When I interviewed John and his engineer Ryan Hewitt for Tape Op #61 in February of 2007, they were in the middle of making this record. Between John's touring with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Ryan's working on some other records at the time, including Flogging Molly's Float which he did in Ireland, their schedules didn't link up when John need to finish the record. So Ryan suggested his pal, Adam Samuels (Tape Op #37) could finish up the album. We gave Adam a call and he clued us in to finishing and mixing the album: "The Empyrean's a handmade record. It was recorded on and mixed from two Studer A-800 24-track machines locked together with a Lynx. There's a lot of tape manipulation going on; backwards effects, speed changes, etc. We mixed the record on John's 40 channel API which has 560 graphics and no automation to an Ampex ATR 102 1/2" at 30 IPS. It was John, myself, and Josh Klinghoffer working together on the mix. We'd mix a verse or maybe a verse and chorus and once we were sure we had it, we'd mix the next section. Then, I'd cut the half-inch tape together for the final master. John wanted drastic changes from section to section and that's how we got it. There were no computers involved at any point. When you work that way you have failures and successes and we dealt with both. We took the tapes to Bernie Grundmann to master and he did two separate sessions, one for the vinyl which stayed completely analog and another for the CD." I really like The Empyrean. It's different from John's last six (!) albums that he did, each of which was recorded very quickly and each of which was very cohesive because of the rapid recording processs and singular focus of each album. This album covers a lot more ground musically, as you'd expect for a record that was several years in the making. When I talked to John in early 2007 about making this record he said, "I'm concentrating on the mix being in a constant state of change... having the music be sonically always in a state of change." The Empyrean meets this challenge, with each song creating it's own evolving sonic atmosphere. Frequent collaborator Josh Klinghoffer plays on the record as well as guest spots by Flea and Johnny Marr. This record also features John's guitar playing a bit more. The first track, "Before the Beginning", is a nine-minute instrumental that is essentially one really long guitar solo that evokes a dubby David Gilmour. John is one of a very small handful of people who could pull this off and fans of his playing will dig this album. johnfrusciante.com -JB

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

Or Learn More