Welcome to 1999, and thanx to all of you for being on my mailing list. I trust I have not abused it. Have been madly, crazily busy recording other people, and finally have 33 minutes of my own Earthworm songs finished and on a CD-R; now gotta figure out what the heck to do with it. [Released in 2005 as part of the 55-minute "Permanent Fatal Error."] The website will be getting some facelifts in coming months; currently trying to make it more readable for the WebTV users. [2013 note: Ha! Ha! Now it's smartphones.] I'll soon put up some sound and video clips, when I get the hang of the technology involved. [2013: Hah! Now it's Bandcamp, Youtube...]
I've been meaning to add the following to my website as an article, and a correspondent finally got me started writing it. I've been stewing over it for a long time, and felt I should share. I hope you are amused. However, this is not entirely funny. Everything described actually has happened to bands I know. All of it is happening somewhere, right now. What's worse is that, taken one at a time, I have done many of these things to some extent, at one point or another in my career! No one is innocent!
What a biz.
[2002 ADDENDUM: On some circulating versions this title has mysteriously changed to "HOW TO PRODUCE A HIT RECORD!"... attributed variously to F. Lee Harvey Blotto, or to no one]
First, spend about a month on "preproduction", making sure that everything is completely planned out so that no spontaneity is necessary or possible in the studio. If there are no "hits" there, make the band collaborate with outside songwriters. [On one of the uncredited versions of this essay that I still get unwittingly forwarded to me from time to time, someone added here "... or better still cover an old hit!" Thanx, good point.] Line up extra studio musicians who are better players than the band themselves, just in case.
Next, book the most expensive studio you can find so that everyone but the band gets paid lots of money. The more expensive, the more the record label will take the project seriously, which is important. Book lots and lots of time. You'll need at least 48 tracks to accomodate all the room mics you'll set up for the drums, all of which will be buried by other instruments later anyway, and for the added keyboard tracks, even if the band has never had a keyboard player. And for all the backing vocal tracks, even if the band only has one singer.
Then, record all the instruments one at a time, but make the drummer play to a click track for every song so the music has no chance to breathe whatsoever. That way you can use lots of MIDI gear. Do multiple takes of each song. Use up at least 30 reels of 2-inch tape. [2009 ADDENDUM: HaHaHa! Oh well. Tape is extinct. Good riddance.] Take the best parts of each take and splice them all together. You might even use a hard-disk recording system like Pro Tools, then transfer it all back to analog two-inch. Spend at least two weeks just compiling drum tracks like this. You'll need to rent at least a half a dozen snare drums, and you'll have to change drum heads every couple hours. If you really do it right, the entire band will never have to actually play a song together.
Now, start overdubbing each instrument, one at a time. Make sure everything is perfect. If necessary, do things over and over until absolute perfection is achieved. Do a hundred takes if you must. If this doesn't work, get "guest musicians" in to "help out".
Don't forget to hire someone who's good with samples and loops so the kids will think its hip! Better get some turntable scratching on there too.
Be sure to spend days and days just experimenting with sounds, different amplifiers, guitars, mics, speakers, basically trying every possible option you can think of to use up all that studio time you've booked. No matter how much time you book, you can use it up this way easily. Everyone involved will think they're working very hard.
Make sure you rent lots of expensive mics and expensive compressors and expensive preamps so you can convince yourself and everyone else how good it's sounding. Charge it to the band's recording budget of course. Make sure you have at least two or three compressors IN SERIES on everything you're recording. Any equipment with tubes in it is a sure bet, the older the better. The best is early-1970s-era Neve equipment, old Ampex analog recorders, and WW2-vintage tube microphones, since everyone knows that the technology of recording has continuously declined for the past 30+ years. Don't forget to get some old "ribbon" mics too.
Make sure that by the time it's finished everyone is absolutely, totally sick of all the songs and never wants to hear any of them again. Oops! Now it's time to mix it!
Better get someone with "fresh ears" (who's never heard any of it before) to mix it in a $2000/day SSL room with full automation. Make sure he's pretty famous, and of course you have to fly to LA, NYC or Nashville to do this, because there simply are no decent studios anywhere else. Make sure he compresses the hell out of everything as he mixes it. Compress each drum individually and then compress an overall stereo submix of 'em. Make sure to compress all the electric guitars even though a distorting guitar amp is the most extreme "compressor" in existence. Compress everything else, and then compress the overall mix. Add tons and tons of reverb to the drums on top of all those room mics, and add stereo chorus on everything else. Spare no expense. Spend at least two weeks on it. Then take it home and decide to pay for someone else to remix the whole thing.
Then get some New York coke-head mastering engineer to master it, and make sure he compresses the hell out of everything again and takes away all the low end and makes it super bright and crispy and harsh so it'll sound really LOUD on the radio. (Too bad about all those people with nice home stereos.)
Oh-oh! Your A+R guy just got fired! Looks like the record will never be released!
Happy New Year,