Gary Young was the flamboyant original drummer for Pavement. He was also the engineer for all their recordings up through the Watery, Domestic CD. He still resides in Stockton, California, and runs his Louder Than You Think (16 track 1"analog/ Pro Tools system) studio out in the walnut orchards. He's recently completed a self-released album, (Gary Young's Hospital Things We Do For You) and did some recordings with Scott Kannberg (of Pavement) that are to be released as Pavement B- sides. (Look for a complete interview with Gary in the Tape Op book, due out Fall 2000 through Feral House Books.)
If I was going to start my recording studio business again right now, I'd buy an eight track mixing board and spend every penny I had on microphones.
It's well worth it, don't you think?
The other thing is you buy a decent one and it's worth as much as you pay for it or more. A good microphone never goes down in price.
Is your studio still in your house?
It was in my garage, but my neighbors gave us a hard time. We got really lucky; we bought a house that's seven miles outside of town on an acre in the corner of a walnut orchard — it's got two whole houses. The day before we signed the papers to buy the house someone came and bombed one house. The guy who lived there before us was a junkie. Of course the bank wouldn't sell me the house because it was burnt down and the insurance company wouldn't pay me because it wasn't mine. I haggled these people for year and finally they all agreed to fix it and sell it to us at the agreed upon price. The frame of the house remained but most of the inside was fixed. In that budget was enough to add on a 20 X 30 room extended from the other house. The other house had a garage about 30 X 30 turned into a living room which became the band room, and the 20 X 30 room became the control room, and the closets became isolation booths. My brother swiped a computer program that costs $50,000 for the design of the room. We built the control room five-sided with canted walls and no right angles — a really fancy control room design. You can walk around and there is very little change as to what anything sounds like, no matter where you sit in the entire room. I was lucky to have somebody tell me how to do it, and he came out here and helped us do it.
So you have no neighbors.....
Well, they're three quarters of a mile away. I could put the drums on the roof and they wouldn't know or care anyway. It turns out that my sound proofing is more to keep noise out than in.
You get to the point where that's the reason, obviously.
Have you heard my new record yet?
No I don't, I haven't heard that.
I made a thousand of these things, because after I had the "Plant Man" thing...
Yeah, did that do alright?
No, because that's when Big Cat records quit with everybody. What happened was that we had the record, the video came out and then the record company quit. Pavement — I understand them quitting with me because I was drunk and stuff, which I'm not anymore.
You don't drink anymore?
It's been thirteen months.
That seemed to be the biggest grievance that everyone in the band had.
Yeah, but the thing was is that we certainly attracted a lot of attention. They complain about it, but if it wasn't for me, with all that antics, I don't think it would have gone quite as far as it did. There's no question that it was out of hand but that's part of life... in a way.
Hey, it was fun. So you got dropped right after the first record came out?
Yeah and I made this other one. I had a thousand pressed and I still have 950 of the damn things.
Did you do all the recording and writing? Did you play all the instruments yourself?
I don't do all that on purpose — I just can't get anybody to help me! I can strum a guitar and I can play chords on a piano and I drum okay. Drumming I don't really have a problem with. I don't think I sing worth a shit. I have two guys who play in the band who
are good singers but they refuse to sing. They say my voice has
character so I sing. I'm getting better at it, the new one is more
in key than the old one. Do you have a Pro Tools thing?
No, I've used one for mastering but I don't have anything here.
Well, I just got that auto-tune thing, I put it on my vocals because I just wanted to see and it's not that far off.
Those auto-tuners scare me.
What I would use it for is if someone played a really great solo but there was one wrong note, you could change the note.
And fly it over to another track?
Yeah, I would consider it for that. I think the Pro Tools thing is good for mixes. What I really like about it is that it remembers everything. The problem with me is if you do one band and then another band comes in, the guy from the first band will call you next week and say, "I love the whole thing but the vocals aren't loud enough." You're fucked. I don't know if you can but I can write all the settings down and come back the next week and put them back the way they were and for the life of me it never sounds the same.
I totally agree, I don't even try anymore — it doesn't work that way.
Pro Tools remembers all that junk and you can do that kind of stuff.
So you'll do most of the main tracking on your 16 track and then put it in Pro Tools and maybe add a few things if you need to?
Yeah and the other thing that's cool about it is that you can physically go in and do a fade. You don't have to worry about twisting the knobs at the end of the song to get rid of that guitar noise. Another cool thing about it is you can erase stuff in between... like at the beginning of a guitar solo when the guitar player starts up and click,click... I'm always scared of doing that on my regular tape machine, with Pro Tools you can do that.
Do you feel like it makes work a lot faster?
I don't think it makes it any faster because I think you have to dick with it. I think that it makes it more repeatable and if you're really stuck on using analog, the SMPTE slave driver thing syncs up to my multi-track dead on, two samples off. What can you can do is fly a vocal track on to the Pro Tools and fix it and put it back. I snagged one of these things used with a computer for three thousand bucks.
That's not bad.
If you're interested Digi-Design has a website where they have them used.
I'd have to save money up for awhile. So what kind of work have you been doing for the last few years?
I do ska bands. I've done 4 ska CDs, in the past year, of 4 different bands. It's a big thing here now.
Real young kids?
Well, college or high school, yeah. I also did something with [Scott] Kannberg.
I heard about that, can you elaborate on that?
It was sort of like Pavement. He came and we did two songs. One of them is really good — I played it for somebody and they said, "This sounds more like Pavement." I'm bummed about this because, in a lot of ways, I wish that they would come here and let me make another good one. I think that it would happen. To me, the drums on all the new albums... I love this [Steve West] guy, he's a great guy and everything, but he sucks. He's got no inventiveness, all the drums sound the same on all the songs. When I found out that Nigel Godrich was going to do this I said, "Wow, this is going to be really great." They sent it to me a few months ago and there's nothing really interesting to me at all. Have you heard the new one?
Yeah, I actually helped do some demos. They were mostly just practicing here. I did demos for the previous record [Brighten the Corners] too, with just Stephen [Malkmus] on an 8 track, and I like the demo stuff better! I just like the looseness and stuff.
To me, I'm prejudiced against it — I'm not a good judge of it. I just wish that they would make something more interesting. They did, and I know they can.