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New mixes VS. Re-mixing Classic Albums
Old 10th September 2005
Lives for gear
Paul Vnuk Jr.'s Avatar
New mixes VS. Re-mixing Classic Albums

Like everyone else, thanks for taking time to do this!

I noticed on your discography that your mixes range from new/current albums to re-mixing vintage older releases, like the Dylan catalog.

I was wondering if and how you change your approach when mixing a "classic" album which carries so much history and baggage?

Do you reference the original mix? Or go on your own instinct alone?

Old 23rd September 2005
Past Guest Moderator
Michael Brauer's Avatar

I have a strong opinion about touching a classic. I don't want my memories of a song messed with. My memories are attached to it and the way it sounded is just as much a part of that feeling as the melody. I know how it made me feel at the time and that’s the way I want to feel now. If you change the feel on me, I’m going to hate it. Leave my baggage alone.

When I'm asked to remix a classic in stereo or 5.1, I look at it as if I am restoring a lost mono or stereo mix. That actually is the situation in many cases because the masters were lost or destroyed. I am going to match the original stereo and maintain the integrity of the sound to the best of my ability. I'll have a digital copy of a vinyl made that I sync up to a digital copy of the existing 3 or 4 track master. Then, for the next few hours, I match back and forth. I’ll go four layers deep. Meaning, first I get the balances the same, then I get the Eq's matching, then the reverbs. Now I have my foundation, but the spirit of it is still lacking. It still sounds like a documentary of the event. It hasn’t touched me yet. So I listen deeper into the mix and I find the subtleties. It shows up in the way a particular verb dies out, or the way the instruments blend in the background, or how a distortion is poking out. It’s what’s going on in back that brings the song alive. Once I’ve tweaked those little gems, the mix is matched both sonically and emotionally. I’ve maintained the integrity of a classic and my memories are intact. Is it matched perfectly? No, what seems to be the case for me is that it sounds and feels just like the original but the image is bigger and I like the result. My job was to restore a master, not reinvent it.

The exception to this is when I remixed Dylan’s “Street Legal”. Don Devito, the producer on the record, asked me to remix it because what was released were just board mixes. For whatever reason there was no time spent on doing a proper job of mixing it, they were just quick roughs. He felt ,since the record was being re-released in SACD, the mixes could be improved. In this case, I took remixed the songs as I would have in that time period. Except for the new desk, I used just a couple of plates sounds from that time period. I captured the feel of each song and enhanced it by improving the mix but still maintaining the integrity of the original feel.

I’ve just recently remixed some music for a Martin Scorsese Documentary of Bob Dylan “Do Direction Home”. Some of it was from old mono tracks that had a fair amount of distortion and it was hard to hear the band. I turned them into stereo and brought out the sound of the band as much as I could. There’s not much I could do to rid myself of the distortion but I managed to lessen it a bit. I used all my trickery for this one and it sounds pretty good compared with what I started with.

It’s amazing how toys come into my room the very day that I need something to address a problem. That was the case for these mixes. David Derr (Distressor), sent me a prototype EQ called the “little Freq”. I was able, with this unit, to dig into each mono track and extract the band. The advantage I had using this parametric EQ was not only because of it’s warmth but also because I have a de-esser and HF limiter setting in the chain. Of all the toys I have, none could help me dig in like this one and I had just taken it out of the box the day before the session.
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