Letters to Mix

BEHIND WALL OF VOODOO'S ALTERNATE REALITY I read with amusement your piece on the making of Wall of Voodoo's Call of the West [Classic Tracks, March 2005],

I read with amusement your piece on the making of Wall of Voodoo's Call of the West [“Classic Tracks,” March 2005], particularly as I was the recording and mixing engineer for the album at Hit City West (L.A.). My recollection is that “Mexican Radio” and “Hands of Love” were originally cut prior to the album to see, by the powers that be, just what direction the project would take. Both tracks were finished before the green light was given to complete the rest of the album. After those two songs were finished, Richard Mazda brought in Jess Sutcliff to record the remainder. [Then], Jeff had to return to England and the project fell back [to me and] Avi Kipper for the overdubs and mixing. In fact, I mixed “Mexican Radio,” “Tomorrow,” “Lost Weekend,” “Hands of Love,” the title track, “Call of the West,” and maybe “Interstate-15” and “They Don't Want Me.” As for the Spanish noise pollution at the end, the assistant, Susan Wipple, and I simply tuned in a Mexican radio station in one of the studios next to the room we were in and captured some chatter from the airwaves and flew it in. I do remember asking, “Can we do this?” And I do know [that] I said that we should at least find out what the DJ was saying.

On the album and CD, Jess' name appears first and larger than Avi's and mine. On the EP, my name and Jess' have equal billing. I was proud that my mix was used for the record and get a thrill every time I hear it on the radio. The biggest rush came when, in episode #914 of Seinfeld, Kramer sings the chorus while installing the reverse peephole. The track was also played for the end credits.

When the CD Call of the West came out, my engineering credit was mysteriously dropped out. I could tell you about the EMT gold-foil plates, the Master Room reverb, the 451 with a 20dB pad and elbow on the snare, Joe [Nanni, drummer] playing on pots and pans, janitors and dogs interrupting the vocals, the bunny dust, Stan's [Ridgway, vocalist] comment “It's kind of loud in here” referring to the headphone mix and the epic 20-minute piece about Raul the Clown that never made it on the record.

Despite the fact that some people's memories are selective, I still believe these were great people to work with. Stan is an American treasure. I owe [producer] Richard Mazda for turning me on to Brian Eno's Strategy Cards, which included his brilliant words, “The tape is the music.” It was a great time in our lives and we thought we knew everything back then. My girlfriend says it's just a case of the older I get, the better I [once] was and that I should be happy that others are so proud of my work.

Perhaps this is a problem that many recording and mixing engineers experience, as this isn't the first time my name has been omitted from a major release. It seems there should be some legitimate way to correctly document credits that follow a song from its initial release through to subsequent re-releases.

I never got into this for the money and certainly not for fame. I truly love my work and the people I work with. Sometimes, it's a thankless job. And sometimes people can't thank you enough. Just give credit where it's due.
Robert “Bert” Battaglia

I've recently read, with great sadness, of the end of Muscle Shoals Sound in Sheffield, Ala. Although it will continue on within the film industry, it will never be the same. Being born in Florence, Ala., I knew it as a legacy. One of my earliest memories is flying into Muscle Shoals' airport and seeing copies of Gold records on display by artists such as the Rolling Stones, not to mention countless others who had recorded there who never reached the status of the Stones, but ended up with their own top-notch piece of history. Ya'll have the list and know the history. How about a feature on Muscle Shoals Sound Studios? And play it pretty for the swampers.
Jon Head
Traverse City, Mich.

I wanted to pass on some thoughts about Paul Lehrman's article in the April 2005 issue [“Adventures in OS X”]. I value his monthly column and, while I can't really take issue with what was written, I would like to share some thoughts.

Steve Jobs made a mistake not releasing OS X to developers until it was ready to launch. It kept almost every studio user from upgrading until two years later. It is a big jump for everyone — it's a new environment, it has its own unique logic and its own limitations — but it is still an improvement. If companies would embrace open standards like Core Audio, Core MIDI and AudioUnits, it would make everything better. If companies would agree on a standard for libraries and locations, it would streamline OS X and reduce [user] frustration.

Getting everyone to agree on the MIDI standard was hard enough. Companies like proprietary rights; they don't want to get on the love train. At the same time, they don't spend enough time on technical information, installers or updates. There is no excuse for an application not overwriting a user template [or] not removing out-of-date, conflicting files upon installation or updating. There is no excuse for an application not to use OS-defined libraries.

Lehrman is like me, I suspect: something of a romantic. We expect technology to actually fulfill its promise. We expect it to be stable, functional and inspired. Does anything actually work that way? Have you ever had a computer system that ran flawlessly and completed any task you set it to do? It should be that way, but it's not. Won't ever be. Did you ever have a console that didn't need maintenance at the critical moment? Did you ever have a tape that didn't stretch at exactly the wrong place? Never had a guitar amp that didn't secretly long to be a radio? Frustrating, perhaps, but still better than the alternative.

There are actually workarounds for most of the problems mentioned [in Lehrman's column], but who ever likes that sort of solution? In a year, everything will be new again — we'll all be lost again — but at least it will be new pastures.
Todd Zimmerman
Studio 139

Just got done with “Tech's Files: Zen and Now — Acoustics, Patchbay Wiring and Balanced Audio Circuits” [April 2005]. Finally, I get some good info on wiring! Here's a suggestion or maybe a plea: Eddie Ciletti, write a small book on studio wiring and sell it on your site as a .pdf. I would buy it!
William DeMarco

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