Tag Archives: mix

My Beach Road Studios Workshop Experience :)

Since the beginning of time, (okay LOL!), since I can’t remember when, I’ve been aching to go to a Beach Road Studios workshop. After stalking/befriending JUNO award winning producer Siegfried Meier for many years on Facebook, the timing suddenly became RIGHT earlier this year. He announced he would be running the final ever Beach Road workshop this autumn and I knew, this was it! It was like the stars had alligned for me as it was happening on my week off! Within minutes (yes, I made the decision that fast) I had flights and accomodation booked, Canada, here I come!!!!

But how does a random audio girl from a sleepy, Irish countryside Nowhereness, find out about a mega, award winning, from Germany but living in Canada most of his life, music producer and his private, super-amazing-awesome studio?

Through Kittie.

When Kittie blasted onto Irish TV screens via the kick-ass medium that was (still is? is it? I don’t know!) MTV2 with the even more bad-ass video for their second single, “Charlotte” in 2000, I was hooked. Four kick-ass girls my age absolutely knocking it out of the park with a savage tune, how could I resist? Back then it was actually pretty hard to find out much about anything, even though we had electricity (LOL, Internet was dial-up and I wasn’t really allowed use it), I did my best to find magazine clippings about the girls. Metal Edge was the only place I could find anything about them and even then, I only ever got my hands on like, 2 copies, cos Nowhereness is in the middle of Nowhere, you know?! I got my hands on their debut Spit (produced by Garth “GGGarth” Richardson, 2000) when I went stateside that summer and it didn’t seem too long after that, their 2nd album Oracle (also produced by GGGarth, 2001) was released. That I did buy here in Ireland. The band developed and progressed over the years and while I kept an eye on them, Facebook brought them back into my world in 2010 and that’s when I discovered Siegfried Meier.

Kittie, circa 2000. Source: https://www.stereogum.com/1989753/heres-to-20-years-of-kittie/franchises/sounding-board/
Kittie “Charlotte” music video still, 2000.

So Siegfried worked on their Oracle album back in the day (credited in the album notes as Siegfried “Private Dancer” Meier!) as an assistant in Emac Studios (London, Ontario) and then became their producer for their 5th In the Black (2009) and their 6th, I’ve Failed You (2011), producing the band in his Beach Road Studios . Cue a new style, sound and sonic force of awesomeness for the band. Kittie has been a highly creative and unique metal band from the get-go but the Sig albums are f**king HUUUUGE.

Kittie In the Black, 2009
Kittie I’ve Failed You, 2011

Their 2018 Origins/Evolutions 20th anniversary release, which documented the band’s career, cemented my personal opinion that Siegfried was one seriously cool guy (I could discern from the Internet that he’s a musician, producer, songwriter, audio engineer, mastering engineer, cat lover, and all-round super dude). But the footage on that documentary simply blew my mind and I ached for the chance to visit. Lucky for me, I didn’t have to wait too long!!

Source: http://www.siegfriedmeier.com/about-2/

Fast forward a few months and I find myself driving an automatic VW Golf (black, shiny and sexy as hell!) on a 5-lane highway in Toronto, on the opposite side of the road. Huge trucks zooming by me and the setting sun in my eyes, my heart races with trepidation, I’M HERE CANADA! Immediately charmed by the picture perfect towns I drive through, hours out of busy Toronto, I just knew, this was a slice of Heaven right here and this was exactly where I needed to be (you know, you do kind of doubt yourself- am I mad to go to Canada for a couple of days?! How will I handle driving in another country? Will my Irish awkwardness ruin the vibe?! Am I still rock n roll enough to handle this?!).

The excitement!

I need not have worried. I may have been shaking in my runners driving down the magical road to the studio, parking the car after confirming I had indeed found the location and not some random persons house (imagine if I did that though LOL!), spotting drums through a window but the very second I opened the door and let myself inside (let’s face it, I still don’t even let myself into my fiances house 14 years on! I have to ring the doorbell and text prior to my arrival- that’s my own awkwardness, not their house rules!), I felt this absolute WAVE of love. Everyone smiled at me (walking into a room of 10 guys is a little bit scary!) and I was enveloped in Siegfried’s welcoming arms instantly. I actually didn’t feel shy!!! From the get-go I felt like I knew Sig forever and that it wasn’t my first time meeting him. It struck me it was a special connection and all my suspicions about him were confirmed- this guy IS the coolest person EVER! Larger than life itself, his warmth, genuineness, humourous wit, easy-going, relaxed, bubbly, passionate and humble personality shone like a white light. Just being around him made me feel an excitement and joy I haven’t felt in years. I probably looked goofy and starry-eyed as I openly gazed at him but that wasn’t for his incredible awe-inspiring career, it was for him as a human being. He’s the kind of person that you only find once or twice in your life and you recognise instantly he’s making the world a better place by just being in it.

Walking into his control room, my breath left me. What a beautiful room! Surrounded with a mix of vintage and modern equipment, yet with a vibe of home, I can see why musicians come to make music here. His welcoming personality is mirrored by his creative space. If I was a musician in a band, I would be extremely excited about making records there!

Source: http://www.siegfriedmeier.com/studio/

After a short introduction where everyone (Sig, the students and the rock band, Breaching Vista) got up and said a little something about who they were and confirmed they were indeed cat-lovers also, Sig dived into audio theory and concepts to ensure everyone was on a similar level. Notes were passed around and we were invited to jot down as much as we like. Standing on a footstool behind his amazing rare Amek/TAC Magnum console, Siegfried explained higher level educational audio concepts in a logical and exciting format. Hanging onto every word he said, my mind raced to keep up.

After coffee breaks and lunch, the fun really kicked off.  The importance of preproduction was explained and a guide track was loaded into Pro Tools. Track tempo was discussed and experimented with and yes, I even learned a new thing. Sig gave us a golden nugget concerning click track headphone bleed (I admit I actually made that f**k up on my own most recent recording and even kicked myself afterwards for not paying enough attention). Drummer Micheal Sferrazza (also a talented pilot, no less) was invited to take up his sticks and we all ushered into Sig’s, huge live room. I momentarily got starstruck as I recognised the wall of guitars and the placement of the drums, for I had seen this room on Kittie documentaries and photographs before (imagine being starstruck by a room! NERD!). My jaw dropped at the sheer size of the converted barn (Sig built and designed the entire studio in 2006, with the help of his colleague Lee While, acoustics professor from Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology), again, huge but welcoming! The room was chock-full of equipment, instruments, consoles, computers, microphones, amps, cables and more. I do believe in that moment that I died and went to Heaven.

There we experimented with a dedicated Pro Tools 6 rig and Sig explained the importance of gain structure, what exact signal flow he was implementing and set up the Glyn Johns drum recording method. A method I’ve read about and listened to all about since the beginning of my audio schooling, but one I’ve never actually witnessed for myself. Well wasn’t my mind blown?! A great kit in a great room played by a great drummer with only 3 (also great) mikes equalled MAGIC. Hell, that was a drum sound I would killed to have gotten in my production projects in college.

Drum miking techniques with Siegfried Meier

After that the room was set up for the actual recording of the single for Breaching Vista. 20+ mikes were set up- close mikes, room mikes and even bulls***t mikes. Each mike was explained in fine detail and I got to meet many of which I had only read about in my studies and some of course, I had never even heard of before. Jet-lagged like never before, I think I was probably swaying standing up, I wondered was anyone noticing I was ready to start sleep walking! But that wasn’t going to last for long because before I knew it, we were back in the control room, listening to the sounds of the drums and setting up appropriate levels. Snapped awake by the exciting sounds, my heart raced as Sig explained what he was going to do next: track the drums in the digital domain AND on analogue 2 inch tape! WOW! Tape!! I remember I was asked in an interview in Derry in 2014 which I preferred, analogue or digital? and I fobbed off a bulls**t answer. How could I answer such a question when I had basically zero experience of analogue? I think I said I liked the idea of analogue but really all I knew was digital and therefore I liked the good things it had to offer. Maybe that wasn’t a bulls**t answer afterall, but I always thought about it afterwards, feeling like a twat that I couldn’t actually REALLY give an opinion about that subject. Sig gave us a highly detailed history and informative block of information which detailed tape anomalies, machine care, and so much more. Brand new stuff for me. Please let my brain absorb all of this!!!

A very small (surprisingly small- there have been sessions where I pushed 12 takes out of my drummer, the poor unfortunate soul) number of takes later, along with the band for guides, the drums were recorded. It was already getting close to midnight and Sig bounced the analogue drums back into Pro Tools, using the Studer tape machine as an audio processor to get a very different sonic character. There we ajorned for the night, for tomorrow there would be more- drum editing, bass recording, guitar recording, vocal recording, editing, mixing and mastering. I left Sigs close to 1am and drove back to his local town, my mind racing and my heart bursting. I fell into my bed thinking I’d probably never sleep but boom, I was out like a light.

Feeling surprisingly refreshed, the next morning there was a beautiful spread in my B&B. The sun was shining and with a spring in my step, I drove to Beach Road, feeling confident about driving on the correct side of the road and feeling like a local because I knew the roads already. I practically skipped in the studio door, proclaiming I was not jet-lagged and took my seat behind Sig’s racks. He kicked off swiftly, explaining he was up since crazy AM, editing last nights drums and showed us swiftly exactly what he did and how he did it. We A/B-ed the Pro Tools, digital drums with the tape, analogue drums, understanding the sonic differences between the two and the benefits/downfalls of both.

With the drums edited, it was time to get really serious. Bass guitar (Mike Chhangur) was up and there, Sig explained that he was not going to use just one mike on his bass amp (hang on, you can use more than one?) but four AND run more sources (okay this bit went a little bit over my head, studio routing is not an easy thing to get initially) but there, the audio concepts discussed yesterday came back into play and yes, it made sense. The importance of using the same tuner for the entire band (the very same tuner, not the same brand, but the same actual device) was explained and boom, we were away! Again, a few takes later, we had a phenomenal bass track recorded and edited.

Bass, bass, bass

Next up were guitars, rhythm (John Maksym) and lead (Al Malnar), I’m not going to go into any sort of detail but it was more mind blowing stuffs! Definitely the kind of stuffs this guitar girl loved. Again, epic players using using gear in an epic room, produced by epic ears. More editing tricks, beautiful recording methods and tactics, next up it was vocals. Vox were a sheer delight to watch. Using a mike I actually own myself but never ever use, I was enthralled. Sig’s vocal chain was delicious. I’ve never been so gear hungry in my life! After editing and comping and a host of processing, I was delighted to be affirmed that what I do myself is actually correct and I learned a few little extra things too.

Shortly after that, dinner was up and can I say right here, that Sig’s wife Rachel is the most talented cook I’ve ever met, as well as a fantastic studio momma and all round lovely, lovely person?! Her food was out of this world and she looked after all of us like her own. Her presence added more love, light and sparkle to an already sparkly, beautiful, heavenly place. I didn’t realise so much joy was possible in one space and I was sent to pick up my fiance who was invited for the party. Brotherly “I know you!”s were exchanged as I watched the love of my life meet the inspiration of my life, and Sig swept him up into his world, a world he knows just enough about to be floored by what he saw. That’s when I saw Sig has a huge salt lamp upstairs near his mastering suite, of course! Good energy huh!!! After all of that, the class resumed and the final touches of the workshop were completed, mixing and mastering to quarter inch analogue tape- SHREDDER!

Slay indeed bae

We partied until an absolutely crazy hour, how Sig wasn’t totally crashing out (for he was up at the crack of dawn to edit drums, remember?) I’ll never know. Maybe it was the amazing maple syrup we ate raw from a dessert spoon?! Or the giant bag of those peanut butter M&Ms John brought and we all devoured?! The sheer joy of 14 like-minded people in the same room, simply enjoying each others company, exchanging thoughts, ideas, stories and culture, I suspect is what kept us all on Cloud 9.

My experience at Beach Road studios was simply second to none. I left Ireland thinking I might learn a little thing or two but instead I learned a brick tonne, felt joy and love like never before, got swept off my feet and felt a whole-ness I never felt before. I’ve definitely left a piece of my heart in Canada for I can never bear to say goodbye. Poor Sig had to get Rachel to pull me off his leg as I wept “Don’t make me go home!” I’m kidding of course but inside I was dying.

View this post on Instagram

I just had the best 3 days of my life and I've met the most wonderful people. I'm simply blown away by the warmth, passion, wit, humour, generosity, skill and the generally all round awesome person @siegfriedmeier is! The man is my spirit animal 😂 it's such an honour to attend his workshop in his AMAZING studios. I don't want to leave Canada, I'm going to have to be DRAGGED on that plane tomorrow. #beachroadstudios #beachroadworkshops #music #musicproduction #musicproducer #canada #studio #recordingstudio #recording #daw #reverb #digital #analogue #tape #recordmusic #playmusic #protools #production #audio #studiolife #siegfreidmeierdrums #gear #songwriter #audiophile #musicislife #mixer #instadaily #audioengineer

A post shared by @ sc_music_producer on

What an honour it was that I was allowed into Sig’s very special creative space, into the amazing building he built on a foundation of pure love and light. No wonder Beach Road has housed amazing musicians from so many genres, it’s the kind of place you gravitate towards and it wraps you up in a big cuddly blanket of passion for music. How lucky I am to have walked around those famous rooms and to have studied under the most passionate, intelligent, talented, skilled, witty, loveable and humble human I’ve ever met in my life. I’m so very grateful. Siegfried Meier is the producer I aspire to become one day. I can see why he makes brilliant records. Brilliant artists, brilliant gear, brilliant rooms, brilliant ears, brilliant skills, brilliant home. I haven’t even remotely touched on his history as a music producer- I urge you to visit his website Siegfried Meier and to pop his name into a Google search, you’ll be blown away by what you read and understand why I literally jumped onto a plane to visit a country I’ve never been to before, a journey of 5366kms each way. I’d do it again in a heartbeat and I hope I see my friends Sig and Rach and the rest of the class group again in the near future.

I believe if everyone met Siegfried Meier, even for just 5 minutes,  the world would be a much better place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Alternative Version of “Close Your Eyes” is Online Now!

Some vocal edits, some tweaks, some mix balances, I don’t think I should call it a remix but a small re-work of my original song “Close Your Eyes” which features Fiona McErlane and Keith Caffrey on vocals.

Fiona McErlane
Fiona McErlane
Keith Caffrey
Keith Caffrey

I personally prefer this version. I intended on making the female vocals and drums clearer. I especially hope the listener is drawn to the delicate subtleties of Fiona’s voice.

Both versions will stay online! Enjoy!

New Song Coming Soon!

Thought I’d post a little update of my own creative musings!

Yes, I have been busy musically. I’ve been working away on my next New Age/Chill Out/Sexy Celtic/Whatever You Wanna Call It track! It’s an idea which sparked off a few weeks ago but I did not have the energy to continue, now it’s full steam ahead!

I’ve been having fun blending my favourite sounds from Logic’s ES2 and EX24 synths as well as making my own sounds in the Sculpture synth and recording lush harmonics from my 12 string acoustic, reversing them and having fun with my Roland Gaia SH01 synth.

Vocal ideas suddenly came and with them, a lyrical theme. These were sent off to my songwriting partner Keith Caffrey and although he has only indulged me with a tiny taste of what he has written, I have been blown away. He has possibly outdone himself this time! I can’t get over what a gift he has with words, he really writes so beautifully and from the soul! Every lyric Keith writes, whether it’s for our acoustic-rock Shock Sorrow duet, his heavy metal band Black Svan, his own solo material or for my solo New Age/Electronic music, is always deep, meaningful, interesting, emotional, personal and universal. I can’t wait to hear his lyrics with melody! (Oh I forgot to mention his amazing melodies, guitar playing and all round gift for music, any instrument Keith puts his hands on, he can play it!)

Keith Caffrey
Keith Caffrey, great photo of a great musician and friend.

I recorded some violin ideas last week on a whim, when I say “violin” I really mean “fiddle”! My love for Irish traditional is clearly evident in this one! I always preferred playing traditional music, be it fast or slow (really love the minor and modal pieces I learned from a great old fiddle player many years ago) to the classical, technical pieces (which are of course wonderful but that style never felt right for me- though I do not knock for one second the theory and technicality I learned through those pieces!) I studied in my school days.

Having the craic in college in semester 3, the lads thought it was funny to put me in the middle of 6 AKG C414s! (and not plug them in!)
Having the craic in college in semester 3, the lads thought it was funny to put me in the middle of 6 AKG C414s! (and not plug them in!)
Sneak peek of what I have so far...
Sneak peek of what I have so far…

I decided tonight that yes, indeed, there will be a fiddle solo in this one. 😉

That’s really all I will say right now, until I hear the rest of the lyrics with the melodies, I can’t finish the structure but I really am looking forward to recording this. I’m thinking of asking a guest female vocalist to sing it. I’m also strongly thinking that this might well be a demo for a possible future college recording project, real drums would be fantastic… now to find a drummer… if you know any, send them my way please!!! (stephaniecaffrey@gmail.com, for reals!!!!)

Still on a high from the Trouble Pilgrims gig over the weekend, still badly wanting my own Burns Hank Marvin signature series electric guitar!!!!

Also I see Logic Pro X has been unveiled today! Looks pretty slick, I gotta say! I do like the new interface. I was afraid it was going to go all GarageBand and childish in style- I LOVE GarageBand-hey, it was how I started, pretty much (if you don’t count mucking around in good old, Cool Edit years and years ago) but desperately hoped Apple would keep Logic professional! It sounds good with new features Drummer, Flex Pitch, Track Stacks and an Arpeggiator! I am excited! But I have absolutely no reason to upgrade, I love Logic Pro 9, it’s stable on my iMac and Macbook Pro, it works a treat. I wouldn’t mind having a go though! The Apple Press Info hasn’t said whether it has changed it’s plug-ins at all, like Pro Tools 11 has (oh dear! Big no, no for me there! Happy to stay with Pro Tools 10 for college work, even if off-line bouncing is a desirable plus!). So for now, I’m sticking with Logic Pro 9, it’s the only Logic version which ever appealed to me (7 and 8 were disasters for me!) and the only version which ever inspired me!

Read more on the new Logic Pro X via Apple – Press Info – Apple Unveils Logic Pro X.

Signing off for now… I will of course publish more soon. Happy out y’all.

Have You Heard the Voice That Belongs to Monica Heldal Yet?!

Monica Heldal 2012

I’m so excited to share this with you! This is a project that I have been working on for a couple of months and I’m delighted to introduce you to one very talented young lady- Monica Heldal.

Monica is a singer-songwriter from Bergen, Norway and at 21 years old, she has already taken the international music scene by storm and is one very busy lady! Her love for American country-blues and the music of Irish legend Rory Gallagher has brought her on a very busy musical journey so far. After playing the Rory Gallagher Festival in Ireland last year, Monica has been invited back to play again this summer during her busy Norway-Netherlands-France tour.

I have produced this song “Silly Willy”, a personal favourite from Monica’s original set. A delightful, bluesy, shuffling song which brings a smile to everyone’s face who’s heard it already! Monica exhibits raw, natural talent in her advanced acoustic guitar fingerstyle performance and in her alluring vocal on this recording and I think you’ll agree with me when I say that this lady is blessed with a gift!

Drums were performed by Daire Stanley, bass was performed by Sean Moher, electric guitar was performed by Darren Mc Eneaney and my recording assistant was Shauna Kearney. I recorded, produced and mixed the song and threw in some additional keyboard and electric guitars.

I really enjoyed this creative process and I’m pleased with the mix-down. This was my first full-band mix on Pro Tools (Logic Pro user!) and I hope you enjoy the song as much as we do 🙂

You can find lots more Monica material on her Facebook artist page: Monica Heldal.

Monica Heldal
See Monica perform at the Rory Gallagher festival this month

Just As Soon As I Belong, Then It’s Time I Disappear… Bob Rock And His Influence on Metallica

An essay I wrote in 2011…….

Abstract

Metallica changed the face of metal music in 1990 by working with Bob Rock on their highly successful Metallica album.

The following report discusses the influence of producer Bob Rock on Metallica using quantitive research. The report investigates the impact of the music created by Metallica before, during and after the influence of Bob Rock.

Introduction

Robert Jens Rock (born on the 19th of April 1954 in Winnipeg, Manitoba) is a Canadian musician, sound engineer and producer best known for producing bands such as Metallica, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi and Mötley Crüe. His career has seen a large degree of commercial success yet not without some degree of critical acclaim. Rock was recruited by American thrash-metal band, Metallica for their eponymous 1991 album (also known as The Black Album) after producing Motley Crüe’s 1989 Dr. Feelgood album.

I intend to look at how Rock influenced the sound and musical format of Metallica compared with the four albums released prior to his involvement, the events that led to his departure as Metallica’s producer in 2006 and the following album that was released in 2008.

Bob Rock: Pre-Metallica

Bob Rock began his musical career as a guitarist playing in various bands. He achieved notable success with the Payolas who had a hit in the 80’s with “Eyes of a Stranger” which was used as part of the soundtrack of the movie Valley Girl, starring Nicolas Cage.

Rock worked as an assistant at Little Mountain Sound studio in Vancouver recording young Canadian punk bands and learning his trade which would eventually lead to working with Bon Jovi and Aerosmith.

The record that put Rock into the production spotlight was the debut album from Kingdom Come in 1989. By 1990 Rock was working with Blue Murder, Loverboy, The Cult, Motley Crüe, David Lee Roth and Cher. The highly successful Motley Crüe collaboration with Rock resulted in the number one album, Dr. Feelgood.

Metallica: Pre-Bob Rock

Ugly guys singing ugly things to ugly music.” Kirk Hammett quoted in The Frayed Ends of Metal (Crocker, 1993, p.67)

In 1983 an independent album entitled Kill ‘Em All was released. Extreme high-gain distortion, rapid-fire down-picked riffs, snarling vocals, jackhammer double-kick drum patterns, this was the raw, aggressive sound of a new metal band called Metallica. The album captured the high energy of punk fused with the muscle of heavy metal and created a sound previously unheard before-thrash metal.

Metallica consisted of founder member, drummer Lars Ulrich, guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Cliff Burton. Musically the band hailed New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands such as Judas Priest, Diamond Head, Motörhead and Iron Maiden as well as classic metal bands, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix as their main influences, as Lars Ulrich outlines in an interview in Putterford’s Metallica Talking: “We took the power and energy of Motörhead back in ’79/’80 and mixed it with more traditional arrangements and riffing.” (Putterford, 2004, p.16)

The music and success of Metallica progressed significantly with their second album, Ride the Lightning released in 1984. Flemming Rasmussen who was recruited to engineer and produce the album, was a major influence on the band. Melody was a prominent feature in the new music as well as better arrangements and bigger chorus’s. Metallica realised not all music needed to be fast and furious to be powerful and heavy and the album even featured a ballad “Fade to Black”. Lars Ulrich explains in an interview in Putterford’s Metallica Talking: “In the Ride The Lightning album we learnt that you could still be powerful even if the pace was slowed right down, and now we’ve understood that you can still hit hard music even when there’s subtlety in the music.” (Putterford, 2004, p.22)

Master of Puppets (also produced by Rasmussen) followed in 1986 and brought Metallica up to the next level of commercial success in America, reaching number 29 in the U.S Billboard 200, making it the very first thrash metal album to crack the Top 40. The aggressive yet highly varied album combined great musical skill and well-composed tracks with Hetfield’s developed vocals, Hammett’s intricate lead guitar melodies, Burton’s powerful bass and Ulrich’s pounding drums.

Following the tragic death of bassist Cliff Burton on a tour bus crash in 1986, Metallica re- grouped with Flotsam and Jetsam bassist Jason Newsted. In 1988 the fourth Metallica album, …And Justice For All was released.

The production sound on …And Justice For All came under scrutiny for the lack bass in the mix due to Hetfield and Ulrich being heavily involved as producers on the album. It was a conscious decision on behalf of Hetfield and Ulrich to make the album deeper than Master of Puppets, using harsher guitar tones and refusing to use reverb and echo effects. Lars Ulrich explains in an interview in Putterford’s Metallica Talking: “One thing that I think we went for this time around when we were mixing the album is a very up-front, in-your-face type sound. We wanted all the instruments to practically jump out of the speakers and slap you in the face while you’re listening to it.” (Putterford, 2004, p.30)

Production issues aside, “… And Justice For All” was very musically ambitious, progressive arrangements often brought the songs close to ten minutes in length. Hetfield’s lyrics are often quite dark and bleak with themes of injustice (the title song), insanity (“The Frayed Ends Of Sanity”), his own troubled childhood (“Dyers Eve”) and the environment (“Blackend”).

Despite the harsh production and it’s progressive song structure, “One”, an unlikely breakthrough single from the album, became the first Metallica song to receive mainstream radio airplay and also led to the band making their first music video. “One” reached number 35 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the music video received heavy airplay on MTV.

The Black Album

Following a gruelling 19 month tour during which the members of Metallica noted that the material from “…And Justice for All” was simply not cutting it live, Kirk Hammett explains in an interview in Crocker’s The Frayed Ends of Metal “Everyone would have these long faces. And I’d think, ‘Goddamn, they’re not enjoying it as much as we are.’” Crocker, 1994 p. 157). The band felt they needed to take their next album, the eponymous Metallica, (commonly referred to as The Black Album due to it’s monochrome cover art) in a new direction and recruit a new producer.

A simpler approach to song-writing was needed and for the first time in their career, Metallica admitted it would be okay if someone else helped them out. That man was Bob Rock.

The metal community was shocked at Metallica’s decision to work with Rock, the man behind top-selling, sonically-pleasing albums Slippery When Wet (Bon Jovi), Dr. Feelgood (Motley Crüe) and A Little Ain’t Enough (David Lee Roth). Fans feared the band would fall down the slippery slope of radio-fodder commercialism.

When asked on an MTV interview show why Metallica chose Bob Rock to produce the album, Kirk Hammett light-heartedly said “We liked the sound of his name.” (Crocker, 1994 pg.159)

Lars Ulrich reveals the real reason for hiring Rock in an interview in Putterford’s Metallica Talking: “I’ve heard Bon Jovi this, Bon Jovi that, but the fact of the matter is Bob Rock’s got an incredible ear for attitude and feeling.” (Putterford, 2004, p.35)

Rock brought some serious changes to Metallica’s approach to recording and it took several months for the working relationship between the two to settle down and get used to each other.

Metallica always recorded to a click track and overdubbed all their parts separately on previous albums thus resulting in clean yet mechanical sounding records. Rock convinced the band that a certain magic happens when everyone plays together, a certain energy or groove that only happens with a ‘live’ performance.

With regards to the complexity of the song’s arrangements, Rock suggested making the songs shorter and simpler by limiting the amount of riffs to one or two per song. The method of stripping down songs for the album became known as “The Reductive Method of Metallica”. This could be seen by hard-core fans as a direct attempt to increase the commercial potential of Metallica’s music. In saying this, great rock classics such as “Whole Lotta Love” (Led Zeppelin) and “Smoke on the Water’” (Deep Purple) are all one-riff songs. Metallica saw this as even more of a challenge than cramming loads of riffs into one song and making it work.

Sonically Rock wanted Metallica to sound thick and heavy, the complete opposite of …And Justice For All. He introduced Metallica to the art of guitar layering, tracking plenty of guitar harmonies and textures. The increase of bass frequencies were an important aspect of this thick, overall sound much to Newsted’s satisfaction.

Rock is responsible for developing Hetfield’s style of singing, opening his mind to soulful singing and making him feel comfortable enough to take his guard down and focus on melodies. Hetfield’s vocal on previous albums had been rough and aggressive, typical of the thrash-metal genre. Vocals became a driving force on the songs and were more important than ever. The vocals were put on equal footing with the guitars for the first time ever in Metallica’s recording history. Rock also suggested the idea of vocal harmonies to Hetfield and this was the first time Metallica ever tracked vocal harmonies. Rock’s vocal ideas had a fundamental impact on Metallica’s overall sound.

Experimentation with microphones was a new approach to recording Rock brought to Metallica. Hetfield was encouraged to try out various microphones and find a setup which he felt accurately captured his performance. Rock also tried varied microphone positioning to capture as much sound as possible.

Throughout the recording process, there was a great deal of tension between Metallica and Rock, due to how hard Rock was pushing the band to get the best out of them. Each song typically needed thirty or forty takes to get enough material to edit into one strong track. Ulrich explains in Crocker’s The Frayed Ends of Sanity: “We’d never really had anybody push us before.” (Crocker, 1994, p.161)

Most shocking of all for hard-core Metallica fans was the unexpected ballad “Nothing Else Matters”, which featured a 30 piece symphony orchestra conducted by Michael Kaman and recorded by Rock in Abbey Studios, London. Metallica themselves were astounded when they heard the recording, Ulrich commenting in Putterford’s Metallica Talking “We were fucking floored!” (Putterford, 2004, p.38). More than a love song, “Nothing Else Matters” is an open-hearted, soul-bearing expression of devotion. According to rock legend, the song was born on the road when Hetfield was talking to his then-girlfriend over the phone with his guitar on his lap, his free hand plucking the open strings which later developed into the beautiful, arpeggiating E minor guitar opening. Unlike previous ballads “Fade to Black” (Ride the Lightning), “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” (Master of Puppets) and “One” (…And Justice For All), “Nothing Else Matters” didn’t take off into a frenzy of complex riffs with Hammett’s blistering solos but stayed steady throughout, Hetfield’s melodic, heart-rendering guitar solo bringing the song to a climax maturely and gracefully.

After two months of song-writing and ten months of studio time, Metallica was released and went straight to number 1 on the Billboard charts, selling an estimated 600,000 copies in the first week alone. Overseas the album went to number 1 on albums charts in England, Germany, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand and Norway. The album changed Metallica’s industry status to multi-platinum and most-wanted.

Load and Reload

After the monumental global success of The Black Album, Metallica faced a difficult task in following it up. Knowing Bob Rock for five years, a strong and tolerant working relationship had been established, Rock was the obvious choice to produce the new material. Lars Ulrich comments in an interview in Putterford’s Metallica Talking “I think overall there has been a fraction of the problems that there were on the first record.” (Putterford, 2004, p.52) Enough material was composed for a double album. Due to touring schedules the material was released as two separate albums: Load in 1996 and Reload in 1997.

Although a successful production style had been established with Metallica, Load and Reload saw Metallica take yet a different approach to recording again. The bass guitar was laid down right on the drums instead of the guitar and Kirk Hammett played rhythm guitar for the first time. This allowed him to create his own parts and not copy Hetfield’s riffs, incorporating his blues and jazz influences to the new material. The guitars were down-tuned to E flat, a semi- tone lower than previous albums, probably to suit Hetfield’s rich voice but also to thicken the sound.

Load and Reload were very similar in terms of dynamics and style of music. A highly polished, thick sound, rich in melodic vocals, bluesy riffs, warm bass and energetic drums, Metallica crafted strong songs whilst staying true to their personalities, once again.

Bob Rock shares his thoughts of Reload in Putterford’s Metallica Talking: “There’s stuff on this album that’s classic as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. That’s the thing with Metallica. It’s not just another project for me. It’s the chance to work with a band I consider to be the new Led Zeppelin or the Beatles. They’re pretty much the Bob Dylan of this generation. Let’s face facts- it’s not Motley Crüe who are gonna go down in the history books…” (Putterford, 2004, p.55)

Hard-core fans were once again outraged at these releases, claiming that Cliff Burton’s tragic death was a major influence on Metallica’s new music. Fans felt that Metallica had become softer and Burton who had a profound influence on Metallica’s early music, would never have allowed the band to go this direction or even make music with Bob Rock. Kirk Hammett strongly disagrees with this theory saying “If Cliff was still in the band, we’d have recorded Load a lot sooner, He was very melodically inclined and listened to a lot of melodic music- and this was back in 1984, when the rest of the band were listening to heavy metal 24 hours a day!” (Putterford, 2004, p.53)

Yet Load and Reload represent a great step forward, musically and lyrically for Metallica. One can’t deny the interesting, sonic experimental elements and clever arrangements of these songs, Metallica have mastered the art of painting their music and blending their colours.

St. Anger

Metallica took a break from song-writing after the mildly successful (in record label terms) Load and Reload albums. Following Reload was an album of covers Garage Inc., where Metallica paid tribute to their influences (1998) and in 1999 Metallica joined forces with Michael Kamen and the symphony orchestra for a limited number of intimate performances which resulted in a live album entitled S&M. Bob Rock along with Hetfield and Ulrich, produced both albums.

In 2001 Jason Newsted left the band. Recording began as planned soon after with Rock playing bass and co-producing. Rock explains in an interview with Sound on Sound:

Jason wasn’t around when we worked on a song called “I Disappear” for the Mission Impossible 2 soundtrack in 2000 and so I played bass while running through the number with James and Lars. We kind of redid the feel, and at the start of this project I was basically told ‘You know what, with all the things going on right now, we don’t really want to audition guys. What you did on Mission Impossible was really cool, so why don’t we kick things off like that?’ That’s what I did.” (Buskin, 2004)

At this time the band had begun filming a documentary about the making of the new album. During this the band’s management hired the services of therapist/performance enhancement coach Phil Towle to help the band with dealing with the departure of Newsted and Hetfield’s sudden disappearance into rehabilitation for alcoholism.

The recording of St. Anger was a new experience for Metallica and Rock. Instead of recording in Rock’s own Plantation Studios facility in Hawaii, a decision was made to record in San Francisco in a deserted army barracks so the band could be closer to family and friends during their difficult time. An SSL 4000 console was installed along with various equipment from Rock’s studio including UREI 813 monitors, Studer amps, Pro Tools HD rigs, vintage microphones and assorted effects. Apart from a little acoustic treatment, the basic square box of the abandoned building was adapted to meet the recording requirements. The back-to-basics environment reflected Metallica’s new found aggression.

The band also took a new approach to song-writing. Traditionally, Metallica’s songwriting modus operandi had been to compose the music first and for Hetfield to write the lyrics later on, this time the band jammed main ideas, sessions would last up to 8 hours and lyrics were penned straight after, even if Hetfield couldn’t come up with something within the first 15 minutes, the other members would pitch in their ideas. The jams were then assembled into song structures by Rock and Ulrich. Rock explains in an interview with Sound on Sound:

What’s interesting about Lars is that he is not a guitar player, so he doesn’t really relate to the pitch. He only goes by what he hears, and he’d therefore stick together things that I don’t think James or Kirk or I would, because musically they don’t match or whatever. Yet, by putting them together, something would emerge. It was very interesting.” (Buskin, 2004)

Spontaneity was also a key factor in the creation of the new songs Rock reveals:

With ‘St. Anger’ I distinctly remember the point when I turned to James and joked, ‘What we need is one of those half-tone riffs that’s up-tempo and really complicated.’ He said, ‘How’s this?’ and he played the riff. All of our jaws dropped and we were like, ‘Where did that come from?’ I mean, he just came up with it on the spot. Then we had these other feels, like the near-reggae feel of the verse, and we just put them all together.” (Buskin, 2004)

St. Anger represented Rock’s first ever all-digital project, even though analogue was used for mastering. Metallica really liked the raw sound of digital and didn’t want to go back to analogue which softens guitars. Rock spent about 3 hours mixing each of the finished tracks separately in Metallica’s studio and didn’t nit pick, leaving the mix very honest. Drum hits weren’t nudged to be perfectly in time and extra production such as harmony layering and textures were not added in.

St. Anger was finally released in 2003 after 2 difficult years and it greatly upset Metallica fans. Metallica had changed their sound. It didn’t sound like a traditional metal album whatsoever. The guitars were down-tuned to C (a feature of contemporary metal music and quite tuned down from E flat), there were no guitar solos or ballads, the snare drum sounded like a tin can and the overall record had a hiss sound which is known as “Fried Egg Syndrome”. Kirk Hammett explains about the lack of guitar solos in an interview on Putterford’s Metallica Talking: “The reason there are no solos on the album is because it just felt like that would have taken away from the collaborative nature of the songs. It’s not about the solos, it’s about the four of us moving together musically.” (Putterford, 2004, p.63)

In the film Some Kind of Monster which resulted from the documentation of recording St. Anger, Rock is clearly shown as a member of the band, having equal say in decisions about the bands future. The fact that Rock was physically playing bass for Metallica shows just how important his presence was in the band.

It shows Rock as the glue in holding the band together during the entire process. Rock exhibits inexhaustible patience as every whimsical thought from the quite often egotistical band is discussed in depth, always remained calm during heated discussions, kept his clients happy, especially by asserting Hetfield of his talent during his uninspired moments which resulted in essential creative environments. Rock stepped up to playing bass for the band immediately to avoid the lengthy process of recruiting a new bass player for the album and endured every musical opinion and nit pick from the band regarding his bass playing. Rock went beyond the normal duties of a producer because he is a great producer and knows how to make a great record.

Metallica Post-Bob Rock

Although Bob Rock played bass and co-wrote the songs for St. Anger, Metallica needed to find a permanent bass player. Robert Trujillo joined Metallica in 2003 after auditions were held for Metallica’s fourth member. The addition of Trujillo excited the members of Metallica and the fans. James Hetfield reveals on the official Metallica website: “He brings an awesome new strength to the band, he makes us step up.” (Metallica, 2003)

In spite of Trujillo’s warm welcome, Metallica’s fans were unforgiving for St. Anger and an online petition lobbied for an end to Bob Rock’s work with Metallica. Addressed to the band:

We, the longtime loyal fans and friends of Metallica and their music would like to see a major change with the upcoming album. I know it will be a hard thing to do, but we feel it is time to sever your working relationship with Bob Rock.” (Vasiliou, 2007)

Further on, the petition reads: “Then we are left with St. Anger. It is completely unlistenable and this is the album that Bob Rock had most of his influence.” (Vasiliou, 2007)

The petition received over 20, 000 signatures and it is unclear exactly how much influence, if any, this petition had on the band’s decisions. In 2006 Metallica announced that they would not be working with Rock on their next studio album, ending their 15-year relationship and it would be produced by Rick Rubin who had previously worked with artists such as Slayer, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Jay-Z and many more.

Post-recording, Kirk Hammett revealed Rubin’s style was drastically different to Rock’s:

Bob would add a lot of his own musical input and with that came a lot of his own influences and style and jurisdiction and idiosyncrasie. And it would eventually make it into our sound. But with Rick, because he wasn’t there, it’s almost 100 percent undiluted Metallica. He’d come in and say, ‘That’s good, that isn’t, change that.’ And we would have to figure that out for ourselves. This is the most pure we’ve sounded in a long time.” (Harris and Brown, 2008)

Death Magnetic was released in 2008 and received very well by fans, returning to their old sound of blistering solos, complicated riffs and screaming vocals, Metallica showed the heavy metal scene they are still the best in the business.

James Hetfield revealed his philosophical view on Putterford’s Metallica Talking: “It’s never done unless you’re done. And we haven’t said we’re done yet.” (Putterford, 2004, p.131)

Bob Rock Post-Metallica

After twenty years of building an international reputation and producing major bands, Bob Rock’s priorities in life are simple and he is currently playing guitar with old friend Paul Hyde, bringing the Payolas back into the music industry with a new CD and live shows.

Rock reveals in an interview online: “You learn about life and how you feel about life, and you learn about the people you what to spend time with, and the bottom line is I figured out one of the people I want to sound time with is Paul Hyde.” (Lee, 2007)

Rock was highly recognised at the 2007 Juno Awards Ceremony for his lifetime contribution to popular music. Rock was also inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

More recently Rock has teamed up with Loverboy again to produce new material for the band.

Conclusion

This report discussed the influence of producer Bob Rock on the music of Metallica.

It is my opinion that Bob Rock had a positive effect on Metallica. The albums he worked with the band on are sonically much brighter, clearer and interesting than the ones he did not. He developed the band’s song-writing and musicianship and he brought the band to worldwide success.

Regardless of any personal opinions on Metallica’s music pre or post-Bob Rock, his influence on the band cannot be understated. It was a conscious decision of Metallica to change their sound in 1990 and if Bob Rock didn’t produce the band at that time then it would have certainly would have been another like-minded producer.

References

BUSKIN, R. (2004) Recording Metallica’s St. Anger [WWW] Sound On Sound. Available from: <http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/apr04/articles/bobrock.html&gt; [Accessed on 08.03.2011]

CROCKER, C. (1993) Metallica- The Frayed Ends of Metal. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

HARRIS, C and BROWN, T. (2008) Metallica Compare Hands-Off Producer Rick Rubin To Longtime Hand-Holder Bob Rock [WWW] MTV. Available from: <http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1592476/metallica-on-producer-rick-rubins-handsoff- approach.jhtml> [Accessed on 17.03.2011]

LEE, J. (2007) ‘Payola’ Isn’t a Dirty Word to Bob Rock [WWW] Canada. Available from: <http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/arts/story.html?id=e4f1446a-a2cf-4337-a818- a204b93f2cc6> [Accessed on 17.03.2011]

PUTTERFORD, M. (2004) Metallica Talking. London: Omnibus Press.

VASILIOU, M. (2007) Metallica Ending Their Ties With Producer Bob Rock [WWW] Petition Online. Available from: <http://www.petitiononline.com/SaveMet/petition.html&gt; [Accessed on 01.03.2011]

Bibliography

BATHGATE, S. (N.D) Bob Rock- Producer [WWW] Bruce Allen. Available from: <http://www.bruceallen.com/bob_rock.html&gt; [Accessed on 17.03.2011]

BENZULY, S. (2010) Classic Tracks: Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” WWW] Mix Professional Audio and Music Production. Available from: <http://mixonline.com/recording/tracking/metallica_enter_sandman/index1.html&gt; [Accessed on 01.03.2011]

BUG. (2009) Metallica discuss Recording Drums For The Black Album. [online video] Studio Bug. Available from: <http://www.studiobug.com/metallica-discuss-recording-drums- for-the-black-album> [Accessed on 01.03.2011]

BUSKIN, R. (2004) Recording Metallica’s St. Anger [WWW] Sound On Sound. Available from: <http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/apr04/articles/bobrock.html&gt; [Accessed on 08.03.2011]

CANNON, J. (2009) The Lessons A Producer Can Learn From Bob Rock in “Some Kind of Monster”[WWW] Mus Formation. Available from: <http://musformation.com/2009/04/the- lessons-producers-can-learn-from-bob-rock-in-some-kind-of-monster.html> [Accessed on 14.03.2011]

CASHMERE, P. (2011) Loverboy Record With Bob Rock [WWW] Undercover FM. Available from: <http://www.undercover.fm/news/13988-loverboy-record-with-bob-rock&gt; [Accessed on 17.03.2011]

CHIRAZI, S. (2004) So What! The Good, The Mad and The Ugly. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

CROCKER, C. (1993) Metallica- The Frayed Ends of Metal. New York: St. Martin’s Press. CZICEKO. (2007) Payola$- Eyes Of A Stranger [online video] You Tube. Available from:

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGrzZt4SCs0&gt; [Accessed on 07.03.2011]

DIGGS, J. (2011) How Did Kirk Hammett Become a Guitar God? [WWW] Ezine Articles. Available from: <http://ezinearticles.com/?How-Did-Kirk-Hammett-Become-a-Guitar- God?&id=1485978> [Accessed on 01.03.2011]

ELEVATION MUSIC. (2010) What Effects Do I Need To Get That Metallica Tone?[WWW] Elevation Music. Available from: <http://guitar.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=guitar&cdn=hobbies&tm=25&f=00 &tt=14&bt=1&bts=1&zu=http%3A//www.elevation-music.com/whefdoinetog2.html> [Accessed on 01.03.2011]

ELLIOT, P. (2009) Buyers’ Guide: Metallica [WWW] Classic Rock. Available from: <http://www.classicrockmagazine.com/top-posts/buyers-guide-metallica/&gt; [Accessed on 01.03.2011]

FADETOBLACK159357. (2006) Kirk Hammett vs. Bob Rock. [online video] You Tube. Available from: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LftgfoRWqI&gt; [Accessed on 01.03.2011]

GERAD. (2006) If You Made Bob Rock’s Kids Cry, Shame On You [WWW] Matador Records. Available from: <http://www.matadorrecords.com/matablog/2006/09/18/if-you- made-bob-rocks-kids-cry-shame-on-you/> [Accessed on 17.03.2011]

HALPIN, R. (2010) The Ultimate Metallica Photographs. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

HARRIS, C and BROWN, T. (2008) Metallica Compare Hands-Off Producer Rick Rubin To Longtime Hand-Holder Bob Rock [WWW] MTV. Available from: <http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1592476/metallica-on-producer-rick-rubins-handsoff- approach.jhtml> [Accessed on 17.03.2011]

INGHAM, C. (2003) Nothing Else Matters- Metallica – The Stories Behind The Biggest Songs. London: Carlton Books.

INTHEMINDOFTV. (2010) Bob Rock [online video] You Tube. Available from: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKb8p9INMF4&gt; [Accessed on 07.03.2011]

JARROUSH, S. (2011) What Is Metallica Recording Next? Rock it Out! Blog. WeBlog [Online] 11th February. Available from: <http://rockitoutblog.com/2011/02/11/what-is- metallica-recording-next/> [Accessed on 17.03.2011]

LEE, J. (2007) ‘Payola’ Isn’t a Dirty Word to Bob Rock [WWW] Canada. Available from: <http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/arts/story.html?id=e4f1446a-a2cf-4337-a818- a204b93f2cc6> [Accessed on 17.03.2011]

LOMBARDI, L. (2011) Bob Rock: Recording Vocals [WWW] Your Guitarist. Available from: <http://www.yourguitarist.com/bobrockvocals.html&gt; [Accessed on 01.03.2011]

METAL, C. (2007) Metallica and Bob Rock Part Company [WWW] All Metallica. Available from: <http://www.allmetallica.com/news.php?id=269&gt; [Accessed on 17.03.2011]

Metallica (2001) Film. MATTHEW LONGFELLOW. USA: Eagle Vision. METALLICA. (2003) Metallica Is A Full Unit Again!! [WWW] Metallica. Available from:

<http://www.metallica.com/index.asp?item=710&gt; [Accessed on 01.03.2011]

METALLICA. (2011) Metallica Official Website. [WWW] Metallica. Available from: <http://www.metallica.com&gt; [Accessed on 01.03.2011]

Metallica. (2011) Metallica Road Gear List for 2010 [WWW] Metallica. Available from: <http://www.metallica.com/page.asp?id=600042&gt; [Accessed on 01.03.2011]

METWORLD. (2007) Metallica Timeline of Events [WWW] Metworld. Available from: <http://www.metallicaworld.co.uk/timeline.htm&gt; [Accessed on 01.03.2011]

PUTTERFORD, M. (2004) Metallica Talking. London: Omnibus Press.

ROBERTS, D. (2010) Retro Review: Metallica- The Black Album [WWW] Dorset Rock Online. Available from: <http://www.dorsetrockonline.com/?p=2901&gt; [Accessed on 01.03.2011]

ROCK, B. (2011) Artists Bob Rock (2) [WWW] Vox Amplification LTD. Available from: <http://www.voxamps.com/artists/bob-rock-2/&gt; [Accessed on 07.03.2011]

SMITH, M. (2011) Music and It’s Influence to Our Life [WWW] Ezine Articles. Available from: <http://ezinearticles.com/?Music-and-Its-Influence-to-Our-Life&id=5681463&gt; [Accessed on 01.03.2011]

Some Kind of Monster (2004) Film. JOE BERLINGER and BRUCE SINOFSY. USA: Paramount.

THEPUNKMOVIE. (2010) Bob Rock: The Early Days at Little Mountain [online video] You Tube. Available from: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OL_0WoZXF58&gt; [Accessed on 07.03.2011]

VANCOUVER24HRS. (2007) The Payolas- Eyes Of A Stranger 24Hrs Interview [online video] You Tube. Available from: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OictfUVQuYk&gt; [Accessed on 07.03.2011]

VASILIOU, M. (2007) Metallica Ending Their Ties With Producer Bob Rock [WWW] Petition Online. Available from: <http://www.petitiononline.com/SaveMet/petition.html&gt; [Accessed on 01.03.2011]

W0MB13. (2007) Lars Gets His Foot Crushed. [online video] You Tube. Available from: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1ZONJGjzHM&gt; [Accessed 01.03.2011]