Over the past four decades, producer/engineer Terry Date has racked up a gallery of multi-platinum monuments to his golden ears. Unforgettable moments from his catalog include the important role he had in shaping the sonic direction of rock through his groundbreaking work with Soundgarden, Pantera, White Zombie, Mother Love Bone, Limp Bizkit, Korn, Deftones, Prong, Staind, Metal Church, Dream Theater, and Smashing Pumpkins, among countless other heavy classics.
Early in your career you produced Mother Love Bone's Apple. What was it like working with the vocalist, the late Andrew Wood?
I remember a number of things we did with Andy during that record. When we were doing his vocals, I'd set him up in this old ‘70s kind of room – with a drum booth off the side of the live room. Since it was a ‘70s studio, they always put the drums in a dry area and had the big live room for everybody else. Andy always had his keyboard set up in front of him, because he felt comfortable having either his hands on it as he was singing, or hitting a key for a note, from time to time. I put Andy in that little corner alcove, with his keyboard and a microphone, and he always had candles set up on the keyboard for a vibe. I'd have him sing the song three or four times, and record all three takes. When we felt we had something, I'd have him come in the control room, and he and I would sit together and comp the final vocal take. With Andy, I would put some delay and reverb in his headphones while he was singing, just to get the performance. I tried to make the headphones sound as live and inspiring as I could. All these guys – like Andy and Chris [Cornell, of Soundgarden] – were used to playing live. They tended to play medium-sized clubs at that time, so I tried to make it sound somewhere between a medium-sized club and a larger arena. Something to be inspiring when they were singing, [in order] to make the performance come out. Andy's vocal style was somewhere between David Lee Roth and Freddie Mercury, and his personality was too. I think more than his singing voice, my memories are of his personality, and his charisma as a person. He had this "little kid" quality that was really magnetic. I remember on one particular song we were sitting in the control room listening to vocals, deciding which parts of which takes were the best, when all of a sudden he jumped up and ran out of the room. I was thinking, "What the fuck?" He ran into the vocal booth and there were three-foot flames coming up off the carpet! I guess one of his candles had fallen over, hit the carpet, and started it on fire, so we had a bonfire coming up underneath his keyboard. [laughs] I remember my wife and I driving once, after a Mother Love Bone rehearsal, and we saw Andy walking down the street with his keyboard under his arm. We slowed down, and I said to him, "Andy, rehearsal ended two hours ago. You're just now leaving?" He replied, "Yeah, I stayed a little longer because I wrote another album." That's the way he was. He was so prolific; he lived for it.
Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger helped kick off a new sound and era for rock. What was it like in the control room, capturing the power of that band live to tape?
Well, the funny thing was Chris was in the control with me, recording! We recorded Badmotorfinger at Studio D Recording in Sausalito, California. It was basically a one-room studio; one big live room, with a couple of little iso-booths. I had Matt [Cameron, drums] in the middle of the room, and then I had Ben [Shepherd, bass] and Kim [Thayil, guitar] in the room with him, but their amps were separated. There wasn't any place for Chris to be, because his voice is so loud it would have gotten into the drum mics. So Chris was in the control room with me, playing and singing when the band played live.
What mics would you use on an intense drummer like Matt Cameron?
My drum set up for Matt would have been very similar to what I did all the time, and still do, which is very basic: a [Shure SM]57 on the snare drum, standard positioning, nothing fancy at all. Typically, I wouldn't use a bottom mic on the snare drum, because I never liked the sound of...