Published Mar 28, 2009Former Pursuit of Happiness front-man-turned-producer Moe Berg (the Cliks, Robin Black and the Intergalactic All-Stars) and engineer/producer Laurence Currie (Sloan, Wintersleep) are co-hosting the Master Tracks series on (Aux.TV), wherein one artist gets one day in the studio to record and mix a song.
What's the biggest challenge of getting a song recorded and mixed in one day?
LC: The band's ability to perform. If the band is not prepared, then we won't get [it] done.
MB: In a normal situation, if things aren't going well with an artist or if you are having technical issues, there is usually a tomorrow. But with the show, everyone, including the artist, Laurence, myself and the gear all have to be having the best day for things to go off right.
Artists can do so much on a computer, in a home studio. Why should they spend a fortune recording with you (or any producer)?
LC: First off, it's a bit of a misnomer that hiring a producer or studios cost a fortune. You could probably record a professional sounding record with a producer for about the same it would cost you to buy the necessary tools to be able to do an amateur sounding demo at home.
MB: Recording isn't done by computers, it's done by humans operating computers, processors, mics, amps etc. Some humans are better at it than others. Also, most of the record-making process occurs before anyone hits the space bar on a computer. The song has to be great, the arrangement has to be perfect, all the musicians have to be playing a good part that contributes to the song being amazing. And the songs all have to fit into a concept of who the artist is and what kind of record they should be making. These are the things a producer and engineer can help a band with.
Describe your worst studio experience ever (with the show or otherwise).
LC: Sorry, I don't kiss and tell. What happens in a studio, stays in a studio... unless it's being filmed.
MB: Most studio experiences are great. It's a fun job. It only sucks when either the artist, who has hired you for your abilities, insists on making really bad decisions that you advise against, or people on the outside like managers or record companies start making creative decisions that they may not have the expertise to make.
What's your best advice to artists new to the recording game, as far as getting the most out of their time and money?
LC: To be truly honest, some bands shouldn't go into a studio or hire a producer. They simply aren't ready yet and will be wasting their money. But once they get to a level that they know more and can play well, they should look at a studio/ producer etc. as a serious option. A lot of it depends on whether or not it makes practical sense.
MB: Practice. Do lots of pre-production and work everything out before you get to the studio. Then you won't be wasting time and money trying to work out your songs and parts when the clock is running.
Have you ever experienced a conflict between what the label wanted and what the artist wanted? How did you resolve it?
LC: Yes. Sometimes it's difficult and never really feels resolved. Sometimes reason prevails though. Fortunately, I've rarely been in a standoff situation with the band and the label on opposite sides. For someone in the middle, such as a producer, it's a delicate balancing act.
Whose work as a producer do you really admire, and why?
LC: Daniel Lanois, Nigel Godrich, Rick Rubin. All for different reasons. Daniel Lanois tends to work from a vibe perspective and uses spontaneous moments well, Nigel tends to be very innovative, and Rick tends to set up optimal situations for a band and then lets them be who they are. All very different in their approach, but all tend to focus the best parts of a band and have been pretty successful at capturing it on a CD. Another great producer is Brian Eno... very experimental.
MB: Todd Rundgren and Rick Rubin because they are both conceptualists. For me, the most important thing is to "hear" the final product before you even begin. Rundgren and Rubin first try to figure out what kind of record the band should make, then get the artist to focus in on achieving that goal.
Auto-tune: Yay or nay?
MB: 100 percent yay. People who are against auto tuning often don't know what went into recording vocals in the so-called old days. A lot of energy went into getting the singer to sing the song "right" - in tune, on time etc. Now a singer can put all of his or her heart and soul into their performance and if there are small technical imperfections, they can be fixed without ruining the spirit of the take.
LC: Sometimes yay, sometimes nay. There are no rules. If it saves an artist's ass... great for them! If I don't have to use it, I won't. I personally prefer it when someone can actually sing.