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1993 Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream
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Shai An
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15th June 2009
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Smashing Pumpkins - "Spaceboy" mellotron

Thanks so much for doing this!

So on Siamese Dream, the song "Spaceboy" has mellotron strings throughout it, which are WAY sharp... I actually love how it sounds, I was just curious if there was a story behind that? Was it a happy accident? Was the mellotron not cooperating that day? Or did someone decide they wanted it to be out of tune?

Thanks again for taking the time to share some wisdom!
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1993 Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream

Siamese Dreams - one of the all time great rock records. I read once that Billy Corgan said it was a miracle that the record was ever completed as it was a struggle at some points.

Was this a fun record to make? Any standout memories? I will never get sick of this record. Those guitars and drums sound so amazing.

Thanks
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Siamese Dream Guitars

How did you get the Guitar sound on Siamese Dream ?

How many tracks of guitar were layered ?
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Thought I'd get in quick with the inevitable Siamese Dream questions :P

Hey Butch, hows it going?

First of all, thanks for taking time out to do this, I'm a big fan of a lot of your work, and look forward to gaining an insight into some of your methods over these couple of weeks!

I'd like to ask you about recording Siamese Dream --- to this day a favourite album of mine. I'm sure a lot of people here know how heavily overdubbed the record was, especially in regard to the guitars. I read one of your other posts, where you mentioned you did a lot of filtering, both on this record, and the first Garbage one. Did you literally sort of move up the frequency spectrum with successive overdubs (ie, have a couple of gtr tracks with only low mids, then a couple more a bit higher up, and so on) or did you have a more full-range,"standard" starting guitar sound, which you then added to on a song-by-song basis? Also, was it all done with eq, or did you make use of phase cancellation between the different mics on Billy's cabs, (and if you could give us an idea of the recording chain too --- I read you used C414's and Sennheiser 421's, but what else?)

I tend to employ numerous guitar overdubs when recording my own band, one of the main problems for me being knowing when to stop! How did you make that decision during the Siamese Dream sessions -- was it yours/Billy's call, a joint one. etc? Or was it when you reached the point where you couldnt physically cram any more fuzz into the speakers?!

OK, and one more thing before I go! Would you say its easier/harder/no difference working with a full band, compared to a single person for most of the recording process (given that Billy Corgan is renowned to have recorded pretty much everything bar the drums himself)

Sorry for the pretty long post -- hope my questions are clear, and look forward to hearing your response!

Cheers,
Richard.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ScumBum View Post
How did you get the Guitar sound on Siamese Dream ?

How many tracks of guitar were layered ?
I seem to remember reading that they used as many as 13 guitar tracks on some parts.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shai An View Post
Thanks so much for doing this!

So on Siamese Dream, the song "Spaceboy" has mellotron strings throughout it, which are WAY sharp... I actually love how it sounds, I was just curious if there was a story behind that? Was it a happy accident? Was the mellotron not cooperating that day? Or did someone decide they wanted it to be out of tune?

Thanks again for taking the time to share some wisdom!
Hi Jeff Tomei here
Mellotrons were notorious for their tuning problems. This was actually a really good one and it had 3 or 4 different tapes you could put in. I hesitate to call them cartridges because they were so big. The tapes were really old and some had been broken so they had less time and some notes did not work all of the time. You had to get in and adjust where the tape heads come in contact with the tape.
I do remember Butch was concerned with the tuning but Billy just wanted to get it done. Also the tuning on them was hit or miss with one knob that was hard to get in and stay in the sweet spot.
As a side note, James Iha bought that one. It belonged to Triclops studio where we tracked the record.
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My question is not really about production techniques and more personal. Have you and Billy discussed the possibility of once again working on Pumpkins record together? Because THAT would be awesome.
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please expand on the soft orchestra sounds that enters at the very end of "Hummer", right before Rocket. sounds almost unintentional, but it's there..

thank you so much for doing this. enjoy your stay here @ GS!
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Disarm strings

Hey Butch,

I am dying to know how you got the strings on Disarm. That song was what put me over the edge to buy the album back in '93, which I've loved ever since. I think strings can do a lot in a song like this, so I'm eager to learn how it was done.


- If live, how many players were used (ie. violin, viola, cello)?
- Were they all tracked at once or separate?
- How many overdubs each, if any?
- What mic setup?
- If synthetic components are there as well, what were they?


Thanks a bunch. Awesome to have you here.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ScumBum View Post
How did you get the Guitar sound on Siamese Dream ?

How many tracks of guitar were layered ?
Not to answer for Butch, but so he doesn't have to repeat anything, there's a partial answer here:


Signal To Noise: The Sonic Diary Of The Smashing Pumpkins

Quote:
Corgan’s gear was only part of the equation. The endless overdubs— at least 40 in “Soma”—are well-documented, but Vig says that proper mic configuration is what allowed the parts to congeal. Vig’s miking technique was as follows: Corgan would crank up his amp to full gain, and then set the guitar down. After boosting the headphones send on all the mics, Vig entered the room to move around the mics, using the phase-shifting hiss from Corgan’s guitar echo as his guide. According to Vig, an AKG C 414 produced the widest spectrum of sound, a Sennheiser 421 accented the midrange, and ribbon mics were used to obtain a smoother sound with quick, yet mellow, transients.

“You can’t have 40 guitars that are all full range,” says Vig. “There have to be places for them to fit. You could have low-midrange, or you could have everything scooped out with a high-pass that’s cut at 300 or 400kHz.”

The miking tactic seemed almost drum-like, which, given Vig’s musical expertise, is a fair assumption. “Maybe from me being a drummer, that’s an aesthetic I brought to the table that I didn’t even really understand at the time,” he says.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shai An View Post
Thanks so much for doing this!

So on Siamese Dream, the song "Spaceboy" has mellotron strings throughout it, which are WAY sharp... I actually love how it sounds, I was just curious if there was a story behind that? Was it a happy accident? Was the mellotron not cooperating that day? Or did someone decide they wanted it to be out of tune?

Thanks again for taking the time to share some wisdom!
Is the Spaceboy mellotron sharp? It could be...it was a very tempermental mellotron!
The cool thing about that song is that is has a really cool vibe...it's kinda loose...but it feels really great. And I think Billy's vocals are breathtaking.
Billy played the mellotron, and I remember that at the time I thought some of the parts he played were quite odd (he's not a keyboard player)...but now, they all make sense to me!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rectifier View Post
Siamese Dreams - one of the all time great rock records. I read once that Billy Corgan said it was a miracle that the record was ever completed as it was a struggle at some points.

Was this a fun record to make? Any standout memories? I will never get sick of this record. Those guitars and drums sound so amazing.

Thanks
It was one of the most difficult albums I ever made, and one that I am very proud of.
After the success of Nevermind and Gish, there was immense pressure on us to deliver something special. I pushed Billy hard...and he pushed me.
There WERE days when it was fun, but also days where we felt like we had gone into the abyss. At the end of the album, we were both physically and emotionally exhausted.
Alan Moulder had to leave on the last day of mixing (after we had kidnapped him for 6 straight weeks without a day off!) and Billy and I finished the last song Luna about 4 AM. There was no champagne, no high fives, no cheering...we just looked at each other and said "holy shit, are we finished?" and dragged ourelves back to the hotel.
I woke up at noon the next day a the Beverly Garland Hotel on Vineland with all the curtains closed, and listened to the album all the way through in pitch black. I couldn't see anything, I could only listen...and I knew we had something special.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ScumBum View Post
How did you get the Guitar sound on Siamese Dream ?

How many tracks of guitar were layered ?
Oh yes, there were a LOT of guitars!

Because we were using analog tape, and had most of the guitars on the 2nd reel, we had to punch in different parts in different sections, sometimes submixing 8 or 12 guitars down to stereo...( this is before Pro Tools)...
I remember some songs like Hummer and Soma had so many parts, I had to make "guitar maps" for us to remember how to approach the mix.
Alan Moulder asked "what is a guitar map?"
He knew what a guitar map was after he'd been kidnapped for 6 weeks!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ButchVig View Post
It was one of the most difficult albums I ever made, and one that I am very proud of.
After the success of Nevermind and Gish, there was immense pressure on us to deliver something special. I pushed Billy hard...and he pushed me.
There WERE days when it was fun, but also days where we felt like we had gone into the abyss. At the end of the album, we were both physically and emotionally exhausted.
Alan Moulder had to leave on the last day of mixing (after we had kidnapped him for 6 straight weeks without a day off!) and Billy and I finished the last song Luna about 4 AM. There was no champagne, no high fives, no cheering...we just looked at each other and said "holy shit, are we finished?" and dragged ourelves back to the hotel.
I woke up at noon the next day a the Beverly Garland Hotel on Vineland with all the curtains closed, and listened to the album all the way through in pitch black. I couldn't see anything, I could only listen...and I knew we had something special.
Was each one of those tracks actually played? Or were they different channels of the same take? (with different mics?)
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I love Siamese Dream. I have listened to it many times and it never gets old. Musically, sonically and production wise I think it has definitely stood the test of time. In fact, it sounds even more amazing listening to it today. I'm really glad that is was tracked to tape and not smashed in mastering. It brings back fond memories of a specific time in my life. Thank you for being part of an album I truly love.

Do you have any recollections of the songwriting and approach to recording the song Hummer? The end of that song is completely dreamy and is probably one of my favorite moments on the album. The interplay between Jimmy and Billy is amazing as are the sonic layers and textures.

Thanks for being here and answering questions, you truly rock!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ButchVig View Post
Because we were using analog tape, and had most of the guitars on the 2nd reel, we had to punch in different parts in different sections, sometimes submixing 8 or 12 guitars down to stereo...( this is before Pro Tools)...!
I had heard from someone it was tracked to tape but ADATs and Pro Tools were somehow involved as well.

If this is incorrect and it was actually all tape, does that mean there was absolutely no sample augmentation of the drums or autotune in the vocals? Or were these tasks just accomplished differently (eg. drum head triggers to a module)?

Thanks.
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Siamese Vocals

Hey Butch,

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. How did you recording Corgan's vocals on the CD. The just seem to...well work. Was there a weird technique used? Mics? Effects?

Thanks again for indulging us!
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Thanks for taking the time to answer questions on here Butch! Siamese Dream is one of my favorite albums of all time, great songs and an overall amazing recording!

The guitars all sound incredible, and on the distorted guitars I've always wondered if the varied tones were sculpted heavily in the mix with EQ or if all the layers were specifically tracked with different tones in order to get that really dense, creamy finished sound.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdnpdi View Post
Hey Butch,

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. How did you recording Corgan's vocals on the CD. The just seem to...well work. Was there a weird technique used? Mics? Effects?

Thanks again for indulging us!
Signal To Noise: The Sonic Diary Of The Smashing Pumpkins
Vig didn’t much care for the midrange in Corgan’s voice, so to soften that particular timbre he used a Shure SM7 (generally regarded as a more “open”-sounding mic when its rolloff and boost features are engaged simultaneously) through an API preamp and a Summit TLA-100 Tube Limiter, all fed back into Corgan’s headphones. Like everything else, vocal takes were abundant, with Corgan sometimes singing for eight hours at a time to make sure his tracks were pitch perfect.


That said, I also wonder to what extent they were doubled/stacked, what verb/delay, how they were panned, etc.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mobius.media View Post
I had heard from someone it was tracked to tape but ADATs and Pro Tools were somehow involved as well.

If this is incorrect and it was actually all tape, does that mean there was absolutely no sample augmentation of the drums or autotune in the vocals? Or were these tasks just accomplished differently (eg. drum head triggers to a module)?

Thanks.
I am almost positive that the reason they even chose Tryclops was that it was all analog/tube(at least says billy). in a sound on sound article it stated that "billy would sometimes spend up to 8 hours on 1 song trying to get the vocals pitch perfect." The article also suggests that Mellancollie.......was the first record the band used protools (partially).
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Butch, thanks so much for taking this time for us.

I just wanted to let you know that Siamese Dream has a distinct sound that is timeless. No matter how many times I listen to it I get chills and am reminded of my younger days. Great production value!!!!thumbsup
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.Noobyman View Post
My question is not really about production techniques and more personal. Have you and Billy discussed the possibility of once again working on Pumpkins record together? Because THAT would be awesome.
I've see him a couple time lately, talking about sports, politics, the dire state of the music biz etc, but we have not talked about working together.

He is in good form!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdnpdi View Post
Hey Butch,

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. How did you recording Corgan's vocals on the CD. The just seem to...well work. Was there a weird technique used? Mics? Effects?

Thanks again for indulging us!

I think we used an SM7 a lot...and I had an API Lunchbox that I used for vocals at that time for the pre...I would add a little air at the top, and usually cut a bit of mid around 800 hz.... And I probably used my Summit TLA 100 comp.
But I seem to remember Billy used a large tube mic on a couple songs...hmmmm
Jeff will probably remember better than me!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NeedsMoreFuzz View Post
Hey Butch, hows it going?

First of all, thanks for taking time out to do this, I'm a big fan of a lot of your work, and look forward to gaining an insight into some of your methods over these couple of weeks!

I'd like to ask you about recording Siamese Dream --- to this day a favourite album of mine. I'm sure a lot of people here know how heavily overdubbed the record was, especially in regard to the guitars. I read one of your other posts, where you mentioned you did a lot of filtering, both on this record, and the first Garbage one. Did you literally sort of move up the frequency spectrum with successive overdubs (ie, have a couple of gtr tracks with only low mids, then a couple more a bit higher up, and so on) or did you have a more full-range,"standard" starting guitar sound, which you then added to on a song-by-song basis? Also, was it all done with eq, or did you make use of phase cancellation between the different mics on Billy's cabs, (and if you could give us an idea of the recording chain too --- I read you used C414's and Sennheiser 421's, but what else?)

I tend to employ numerous guitar overdubs when recording my own band, one of the main problems for me being knowing when to stop! How did you make that decision during the Siamese Dream sessions -- was it yours/Billy's call, a joint one. etc? Or was it when you reached the point where you couldnt physically cram any more fuzz into the speakers?!

OK, and one more thing before I go! Would you say its easier/harder/no difference working with a full band, compared to a single person for most of the recording process (given that Billy Corgan is renowned to have recorded pretty much everything bar the drums himself)

Sorry for the pretty long post -- hope my questions are clear, and look forward to hearing your response!

Cheers,
Richard.
We would usually record the guitars with their full sound, then filter them through and eq, sometimes the Neve, sometimes the API...ahhhhh, I think thwy had some pultecs there...and even some of the guitars went through my Akai sampler.

i think we had 4 mics on the guitars...Jeff might remember...we'd make sure the phase was good, and then pick the best one or sometime 2 blended.
I had this trick I would do when setting up mics...I'd turn the amp on full blast so there is a lot of static noise coming from the speaker, then I'd put headphones on and turn up the mic level to the headphone mix really loud. Then I'd get down in front of the speaker and listen to how the hiss sounded. You can hear the top, mids, bottom in the headphones depending on where you move the mic, and I would place it where I thought I found the sweet spot.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ButchVig View Post
I had this trick I would do when setting up mics...I'd turn the amp on full blast so there is a lot of static noise coming from the speaker, then I'd put headphones on and turn up the mic level to the headphone mix really loud. Then I'd get down in front of the speaker and listen to how the hiss sounded. You can hear the top, mids, bottom in the headphones depending on where you move the mic, and I would place it where I thought I found the sweet spot.
That is one of the coolest ideas I have heard in quite some time.
THANKS for taking the time with us. Many of your records are a major part of my youth that I always will love.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mobius.media View Post
I had heard from someone it was tracked to tape but ADATs and Pro Tools were somehow involved as well.

If this is incorrect and it was actually all tape, does that mean there was absolutely no sample augmentation of the drums or autotune in the vocals? Or were these tasks just accomplished differently (eg. drum head triggers to a module)?

Thanks.
The albums was recorded to 48 track, using two Studers. There was one song Mayonaise, that had so many tape edits, we found a digital multitrack (mitsubishi?) and transferred the song to it as our new master, cuz we were afraid the tape would break!
No auto tuning...Billy would sing until he got it right. I would usually do comps with Jeff, old school style, punching the best bits onto a new master track. It was time consuming!

I think Alan Moulder used some triggers when we mixed to add ambience to some of the songs...but we never replaced anything, and if we did use a trigger on the snare, it was probably a 70/30 % blend.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Curtin View Post
I seem to remember reading that they used as many as 13 guitar tracks on some parts.
I think Soma and Hummer had closer to 40 guitar tracks. Not all playing at the same time, but there could be 8-10 overdubs in one section, then another 8-10 in a second section, etc. A lot of times we would bounce them down...like in the ebow part, I think that was around 12 tracks mixed down to stereo.
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Butch,

First off, thankyou so much for doing this! I know Im not alone in being thrilled your here answering questions about your work!

Ive heard Jimmy Chamberlin has quite light touch when he plays. Did this cause you any problems when getting the drum tones/tracking etc?

Also, did you and the band have a predetermined sound you were trying to achieve, or was it a case of experimenting until it felt right?

Many thanks for your time and knowledge.

Oz
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Butch,

Many thanks for taking the time out to ask questions!

Whilst this question may be a bit subjective, i've always found it interesting - in my opinion, I think the guitars on Gish are a lot better than on Siamese Dream - not necessarily because they have a better sounde intrinsically, but because they allowed the bass room to breathe.

This was something that I noticed on the tour as well - the bass and guitars merged into one wall of noise.

Was this was something that was a concious goal for the recording of Siamese Dream? Was this due to the whole 'grunge' fashion at the time?

I know from a few interviwes that Billy wasn't happy with the guitars sounds on Gish - which has always fascinated me.

It's still a great album, but I think Gish breathes a lot more and each instrument is well-defined.

FWIW Snail is probably one of my favourite mixes of all time - thanks!
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17th June 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ButchVig View Post
I think we used an SM7 a lot...and I had an API Lunchbox that I used for vocals at that time for the pre...I would add a little air at the top, and usually cut a bit of mid around 800 hz.... And I probably used my Summit TLA 100 comp.
But I seem to remember Billy used a large tube mic on a couple songs...hmmmm
Jeff will probably remember better than me!
I do remember that we used a tube 47 on one or two songs but found that the SM7 was better for his voice. I remember the vocal comps taking quite a bit of time as all the vocals were doubled. Once we had the main comp, we then had to create the double.
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