Steely Dan’s Planet D’Sound Quality Page 2



METTLER: When you first started mixing in surround, would it be fair to say you were attempting to “reinterpret” things you’d already done?

BECKER: Actually, I’m still getting used to stereo. [both laugh] Having more channels of information and being able to bring more detail into a listening environment is an intriguing concept. It’s a chance to refresh your relationship with old stuff that you’ve done: revisit the master tapes and see that they’re properly served as you take another shot at rendering the music in this hybrid format. But the whole point of surround sound is novelty. Not novelty in the sense of cheapness, but novelty in terms of creating new effects that we haven’t heard before in music. The thing is, there isn’t a right way or a wrong way to do it. If people are experimenting with creating some sort of striking surround effect to complement their music, they should do exactly that. To try and impose some kind of orthodoxy on it at this point is silly.

METTLER: I like how, with the surround mix on Two Against Nature, I often feel like I’m in the middle of things. The drums and percussion hit me right in the chest. I can really feel it.

BECKER: While we were working on that one, we came to the conclusion that if the stuff is too spread out amongst the speakers, you end up losing some of the impact in the sense of the cohesion of the rhythm section — and the record in general — so we actually ended up moving toward a giant mono sound [laughs], with little splashes of separation here and there for fun. I don’t know if that’s the way other people do it or not.

METTLER: We’ve often talked about how much we love vinyl and surround sound, but how do you feel about downloading?

BECKER: I’ve only downloaded a few things from one of the popular, legitimized sites. Downloading in general has exposed kids to a lot of music that they would not have heard otherwise. Without weighing in on the commercial considerations involved, that is an important good thing. But, you know, contemporary culture has such a gadgetophile quality to it. I’m not sure how serious to take any particular aspect to it.

METTLER: I know you like satellite radio. Can terrestrial radio be saved?

BECKER: Anything that introduces elements of variety and musicality and shares information about who’s playing the music is tremendous. But I think we should take the existing structure of broadcast — in other words, the people who are running the [terrestrial] radio stations and the corporate people who are dictating the content of those stations — and put them into orbit. Then you would see an immediate and profound improvement in radio.

METTLER: Maybe there’s somewhere a terrestrial-radio cabal could meet, and…

BECKER: They do have that place. It’s called Washington, DC. [both laugh]