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Mutt Lange
Old 3rd June 2004
  #1
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Mutt Lange

Mike-what (in your opinion) is it about this guy that makes literally evrything he touches turn to Gold (or Platinum)? Is it attention to detail? His ear for a "song"? One hears stories about the way this guy works and it makes ya wonder. You don't ever hear any quotes or anything from him-what makes this guy tick?
Old 3rd June 2004
  #2
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Mike Shipley's Avatar
 

You will never hear a quote or interview with Mutt. He feel's his job is a behind the scenes one and he refuses to give interviews etc. His way of working is very unorthodox and a lot of people don't understand why he does work the way he does. I've already had some slutz here telling me that Dusty Springfield did it a certain way so what's wrong with Mutt etc , and that's what kinda rubs Mutt up the wrong way. He is not making records for "industry people" to buy and critique, he's making records for the check out girl at safeways , or the guy pumping gas .
Hearing opinions from Engineers and producers etc about his work methods is kinda old and just beg's for everyone to give an opinion and put a value on it in terms of how "they" work compared to him.
"how can u spend so long , it's not natural , that doesn't sound like a real kit, you do What ??'" etc etc . All that gets in the way of what he does .So he chooses to be reclusive to a point and not listen to any one else's opinion especially the AandR people!! He makes records for one reason only...to sell them. He will rewrite the same song until he's happy with it and that can be a while, he wants every record to have a "sound "to it rather than take for him what is the easy route and that can take some time also.
Yes there are people that work way faster and get the job done to their satisfaction just fine, he chooses a different route and always has. As I said his record sales are between 180million and 190 million so his way works for him. People have tried to copy him, thinking that all you gotta do is be anal and spend alot of time..but there is so much more than that. I love working with him because it's always something new.
As lame as an artist like Shania is to a lot of people,I just got a plaque last week from Mutt and the label saying that she is the "First artist in history to have 3 conecutive diamond albums"
so theyve sold over 10 million each. Actually in total for her it's about 70 million on the three records. Back in Black just hit the 20 million mark. DL sold around 35 million.etc .
He is thinking about doing an English rock band next year , so Ill see how he feels in a few months time about it.
Old 3rd June 2004
  #3
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally posted by shipshape
He is not making records for "industry people" to buy and critique, he's making records for the check out girl at safeways , or the guy pumping gas .
Which, to me, is part of his genius-he really seems to know what those people want to hear in the music they buy. The successes he's had with such an incredibly diverse list of artists and the fact that he seems very adept at crossing genres is quite cool-plus the whole "reclusive genius" thing he seems to share with folks like, say, Eddie Van Halen is interesting. They seem like they might be a lot alike. What is it about your personality that seems to draw folks like that to working with you? You have a phsycology degree hiding somewhere?
Old 3rd June 2004
  #4
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Mike Shipley's Avatar
 

Interesting question D audio !!!.
Right from day one when I was assisting on Mutt's sessions in London , it was obvious that he had a different way of working. If you couldn't keep on top of things on his sessions , which were pretty hi energy with no room for fuc@k ups then you were out. For whatever reason we clicked and I really enjoyed the challenge even as an assistant.
It was soon after that he asked me to be his engineer and build a studio for us etc and I was 19 at the time so it was all very exciting. I loved the energy level and the creativity. I had seen some of the most creative bands and producers at Wessex studios and Mutt was the most creative. He works brutal hours and it's quite intense 'cos we wrangle over sounds etc. but it was always a matter of..I'm gonna get what he wants if it kills me...'cos he was hard to satisfy and we would tear down and start again so many times. Some mixes would take weeks .And some albums took years and As much as I wanted to give up , I wanted to keep hacking away to find what it was that we had to do to get it to work.
There have been other engineers work with him from time to time but he hates it and so do they .
After 26 or so years together we can fight a bit (in a healthy way) but we've figured out how to work together !!!
Then word got around that I can take tough situations in the studio so I get a lot of calls to work with more "difficult" artists , and that's alot of fun too because quite often their "difficult" part is their creative part so if you can figure how to make it a positive instead of a negative then it's a great experience. So many business type people just don;t know how to handle an artistic temprament and use words like "difficult" instead of realising that the vision in an artists mind can not always be put into words and that I guess is frustrating for them..for me it's fun and a challenge.
Old 3rd June 2004
  #5
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dave-G's Avatar
Quote:
Originally posted by shipshape
As lame as an artist like Shania is to a lot of people,I just got a plaque last week from Mutt and the label saying that she is the "First artist in history to have 3 conecutive diamond albums" so theyve sold over 10 million each. Actually in total for her it's about 70 million on the three records.
That's completely stunning. Amazing. In all sincerity, I hope you have point(s), and I hope you realize that regardless of what cynical people may think or say about these records today, the sheer impact that they've had on such a large and widespread audience means that you have contributed to some of the artifacts of our culture that will be studied by archaeologists (or aliens) thousands of years from now.



Kudos, hats off and such.
-dave
Old 3rd June 2004
  #6
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djui5's Avatar
 

Mike,
I'd say your an inspiration to a lot of people. Hearing your stories is amazing....
Old 3rd June 2004
  #7
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Mike Shipley's Avatar
 

Well alot of my experiences have been "colourful" to say the least!!!. If it get's boring or rote , then it's time for a long break and there are times that you just gotta take off for a while so I do , a lot. The last thing I want is too feel tired and not energised. Hawaii here I come!!!
Old 4th June 2004
  #8
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music's Avatar
 

Mmm, Maui!, Fresh fish. Waves...
Old 4th June 2004
  #9
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Hey, here's a classical guy who thinks what you guys do is amazing. I have the first Shania Twain album and I think the production is phenomenal. I listen to it on my Dunlavy/Pass system and shake my head and how much you've done with simple music and simple instrumentation. I'm sure the studio sessions are anything but simple, but the product speaks for itself.

It couldn't be further from the work that I personally do, but it is a reference for me for what good pop production is all about. I have major respect for what you guys have accomplished.

Funny how nothing draws the critics like success! Me - I can't imagine 64 tracks of vocals - but whatever you are doing sure works for what you are doing.

- Nathanael
Old 4th June 2004
  #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by shipshape
He is thinking about doing an English rock band next year , so Ill see how he feels in a few months time about it.
The Darkness?
Old 4th June 2004
  #11
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jpaudio's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by shipshape
Then word got around that I can take tough situations in the studio so I get a lot of calls to work with more "difficult" artists , and that's alot of fun too because quite often their "difficult" part is their creative part so if you can figure how to make it a positive instead of a negative then it's a great experience. So many business type people just don;t know how to handle an artistic temprament and use words like "difficult" instead of realising that the vision in an artists mind can not always be put into words and that I guess is frustrating for them..for me it's fun and a challenge.
That's a very inspiring way of looking at a situation... i'll be remembering that!
Old 4th June 2004
  #12
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Faderjockey's Avatar
 

Yes Darkness. I read that. That would be pretty cool.
Old 4th June 2004
  #13
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Curve Dominant's Avatar
Quote:
posted by Mike Shipley:
His way of working is very unorthodox and a lot of people don't understand why he does work the way he does. I've already had some slutz here telling me that Dusty Springfield did it a certain way so what's wrong with Mutt etc , and that's what kinda rubs Mutt up the wrong way. He is not making records for "industry people" to buy and critique, he's making records for the check out girl at safeways , or the guy pumping gas.
That is such a very inspiring way of looking at the task of production.

It's too easy to get pulled in conflicting directions when it comes to all the various expectations that "industry" people feel themselves free to pull on you.

Knowing that such a highly successful producer rather focusses on the end-user, above all, at all cost, is really heartening.

Thank you so much for sharing that, Mike, and for everything else you've taken your time to share here. The wave of insights on this forum has got me for one expanding the horizons with some truly outside inspiration.
Old 5th June 2004
  #14
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One thing that I always found interesting from Mutt's productions is that there always seems to be a focus for every moment of music. There is always some sort of a hook happening. For example, you have the guitar riff, then immediately have a vocal hook, then when that's done, there's the cool synth sound, then the drum fill.

It seems like there is always something unique to focus on with every beat.

Take "Pour Some Sugar On Me" for instance. You have the effected vocal lead in, then the guitar riff, then the HUGE snare hit, on and on until the backward guitar sound and into the vocal.... that's the sort of thing I'm talking about. There's always an obvious thing to focus on.

The only complaint I might have about his production style is how "unreal" Shania's vocals tend to sound. She is a great singer on her own, I'm sure, it's just that when I hear the singles, all those harmonies and vocal tracks don't even beat against eachother naturally. I won't assume they're autotuned, but I might guess that they're comped like crazy, no?

Reading your point that Mutt is making records for the checkout girl hit home though. I may hear that sound and say "that drives me crazy" but at the end of the day, he must know what he's doing, because he's not making the record for me. I don't buy those records. The checkout girl hears that vocal sound and wants to be Shania.

I can't fault him one bit.

Roger
Old 6th June 2004
  #15
Gear Maniac
 

Mike. Thanks for being here! So do the song/album production goals come mostly from Mutt? How much influence does the band get on a project? Does Mutt pick the band based on music as well as creative freedom for the project?

Thanks again,

Jason
Old 8th June 2004
  #16
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Quote:
Originally posted by shipshape
His way of working is very unorthodox and a lot of people don't understand why he does work the way he does. I've already had some slutz here telling me that Dusty Springfield did it a certain way so what's wrong with Mutt etc , and that's what kinda rubs Mutt up the wrong way. He is not making records for "industry people" to buy and critique, he's making records for the check out girl at safeways , or the guy pumping gas .

Hi Mike,

We've not met in person. It's funny, I recorded and mixed every note of Dusty's last album, and worked with Mutt on the remixes for Shania's "The Woman In Me" very shortly thereafter, so maybe I'm in a position to comment on that comparison.

There is no comparison. Apples and oranges. Whoever was griefing you on that is clueless, and I really don't care who it was. I mean, it's like asking: "Which is better, applejuice or a vacuum cleaner?" That depends on what you're in the mood for, now doesn't it?

Mutt is the consumate professional. If I were to say what makes him so successful, it would be this. He can listen deeper and more microscopically than anybody else I've worked with, yet he can simultaneously listen like we all did when we were 13 year old kids, emotionally consumed by a song, but without a technical clue or a care as to why. You put those two opposite viewpoints together within one person, along with great musical instincts, and you get 190 million records sold.

That, along with so much work focus, it hurts my brain to think about it. I don't know Mike personally, but I know he has worked on a bunch of bigtime records, and I've managed to sneak on to a couple myself. In the process, we have both had the privilege to work with some seriously talented people. Maybe the fact that both of us have the highest respect for Mutt says something.

If you don't get what he does, or dig a particular album he's done, read his discography. You simply can't luck your way into that many successful records, with that many different artists, in that many different genres. There is a great producer involved. Whether it's your bag or not, try and show some respect for a veteran.

Hey, Back In Black alone should earn him a little respect. That and the fact that he totally blows off A&R "persons"
Old 8th June 2004
  #17
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Quote:
Originally posted by BrianT
Hi Mike,

It's funny, I recorded and mixed every note of Dusty's last album, and worked with Mutt on the remixes for Shania's "The Woman In Me" very shortly thereafter, so maybe I'm in a position to comment on that comparison.

There is no comparison. Apples and oranges. Whoever was griefing you on that is clueless, and I really don't care who it was. I mean, it's like asking: "Which is better, applejuice or a vacuum cleaner?" That depends on what you're in the mood for, now doesn't it?

I was the one who originally brought up the Dusty analogy, perhaps you should go back and read the original thread before commenting on it.

Or, perhaps you DID read the thread and are just trolling. Anyway, here's a clue, it had nothing to do with current Dusty vs ST.

It was a good and a valid exchange as I'm certain Mike would agree.

I hardly consider myself to be "clueless", but if throwing cheap shots at folks makes you happy, so be it.

Ed
Old 8th June 2004
  #18
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OK, I'll read it. True, I was inferring from a post here. If an apology on my part is in order, it will be my pleasure to make it.
Old 8th June 2004
  #19
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Curve Dominant's Avatar
That was exceptionally restrained of you, Brian.

Sharp11,

BrianT is one of the good guys.
Old 8th June 2004
  #20
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Thanks, Curve.

Having now read the thread in question, maybe "clueless" was a bit harsh.......but not by a great amount.

The consideration of context is absent. There is no comparison between the expected impact of a modern rythym section vs the backing section on a 60's recording like "The Look Of Love". Dusty sang fabulously on that song. But what Mike was originally addressing in that thread was EQ. Trying to make a vocal sound as huge and smooth as "The Look Of Love" while competing with a modern rythym track is a very tall order. Frankly, it's impossible, so the only resort is illusion. Dynamic EQ is a part of that illusion, in this case.

When we did "A Very Fine Love" with Dusty in 1994, she still had her amazing tone. The most air I have ever heard on a caucasian voice. But as both the engineer and mixer on the project, I can tell you that we worked very, very hard to give Dusty the size and space we wanted without shrinking the rythym section down to the size of pixies.

Another example. regarding dynamic vocal EQ. I think Donna Summers kicks butt. She is yet another consumate pro. She is also self aware of her vocal qualities......good and bad. She actually annotates a lyric sheet with specific EQ frequencies and cut/boost amounts that she expects the engineer to catch on-the-fly, during recording. Yup, Donna prints dynamic EQ like Mike is talking about during recording. Does she do that because of "lack of talent on the singer's part (likely)" to quote? I don't think so. She does it in order to enhance the good, compensate where she's lacking, and have max vocal impact amidst a cranking track. Sounds smart to me.
Old 8th June 2004
  #21
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Quote:
Originally posted by BrianT
Another example. regarding dynamic vocal EQ. I think Donna Summers kicks butt. She is yet another consumate pro. She is also self aware of her vocal qualities......good and bad. She actually annotates a lyric sheet with specific EQ frequencies and cut/boost amounts that she expects the engineer to catch on-the-fly, during recording. Yup, Donna prints dynamic EQ like Mike is talking about during recording. Does she do that because of "lack of talent on the singer's part (likely)" to quote? I don't think so. She does it in order to enhance the good, compensate where she's lacking, and have max vocal impact amidst a cranking track. Sounds smart to me.
That is almost unbelieveable Brian! For someone to be so aware of their vocal performance in a technical way... wow.

Mike, one quick question if I may... do you happen to know any of Mutt's background? Taste is taste is taste, but the development of such critical ears, plus the drive and focus he must have, as well as you... that's what i'm most curious about. I know it's tough to put a finger on those sort of intangibles, but any insight would be invaluable!
Old 8th June 2004
  #22
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Quote:
Originally posted by BrianT
Thanks, Curve.


The consideration of context is absent. There is no comparison between the expected impact of a modern rythym section vs the backing section on a 60's recording like "The Look Of Love". Dusty sang fabulously on that song. But what Mike was originally addressing in that thread was EQ. Trying to make a vocal sound as huge and smooth as "The Look Of Love" while competing with a modern rythym track is a very tall order. Frankly, it's impossible, so the only resort is illusion. Dynamic EQ is a part of that illusion, in this case.

I recently mixed and edited a production music library cd featuring the dobro as the lead instrument backed by some of your best players from Nashville.

While I was impressed with the level of musicianship, the tracks were very VERY busy and VERY dense.

It was a bear to do this project, but the problem was of a musical nature. The mistakes made here were music school arranging level 101 , There simply was never given proper thought to the "space" the dobro needed to sit in, nor was there consideration given to what makes an interesting piece of music in arranging terms (though the songs were good).

I had to stagger entrances in some places and thin out the arrangements to make it all work. I also found the drum sound to be about 10 years (or more) out of date. Couldn't do much about that.

As a last resort, I went the riding-the- eq route when nothing else worked, but I held my nose while I did it.

As an educated composer/arranger first and foremost, I believe records today CAN be done in a more old-school style, by simply cutting back on the production and focusing more on the music and what makes for a good song and a good arrangement.

There does seem to be some acceptance now for a simpler approach; we've got the Norah Jones phenomenon (for better or worse), anyway. Perhaps we'll get more folks who can actually write a decent song and record it in a spontaneous way, which I believe there will always be an audience for.

Fwiw, for all of ST's success (and I withhold judgment, I've only ever seen her once or twice on tv, I'm always uncomfortable with the way she squats), record sales overall are way, way down and it's not just because of internet downloading.

What might actually be "clueless" is the belief in having to do something one way because someone does it that way and that's the accepted norm in a certain environment.

Sometimes it's good to get an "outside" view from knowledgeable people, if you know what I mean.
Old 8th June 2004
  #23
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Quote:
Originally posted by Sharp11
I recently mixed and edited a production music library cd featuring the dobro as the lead instrument backed by some of your best players from Nashville.

While I was impressed with the level of musicianship, the tracks were very VERY busy and VERY dense.
Welcome to Nashville. Sadly that is where many producers have taken it. I blame them as opposed to the players....the players are great enough to give you whatever you want.

Its really amazing how little producing some of the big name producers do. They are pretty much useless after picking songs and hiring players.
Old 9th June 2004
  #24
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Its very interesting that Mr. Sharp is talking about tracks that are crammed with instruments leaving no room for anything to breath yet he has only heard Shania twice. I’m assuming heard because seeing her squat has little to do with anything. Anyone familiar with the product and with Mutts style knows he is the king of solid basic arrangements and of space in a mix. What to leave out is probably as important to Mutt as what to leave in. I think this single issue is what has driven many Nashville folk insane. I think Mutt is more like the early recordings than most people think. Back then is was about melody and being able to focus people attention mostly on the singers voice Mutt seems to have the ability to take every recorded part and have the listener focus on several things within the song and never loose the main focus again the singers voice and the emotion of the song.
Cheers

PS I have 10 tracks he can mix anytime
Old 9th June 2004
  #25
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Quote:
Originally posted by 4count
Its very interesting that Mr. Sharp is talking about tracks that are crammed with instruments leaving no room for anything to breath yet he has only heard Shania twice. I’m assuming heard because seeing her squat has little to do with anything.
Well, the "squat" reference was a joke. If you read the original thread, I began with the caveat I'd never heard a single ST recording (at least not that I can recall).

I did see her perform at a half time show not long ago. Let's just say I must not be the "target market" for ST as I found this display about as lame as anything I'd ever seen.

I had to ask a friend of mine who Mutt Lange was because, to be honest, I'd only heard his name once or twice in passing. When I'd learned he was involved with AC/DC, Def Leppard etc. I understood why he wasn't on my radar, that's just stuff I never listened to.

This whole thing started because I reacted to Mike Shipley's comments in another thread regarding surgical manipulation of the vocal track, the automating and riding of eq, levels etc. practically vowel by vowel on a ST record.

I'm quite familiar with changing vocal sounds in different parts of songs, the laying out of a vocal over several different tracks so the mixer can apply different treatments as the song moves along. Much of this kind of stuff was done in the old days too (manually, of course).

Mike's contention was that as records have become denser (this contradicts your assertion) and the drums more forward, much of this technique has had to evolve to an even more microscopic level so the vocal can be heard and understood.

I was just astounded at this level of detail and frankly, still am. However, as MS correctly points out, it's his job to do what the producer wants and at this point, I'm willing to defer to his level of experience.

As I think about it more, there is a certain type of production out that does seem to hail from nashville where every nook and cranny in a song is filled by something; i.e. the ubiquitous bell trees and wind chimes.

I just don't believe it HAS to be this way.

However, I've never sold a 150 billion records, so what can I possibly know about the subject, but I've bought quite few in my life time and I ain't buying many today.

Perhaps I overreacted, but now the sycophants are coming out of the woodwork.
Old 9th June 2004
  #26
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Quote:
Originally posted by Sharp11

Perhaps I overreacted, but now the sycophants are coming out of the woodwork.

And just when I thought you were about to graciously agree to disagree on the subject...............

Well, on the upside, at least you did spell "sycophants" correctly.
Old 9th June 2004
  #27
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Quote:
Originally posted by Kent
Brian,

You are making yourself look worse with every reply.

I guess the internet is blocking the fact that I'm joking around.

Hmmmm. Next thread, for me.
Old 9th June 2004
  #28
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Quote:
Originally posted by BrianT
I guess the internet is blocking the fact that I'm joking around.

Hmmmm. Next thread, for me.
One of the hardest things for me to learn (and I'm slowly getting it) on forums of all types, is when to leave well enough alone. Like you, I've got opinions and I'm not afraid to espouse them, even if I sometimes look foolish doing so.

However, yes, I'm attempting to graciously disagree, but, the thread has taught me something I didn't know and I hope gets people thinking about things they might just take for granted. For me, that's often what it's all about.

Contentious or not.
Old 9th June 2004
  #29
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Quote:
Originally posted by Sharp11

As I think about it more, there is a certain type of production out that does seem to hail from nashville where every nook and cranny in a song is filled by something; i.e. the ubiquitous bell trees and wind chimes.
I don't remember EVER hearing a bell tree on a Nashville based record. Wind chimes, sure...
Old 9th June 2004
  #30
Gear maniac
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Dave Martin
I don't remember EVER hearing a bell tree on a Nashville based record. Wind chimes, sure...
You just missed them due to the ultra dense mix, it's panned at 5 o'clock just underneath the fiddle player's toe taps :P
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