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When we got a chance to drop for an interview with David Byrne, he was joined by engineer/producer Pat Dillett, with whom he had just completed the Here Lies Love album, as well as worked with him on the Brian Eno collaboration CD, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today and earlier on David's excellent Grown Backwards. I thought I'd seen Pat's name on album credits, but a little research dug up a history of work with Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Nile Rodgers, They Might Be Giants, Doveman, The National and Emanuel and the Fear, plus a bunch of Brazilian albums with artists like Caetano Veloso and Marisa Monte. This seemed crazy and all over the map - so I had to find out more! Pat had a comfortable studio setup at Kampo Studios when we met, but when Kampo sadly closed in February 2010, he lost his space. Currently he's in the process of recapping an SSL E- Series console and putting together a new space to work from while keeping busy with many sessions.
What was it like mixing Eno and Byrne's Everything That Happens...?
We would get the tracks, and I would send the mixes to Brian while he was in France working with U2 [on their No Line on the Horizon album]. We sent four the first time. I was like, "Let's get a bunch of them done so at least if he hates one of them I won't feel totally freaked out." The first response was that he loved all of it, and he had very effusive praise. I told a friend of mine that I grew up with - "Brian loves it." He said, "Well, if you can't mix for Brian Eno, who can you mix for? That's all you listened to growing up!" By the time we were ready to mix, there were a lot of decisions made already about arrangement. So it was really just a sonic mix - good, old-fashioned mixing. Some of the very cool effects on that record they had done with analog and built in - they were part of the tracks. Some of the effects we did. I would send MP3s to Brian, and he would respond, usually very quickly. It was very intimidating and rewarding, because he would say things like, "Oh, I played it for Bono and Daniel [Lanois] and they loved it." I was like, "I knew I should have ridden that vocal more!"
They were probably there working on these U2 songs, and it's like, "Stop! Listen to this."
They worked on their record for a long time. I am sure they had a process of taking breaks of that sort. Sometimes he would send these detailed emails. I will have to print them out at some point. Some of them were hilarious. He would never say, "Oh, I hate that." It would be some description of the kind of person he imagines playing that sound. "I imagine somebody with very tight pants..." I would go, "Okay, he doesn't like that." Most of the songs were immediately liked, which was great. One of the first ones that we did was a song called "The Eyes," which didn't make it onto the record - it was a bonus track. It was honestly moving to put up the tracks and hear these guys. Brian sings on that one as well. It was pretty great to feel like, "This is exactly what I want to be doing." As an engineer you work a lot just to get those moments. There are very few of those, and this was certainly one of them. It was an extended, enjoyable one.
Were you mixing with automation or recall abilities?
Most of it is really in the box, but with a lot of hardware inserts. Some effects I would print if they were a little bit loose and squirrely, but usually the effects were recalled - I did a few things in the Eventide that I had to print because they are moving. I used a lot of the Sound Toys [plug-ins] for those oddball effects that I wanted to be able to just recall.
Were you mixing in Pro Tools or Logic?
Pro Tools. I know David and Brian work in Logic, but they converted most of the stuff, or we converted them when they sent them.
You mentioned mixing in the box. Are you summing internally?
I'm usually summing internally. With most of the mixing I do, I am coming out of the outputs and going to 1/2-inch [tape], which adds a nice image to it. But more and more than I expected, I take in the digital files and the tape and say, "Oh, I don't know which we'll use." I am usually mastering with Greg Calbi for David Byrne's work. He definitely likes the analog. I don't know if it's a prejudice. A lot of my stuff also gets mastered by UE Nastasi at Sterling Sound as well. He often will choose the digital. But on Here Lies Love there are 22 songs, and I think we used 14 from the analog and 8 from the digital.
Picking song by song?
Yeah. With the Byrne/Eno album we did it all from the 1/2-inch, but we didn't check each one. After a few we stuck with it. It varies from project to project. I like to have them both.
I was going to ask you in front of David Byrne, but one of the questions I had was, "How is David as an engineer?"
He's great. He brought a vocal in once for something that sounded really awesome and I asked him, "What did you do?" He said, "I used compression." [laughter] I looked at his track and it ...
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