Influences and Respect


Influences and Respect

I think I end up writing a lot about our songs, and our process and don't often give credit to the influences that have lead me/us to this point.  I guess I have a bit of a split personality because I've often purchased music in the past based entirely on its production value or the producer himself rather than entirely based on the artist's music.  Today I'd just like to give thanks to the great people that have preceded me, and show respect for all the things I've learned from them.  The following is more to do with the men behind the glass rather than in front of the microphones.  These gentlemen have truly shaped the way I make records and what I want to hear from a great recording.

Even though the Beach Boys Greatest Hits was my first ever album, given to me by my older brother when I was about 4 or 5, I think The Beatles were the first band that I ever loved.  Hey Jude was my favorite song until I was almost ten, which was subsequently replaced by Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.   It was on A Night at the Opera that as a small boy I really could discern the studio at work on a recording.  It was fascinating trying to imagine a choir of mad English rock stars singing 'Scalaboosh! Scalaboosh! Do You do the Fandango?'  I mean who was doing that right?  So I must give credit to Mr. Roy Thomas Baker for his astounding production work on that album and the ones that followed.  He kept it up through out the 70's too: The Cars first two albums were brilliant pieces of phonographic history.  Once again his studio wizardry was on display in all it's glory.

Next on my personal list is the one and only Mr. Bob Clearmountain.  It was Clearmountain that really defined what a great album should sound like for me.  He'd mixed a few albums in the early 80's: Roxy Music Avalon, Bryan Ferry's Boys and Girls and then INXS's Kick album which were sonic masterpieces.  His sense of space, dynamics,  ambience, tone and overall balances were perfection to my young ears.  I still reference his work from time to time to get an overall impression of how I'm doing.  Of course the songs you work on determine a great deal about how they should be mixed, but his work is exemplary.

Probably the third most influential person on my production side was Tom Lord Alge.  Tom mixed the first Pure album back at Little Mountain Studio in 1992.  I sat in the corner for a week and watched this guy turn knobs and create some of the coolest sounds I'd ever heard come out of a pair of NS-10s  (NS-10's are the little bookshelf speakers that Bob Clearmountain made famous by bringing them into the studio to reference mixes on rather than the very large and expensive wall mounted studio monitors that had been generally used by everyone else before him).  Through out that week I'd ask Tom how he'd done a certain cool effect, or created a really incredible drum sound, and with surprising ease he'd take a bit of time and explain it.  I learned so much from that guy it still affects the way I mix records today.  Of course it didn't hurt that he went on to become a top five mix engineer in the rock and roll world either. His credits include several top hitmakers: Sum 41, Hole, Wallflowers, Live, Goo Goo Dolls, U2, Oasis even the Rolling Stones.  The guy knows how to mix a hit record.

Of course there were a few more producers that made their impressions along the way as well.  Trevor Horn who became famous for his work on Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Welcome to the Pleasuredome was absolutely state of the art.  He was a pioneer of sampling technology back when samplers cost the price of a decent house!   He also has worked with Yes on their 'Owner of a Lonely Heart' record and had his own project called Art of Noise.  Later he produced Seal which was another fantastic sonic masterpiece.  But his influence is mostly limited to approach rather than results.

Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois's work with U2 has always been a center piece in shaping my tastes as well.  They seem to work well together creating wonderfully deep sonic fields to lay out U2's songs upon.  The Joshua Tree, while it may not be the band's greatest album, does contain my favorite song by that band, With Or Without You.  That song still has the power to bring me to tears if the mood is right.  As an album Achtung Baby was pretty eclectic, but I loved how the band reinvented itself for the 90's and that too benefited from the deft work of Lanois and Eno.  (Oh and Eno's work with the Coldplay on their latest is deftly sublime as well).

Butch Vig and Andy Wallace teamed up to deliver the biggest album of the 90's: Nirvana's Nevermind.   I'd heard what Butch Vig had done with the Smashing Pumpkins back then, and while they were cool at the time, it was the Nevermind album that convinced me these guys were outstanding at their jobs.  A classic album that, though overexposed to most of us, will still sound good in thirty year's time.

And of course it would be remiss to leave of this list Mutt Lange.  His albums with AC/DC - Highway to Hell and Back In Black are both landmark albums in the history of rock and roll.  Of course the monster albums he created with Def Leppard certainly confirm his status as a hitmaker, but it was his execution and style that impressed me.  His vocal layering techniques (which to my ear sounded as though he was trying to emulate what Roy Thomas Baker was doing)  and his specific demands on performing parts exactly the way he wanted - what someone once coined as 'The Producer is God' complex - definitely make his artists all sound quite alike, yet they have an undeniable appeal.  I mean he made Shania Twain sound like Bryan Adams who was made to sound like Def Leppard whose sound was built on what he'd established with AC/DC.  Some argue it's a failure that all his record sound the same, but the other side of the argument is that they were also all smash hits, so who's right?  Anyway, I do give respects to the man.

Oh and I guess I should also add in Alan Moulder, whose work with Curve was one of my biggest influences back in the early 90's.  He's also made a solid career working with Trent Reznor in Nine Inch Nails as well.  Very talented individual. 

This might all seem a bit boring to anyone who's not really involved in the creation of music, as most of us only really care about the people who are performing the music, but I've always felt a debt of gratitude to these great studio masters who've taught me so much about the art  of recording music.  Which, as we pass into this age of online music, and downloadable albums we're dangerously close to losing this information.  These people work extremely hard at their craft and it would be a disgrace not to acknowledge their contributions to our culture and history. 

But then it's all just my opinion.  Thanks for reading, cheers!

Mark

p.s.  We're almost done everything for the 'Disagreements' ep.  We have two new little instrumental pieces: one is the introduction to the collection, an instrumental called 'Charmer' and the other is a segue that will go between 'Where Are You' and 'Please.'   Everything is starting to take a nice shape and I look forward to erasing the early mixes off this page and posting the mastered final mixes.  Maybe start posting them next week if we can get the mixing finalized and the mastering completed.  We're both pretty excited, and look forward to learning them for live now too! 

Alright, hope all the glitches of myspace haven't put you off: but if so, please look for us on last.fm.  I'm way more into that site these days anyway, lots of new music to heard there.  Okay, See ya!

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