30 Minutes with Steve Miller Page 3
I have two Studer 24-track tape recorders that I just bought a year ago. And I do have ProTools - I love digital manipulation. The thrill of the technology comes from the ease of doing things. You know, just seguing an album used to be such a toothache. You'd say, "Take song 5 out and put it in front of 4," and somebody would have to roll it off to a reel, get a splicing block out, recut the original tape - it used to take weeks to segue stuff. So that side of technology is good - cut/paste, cut/paste, cut/paste, "yup yup yup, great great great, ooh I like that, that's good." But the quality of the sound is going backwards. Kids don't even know, radio doesn't care, and corporations couldn't care less.
Record companies are partly to blame. I remember very clearly going to Bhaskar Menon, the chief executive of [Capitol parent] EMI, and saying, "Bhaskar, you know, this thing the CD ... people are going to start copying music, and it's not going to be like copying on a cassette." And he said, "Ah, don't worry, CDs are never going to happen." What he was saying was: We're not going to spend any money on this. We built a record-pressing plant in Chicago in 1949, and we ain't building any more. We're not spending any of our money on the development of anything. ... And then the Europeans started taking their market away, so everyone jumped on the bandwagon.
But record companies never want to spend a penny more; they just don't care about the state of the art. In the '90s, when you'd go to Capitol and look at the studios, it was sad.
A Serenade for Surround
Today, when it comes to the state of the art, as you and I would agree, we sure would love it if everyone could hear music in surround sound. Which brings me to the mix on the new edition of Fly Like an Eagle. In the press release, you say: "With the surround sound mix, people will finally hear the album the way I originally intended it to be heard." That's right. Back in 1976, [engineer] Jim Gains and I did a quad mix - but I didn't think quad was going anywhere, and frankly, I didn't think the format sounded very good. I had a bunch of JBL monitors and McIntosh amps set up for quad, but I never liked it. It just never really worked right. I think Eagle was the last quad record that Capitol released.
Of course, a surround version has been available for some time now on a DTS 5.1 CD - but it basically repurposes the quad mix. I take it you never thought of doing the same thing for this new edition, just transferring the quad mix? Absolutely not. I wasn't going to do anything like that. [Drummer] Mickey Hart is a pal of mine, so when he did surround mixes of some of the Grateful Dead stuff recently, I went and watched him work. I said, "Wow, Mickey, that sounds really good." And he said, "Yeah, but it's hard to do. This is a new art."