and amp simulators. If we want to do something interesting, we can use a fuzz pedal as
a layer, and distortion to mess up the sound
and add extra flavor.
When was the last time you recorded
Swift: We used tape probably four years
ago. We would mix on Pro Tools through the
SSL and go to half-inch for mastering, but
now we go back to Pro Tools. Most studios
don’t have half-inch anymore. Strictly to
tape… I can’t remember the last time we
did that. In 2001 we dumped beats from
Pro Tools to tape to Pro Tools for saturation
and it didn’t make a difference after a whole
day’s process. Memories of tape are better
than the reality. Pulling out the machine,
cleaning the heads—no!
Swift: Talib Kweli is a good example of a
heavy guitar track. Remember when Afrika
Bambaataa did the electro beat on “Planet
Rock” and had the guy come in? With Kweli I
played the guitar on the original track. I had
an acoustic guitar with a pickup through an
amp simulator and pieced it together into
Pro Tools. Then, the guitarist from Fishbone
came in and laid down the tracks during the
mix. He took what I did and used real amps,
and then Axel Niehaus mixed it to get the
guitars to sit right. It was done through a real
amp to get it warm. On Brandy’s song we did
a lot of acoustic stuff with pickups with the
API and Pro Tools, and after coming up with
two or three ideas, we added hip-hop drums.
It was all very straightforward with no tricks.
With acoustic guitar you want to capture as
natural a sound as possible.
You have the ability to record raw guitar signals and mix them later, and to put things in
the computer and move them around. Before,
we were married to a sound. There are almost
too many options, because you can play
around too much.
Are guitarists as willing to stick to their guns
today in terms of originality?
Waynne: It depends. We use a lot of different session musicians, and their job is to
do what they’re told. They’re chameleons. If
a guitarist has a bag of tricks, and if he can
also make suggestions, he’s more valuable to
me. If you come up with things I never would
have thought of, you’re golden. As a session
player you have to complement and understand the whole picture so that what you’re
playing makes sense.
What is your definition of a producer?
Waynne: Someone who does whatever it
takes to make it happen. Whatever the project, you take the lead, whether it’s assembling
tracks, assembling the team, budget, schedules, using the musicians the record calls for,
keeping everything inside the box. It’s not
limited to being a track guy. Quincy Jones
only plays horns and he produced Thriller, one
of the biggest-selling albums ever. He’s about
direction and keeping things on point.
Swift: If you consider yourself a producer
because you work with rock bands, can you go
into a hip-hop session and know what to do?
You’re the captain of the ship, you’re steering.
Rick Rubin did Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys,
Johnny Cash and Jay-Z—that’s a producer!
What are the biggest or most common mis-
takes guitarists make in the studio?
Swift: Being out of tune. Always tune your
guitar and have fresh strings. There is nothing
worse than an out-of-tune guitar. It messes
up everything. Everything needs to be bright.
Even if you have to stop between takes to
change your strings, you can do that, but you
can’t fix what’s out of tune later. Be professional, quick, do what you’ve got to do and
be in tune, man, please! You can fix everything else, but not that, plus it makes you
sound like an amateur.
What has been the most valuable
technological advancement for
guitarists and producers?
Swift: Hands down, the DAW. All the editing
and stuff you can do makes your life so easy.
Bassists and drummers always talk about
being “in the pocket.” Where does the gui-
tarist fit into that equation?
Swift: It depends on the style. In rock, the
bass and drums hold down the low end, the
guitar is mid-range and drives it, and the
vocal has to fit. In hip-hop, the guitarist has to
groove around what the bass and drums are
doing. Sometimes you need picking, sometimes you need chords; sometimes you need
it all weaving in and out. If you’re doing an
acoustic arrangement, like Brandy, it’s a lot of
rhythmic strumming. “ 21 Questions” was solo
guitar, admittedly sampled, but appropriate
for that style. It was very sparse. In hip-hop
everything needs room to breathe. It’s about
drums and vocals, and everything else need
not take up space. In rock, you can fill the
space with strumming and distorted guitar.
Is there a track that you feel you truly
captured the essence of the guitar and
what the guitarist was trying to say with
Waynne: That’s a hard question because
when you take a track like 50 Cent’s “ 21
Questions,” which really opened the doors
for us, the guitars were sampled, and yet they
drove the record and launched everything we
do now. We go through phases. Last year we
experimented with a lot of guitars on David
Archuleta’s record and on Brandy’s “Torn
Down” [Human]. We captured the guitar with
hip-hop mixed in. This year what we’re doing
is very different. A couple of years ago, with
Talib Kweli’s “We Got The Beat” [Beautiful
Struggle, 2004] we did rock guitars. To dig
through our discography is to see the evolution of our thought processes. Also, as music
evolves, we’re evolving and moving to a space
where we’re starting to lead, whereas before,
we were following.