THE S&V INTERVIEW

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Mike Mettler Posted: Sep 03, 2014 0 comments
From the smallest of triggers come great things. I was sitting in the dressing room at Pearl at The Palms in Las Vegas on April 14, 2012 with Garbage drummer and co-producer Butch Vig before soundcheck, and we were looking at an album cover from his lesser-known ’80s band, Fire Town. “You know, one of the guys in this band, Phil Davis, and I have started a side project, a band called The Emperors of Wyoming,” Vig revealed. Initially released in late 2012 by Proper Records, The Emperors of Wyoming is a grainy, smoky spaghetti western come to life — pure Americana through and through, from the defiant twang of “I’m Your Man” to the harmonica-driven singalong jangle of “Cruel Love Ways.” Vig and the EOW gang decided to update the album for a 2014 Deluxe Edition released by Liaison Records (“a Super Duper Super Deluxe Edition,” Vig clarifies) by adding two covers — the Afghan Whigs’ “Rebirth of the Cool” and House of Love’s “I Don’t Know Why I Love You” — plus one original: “Drinking Man’s Town." Here, Vig, 59, and I get down to discussing the Emperors’ recording techniques, his views of hi-res audio, and what to expect from Sonic Highways, the new Foo Fighters record that Vig just finished producing, which is slated to come out in November. Right from the hilt of the holster, Vig and The Emperors sure know how to draw big.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Aug 20, 2014 0 comments
Forty-five years ago this past weekend, the Woodstock Music & Art Fair took place on Max Yasgur’s Farm in Bethel, New York, and the world hasn’t been the same since. The music and overall collective harmony in evidence August 15-18, 1969, showed how the counterculture had spread to and ultimately influenced the mainstream. To further commemorate this 45th anniversary, besides producer/recordist Eddie Kramer, I spoke with five other Woodstock principals about their experiences during that storied weekend: Michael Lang, Woodstock’s chief organizer and festival impresario nonpareil; Gregg Rolie, keyboardist for Santana; Tom Constanten, keyboardist for The Grateful Dead; Graham Nash; vocal cornerstone of Crosby, Stills & Nash (and sometimes “& Young”); and folk singer Melanie, who went from relative obscurity to international acclaim in the span of her 30-minute set. It’s been a long time coming…
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Mike Mettler Posted: Aug 06, 2014 0 comments
Sagacity, definition: Exhibiting acute perception, foresight, wisdom, and sound judgment. Tenacity, definition: Holding together tough and firm, with a tendency to stick or adhere. Two words could not better describe Saga, the longstanding Canadian progressive collective that continues to up its game with every release. To wit: Sagacity (earMusic/Eagle Rock), which crackles with confident energy, from the heavy propulsion of “Go With the Flow” to the anthemic uplift of “I’ll Be.” As an added bonus, Sagacity includes a second disc, Saga Hits, where the band muscles through nine of its best-known songs during a set recorded at the SWR1 Rockarena in Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Germany on June 22, 2013 that includes the perennial powerhouses “On the Loose,” “Humble Stance,” and “Wind Him Up.” Lead vocalist Michael Sadler (with arms folded in the above band photo) and I recently got together to discuss modern-day recording logistics, the fine art of mixing, and some surround-sound wishes. As you’ll soon see, when it comes to having Sadler talk about harnessing great sound, once you wind him up, he can’t stop.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Jul 23, 2014 0 comments
“Our music has stood the test of time,” observes Toto guitarist/vocalist Steve Lukather. “We’ve had this long ride, and now it’s starting all over again.” Luke, as he’s known to his friends, has an excellent point. Toto, whose members past and present honed their impressive chops as studio musicians, have long been the favorites of audiophiles the world over, best evidenced by the ongoing impact of Toto IV (1982) and tracks like the ebb-and-flow magical rush of “Rosanna” and the percussive continental vibes that fuel “Africa.” (And Toto IV is all the more aurally satisfying thanks to its fully encompassing 5.1 mix, done by Elliot Scheiner on SACD in 2002.)

The band’s international impact has never been greater, as evidenced by the success of Live in Poland (Eagle Vision). Poland, which was shot at the Atlas Arena in Lodz, Poland while the band was on the road overseas for its 35th Anniversary Tour in 2013, bulleted right to the top of the DVD charts this past Spring (though it is, of course, best experienced on Blu-ray). Poland showcases how Toto is as formidable a collective onstage as it is in the studio. Toto will be hitting the road to co-headline a U.S. tour with Michael McDonald starting August 2. Here, Lukather, 56, and I talk about Poland's success, his ongoing passion for sound quality, and the reasons for the band’s perpetual cultural impact. From where I sit, Toto won’t be passing the reins anytime soon.

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Mike Mettler Posted: Jul 09, 2014 0 comments
“We don’t want to shut the door, we want to open it.” John Hiatt has just described the up-close and personal vibe that’s spread all across his new album Terms of My Surrender, out July 15 on New West. Surrender was cut live with Hiatt and his bandmates ensconced around each other in Studio G in Nashville, and the intimacy is intrinsic to every note. Stomps, claps, and a taut kick drum set the tone at the outset of “Long Time Comin’,” as Hiatt murmurs, “Mmm-hmm, let me see” before he begins strumming his acoustic guitar to lock into the groove. And the über-deep, practically resigned breath he takes before diving into the starkly personal “Nothin’ I Love” just adds to Surrender‘s core honesty. Hiatt, 61, and I recently got down to jawing about knowing when a final master sounds right, how he consistently fails at properly sequencing his records, and trying to convince his dad that stereo was a cool thing. Says the masterful singer/songwriter about Surrender, “The goal was to make it feel like we were all together on the back porch.” Pull up a chair and join the unbroken circle.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Jun 25, 2014 0 comments
“I’m just into the ethos of having great sound,” says Giles Martin, describing his surround sound mixing philosophy. “The intention of what we do is to make the journey as seamless as possible. I want people to enjoy what they’re listening to without thinking about it.” Martin’s “natural surround” philosophy is in full effect with the stellar 192-kHz/24-bit 5.1 mix he’s done for the 50th anniversary of A Hard Day’s Night, released on June 24 by The Criterion Collection in a Director-Approved Dual-Format Blu-ray and DVD Special Edition. (If you want to experience the film in a theater setting, it will be playing in almost 100 cities across the country on July 4, courtesy of Janus Films. Theaters and cities can be found by clicking here.)
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Mike Mettler Posted: Jun 11, 2014 0 comments
Photo by Maureen Clark

There are blues legends and there are blues masters, and then there’s John Mayall. Long acknowledged as the father of the British blues scene that emerged in the heyday of the ’60s and the man who helped school the guitarslinging likes of Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Coco Montoya, and Buddy Whittington, the 80-year-old Mayall shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. “You have no other choice, really,” he says matter-of-factly. “You set your feet on your path, and that’s what you stick with. It’s the only thing that you know to do.” His latest album, A Special Life (Forty Below), carries on the rich blues tradition, thanks in no small part to Mayall’s rapport with his band, led by a Texas-born guitar ace (Rocky Athas) and anchored by a Chicago-bred rhythm section (bassist Greg Rzab and drummer Jay Davenport). “Never plan to fade away,” Mayall sings in the title track. Dear John: We’re going to hold you to that.

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Mike Mettler Posted: May 28, 2014 1 comments
“We were united for the best sound we could get, and that was it. That was what we were chasing.” Is Linda Ronstadt revealing her high-end hopes for Hasten Down the Wind? Actually, that’s her assessment of the main goal she had for the 15 songs on her new compilation, Duets (Rhino). The ace song interpreter simply soars on songs like the tender but tough “I Never Will Marry” with Dolly Parton, the special intuitive blend she gets with James Taylor on “I Think It’s Gonna Work Out Fine,” and the complementary vocal halo she sets for Frank Sinatra on “Moonlight in Vermont.” Ronstadt has since retired from singing (in 2013, she revealed she has Parkinson’s disease), but that hasn’t stopped her from appreciating the sound of a good mix or a stellar vocal — or gently trilling a few lines of her favorite songs while we talk. Here, Ronstadt, 67, and I discuss her hi-fi proclivities, when not to use echo, how the right vocal texture tells the right tale every time, and how she learned about spotting hollow fifths.
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Mike Mettler Posted: May 15, 2014 Published: May 14, 2014 2 comments
Photo by Ross Halfin

"The best way to listen to Led Zeppelin is off of the analog tapes, but unfortunately, I can’t invite you around to listen to them." That's Jimmy Page, answering my question about whether vinyl was still the best way to experience the mighty Zeppelin's music at the press conference that followed the Led Zeppelin Deluxe Editions Listening Event Page hosted at the Crosby Street Hotel Screening Room in New York on May 13. Page also confirmed that he's done "really, really high-resolution files for whatever system comes next" and that 96kHz/24-bit files will be accessible via download cards in each of the Deluxe Edition box sets of the first three Led Zeppelin studio albums being released by Atlantic/Swan Song on June 3. Event moderator Robin Hurley further confirmed that all of the Zeppelin studio tracks from those three album packages coming to HDtracks.com will be 96/24. (Live tracks will be at 48/24.)

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Mike Mettler Posted: Apr 30, 2014 0 comments
“Yes likes challenges.” So says Yes guitarist Steve Howe (far left in the above photo), and the proof is in the output. The band has been out on the boards in the U.S. and Canada playing a set comprised of three full albums: The Yes Album, Close to the Edge, and Going for the One. On their upcoming summer tour in July and August, they’ll be doing two full albums: the first-ever full run-through of Fragile and Close to the Edge, in addition to an encore centered on the band’s greatest hits. Plus, an album with new lead singer Jon Davison, Heaven and Earth, is slated for a July release. And, of course, there are the sonically brilliant 5.1 mixes of Close to the Edge and The Yes Album on Blu-ray as masterminded by Steven Wilson—and more are on the way, with the band’s blessing. Howe, 67, and I talked about those 5.1 mixes, what we’ll hear on the new album, and what constitutes a musical legacy.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Apr 17, 2014 Published: Apr 15, 2014 0 comments
The bottom end has never been quite the same since Jack Bruce picked up his first bass over 6 decades ago. The vaunted Cream bassist wrote the book on the art of the low-end hook, as his syncopated approach to playing bass helped shift pop music’s bottom-end emphasis away from just laying down root notes and fifths, in turn opening the door to a more adventurous yet melodically inclined style that laid the foundation for the rock explosion of the ’60s. Turns in both Manfred Mann and John Mayall’s bands set the table for Bruce to connect with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker and forge Cream, wherein the super Scotsman set the heavy-blues power-trio standard with epic runs and full-band interplay in songs like “I Feel Free,” “Spoonful,” “Politician,” and “Sunshine of Your Love.”
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Mike Mettler Posted: Apr 02, 2014 0 comments
Photo by David McClister

“I’m basically what is known as a talented illusionist.” So says piano wizard Leon Russell, but the Oklahoma native is being more than somewhat modest. His C.V. is as impressive as they come: First-call member of the legendary ’60s L.A. studio collective known as The Wrecking Crew, co-founder of Shelter Records in 1969 with Denny Cordell, spearhead of Joe Cocker’s infamous 1970 Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour, and beneficiary of a revived recording career by teaming up with Elton John on 2010′s T Bone Burnett-produced The Union. On his just-released Life Journey (UMe), Russell comes full circle to show his mastery of the form on tasty covers like his piano-vamp stab at Robert Johnson’s “Come on in My Kitchen,” a slip-slidin’ romp through “Fever,” and a swing-sational full-orchestral take on Duke Ellington’s “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good.” Here, Russell, 72, and I discuss his ever-unique recording technique, what it’s like being “out on the edge,” and his time in the studio with Frank Sinatra. Face it, Brother Leon: You’re a one-man Wrecking Crew unto yourself.

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Mike Mettler Posted: Mar 26, 2014 Published: Mar 25, 2014 2 comments
“I don’t want to stop anyone from getting the CD, but vinyl is the truest way to hear this record,” says Benmont Tench about his new solo album, You Should Be So Lucky (Blue Note). “When you have Glyn Johns [The Rolling Stones, Eagles, The Who] recording something to tape, you really want to hear it on vinyl.”
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Mike Mettler Posted: Mar 12, 2014 0 comments
“I didn’t have the courage to go back to any of the masters and try to recreate those beautiful, real echoes,” says Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues about the surround-sound mixes he supervised for six of The Moodies’ “Classic Seven” albums: Days of Future Passed, On the Threshold of a Dream, To Our Children’s Children’s Children, A Question of Balance, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, and Seventh Sojourn. (In case you were wondering, there weren’t any multitrack masters available for In Search of the Lost Chord.) All six of those 5.1 mixes — done by Paschal Byrne and Mark Powell and built on the original quad mixes supervised by producer Tony Clarke and constructed by engineer Derek Varnals — appear in Timeless Flight (Threshold/UMC), the band’s mighty, 50-year-career-spanning 17-disc box set. Yes, there is a more economical 4-disc version available, but the mondo box is the only way to fly in 5.1 — if you can find one, that is. “I think Universal needs to press a few more copies,” chuckles Hayward.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Feb 26, 2014 4 comments
Over in Reference Tracks, Steven Wilson, the one true king of transformative surround-sound mixing (Porcupine Tree, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, XTC), and I discuss the building blocks of how he transformed Yes’ groundbreaking 1972 LP, Close to the Edge, into a benchmark 192/24 5.1 mix. It’s as pure and true as you’ll ever hear it on Panegyric’s Definitive Edition Blu-ray/CD combo package. “It’s a bona-fide A-level masterpiece,” Wilson says of CTTE. (The Preacher, The Teacher hath spoken!) Further good news: The venerable surround master has also confirmed more 5.1 Yes album mixes are on the way. All I can say about them at this point is at least one of them was originally released before CTTE, and at least one was released after it.

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