THE S&V INTERVIEW

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Mike Mettler Posted: Apr 29, 2015 0 comments
Tori Amos has always been an artist who knows what she wants, and knows how to get it. “Music was always first,” she says. “The records you hear, whether you like them or not, you can blame me for, because I was fighting all the time that the songs were represented in the right way.” For Tori, the “right way” meant staying true to the core of her quite personal songwriting, piano-driven arrangements, and unique vocal character, all of which are on fine display on the just-issued two-disc Deluxe Editions of 1992’s Little Earthquakes (1992) and 1994’s Under the Pink (both on Rhino). “I’ve taken a pretty firm stand about being a woman in control of my destiny — for good or ill, you know?” she admits. “People know that I fight for the art, and the music. I’m not going to back down.” Here, Amos, 51, and I discuss the hard-fought genesis of Earthquakes and Pink, how her sound-quality goals shifted in the transition from the ’80s to the ’90s, and how she forged her artistic identity.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Apr 09, 2015 0 comments
Chances are you know the name Michael Des Barres, but just exactly how most likely depends on your entry point. If you’ve read I’m With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie, then you know him as the ex-husband of Miss Pamela, Pamela Des Barres. If you’re a devout fan of ’70s rock, then you know him as the frontman of cult-fave bands Silverhead and Detective. If you’re a TV aficionado, you know him as Murdoc from MacGyver — and maybe even as Dog, the nattily dressed lead singer of fictional punk band Scum of the Earth from an all-time classic October 1978 episode of WRKP in Cincinnati. And if you’re a dedicated listener of Little Steven’s Underground Garage, Channel 21 on SiriusXM satellite radio, then you’re probably quite riveted to the insights, encyclopedic rock & roll knowledge, and cheeky humor he provides between the tracks that spin during his always exhilarating weekday shift. While the man’s far-reaching C.V. is indeed impressive, Des Barres is a musician first and foremost, and all of his killer instincts have converged on The Key to the Universe (FOD Records), his strongest and most consistent record, well, ever. Notes Des Barres, “People go insane for these new songs. It’s so astounding to me, after having not really done anything on this scale in 25 years, that people are responding to them. I think I sound better on this record than I’ve ever sounded.” Recently, I rang up Des Barres, 67, to discuss the sonic philosophy behind The Key, how to avoid including any “twiddly bits,” and finding one’s own voice as an artist. MDB is a true rock & roll survivor who knows how best to overcome adversity and get it on.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Mar 25, 2015 0 comments
To borrow a song title, things can only get better for Howard Jones. Known for such indelible synth-driven ’80s hits like “What Is Love?,” “No One Is to Blame,” “New Song,” and “Everlasting Love,” Jones has focused his efforts in recent years on his inherent talents as a songwriter and arranger, not to mention his knack for creating multimedia-driven live experiences. All of his musical gifts are on fine display with Engage (dtox music and arts), a two-disc CD/DVD set that features a vibrant 5.1 mix on DVD by Robbie Bronnimann, Jones’ longtime sound designer. Jones, 60, and I connected across the Pond to discuss the Engage project, the possibility of future high-resolution remixes of his storied catalog, and his thoughts on vintage analog gear. Jones is one man who knows how to put his dream into action.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Mar 12, 2015 1 comments
To modify a phrase, fingerpicking guitar maestro Jorma Kaukonen just keeps on innovatin’. For over a half-century, Kaukonen has followed his own path and applied his folk roots to variations on psychedelia with Jefferson Airplane and free-form blues with Hot Tuna, not to mention his own solo rock and unplugged outings. On his acoustic-driven new disc, Ain’t In No Hurry (Red House), Kaukonen continues to push forward on tasty, intense tracks like the hopeful timelessness of “In My Dreams,” the traditional riches-to-rags lament of “Brother Can You Spare a Dime,” and the down-home grit of “The Terrible Operation.” Observes Kaukonen, “One of the cool things about the way the album is mixed is that there’s this magnificent, transparent presence of all the instruments, no matter who’s playing and where they are. You can hear them all; they’re there.” Kaukonen, 74, and I got on the phone recently to discuss his recording techniques, his mastery of Drop D tuning on an iconic song, and the hi-fi gear that’s served to enhance listening experiences all throughout his life. The man may not be in a hurry, but he sure is getting somewhere.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Mar 02, 2015 0 comments
Al Kooper has been a mastermind behind the board of many a storied session over his half-century career, but his prowess as a multichannel mixmaster has been largely unheard — until now. Audiophile circles have long been well aware that Kooper had turned in “interesting” 5.1 mixes to Sony for a pair of albums he personally had stakes in — Blood, Sweat & Tears’ trippy big-band-influenced debut, Child Is Father to the Man (originally released in February 1968) and Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, and Steve Stills’ still influential jam amalgamation, Super Session (July 1968). Both mixes gathered multichannel dust on the corporate shelves until almost a full decade later, when Audio Fidelity released them from captivity by way of a pair of Hybrid Mulitchannel SACDs. Here, Kooper, 71, and I discuss his surround mixing philosophy for both of those classic releases, why he’s not a fan of mono or streaming, and his alternate, Bloomfield-centric mix of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” (on which Kooper played the infamous improvised organ riffs). There are no longer any 5.1 secrets to conceal.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Feb 25, 2015 0 comments
Being appointed one of the queens of the alternative music scene was never one of Juliana Hatfield’s goals. But there she was, right in the thick of the then-burgeoning movement — first in the alt-rock trio Blake Babies, then as a titular solo artist known for meshing expressive vocals with intrinsically catchy melodies fueled by a combo punk-and-pop sensibility. “I was very moved by melody and harmony from a very early age,” Hatfield says. “It affected me very powerfully.” She recently reunited with her Juliana Hatfield Three compatriots, bassist Dean Fisher and drummer Todd Phillips, for the uber-catchy Whatever, My Love (American Laundromat Records), a 40-minute ride through Hatfield’s world of melodic, introspective angst, from the acoustic lament of being “Invisible” to the moth/flame dance of “Push Pin” to the odd-meter frustration of “Wood” (the latter of which features a cool, feedback-laden outro guitar loop). Hatfield, 47, and I got on the horn to discuss her vocal techniques and recording goals, her natural sense of melody, and her ongoing struggles with communication. Whatever and ever, amen.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Feb 11, 2015 2 comments
Don Felder has found his groove. The former lead guitarist of the Eagles is now flourishing as a solo artist, having found his sea legs on record with the broad reach of Road to Forever (INgrooves/Forever Road Music) — only his second solo album in 30-odd years, following 1983’s Airborne — and a quite muscular live set, which features Eagles favorites and deep cuts alike, ranging from “Life in the Fast Lane” to “Those Shoes,” all interspersed between powerful readings of solo favorites like “You Don’t Have Me” and “Heavy Metal.” Before heading out on his winter solo tour, Felder, 67, and I got together to discuss his thoughts on sound quality, the very mystique of California itself, and how he came to create the acoustic intro that turned the already indelible “Hotel California” into a revamped classic. Ah, such a lovely place.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Jan 28, 2015 0 comments
“I’ve always been a fan of records that tastefully use effects to enhance the listening experience,” says Sam Llanas, former vocalist/guitarist for roots-rock pioneers BoDeans, now ensconced in a full-time solo career. Llanas’ distinct vocal tone — which resides somewhere between gravel and grace — has touched the soul of indelible songs like “Closer to Free,” “Feed the Fire,” and “Rickshaw Riding,” and on The Whole Night Thru (Llanas Music), Llanas opens up his palette on deeply personal tracks like “Deja Vu” and “I’m Still Alive” to achieve an even more honest aural identity. “We did decide early on that we would like to make a record that would be engaging on headphones,” he reports. Here, Llanas, 53, and I discuss the importance of equipment choices and microphone placement, how to make a record that hits “hard and fast,” and his favorite BoDeans album. The man is very much still alive and kicking.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Jan 14, 2015 3 comments
“Once we had dipped our toe in the water, it set us on a course to have a much bigger, much more robust, and not-so-introspective sound.” Roland Orzabal is describing the veritable aural sea change he and his Tears for Fears creative partner and bandmate Curt Smith underwent while recording Songs From the Big Chair, the 1985 followup to 1982’s The Hurting, their highly influential minimalist electronic-music confessional debut platform. In celebration of the album’s 30th anniversary, Mercury/Universal has released a six-disc Big Chair box set that includes scores of demos, alternate takes, live sessions, and a documentary DVD, but the no-contest audiophile grail is Disc 5, a Blu-ray containing the 96-kHz/24-bit surround-sound mix of the original album done by none other than the super-guru of 5.1 himself, Steven Wilson. “I love this mix,” says Smith. “You get a far greater spectrum of sound, and the low end is definitely improved.” I recently got on the horn across the Pond with Orzabal and Smith, both 53, to discuss the benefits of listening to Big Chair in high-res and what they’d like to do next in 96/24 and 5.1 (hint: the Seeds have been planted). Funny how time flies.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Dec 23, 2014 0 comments
“I don’t know why these songs all came out so long. I think we’re going to have to blame Steven Wilson,” laughs Dave Kilminster. The ace guitarist is discussing the impetus behind the extended track lengths on his self-described “prog-tastic” solo record, …and THE TRUTH will set you free… (Killer Guitar Records). Kilminster is known for his six-string pyrotechnics and prowess as an instructor, but you may also recognize him as being the featured lead guitarist in former Pink Floyd bassist/vocalist Roger Waters’ touring band for the past decade. For THE TRUTH, Kilminster believes getting a live feel is key: “It’s so cool to really get into the mood of a track,” he says. “There’s no sampling, there’s no Auto-Tune — just a couple of guys recording together in a room, the way it’s supposed to be.” Here, Kilminster, 53, and I discuss vintage sounds, live quad, and what it’s like to contend with immense pillows of wind while soloing atop a massive wall. That’ll keep you going through the show.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Dec 10, 2014 0 comments
When Mark Rivera isn’t splitting his time being Music Director for Ringo Starr or serving as a versatile multi-instrumentalist with Billy Joel (the latter for 32 years and counting), he’s doing what any good audiophile would — dropping the needle on some fine, fine wax. “The warmth of vinyl is like nothing else,” Rivera reports. “It really is. To me, it feels like it embraces you. It simply surrounds you.” Earlier this year, Rivera also found the time to put out his first solo album, Common Bond (Dynotone/Red River), and he’s patiently been overseeing having 1,000 copies of it pressed onto vinyl. “I couldn’t be more enthusiastic and more pleased about that,” he says. Here, Rivera, 62, and I talk about Common Bond‘s core production values, vintage gear and favorite LPs, and the ways music resonates over one’s lifetime. Ok, fine, we admit it — we just can’t get enough of that vinyl stuff.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Nov 26, 2014 0 comments
“I personally like to be surrounded and ambushed by music. I want it to surprise me, and I want it to come from surprising places,” says Steve Hackett, echoing the sentiments of scores of audiophiles the world over. The progressive-minded guitarist has been enjoying accolades for the depth, compositional excellence, and overall live sound quality evident on his Genesis Revisited II 2013/2014 tour — so much so that a number of additional legs, dubbed Genesis Extended, have been added to his touring palette through next spring, at which time he’ll focus his energies on a new solo album release. Of that forthcoming new music, he says, “I like to think about it as a rock album with a difference. It’s very much like having scenes from a film for the ear rather than the eye.” Hackett, 64, and I got on the line a few days before he headed back out on the road for the next leg of the Genesis Extended tour to discuss how to create “inhabitable” music, his personal favorite Genesis surround mixes, and his view of the ongoing viability of the album format. Hadn’t you heard? He’s a supersonic scientist.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: Nov 19, 2014 1 comments
Greg P. Russell is the sound rerecording mixer of Transformers: Age of Extinction, and all of the Transformers movies actually, representing three of his 16 Oscar nominations… and counting. Since this was not only his first Dolby Atmos mix but the very first Dolby Atmos Blu-ray ever, he graciously sat down to discuss his work with Sound & Vision.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Nov 12, 2014 0 comments
Bruce Hornsby could never be accused of being an artist who rests on his laurels. "I’m such a different musician in every way than I was 20 years ago," he admits. Prime evidence of the master pianist's ongoing creative evolution can be found all over the double-disc Solo Concerts (Vanguard), where Hornsby explores a variety of styles from behind the keyboard: everything from blues ’n’ boogie to New Orleans funk to the tenets of modern classical music. He also recasts the character of some of his best-known songs, such as turning "The Valley Road" into a blues vamp and giving "Mandolin Rain" an indelible bluegrass stamp. Here, Hornsby, 59, and I discuss how he "makes friends" with new pianos, when and when not to use reverb, and his philosophy of A/B'ing to find the proper live SQ baseline. Pushing the creative envelope — that's just the way it is with Bruce Hornsby, and we hope it's something that never changes.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Oct 22, 2014 0 comments
“It’s a very common name. Back of $20 bills, that’s me.” Producer Andy Jackson is being typically self-effacing as he leans back in a chair across from me in front of the massive Neve 88R console that dominates the control room in the Astoria, the grand houseboat recording studio moored on the Thames somewhere near Hampton, Middlesex in England. It’s late August 2014, and it was my distinct honor to be summoned across the Pond to partake in an exclusive listening session for The Endless River, which has been deemed the final Pink Floyd album. (River will be released worldwide by Columbia on November 10.) After a rousing listening session in a place where much of the music I heard was either created, recorded, and/or mixed, I sat down across from Jackson exclusively to discuss the genesis of River, the costs and benefits of mixing in both analog and Pro Tools, and what may (or may not) be in Floyd's future.

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