If, by chance, you have not fallen off the face of the earth in the past couple of months, you've probably become familiar with journal of Mixerman, an anonymous diarist on www.prosoundweb.com who has made the band Bitch Slap the most famous characters of rock legend since Spinal Tap. Both bands have managed to catch the consciousness of the people who really know music from the inside out. But here, the similarity ends. Where Spinal Tap were loveable fops, Bitch Slap usually are unlovable lunks. Where Spinal Tap fell into success in spite of all natural adversities, Bitch Slap seems destined to never even finish a record. Where Spinal Tap were characters of fiction, Bitch Slap are real.
Or are they? No one knows for sure, as their biographer/ recordist Mixerman is a character of audio Noir — neither hero nor villain, documenting and assailing the process of modern record- making like Martin Luther nailing his document to the door of the Castle church.
The diary is merciless, absurd, and impossible to ignore, attacking everybody on the food chain. It's also damn funny, not merely for its narrative style but because it's a cautionary tale resonating with people on all levels of the business. Like the best documentaries, you don't know whether to laugh or cry.
Tape Op writers and friends were asked to pose questions to Mixerman after which they were electronically bundled and mailed to him in his secret lair. From different mouths, the interview style may seem a little erratic, but the sentiments had a lot in common: "How could this happen?" "Where have we gone wrong?" All good questions. Here to take on all comers, we have both the mixer and the man.
What I think is interesting about your saga is that it doesn't embrace the usual pecking order of spurious conduct. Sure, the A&R person is a moron, but to different extents so are people in the band — at the studio, and in the control room. Everyone has their own foibles.
Well, being the narrator of this epic session, I'm usually all too happy to display everyone's foibles, supposedly even my own. After all, it's these shortcomings that greatly affect and hinder our progress. In all honesty, as much as I make the band out to be a grotesque bunch of egotistical losers, they are victims of the system. Being required to write hundreds of songs over the course of two years after being bid on like they were the next Beatles? That's just cruel and unusual punishment, no matter how deserved.
You have gone to great pains with Bitch Slap to create a working environment physically as well as in other ways. How can you get a band feeling relaxed in what is often a sterile environment?
Keeping a band happy and relaxed is, without a doubt, the most crucial part of the recording process. As much as I bitch about these guys, I do keep them happy and relaxed. Well, maybe not Eyore, the guy's usually three sheets to the wind, so he's basically a lost cause as far as getting decent readings from the Happyometer. I get along fine with each of them on a personal level. It's how they interact with each other that is problematic. Every crowd has a personality. If you go to a play, a movie, or comedy club, you might notice that the crowd has a definite quality to it. Whether that be subdued, lively, giddy, angry, whatever. That's because each person brings a certain energy to the room. Those individual energies are trapped in the room, and start to react and interact, manifesting into one greater energy. This energy starts to affect us as individuals, and we begin to react within the parameters of the greater energy. The same holds true for small groups, even for couples. Our energies interact, and certain aspects of our personalities are brought out. Ever have one particular friend that brings out the devilish side of you? It's no secret that this band's energies don't react well. That's why on one of the segments, I asked, "Is it me?" In other words, is my energy the one that's fucking the whole thing up? Sadly, in my true evaluation of this, and regardless of some of my open ponderings in the Diary, my presence tends to improve the band's relationship. If my presence didn't improve the energy, I'd be out of there in a flash. What I do to try and improve the energy, is bring comic relief. I try to be as up, and as fun as possible, without losing focus on the task at hand. Yes, I often times hang up tapestries, put up lava lamps, candles, special lights, much like many other engineers in L.A. And that improves the physical sterility of a room. But those tools are no replacement for a lacking in positive human vibe. It's important to try to maintain a positive vibe in a session. I have to admit, I'm not always successful, but that's what I strive for.
Orson Welles already had a promising career before the War of the Worlds broadcast catapulted him to fame. How do you feel about the Mixerman identify competing with its alter ego? I mean, there are even T-shirts.
Here's the crux of the matter. Mixerman is an entertainer that knows something about engineering. My alter-ego is an engineer that knows something about entertaining.
And of course War of the Worlds was fake. That's what's so funny about this, it's all too absurd to be fake.
A lot of time was spent on getting drum sounds. Both you and the producer thought that you captured really good drum sounds. Please disclose your drum mics and mic'ing technique that you used on the Bitch Slap sessions.
I can't quite understand how my mic selections could mean anything when the product isn't available to...