AF’s Weblog

March 14, 2012

Exclusive Interview with Chris Lord Alge

World renowned mixer/producer Chris Lord-Alge granted Audiofanzine an exclusive interview. The man behind Green Day, Paramore, Deftones, Madonna, Tina Turner, James Brown, among others, shared his working methods and ethics from his studio in Tarzana. Let’s see what the master has to say.

The Beginnings

AF : Hi Chris, can you tell us what are you currently working on at the moment?

CLA : What I am currently working on right now is finishing up an album by a band called Shinedown, just wrapping that up. The single is already out to radio and then the record comes out. Just before I finished Shinedown, I just finished mixing Bruce Springsteen. I kinda co-mixed that with Bob Clearmountain. Bob mixed it himself and then Bruce wanted me to mix a few songs. I literally just had dinner with Clearmountain last night and we were definitely having some good laughs about it.

There’s a good partnership between engineers! I’d like to go back to the beginning of your career, and just to know a little bit more about how you started and the reasons for why you do this job today?  What pushed you to become a sound engineer?  Specifically, a mixing engineer…

It started with my mom having a band. My mom is a Jazz musician and a professor of music theory.  She’d have her trio set up at my house, so here I am 12 years old and there are musicians rehearsing every day at my house, with tape recorders, a small board and a few microphones. Every chance I could get, when they would leave to go do a gig, I would take the gear down into my basement and let the experiments begin there.

So it’s a family thing?

Yes, absolutely, my mom is a musician, I’m a musician, it was just what I wanted to do since I was young, and by having some gear to tinker around with it was fun to start there. I already had my own band when I was 12, I just used that gear to start recording it. At that point I played keyboards, and then I moved to drums; I kind of filled in where the weaknesses in the band were.

Is there any personality or mentor who showed you the path or took you under his wing?  Showed you some tricks, who gave you the will to do this, someone apart from your family?

Yes, of course! So what had happened was that my mom had realized that I really wanted to do this, so she took me to a studio to interview for a job. I got a job at H&L Records under the mentorship of Steve Jerome(GrandMaster Flash, Bobby O, Pet Shop Boys, NDA). They had hired me for $50 a week to be a runner, an assistant. I started with the toilets, to the tea, to the coffee, to the track sheets, until I finally became an assistant and then Steve Jerome had trained me and showed me how he’d like me to do it. He was in essence, my mentor at that time. When I was at a young age 13/14, he showed me the ropes, all the disciplinary moves that became embedded in my life.

So then I read that you’ve been working at Unique Sound Studios?

Well, let’s not cut to that straight away. I put in a bunch of years right there with Steve with Hugo and Luigi, and that studio ended up being taken over by Sugar Hill Records, which in essence was the birth of rap.  So I was right at the beginning of rap, with Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”, GrandMaster Flash’s “The Message” and  “White Lines”; all the big initial rap records were all done under that roof with Steve or with Eric Thorngren. So I was there for all of that.

What a period! So then Unique Sound Studios came later on?

At that point I started to work in New York freelancing with a few artists, and then I actually apprenticed to get a job. I went back down the food chain to be an assistant at Unique because I saw it as the cutting edge hip studio that was happening at New York at the time, at 82’- 83’. It kind of ended around 87’- 88’. I became an assistant and then staff, basically kind of took over, had a few reasonable hits, and then I just kind of took over working there. Just doing what I wanted.

So it was kind of the normal evolution : you started as a runner, then an assistant, and then as an engineer, very naturally.

Exactly. But you can always go back from an engineer back to an assistant, it helps put you in your place.

Part 4: The Bernard Pivot Style

What’s your favorite memory from mixing an album or working on an album?

My favorite memories would probably be from records I produced. They are all favorite memories, it is hard to say “this was the best”. I think the ones I got the most laughs on were albums I produced by Tina Turner, or John Miles or Rick Price or Joe Cocker, where being the producer, it was basically tweaking your last rough mix, with the artist in there and having some laughs and some fun with it. Knowing that you are playing on it and you’re producing it… And it came out great and you are excited. Rather than, mixing something that you didn’t produce. Of course, working on “American Idiot”, which went by so fast… It was exciting because the songs were so good and you didn’t really realize it at the time. But the best memories are definitely the ones I produced because there is more at stake because you are a producer. Human wise, because you are artistic about it, you play parts of it, there is more “blood” on the tape, than you just mixing someone else’s record.

You mean that this job is 60, 70% human aspect?

It’s 100% human. It’s not a business at all. It’s a personal, emotional business, that unless your heart is into the song, you’d might as well go back into the car and go home. You have to be emotionally attached to the music or there is no point in doing it.

Your worst memories/moments from mixing of all time?

There have definitely been some moments, I am not going to name the bands, but that had full-on fights in here internally with the band mates. No one agrees with what you are doing. Each guy leaves the room and comes back with a different idea. It makes it really difficult when the band doesn’t get along. There have been a couple where the band is breaking up or fighting at the time you are mixing it, or completely unsure of what you are doing. It’s not you, it’s them, and that’s what makes it difficult. A lot of the best records I ever mixed are when nobody is here but me, and I say this to them. Sometimes, they are their own worst enemy. It’s not their fault. They are really better off coming toward the end. When they want to come in here and do battle with it, sometimes they can unglue some of the magic that you’ve put into it by isolating their favorite parts.

Which artist would you still like to work with and why?

I want to work with Paul McCartney, I want to work with Coldplay; I want to actually mix a full fledged U2 album, not just one or two songs like I have done in the past, I want to be in the room with the band. I’d like to mix a new Rolling Stones record with the whole band in here. I want to go after the last of the mohicans, the biggest guns that are left while they still have something. It’s more the absolute legends of rock and roll that I prefer to be working with. Of course, I want to work with Muse and Foo Fighters and all the newer bands, but still they have some time. I want to get the old guys while they still got some action. I want to get it while there is a chance.

You’re engaged to mix an album for an artist you love but the requirements are : less is more. You have to pick only 5 pieces of your equipment.  Which do you choose and why?

If I can pick only 5 pieces of equipment, I’d pick my favorite vocal limiter, I’d pick my favorite vocal reverb, drum reverb, that’s three…

Which ones?!!

It would be my Urei Blue1176, my original EMT246, my Sony DRE 2000, then it would be a pair of Pultecs on my bus, and my Focusrite Red. The Pultecs I say they are one piece of gear cause they are a pair.

You are cheating! (Laughs)

They come as a pair.  With those 5 pieces of gear in a rack, I can go anywhere !

Just to finish up this interview, do you have any leitmotiv or quote/catch phrase about music that you like to use?

One of the things we say in the studio is “Don’t try this at home”! (Laughs) Everything I have here is not going to work at home. It’s really meant to be in the proper facility, in a temple of sound. Not your garage. For me it doesn’t work!

To read the full detailed interview see:  Mixing with an Attitude

 

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November 25, 2009

Infected Mushroom Sound Alchemy

Filed under: Artists — Tags: , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 6:20 am

Exclusive Interview Reveals Production Tips and Tricks

Erez Eisen and Amit Duvedevani “Duvdev” (background).

Innovators, geek tricksters, obsessive-perfectionists, un-serious, electronic-rock geniuses?   Time will tell, yet The Legend of the Black Shawarma, Infected Mushroom’s 7th album release will certainly grab the chair from underneath you and leave you thinking- I’m not sure what was this meticulous musical chaos, but I can’t stop moving even after the track has finished.

Hailing from sunny shores of Israel, now based in another sunny city, Los Angeles, the sun always seems to shine in Infected land, the core of which is Erez Eisen and Amit Duvedevani.  But seriously, between the hard-earned success, the mess, the nuclear shows, the private jokes you will find two very do-it-yourself kind of musician scientists who write, produce, mix, master, tweak and fix almost every detail of their music.

It was only fitting then that Audiofanzine (AF) will ask the obvious:  How do you make that sound?  As we brushed off the cobwebs with a morning coffee in Paris, Eisen joined us late at night from his studio in Los Angeles to tell us the production tales of Infected Mushroom.  Enjoy.

Part 1:  “It’s always changing, you know”

This is Infected Mushroom today.

AF:  Can you quickly present the band? Who’s doing what?

Eisen:  We started- my partner Amit Duvedevani, known as Duvdev, and I, Erez Eisen, in 1996 doing some horrible music.  Now today we are like a big band you know, not so big, but we have a drummer named  Rogerio Jardim he’s a great drummer from Brazil, he lives in America now.  We have an Israeli guitar player Erez Netz, which is considered one of the best electronic guitar players, the best in Israel.  We love him.  And also Thomas Cunningham, another guitar player from America who performs with us.  This is Infected Mushroom.

AF:  What do you consider to be your influences?   You’re using some ‘metal’ gigs and some ‘jazzy organs’ on the same tracks, some hip-hop influences, some Spanish music influences…

Eisen:  It’s always changing, you know.  It started with electronic like Psytrance bands, which is Simon Posford, known as Shpongle as well, also Hallucinogen.  At the time we liked X-Dream, Etnica, many other bands from this genre.  These are the main ones.  And slowly through the years we became open to everything.  We are listening to radio and MTV, not as it is today, horrible, but how it used to be with more heavy metal stuff.  Even if it is hip-hop sometimes, a few Jay Zee tracks, it can be nice.  Maybe we don’t like the whole concept but we like some ideas.  We try to just have fun in the studio basically and to be as creative as we can.

AF:  Your style has changed a lot in the past few years. When you go back to your old tracks and you listen to them, what are your thoughts?

Eisen:   The Gathering, which is the first album as Infected, I tend to think that is has a few decent tracks for me.  I think Tommy the Bat is one of them, and a few others, but the production is horrible.  I’m not so proud of it, let’s say.  But, you know, I was 16 I think when we did it.  So it’s OK.

Infected Mushroom’s Studio in L.A.:  Best place for inspiration.

AF:   Do you begin making a song in your studio or sometimes you need to go to someplace else to get inspired?

Eisen:  No, it’s always in the studio.  We tried doing tracks on the road, but we never did one.  Sometimes we come with just no ideas into the studio and we just decide on a BPM, usually it’s just 145, and we just start kick, bass line, and somehow looking for sounds and stuff.  Sometimes we are lucky, everything goes smoothly and we have a track going on very fast, and sometimes we get stuck like a week on a track.

AF:  I know what you mean.  I have been stuck for 10 years now.

Eisen:  When we are stuck, I wanted to kick myself sometimes, I wanted to say “that’s it, I cannot do anymore music, I have no more ideas”, but then Duvdev said “let’s see it as a fight in the studio”, like a video game- there is a level that is really hard to pass, and you keep trying until you move to the next level.  So this is how we see it these days and it really helps.  For us, when we have these horrible days we just give it a fight.  Sometimes it’s the lyrics.  Duvdev comes in with lyrics, and from there we get something- which is much easier.   Every time it’s something different.

Infected Mushroom Live in Chicago 11/14/09

AF:  What would you consider to be your biggest challenge as a band?

Eisen:  We always have challenges.  I guess the first big challenge was to make the band happen, to find the guitar player, to find the drummer, to write the parts for them, because the tracks are already kind of busy for us, and we didn’t want to make it noisy for the live show.  It’s kind of hard, in the beginning, to think about what the guitar player would play that will not sound too busy, and how to add a drummer that will not create too much of a mess.

AF:   In the studio you can create and produce music under ideal conditions.  It then becomes a challenge to re-create that sound on stage.  How do you approach that?

Eisen:  Yeah, for stage we try to have a little bit more bass, this feeling that you have a big speaker and you want to feel the bass, not just hear it.  This is very important.  And for the rest of the frequencies we try to make it as good as we can compared to what we had in mind in the studio- which never happens, by the way.  With our luck, we go to horrible sound systems most of the time.  It’s always a challenge to do a proper sound check.

AF:  The big thing in this record is your collaborations with Jonathan Davis, Perry Farrell and the Doors.  Is this something that you’ve wanted to do for a long time, collaborate with other artists?  And what was their contribution?

Eisen:  We can start with the Doors.  It was the Doors track that Warner Brothers requested us to remix.  They did a remix CD for many Doors tracks, and basically we got approved to use it in our album – The Riders on the Storm.  We got original channels from the Doors which was really exciting to get all these cool recordings, which sounded pretty good I must say.  This was the easiest one because it was pre-recorded so we didn’t really collaborate.

With Jonathan Davis from Korn, in the beginning we asked him which song he wanted to sing.  He chose Killing Time in the beginning.  He came to the studio and we said, ‘do you mind trying Smashing the Opponent because we think it fits more to your style’.  And he said ‘sure’.   He didn’t practice it, but we just printed the lyrics, he gave it a shot, and I think not more than one hour recording and it was done, the vocals.

AF:  So basically, the lyrics and the melody lines were written and he just performed them?

Eisen:   Yeah.  Everything was written before.  He just came and performed the vocals.  Same for Jane’s Addiction singer, Perry Farrell.  We asked him if he minds doing Killing Time, and he liked it.  With him we did two different sessions.  We bothered him twice.  Actually, he knows us for a long time.  He has Classical Mushroom EP and The Gathering, which was very weird for us.  Like, why do you have these albums?  It was pretty fun.

Our move to Los Angeles was the move to make collaborations with people.  In Israel we were pretty limited to Israeli artists, which I have nothing against.  But it’s limited to Hebrew mainly.   We have dreams, as kids, you want to work with big artists, and you never believe that you will be able to do, so we said let’s try.  We almost got Dave Ghan from Depeche Mode singing, but at the end it didn’t happen.  Hopefully, it will happen with Dave in the next album.

Duvdev and Eisen: Serving up The Legend of the Black Shawarma
to legions of ‘converted vegetarians’.

AF:  Last question about your lyrics from [the track] “The Legend of the Black Shawarma”, they are very positive and they are almost sending a message but maybe with a little bit of a warning.  I am assuming these are not totally random lyrics, is this something that you’ve realized with time and now you wish to share with your listeners?

Eisen:   When we started doing lyrics, we said we will write about everything except about love.  Because, it’s not that we have anything against love, but every song is about love.  So we said everything but love, which was not so hard.  And slowly it became the Duvdev road, most of the lyrics.  He came into the studio with almost all of the lyrics and maybe I didn’t like one or two words.  Duvdev is a pretty crazy guy.  He has lots of weird ideas.  Lots of them we cannot even write about.  We try to write stuff with less meaning, that will open people to think about stuff.  Or we write very un-serious lyrics that it’s just private jokes between us and our friends.  So please don’t take our lyrics seriously.


AF:  So you mean that actually you don’t want to convert vegetarians for real?

Eisen:   Why not?  No, I’m just kidding…  Everything is just funny, don’t take it too seriously.  Converting vegetarians, if there is a meaning it’s mostly meaning:  convert yourself from listening to regular music and be open to listen to other kinds of music.
To read the full detailed interview see:  Infected Mushroom Sound Alchemy

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