Originally Posted by Brad McGowan
Just to shed some more light on things. I had the privelege of hanging out at drBill's place in early December for a day. We talked about mics, analog vs. digital, patchbays, consoles, etc. We listened to some things Bill had recorded (sounded great btw) and then I even got to sit in a session he had scheduled for a few hours.
Here's some things I learned/observed/witnessed:
- Bill makes his living working in the music industry. He composes and records music and sells it to the enterntainment industry. Bill works with top notch talent to realize his works.
- Bill loves ProTools because it allows him to work quickly, write more, record more, and therefore sell more music at the end of the day.
- The session I saw was with a really amazing guitar player. We're talking the kind of amazing that most of us will only dream of working with. The guy played parts perfectly in one or two takes without having ever seen or heard the music before.
- The songs Bill and the guitarist were working on did not have 100's of tracks. They had reasonable track counts (<30?) and there weren't a bunch of hidden takes for him to sort through later (at least that I could tell). That tells me that Bill knows how to make decisions in the moment and not lose sight of the finished product.
- The guitarist didn't even play through an amp. He played direct through a Mesa Boogie rackmount preamp with a built in speaker emulator engaged. In my studio that would never fly (I'm an amp snob). You know what? The guy had amazing tone and the lack of an amp didn't matter. It sounded awesome. Setup took all of about 5 minutes if that.
- The guitarist and Bill both listened to the way the track worked in the context of the mix and switched pickups, adjusted tone controls and/or gain as they saw fit for the part. In other words they made decisions about the sound they wanted for the mix up front.
- Bill deleted takes that he didn't like. He didn't keep random stuff to sort through later. Not once did I hear "we'll come back to this."
- I didn't see Bill edit anything the guy played.
So based on everything I saw I'd have to say that Bill records with old-school influenced approaches. PTHD allows him to get from A to B really very efficiently, which means musicians he has to pay are in and out of the studio quicker, and thus he has more money to keep a roof over his family's head at the end of the day.
Bill--thanks again for the opportunity to hang out!
Thanks for the kind words. I had a blast hanging out with you as well. It's always great for me to get some perspective from how other people are working.
My only regret was that we got caught short on our analog vs. digital talks.
Maybe that's a good thing, eh??
I had no idea you were paying such close attention. I'd say if were a student you'd get an A+. You pretty much nailed all that you learned/observed/witnessed.
I have too say though that "selling" music is almost foreign these days, and in such a market where the intrinsic value of music is so degraded, the ability to do it quickly is the only way to stay alive for a professional. I don't live extravagantly (except maybe for gear), but I still could not - as you astutely pointed out - make it on tape. Time is of the essence for me. It's not unusual for me to write/record/mix/master/deliver 8+ albums worth of my own material in a year. Not to mention the films, sessions and albums I'm always working on concurently.
For the record, that "amazing guitar player's" name is James Lum - or Jimmy James as I call him. Truly one of the greats in LA right now. I've had the blessing of working with him for close to 15 years now, and he just keeps getting better and better and better. It makes recording so much fun when you've got guys like that to play on your stuff.
You're right about the track count. It's when I get into the rock band meets electronica meets orchestra that stuff gets wild and crazy. At that point, I can see pushing over 60, maybe sometimes close to 80 tracks. But never that many for a normal "pop or rock" type production.
Jim was playing thru the Mesa "Studio Preamp" which does have tubes BTW, but obviously we weren't micing a cab that day. Sometimes we do, but he can make that Boogie scream, so we often end up there anyway. After you left, we did a heavier song, and we ended up usiing Guitar Rig for all the tracks, and that was probably my favorite track that day. Honestly, when you have the player, almost anything can and will sound good.
That has truly been my experience. Great players with great instruments on decent music, and it's hard to screw it up whether you've got 8 or 80 tracks, are on analog or digital, using Neumann's or MXL's. (I know that's not exactly kosher for the high end forum though.....)
I most decidedly have an "old school" approach though, you are right about that. BUT, I use PT and it's "options" to make BETTER music that wouldn't happen without "unlimited" tracks. Like many studio guys, Jim has a tendency to play safe on leads sometimes - get the job done with no "embarassment" or time delays. That's when I'll go for multiple playlists and start pushing him out of his comfort zone.
I'll often end up with stunningly brilliant passes, when if I was on tape, I would have settled for very good or great. That's a huge reason 8 isn't enough for me. Or really any present tape based system.
Every once in a while I'll edit Jim's parts, but it's rare. As you witnessed, the guy can play.
There was one lead line that day that ended up phenomenal due to a misguided edit. Ended up with something very unique that would not normally have just been "played". It's playable, but....well, unique.
Anyway, great to hang with you as well. Anytime you're in town..... thumbsup And if I'm up in the Bay area, I'll look you up and see how to REALLY do it old school on 8 tracks. (Gotta see those lovely blue LED's in person....
PS - I wanna see the new THING!!!!