve got a connection in New York who represents me up with me man, you know I’m never going to make it.”
there, and we’ll get big records.” Billy said, “Great.” I met Then it started hitting nationally. Bill McCall decided to
with him in his office. He pulls out a song and said, cover his own record with Texas Tyler. He didn’t know if
“You’ll love this. Now this is a country song.” He played Jimmy was going to be strong enough to carry it all the
it for me, and I said, “Really? What’s the exact title?” He way, so he covered him. In the meantime, there were
said, “Grandma’s Oak Churn.” I said, “Ben, nobody cares nine different records of “Picking Sweethearts,” which
about Grandma’s oak churn. They don’t even know what was on the flip-side of “Bummin’ Around.” One was by a
it is anymore. That’s not a country song, but the melody’s new artist on Capitol, Hawkshaw Hawkins. The McGuire
nice.” He said, “Write something to it then.” So I wrote Sisters covered it. I buy one, I look, and my name’s not
“Picking Sweethearts.” Just a few days later I wandered on it. He [Ben Adelman] took my name off it and put his
into the Covered Wagon bar on Northwest Washington, wife’s name on. I said, “You were supposed to give me a

and there’s this band, Jimmy Dean and the Texas contract. You told me it was in the works.” He said,
Wildcats. I thought, “He has a lot of mystique about “Well, you’ve learned a valuable lesson here. You’re just
him.” He was great, but he’d lose ends of phrases at really green, buddy. After this goes by, and you get over
times. He’d lose a whole word or two because he didn’t
.c it, we can really do some good things.” I said, “We
pronounce them properly, or at all. But people loved might, but it won’t be together! You’ll need me someday,
him. I said, “You know, you and I need to get together I have a feeling, and I’ll give you the answer now. No.
and do a little work.” We cut a demo. We did a cover of Go f… yourself.” Sure enough, when Monument Records
some big song, we did “Picking Sweethearts,” something got rocking, I get a call. He’s got all these songs. “I’m
that he had written, and one other. We sent the four going to have half of them, half the publishing, and half

songs to the smallest label I could find in the Billboard the writer’s.” I said, “Nope!” Jimmy Dean never got paid
directory, 4 Star Records in Pasadena, California. It’s a penny. By this time I was working for Mercury. D
good to make note of the fact that Ben Adelman, our Kilpatrick was running it here.
publisher, was one of the all-time great crooks. Adelman KH: Were you doing sales or promotion at

had Eagle Music. The guy that I sent our demo to was Mercury?
Bill McCall, one of the original crooks. They called Promotion. See, there were no promotion men anywhere.

immediately and said, “We love it. We cannot come to Nobody knew what one was. All the labels knew was,
Washington to record him, and we cannot bring him out “We’ve got to get more airplay. We’re getting lost with all
here. You’ll have to produce it. But on one condition; we these records that are coming out.” So I was the second

have to publish half the songs you do. If that’s man hired as a promotion man. The other one was
agreeable, we’ll send you some songs and you can do a Tommy Schlesinger in Detroit. He’d been hired one week
session of four songs. Two will be ours, and two will be before me – we were novices together. I decided to
yours.” They sent me a whole pack of songs. I couldn’t establish personal relationships with the DJs and music

even get through them. I called Bill McCall and said, “I directors. I went to every guy, called them up, and said,
can’t do any of these. I don’t know why you sent these. “I’ll work with you,” because I was covering the territory;
They’re terrible.” He blew his top. He said, “Who do you Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and the District of

think you are?” I said, “I’m just a fan. None of these Columbia. I told Mercury, “If I find something out in the
songs have any merit.” So they sent me another batch. hinterlands that’s making noise, I’ll tip you off.” They
I picked two. One was a song called “Bummin’ Around” thought that was good. After two years of the
and another was called “Release Me.” We had the first Washington/Baltimore area, Mercury wanted me to come

record of “Release Me.” The engineer had never done a to Nashville as a country music promotion director. The
session and the musicians had never played on a session, first week I get this call, “Can you go on tour Monday of
because we were using Jimmy’s band. I hadn’t ever done the whole South, find out why we’re not selling any
anything like this! We spent two days and got nothing. country records, and give us a full report?” I was gone
Right across the street from the studio was a liquor store. eight weeks. I’d just married and I left my bride back
44/Tape Op#118/Mr. Foster/(continued on page 46)
l .c

Please Support Our Advertisers/Tape Op#118/45

home. I covered all the states: Georgia, South Carolina, played it and the phones lit up like a Christmas tree. He
North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, and had 30 lines at the station and they were all blinking. He
Oklahoma. I got into Texas, and there was a record shop said, “Answer one!” “What is that record you’re playing?
called The Record Corral. They had a card system that Man, that’s fantastic. Can you play it again? We didn’t get
tracked their inventory. They would list on their cards how the first part.” Stuff like that. The record was “A Rose and
many records they ordered, how many they received, and a Baby Ruth” by George Hamilton IV. I thought to myself,
how they were selling. They didn’t want to keep more than “This is not even a good record! What in hell is going on
a five-day supply on hand, but they wanted to keep at here?” Buddy couldn’t have put this many people up to
least that much. I’m looking at all of this, and at the call in. It was a legitimate hit. It was on Colonial Records
“number one” record at that time. It was just starting out, from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I called Chapel Hill for
had peaked, and it was over the hill. It had sold 52 copies. the number of Colonial Records. None listed. I said, “Do
KH: At The Record Corral? you have a Colonial anything?” They had Colonial Press. I
Yeah, and three in stock, with none on order. But “Blue called Colonial Press and said, “I’m trying to find the
Suede Shoes” by Carl Perkins had sold 1,300 in the first manager or owner of Colonial Records. Do you happen to
week. They had 5,000 on order. That’s all I needed to hear know who that is?” He said, “That would be me. My name’s
right there. We were doing records with no drums. Banjo Orville Campbell.” We worked out this unbelievable deal.
and fiddle. To say “traditional” wouldn’t even be accurate. It still beats everything. I said, “What do you want?” He
It was beyond that – backwards. So I wrote my report, said, “I want $2,500 and a 5 percent royalty.” Okay! I
fired it off, and left a copy on D Kilpatrick’s desk. Well, I’d called Sam Clark and said, “I got us a hit! The owner of
taken a couple of days of rest and sleep, and I went back the label and I will be flying into New York.” He said, “Who
to the office. Here’s D Kilpatrick, white around the eyes, is he?” I said, “He’s the guy who discovered Andy Griffith,
and he’s so mad. He said, “You’re a traitor. You’ve gone for one.”
down in there hanging with the Indians, the n——rs, and KH: Oh, really? That was Colonial Records?
the Mexicans.” It blew me away. I said, “Well, you can We flew to New York. [National Sales Manager] Larry Newton
criticize my work, but you’ve gone a little over the line said, “I’m not signing off on this deal until we hear the
right there. You and I aren’t going to be able to work record.” I said, “You can’t hear it. We don’t have a copy.
together. If you say one more word, we’re going to fight.” That’s how hot it is!” We brought the master tape and they
I just walked out, went back, and told my wife we’re going had to go and make acetates. Sam went ahead and signed
to be going back to Washington. I called a friend of mine a deal, and gave Orville his check. Larry heard the record.

at Mercury in New York and said, “I need a job.” He said, When he got mad, he always said everything twice. “You’re
“Well, Bob Thiele at Coral Records is looking for someone. a sick man, Foster. You’re a sick man. It’s the worst record
And there’s a new company called ABC-Paramount. Sam I’ve ever heard. The worst record I’ve ever heard. The bass
Clark is the President. You may know him.” I applied to
.c is out of tune! The bass is out of tune!” I said, “Yes, it is,
both of them, and they both offered me a job. But with and the kids out there in radioland really couldn’t care
Coral I would have had to move to New York. I said, “No, less.” He said, “You’ve just stiffed us.” I said, “I tell you
I’m not ready for that.” Sam said he wanted me to cover what. If this does not make the Top-10 in Billboard and
the East Coast promotion and sales. Cashbox, fire me. If it does, I want a raise.” He said,
LC: Were you finding any artists and doing “You’ve got a deal. You’ve got a deal.” Sam said, “Well, I

production around then? think you’d be entitled to a raise anyway, if it hits.” He

We’re about to jump into it. Anyway, Sam hires me. They had was a man of honor. Then I got my raise. Sam said, “Find
never had a hit. He said, “Your job is to get us a hit. us some more hits!” I said, “Well, okay Sam, but you know
Obviously nobody here knows what a hit looks like.” They I can’t wave a magic wand.” There was a record I heard

had artists like Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé. You about called “Cradle of Love” by Johnny Preston. I started
know, legit pop stars. But this is rock ‘n’ roll time, man! Or tracking it down. I flew to El Paso and had worked a deal

teenybopper, or whatever you wanted to call it. out. I called Sam, “How far does the East Coast go West?”
KH: What year would this have been? “Oh, I’d say... where are you now?” “I’m in El Paso.”
1954? “That’s about right.” So I said, “I’ve got this master for

KH: So this is before Elvis hit. you. It’s going to be a monster.” He said, “Okay.” I didn’t
Yeah. go back to New York with this guy; he flew to New York
LC: Just about to. on his own to meet with Sam. Larry was there, of course.
Fats Domino had hit. Little Richard had hit. Buddy Deane in Larry said, “What’s on the B-side?” Who gives a flip, right?

Baltimore was the number one DJ on TV; The Buddy Deane He said, “Well, we don’t have a B-side right now, so we
Show on an ABC outlet. I kept saying, “Buddy, you’ve got thought we’d just do a little instrumental of some kind.”
to find me a hit, man. I’m used to walking in with five or I said, “No, no, no. We’ve got to have a B-side.” Larry was

six hits in my back pocket. Now I’ve got nothing.” So he turning it down. It sold about two million. Anyway. I get
called me one Saturday morning at five o’clock. “You want a call one night from Sam Clark. It was like nine o’clock.
a hit? You better get your butt over here. I’ve got one on He said, “You know that record you sent us that we should
a little label, I’m sure you could pick it up.” I jumped in pick up?” I said, “Lloyd Price?” He said, “Yeah. We were

the car and drove over. Walked in. He put the record on. trying to pick it up, but Larry just ruined the whole deal.
KH: He was at a radio station? You need to go find those people and re-open the
He was on radio and TV, but this was radio. He had the negotiations.” Lloyd had made this little record called
afternoon on Monday through Friday on TV. Anyway, he “Just Because.” I got that one re-opened and got it

46/Tape Op#118/Mr. Foster/

successfully done. But I said, “You’ve got to keep Larry by CBS, and he was not taking his band with him, which
Newton completely away, because if Lloyd’s manager was a terrible mistake. Billy was going blind, which I
sees him, he’s liable to shoot him. That’s how mad he knew. So I called him and said, “Would you like to be the
is.” So they picked up Lloyd. His second record was first Monument artist? I’ve got a tune here you might
“Stagger Lee.” As Buddy used to say on his show, “The need to come over to listen to.” He came over, listened
hits just kept on coming.” Then Lloyd went over to to it, and said, “I love it.” We came to Nashville to do
Monument Records afterwards. the record. Chet said to me – oh, he knew how to hurt
LC: You started Monument Records around you – he said, “I need to talk to you a minute.” I go over
that time, right? You and Buddy, and he said, “What do you want me to play?” I said,
initially? “Excuse me? You’re asking me what to play on your
Yeah. I had $900 that I could spare. That was enough. Over guitar? Are you crazy? I don’t play guitar.” He said, “No,
lunch one day I said, “Buddy, I think I can cut a hit I know how to play the guitar. What do you want me to
record.” He said, “You’re out of your mind.” I said, “Let’s do? What kind of a deal?” I said, “Okay, I want it to be
start with who I am. I’m just a weird guy, maybe, but like a Bo Diddley influence, but not exactly.” He turned
there are a lot of weird guys out there. At least a million! two knobs and started playing. I said, “That’s it.” I didn’t
If I really love something, a million other people love it know he had quit playing outside sessions at that time
just like I do. I’ll just get it to where I love it, and we’ll – his secretary finally told me. We got back to
have a hit record.” He said, “That makes too much sense Washington after we’d done this, and I had $80 left of
to be real.” I said, “I’m asking you to buy into the my initial $1,200. Now what are you going to do with
company for $300.” “Well, what will I get for my $300?” $80? You can’t distribute anything. So I called Walt
I said, “30 percent.” So he wrote me a check. That was Maguire at London Records and said, “I cut a record in
in March of 1958. I had gone from ABC-Paramount; I Nashville.” He was there in about two hours. He said,
couldn’t put up with Larry Newton any longer. He was “Oh, I think it’s a smash. We can put it out ourselves.”
sabotaging me. I’d walk into a distributorship and there I said, “Nope, you can’t do that. It’s on Monument.” He
would be a whole new album release and I had no idea said, “What is that?” I said, “That’s my label.” He goes
of anything about it. I just couldn’t do that any longer. back to New York. Leon Hartstone was his immediate
I started Monument Records and the Combine Music superior. Lee is the guy who started The Wherehouse, the
Group [publishing]. I had met Chet Atkins and gotten music stores on the west coast, and he told him, “No.”
along pretty well with him, so I called him and said, “I Well, Sir Edward Lewis [founder of Decca/London] was a

want to come to Nashville and make a record in your genius. He wasn’t about to turn a bunch of Americans
studio. Is that possible?” “Yeah. You can do that. We loose to run free. He put an Englishman in house to be
rent it out to folks. You want me to hire the musicians the executive in charge; D. H. Taller-Bond. Walt took a
for you? What do you want?” I gave him the chance and went over Leon Hartstone’s head with Mr.
instrumentation. I said, “Would you play electric on it?” Taller-Bond. He said, “You’ve got a lot of nerve, young
He said, “Yeah, I guess I could.” I told him I’d get back man. I think you might have done the right thing in this
to him when I knew I was coming. “I don’t have a song case, but I have no authority to grant you your wish.”
yet.” He laughed. The apartment above me was a guy At that point it had to come from the chairman, which
named John, his wife, and their little girl. He had a little was Sir Edward Lewis. Walt went home, called him, and

tape recorder, and he would go out in the field. told him the whole story. Sir Edward said, “You think it’s
Bluegrass people, particularly, in folk music would go out a hit?” Walt said, “No, I know it’s a hit.” He said, “Give
and have a hootenanny. He’d be out a hundred yards the man his label.” When I left them, they had 40-some
away holding his little mic in hand. You couldn’t labels they were distributing. The song spawned a new

understand anything. He was always playing this stuff dance called “the shag.” Buddy called one day and said,
for me, hoping I could help him do something with it. “You’ve got to come up with another shag record. That’s

One day my wife said, “You’ve got to go upstairs and what the kids are dancing to.” Dick Flood, who had also
listen to John’s latest project.” I went up and he started been on the [CBS Morning] Jimmy Dean Show, and I had
playing and oh, god; it was horrible. All of a sudden this written [and recorded] “The Three Bells,” which The

voice comes on and sounds good. I can actually Browns covered. We both had hits. I felt I needed to
understand the words. It’s a catchy tune. I said, “Who is write this song with Dick, so we wrote “The Shag (Is
this?” He said, “Paul Clayton Worthington. But he goes Totally Cool).” He said, “I’d like to do this.” I said, “Use
by the name of Paul Clayton.” I asked, “Who wrote that your singing partner.” Billy Graves had a great voice. I

song?” He said, “It’s public domain.” I said, “I’ll take a called him; he came in and we did “The Shag (Is Totally
copy of that and see if I can do something with it.” He Cool).” It was Top 20 in the nation. Baltimore and
was thrilled. I took it downstairs and started playing it. Washington were really ahead of the curve, then it

It was boring as a turtle race when you got into it. It became huge – “beach music” it became known as.
was called “Done Laying Around.” It had two LC: How did you end up in Nashville?
nonsensical verses. I said, “First of all, I’ve got to rewrite I came here for my first session in 1958 [Billy Grammer’s
this chorus.” So I changed it to “I’ve laid around, and “Gotta Travel On”]. It was a hit. I thought, “Well, this is

played around, this old town too long” [titled “Gotta easy!” I moved here in 1960.
Travel On”]. I called Billy Grammer, who had been Jimmy KH: What prompted you to move out to
Dean’s guitarist when they were doing the CBS show out Hendersonville, Tennessee?
of Washington. He not only was a great guitar player, It was very simple. I couldn’t find any office space in
but he could sing. Jimmy was being moved to New York Nashville. We looked everywhere. The only thing that I
Mr. Foster/(continued on page 48)/Tape Op#118/47
buy them. Go rent them. Go do whatever you’ve got
to do. Do you think I’m going to go back to RCA, after
all this publicity? How would that look for my
studio?” You know it was one of the best records
sonically we ever did; it was [Roy Orbison’s] “It’s
Over.” Sweat was pouring all over that poor man. I
thought he was going to have a stroke or something.
But I said, “Bill, you can do it. You just don’t know
how great you are.” And he did it.
LC: Obviously great. Those tracks sound
so good.
The thing that always puzzled me about that room was
it had a box built, and turned upside down on a floor
that’s not reinforced, not deadened in any way. They
put the drums on it.
KH: It was a hollow box, right?
Hollow box. You put the drums on it. You thought it
would have gone into every mic there was, but you
could stand right by the drums and sing, and never
have any leakage or anything. I never have
understood it. Neither did Bill or anybody else. It was
a great room.
KH: That was the studio my high school
rock ‘n’ roll band recorded in, in the
summer of 1967. Ray Butts brought us
in there. I remember the box. I think
it was Tommy Strong who engineered
the tracks that we cut.
Tommy was of the old school. He did a lot of gospel. Did

that well.
LC: You had to move out of there when
they were tearing it down, right?
.c Yeah, they tore it down. They also tore down the old
Clarkston Hotel next door to build their tower.
KH: Bergen, did you ever work in that
Roy Orbison at RCA Studio B studio?
BW: On Seventh, wasn’t it? Yeah.
photo courtesy of
[Publisher] Bob Beckham used to do
Micki Foster-Koenig

demos down there. You did a bunch

could find was in the Stahlman Building downtown. I once in a while, but B was the main thing. Bill Porter of songs, and if you made a mistake...
said, “No, no. Oh, man.” You’d have to park in a was the chief engineer at RCA. When I bought the Tree Music was in that building, initially. Buddy Killen
parking garage and walk. Boots Randolph was driving studio from Sam Phillips [Sam Phillips Recording was running it.

me around. He and I became great friends. He wanted Service of Nashville], the first thing I did was hire Bill KH: Jerry Crutchfield was in there.
Across the hall from Tree was Roger

me to move to Hendersonville. I said, “Okay. Let’s find Porter.

a place.” There was one little space, shaped like a KH: Sam still had the studio downtown? Miller.
Yeah. Everything about that studio was wrong, but it I was wondering if you know who the engineer was
slice of pie, that had been occupied by a veterinarian.
I moved into it with one employee, a secretary, and was magic. No audio man could ever have planned it when Sam owned it.

her desk was over the plumbing that came up from as good. KH: I could make a guess.
where they washed the dogs. Later we moved into a KH: Was that the former Masonic Lodge? Billy Sherrill, the producer. Before he left, he
three story building. Yeah. Fred Foster Sound Studio. I don’t know why, but engineered a hit for us, “(Down at) Papa Joe’s” by
BW: You knew Boots before you moved The Dixiebelles. There are two Billy Sherrill’s. One’s

when I bought the studio it was quite a splash in the

here? local media. It was on all the news shows and the the engineer and one was a producer. He could do
Yeah. He was a great man. I bought a house out there papers. Roy Orbison was getting ready to go to Europe everything, Billy could.
near him and near the office. Sold it to Boots for a tour, and he needed to do a session. I’d had the LC: You bought a space at the end of

Randolph when I built this house. Those were good studio about ten days, and Bill had been saying to Music Row after that?
old days. me, “You gotta do some demo sessions in here, or I bought an old church at Seventeenth and McGavock
LC: When you first moved here I assume something.” I didn’t know the first thing about that [in 1968]. It had been a Presbyterian church. After
you were working out of other that it became a funeral home. After that, a BMW lot.

place. It all looked wrong. When I knew we had to do

peoples’ studios doing sessions a session, I called Bill. I said, “We got a session The walls were two feet thick, at least, of brick made
initially, right? Thursday.” He said, “Great. How many pieces?” I said, on the premises. In many ways, it was great. I’ll tell
Yeah. When I first came here I worked mainly at RCA “Uh, forty-two, including the voices.” He replied, “I you, you couldn’t hear anything from outside. I was
Studio B. Occasionally I worked in the Quonset Hut. can’t do it! It’s impossible. I don’t have enough always having some electrical things going on. I
There were a couple of other smaller places I’d use microphones or anything. I know I don’t.” I said, “Go thought man, “What if lightning comes in and hits
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A walking contradiction, most of the time.
LC: You know, it’s real interesting with
Roy Orbison’s career. He’d been
dropped by RCA before you started
working with him, right?
Yeah. You want to hear something else? RCA dropped
another artist I signed, Boots Randolph. He was the
biggest selling artist we ever had on Monument.
KH: Boots outsold Roy Orbison?
Yes, sir.
KH: I’ll be darned. I didn’t know that.
The Yakety Sax! album sold about two million. Boots with
Strings went over three. Probably closer to four.
Everything he put out was in the hundreds of
thousands. Amazing! Clive Davis called me one day. He
said, “You need to come to New York,” because they
Clockwise from
were distributing us. I flew up, and I walk into his
upper left:
office. He said, “I have a plan. I want to do a major
Wesley Rose,
campaign on Boots Randolph. I cannot believe the
Roy Orbison,
market penetration he has. On his own.” What he had
Fred Foster, and
done was he’d created a series called “The World of…”
Boudleaux Bryant. with Barbra Streisand, Andy Williams, and other
photo courtesy of Columbia artists. He’d chosen Boots. We were
Micki Foster-Koenig outselling all the Columbia artists. It had been out
the machine at night when it’s storming?” I had triple of Acuff-Rose Music] called a meeting for lunch one three weeks, and we were at 95,000. The closest thing
lightning arresters put in. Lightning struck a pole day. I go out and there’s everybody that was anybody to it was around 50,000, which was Andy Williams and
outside; it hit the lightning arresters and started the of an established country music background. There was Barbra Streisand. He said, “This is going to be amazing.
power supply on the 16-track ablaze. Tommy Strong Jack Stapp, Wesley, Hubert Long, and Buddy Lee – a I want to do a major TV campaign. Print campaign. I
was drinking a great big paper cup of water. So he whole bunch of them. Wesley takes a spoon, bangs on want to set up a tour for him to really go promote him.

grabbed it and I got it just in time. I said, “Do you not his iced tea glass, and says, “Attention!” I thought, We’ve got to come up with a really great new album.
know you don’t throw water on an electrical fire? It’ll “Wow, must be something big.” He said, “We called Can you do that?” I said, “Probably. I’ll just tell Boots
electrocute you!” He said, “Oh, I didn’t know that.” I this meeting, Fred, because you’re trying to destroy
.c we need to do a new album, and it’ll be good.” Then I
got it unplugged and we got it out. In those days, Nashville.” I said, “What are you talking about, man?” get a call about two weeks later from somebody I
everybody was working together happily. So I called He said, “You know; you’re cutting all that n——r didn’t know at CBS who said, “Can you come in
over to RCA, and nobody was there. I called Quonset music.” I said, “I see. Well, I’m just trying to make tomorrow? We want you to meet the new President.”
Hut, and somebody answered. I said, “Do you all good music, and I don’t care what it is. I certainly “Oh,” I thought. “Clive got the whole group deal.
happen to have an extra power supply for a 16-track, don’t have an appetite. Thank you, but no thank you.” Perfect.” So I flew up, and here’s this redheaded guy
because lightning just wiped this one out in the I got up and left. Two days later I get a call from Owen I’d never seen before [Irwin Segelstein]. He’d come

middle of the session.” They said, “No, but we have an Bradley. I thought, “Oh god, they’re going to run me over from CBS Television. He introduced himself and
extra 16-track machine. We’ll just bring it over.” out of town.” Owen says, “I’d like to have lunch with said, “I’m calling you in first because you’re a really
LC: Nice. you, Fred.” He sounded hurt, almost. I met him for profitable company for us, and you’re the only one that

Storming outside, raining cats and dogs, and they lunch, we sat down, and he said, “I hear you met the we’re distributing who’s really making money. The first
brought it over. We hooked it up, aligned it, and we old guard. You met all the tenured bastards in town. thing I want you to know is I don’t know anything at

were back in business. Now what are the chances of Don’t pay any attention to them. They don’t know all about music, and I don’t even own a record player.”
doing that today? anything. I love what you’re doing. As a matter of fact, I said, “For god’s sakes man, do not say that to
LC: Some people help each other out. whenever you want to use my studio, it’s yours for no anybody else. You’re just going to destroy everything!”
Some. But I mean, by and large the number-crunchers charge. You keep making that good music.” I never I leave there, and about two or three weeks later I get

ruined it. I cannot believe they’re destroying Music forgot that. It meant a lot to me, at that time. a call from him. He said, “I’ve been thinking. I’d like
Row. Why? That wasn’t historical? LC: That’s nice to hear. to change things.” Epic Records handled the
LC: It’s important. You always operated But I could not do four sides in three hours. I couldn’t do distribution of other labels. He said, “Because

independently, with your own it. I never could do that. That’s one of the main Monument is so big, I’d like to move it over to
finances. You’d use distribution with complaints they had, also. Messing them up because Columbia.” I said, “Wait a minute, why would you want
some of the majors, but you were they were doing four songs a session, and here I come to do that?” He said, “For prestige.” I said, “No, no, no.
running your own show. doing two a session. Then I got down to one, and Why would you fix something that isn’t broke? That

Yeah. hoped I could do that. If I couldn’t, we’d just keep Columbia field force thinks of themselves as the
LC: Were other labels and studio owners doing it until we got it. Whatever it took. I did [Roy purveyors of the big red [ed: note the red labels on
working in Nashville at the same kind Orbison’s] “Crying” three different times. Wesley said Columbia LPs]. They don’t want to see another label.

of level as you? to me before the third session, “You might as well Are you kidding me? You’re about to do me in.” So I
I don’t think so. throw that song out. It’s obviously no good.” I said, then get a report that he’s taken to drinking pretty
LC: I find that really unique, and kind of “It’s okay, Wes; it’s my money. Don’t worry about it.” heavy. He had moved me, and it was a disaster. I had
inspiring to see. KH: He published that. to go back to independent [distribution]. I flew to New
Well, I got accused of everything. Wesley Rose [President LC: They made their money back. York, went to Columbia, and said, “Where’s Irwin?”

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They said, “He’s down in the Ground Floor, where he Two clicks.
stays these days.” The Ground Floor’s a bar. I go down, KH: We started it and I thought, “I’ll be
and he’s sitting there with a glass in his hand, shaking. damned. This feels a lot better.” I
I said, “Irwin, I flew up here, not because I had to, but think I’m a pretty smart guy. I’ve made
because I wanted to. I think you’re a pretty nice fellow, a few records. I have a few hits. I’m a
in many ways. You’re an idiot in others. You nearly musician. But over those few days we
ruined my company by transferring me to Columbia, did that, there would be four or five
which I asked you not to do. But if you don’t quit this times when I was thinking one thing,
job, you’re going to die. You are not cut out for this. and Fred would say something that was
You’re drinking yourself to death.” He looked at me for just totally the opposite of what I was
at least five minutes and didn’t say a word. I didn’t thinking. Every single time it was
either. He said, “You know what? You’re right. And I better! Bergen, you’ve worked with
thank you.” He quit his job and went back to daytime Fred a ton in the studio.
TV programming out of L.A. for NBC. He called me, and BW: Since I first started.
he was sober. He went through rehab and everything. KH: Some musicians didn’t get Fred in the
He said, “I just want you to know I feel like I owe you.” studio, because he’s not the guy who’s
I said, “No, you don’t owe me.” going to tell you, “Put a G below that
LC: It’s pretty telling if somebody doesn’t even have a E-flat chord before it goes to...” He’s
record player at home. not going to do that. But he is going to
“Not only do I not know anything about music,” he said, say, “It feels too fast. Let’s slow it
“I don’t even own a record player. I don’t particularly down.”
like music!” I went, “Oh, my god. How can you be in BW: We did the same thing on Willie
the music business?” If you didn’t have music to like, Nelson. When I was out there with the
you sure as hell can’t like the music business! orchestra, I’d be hearing the same
LC: When you were doing sessions and producing these thing about tempos. Also keys. I
sessions, how did you see your role? Kyle says you remember on “Faded Love,” we started
have the right input, at the right time. How do you to do it, and I went, “God almighty,
do it? this thing’s too slow!”
I don’t know. I’m just a farm boy from North Carolina. We were doing it too fast. I slowed it down.
BW: Well, you did. And when you said what

What do I know? Seriously, I just know what I like. And
I know some secrets that are obvious to the world, if you said, Willie said, “Yeah, that’s it.”
they would only listen. If an artist is readily What I’d said was totally wrong.
identifiable, he’s got a leg up, right? If he can write
.c Before I ever left Washington I got a call one day from the
really good songs, that gets him the other leg up, Arthur Murray Dance Studio. “We would like to get a
doesn’t it? Like Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Roy Orbison, catalog of your product.” I only had three records. I
and Kris Kristofferson. asked why they wanted that. They said, “We have found
LC: Yeah, certainly.
that your records are exactly perfect tempos for our
I just finished producing the Willie Nelson album [For the instructions.” I said, “Well, I don’t have a catalog. But

Good Times: A Tribute to Ray Price]. I think I’ve come up I’ll be glad to send you one when I get one.”
with a solution to something, Kyle. You know how great KH: Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” was
Willie is about his guitar, and you can never have enough a good tempo.
of it for him? I’m calling him sometime today or When they brought it in, how it was structured was the

tomorrow. I’ve got a great idea; “Willie. Your next album same exact beat and rhythm pattern as “Only the
should be an instrumental. You and Trigger can have the Lonely.” I said, “Roy, I don’t know about that. I’d like

spotlight.” It’ll work! I always had great luck with to see a little more excitement.” I told him [beats on
instrumentals: Jerry Byrd, Boots [Randolph], and Al Hirt. the table]. He said, “Okay.”
You’ve got so many more doors you can go through with KH: Was that Buddy Harman on that?

an instrumental. Movie people buy them up by the Buddy Harman and Paul Garrison – two drummers. Paul
dozens to have music behind their films. It’ll work. Garrison was his road drummer. This almost turned into
KH: When we were doing the Ray Price a disaster. We were running it down, and Paul Garrison
record [Beauty Is... The Final Sessions], was playing every lick he’d ever heard or dreamed of. I

Bergen had done the arrangements. I mean, he was just going crazy. I went out and said,
was engineering in the control room “Uh, you’re a little busy there, Paul. Can you just play
and Fred was with me. We were doing a this for us?” He said, “I can play more than that.” I

take, and I was sitting there thinking said, “I have no doubt, but that’s what I want you to
to myself, “This sounds like it’s too play.” He was backing up on me. Roy hated
slow.” Fred said, “Does it feel too fast to confrontation, and I knew if we got into a big hoo-haw
you?” I said to Fred, “Well, I don’t here Roy’s mood would be gone, and he’d just back off.

know, but there’s only one way to find So I went over and said, “Roy, you need to go over to
out.” I’m thinking to myself, “God, I the Clarkston Hotel and get you a Coke.” He said, “I
don’t know if I could stand it any do?” I said, “Yeah. Real bad.” He asked, “How long do
slower than this.” You stopped and I need to be gone?” I said, “Ten minutes.” To his credit,
took it down. he didn’t ask me why, he just left. Then I went over to
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Paul and said, “Listen to me carefully here. You’re KH: Did he play the lick too? Anita Kerr, because she had done this commercial for
going to have to play what I want you to play, or Yeah. Cain-Sloan department stores. It had the most
you’re not going to be on this session. I’m going to BW: There’s a whole lot of guitar players beautiful strings on it. I knew she’d done that. So I
pay you, because you were hired. No hard feelings. who say they play on that. called her and said, “Anita, I need you to get me a
But I don’t work for you. You’re working for me. You’re It finally got so bad that I had to call Nashville and get string section together and arrange a couple of things
not producing this record, I am. Are we clear?” He a copy of the contract to show to people. for me.” She laughed. I said, “What’s funny?” She
said, “I can play more.” I said, “Don’t even go there! LC: That’s ridiculous. said, “Well, the string section is no more. The
I know you can. Buddy Harmon’s going to play the KH: Who played piano on it? symphony is on such hard times that all the good
fills, and both of you are going to play that driving Floyd Cramer. players have left town.”
four.” Just based on what little I’d heard, I said, “The KH: Great piano part in the bridge. LC: Oh, no.
day will come when you’ll be proud to say, ‘Yeah, Also that one lick he played; that one chord he played. I said, “I don’t need any Philharmonic strings. I just
that’s me!’” He said, “Okay, I’ll do it.” That made the record for me. need pads.” She said, “Let me see what I can find.”
KH: You recorded that at Fred Foster LC: How did you end up working with She called me in about an hour and said, “I’m not
Sound? Roy Orbison? guaranteeing, but I’ve found four violins that can play
Yeah, the old one that was torn down. Magic room. I ran into Wesley Rose on the streets of Baltimore one reasonably in tune.” I said, “Okay. Would you voice
KH: There’s something on that record. day. I had met him somewhere in passing before. I them as wide apart as you can so it’ll sound like
It’s part of what makes the guitar said, “Wesley, what are you doing in Baltimore?” He more?” So that’s what we did. Boots played those
sound so good. said, “My wife Margaret has a horrible heart beautiful, colorful fills. It made the middle of the
Yeah. Everyone thought I was crazy. Roy said, “You’re condition, and we’re up here at Johns Hopkins for charts. The DJs were starting to like him. I said, “The
going to do what?” I said, “Yeah, man. It’s going to some tests. I’m worried to death. I don’t know what next record’s going to be a key record.” Once again we
be good. Believe me.” I’ll just tell the Steve I’ll do if I lose her.” He also said, “Congratulations on scheduled more time together. About ten days I
Buckingham story; that’ll explain it all. I got a call your big hit on Billy Grammer. We might have some believe. We were both staying at the old Anchor
from Steve Buckingham one day, and he said, “I’m songs we can show you for a follow up.” I said, “We’re Motel. He would sleep late. I would always get up and
getting ready to cut “Oh, Pretty Woman” with Ricky already considering one of your songs as a follow up.” go to breakfast, being a farmer. We’d gone over
Van Shelton.” I asked, “Why?” That must have ticked He said, “Really? Which one?” I said, “‘Bonaparte’s everything, and I’d listened to every song in town. I’d
him off. He said, “Well, because!” I said, “I don’t see Retreat’.” We did it, and it was a successful record. He called L.A. and New York publishers, Muscle Shoals,
how you’re going to beat Roy Orbison.” He said, “Well, called me one day and said, “Do you know who Roy and Memphis; everywhere I knew to call, and we
I know; but I think we’ll make a great record. The Orbison is?” I said, “Didn’t he have a song called ‘Rock hadn’t found anything. I called Cindy Walker to write
reason I’m calling is that you did the original. I need House’? Didn’t he do something called ‘Ooby Dooby’?” me something. She hadn’t been able to write

to pick your brain a little.” I said, “Come on over.” He He said, “That’s him. Would you like to have him? I’m anything. Roy had a song called “Only the Lonely.” It
said, “I was hoping you’d come over here, because I’m pulling him off RCA. They’ve dropped him.” I was a had a 32-bar rubato verse. Strum a chord, and sing a
pretty busy.” I went by and sat down. He said, “All new company, and I needed some artists. I didn’t line. Totally out of tempo, just lying there. It took two
right. How many electric guitars on the session?” I realize that Roy was as timid-sounding as he really and a half minutes to get through the verse. I said,
told him, “Three.” He said, “It sounds like more.” I
was. I said, “Yeah, I’d like to have him.” He said, “On “Roy, nobody in the world’s going to sit through that
said, “Yeah, they would, because I’ve got two one condition, you have to duplicate the two songs verse. It’s not that interesting anyway, to be honest.”
saxophones buried in with the guitar, so it gives them that RCA turned down.” Then he had a song called “Come Back to Me,” about
more weight.” He said, “There’re no saxophones on LC: I was reading something about the his teenage sweetheart dying on the way to the
that record.” I said, “Yeah, you’re right. What the hell early sessions you did with Roy too birthday party he was giving her. It was really well

do I know?” I got up and walked out. where they were trying to find a written and a good song. But I said to Roy, “We can’t
KH: Was it Boots? string section. do this.” It was too soon after [Mark Dinning’s] “Teen
Boots and Charlie McCoy. Charlie plays everything. I sat Well, Wesley Rose wanted me to duplicate those songs Angel.” I said, “You’ll never get away with another
down with Charlie one day and said, “Okay, Charlie; I that RCA turned down, because he thought they were death song this quick. But you’ve got a vocal here

need to know, and I know you’ll be truthful. How many great. I said, “What about after that?” He said, “After that I really like.” That’s sort of where we were, not

instruments can you play that you feel comfortable that, you can do whatever you all want. I don’t care.” getting anywhere. I got up to go to breakfast. This
enough to do a session on?” He said, “I don’t know.” I We did the two songs that were turned down. It was was going to be the last day before I was going to
said, “Well, write them down.” It was 52. nothing. We just called the same band in that had cancel, go back home, and start over. So I’m humming
LC: What? Are there 52 instruments? done it for RCA. The songs were “Paperboy” and “With this background vocal to myself.

BW: I’m thinking that myself. the Bug.” I think we may have lost about $30,000. I BW: Was it that intro?
Even more than that. He can play anything. said, “Roy, we have got to get together for a longer Instead of going into “Come back to me, my love” I went,
KH: I didn’t know Charlie was on period of time and prepare ourselves for the next “Only the lonely.” I stood out in the parking lot in the

session.” It was 2-track, and I couldn’t get him above freezing cold and sang it to myself. I ran to his room,
He was playing baritone. the band, really. I had Gordon Stoker [of The knocked on the door, and said, “We’ve got it!” He said,
KH: You had a tenor and a baritone? Jordanaires] singing unison with him. I had to. Roy “I don’t know if it’ll work.” I said, “Yes, it’ll work.” I just
A tenor and a baritone. was so tender and wispy-sounding. I came from stood out there in the cold and sang it. He grabbed his

LC: I’m going to go back and listen to it Maryland, and him from Texas. We spent a week guitar, did just a few bars, and he goes, “Mercy. Yeah!”
with headphones. together before we went to the studio. We went I called Anita. This time we had six violins.
You’ll hear it. through every song you could ever think about, KH: Did you do that at RCA B?
KH: It sounded like fuzz guitars. That’s everything he’d ever written, and every piece of Yeah.

what that reedy thing was. everything. He had one song that I liked called KH: Was Bill Porter the engineer on that
BW: It was Jerry Kennedy, Wayne Moss, “Uptown.” I said, “Okay, Roy. We’ve got to do record?
and Sanford? Billy Sanford? ‘Uptown.’ I’m going to put some strings on it to be the Yeah.
There was one more guitar on it. 12-string. Roy was cushion for Boots Randolph and his fills.” He said, KH: I wish I could be a fly on the wall and
playing. “Oh man, you mean I can have strings?” So I called go back to the room to watch that.
54/Tape Op#118/Mr. Foster/(continued on page 56)
completely in the future, but it’s going to be a hit. It’s
going to be a big one, in my opinion. I feel very
comfortable saying that.” This went on for a few
minutes. Finally I said, “Okay, hold it. If you want me
to, I will call the office, and we’ll have them bring you
a check for a million sales. You can never question it.
You can never see my books. You can do no auditing.
And as your friend, I’m advising you not to take it. But
if you want it, you got it. That’s how sure I am. Is that
good enough for you?” He said, “And you don’t think I
should take it?” I said, “That’s my advice, but you’re
welcome to it, if you want it.” He said, “I better not
take it.” I said, “Good thinking.”
BW: What year was this?
1960. It sold several million worldwide, of course.
BW: What year did “Oh, Pretty Woman”
come out?
1964. It spilled on over into ‘65. “Oh, Pretty Woman” was
the last thing I did with him. If Roy only had a real
manager, god only knows what he would have
accomplished. How many great things he could have
done for movie soundtracks, the venues he could have
played, and the artists he could have played with.
Wesley Rose was his manager.
BW: After “Oh, Pretty Woman,” how could
you not produce him anymore?
Well, that’s really easy to explain. We did “Oh, Pretty
Woman” and I told Roy that was going to be the biggest
record of his career, which it was. Wesley came to me

and said, “I’ve checked Roy’s contract. He owes you four
more songs.” I said, “I know.” He said, “You can’t do any
more than four. You’re not going to stockpile any.” I
said, “I wasn’t intending to. I’m giving him a new
.c contract.” Wesley said, “Well, here’s what it must
include. Twenty prime time television appearances,
guaranteed for the life of the contract. A guaranteed
motion picture deal. Plus a million dollar guarantee.” I
said, “Okay. Let’s take it one by one. Prime time

television appearances: my youngest kid can get on the

phone and book 20 of those. Any man in here worth a
Fred Foster and Roy Orbison grain of salt wouldn’t have to ask for that from anybody.
Motion picture contract? I do not own a motion picture

at RCA Studio B
studio, so there’s no way I can guarantee that. A million
photo courtesy of Micki Foster-Koenig

dollars? That’s okay. I can do that.” He said, “You can

submit your offer. We’re going to have a meeting around
LC: These were all live strings going Roy was, there were no headphones. He had to figure it a conference table and open all the offers at one
down, with the rest of the band and out. He overcame it. sitting.” I said, “Well, you won’t be opening mine,

the vocal? KH: I don’t know how you do that. because I’m not submitting one. Number one: after five
BW: Oh, yeah. I don’t know either, but he did. years on these great successes, if I’m not entitled to any
KH: Is that the one where you KH: So nobody was listening to more consideration than being lumped in with
surrounded him with the coats? headphones on that session? everybody else, you can go to hell. Secondly, I am not

Well, after that first session, where I had to have Gordon No. prepared to offer you part of a contract. You told me
sing with him, I said, “We’ve got to do something. KH: So singers were standing by the what it had to include, and I told you I couldn’t do
We’ve got to isolate him somehow.” The band was piano? that.” So Wesley said, “Well then, I’ll just tell you what

eating him alive. No. They were singing clear away from it. you can record, when you can record, and what you can
BW: How many tracks was that then? BW: Who were the singers on the “Only release on the four songs we have.” I said, “No, you’ll
Two. There was no such thing as putting him on a track by the Lonely” session? produce them. Nobody’s dictating to me what I’m going
himself. You couldn’t do it. So I’m sitting there in The Anita Kerr Quartet and Joe Melson. I put him in with to do.” I had to call Wesley’s lawyer and tell him that if

desperation one night and I said to Bill, “What if we put them, because I wanted them to sound younger than his promotion people went out in the field one more
Roy in the corner, put that coat rack in front of him, they were. Joe had this whispery little voice, like a time and told all the DJs that Wesley was producing the
and cover it up with coats?” He said, “Yeah! There’re teenager, so I featured him. I said, “Roy, this is going records and not Fred that we’re going to own Acuff-
blankets in the maintenance room I can get.” We to be your first big record.” He said, “Really? Are you Rose. It’s just that simple. That stopped that. “Oh,
covered that sucker, totally. To show you how talented sure?” I said, “Yep. I don’t have power to see Pretty Woman” sold somewhere around seven million.
56/Tape Op#118/Mr. Foster/
The follow-up that Wesley produced, I shipped Jim Lloyd and I co-produced a couple of things. I He said, “Well, I’m late then.” I said, “No.” He said,
100,000 initially and got 50,000 back. I hit 50,000 on produced some things on my own. “Mr. Businessman” “Well, who are all these people?” I said, “That’s your
the next release, and got over half back. I mean, I was Ray and me, I think. band.” He said, “I ain’t ever been this outnumbered
worked those records honest and serious. Particularly LC: What’s one of your personal favorite before! I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t know
that first one, I worked as hard as I could. Although I productions? where to come in, and where to go out.” I said, “It’s
didn’t think they were near “Oh, Pretty Woman.” Want me to tell you about one of my favorite records? real simple. You can do it.” He said, “If it’s easy,
BW: Did Roy not have the clout at that You know the story of “The Christmas Guest?” Did you’d better show me.” So I read it through. He said,
time after “Oh, Pretty Woman”? you ever hear it? Grandpa Jones was a great human “I’ll try it.” One take. He nailed it. It became a really
Wesley was pulling him off of Monument and putting him being of all time. He loved poetry, better than any big record. I gave Grandpa what I had written. I
on MGM. Roy came to my office, sat down, and cried man I’ve ever met. He had a wall at his house with said, “You publish this. It’s public domain. It’s a new
like a baby. He said, “I hate this. I want to stay here shelves full of poetry. Floor to ceiling. He could arrangement, and all new material. It’s yours. This’ll
so bad, but it’s easier to leave you than it is to fight recite Robert Frost verbatim, just about everything be my Christmas present to you.” That was a
with Wesley.” I said, “Well, that’s your decision.” he’d ever written; which surprised a lot of people, wonderful record. He’s a great human being. r
KH: I’ve always been curious about how but Grandpa was a surprising kind of a guy. He loved
you signed Ray Stevens. to go out when he was on tour, poke around old Many thanks to Kyle Lehning for setting up and encouraging
Ray was on Mercury and had these huge hits. Then, bookstores, and antique shops. He got back from this interview, and Bergen White for being as patient as can be!
whatever happened, they parted ways. I had always Germany. He’d been on tour over there. He called me
told Ray, “Ray, you’re limited if you stick only with the and said, “I’ve got something I picked up over there. Tape Op is made
comedy. You’re capable of more. If you’re ever loose I’d like to come and show it to you.” He came in possible by our
and free, and want to talk, come see me.” He did, and with this book that’s been in a fire. About the advertisers.
I signed him. Our first record was “Mr. Businessman,” bottom 20 or 25 percent of it was burned off, but it Please support them and tell them
which was his first legitimate big hit. was hand-bound leather. Gorgeous. On the left side you saw their ad in Tape Op.
KH: I love that record. Did he do was a German version of whatever the poem was,
“Everything Is Beautiful” with you and on the right side was the English translation. It
too? was so old that the English translation was in
No. Dolly Parton wrote a song called “Everything Is archaic English. He said, “I don’t know how it ends.
Beautiful,” and Ray produced it for her on Monument. It’s burned off.” It really upset him. I said, “You
It had the same identical imagery and everything. need to write the ending.” “No,” he said, “I can’t do
When Ray’s record came out, Dolly called me and said, that. You write it.” So I wrote the end. I called Bill

“Have you heard Ray Stevens’ ‘Everything Is Walker; I hadn’t seen him in forever. He came over,
Beautiful’?” I said, “No.” She said, “Go listen for me, and he loved it. I said, “You need to write
and call me back.” I listened, called her back, and something.” Grandpa showed up at the studio. There
said, “We’ve got a lawsuit. That’s what we’ve gotta was a string section and all the players. He said,
do.” She said, “No, I don’t want that. What I want
“Oh, I’m at the wrong place, ain’t I?” I said, “No.”
them to know is that I know they stole my song.” I
called Ray and said, “I need to have a cup of coffee
with you.” I said, “Ray, you know what you’ve done to
Dolly is not right. Why don’t you make it right? Call her
Fred in 2016.

up, give her half the publishing, half the writers.” He

Photo by Larry Crane
said, “No. I never heard that song!” I said, “Ray. I’ve
got it in writing that you signed off on it when you
did it in the studio. You signed the leaders contract.

And it says on the label, ‘produced by Ray Stevens.’


You didn’t object. That just isn’t right. That makes me

think a little bit less of you.” He said, “Yeah, it
probably wasn’t right.” I said, “Well, won’t you
acknowledge that to her, at least?” I think he did, but

I’m not positive.

KH: Did he record other hits for you
besides “Mr. Businessman,” or was
that the only one?

No, we had “Along Came Jones.” We had a lot.

BW: “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down.”
Yep. We had a bunch of songs. Then Andy Williams’

company wanted him to come to Barnaby Records,

and they asked if I would sell them the catalog I had
on him. They wanted to give him the TV show, and all
this. I said, “Yeah, okay. I don’t want to, but if it

benefits Ray, I’ll do it.” So we worked on a deal and I

sold the masters over to them.
KL: Did he record those songs at your
studio, at Monument? Did he produce
Mr. Foster/(Fin.)/Tape Op#118/57
software — in miniature — and is supplemented by the large details are encouraging, indicating greater customization,
control knob, which allows for fine adjustments. I could just talkback features, and effects-send mixer functions. Apogee
tap (or “focus”) on a given parameter, and then use the knob is also introducing support for its Apogee Control remote
to dial in settings. Pushing in on the control knob allows for accessory when Symphony Control rolls out. Check out the
quick muting of the main monitor and headphone outputs, as Apogee blog for details.
well, which is a nice shortcut. We should give a shout-out to Take note — the Symphony I/O Mk II is not a “prosumer”
the onscreen metering here, which is well-implemented, interface, and as such, it comes with a pretty, ahem,
despite the somewhat limited screen real estate. All of my professional price tag after kitting it out with a few modules.
input and output levels could be easily viewed at a glance, It also is not necessarily meant to be a “grab-n-go” style
and the segmentation offered by the high-res TFT display is mobile-friendly interface, as it’s very heavy and seems most at
clear and easy to scan, even from a 5 ft distance. home in the studio, wired up to your outboard gear in a rack
So, yes, there is a balance here in this design between (although I suppose one could easily add a couple of the
utilitarian function and modern control (pickup truck meets 8×8+8MP modules for built-in mic preamps and instrument
Tesla “Ludicrous Mode”), which I ended up really warming to. inputs). But per-channel, it is very price-competitive with

Apogee Having all of that control available via the front panel would
simply be near-impossible without a paged-view, swipe-able
many other interfaces out there (many with converters that
are much less impressive). Plus, the modular nature of the
Symphony I/O Mk II touchscreen. Even if you were able to crowd all of those system ensures that this unit won’t be obsolete any time
audio interface physical controls into a 2RU-height panel, it would soon. So... if you’re a Mac studio rat looking for the best and
Hmm, what metaphor do we go with here? How about: undoubtedly be an ergonomic nightmare. you have the bucks, the Symphony I/O Mk II comes with a
Apogee’s new flagship interface is a badass truck that drives Another improvement in the Symphony I/O Mk II is heat confident recommendation.
like a futuristic sports car. management. The original Symphony took a little, ahem, ($2,495 – $4,690; www.apogeedigital.com)
Nailed it. Lemme explain. “heat” in some reviews for its fan noise, but the new –Dana Gumbiner <www.danagumbiner.com>
The new Symphony I/O Mk II is an incredibly solid and
reliable beast — a sleek, matte-black, 2RU-height, multi-
temperature control system has not only some vastly
improved ventilation, but what Apogee calls Dynamic
channel audio interface system that features Apogee’s Temperature Control — a temperature monitoring system tied EchoBoy Jr. plug-in
to the already quiet internal fan. The Settings page of the Tastes great and less filling! I normally am not into the
latest and greatest AD/DA conversion technology, with
touchscreen even displays the current internal temperature of “light” versions of things, whether it’s food or software, but I
swappable I/O modules that allow you to tailor the
the unit as well as the fan speed. In my testing, the fans were have to confess, I love EchoBoy Jr.! I’ve always considered
interface to your needs, thus effectively future-proofing
incredibly quiet, and with normal rack ventilation EchoBoy (Sr.?) to be the best, most comprehensive delay
your studio. The chassis is backward compatible with I/O
considerations taken (some space above and below in my under my plug-in menu. But sometimes, it’s more than I need,
modules that were designed for the original Symphony I/O
racks), I never saw the fan speed rise above 20%. Ambient and I’d use the stock (and somewhat boring) Pro Tools delay

[Tape Op #87], so if you’ve already invested in the platform,
noise from hard drives and other sources in my room was plug-in instead. I can dial up a simple effect in the stock Pro
you can migrate to the new and improved chassis and retain
much more noticeable than the Symphony I/O Mk II’s fans. All Tools delay quicker than I can with EchoBoy, even though I
or supplement your I/O as needed. (Exceptions are the first-
in all, an excellent improvement. like the sound of EchoBoy better. Now with EchoBoy Jr., I have
generation AI16 and AO16 modules, which Apogee states
the best of both worlds, and I’m stoked! This stripped-down
are not Mk II compatible.)
Although Symphony I/O Mk II currently has three interface
No surprises — the Symphony I/O Mk II crushes it where it
counts — the conversion, clocking, and sound of the beast version of EchoBoy still sounds great and has tons of “analog
are phenomenal. Beyond my studio monitoring, I actually did vibe,” but it’s faster and easier to use because it has fewer
options (Thunderbolt built-in; or Pro Tools HD or Waves
a lot of my test listening using my UE Pro Reference Monitors options. But it’s still got all the bases you’ll likely need to
SoundGrid via option cards), the model we tested was
[Tape Op #83] and was super impressed with the built-in cover: Studio Tape, Plex, Space, Cheap Tape, Memory, Ambient,
equipped with two Thunderbolt ports as well as one 16×16 I/O
headphone amplifier, too. It’s gloriously detailed, and smooth and Transmitter. The Memory setting emulates an analog
module. This configuration integrated nicely with our existing

as Yacht Rock, with truly stellar imaging. This is an area where bucket-brigade delay line. Ambient does long, diffuse, uh,
Thunderbolt interfaces and hard-drive arrays. The chassis has
some manufacturers cut costs, so even though there is only ambient delays with chorusing, and it will get you into that
two module bays plus one option card slot for a maximum of
one headphone output on the front face, I’m grateful that Daniel Lanois zone quite nicely. Transmitter is a resonant CB
32 channels of analog I/O, and one of the module models has
Apogee didn’t skimp in any way with the design. The radio–style delay — for when you need that lo-fi outer-space

eight mic preamps as well. The 16×16 I/O module uses two
conversion, folks, is astounding and does not disappoint. The truckin’ vibe. All of the controls are on the main panel, with
banks of standard DB25 connectors, and the same connectors
no hidden or nested menus to access: Mix, Echo Time,

are used throughout most of the other modules as well. Check specs are online, and I’d encourage you to nerd out on them,
but suffice it to say the dynamic range provided with the Feedback, Low Cut, High Cut, Input, Output, and Saturation.
out Apogee’s website for all of the options available, as I’m
Symphony I/O Mk II’s converters can’t be beat right now, and You can change delay time in musical note values (synched to
sure they’ll keep expanding the number of choices as audio
it’s difficult to think of an interface that comes close to it in your DAW’s tempo), including dotted or triplet values, or in
technology continues to evolve.

terms of clarity and response. Apogee’s venerable Soft Limit milliseconds. There are three different stereo modes —
The chassis itself is minimalist, thanks in no small part to
feature is available on each input, acting as a fallback for any Normal, Wide, and Ping-Pong — as well as a Glide on/off
the new TFT touchscreen on the front panel, where all of the
gain-staging errors made. Although I wouldn’t slam any Soft switch. Factor in a bunch of great presets to get you started,
essential settings and metering for the interface can be
Limit–enabled tracks and expect the limiting to sound as and EchoBoy Jr. is my new go-to delay plug-in for all jobs,
accessed. With the touchscreen, using the Symphony I/O

musical as, say, an 1176 or something, Apogee has always led simple to complex. It tastes great, and it’s less filling for sure!
starts to take on a Tesla-like experience, as virtually every
the pack with that feature, which acts as a nice “session ($99 direct; www.soundtoys.com) –JB
possible parameter and calibration can be controlled via a
series of pages and/or gestures. Beyond the touchscreen, the security blanket” to save you from harsh clips.
The Maestro control software which complements the
Tape Op is made
possible by our

only physical control on the front face (except the power

button) is a large, central rotary encoder, à la the Apogee Symphony I/O Mk II is familiar and relatively easy to
Ensemble [Tape Op #105], which offers tactile control of navigate, but if there is a weak link, Maestro is definitely it. advertisers.
various onscreen parameters. The TFT display looks great, and While totally functional, it just feels a little dated and Please support them and tell
them you saw their ad in Tape Op.

it has adjustable brightness and excellent off-axis viewability. underpowered in tandem with such a pro-level interface.
I was skeptical at first of using the touchscreen, in Fortunately, Apogee seems to recognize this as well, and is
introducing a new Symphony-specific software package soon,
particular for setting critical parameters, but the system
actually works differently than I had assumed. The Apogee called Symphony Control. We haven’t had a chance to test
team has built a great UI that makes the experience intuitive this software yet (it’s in beta, Mac-only, and is expected to
be available in March 2017, free for all Mk II users), but early
Bonus content online!!!
and easy. In many ways, it feels like the Maestro control
58/Tape Op#118/Gear Reviews/
Chase Bliss Audio KRK Systems During my time with the V6 S4 monitors, I felt that the
mixes I completed on them translated well, when played in
I was asked to demo real flanging for some friends a while V Series 4 active monitors other listening environments. I was very pleased with the
back, so I recorded the same material onto two tape decks The new V Series 4 nearfield studio monitors are the fourth results that I heard on the KLH stereo speakers in my living
and attempted to play them back at the same time, to create generation of KRK’s top-tier V Series, designed to provide high- room, the Audio Engine speakers at my desk, and the Bose
the rich, whooshing, comb-filtering of flanging at its best. quality, accurate representation in multiple applications, at a stereo system in my car. The KRK V Series 4 active monitors have
Probably 80% of my attempts created echoes instead of sensible price. The line includes three models, the V8, V6, and loads of features, allowing them to withstand moves to
flanging, but when it hit, we all gasped. One of the points I V4 Series 4, which are equipped with 8’’, 6.5’’, and 4’’ woofers, different room environments and changes in personal taste. The
kept making was that the two tape decks were both playing respectively, made of woven Kevlar and housed in a cast V6 S4 model I tested will certainly fit multiple applications and
back a slight bit wobbly and out of sync; therefore, the aluminum frame. A 1’’ Kevlar dome tweeter is shared by all three is a great choice for a professional or project studio.
signals from the two decks were each taking turns being models. Each speaker’s cast aluminum and MDF enclosure (V8 each $799 street, V6 $599, V4 $399; www.krksys.com)
ahead or behind the other, thus creating the richest possible houses its two drivers, colored in KRK’s signature yellow, behind –Jonathan Saxon <jonbsaxon@gmail.com>

Rupert Neve Designs

flanging sound. a black, brushed aluminum baffle. Two Class D amps are in the
With most studio and stompbox flangers, the effect is rear, one for each driver, and a forward-firing bass-reflex port is
created with a delayed and modulated (for the wobble and positioned front and bottom. Shelford Channel
whoosh) signal combined with the dry signal. This means that All three of the V Series 4 monitors feature seven Low Rupert Neve is the most well-known name in pro audio,
the modulated signal can never precede the dry signal, so to Control and seven High Control voicings, accessible via two and for good reason. To this day, Neve consoles remain the
my ear, these units only have half the effect of true flanging. rotary switches, for a total of 49 EQ options for users to consider stuff of legend, and the mic preamp from the Neve 1073
The Chase Bliss Audio Spectre, on the other hand, uses two when dialing in the speaker’s frequency response for personal module is arguably the most widely imitated piece of audio
analog bucket-brigade delay lines to actually create a full preference and room compensation. For example, there are gear out there. After the original Neve company was sold, Mr.
flanging effect in a stompbox, and I love it. This type of effect settings to offset wall-coupling as well as “desk-coupling” Neve went on to design outboard gear for his original
is commonly called a “zero-through flanger,” because it allows effects, the latter referring to the buildup of low-mids from Focusrite Ltd company, as well as consoles and outboard
its two delayed signals to repeatedly “cross through” the point reflections off of a desk or console, if the speakers are processors for AMEK, before he eventually moved to Texas
where they are at the exact same amount of delay (the “zero positioned on a meter bridge. and restructured his consultancy into his current company,
point”), much like using two tape decks as explained above. Additional rear-panel features include a rotary switch for Rupert Neve Designs.
How does the Spectre sound? It’s much more overt and precision input-level attenuation (0–3 dB in 0.5 dB steps), and As you’d expect, RND’s products are highly regarded, and
interesting than any piece of rackmount gear I’ve ever used. a bank of DIP switches for ground lift, input sensitivity (−10 dBV the company takes a no-compromise approach with all of its
It’s closer in tone to my (kinda broken) Eventide Instant or +4 dBu), power standby behavior, and backlighting modes for offerings. One thing readers should know, however, is that
Flanger FL201 (check out their plug-in version) or the UAD the KRK logo. Interestingly, also in the rear is a Micro USB port, RND never reissued Neve classics with new names or updated
MXR flanger/doubler plug-in (I’ve never used a real one). But which KRK explained is for possible future firmware updates. KRK looks. All of RND’s products are new designs that incorporate
the real trick is that it kicks ass over every flanger pedal I’ve was even thoughtful enough to include a “tweaker” tool to turn new thinking.

heard, and I own a lot of them. The only one I have that the rotary switches. But, there is something to be said for those old modules.
comes kinda close is the DOD Performer Flanger 575, just Upon arrival, I used the V6 S4 monitors for several hours Producers and engineers continue to revere the classic Neve
because it has a thick tone that most lack. But the DOD is still daily, for three weeks straight. The monitors sounded great right preamps, EQs, and compressors. Because these pieces have a
nothing as wild sounding as the Spectre.
Things I don’t like about the Spectre? It’s only mono, but
out of the box with the factory EQ voicings, which have no cut sound of their own, in many ways, they become participants
or boost. The flat voicings provided well-balanced low in the creative process. So RND finally decided to address this
what the heck are you gonna do about that? It’s a stompbox, frequencies, resulting in good bass definition without any admiration for the classics and delivered the Shelford Channel,
dummy! It has six knobs, four toggle switches, and 16 DIP unnecessary boost, and overall, imaging was very good. a channel strip that simultaneously references the past and
switches on the back. That is way too many controls, but However, after two weeks, I decided to dial down the bottom looks forward to the future.
luckily you can ignore a lot of them (like I did) and get a end ever so slightly. While listening to jazz recordings that Everything about the Shelford Channel is attractive —

sound going intuitively and quickly. It has no battery featured an acoustic bass, I sensed the low frequencies could beautiful color choices, mastering-grade stepped controls,
compartment, which is unfortunate, because I love using benefit from some trimming, perhaps because the monitors buttons that are satisfying to push, indicators that aren’t
batteries in the studio to reduce ground loops, hum, and were producing a bit too much bass as a result of their proximity harshly lit — and it is clear that no detail was overlooked.
switching power-supply noise. That said, I didn’t have any of to a wall. Moving the Low Control switch to a setting that Despite being a feature-packed channel strip, it has a clean-

these issues with the Spectre. engaged a −2 dB shelf at 75 Hz and a broad, −2 dB dip at looking aesthetic and a much appreciated ease of use.
If you are looking for one of these, make sure to get a new 200 Hz provided the lower-bass and lower-midrange In terms of functionality, the Shelford Channel is sort of a

one with the “Blue Knob Mod.” If you have an older magenta attenuation I was looking for. Over time, I also found it “Neve’s Greatest Hits” package. As the manual explains:
knob version, the Chase Bliss team will upgrade it at a very beneficial to switch the High Control setting to a low-Q, −1 dB “The Shelford Channel is the definitive evolution of the
low cost. The blue knob version has lower background noise, reduction at 3.5 kHz. This gently brought down a range of high- original technologies in Rupert’s classic console modules like
and having used both in mixing situations (via a Radial EXTC

mids that can be problematic for my ears, even at low volumes. the 1073, 1064, 1081, and 2254, thoughtfully advanced and
[Tape Op #100]), I was happy they brought the noise floor The V Series 4’s well-implemented voicing controls potentially refined for the 21st century studio. The Shelford Channel is
down (bucket-brigade device ICs are notoriously noisy). make these monitors long lasting; if you decide to change the built around Rupert Neve’s first new transformer-gain, class-A
Chase Bliss owner/designer Joel Korte has developed a setup in your studio, or move locations, the monitors can be easily microphone preamplifier in over 40 years, the ‘best-of-the-

great line of special stompbox effects. In a market glutted adjusted to fit that new environment. Additionally, if you have a classics’ inductor EQ section from the Shelford 5051 and 5052,
with stompboxes, his pedals are unique in that they utilize mobile rig and are looking to travel with a set of monitors instead a tone-packed diode bridge compressor, the analog power of
completely analog signal paths (never converted to digital) of relying solely on headphones, the compact V4 S4 model would variable Silk saturation, a new dual-tap transformer output
controlled via digital microprocessors for precise recall of be an appealing option, as it weighs in at just under 13 lbs. Not stage for maintaining headroom or allowing the full driving of

settings (as well as optional MIDI control). I also bought the to mention, all the V Series 4 monitors come with grilles for both the Channel without clipping standard converters, and twice
Chase Bliss Wombtone phaser, which does its job equally as drivers, which you can optionally mount with the included the operating voltage of vintage designs.”
well as the Spectre. Now my only question is, “Do I buy two hardware. The grilles would provide the necessary protection if you I know some of you jumped ahead to the bottom of this
Spectres?” Imagine a pair of these flangers in stereo, set

took the speakers on a mobile–recording or mixing gig. Plus, review to see the price. Admittedly, this baby ain’t cheap, but
slightly off of each other! For now, I’ll have to start recording having all of the EQ voicings to adjust your monitors to fit each when you add up the costs of the vintage equivalents, the
multiple passes of these unique sounds back into my sessions! new listening environment as you travel would be particularly price of the Shelford Channel is really well within the realm of
Or maybe I can convince Chase Bliss to build me a stereo useful. Along with being a viable mobile-studio solution, even the reasonable, especially if you factor in that you are unlikely to
rackmount version! Hmmm.... smallest V4 S4 model could be an option for your project studio deal with maintenance issues anytime soon with the Shelford,
($349; www.chaseblissaudio.com) –LC by simply adding one of KRK’s matching subwoofers to your like you would with vintage equipment.
Gear Reviews/(continued on page 60)/Tape Op#118/59
monitoring setup.
At this point, I will recommend that you check out the gain. Bass sounded killer through the DI, with big fat
detailed description of the Shelford Channel and its bottom and nice midrange clarity. I liked driving the input
specifications on the RND website, because for the rest of the and backing off the trim for a little grit. The DI also
review, I’m going to focus on how I used the Shelford and performed well on synth and sampler tracks running out of
what kind of results it gave me. a laptop, for an ambient bed behind banjo master Danny
For my first use of the Shelfold Channel, I took it to Studio Barnes; the Shelford added some additional warmth and
Litho in Seattle, and engineer Sam Hofstedt and I tracked a saturation and gave the sounds a bit of extra life and
male vocal with a vintage Telefunken Ela M 251. Indeed, the color. Moreover, the DI input has a nice feature not seen
tone of the Shelford’s mic preamp reminded us of the Neve on many channel strips — a “thru” option like you would
1073 — with forward mids, and highs and lows that were find on a standalone DI, which allows you to run a line
mildly but musically tamed. At the same time, the sound was from your instrument to both the channel strip and an
significantly tighter and more focused than what we would amp at the same time.
expect from a classic Neve. Engaging the EQ, we dialed in a If I had to further characterize how the Shelford Channel
slight boost at 220 Hz and a small nudge at 16 kHz. Then we sounds, I would say that the mic preamp delivers incredible
set up the compressor with 2:1 ratio and medium-slow clarity without being the least bit sterile, with a very classic
timing, so that we were seeing about −1 dB of reduction on and lovely warmth that doesn’t detract from its more
peaks. With the compressor blend at 60% and the Blue Silk modern transient response. The EQ has the beloved
saturation engaged, the overall result was quite impressive. musicality of the classic Neve modules, with a little more
The sound was very real/true, but with a touch of flexibility, while the compressor also sounds and behaves
something intangibly musical and rich in its harmonic like you would expect a vintage Neve compressor to
coloration, and the midrange-forward presentation pushed perform, with an updated sonic character that is hard to
the vocal so it was center-stage in the mix. The quantify, but is still recognizably familiar — and
combination of the light compression and Blue saturation addictively so.
did not translate as distortion, but rather additional color- The compressor can add some magic to everything it
shading that I felt enhanced the connection to the singer, touches. You can get gritty and saturated sounds out of it,
lyrics, and song. It enabled an emotional resonance that and it can be more transparent, especially when using the
another setup could have missed. I kept wanting more and blend knob. Slower attack settings can be used when you
more of this flavor. I had a hard time conveying how it simply want some glue, but the compressor is certainly fast
made me feel, but it certainly warranted saying out loud, enough to grab what you need it to. From character-laced
“Man, that feels sooo good.” utility to sonic vibe-induction, and everything in-between,
As the performances got a little more spirited, the gain- the compressor section of the Shelford gets an A+.

reduction meter was hitting −5 dB on some peaks. The And finally, the Silk control is a great tool for
compression was still transparent enough to be barely harmonically fusing the operation of all the components
audible, but when we could hear it, we liked it. With the
.c together, and if anything, it pushes the whole sound closer
compressor blend set at 100% (meaning no dry signal), we to the classic Neve side of the spectrum. Silk reduces the
could easily get the compressor to show its tone-filled negative feedback on the output transformer and adds
personality, and on sources like electric guitar, it was easy to harmonic content as the Texture knob is turned up. Blue
get sucked into wanting more. mode provides more saturation in the low and low-mid
Speaking of guitar, we next employed the Shelford Channel frequencies, and Red more in the highs and high-mids.
on a Gibson ES-347 playing through a Vox AC30, mic’d with a With the Texture knob, you can dial down to almost zero

Shure SM57. The AC30 was set up for a touch of the saturation, or dial up to levels that surpass that of vintage
ubiquitous amp breakup, and we made minor adjustments to modules. It is here more than anywhere else in the
the Shelford’s EQ to voice the track suitably. I hit the channel strip that you find the tones reminiscent of the
compressor a little harder this time, because it smoothed out cherished vintage Neve classics, but with great tonal-

a little of the 5 kHz bite of the SM57, and I pushed the shaping options and variety.

saturation more, using the Red Silk setting. What’s not to In short, the Shelford Channel is a two-for-one deal — a
like? It sounded like so many great rock guitar tones, and it killer channel strip that harkens back to the sounds of
was very easy to get there. vintage Neve, coupled with all the modern capabilities
Since I only had a single Shelford Channel for review, we should you choose to go there.

had to move the vocal chain to a vintage 1073 module in With that said, does gear really matter? Listen, a great
Studio Litho’s Neve BCM10, in order to use the Shelford on performance captured on a crap mic is still a great
guitar. I have to say, the 1073 vocal sounded really good, but performance — and there is no denying that. But a great
dare I say, I preferred the sound of the Shelford over the singer, on a great mic, paired with a great recording

vintage module? Heresy!!! That’s when Sam and I exchanged chain, can really make for something pretty special.
looks that said, “Damn, that thing is killer!” — right before Without a doubt, the Shelford Channel is a great tool, and
Sam asked me, “Geez, how much is that thing?” I’d like to it is one of those pieces of gear that will get used on a
think I am not a super material guy (except for my severe gear daily basis and stand the test of time. Your only trouble

sickness), but the Shelford Channel brought out an “I want will be deciding what to use it on.
that” response. It’s gear lust, plain and simple. Sad! Terrible! ($3495; www.rupertneve.com) –GS
I mean terrific!
Tape Op is made

It would be very remiss of me if I didn’t tell you about the

Shelford Channel’s DI, because it’s not just a tack-on high- possible by our
impedance jack. Importantly, the DI section is based on the
same class-A FET circuit of the well-received RNDI [Tape Op
Please support them and tell
#113], but it also utilizes the mic preamp’s transformer for
them you saw their ad in Tape Op.

60/Tape Op#118/Gear Reviews/(continued on page 62)

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Please Support Our Advertisers/Tape Op#118/61

bx_rooMS reverb plug-in
bx_rooMS is the first reverb plug-in from the mid-side gurus at Brainworx. Developed in conjunction
with Thomas Fiedler, bx_rooMS utilizes Fiedler’s TrueSpace technology, which according to Brainworx,
“provides a continuous range of algorithms for any selected space size, allowing continuous control when
shaping a limitless range of virtual rooms.” Sounds extravagant, but the result is a multipurpose reverb
that’s as suited for small-room emulations as it is for long, modulating decays, and everything in-between.
All the usual parameters you’d expect on a reverb plug-in are present, with a few noteworthy add-
ons. A Room Shape slider adjusts the dimensions of the reverb without affecting the first reflection. A
value of 100 (“NAT” as it’s referred to on the interface) provides the most open and clear decay, while
0 (“ART”) sounds grainy and metallic, like a silo. I most preferred the naturalness of higher values, but
also loved the shortened, overtly fake tail from lower values, because it reminded me of the cheaper
‘80s reverbs (think Yamaha SPX90). Sticking with the throwback theme, there’s also a Quantize feature,
which lets you adjust the internal bit-depth between 8, 12, 16, or 24 bits. I’ll always have a soft spot
for that weird crunch of early 12 and 16–bit digital reverbs and delays, so this was a nice way of
introducing a little bit of that character. Other features like Source Distance and Directivity, though really
interesting on paper, didn’t hold my attention quite as long, but that’s just me.
And of course, what’s a Brainworx plug-in without M-S mid-side functionality? My favorite is the
standard Brainworx BX Stereo Width control, which lets you collapse the reverb into mono with a value
of 0%, or widen it when set above 100%. Used judiciously, this pushes the reverb tails seemingly
outside of the speakers, helping the reverb cut through (around?) a dense track without having to turn
it up and risk losing clarity. This really worked wonders on lead and background vocals, with values of
about 150–200% adding a fantastic size and space to a voice without sounding chorus-y or trite. It
just sounded wider. Also included are the Brainworx Mono Maker circuit and two M-S filters for
additional stereo control. All of these M-S features can also be set to affect either the wet or dry signal,
meaning you can use the M-S processors on their own, without introducing any reverb at all.
I prefer bx_rooMS most at its extremes, either as a short, clear, room ambiance, or for dense,
cascading reverbs. That’s not to say you can’t dial in moderate plate or hall patches as well. Brainworx
included over 200 in-depth presets for those like myself who want a sound and want it fast. And unlike
many other reverbs, bx_rooMS is surprisingly light on CPU usage, so running multiple instances is a

breeze. There’s certainly no shortage of reverb plug-ins on the market, but Brainworx bx_rooMS is a
refreshing and flexible alternative worth considering. ($199; www.plugin-alliance.com)
–Dave Cerminara <davecerminara@gmail.com>
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m ai

62/Tape Op#118/Gear Reviews/(continued on page 64)

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Please Support Our Advertisers/Tape Op#118/63

Purple Audio Inside, the signal paths are 100% analog throughout, with a total
of 55 discrete op-amps and a transformer-balanced L/R output.
MFTwenty5 modular console Meanwhile, digital logic handles the multifunction controls. The
Not long ago, I moved into a new space to mix. It’s great. I got inputs, bus inserts, and meter sends are on DB25 connectors, while
it sounding good with some acoustic treatment, and it has a stellar the output buses are on TRS jacks. The I/O for the MF Fader Pack is
view of the water here in Seattle. It is an inspiring place to be, and on DB37 connectors. Up to five MFTwenty5 units can be cascaded
because of that, I have been on a mission to make it a viable place and networked together for a total of 50 stereo input channels.
to work (these things take time!), and sound-wise, it does. Interestingly, the L/R outputs are paralleled on one of the DB25s,
One thing that has been missing is good ergonomics. I do not find and the inputs are also multed on DB25s. This opens up a lot of
myself comfortable after long hours of mixing. Due to some possibilities. For example, you could feed the outputs of your mic
skateboarding accidents and general banging up of the body over the preamps to the MFTwenty5 to create a zero-latency mix during
years, after long sessions, I find myself with pain in my elbows, tracking, while simultaneously feeding your DAW through the
shoulders, and wrists. A new chair, workspace height adjustments, and MFTwenty5’s mults. Or, you could set up parallel-processing signal
similar tweaks yielded only slightly better results. It is worth noting paths with the mults during mixing.
that I have, over my time as a studio owner, gone through many The MF Fader Pack is a set of linear faders in a rackmount chassis,
variations of gear/process — some early setups driven by cost and available in multiple configurations. My unit has ten stereo channel
later by the need for a better working solution — from in-the-box faders and one stereo master. The MF Meter Bridge is a set of 21-
mixing with plug-ins; to mixing on a console and printing back to Pro segment LED meters, also in a rackmount chassis and configured for
Tools using outboard gear; to a control surface and a summing box, ten stereo channels and one stereo master. A pushbutton chooses
with outboard gear and plug-ins; to where I am now, which is a little between VU, peak, over, and peak/over metering modes, while a
of all of the above. I like the flexibility and tone, but find that when I second button clears the over indicators.
sit behind a traditional console, I mix differently. I listen differently. I Before I even racked up the MFTwenty5 as I eventually intended
like having controls right in front of me, and most importantly, I find in a console format, I used DB25 snakes to route signals from my
that I am more physically comfortable while I work. There is always patchbay to the MFTwenty5 for testing. The sound of the unit was
some degree of mousing around when a DAW is involved, but I try to very pleasing — big and open, with plenty of punchy low-end focus,
minimize it and turn knobs and push buttons when I can. as well as extension on the top. It was nice to have mute, solo, and
In any setup, there are a handful of considerations. Sound pan functionality right on the box itself, which certainly helped it
quality — it has to sound good. Flexibility — I want to be able to seem more like a console than a summing amp. In a realm of
(within reason) recall mixes quickly and integrate both outboard “known” sounding consoles, I would say that the Purple tilts more
gear and plug-ins. Ergonomics — it has to feel good to sit there all towards an API-ish sound than that of a Neve. It has a forward
day, and it needs to facilitate workflow and foster creativity. Cost — clarity and immediacy that I liked and felt hi-fi, without being the

nothing good comes cheap (most of the time anyway), but I also do least bit boring.
not want to drain the kids’ college accounts by way of my quest. Control-wise, I immediately liked the feel of the knobs and
Maintenance — I am the in-house tech whenever possible, and I’d .c buttons, and I felt that the panning was accurate. The master-
prefer to never use an outside tech, other than the manufacturers section buttons, on the other hand, seemed quite small, and the text
that I send things to, for repairs, mods, or updates. for identifying them tiny. That said, I have big fingers and was still
In my (what seems to be an endless) search for a solution, I came able to access the functions with little problem. More importantly, I
across the Purple Audio MFTwenty5. It is a modular console system was willing to forgo the challenge of operating densely packed
that starts with a 1RU-height rackmount 10×2 analog mixer. To that, controls, because the prospect of a compact console with all of my
you can add MF-series faders and meters — and 500-series modules go-to processing right in front of me — as opposed to spread across

and frames of your choice. In essence, it’s an expandable system that racks elsewhere in the room — was very appealing.
is designed to work as a compact 500-series console or sidecar, I, like many readers (I suspect), have pieces of gear that I prefer
which you can use for tracking, mixing, or both, depending on how for processing specific elements of a mix. Certain EQs and
you configure it. compressors for guitars, bass, and vocals, etc. I like tracking on a

The heart of the system is the aforementioned MFTwenty5 10×2 console with a consistent preamp sound, but when it comes time to
mixer. It has ten input channels that sum to a stereo L/R bus. Each

mix, I often prefer to get the spice rack and paintbox out for some
of the ten inputs is mono/stereo selectable, with backlit solo and extra flavor and color.
mute buttons, as well as concentric pots for level and pan/balance. The MFTwenty5 system and its recommended desk (more on that
When the MFTwenty5 is used standalone, the level pot is the fader below) provide for a compact setup that puts a generous amount of

level for its channel. When the optional MF Fader Pack is added to your preferred outboard gear right at your fingertips. It would
the system, the level knob becomes the channel’s mono aux send. arguably look cooler when racked up with a full complement of
Since the solo bus is stereo, the total output-channel count is five Purple Audio 500-series modules for consistency, but I loaded up
(L/R, stereo solo, mono aux). In addition, each channel has with my own collection of 500-series gear, and it is still a real beauty.

multicolor LEDs indicating signal level, aux mode (pre-fader, post- One aspect of ergonomics is having the gear in the proper
fader, or mute), and input mode (left-only, right-only, or stereo). furniture. In all of the MFTwenty5 literature, the system is shown in
Squeezed into the far right of the MFTwenty5’s faceplate is the an aesthetically pleasing desk from a company called JamRacks
master section, and it too is packed with a ton of functionality. There <www.jamracks.com>. I reached out to owner Jeff Baker, and he

are two master level pots, one for L/R and one for the aux send, each walked me through his products, construction methods, and
with an integrated pushbutton mute, as well as associated LED materials — and how each piece is handmade in New Jersey. The
indicators for signal level, insert, and mute. Two additional LED Double Sidecar V-Desk, which is essentially two sidecar units

indicators display the solo modes (SIP, AFL), while four multifunction connected together in a “V” shape, is what interested me most. Jeff
buttons set the solo and aux modes, as well as allow storage and recall said he was inspired by the look of the ‘70s Helios consoles when
of three user configurations. As you can imagine, changing some of making this design. To experience the MFTwenty5 as intended, I asked
the settings requires pushing two buttons at once (one channel- Jeff to send me a V-Desk. It fits the bill in terms of form, function,
related button plus one master-section button). And finally, there are number of rack spaces, cutouts for faders, and attractive profile.
two trim pots behind holes for tweaking the stereo solo level.
64/Tape Op#118/Gear Reviews/
The JamRacks V-Desk arrived in three flat-packed boxes. Opening up
the boxes, I had the same feeling I get when I embark on an IKEA project, Sonic Nuance
especially because the hardware looked very familiar. But unlike the TDI tuner & DI stompbox
furniture from the big Swedish brand, the JamRacks desk utilizes eco- It’s rare these days for a truly unique piece of gear to rear its
friendly, formaldehyde-free bamboo — no MDF or veneers in sight. head. What is surprising about the Sonic Nuance TDI is that it is
Following the PDF instructions that I was emailed, assembly was actually such a simple combination of two familiar, somewhat mundane
a pretty painless endeavor. All of the pieces were milled and finished tools — a direct box and a digital tuner. It’s hard to believe that
perfectly, and the unit went together seamlessly. I inadvertently flipped a no one has thought of merging these two devices before, but it
couple of pieces for one another, and I had to undo some of my work, so turns out it’s a very handy thing. Think about it — the
I suggested to Jeff that he label the pieces with stickers for us dummies combination could be very useful and space-saving in the studio
who can’t see right from left. The assembled desk is amazingly light — with analog synths, guitars, basses, and other instruments that
but incredibly solid — and I appreciate that venting and cable frequently need tuning and are often recorded direct. And in
management have been thoughtfully incorporated into the design. There certain live settings, this combo box could reside on a performer’s
is no comparison in terms of quality, stability, and strength to the typical pedalboard as their main tuner, while providing a high-quality
particle-board solutions, and to my knowledge, the JamRacks products are XLR output as needed.
comparable in price, if not more affordable. Did I mention that JamRacks The TDI (which stands for “Tuner & DI”) is a stompbox-sized
is a small shop, and you can ring the guy who designs and builds the stuff? floor unit, with the usual DI box appointments such as a ground-
When fully loaded, the MFTwenty5 system in the Double Sidecar V-Desk lift switch, 1/4’’ instrument-level I/O, and an XLR mic-level
takes on the appearance of a nice, tight, mastering console. My converters, output. There is neither a pad nor a polarity switch, but it does
spring reverbs, and secondary compressors live off to the side in a more have a 9 V power jack and a heavy-duty footswitch to mute the
traditional outboard setting, but the things I use religiously are all in the output signal and engage the built-in digital tuner.
V-Desk — 34 channels worth — right there in front of me. As a direct box, it is a passive unit employing a top-of-the-
Outside of the occasional overdub, I do not track much in my new line Jensen JT-DB transformer. I A/B’d it against all my passive
space, so I set up the MFTwenty5 almost exclusively for mixing stems. On DI boxes, and the TDI sounded as good or better than the lot of
the left side of the V-Desk, I have the MFTwenty5, MF Fader Pack, MF Meter them — very clean and bright, lots of headroom. The kicker for
Bridge, and two 500-series frames filled with my most-used modules. On me was the clever notion of having phantom power supply the
the right side, I have my “gets used on every mix” rackmount gear. This juice for the built-in tuner. Just plug the XLR output into a
includes a couple mix-bus compressors, my mix-bus EQ, and other favorite mic preamp with phantom power, and you’ve got an
dynamics processors that get frequent use. I love having this stuff right in accurate, easy-to-read digital tuner accessible at the stomp of a
front of me while I make adjustments, instead of in a rack behind me or switch. No battery or external power supply to deal with (though
down to my side. the tuner will work with a 9 V adaptor, in cases where phantom

If you are using two ten-space 500-series frames stacked one above is unavailable). Genius!
the other, you can arrange your modules to line up vertically with the MF When recording Mike Germaine at Verdant Studio recently, I
meters and faders (e.g., with left-channel modules on top and right- had Mike’s 12-string guitar going through an amp, but also
channel ones below). Because I have eleven and ten–space frames, they through the TDI to a separate track, as a direct “safety.” There
didn’t line up exactly, so I just racked my stereo pairs of modules side-by- was very little floor clutter, and it was super-easy for Mike to
side. I have everything on a patchbay, so I can patch and modify signal check the tuning on the finicky 12-string often, with just a tap
chains easily and at will. of the foot and just one box on the floor. “I could get used to
This setup’s attractiveness lies in the combination of high-quality this thing,” he said at one point.
sonics, good ergonomics, and the ability to make adjustments to the audio Is the TDI perfect? No, but really, it’s close enough. The only

on analog hardware units without leaving the sweet spot! Furthermore, grumble I had was with some confusing labeling. The power
being able to grow the system over time is a nice benefit to those looking switch is marked “Off Up” and accompanied with a warning “Do
to start with great summing and add more 500-series modules, faders, or NOT (un)plug XLR when ON.” Odd, right? But it turns out to
metering over time to build a more capable rig. simply be a reminder that, as with any mic connected to

The MFTwenty5 is a new product, and for all intents and purposes, phantom power, there will be a big thumpy burst if the unit is
unplugged with the audio unmuted. But it’s easy enough to flip

it is handmade to order by Purple Audio owner Andrew Roberts [Tape

Op #117]. While setting up my system, I ran into a few problems, the on/off button or engage the tuner/mute footswitch.
including some of the internal components having unseated A related aesthetic side-note / mini-rant: I cringe whenever
themselves during shipping due to rough handling, which manifested I see one of those plastic clip-on tuners jammed onto a guitar

as glitches in the master section’s digital control. That said, Andrew was neck. They are ubiquitous (admittedly, my studio has at least a
available to troubleshoot and walk me through correction of the issues, half dozen kicking around — they do work), yet I find them to
or rebuild and send replacement parts as needed. He also explained be distractingly ugly. And these days, when performances and
that the packaging has been modified to address the shipping-related recording sessions are so thoroughly photographed and video’d,

problems. It was also helpful to talk through some of the rationale I can’t help thinking, “Man, photos with those cheap plastic
behind the MFTwenty5 design, and how to use the system to its full thingies are gonna look weird and dated ten years from now.”
potential. (I’m sure I am currently not, but hope to soon!) Whether you agree with me or not, the Sonic Nuance TDI gives
In a world where many are ditching their traditional consoles for you one less reason to use one of those undignified clip-ons,

in-the-box or smaller-format mixing and tracking solutions, the Purple because it keeps the tuner on the floor, where it arguably
Audio MFTwenty5 provides a great solution that lies at the intersection belongs.
of analog and digital realms, with easily integrated faders and meters. Sonic Nuance owner Ted Burmas is a one-man show based in

For some, this setup may be too much, and for others, not enough; California. As the designer of the TDI, Ted was recently awarded
but for me, it hit a sweet spot of high-quality sonics, seamless a patent for it, and he assembles, programs, and tests each unit
integration of outboard gear, easy recall, and — in the JamRacks himself. ($200 – $300 direct, depending on options;
desk — great ergonomics. www.sonicnuance.com) –Pete Weiss <www.weissy.com>
(MFTwenty5 $2,900, MF Fader Pack $1,350 – $2,150, MF Meter Bridge
$750; www.purpleaudio.com) –GS
Gear Reviews/(continued on page 66)/Tape Op#118/65
The Art of Recording Gear Geeking w/ Andy…
a Big Band (film) As consumers of audio gear, we tend to dissertate ad nauseam on
the subtle sonic differences between thing x and thing y.
Shevy Shovlin, Director Meanwhile, many of us are working in suboptimal listening
“It’s not rocket science — putting good microphones up environments that hamper our ability to truly ascertain the
and getting a balance in a good room.” So states Al Schmitt, accuracy of our systems. Project and home studio owners, when
as we watch him and Steve Genewick lead a two-day master setting up their rooms, tend to focus first on where things fit in
class while recording the Chris Walden Big Band at Capitol the room physically — the desk, racks, and floor space to record a
Studios’ Studio A. Al Schmitt has worked with some of music’s take. The speakers are plopped down wherever it’s most
most important artists, including Henry Mancini, Frank convenient, like the desk surface or meter bridge. Acoustic
Sinatra, Madonna, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Sammy Davis, Jr., treatment is then placed on the walls to absorb first reflections.
Natalie Cole, Thelonious Monk, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, And then, maybe bass traps are put into the corners of the room.
and Paul McCartney. He’s a world-class engineer/producer These last two points are good suggestions, and over the years I’m
with a lot of experience behind the board. In this film, we get certain you’ve gleaned variations of this advice in Tape Op and
to watch like a fly on the wall, as Al and Steve go through elsewhere. At this point, if you’re not already familiar with the
setup, get the musicians in place, get balances, and concept of room modes, do some research online; you’ll find
eventually mix a song (more on that later). explanations ranging from technical dissertations to easily
The custom-made piano cover/sleeve for isolation he had digestible animated GIFs that help you understand and visualize
made for Diana Krall is a cool trick to see. Al’s explanations how room modes can impair sound reproduction. In short, certain
of his mic choices are a treat to hear, and you get to see Al frequencies related to the geometry of the room will be augmented
fine-tuning and adjusting mic placement to his liking. His or canceled due to standing waves. Acoustic treatment is the
stories about past sessions are priceless — this is a man with obvious solution to consider, but lower-order room modes,
so many important sessions in his past. As he’s setting up, particularly below 200 Hz, are the most difficult to manage. For
the enthusiastic conversations with the musicians illustrate these, you need bass-trapping — usually a lot of it. GIK Acoustics
how invested he really is, and you get the feeling they [Tape Op #113] and RealTraps [#85, #48, #38, #36] are two
respect Al immensely and are going to play well. As Al says, manufacturers that make high-performance bass traps, and the PSI
“When you go into the studio and they’re running down the Audio AVAA C20 [#114] is a phenomenal active bass absorber.
first tune, you hear that sound come at you. The big band — Effective bass-trapping smooths out the valleys and peaks in low-
there’s nothing like it. I get goose bumps when I go out frequency response while also absorbing time-domain resonances
there. My job is to come here, into the control room, and that can blur the overall sonic picture. In addition to room modes,

capture that sound.” speaker-boundary interferences should also be a primary concern.
Dave Pensado [Tape Op #111] and Ryan Hewitt [#61] are Because a typical loudspeaker is omnidirectional at low
there, with others, watching the proceedings; and they make frequencies, bass from a speaker will radiate in all directions. For
some insightful comments about making records and Al’s .c frequencies with quarter wavelengths that match the distances
working methods. between the speaker and the room boundaries, there will be
One of Al’s points here is the use of microphones and corresponding dips in response due to cancellations from
placement over EQ and compression. As Al says, “I’m a reflections. Nulls from destructive interference will be produced at
microphone freak, so I’m always trying different microphones
wavelengths of 1/4, 3/4, 5/4, and so on. Where does that leave
on stuff. People are always amazed because I don’t use any you in terms of finding the best position for your speakers and for

EQ when I record or when I mix on a project that I’ve your ears? One simple strategy is to place your speakers as close
recorded. When I started, we didn’t have any equalizers in the to the front wall as possible, with the goal of raising the speaker-
board. If we wanted something a little brighter, we would boundary cancellation frequencies so they’re high enough to treat
change the mic.” Good advice indeed. easily with broadband absorbers behind the speakers. (Many

Criticisms of this film? There are many times when we could professionally-designed control rooms have speakers mounted flush
be critically listening, yet the lavalier mics on Al and Steve in the wall, so that the wall becomes an “infinite baffle” for the

seem to be open, so we end up hearing more of the sound of speakers, greatly reducing the detrimental effects of speaker-
the control room than would be preferred. The tradeoff is we boundary interaction.) An opposite tactic is to move the speakers
get to hear Al and Steve at work — Steve calling out song far enough from any room boundaries so that the cancellation
sections and Al listening closely and making adjustments. The

frequencies are below the bass response of the speaker, but that’s
end of the film, which is ostensibly about mixing, really is a a quarter-wavelength distance of 7 ft for 40 Hz. A third strategy is
playback of the song, with Al asking if anyone has questions; to employ one or more subwoofers that you place on the floor
and the video wraps up. I was left baffled. Nothing about the against the wall, or better yet, in the front corners, where the bass

mixing process was discussed, which seems a shame. At just drivers can excite all room modes without boundary interference
over an hour, it seems like the video could have been a little from the walls that meet there. As with any general guidance for
bit longer and included more details. resolving complex issues, it’s best to use these suggestions as
Chris Walden’s compositions and arrangements are top starting points and determine your own solution empirically. Play

notch. It’s a pleasure to see these “cream of the crop” session tone sweeps, and walk around the room to hear the nulls. As you
players running down these charts under his direction. Maybe experiment, take measurements with acoustic analysis software,
it’s less of a how-to course and more of a rare glimpse at like FuzzMeasure [#111] or the free Room EQ Wizard [#111]. Any
watching a master of recording at work. The demeanor and decent omnidirectional mic should work, because an absolute

attitudes of both Al and Steve also clue us in on how to carry measurement is less important than seeing the relative changes as
oneself in the studio, and how to be productive, critical, and you iteratively reposition your speakers, subwoofer, acoustic
pleasant at the same time. treatment, or mix position. A waterfall plot will show how the
(DVD or download $19.95; theartofrecordingabigband.com) response deviates in both frequency and time–domain. For more on
–LC this topic, read Wes Lachot’s “Control Room Sound” [#25]. –AH

66/Tape Op#118/Gear Reviews/(continued on page 68)

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Please Support Our Advertisers/Tape Op#118/67

RME The Babyface Pro has impressive specs, including AD/DA
conversion at sample rates up to 192 kHz. The interface is
working latch. Additionally, the MIDI cable was incredibly
hard to get in and out of its molded compartment. Overall, I
Babyface Pro desktop class-compliant on Windows, macOS, and iOS; and a high- ditched the case in favor of toting the unit around in a
USB interface performance ASIO driver with ASIO Direct Monitoring is camera bag. RME gets points for trying, and no, I definitely
Great sound, flexible, tough, balanced, professional I/O, MIDI available for Windows. (Note that using Babyface Pro with an don’t think users are deliberating the purchase of this
I/O, expandable, built-in DSP, bus-powered — these features iPad does require a separate power source.) The front — awesome interface over the included (underwhelming) case,
and traits shouldn’t have to be mutually exclusive in a compact, really, top — face has four LED meters for stereo input and so this is the most minor of irritations.
mobile AD/DA interface. Yet, here we are in 2017, and I was still output metering; a large jog wheel for preamp or output gain RME’s software console, with its consistent UI across all of
fiending for the perfect portable solution (admittedly, from way adjustments; four multifunction buttons for I/O and the company’s interfaces, is available for Windows, macOS,
up high upon my privileged reviewer perch). Well, I think I’ve parameter selection; and two more buttons dedicated to and iOS. It’s called TotalMix FX, and it has both its fans and
found the best yet in the RME Babyface Pro, an obsessively monitor-dimming and track-selection operations. The XLR ins its detractors. I know that Andy Hong, as an owner of
engineered, no-compromise portable interface with four analog and outs for channels 1 and 2 are in the rear; and the left multiple RME interfaces [Tape Op #63, #88, #91], is a firm
inputs and outputs, plus TOSLINK I/O for either S/PDIF or ADAT and right sides of the unit are where you’ll find TOSLINK, USB, member of the former group, but I was initially one of the
Optical (the latter with SMUX support). DC power, MIDI (which requires the included breakout latter. That said, TotalMix has grown on me after much use
I’ll be honest, the thing that first attracted me to this cable — can’t win ‘em all), two TRS line inputs for channels and tutorial consultation. It’s deep and detailed, with a
particular interface wasn’t necessarily all of the above, but that 3 and 4, plus 1/4’’ and 1/8’’ headphone jacks running in three-band parametric EQ and a high-pass filter available on
it was seemingly the only compact USB bus–powered brick that parallel. Interestingly, the headphone outputs offer different every channel, plus mixer snapshots, customizable layout
I could find which included balanced XLR connectors without output impedances of 10 Ω and 2 Ω respectively, so you presets, mute/solo/fader grouping, and sends and returns for
requiring a breakout cable. The Babyface Pro has a solid, have some flexibility in matching your preferred headphones very usable reverb and delay. All of the mixing, routing, and
machined aluminum frame, and the XLR sockets are built right or IEMs. All of this tucks into a housing that measures just DSP effects are handled by the Babyface Pro’s onboard FPGA
into that metal housing for a confidence-inspiring, stage-ready 4.25’’ × 1.4’’ × 7.1’’ and weighs in at a solid 1.5 lbs. The chip, so TotalMix is light on your computer’s CPU. Once you
snug fit. I had been looking for quite a while for a small interface housing has four rubber feet that keep it firmly on your become comfortable with the flexible signal-flow capabilities
that I could use for both on-stage performance and portable desktop, but also has a machined “quarter 20” female socket and dense UI, setting up things like complex M-S tracking,
recording — one that wouldn’t come with a ton of the usual on the bottom (1/4’’ diameter with 20 TPI), should you want multiple cue mixes, and even talkback routing becomes easy
compromises. Most portable, bus-powered interfaces I’ve seen to mount it to a mic stand, video rig, etc. to do. Thoughtful touches include a row of dedicated
have plastic housings, not enough I/O, or inefficient power draw Another nice roadworthy touch is the box the unit ships software playback channels, one-click submix or “free”
over USB, which degrades converter performance or affects in, which is an injection-molded plastic storage case with routing views, and a per–stereo-pair width control. There’s
driver stability unless you use an often-optional power supply. internal compartments to store the included right-angle USB even a spreadsheet-like matrix view for all of your routing if
That, or they require a separate dongle or breakout cable for 2.0 cable and MIDI breakout cable. While this is a great idea you want to forgo the mixing-console UI. Once I got used to
primary analog I/O, most of which don’t even terminate in that I wish other manufacturers would consider, my case the interaction between the physical controls on the
unfortunately arrived with one of its two clips either Babyface Pro and the TotalMix software, I was good to go. I

balanced XLR. The engineers at RME must have heard my wailing
all the way over in Germany, because this latest iteration of the damaged or just really loose, and I didn’t feel confident could control all of my basic gain and mix settings via the
Babyface just checks all the boxes, and then some. carrying the Babyface Pro around in a case with just one hardware, even channel panning, while diving into the
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software for changes in multipoint routing or DSP. While the If it wasn’t already apparent, this little box is super Longtime readers of this magazine will recognize that for
learning curve isn’t radically different from other software flexible. I didn’t get a chance to test the Babyface Pro with 15 years, the primary speakers in my studio have been ADAM
mixers, I’d advise spending some quality time with the manual my iPad (which would require an external power supply, not S3-A active monitors [Tape Op #33], and the speakers at my
(or YouTube) to get the most out of TotalMix FX. included, plus an Apple Camera Connection Kit/Lightning office workstation ADAM P11-A actives [#33]. Over the years,
In my testing, I used the Babyface Pro extensively as a adapter), but deep-diving into the manual revealed steps on I’ve mentioned both models in my reviews of various products
mobile recorder and also as my go-to rig when playing live how to activate a standalone mode by powering on the published here. During this time, I’ve had plenty of
with bands — relying on the unit for DAW output (normally interface without being connected to USB, such that the unit opportunities to demo and hear many other fine speakers, but
Ableton Live) and cue-mix monitoring. As a stage interface, can act as a converter sans computer, or standalone stereo the HEDD Type 30 is the first monitor that has compelled me
this thing is perfect. I can output super-clean audio with mic preamp. The manual even has recommendations for to swap out my ADAM S3-As. Let me tell you why.
incredible fidelity and crazy low latency, over trustworthy powering the interface from rechargeable LiPo batteries and HEDD, which is short for Heinz Electrodynamic Designs,
balanced XLR cables — while simultaneously monitoring a setting up MIDI or OSC external controllers! Can you say, was founded in 2015 by Klaus Heinz and his son Frederik
separate near-zero-latency cue mix over IEMs — with my “German-engineered”? Knop. Freddy holds a PhD in musicology, and he’s an active
analog synths and two vocal mics going into my DAW for live So, I’m spoiled now. I think I’ve found one of the best musician and composer, as well as the mastering engineer at
looping and processing. Did I mention MIDI sync, too? As a possible portable, bus-powered recording solutions out there Listeners Mastering <www.listeners.berlin>. The elder Klaus is
mobile recording device, the Babyface Pro also rocks. The in the Babyface Pro. But better yet, I know that I haven’t even an acoustic professional with 40 years of high-end
conversion is pristine, with insane frequency response begun to scratch the surface of what it’s capable of. To be fair, loudspeaker designs to his name. As the head of R&D for
(especially at 192 kHz — check the specs published on the I’m not sure my wallet is as enthused as I am, but hey, there ADAM Audio, the company that he and his son cofounded
RME website); and the mic preamps are clear and open- are worse vices than audio engineering. Right? previously, Klaus was arguably the first speaker designer to
sounding with a ton of available gain (up to +65 dB). At ($749 street; www.rme-audio.com) successfully incorporate Oskar Heil’s Air Motion Transformer
various times, I tracked live percussion, acoustic guitar, piano, –Dana Gumbiner <www.danagumbiner.com> pleated-diaphragm ribbon transducer design in speakers for
and even a lengthy live speaking event, directly to Pro Tools
sessions ranging from 44.1 to 192 kHz — all without a single HEDD the pro audio market. So, it seems logical that my love for
ADAMs would ultimately be swayed by the newer, perhaps
hiccup from the drivers. Type 30 active monitors evolutionary design of the HEDDs. With that said, let me now
Moreover, the hardware controls offer a number of neat and Spoiler alert! This active, three-way, midfield monitor from tell you that my initial reaction to the sound of the HEDD Type
useful tricks. For example, holding the Dim button down for HEDD is so incredible, I purchased a pair for my personal 30 had me feeling very puzzled.
two seconds changes the main output volume to a previously studio. I’ll spare you the effort of jumping to the end of the After the first 15 minutes of listening to the Type 30 in my
set value, and that value can be set at any point on the fly review to see how much it costs — $3,999 each. control room, I noted four points: (1) The HEDD sound was
by holding down the Set button for two seconds — which is Understandably, my decision was anything but easy. In fact, not as “exciting” as the ADAM, especially in regard to high-
a useful shortcut for increasing or decreasing output levels it wasn’t until a couple weeks after I had sent away the demo frequency detail, despite both speakers having folded-ribbon
when playing live. Note that when the Babyface Pro is pair to the NAMM Show, that I decided to rethink my budget tweeters. (2) The lower midrange of the HEDD seemed “heavy”
connected to a USB 3.0 host, only the USB 2.0 protocol is so that I could have a permanent set of these in my studio. and “slow,” even though the Type 30 has two 7’’ woofers and

utilized, but the interface functions normally connected to (At the time, my demo speakers were the only ones of this a dedicated 4’’ midrange driver, versus the S3-A’s 7.3’’
computer ports of either standard. model in the U.S.) midwoofer and identical-looking woofer. (3) The Type 30’s
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A compressor this
low-frequency extension was clearly better. (4) The Type 30’s With all these testing notes and explanations aside, how
imaging was much stronger — with almost point-source does the Type 30 perform in actual recording and mixing
precision when heard singly, similar to my three different situations? I tracked two Chris Brokaw songs for the

big should take up

coaxial monitors. I was happy with points 3 and 4, but soundtrack of La Barracuda, a film premiering at SXSW 2017,
concerning 1 and 2, I was disappointed. I hoped that using the HEDDs as the only speakers. Recording drums, guitar,
“breaking in” the drivers would alleviate the darker, duller bass, and piano, I felt a newfound confidence, appreciating

your entire rack.

sound, so I ran the Type 30s all night at high volume. the true detail and neutral tone of the Type 30s. I never had
The next day, I listened to the HEDDs for many hours while the urge to switch to a second pair of speakers for comparison.
working on various projects, before updating my impressions Once tracking was done, I brought home the rough mixes, and

At $995 it leaves of the Type 30: (1) Still not as “exciting” in the highs as my
ADAMs. (2) Lower mids now seemed “tight,” and I welcomed
I gladly discovered that things still sounded “right” on my
home hi-fi systems, as well as various headphones. In short,

some room in
what I was hearing in lower-midrange detail and strength. the translation seemed extremely predictable.
On the third day of listening, I began to suspect that what Unfortunately, before Chris returned to complete real mixes,
I was hearing was actually more truthful than what I’d become I had to send the HEDDs off to the NAMM Show, as mentioned

your wallet, too.

accustomed to hearing from my ADAMs. That’s when I pulled above. Switching back to the ADAM S3-A speakers — ones
out my Cross·Spectrum Labs calibrated mic [Tape Op #96] to that I had trusted and loved for 15 years — was the opposite
take careful measurements. Here’s what I learned: of a revelation. I felt like I was stumbling through the mix. We
The Type 30 exhibits much less harmonic distortion than completed the mix, but unsurprisingly, the mix came back to
the S3-A, especially in the highs, which explains why the me a week later for revisions. By that time, I had decided to
Type 30 is not as “exciting” as the S3-A. From 3–10 kHz, the invest in my own pair of HEDDs. With credit card in hand, I
HEDD tweeter has 15 dB less THD than the first-generation made a quick call to Alto Music <www.altomusic.com>, who at
ADAM tweeter in the S3-A. What I thought was extra high- the time had the only stock in the U.S.; and two days later, I
frequency detail in the ADAM’s sound is actually distortion. was remixing the Chris Brokaw songs on the HEDDs. Needless
Moreover, across most of the frequency spectrum, the Type 30 to say, I immediately felt more comfortable, anticipating that
suffers from significantly less third, fourth, and higher–order the mix translation would be seamless — which it was.
harmonic distortion than the S3-A. I also measured the Now that my story is complete, let me take a moment to
distortion of my P11-A speaker, and this too has highlight a few of the notable design details that factor across
characteristics similar to the S3-A. All this explains why the the HEDD line. None of the drivers are “off the shelf”; they’re
Type 30 is less “exciting” than my ADAMs — far less all designed by Klaus Heinz and manufactured exclusively for
harmonic distortion! HEDD. The built-in Class D amps come from ICEpower. The
Additionally, the HEDD tweeter extends out past 30 kHz cabinets are unibody-like in structure, and they’re covered in a

(the limit of my mic’s response). The ADAM tweeter starts to matte, non-slip coating. Standard inputs include balanced XLR
drop precipitously at 20 kHz. Understandably, due to its much and unbalanced RCA, but optional HEDD Bridge cards will soon
greater extension, the phase response of the HEDD tweeter is
.c be available for AES3, Dante, or AES67 connectivity. Three
much more controlled from 6–30 kHz than the ADAM tweeter. center-detented potentiometers adjust the levels of low and
Regarding the lower-mids, the Type 30 has 1–2 dB more high shelves, as well as overall gain. If you want to learn more,
energy from 250–500 Hz than the S3-A. But what’s also true the HEDD website is worth a visit, as it’s well-designed and
is that the Type 30 has more accurate impulse response, very informative. (Each $3,999 street; www.hedd.audio) –AH
especially in that same region. Settling time is half that of the

S3-A, with far less overshoot. So all in all, what I’m hearing in

the Type 30’s lower mids is not just greater volume, it’s greater
detail with less time-domain smearing.
Regarding the rest of the spectrum, the Type 30’s frequency see more of our
response is essentially flat down to 30 Hz. The S3-A’s response bonus/archived

The Retro Doublewide Compressor

reviews online!
starts to slope at 90 Hz, and it’s down by 6 dB at 30 Hz. One
Everything sounds better

consequence of this is that the Type 30 exhibits greater group

through a Retro. delay and resonance around 30 Hz, but that’s to be expected
with a steeper (yet deeper) curve resulting from a lower-
A Fairchild will set you back $30,000 frequency tuning of the cabinet ports (in conjunction with

but you can have real tube compression better woofers). Importantly, moving this resonance lower in the
today for just $995 from Retro spectrum, where there is typically less sonic material to be
Instruments. The Doublewide is the best reproduced, means that it will be less detrimental to the overall
value of its kind and is handcrafted sound — again, less distortion, especially where it counts.

Given that both the HEDD Type 30 and the ADAM S3-A were
in California’s Central Valley alongside
designed by the same person, I’m actually quite surprised at
our 176 and Sta-Level. how divergent these speaker models sound, and how
Contact your pro-audio dealer differently they measure. To be fair, I haven’t spent much time

today for a demo. with later-generation ADAM speakers, and maybe if I did, an
evolutionary connection would be clearer to me; but for now,
I’m going to contend that the HEDD Type 30 is vastly different

in sonic character from early-generation ADAMs. I’m going to

further assert that if you were not a fan of the ADAM sound
(and I know many of my friends and colleagues had a dislike

retroinstruments.com for the “exciting” sound of ADAMs), that shouldn’t stop you
from auditioning HEDDs.

70/Tape Op#118/Gear Reviews/(Fin.)

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Please Support Our Advertisers/Tape Op#118/73
The Real Skills You Need to Make Great Recordings
by Larry Crane

It’s easy to think that amassing a pile of recording equipment

is all one needs to do in order to run a successful commercial
studio, but it’s only a small part of the equation. What are the
true skills and mindsets that all successful (and busy) audio * Remember this one thing: It’s not about YOU. It’s never
professionals really bring to the table? about YOU. As a producer, engineer, musician – whatever
capacity you are in outside of being the artist – we are there to
* Learn how to stay focused while hearing the same song over and serve the music, the songs, and the artist. I’ve seen too many
over. If you want to imagine this as a career, sit in a room for 10 inexperienced producers dive into a project and practically
hours listening to the same song on repeat. I’m totally serious. In destroy everything good because they are not keeping this in
fact, pick a song that you personally don’t care for or want to hear. mind. You are only here now to help the situation in front of
Focus on different aspects of the song on each pass and take notes. you, and to help create the best music possible.

* You must be a dedicated music fan. As a producer and engineer I * Listen to all conversations and anticipate everything.
feel it is important to try to know about more music than my clients. Have open mics in the live room and listen in between takes to
Understanding and absorbing a wide variety of genres, artists, and hear what the client’s needs and worries are. Then, if you have
albums, as well as knowing the history behind most of this music time, act on these needs before anyone asks. At least be ready
allows me to talk intelligently about music referenced during a session, to act, and have the problem solved (in your head) in advance
including how it was created and recorded. whenever humanly possible.

* Watch bands live and understand the interaction that is happening * Train your pitch. This was my weakest skill going into
on stage. If a bassist turns to the drummer with a smile or a scowl, professional recording. Now I can spot bad (relative) pitch a
figure out why and what happened. Is the singer’s glance across the mile away. Record yourself singing and then play it back into a
stage a warning not to mess up or a subtle encouragement to keep tuner. Play with Auto-tune and see what it needs to do to
playing as well as they are? “correct” a bum note. Look at vocals, violin, or slide guitars on
a spectral audio analyzer; you can see where the pitch drifts.

* You need to know when to have an opinion, and when to express Then decide when sharp or flat is actually emotional, or if it’s
it. I can remember every instance where I feel I should have kept my just plain distracting.
mouth shut. The wrong statement at the wrong time can derail
everything. It is your job to know when your thoughts are not needed, * It’s not about your music. You don’t want to know how
and if they are, who to express them to. Not everyone needs to hear many times an intern or assistant on a session has started
everything said during a session. blathering on about their band, recording project, or some such
thing without any real prompting or need to discuss.
Do not be this person.
* You’d better have (or develop) some people skills. Can you read
the mood of a room? Can you pick up on individual people’s moods?

Can you get a group of people to work together on a project without * Know when to shut up, but know when to speak up.
coming across like a bully or dictator? Are you able to control a Know when to document and take notes, but also know when
situation without others suspecting what you are doing? Can you things should be sorted out later. Know when to produce, but
integrate into a group of people you’ve just met? Can you do that for also know when to simply press record. In other words, keep

a limited time? Understanding people and personal dynamics within a working, and keep learning, from both your successes and
recording session is key. mistakes. Knowledge will come the longer you stay on your

* Keeping sessions on track and productive is so important, even if
you are not labeled as the producer. Learning how to curtail recording This End Rant was modified from my outline for a Project Studio Expo

ideas that will simply waste time without insulting the idea’s talk that I gave on October 31, 2015, at the 139th AES convention
originator is important. But, then again, accepting outside ideas is in New York City. Thanks to the fine folks at Sound On Sound
important as well. It’s certainly a balancing act! Magazine for having me involved over the last few years!

* Can you let everything go at the end of the day? Criticism thrown
your way might be simply an artist’s insecurity or fears. Or maybe they
really did catch you messing up. You’d better be able to reset your

brain and walk in the next day with a smile on your face.

74/Tape Op#118/End Rant/