long, or you’ll lose your technique and the
ear for it. And every note really demands
attention on a pedal steel.
How did your recent sessions with Neil
It went really well. He’d seen the Black Dub
videos on You Tube and fell in love with them.
He really liked that the camera was filming
from the perspective of a single individual and
that it captured a true live performance rather
than being reshaped in the editing room. So,
initially, he asked if we could do that—film him
and make an acoustic solo record. And it went
from that to something much more fascinating
over the journey. We employed the Black Dub
approach I’ve been using, which is very much
inspired by the work of [legendary reggae and
dub producer] Lee Scratch Perry. But rather
than using just echoes, the way he did, I pull
individual elements out of a recording, manipulate them in multiple and more subtle ways,
and put them back in the tapestry in such a
way that you can’t really see the sutures. In the
end, we got a massive electric-guitar sound.
which has a pickup that’s split, so the three
bass strings come out one jack and the three
top strings come out the other. We’d route
those to two different amps, and that was the
beginning of the new expansive Neil Young
electric sound. I could treat the three bass
strings differently for a certain part of the
song—and, man, I loved that! That was fun.
Did you have any trepidation about working with Neil, given his well-documented
aversion to production?
I always have fears. I’m a human being. But
I combat fear with preparation. So I spent a
couple of weeks preparing for Neil—working
with potential guitar sounds, vocal sounds,
and even on the film end—really working on
shots and lighting with the cinematographer
so that when Neil walked in, I had something
to offer him. Then I just handed him my little
Guild acoustic, which gave him a whole new
sound he hadn’t heard before. And once he
heard that, he was really inspired to start.
If he’d walked into a blank studio with a lot
of handshaking, we wouldn’t have had that
How did you get such a massive sound?
When Neil called, I had a renegade setup in
the foyer of a house in Los Angeles, which
Neil really loved. The big secret weapon,
though, was Neil’s Gretsch White Falcon,
Is it difficult to shift between producing artists like Dylan and Young, who move fast and
like first takes, and those who make intricate
albums and approach the studio more intellectually, such as U2 or Peter Gabriel?