Ryan Greene doesn’t produce punk rock. “It’s just pop music played twice as fast,” he says with a grin, referring to bands such as NOFX, Lagwagon, No Use for a Name, Nerf Herder and The Dickies, among others. Fittingly, the producer/engineer for most of Fat Wreck Chords’ catalog and co-owner (with NOFX vocalist/bassist Fat Mike) of Motor Studios in San Francisco works twice as fast in the studio.
A drummer-turned-live engineer at age 15, Greene later became L.A.-based MCA Music Publishing’s youngest engineer, promoted from tape duplicator at age 19. “I couldn’t even go to a bar and I was engineering!” he recalls. “I was able to work with Glen Ballard, Diane Warren, Desmond Child…the best songwriters and now, some of the best producers in the world. You work with these people and things start to sink in.”
Three-and-a-half years later, Greene moved to EMI Music, where he served as chief engineer for eight years. While there, he engineered one especially killer demo for Bad Religion frontman and Epitaph Records founder, Brett Gurewitz, that propelled him out of publishing and into a flurry of indie-label work. “We knocked out three songs in about eight hours,” Greene recalls of a session that included “Stranger Than Fiction,” “Incomplete” and “Infected.” “Brett then went out to the car to listen to the cassette copy and 10 minutes later, he comes back and says, ‘This is the best-sounding thing we’ve ever done — including all of our records. I’m definitely going to call you.’ A week later, he hooked me up with NOFX and three weeks later I’m doing Punk in Drublic.” That album, released on Epitaph in 1994, is considered one of the San Francisco-based band’s best, was certified Gold and pulled the band, albeit unwillingly, into a mainstream spotlight shared by Berkeley, Calif.’s Green Day and So-Cal pop-punks The Offspring.
Greene has produced five albums for NOFX thus far, and in 1997, moved to San Francisco to open Motor Studios with frontman Fat Mike. After a brief stint operating out of a house on Divisadero, Motor Studios moved into a freestanding building in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood. The 1,900-square-foot space features an SSL 4064E Series console with Total Recall; a Pro Tools|HD 192 workstation; Tannoy, Dynaudio and Yamaha monitors (Genelecs for the mains); and an outboard collection that includes Neve 1073, Pultec and Calrec EQs, UREI 1176 and Behringer compressors, Yamaha SPX-90II and REV-7, and Lexicon PCM 70 and PCM 41 reverbs. The studio also includes Greene’s drum kit and instrument collection, various Roland synth gear, an ample mic list and an Otari MTR-90 24-track, which apparently doesn’t get used much these days. “Over the last two years, 100 percent of everything I’ve done has been right to Pro Tools,” Greene says. “At a time, I was mixing down to ½-inch and then I started to do data files. It’s sad in a way, but it’s technology. We move forward.”
Working digitally allows Greene to produce great-sounding albums in less time and for less money than most full-length projects, a concept carried over from his publishing demo days. “We’re talking about three weeks to do a full record,” Greene says of the Fat Wreck Chords albums. “The thing is to make it sound great and do it for the least amount of money. If we do a record for 20 or 30 grand and it turns around and sells 100,000 copies, then everybody’s making money.”
Although he can produce an album in less time than it takes some engineers to get drum sounds, that doesn’t mean he rushes his artists — ever. For Greene, patience is key, especially in the studio. “If somebody’s having a problem with [a part],” Greene says, “I just reassure them that, ‘You will get this. We’re not going to just let it go. So just relax! Take it easy. We’ll move on, we’ll come back to it, but you will get it. So don’t worry about it.’ That’s how I approach everything. We’re making music. I mean, come on! It’s not brain surgery!”
Lately, Greene’s taken his patience and some of his equipment to Scottsdale, Ariz., where he’s producing, engineering and mixing the debut album for F5, the new band formed by Megadeth bassist Dave Ellefson. He is also producing five songs for Dishwalla’s forthcoming album — a far cry stylistically, you’d think, from punk bands such as Authority Zero and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, but really, it’s all pop music, just some songs are played faster than others.
RYAN GREENE’S FAVE FIVE
- Peavey Kosmos
- Empirical Labs Distressor
- Manley Variable Mu
- Empirical Labs Fatso
- Royer 121 ribbon mic