Like its predecessor, Behind The Glass (originally published in 2000 by Backbeat Books and still in print), Behind the Glass Volume II presents another prime collection of firsthand interviews with the world's top record producers and engineers, sharing their creative secrets and hit-making techniques, from the practical to the aesthetic. In these pages you'll find Daniel Lanois (U2, Bob Dylan) discussing the future of digital recording; T-Bone Burnett (Robert Plant and Alison Krauss) sharing his unique view of creating complex low end; and Hugh Padgham (Police, Genesis) analyzing the state of the business today. For real-world advice on everything from home recording to mixing to coaching a nervous singer, check out author Howard Massey's conversations with Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse), Tony Brown (Reba McEntire), Gus Dudgeon (Elton John), John Simon (The Band), Russ Titelman (Steve Winwood), Bruce Swedien (Michael Jackson), Rodney Jerkins (Mary J. Blige), Simon Climie (Eric Clapton), Matt Serletic (Matchbox Twenty), and many more.
Howard gives an overview of the book:
From the Introduction by the author:
There is no better way to go forward than by studying the path taken by those who went before you. As someone a lot smarter (and wittier) than me once observed, "There are two kinds of fools: One says, this is old and therefore good. The other says, this is new, and therefore better." As most professionals in the record business will tell you, it's when the tried and true meets the new and bold that real magic happens.
Like the original Behind The Glass, this second collection of interviews attempts to answer the question: What makes a hit record? While even the most casual fan understands the contribution of the artist and the songwriter, many people are not aware of the enormous role played by the various technical people involved: recording engineers, assistant engineers, computer operators, and mastering engineers. More often than not there will also be a producer at the center of things-a Svengali-like figure hovering in the background, whose function is a bit more ambiguous. Though it's accurate to liken the role of the record producer to that of the film director, I think team quarterback is a better analogy, since so much of the job involves acting as liaison, trying to find the delicate balance between the creative demands of the artist, the technical demands of the engineering staff, and the commercial demands of the record label. Together this team of people labor to create the recordings we enjoy daily on our stereos and radios, iPods and computers.
So much has happened since the publication of the original Behind The Glass nearly a decade ago. The once-mighty music industry has shrunk tremendously in recent years, suffering from the rise of (and lack of timely response to) online distribution and widespread piracy. Those are the events that are primarily responsible for today's drastically reduced recording budgets, which in turn have led to the closings of hundreds of commercial studios and the commensurate rise in the number of records being made in people's bedrooms, basements, and converted garages. Some might argue (and they do, in these pages) that these changes have also led to a decline in the quality of recorded music today.
The universal acceptance of digital recording-mostly in the form of the ubiquitous computer-based Pro Tools system-is another huge change. A decade ago, producers and engineers were debating whether or not the ADAT format (eight CD-quality tracks on a standard S-VHS tape) would take permanent hold (it didn't), and many of them were still mixing to DAT (a smaller, non-standard digital tape format), which has since fallen completely out of favor due to its unreliability and poor error correction. To be sure, some of the interview subjects in this new volume still voice lingering beliefs in the superiority of analog recording, but even the most die-hard of them admit that today's financial limitations, coupled with erratic quality control, makes the use of tape all but impossible most of the time.
You'll find a completely new cast of characters here, but many of the same questions that were posed in the first volume. Again, that's not due to laziness on my part-I genuinely find the different answers and perspectives fascinating, and it's equally illuminating to compare the responses in these pages to those of the folks I interviewed the first time around. While there's a similar focus on aesthetics and the importance of remaining true to one's art, there is also a decidedly noticeable business slant in many of the comments coming from this group, probably in reflection of these changing and difficult times in the industry.
I'm proud to say that there's a little more diversity in this group of interviewees, with more emphasis on contemporary genres. As with the first volume, some come from a musical background, others from an engineering background; and, again, some chose to focus on technical aspects, while others preferred to take a more philosophical approach. There's still a mix of veterans and "young guns," as well as representation from a select group of British producers and engineers, to which I also decided to add a section of interviews with some of Nashville's top studio people. And while you'll once again find a pair of spirited panel discussions, this time the venues are Nashville and London, as opposed to the more predictable music centers of New York and LA.
One thing that hasn't changed is my goal of conducting every interview as if it were simply a casual conversation, as opposed to a series of questions and answers. I've learned the hard way that there is no substitute for engaging on a personal level with your interview subject so that you end up having a true give-and-take with them. It's really no different than the kind of ideal relationship all these producers and engineers try to attain with the artists they work with.
The wisdom imparted by these masters of their craft is at once timely and timeless, perceptive and priceless. As you read these pages, you'll discover that the main recurring theme is a simple one: It is always, always the music that comes first.
Those are truly words to live by.
Woodstock, New York
My second collection of interviews with the world's leading record producers and audio engineers, this book provides a fascinating insight into how today's recorded music is made. The book includes in-depth interviews with people like T-Bone Burnett (winner of this year's Academy Award for film soundtrack), Daniel Lanois (U2, Bob Dylan), Bruce Swedien (Michael Jackson's longtime engineer), Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse), Hugh Padgham (The Police), and many, many more. Also included is one of the last known interviews with Elton John's longtime producer Gus Dudgeon, as well as a fascinating description of the so-called "Wall Of Sound" by Phil Spector's late, great engineer Larry Levine. If you're into the history of recorded music, I think you'll enjoy this book!
Howard Massey is a music journalist, musician, and recording engineer/producer who was formerly an editor at Musician and Performing Songwriter magazines.
He is also the author of fifteen books, including two collections of interviews entitled ...