30 Minutes with Tom Scholz of Boston
Before I had a chance to listen to them, I read a wonderful, telling statement in regard to the reissues of Boston and Don't Look Back: "remastered under Tom Scholz's supervision." It's true. I did them up here in New England with a couple of trusted engineer friends of mine, and we more than supervised - we took those things apart piece by piece. Every nut and bolt came out of those songs. We tweaked all of the things that couldn't be done with the mixes in the '70s. I hadn't been able to listen to either one of those albums since they were first released on CD in the '80s, or whenever.
There were also Super Bit Mapped CDs of both albums that came out in the '90s. You know what? It doesn't really matter. I mean, 16-bit audio absolutely destroys the waveform, especially in the high end. A lot of things that I thought were fine on vinyl or cassette tape - parts that had a lot of brightness and sibilance in them - sounded horrible on 16-bit CD. I literally could not listen to those albums on CD all these years.
I saw this as a huge opportunity. I dropped everything - I shut down a 10-day vacation I had just started around my birthday [March 10] - and went to work. We just literally went through those things second by second - or, I should say, millisecond by millisecond - and did all the things you can do now with automated EQ and other signal-processing techniques. Since it was going to be in the digital format anyway, there was nothing to lose.
Did you have the original masters yourself? I didn't. They [Sony] had the original, quarter-inch-tape stereo masters, and did a very good job of doing the A/D conversion. I have to tell you, I would have been sweating bullets doing that myself. So we had good 24-bit transfers to start with. I'm really excited about how they came out, and I never thought I'd get excited about something I did 30 years ago. I can finally listen to these mixes on CD now. [laughs]
What kinds of problems were apparent to you on the original CDs? First of all, expectations for the tone balance on recorded music has changed considerably over the last 30 years. For example, the amount of low end in a bass instrument is a helluva lot higher in mixes today. And there were a lot of problems in the treble ranges, which I attribute largely to the trouble with 16-bit audio in general and maybe somewhat to the fact that vinyl and tape did a good job of toning those things down for reproduction back in the old days.
What I did was correct everything that I didn't like: things that couldn't be done in the original mix - which was all done by hand - and things that couldn't be done in the original mastering, which, of course, was done by hand as well, and, back in those days, was quite limited. Even in a nice mastering room like Capitol Records, you had very little opportunity to make adjustments or changes.
Of course, going into a 24-bit, modern-day editing program, you can basically do whatever your knowledge, imagination, and time will allow. And we did have a very severe time crunch since we had gotten Sony to stop going forth with their own remaster.