David Minehan played guitar, sang and wrote songs for the Boston punk band The Neighborhoods from 1979-1992. After the 'Hoods he played guitar with Paul Westerberg on the 14 Songs tour and even filled in for Brad Whitford of Aerosmith. At his Wooly Mammoth Sound Studio in Boston, which he shares with musician/producer Dave Westner, he has recorded many great New England artists including Scruffy the Cat, Salem 66, Gang Green, The Freeze, Mark Cutler, The Figgs, The Shelley Winters Project, The Gentlemen, Lucky 57, Jabe, The Kickovers, Asa Brebner, Robin Lane and the Chartbusters, Natalie Flanagan and Willie "Loco" Alexander and the Boom Boom Band.
You told me you started out on the Tascam 144. What was next?
I went to a 4-track reel-to-reel, a Tascam 3440 1/4", with the accompanying board. I was recording demos for bands to present to producers and label people, but the bug, the bite, was so severe by then. I remember getting the first ADAT and being so bummed out because the analog 1/4" sounded so much better.
When was this?
Late '80s. The digital age had come upon us. But I was using drum machines to write songs and stuff, and it still was a bit of a cocoon of home recording. I think that when people start to make a room happen and record real drums and stuff like that, it's such a baptism by fire. People don't realize it's a lot harder to make it all fit together when you're a novice. You might have the right mics and a room that sounds decent — but if you don't understand phase relationships or overlapping instrument frequencies they can really create a dangerous overload of certain frequency ranges, if you don't sculpt them properly. I remember being very daunted by that.
So you got the ADAT. What was your next purchase?
After that I found this combination rehearsal space and recording studio up on the top floor of this building, where these guys had built a sort of control room. It was just a glorified rehearsal space, one room, but I found places where I could hide amps in between wall structures and stuff. That was my first foray into recording other people. And that was with the quintessential Mackie and a pair of ADATS. Again, apologies to all my guinea pig clients. Sometimes it just clicked and sometimes it just didn't. But I felt so at home. I got to work with bands, and after a while some of the records I was doing started to come out, like the Freeze and Gang Green. I was like, 'Wow, you can make a big noise!' I remember this guy Mark Cutler, the genius of Providence, who writes 200 songs a year and they're all good. I got to do a record with him and it was just so much fun.
Do you have any pieces of gear or mics that you can't live without?
I have a pair of Neve 1064s that are just so trustworthy. And I have to say that in this world, Manley makes new gear that really works. I bought a Massive Passive, and holy shit! I bought an SE C-2 compressor, it's a one rack space, kind of like the electronics of two 1176s crammed into one. It's a stereo compressor with Neve output trans- formers, so you get kind of a Neve line out thing going on.
What about your board and tape machines?
I got the best I could afford, a Neotek Elite. It's clean, flexible, very dependable, the EQ is damn good, as well as the preamps. I still try to print on analog first most times. It's an MTR-90 Otari, it's a workhorse. When I work just in the analog domain, it never fails to be like, "Wow, this sounds so nice!" And I'm a latecomer to the digital world, but I have to say, with Pro Tools and the automation — it is nice to work on a mix and sit back and listen to the mix when it's going down instead of a physical obstacle course with different people manning mutes and fader levels and sends.
And you mix down to 1/2"?
Half-inch, yeah. That's another one of my favorite pieces of gear. It's an Ampex 102 1/2", it's the flagship of 1/2" mastering decks out there.
How do you like to record drums?
I wish I had the absolute fearless commitment to say, "You know what, let's make these drums three tracks and a couple stereo." But I tend to over-record for the safety net factor. I will commit three mics to one kick. Inside an ATM-25 is my favorite. Outside, away from the blast hole, I'll try a Royer 121. And the NS-10 speaker as a microphone combined does really work — it's really...