Channeling their inner teens—that’s what the members of metal supergroup Teenage Time Killers had in mind for recording their debut album, Teenage Time Killers: Greatest Hits, Vol. 1.
“We wanted to make an album that sounded, or at least felt like we did when we were teenagers in our parents’ basements and garages killing time after school making music,” says engineer/producer/mixer/drummer John “Lou” Lousteau. “The original idea was to do a very quick EP with Reed [Mullin] on drums and vocals, and Mick Murphy on guitar. We wanted to do five songs tracked and mixed in a week. So the approach was to make it very raw and natural-sounding.”
Teenage Time Killers consists of Reed Mullin (Corrosion of Conformity) on drums and vocals, Mick Murphy (My Ruin, The Birds of Satan, Chevy Metal, Neanderthal) on guitar and bass, and Lousteau on production, engineering, mixing and drums. The list of contributors is extensive and reads like a roster for heavy metal royalty (see below for full list of special guests), and includes the likes of Dave Grohl, Corey Taylor, Nick Oliveri, Jello Biafra, Matt Skiba and Randy Blythe. Lousteau, who engineered, produced and mixed the album, is chief engineer at Grohl’s Studio 606, where the album was made.
Lousteau was able to capture the high-enegry, frenetic, crushing guitars and fast-paced beats by recording drums and guitar live; additional guitar, bass and all of the vocals were overdubbed. “There is what we call ‘the live room’ at Studio 606,” Lousteau says. “It’s a big room that’s great to record a drum kit in. We set up Reed’s drum kit in the live room and had Mick’s guitar cabinet isolated in the smaller iso booth. Mick and Reed would then play the original rhythm tracks live together wearing headphones.”
Teenage Time Killers: Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 was recorded to Pro Tools. At least half of the vocals were recorded in different studios, with tracks sent to the vocalists to do on their own, so tape would have made the process harder logistically. But Lousteau took a tape-like approach in that he didn’t do any digital editing. “There weren’t any click tracks used in recording the basic tracks, and we left everything very natural and raw,” he says. “That certainly comes across on the album.”
All of the automation, EQ and compression at the mix was done in the box and then summed out of the studio’s Neve 8028 monitor section. “The monitor section of the Neve sounds really big and open,” Lousteau says. “The studio has a small EMT plate that sounds really good, so that was used as a hardware insert.”
With nearly 20 vocalists on the album, half of whom recorded at their own studios, Lousteau tried to make each song stand on its own when it came to mixing. “That’s probably one of the main reasons the album has a mixtape quality to it,” he says. “Again, it was one of those things where we tried to just accept the fact that vocal sounds were going to be different instead of stress about it. We were always really stoked about everything we got back from the different singers.”
For the vocals recorded at Studio 606, Lousteau kept a consistent vocal chain, using a Shure SM7 into a Neve channel, along with a Distressor inserted for compression. “To me, it’s a very simple chain that sounds really good for an aggressive vocal,” he says.
A Shure SM57 combined with a Royer R-121 were Lousteau’s go-to mics to capture heavy rock guitar sounds, running into Neve mic pre’s and then straight into Pro Tools. “I usually print the two mics separately, but on this album I did bus the two mics together, so I only recorded one guitar signal,” Lousteau says. “We really wanted a streamlined approach on this album without a lot of tracks going on.”
In addition to the raw vocals, the album’s guitars also have a familiar edgy sound throughout. “That consistency in the guitar sound is really Mick’s hands,” Lousteau says. “I met Mick when we were 16 years old, in Knoxville, Tennessee, and he really is one of the best guitarists I’ve ever heard. He’s pretty much on every song on the record, with other cool guitarists pitching in as well on some overdubs.” For Murphy’s setup, Lousteau used a Laney Ironheart amp and a Laney 4×12 cabinet.
While the album took more than two years to complete, there weren’t that many recording and mixing days—it was all about scheduling for the band members and special guests. “Reed and Mick laid down all of the basic rhythm tracks in about 8 to 10 days over two different sessions,” Lousteau says. “Dave [Grohl] came down and put bass on 11 songs in one day. We weren’t in a big hurry to finish because we were getting such cool performances from everyone involved. We just accepted that we were dealing with a lot of different people’s availabilities and schedules, so we took our time.” Once they had all of the tracking finished, Murphy and Lousteau got together and mixed the entire album in about four days.
“It’s one of those records where we tried not to overthink anything or spend too much time trying to fine-tune things,” Lousteau concludes. “We would try to get a quick vibe when it came to tracking and mixing and just keep moving. It really was a lot of fun, because most sessions aren’t really like that—which is okay, too, but it’s fun to go the complete opposite direction once in a while.”
Friends and Family
Guest artists who contributed to the record are Aaron Beam (Red Fang), Brian Baker (Minor Threat/Bad Religion), Clifford Dinsmore (BL’AST!), Corey Taylor (Slipknot/Stone Sour), Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters/Nirvana), Greg Anderson (Goatsnake/Sunn O))), Jason Browning (Righteous Fool/HR), Jello Biafra (Jello Biafra & The Guantanamo School of Medicine/Dead Kennedys), Jim Rota (Fireball Ministry), Jonny Webber (The Ghost of Saturday Night), Karl Agell (Corrosion of Conformity/King Hitter), Lee Ving (Fear), London May (Samhain/Danzig Legacy/Tiger Army/Son of Sam), Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio), Mike “IX” Williams (Eyehategod), Mike Dean (Corrosion of Conformity), Mike Schaefer (Blatant Disarray), Neil Fallon (Clutch), Nick Oliveri (Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age), Pat “Adam Bomb” Hoed, (Brujeria/Nip Drivers), Pat Smear (Foo Fighters/Nirvana/Germs), Pete Stahl (Scream/Goatsnake), Phil Rind (Sacred Reich), Randy Blythe (Lamb of God), Tairrie B. Murphy (My Ruin), Tommy Victor (Prong/Danzig), Tony Foresta (Municipal Waste/Iron Reagan), Trenton Rogers (Chaotic Justice), Vic Bondi (Articles of Faith), and Woody Weatherman (Corrosion of Conformity).