Productions & Bands
Here are the recent bands for whom I've often worked as a producer :
1. But what is a "Producer" ?
Often, he has nothing to do with money, but rather with the way he spends the record company's money !
He is the key person for any successful album. In some musical styles, more will be said about the producer in the press reviews, his name alone will get people to buy, than on the music or on the band themselves !
Each producer has his own sound, something unique that will enable the listener to recognize his talent (you can surely spot ROSS ROBINSON out of a thousand !), and most often a style in which he excells, outside of which
a) : he may have worked, but didn't get noticed then ;
b) : no-one would dare contact him, thinking he can only work in this particular style ;
c) : the guy is over his head with work orders in this particular style anyway, and doesn't have time for anything else !
It's a pity, these guys evidently have ears, able to adapt themselves to any style, from WILLIE NELSON's country music to ALEC EMPIRE's ultra hard-core techno music.
The producer determines what the album will be : from pre-production (help in composing, choosing the tracks, choosing work methods) to the finalized product (help in the booklet's presentation, choosing the pictures, the text, etc.), including of course the studio work (recording, mixing, and mastering).
If you're sick and tired of reading on a TV screen, and would like to learn more on the Label-Artist-Producer relationships, I highly recommend reading the book made of paper
Confessions of a Record Producer, by Moses Avalon,
edited by Miller Freeman Books ($17.95)
It tackles EVERYTHING ! Nothing else to say... it is THE BIBLE. Everyone should read this book before engaging in anything that has to do with music : producing, composing, creating a label, etc. A trip to his site says it all : www.mosesavalon.com.
2. What's pre-production ?
See also Tips on Pre-production if you are musicians about to work on an album.
Pre-production is the preparation before actually stepping inside the studio. In some cases (Uncle Phil's Good Ol' Stories), pre-production work is so extended, in small studios that are getting closer and closer each year to the so called "professional studios", that there practicaly isn't anything left to do once in the "real" studio.
First of all, the producer and band get to know each other, exchanging ideas. The producer will generally go to several rehearsals (that's my way of doing it, at least) to get an idea of the specific sound of the band.
Then, it's time to determine the best work method for the recording, according to numerous things : technical (instruments played), psychological (shy musicians, egocentric ones, ...) and functional matters (availability of the studios, surfaces of the studio cabins, ...).
The next rehearsals now integrate some of the work methods that have been chosen (practicing in playing to a click, or without, for example).
Computers can be programmed to prepare several sequences, as a helping guide, or as final sounds to be used on the album.
Recording the rehearsals on a cassette tape (even if the sound quality is poor) is already helpful in determining if the song structures are OK, or can reveal other problems (the rhythm section will never play "tight" enough, which will require a lot of editing during the recording sessions).
A schedule is established in order to prepare the day to day progress of the recordings.
During this period of time, the producer and the band determine together the "color" (or sound, if you prefer) of the album they would both like to come up with.
See also Tips on Pre-production if you are musicians about to work on an album.
Musicians are most likely to suffer from stress during this phase of production. The producer must therefore handle that stress, working more on a psychological level than on a technical one (the technical aspect must be completely invisible to the musicians, to allow their creativity to develop without barriers).
The producer will also try to respect the schedule he planned-out during pre-production : studio time is very expensive ! He must therefore preserve each musician's strength, while maintaining a cheerful "ambiance" (or a crappy one, whichever suits the album : Uncle Phil's Good Ol' Stories) around the whole project.
Here, normally, the musicians are left with nothing else to do but twiddle their thumbs on the couch at the back of the control room, listening to what their music is becoming. It is very important to determine, during pre-production, what the musicians expect from the producer. They won't be surprised, then, by his choices in effects, or balance between instruments, during the mixing process. The musicians may participate in the process, if it has been determined, but the more they will be giving their advice, the more the producer will experience problems trying to maintain a coherent and balanced mix (Uncle Phil's Good Ol' Stories). Most musicians aren't experienced enough to anticipate the final result, and have a tendency to focalize on their own instrument.
5. Mastering...Which should normally be refered to as pre-mastering !
The mastering in itself is a very technical phase in CD mass production, without an ounce of artistic matter in the process, undergone in a specialized lab. It consists in transfering a big data file to a glass disc (called the Glass-Master), which will later be used to replicate the CDs you'll find at the record shop. Nothing really interesting then !
Pre-mastering is the icing on the cake, giving a much better taste to some otherwise pretty bland cakes. The icing, unfortunately, can also be prepared by a lousy cook, resulting in an overall disgusting dish.
The work generally consists in
slightly retouching the equalization (EQ if you're hip !) of each track so the whole album is more homogeneous, then in...
compressing/limiting the shit out of the tracks to obtain a maximum of subjective level on the CD !!!
This sad trend established in the early 90s is absolute nonsense : if the listener wants to hear his CD louder, there is a control on his Hi-Fi named 'Volume' for that particular purpose ! Unfortunately, now that the problem is well anchored in our minds, we'll have to live with : it seems that nothing is worse for a band than to figure on a sampler CD (a plague in the cultural music domain) with a lower subjective level than the other tracks.
finally, the tracks are assembled in the order of the CD and...
the indexes necessary for track seeking are placed in the sub-codes.
A data file is the created, called 'CD Tape Master'. This file is the one used during the Mastering process in order to obtain the Glass Master.
or You can also learn more on compression techniques in the Tekno Chat section.
6. I've got my own gurus, for those who're interested.
TREVOR HORN : For his "Midas Touch" (not the mixers, you morons !) , transforming everything he's involved in into gold :
- FRANKY GOES TO HOLLYWOOD (Welcome to the Pleasure Dome, one of the greatest albums of all times !)
- YES (he was at one time one of the musicians),
- ART OF NOISE (he is, once in a while, one of the musicians),
- GRACE JONES,
- TINA TURNER,
- BUGGLES (he's the geek with the huge glasses !)
- ABC (it's the look, it's the look... the look of love),
- MALCOLM McLAREN (his first production,before he created Z.T.T., his own label)
TERRY DATE : Inventor of the "LOUDER THAN YOU'LL EVER GET" concept :
- PANTERA (which, for me, revolutioned the heavy metal sound with Vulgar Display of Power)
- WHITE ZOMBIE
- HANDSOME (not the little blonde dweebs ! That's Hanson !!!),
- MACHINE HEAD (just mixing, with Robinson producing ; talk about a dynamic duo !)
BRUCE SWEDIEN : For his work with Michael Jackson, the King of Pop (pop quizz hot shot !). Bruce, on his part, is the King of Q-Sound ! Listen to these sounds fly from every corner in the Dangerous album.
BOB CLEARMOUNTAIN : For his incredible mixing talent. I'm almost sure he started his carrier in 1947, in a small town in Nevada called Roswell... Hmmm, I wonder if...... Naaa !
ANDY WALLACE : For being so young ! Despite the fact he could be your grandpa !! If only I could still be mixing ultra loud metal when I reach his age (if ever).
JACK RENNER : In a completely different circle, for his tremendous talent in reviving classical music recording (too often, to me, moldy recording technology. Hey you guys at Decca, Deutsch Grammophon, etc. : time to wake-up !). Get your ears on any TELARC recording, and get ready to hear what true stereo (or we'd better say "dimensional") recordings should've always sounded like.
I love plenty of other producers, but this is probably already boring as a sunday at Ikea !
Pop Quizz :
How come the King of Pop is found under "Soul music" in french record stores, and not under "Pop music" ?? Beats me !!!