did you get involved with the mixing and mastering of the
Unknown Mystery 60's group third album ?
||Well actually my involvement
goes back to the
first CD in 1997. I did some mixes on Volume
I and on Volume
II. I am a huge fan of the group obviously. Things were
quiet for a while, due to the whole shakeup in the corporate
boardroom. I had a lot of correspondence with David
Plum during this time when he was running Octopus
Recordings. This was before he got his Phd in self actualization.
So he was kind of different back then. I had also submitted
a CD to Octopus of my own work. Unfortunately he and Henry
Renzell were unimpressed with the work, but liked the
production. Anyway, through the correspondence, we found
a lot of common ground, and when the additional tapes that
would become Volume
III showed up from Spain, he mentioned it to me in an
email. I of course was extremely excited and offered my
services to remix and master the songs. David was a little
hesitant at first. He and Henry decided to let me take a
shot at what would become the first song on the album, Fileroom.
After hearing what I did with that, the tapes just kept
can you tell us about the whole digital transfer/mixing/mastering
Well, our philosophy has always
been to try and remain as true to the original recordings
as possible. That said, certain liberties were taken thanks
to new technologies which were unavailable at the time
of the original recordings. There were extensive notes
in some of the tape boxes which helped to identify the
vision of each song. In some situations, the original
multi track tapes were available, and in others, only
a stereo mix on a cassette tape which must have been dubbed
by the archivist in Spain. I had to use what was available.
The saddest part of the whole process was the condition
of some of the tapes. Several unbelievable songs had to
be left out of the third collection due to the poor condition
of the tapes. Some of them looked like they had spent
30 years in a hamster cage. I was willing to include several
of these technologically flawed songs despite their inferior
sound quality. In particular, an early song called "Baby
I'm New" is a masterpiece of early rock and roll.
And two others, "Christine" and "Where
Are You?" which I believe were sung by the drummer
had to be left off. I keep pushing David and Henry to
release a collection of rare outtakes so these might be
included at some time in the future.
That said, I was amazed at the pristine
condition of some of the other tapes. As anyone who has
listened to the band can tell, there seems to be two lead
singers. I can only assume that whoever was the lead singer
on each song was also responsible for taking care of the
tapes, because all of the tapes with the one lead singer
were in great condition, and the other singer's tapes
all were in terrible condition. I was literally worried
that the tapes might fall apart if I played those too
much, so I had one or two shots at best to get the tape
threaded, and transfer them to hard disk for further processing.
the tapes were transferred to digital, and then further
||Oh yeah, that's pretty standard nowadays.
Some of the digital restoration software I used was developed
by David Plum himself
in some arcane software code but it is absolutely amazing.
It has some intense audio algorithms going on. He calls
the software The Plummer.
Here, listen to this section of a song before digital processing
(play sample here).
Now listen to it after applying The
Plummer (play the sample here).
||I'll say. It made my job a lot easier
at any rate.
of the songs on this album contain orchestrations not on
the previous two volumes. What is your take on that ?
||I know! That was a complete surprise
to me as well. By reading the handwritten notes in the box
of tapes, it seems that the bass player was the one who
did the orchestrations. Apparently at the beginning of the
group, the two lead singers retained creative control of
the band. These songs must be from a different period. Unfortunately,
there are no session notes as to who the players were or
where they were recorded. The thing that I can't figure
is how they were able to even afford hiring session musicians.
Obviously, the band had limited access to decent recording
equipment. Some of the microphones used sound terrible.
And whoever engineered a few of the sessions should be horsewhipped.
But those are just technical details. The songs are so well
written that they can survive as great pieces of art despite
the technical flaws.
are your future plans ?
||Well David and Henry both seemed pleased
with my work on Volume III. I was pressing them to let me
continue on with some rare outtakes, but that is to be decided.
Renzell keeps talking about a project involving some old
tapes of Connie
Francis and Jonnie Ray - unreleased live concerts. So
that could be interesting. And they keep hinting at a possible
Volume IV, which again, we will have to see about. I can't
imagine the band having even more great hits laying around
in some box in Spain, but I never thought that there would
be a Volume III either! In the meantime, I am hoping the
excitement over the release of Love
Songs will get me some other work. I need the money.
advice for budding sound engineers ?
||An engineer should be there to capture
the moment, like a documentary film maker. What is ruining
music is that the process of recording & engineering
is taking precedence over musicianship. All that matters
is to have a good song and a good performance. Who cares
if there are a few mistakes? Always try to record the band
live. Never use a click track. It is the death of music.
Think of all the greatest songs in the world. Do you think
they were sitting in the studio with a metronome and a computer