Dave Jerden has engineered, produced and mixed some of the most cutting-edge, ground breaking records in studios all around the world. Just take a listen to his engineering and mixing of Brian Eno and David Byrne's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Talking Heads' Remain in Light and Herbie Hancock's Future Shock. As an engineer, he has worked with some of modern music's greatest producers such as Bill Laswell, Michael Beinhorn, Brian Eno and Steve Lillywhite. Jerden is a technical master, unconstrained by conventional thinking and confident yet humble. As a producer he has helped artists like Public Image Limited, Jane's Addiction, Alice in Chains, Social Distortion and The Offspring make stunning records. Currently, he co-owns Tranzformer Studios in Burbank, California, with his long time engineer Bryan Carlstrom (Tape Op #28). The studio is managed by Annette Cisneros (who has also engineered alongside Jerden and Carlstrom for many years) with assistant engineer duties going to John Nuss. Dave Jerden and I sat in the patio lounge at Tranzformer Studios for a pleasant conversation covering a multitude of topics.

 Spinal Tap 

What was it like working with Spinal Tap? Were they funny in the studio?

Yes they were. 

Oh wow!

Yeah, they'd go into character. 

Do they really?

Yeah, they would do that. All three of them are really smart guys. And they could play. Christopher is a good guitar player.

 On Listening to His Own Work 

You know I don't listen to the albums that I've done because when I was working on them I heard them a thousand times. When I got done mixing them it was like, "It's done." I'm not somebody that sits around and listens to my records. There are a lot of reasons for that. You know, you spend five hundred to a thousand hours on an album and after that you're done with it. 

It's like when you're done writing a book you don't go back and read it.

Yeah. It's exactly the same thing. Once I get done mixing [and] it's turned over to the record company, the artist or whomever, it's theirs — and [when] it becomes the public's, it's the public's.

 Overall Philosophy 

We always like to try something new, something fun, or fall back on something that really worked years ago. But I never try to copy myself. Because on records where I have to have a lot of input it becomes a Dave Jerden record... and that's not the point. I'm not the artist. What I'm trying to do is enhance the artist or bring out of the artist what they've got and not touch a thing. It's not about me, it's not about Bryan, it's not about Annette. We are here to facilitate the artist to bring out the best that they've got. What we need are good artists. What I'm looking for are artists that are doing something different instead of just copying and sounding like somebody else. Yeah, I can make those records, but what I would become is called a "hack." I make enough money that I don't have to work, so it's not about the money. I don't care. I got all my investments. I even have an oil well. I get good royalties and everything. I'm not super rich or anything like that, but I don't have to work. If I work it's going to be because I find someone fun to work with.

How do you find an artist?

That's the problem now! See, artists used to be vetted through the record company. And now the producer has to find artists and either out of his own pocket pay for the demos, or find artists that have money. There's an inverse thing that I find happening now. The really talented people don't have money and the people that have money suck.

 Ground Issues 

What do you do in the studio when ground issues come up?

Well, grounding in a studio is everything. I learned all about grounding. Doug Parry and I at our studio, Smoketree, we had a grounding problem. I had a friend who designed the phased array radar for Hughes Aircraft that they use on like F-15 jets. He brought in some guys from Hughes Aircraft on a Sunday [and we] bought them some beer. They actually took the ground lines from the console, tape machine and the main power ground and they brought copper and a burner (blowtorch) and they made [a] dirt [pile] out in the back. They put the wires into the dirt and poured copper on it. 

Whoa!

That grounded it and the buzz went away.

I bet. I might have to do that at home with the hum I'm getting with my stereo system right now!

I loved working at Power Station Studios because the grounds are under the console. All the grounds come to this big copper plate. Grounding is everything. One thing that you can do if you're having grounding problems, is you can call the power company if you think that it's their problem. If you think it's coming in from the electricity, from other buildings, or whatever. They'll have a guy sit...

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