LEARNING FROM THE MASTERS
Nice work on the “quality” series in Mix [May 2005]: great commentary, great writing. As someone who gave up on the music recording business after 15 years of trying to break through — because of all the reasons you guys spelled out in the articles — I have hope for the industry.
Don't cry for me; I'm much happier these days writing music for TV and film. The problem is this: Generally, these articles are preaching to the choir. Most of your readers probably agree with the stance portrayed. We need to spread the word into the marketplace to the end-user and to all those engineers and producers who invented themselves instead of learning from the masters of the trade. We need to encourage bands to work with recording and mastering engineers who studied and assisted with experienced masters. Pro Tools in the bedroom or in front of an old Neve: A great engineer can make it work.
We need to encourage listeners to experience the benefits of full-resolution recordings. It's easy these days: Hook up your MP3 player and CD player and flip back and forth. They will come to the right conclusion.
Your article was a great start. Now all of us who know better and can tell the difference should go out and spread the word.
PROFESSIONAL, NOT PROFANE
I am a recording studio owner and I was a bit surprised to notice fully spelled-out swear words in Mix magazine editorial [Blair Jackson's “Quality in the Age of Good Enough,” May 2005]. At the studio, we frequently teach student musicians, and they are fully aware that certain language is not acceptable in an educational or business situation. Yes, we creative types do let loose a blue streak sometimes, but not in front of clients or students. I think it detracts from an editorial when four-letter words are spelled out. It's also hard to refer a student to otherwise good editorial when it contains phrases like “shitty-sounding cassette.”
Colin Mendez Morris
AFTER ALL, IT WAS THE '80S
I am writing to add a different slant to some of Robert Battaglia's letter [“Feedback,” May 2005] regarding his involvement with Wall of Voodoo's Call of the West album, and his disagreements with the article published in Mix's “Classic Tracks” in March 2005. I would just like to correct a few of [Battaglia's] comments that [were] slightly disparaging toward myself and especially the writer of the original article, Blair Jackson. I am still puzzled as to why anyone should even “sweat it” over a song/album from 25 years ago, but I still couldn't resist the temptation that perhaps I could join in on the comic relief.
Blair Jackson contacted me after having completed interviews with Stan Ridgway and Richard Mazda, [and] was referred to me for any technical recollections. If Battaglia was involved, surely they would have also referred questions to him? I have to say that the '80s being what they were, memories are a little hazy, but I do recall recording and mixing “Mexican Radio” and then going to Frank DiLuna at [then] A&M Mastering, who mastered it as a single though we were still in the middle of recording the album.
My involvement with the project was somewhere between six to eight weeks. I first met the band in a pre-production studio in Hollywood, and from there we loaded into Hit City West studios to begin recording. Battaglia's inference that I was there only for a passing moment [before] heading back to England doesn't quite give me enough credit for the time I spent on the project. Hell, they even had me stay at the Tropicana!
I do agree with one of Battaglia's comments: that it is a shame that credits for engineers are not always accurately listed. Having suffered similar fates myself on a huge array of albums and having numerous friends in the industry with similar stories to tell, this is nothing more than part and parcel of the job. As unjust as it seems, it is something that those of us who are still around live with and accept — ask my good friends Al, Ed and Elliott.
I've lost track of the times where I have been given a credit for recording but not mixing; I've had my name misspelled in numerous, but always amusing, ways (Boz Scaggs had me as Jeff; The Fall had me as Tony J Sutcliffe; Jess E. comes from Sheila E); I've been credited with pseudonyms (“Deaf Suitcase” stands out) and royal titles of dubious standards awarded (“Viscount Jeremy James” from a Reggie Hamilton CD, to “Lord Jeremy James” on another), [which] had me wondering [whether] they actually meant me or someone else; and the most common occurrence, the omission — the Rolling Stones and Prince's Musicology being the most recent.
As engineers, we live by our credits, and I certainly bear Battaglia no ill will for bringing up his case. I certainly would never try to take credit for something I hadn't done. But, after all, it's only a record; what counts is the music and whether it lives on in our memory. If it does, then it doesn't matter who did what, when or where. Just know that you had a part of it!
INPUT AND ACCOLADES FROM SKYWALKER SOUND
Wonderful to read the last issue, but especially the feature on Hank Cicalo (“Recording the Band,” June 2005). I had the pleasure of assisting Hank on several sessions at Capitol many years ago. Nice to see him get some well-deserved attention. I was also very happy you featured the 5 Browns recording (“Recording Notes,” June 2005) From the moment I first heard about them, I wondered how the heck anyone would record five pianos. Now I know!
A couple of corrections [to the “The Story Behind the Sound” sidebar in “Recording the Band”]: Skywalker's two pianos are a Yamaha CFIIIS and a Bluthner 9-foot concert grand (not 9-foot by 2-foot) and it was Dann Thompson who came up with the piano blanket/mic stand idea. I just benefited from the results!
One more thing: I'd like to give Judy Kirschner, one of our assistant engineers, credit for the stage drawing. Readers might be interested to know she was not even the assistant on the session!
Leslie Ann Jones
Director of music recording and scoring Skywalker Sound
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