THE S&V INTERVIEW

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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 2 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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Mike Mettler Posted: Oct 08, 2014 0 comments
Photo by Neil Lupin
“Souls, having touched, are forever entwined.” It’s a lyric penned by vocalist Ian Gillan in honor of his dear friend and late bandmate Jon Lord, the original keyboardist for Deep Purple who pioneered merging rock music with classical themes. Jon Lord, Deep Purple & Friends: Celebrating Jon Lord (earMusic/Eagle Rock), recorded at The Royal Albert Hall this past April 4, showcases the breadth of Lord as both composer (“All Those Years Ago,” “Pictured Within”) and rock legend (“Soldier of Fortune,” “Perfect Strangers,” “Hush”). Here, Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice, 66, and I discuss the challenges of getting great sound in such a storied venue, how he adapts to working with different bass players, and what the future might hold for Deep Purple. After listening to and watching all that went into Celebrating Jon Lord, there’s one word in the Purple canon that one absolutely cannot use to describe Paice’s energy and tireless work ethic: “Lazy.”
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Mike Mettler Posted: Sep 24, 2014 0 comments
And then there were… five? The above photo is no trick of the tale, for you’re indeed seeing the five key members of Genesis — from the top of the stairs down, Phil Collins, Tony Banks, Steve Hackett, Peter Gabriel, and Mike Rutherford — together again for the first time in many years. No, they’re not reforming, but rather have come together to celebrate the career-spanning documentary Genesis: Sum of the Parts airing on Showtime October 10 (and expected to see home release sometime in November), as well commemorate the September 30 release of R-KIVE (Rhino), a 37-track, three-CD box spanning 42 years of both band and solo material. “I know, who’d have thought there’d be all of this activity at my age?” laughs Mike Rutherford, a mainstay of the band through all of its incarnations. “But when you see all these songs side by side, like ‘Turn It on Again’ with [Collins’] ‘In the Air Tonight,’ [Gabriel’s] ‘Biko,’ and [Mike + The Mechanics’] ‘The Living Years’ — you go, ‘Wow, that’s a great body of songwriting.’ ” Full-bodied, you might even say. Recently, Rutherford, 63, and I talked about the band’s impetus for sound quality, why tracks like “Supper’s Ready” still endure, and what might come next. Play me my song, o musical box.
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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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