"The Heart of Rock & Roll" Certain bands are meant for certain times, and arguably no band better captured the "Hip to Be Square" culture of the roaring 1980s than Huey Lewis and the News. From musical pop culture landmarks like "The Heart of Rock & Roll," "I Want a New Drug," "Heart and Soul," and "Workin' for a Livin'," Huey and the guys fused rock ‘n' roll, soul, and new wave into a new sound that legendary producer Jim Gaines helped craft from the ground up, from the band's very first hit "Do You Believe in Love" all the way through the end of a decade-long greatest hits run. Gaines could also be found working side-by-side with late Stevie Ray Vaughan — producing many of the guitarist's most celebrated hits, including "The House is Rockin'," "Crossfire," "Tightrope," and "Life by the Drop." In addition, Jim also worked with guitar legend Carlos Santana on his Grammy-winning, chart-topping Supernatural LP, not to mention also tracking and mixing hits for Steve Miller. Sitting down with Tape Op for a rare interview, Gaines began by looking back over his own career as one of rock's great producers: "I'm a lucky guy. I'm just a hard-working hillbilly from Arkansas, and I've been very lucky throughout my career to be involved with all these great artists. That's the way I look at it."

What made you feel Huey Lewis and the News had the potential to make you want to roll the dice on them?

You worked with Huey Lewis as a co- producer for the better part of a decade, which resulted in thirteen Top 40 hits. What about you as a producer made Huey feel you would be the right collaborator when you two were first starting out together in the studio?

All I can say is this: when we did those first records, especially the first two [Picture This, Sports], we were creating a new sound. I didn't go with it in the front of my mind saying, "I'm going to this session to create a sound," but once I'd get into the session, and I'd hear those songs coming up, then I'd start to say, "We need to do this to make that work." Like I said, the band had gone and done their first record with Bill Schnee in L.A., and Bill is great at engineering, but I have a different concept and approach to engineering than he does. I'm a little more loosey-goosey; it's gotta-make- my-ass-wiggle thing, and I'm not as much into the technical side. The first thing I wanna ask is, "Can I get it from the amp?," if it's a guitar thing. Or if it's an organ, "Can you change a few of those drawbar settings?" Then we let the mics do the work. We get to the console, and we can do EQs and whatever we want there. But my approach when we were doing those records was I wanted to create some fun, good-time songs. All of us did. That's the way the band was, and we were all in sync at that point in time. We were all on the same page. That's why they brought me out of retirement; because they felt like I understood what they were trying to go for.

"Do You Believe in Love" was the band's first Top 10 hit, and is still in regular radio rotation 30 years later. Was that song an example to you as a producer of one that was an obvious hit, even while you were still in the studio recording it?

It was one of the last songs that came in. It came from Mutt Lange [he wrote it], and bam! We had a Top 20 single. That is a very catchy song. It came to us at the end of the session when we were wrapping up, but were still looking for another song. The way Johnny Colla and the boys set up those harmonies, that melody really stuck out at me. All those guys in that band sang, and they sang great harmonies — especially when we put Chris [Hayes], Bill [Gibson], Johnny, and Sean [Hopper] together. Johnny Colla did a lot of specifying of what he wanted on this song. There are certain things about a single. You've got to remember that a single is played on the radio, and there are certain things about radio that you have to be a little careful of: You don't want the solos too long. You don't want it too congested [mix and arrangement-wise] so that the clarity is not there. I'm talking about what I know about singles. The melody has got to be very dominant. The hook line needs to be repeated; not over-excessive, but quite a few times. Is the hook line catchy? Here's one of the main things: Can you sing along with it? That song sounded very young, and very summertime sounding, and that's what made that song work.

Sports is still considered one of the most iconic albums of the ‘80s, and it launched the band into international stardom. As its sonic architect, what were your ambitions heading into pre-production for your second record with them?

I had a blueprint in my head for those records, as far as the sound goes, because I'm one of those old-school guys. I'm making the mix right there as I'm cutting; I'm cutting to a mix. That's how I work, even today. I'm starting the song knowing what the mix is going to sound like in the end. I know that sounds weird, but I think any engineer will tell you that. When you're starting a song you know where you're trying to go and you're cutting to the level, the sound, and the dimension of the song. Where you want it to be. I'm cutting to that level at all times.

What's the story behind the recording of the famous heartbeat intro at the top of "The Heart of Rock & Roll"? I understand it was a bit challenging, given this was 1982.

We spent a minute on that heartbeat intro. We were working at Fantasy Studios, and I remember we were all sitting there trying to figure out, "What the hell does a heartbeat sound like?" So we tried a kick drum, and that was not going to work. Sean [Hopper] and I were dicking around with some sounds, and we took a synth sound from this [Roland] Jupiter-8 he had. We spent about four or five hours working on that sound, because we thought that there was a lot of low-end associated with a heartbeat, and we knew we had to get the right low-end. Again, that kick drum wouldn't give it to us. It was too straight. I think a heartbeat almost has a little delay to it, so I ran the sample through a little bit of delay. It had a little bit of slap to it like you hear on the single. So Sean Hopper, the keyboard player, and I came up with that sound out of a synth sample, with some tricks on it.

"I Want a New Drug" is a classic radio and video staple of the '80s, as well as a great example of the fusion of new wave and rock elements that you and Huey blended so well. Were there any cutting-edge synthesizers or other gear at play in the production of that hit?

Sean Hopper came up with that great synth riff that sounds like horns. The synthesizer sound throughout the Sports album was a Jupiter-8, but we did have some [Yamaha] DX7 going on too. This is when the MIDI world was starting to kick in, so we hooked up a couple of things: a [Roland MKS-80] Super Jupiter, which was this extra module you could get, and an organ. Sean is a great organ player, and we would go direct with his sound. When we did that song, the record company had this whole big thing about, "No drug lyrics on the radio." We were thinking, "They might not even want to release this thing," because of all this anti-drug stuff that was going on. Nancy Reagan had the "Just say no" deal and all of that, even though Huey was talking about love. So when we were cutting it, we wanted to make it fun and up, with these cute little effects on it, but we didn't know what was going to happen with it. The damn thing almost got pulled because everybody was so concerned radio wouldn't play it. When it became a big hit the whole thing became a snowball, because of the amount of plays it was getting, and then the video became successful. MTV helped a lot with that one.

The drum sound you got with that band is one of the finest I've ever heard. A good example is "Stuck With You." What was the secret behind that sound?

irst off, "Stuck With You" was an interesting song because we were in-between [the albums] Sports and Fore! and we got a call from the record label saying, "We need a single to tide us over until the next record comes out." We went in the studio and cut that one song so they could have something for radio to prepare for the next album. When it became a hit, it was like, "Holy mackerel, the damn thing is on the air!" The drums were done in the B Room at The Record Plant [Sausalito, CA], which was my favorite tracking room back then. It was live enough for me. I had a drum riser built, because I don't like putting drums on a flat floor any more than I have to. When you put drums on a really hard-surfaced floor, the toms and kick drum don't have that after-ring. It dissipates. So if I put Bill Gibson, Huey's drummer, on a riser and raise it up 6 or 8 inches on something that's not solid, I'd get a whole different drum sound. It was amazing — we heard the bottom-end come up drastically. I had a special riser that was built out of 2 x 6 boards; it was heavy and open. When I wasn't using it, it laid up against the wall. But when I put it down on the floor and had a rug on it, that's how I created a lot of the drum sounds in that room. I remember when Rod Stewart's road guy come in there, and he said, "That will never work." Then, when he listened after we'd set it up and tracked, he said, "Wow," because the toms took on a different atmosphere. They had more of a sonic low-end boom that rose above. Plus, the kick drum was not as dead, and the snare had an extra low mid tone. It's a simple little trick, but it was part of my sound back then. We had an AMS [RMX16], which was the gated reverb sound that Bob Clearmountain [Tape Op #84] made famous. I bought one, and one day these people at Guitar Center called me and said, "We've got this reverb unit we'd love for you to try out. Just tell us what you think." It was the Yamaha SPX90. I got this gated reverb sound out of it and it only cost $350. I'm thinking, "Well, this is stupid. I paid$10,000 for the AMS." So I ordered three of the Yamahas, sold my AMS, and I used the Yamahas a lot for my drum sound. At that point in time I used [Neumann U]87s for overheads. Sometimes — depending on what mics I had — I used [Sennheiser] 421s for toms, because I liked the attack and the way it projects the midrange. or the kick drum, in those days they didn't have an [AKG] D112, so we used [Electro-Voice] RE20s. I might have used two mics, an RE20 and something a little more bottom-oriented. I liked the RE20 because it could take the impact and give you the attack. There are times I like to use an [AKG] C414 on the toms if I can get by with it; it depends on how close that ride cymbal is to it. Especially the floor tom, because it makes the floor tom whip and the 414 has got a great, smooth bottom-end. The other big thing is having a live room you can work with. I kind of ran the Record Plant for a while; I was their number one client and it was my room. When I didn't want it they could book it, but back in those days they'd always have to clear it with me because I was doing so much in there. Bill's one of those drummers who comes from a rock background, but the Huey material had a lot of R&B feel to it. All the guys in that band — Johnny Colla played with Sly Stone for a while — came from an R&B/rock hybrid background. Bill's one of those guys who lays the groove down on that backside. If you're an R&B guy, that's where you want it. He plays to the song. That's what I like about him; he's not trying to play a drum part, he's playing to the song. A lot of drummers don't get that, but he did.

"Jacob's Ladder," the first single off of Fore!, was sonically like nothing I'd ever heard before it hit the radio in 1986. Does anything stand out about its recording?

That actually came from Bruce Hornsby. I don't honestly remember what the original demo sounded like, but I know it was one of those songs that could be set up a little differently, because it's a unique song. The arrangement we all came up with was like, "Wow, it works for this song," because it was such a different style from everything else they were doing. I didn't look at that song at the time as a radio friendly song, to be honest, like I did "Stuck with You." I try to capture a little bit of live-ness to the music, and that's the concept they wanted. I do it today with a lot of bands that work withme—Ilookatitasifyou'regoingtoseealive performance. That's the sound I want to hear, except with us in control. If I hear that music, I want to see a live performance going on, and I approach my engineering like that. As a producer I try to get the engineers working for me to get that same concept. It has nothing to do with a bunch of room mics — in fact I don't remember having room mics for that band. It's the way I mic'd Bill Gibson's drum set, and the way we approached the guitar sounds. We didn't have a lot of big, giant amps; we had a nice little room for them. They're not the kind of band where you drag out the big stack of Marshall amps and kick their ass on power sounds. Most of the sounds were self-contained rhythmic sounds, with little solos. Chris Hayes is a great guitar player. He's not like a heavy-duty rocker; he's more like a jazz rock player, in a lot of ways. One of my tricks is I double mic an amp. No matter how many speakers it has, I use two mics and it gives me a lot of lower mid-sound; but it also gives me a different presence than you can get with one mic. You've gotta work with the tones on the amp, and we had a great little room at the Record Plant that had a slate floor. It was weird, because it had actually been set up to be an iso booth or a live echo chamber. It was roughly 12 x 14 feet and it was a pie shape, but not real pie shape. I would set the amps up in that room. On Chris's guitar sound on Fore! I would use a [Shure SM]57, of course, which you can't go wrong with. But if I was looking for coloration, I would pick a condenser mic, and I might use a [Neumann] U87, or even a ribbon mic like a [RCA] 77-DX. If I was looking for a brighter sound, I might have put a 414 on his amp; it really depended on the character. I always had a 57 on him, but that second mic was just another coloration.

"Hip To Be Square" is still one of the most popular hits from Huey Lewis and the News' catalog. It showcases the unique use of horns you injected into 1980's pop, at a time when no one else was really doing that. Did you draw on your own background from having previously produced Tower of Power?

Doc [Stephen Kupka] from Tower of Power is on that song. I went for a flatter sound on the horns for that album because we were trying to create a "new" sound. We kind of did, didn't we? Some of the [San Francisco] 49ers [Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott] were hanging out in the studio and we got them to sing some of the background parts, so it was a fun song to record! Sean plays great organ, and we did use a real [Hammond] B3. For mic'ing the B3, I still like to use a couple of U87s on the top [of the Leslie cabinet], and then whatever you want to on the bottom. We used to use an [Electro-Voice] RE20. If you want a really live low-end you can use a condenser down there, but the problem with using a condenser on the bottom is the wind noise. That Leslie rotor generates a lot of wind noise, so it's better to use something that's a little tight.

Following your seven year run co- producing the lot of Huey Lewis and the News' greatest hits, you teamed up with Stevie Ray Vaughan for his final album, In Step, with Double Trouble. What do you remember about Stevie's expectations heading into the studio?

I'd been working with Carlos Santana, and Carlos and Stevie did a show together somewhere. Stevie and Double Trouble were getting ready to do a record. All of Stevie's records previously had been done in Austin or Dallas with local Texas people, but the band were looking for somebody different. During that show Stevie was explaining this and Carlos said, "You should call Jim Gaines." So next thing I know management calls me, I fly down to L.A., and I meet Stevie and the Double Trouble band. I knew, at that point, that they were looking at four or five producers, at least, to do the album. So I walked into the Sunset Marquis for this meeting, we all got introduced, and about the second or third thing out of Stevie Ray's mouth was, "How do you feel about recording ten amplifiers at once?"

The album's opener, "The House Is Rockin'," has a wall of guitars that leaps out of the speakers. What was the process like for constructing that?

What microphone selection on the guitar amps did you go with to capture all of that live energy?

Ihadtomictheroomanduseitasablend.Iwas running 8 or 10 tracks, just as one pass of guitars. I mic'd all the cabinets separately, but in some cases I put them together as a unit. Some I wanted to keep separated. It was so loud in this room we called it the "Room of Doom!" You almost had to beat your assistant with a whip to get him to go out there. Stevie was running through two Tube Screamers and two wah-wah pedals. That was his normal setup. If you got those cranked up with two Dumbles going — that's the loudest amp ever made! So I had our guitar tech, César Díaz, constantly changing out speakers and fixing things. I had set up Studio B as our spot to fix guitars... it was a mess! Stevie would go out there for each song and adjust things. We might adjust it six times for a certain track, because we don't have to do that many takes. We were doing takes to fit the solos and the feel of the track. I spent \$1500 one day on speakers; we blew speakers out like crazy! And when you change speakers, guess what? Tones change, so you have to reset settings, because these were some loud damn amps going on! With his little amps, like the [Fender] Deluxes, you can only push them so much. I had to separate amps out, and combine things that I thought I could deal with and mix later. I had planned on really dealing with them even more than when I was recording, because you can't go in there and start individually dissecting each one of these tracks while they're going down on tape. You have to treat it as part of a general sound. If, for instance, I needed a little more brightness somewhere in a song, I'd pull up one amp. If I needed a little more bottom-end, I'd pull up another amp. That sound really comes from the tonality of the amps, and that's what he wanted. I needed those 32 tracks, because if I wanted to do an overdub, that was 8 more tracks. If you were recording on a 24-track, good luck. You're gone, you're over with. That's what saved my ass, being able to go to 32-track digital, because I could make it without bouncing [tracks down], or anything else.

What were your favorite moments of listening to that level of genius coming out of the control room speakers while you're sitting there recording all this amazing playing?

tevie would go out there at night and play Jimi Hendrix, and you'd swear Hendrix was in the building. Stevie was like a ball of energy, and that's how he played. You felt every ounce of his energy level coming through that guitar when he played. I'd never heard anybody play like that. Being around Albert King, in his young days, and Steve Cropper — Stevie was on their level. He had a passion and fierceness when he played. First, he was a very energetic person. He was fun. He had a big smile, and was the nicest guy. If you shook hands with Stevie, it was like shaking hands with a blacksmith! He had one of the hardest hands I ever shook, because his hands were so strong, which is another reason I think he could pull some of that stuff off on the guitar. Ninety percent or more of Stevie's solos were live — not overdubbed. The whole idea of recording that way was Stevie's, and that's one of the reasons he approached me. He said, "How do you feel about doing solos live?" I replied, "If you can pull it off. We may have to do 15 takes, until you get the right solo." He said, "I'm going for the solos live." I said, "Perfect. No problem with me." We may have gone back and added rhythms underneath as an overdub. The only effects Stevie would let me put on his guitar were the Roland Dimension D — a chorus unit with four little buttons on it — and delay.

Was there anything about working with Stevie in the studio that would surprise his fans to hear? For instance, Jimi Hendrix — in spite of what a confident guitarist he was — hated the sound of his voice and recording his vocals.

Stevie was actually the same way. He hated his vocals, so therefore he didn't want to sing. He would come into the studio, and on a little stand next to the vocal mic I had every Halls cough drop known to man. Whatever it took to get over that insecurity. He was a guitar player who was forced to sing. Playing guitar was the easy part, whereas doing vocals is a very sensitive thing. To get him to do vocals I had to pat him on the back and say, "Come on, man. You can do it." He would pace back and forth in the control room before each song's vocals. He'd quit smoking and missed that, I think. During those takes I'd tell him, "We need to do it again." No one had ever told him, "No, it's not good enough." Here we went again with a little tension, but I got vocals out of him. I knew how to speak vocal talk, like, "Man, that word needs a little more hot sauce on it." Or "grease." I use that word a lot, and people know exactly what I'm talking about. Later, after the record was finished, he told me, "I never worked that hard in my life for vocals." I replied to him, "Well, do they sound good?" He said, "They sound good. I appreciate you pushing me." I remember I told him, "That's my job. That's what I get paid to do." I saw a lot of critical reviews of my work with him that said it was the best vocals he'd done, and I'm not going to say it was difficult, but it wasn't easy either.

You produced one of Stevie Ray Vaughan's most celebrated posthumous songs, "Life By The Drop," the closing track on The Sky is Crying album. This is a rare recording of him playing acoustic guitar in a very naked performance. I understand this song was actually an afterthought?

Yeah, we didn't end up cutting that particular song in Memphis. We ended up going to Los Angeles to do vocals and mix [for In Step]. Stevie had said, "We're going to save this song, ‘cause it's just a little acoustic song, for L.A." We didn't need all the crew and everybody there. Once we were in the studio, he played it for me in the control room and said, "This is how this's gonna go." Since it was only him and a guitar, I wanted to get a big guitar sound. They had great mics there, and I used a [Neumann] U67 close to the [sound]hole so I could get the bottom-end of the guitar, because it's a warm mic. Towards the bridge I put a condenser like a [AKG C] 451. I also used a dynamic mic so I could get close and get the picking out of it, without a lot of vocal leakage. As an engineer you try to separate that a little bit, but you're not gonna be able to entirely. He had a vocal mic hanging right in front of his mouth, and that was all done live with no overdubs. I think I had a room mic going on a separate track. I wanna say it was maybe four or five takes.

When you look back, after all these years, at this amazing catalog of music — from Stevie, to Huey Lewis, to Carlos Santana — do you have any favorites?

I've been fortunate to be involved in several classic records, but I have to say Stevie Ray. First of all, it was such a challenge. And to pull it off, and for it to end up being a "legendary" record, it made me a "legendary" producer. After that record, I was a blues god for a minute. Steve Miller's Fly Like an Eagle was also a special, special project to me, because Steve would let me experiment and try out-of-the-norm techniques, like cutting vocals in the control room right beside me, or cutting guitars with a Fender Princeton amp, at my feet, under the console. I was allowed to do those things. With Santana, just working with him, because his passionate guitar playing is one of the finest in the world! I'm telling you man, I've worked with a lot of cats, but he could play two or three notes and make you cry.