guitarists and producers?
The MW1 Studio Tool! I developed the guitar box with Creation Audio Labs and it has
turned out wonderful. It’s a very important
piece of gear for recording guitars. The other
development is digital recording and affordable recording, which are both a curse and a
blessing. You can sit for five days and punch
in your solo, and the good thing is that it
works the kinks out of the music, but you also
might kill it in that time. To be able to do it
by yourself over a long period of time is a
good and bad thing. I think about what we
played in the 1970s, and what these guys can
play today is unbelievable. It’s the same with
athletes: they’ve got to jump higher every
time they go to the Olympics. With guitarists
and musicians, the performance requirement
is upped every time.
If there’s only one guitar player, it’s a matter
of sound. In Van Halen, you had one guitar,
bass, drums and vocals and everybody had
their own role. Even in the mixes, I like to put
the guitar and bass on different sides so that
it’s separated, and for sound reasons it’s better to double a rhythm track or a guitar and
just have the guy play it twice. Live is a different story. If you layer 50,000 guitar parts, it’s
going to get complicated! A big part of the
producer’s role is to say, “Those 50,000 parts
are going to be very expensive when you
have to hire all these people to go on tour.”
Certain things you can do to embellish might
not be front-row kind of stuff. Harmony to a
lead live—it’s okay if it’s not there onstage,
as long as the lead line is the main thing. You
can figure out a way to play the important
parts. When I track, the one guitar line is
played all the way through. There’s a solo,
a rhythm track under the solo, and if there’s
one guitar player it’s going to be hard, but
is that rhythm track important when the guy
is wailing away on a solo? The people in the
audience aren’t going to notice.
room reflection, on and on. I have been
doing this for 35 years, and I learn something
new every day. Maybe it’s easier to play
guitar. There are better guitars, amps and
gear, but again, we’re back to our favorite
word: practice. It takes a lot of work to be an
outstanding player. It’s not like you buy a Les
Paul and you sound like Zakk Wylde. Zakk
worked hard and in detail to get to the point
of being recognizable. People take it too
easy. They double the guitar 15 times and
all the individuality is gone. It’s better to stay
individual and original. Work on that.
Is there one really good guitar session hor-
ror story you would like to share?
The effects are easier to achieve, but at
what price to creativity?
Can you really do it with plug-ins? I don’t
believe there is a plug-in yet that replaces the
guitar amp. We’re not there yet. Plug-ins are
fine for composing, but for recording I don’t
use them to base tone on. That’s why I have
27 guitar amps. For tools, they are helpful,
but a tone is a tone. Have you seen Angus
Young use a plug-in? I don’t think so.
Are guitarists as willing to stick to their
guns today in terms of originality?
What are the biggest or most common mis-
takes guitarists make in the studio?
No. With the invention of affordable home
studio recording equipment, everybody is
able to record something. I see it on the
engineering side: they all buy a Pro Tools rig.
No, you still don’t know about sound waves,
To be honest, there are none that I would classify as horror stories. There’s not really one
where it was awful. There was one episode,
though, and I probably don’t want to mention any names. We were done with the tracks
and the guitar player pulled his cord out of
the guitar. It made a buzzing noise and I said,
“That’s cool; we should keep it for the end of
the record.” He looked at me and said, “I can
do it better.” I told the assistant, “Don’t erase
this. I’ll see you tomorrow.” When I came back
the next day, the assistant hated me because
he’d been there until 4 a.m. with the guitarist
pulling the cord out over and over! We ended
up using the first one.
Let’s talk about tracking a two-guitar band.
It’s all about what’s good for the song. If
they write and play together, and hear each
other during practice, they will have figured
out how it works. I had a situation with two
guitarists, each in a practice room with their
amps, the bassist and drummer together, and
one guitarist was playing stuff that didn’t fit,
in different keys. They’d go into the bridge
and I’d say, “What are you doing there?” You
have two guitarists, two styles, two personalities. I like to bring that out and not have
them playing the same thing. I like them to
play complementary things and build each
other up. It adds to the overall song.
Not being themselves. If you tailor yourself
after somebody else, you’re not dealing
with your own tone. Kids come in and say,
“Where do I plug in?” George Lynch was
here for three days figuring out his tone
before he even began recording. Would
Eddie Van Halen or Jimi Hendrix ever have
existed if they’d not had their own tone?
Now, with Amp Farm, kids just “go in and
do.” Because of that, there is no identity in
their playing and sound.