Interview with Reed Black
What I’ve done here and what the previous owner Justin King did as well was to create something that felt a lot more like your living room, or like a living room that you could come in and inhabit for a period of time while you were creating your work of art.
Because that’s what it is in the end. I mean, of course, every band wants their record to become the anthem of the generation, but before it gets there, and the only way it ever can get there is if it starts out as your anthem.
You know, a lot of times, I see being a producer as being less about what you do positively, like suggesting that, you know, you reorient your target from one — you know — style to another or something like that, or that we put shaker in the choruses.
I see it less as that and more of this almost negative role of pulling the obstacles off of the path. Pulling them off of the train tracks, so that the train can move smoothly through, and the artists can be themselves without tripping themselves up and getting in their own way, and when we’ve got something that’s honest coming from the band, and that makes perfect sense in the band’s emotional eyes, and musical eyes, then we can start to get at what the audience is looking for.
I am trying to do my role to grace what everyone else is doing, and create a completely coherent picture of the song writer and the band’s original intent.
When you do that right, that’s when the magic happens.
When you start working on a mix, you have some preconceived notions, but you kind of have to put those away, or push them to the side at least, where you can see them a little in your peripheral vision, but you’re working right in front of you.
Like a child who’s never heard this song before, and you’re trying to dig deep and find what’s within. So you try all kinds of different things. What does it do when I turn it upside down? What does it do when I mute it?
And then from that, you learn what the whole piece kind of is becoming. It’s like becoming itself.
So I know a mix is done when it sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard before. It’s like, discovering a new element on the periodic table, it’s something I’ve never heard before. Every time, every time a mix comes together, it’s completely unique, and suddenly it snaps into place, and you’re like, there we go.
It’s not their artifacts, it’s not the crunchiness you get or the slight amounts of measurable distortion you get, or what exactly the transformer is doing to the sound. It’s that it’s an extremely well balanced piece of gear that is very honest, and you know, people talk about gear that’s transparent, and I don’t mean that, because sometimes, transparent gear is not really very honest in how it moves.
A great piece of gear to me is a well balanced part of the chain that takes care of what’s in front of it and what’s behind it.
Microphones are rarely “honest,” and that’s the best part of them. They’re a really great way of focusing the sound by eliminating many parts that you don’t need. Like a mic that really graces someone’s voice well who has, you know, say a real kind of throaty, gargle-y sound that we really want to emphasize.
Some mics are going to pick it up, and some are going to gloss it over, and we don’t want to do that, we want to emphasize that, and celebrate it, and bring that to the front.
Okay, but in so doing, we take away some of the butteriness of their vocal, and there are trade offs, and that’s kind of what mic choice is all about.
So there, we’re not talking about integrity and honesty. We are talking about finding the sculpture inside the block of wood.