The S&V Interview

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Mike Mettler  |  Aug 08, 2018  |  0 comments
Photo by James Cumpsty

Tom Bailey, the chief architect of the super-successful ’80s synth-pop masters Thompson Twins (“Hold Me Now,” “Love on Your Side”) is back with a cosmically named solo album, Science Fiction. We called him during a tour stop in Houston to discuss the sonic structure of the album, how he once built his own P.A. speakers, and reconnecting with listening to music on vinyl.

Mike Mettler  |  Sep 26, 2018  |  0 comments
Some long-gestating sonic missions are simply worth the wait. Case in point: Styx’s June 2017 studio concept album The Mission (Alpha Dog 2T/UMe), which recently entered into the 5.1 stratosphere via the 24-bit/96kHz surround sound mix found on the just-released two-disc CD + Blu-ray Edition of the album. As good and enveloping as The Mission sounds in stereo, it sounds even better in its hi-res 5.1 mix — and that’s due in no small part to the creative synergy between the record’s three chief sonic architects: Styx guitarist/vocalist Tommy Shaw, producer/guitarist/vocalist Will Evankovich (Shaw-Blades, The Guess Who), and producer/engineer Jim Scott (Tom Petty, Wilco, Dixie Chicks). I spoke with Shaw and Evankovich to delve into the making of the surround sound mix of The Mission.
Mike Mettler  |  Aug 13, 2015  |  0 comments
In a band of equals, some can appear to be more equal than others. “I always like to have the first word and the last word on albums,” laughs keyboardist Tony Banks, one of the main songwriters in Genesis. Banks has always felt making an impression right as a song commences to be paramount. “You make an impact with those first few bars. It sets you up for the next 5 minutes, so you ought to try and get it right,” he says. Just cue up the majestic “Watcher of the Skies” from 1972’s Foxtrot for prime evidence of that thesis being put into action. Besides his storied career in Genesis, Banks also tried his hand at a solo career, the highlights of which have been compiled in the four-disc box set A Chord Too Far (Cherry Red/Esoteric Recordings). While Banks puts the future of his longtime band to rest — “the chance of Genesis getting back together again is pretty slim, I have to say”— we have plenty of Chord music to sink our collective ears into. Banks, 65, called from across the Pond to discuss the, er, genesis of his signature keyboard style, his deep love for surround sound, and the importance of sequencing. As Bankstatements go, this one is rich in high-fidelity rewards.
Mike Mettler  |  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.
Mike Mettler  |  Dec 07, 2016  |  0 comments
Besides having one of the coolest band names ever, Van der Graaf Generator has been making deeply adventurous music since the late ’60s in a style that, frankly, is hard to pigeonhole. Sure, it’s easy to call what they do “progressive,” but I’m inclined to agree with VdGG guitarist/vocalist Peter Hammill, who describes VdGG music as being “barely controlled chaos.” It’s also a good way to define VdGG’s recently released 13th studio album, Do Not Disturb (Esoteric Antenna). I connected with Hammill to discuss the sonic template for DnD, what it’s like to be admired by a punk legend, and VdGG’s possible future (or not).
Mike Mettler  |  Aug 22, 2011  |  0 comments

Good news, friends — we have another exclusive video treat for the S+V faithful.

Mike Mettler  |  Jul 24, 2019  |  0 comments
We talk with Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips about their current concept release, King’s Mouth: Music and Songs, incorporating stereo-friendly elements into a mix, mastering the lost art of the song transition, and why having a great drummer is crucial to a band’s long-term success.
Bob Ankosko  |  Jan 04, 2018  |  3 comments
15 Minutes with Astra Insights’ Shawn DuBravac

Stop for a moment and think back to home entertainment 10 years ago. You were starting to build a library of Blu-ray titles, thankful that HD had finally made its way to disc, but 4K at home was a technology of the future and streaming was still a curiosity. Netflix was a hugely successful DVD mail-order company with a billion discs delivered but could see the writing on the wall when it started offering movies on demand over the internet in February 2007. Today, streaming is commonplace and home audio and video have reached unprecedented levels of quality, raising the question of what comes next? Looking ahead to the future, we reached out to Dr. Shawn DuBravac, founder of the Washington, DC-based consultancy Astra Insights, former chief economist for the Consumer Technology Association, and author of the New York Times Best Seller (Regnery, 2015). A well-regarded futurist and trendcaster, DuBravac writes frequently about technology with a focus on deciphering disruptive shifts.

Bob Ankosko  |  Mar 24, 2022  |  7 comments

15 Minutes with Robert (Bob) O’Brien, Co-Founder, Display Supply Chain Consultants (DSCC)

Advances in TV technology are coming fast and from many directions these days, giving consumers — and home theater enthusiasts, in particular — more reasons than ever to consider upgrading to a new set. Whether we’re talking Mini-LED, MicroLED, or QD-OLED, a new take on OLED technology, there’s a lot to keep up with. We tracked down industry insider Robert (Bob) O’Brien to get his take on what has become a very dynamic space.

Bob Ankosko  |  Dec 01, 2016  |  0 comments
A few years ago Sonos published an infographic that traces the History of Hi-Fi from Edison’s phonograph through Apple’s introduction of the iPod in 2001, stopping just short of documenting its own arrival in 2002. Long before anyone even heard of streaming, the company set out to reinvent stereo with an Internet-connected wireless speaker and introduced one of the first iPhone apps—a controller for its first system—just a few months after the App Store opened in 2008. By the end of the decade Sonos had captured the imagination of a public that seemed to be waiting for its fresh, cloud-based take on classic hi-fi. Today Sonos is a billion dollar company offering a variety of products, including the Top Pick-winning Play:5 wireless music system. We recently sat down with Patrick Spence, who took over the reigns as president in July, to talk about Sonos, past, present, and future.
Bob Ankosko  |  Oct 14, 2021  |  0 comments

A conversation with Tony Ostrom, president of the Wireless Speaker & Audio Association.

We’ve tracked the progress of the Wireless Speaker & Audio Association (WiSA) since its humble beginnings many years ago. A lot has changed since those early days when the Association showed up in a CES hotel room to demonstrate a home theater system devoid of speaker cables. It was a remarkable demo, not just because it worked, but because the enabling technology made it possible to send uncompressed 24-bit/96-kHz audio signals through the air from an AV receiver to seven speakers and a subwoofer. Today, wireless music is everywhere and better than ever but in those days transmitting hi-res audio wirelessly was a daunting task. It’s been a few years since we checked in with the Association so we caught up with WiSA president Tony Ostrom to get an update on the technology and the products it enables.

Mike Mettler  |  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…
Mike Mettler  |  Aug 15, 2019  |  4 comments
Fifty years ago today, the Woodstock Music & Art Fair commenced at Max Yasgur’s Farm in Bethel, New York, at exactly 5:07 p.m. — the very moment rhythmic folk ’n’ soul singer/songwriter Richie Havens took to the stage. It’s quite the understatement to say that the world culture has never been quite the same ever since the very second Havens strummed the chords of “From the Prison” on his Guild D40 acoustic guitar, and the first sounds of Woodstock rang out into eternity.
Mike Mettler  |  Feb 03, 2016  |  4 comments
The concept of being a true global artist didn’t really exist until the rise of Yanni, the visionary Greek keyboardist/composer who’s played his own unique brand of instrumental music for over 5 million concertgoers worldwide (and counting). Sometimes, you’ll find him and his top-tier “United Nations” orchestra playing for audiences gathered at international landmark locations like the Acropolis in Greece, The Forbidden City of China, the Taj Mahal in India, and The Great Pyramids of Egypt — the latter event having recently been shot in 4K and coming soon to Blu-ray and DVD, after a spring airing on PBS. Yanni’s broad sonic palette covers many musical styles — something that’s no accident, given his voracious consumption of music as a child. “I grew up in Greece, so I was exposed to everything,” he explains. “Any kind of music you can imagine, any kind of rhythm you can imagine: World music, and all classical music too — I loved Bach, for example. I also liked Led Zeppelin, Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull, and Deep Purple. You wouldn’t believe the kind of bands I used to listen to.” During a recent sitdown in a Sony Music conference room in New York, Yanni, 61 , and I discussed the melodic multicultural wash of his new album Sensuous Chill (Portrait/Sony Masterworks), the shift from analog to digital, his overall recording goals, and his passion for pushing the boundaries of surround sound.
Mike Mettler  |  Apr 30, 2014  |  0 comments
“Yes likes challenges.” So says Yes guitarist Steve Howe (far left in the above photo), and the proof is in the output. The band has been out on the boards in the U.S. and Canada playing a set comprised of three full albums: The Yes Album, Close to the Edge, and Going for the One. On their upcoming summer tour in July and August, they’ll be doing two full albums: the first-ever full run-through of Fragile and Close to the Edge, in addition to an encore centered on the band’s greatest hits. Plus, an album with new lead singer Jon Davison, Heaven and Earth, is slated for a July release. And, of course, there are the sonically brilliant 5.1 mixes of Close to the Edge and The Yes Album on Blu-ray as masterminded by Steven Wilson—and more are on the way, with the band’s blessing. Howe, 67, and I talked about those 5.1 mixes, what we’ll hear on the new album, and what constitutes a musical legacy.

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