In his twenty-five plus years in the music business, Andy Wallace has grown from an unknown home recording enthusiast to the premier mixer of his day. Andy's first commercial breakthrough came with his co-production (along with Rick Rubin) and mixing of Slayer's Reign in Blood and continued with high-profile work on such projects as mixing Nirvana's Nevermind, Rage Against The Machine's self-titled debut and it's follow-up Evil Empire, and production and engineering of Jeff Buckley's debut album, Grace.
Where were you raised?
Well, I grew up in New Jersey — that's where I was born. Clifton was the town I lived in until I went away to college. I spent time out in the Midwest while I was going to the University of Notre Dame. I got involved with playing in bands out there.
What did you study at Notre Dame?
No kidding — you must be a bright guy.
[laughs] Not bright enough to go into chemical engineering!
And you finished your degree?
Yeah. I was out in the Midwest and started playing in bands. It carried on after I finished school. I didn't go into chemical engineering — I really wasn't interested in that. I continued playing in bands out there and doing some recording. I got a job working at a small studio in Illinois.
So you pretty much learned as you were working there?
Yeah. Pretty much. After I had finished with school I was out in Illinois for some time.
Could you frame this in a time period?
I was in college during the '60s. Then I was out playing in bands in Illinois for the first part of the '70s. I went back to New Jersey and played in some bands there for a while. I guess it was in 1973 that I got a deal to do a record out in Los Angeles.
After you had received your degree in chemical engineering, did your folks think you were nuts trying to pursue a career in music?
No, they were pretty supportive. They figured that I'd find a way to do whatever it was that I was going to do. So yeah, they were pretty good. In any event, I got sort of a record deal — it was more of a production company deal. I was supposed to be with Paramount records, but that whole thing ultimately fell apart. It did get me out to Los Angeles though.
Was that assignment based on the work that you had done with your own band?
I came up in bands playing as a singer/songwriter — a bass player, guitar player. It was based on recordings I had done.
Had you played in bands that anyone would remember?
Probably not. I put out a couple of indie albums with my band First Friday back when I was in college. That band dissolved in 1970, but for the past thirteen years, we've been getting together to play one gig a year. We made a whole weekend party out of it, inviting our friends and family. We've done it all over the place — East Coast, West Coast.
So you got this deal with Paramount...
Well, it was with a production company actually. It was supposed to result in an album that would be released on Paramount.
Were you engineering?
No, it wasn't so much engineering. I had a little home studio, right about 1970 when they first started having those 1/4" 4-track machines. It was there that I did the demos that led to the project in Los Angeles. I started doing work out there, playing in a lot of different types of bands to pay the bills. I was still trying to pursue the artist aspect of my career. I got really involved with the music community out there. Playing bass on other people's records. Singing backup. This was the early '70s — 1974 maybe. It was around that time that I started looking for a place to set up my little 4-track studio. At the time, rent was really inexpensive out in Los Angeles. I had been working in a lot of these little 8-track studios, these really old, old 8-track studios — but doing really great stuff. I got a commercial location and built a studio. You know, went in there, did the carpentry. That was called Hit City West.
What types of records were you working on at that point?
Well, we did everything. We did a lot of publishing demos, a lot of artist development demos for different companies. Ultimately some of the albums that were recorded in that studio were the first Mötley Crüe album [Too Fast...