greg norman --> intern --> musician --> repair tech --> engineer --> greg norman

Greg Norman has worn many hats. For 15 years he's worked for Steve Albini, helping build and run Chicago's Electrical Audio, but he also records at his home and takes on many other projects.

And he's a nice guy.

What makes for a good engineer?

You don't want to be the dick in the way. Or just not have a good way of communicating. I don't have a problem telling a band that they've flubbed a take. There's a way to communicate that in a way that doesn't make everyone feel awful! I still talk to people who have recorded and had bad experiences. At the end of the session, they hated the guy because they had the worst direction and communication. It's tough. You're stuck together in a room for 12 to 14 hours a day!

I finished a session the other day where I went 10 hours without eating anything and kept suggesting breaks. It never happened. 

It's funny you brought that up. That happened to me last week. A person came in to record five or six songs for basic tracks in two days. It was that sort of scenario. It felt like if they weren't doing something every second that an opportunity was being wasted. I can deal with that for two days or so. The longest session I worked on was 3 1/2 months. It was four people, and their mom, who never wanted to take any breaks. It was a trial. I remember saying, "You know, I'll do this again but I need a significant amount of money." The studio salary didn't cut it. 

You lost three months of your life!

Exactly. I broke up with a long-term girlfriend. Everyday was noon to midnight. It was a mixed blessing. Usually the types of bands that come in here are short and quick. They're paying for everything themselves. We never got into that stride of a big studio getting big sessions that last for months and months. We saw a tiny bit of that around 2000 to 2003. But our main fuel is bands that come in from three to twelve days. No one's had to give up six months of his or her life to babysit. I'd have to get paid really well to burn bridges with all the other bands I'd have to turn down. They'd go someplace else and get used to not recording with me! I'm a pretty patient person, so it does depend on what's going on. 

"When people ask me what bands I've recorded that I like, I never think of the bands I like musically. I think of the good times and the people I get along with."

I think there's a misperception that someone in our shoes has a preferred way they'd always like to work. 

Definitely. When people ask me what bands I've recorded that I like, I never think of the bands I like musically. I think of the good times and the people I get along with. People who are great, funny and smart. There are some great bands musically that bring a weird sort of tension and make mixing go on for a long time. I wish bands had more money to do what they wanted to do. I feel like a lot of bands that record here are just making it — just squeezing that last $200. It's cool when you work with people who have recorded a lot of records. They know the expectations and they're not stressed out by it. 

Yeah, when you get someone that's one their fourth or fifth record they know to book enough days. They come prepared. 

They know what to expect. It usually goes more smoothly. I look forward to those sessions with old friends too. I almost feel bad.

You're getting paid to hang out with friends!


What other work do you do?

I do a lot of freelance tech work for some stupid reason. I'm curious and interested in it. I have a Sony MXP-3000 board and I bought that board because it has a modular EQ section and a modular mic preamp section. I bought it so I can make my preamps and stick them in there. 


More Interviews