Originally beginning his career in Connecticut before later moving to Florida where he established Audio Hammer Studios, producer and mixer Jason Suecof
is one of metal's in-demand producers. In the course of his career, Suecof has worked with artists such as All That Remains, Devildriver, Daath, August Burns Red, God Forbid, The Black Dahlia Murder, Demon Hunter, Bury Your Dead, Job For A Cowboy, Trivium, Chimaira and many, many others. His unique approach to metal recordings along with his signature production and mixing methods has stamped itself onto countless metal albums. Joe Matera
recently caught up with Seucoff
to discuss his production career, the importance of drums and recording metal bands in general.
UG: I want to begin today by asking you, how did you start out in production?
I started playing guitar when I was eight years old. And I was always messing around with recording around then, which was around 1988 and then by 1994, I had opened up my own studio in my basement where I was living in Connecticut. Here, I'd record a lot of the hardcore scene that was going on there at the time. Bands like Ground Zero, Red Tide - which interesting enough featured Justin Foley on drums and who is now, the drummer of Killswitch Engage. Anyway, it was the whole New England scene, in its early days somewhat, before it was the New England Scene if you know what I mean.
When you started your studio, did you start out working in the digital recording realm?
No, it was in analog. I had a half inch 16-track machine and it was awesome so I went through a number of different analog consoles before finally moving onto Pro Tools in 2002.
How did recording metal bands on analog compare to recording bands onto Pro Tools?
I think it really depended on the band. I think Pro Tools made it possible, obviously, in the realm of certain things, and to make recording various things highly possible, where with analog you had to really get it right the first time or get used to punching in extensively. So you had to be an amazing player. But I think probably Pro Tools is as good for any genre of music and not just metal. I think Pro Tools has kind of spoiled everyone in a way, especially with musicians as when they play now, they tend to think Pro Tools will take care of everything for them when really, it is not the situation at all. You still need to be a good player.
You've worked with Trivium, All That Remains, The Black Dahlia Murder, Chimaira, DevilDriver, God Forbid just to name a few
"I really believe that if you don't have an awesome drum sound on a metal album, then the rest of it will just sound weak."
Yeah and it is always fun to work with bands like those because they have all made albums before I worked with them in the studio. Working with Trivium was great because we kind of started before my studio got kind of busy. We had done the demo and then we did Ember To Inferno, and by the time we did Ascendancy, it was cool because they had a real budget to go into the studio, and because of that, I could check out a real drum room. And that really gave me the chance to expand my studio's horizons and to feel what it was like to be working in a giant studio, something I could never afford. I would never place any of those bands in the category of, where, if analog hadn't existed they wouldn't exist. I mean there are bands that I've grown up with and worked with and knowing what I know now, it would depend on Pro Tools if you know what I'm talking about? Analog in a way made it harder for people to realize that it was not Every once in awhile I'll get a drummer that will come in and play a song all the way through, and that usually never happens. And then I'll say, do it again' and they'll be like what?' Punching in is just a normal part of recording whether it is analog, or digital. It is just normal stuff I have always done since I've had analog stuff.
As a musician yourself does it help when you a approach a production session?
It definitely helps because I approach everything first as a musician. Whenever I am mixing or engineering something, it is strictly approached in a musical way where I will try and make everything musical in a way. I don't go oh there is something going on in the 57 Hz range, so I need to fix that'. I will just move the mic and start over if I don't have the tone I want with the mic.
How important are drums to you in metal records, especially in capturing them from the outset?
To me they are the most important thing on an album. I really believe that if you don't have an awesome drum sound on a metal album, then the rest of it will just sound weak. You can have an awesome guitar tone and an awesome vocal but if the drums sound like weak or papery, I think that the rest of the album will be sounding like it is a joke. I grew up jamming to my brother's drum playing so I get really involved in the whole drum thing. I spend more of my time getting the drums sounding right and sounding powerful, even now where we just invested in getting a brand new drum room just because I love doing drums.
When it comes to capturing guitar tones and drum tones what is your approach?
We have so many guitar heads, such as Bogner, Marshall, loads of them. But I do to prefer to use a lot of Peavey stuff and default to Peavey as I can usually get my tones quickly with a 5150 or a 6505 which are both awesome. And I will throw in a 57 and 421 and sit there and mess with it for like half an hour or an hour and if I feel like I am failing on the tone I'll go in and punch the mics in the face (laughs)
What comprises your main studio console?
I am using a 16 channel SSL summing X mixer which has 16 channels of summing on it and three channels of the brown EQ and two channels of the original G EQ. I used to have a SSL G console but it doesn't necessarily replicate it the way the SSL did because you don't have a giant power supply. But I am happy with it because I am not actually just summing in Pro Tools.
What do you think of the whole loudness wars debate?
I hate it and really don't think there is any reason for people to ruin their albums by making them so loud. I think a lot of it is not as worse as it used to be, as a lot of people are thinking they prefer to have a good sounding album now than a loud sounding album, but there is always those people that just want to crush and I suppose you've got to let your client have what they want. As long as it doesn't destroy it in the mastering process then I can deal with it. It hurts my feelings listening to it as I know how much work and how much time one has spent on it. I like to go as loud as you can without sounding stupid. And I actually like having it just a bit lower, I mean the volume knob is just there, you just need to turn it up a little bit.
You're currently guitarist with Charred Walls of the Damned which features Ripper Owens. What is the status with the project?
"Pro Tools has spoiled everyone in a way, especially with musicians as when they play now, they tend to think Pro Tools will take care of everything for them. But you still need to be a good player."
It is still ongoing as far as I know. I usually don't tour with them only because I am recording for most of the year. I am sure they'll do a tour or something and I am sure Richard [Christy] will hit me up probably in eight months or something with a bunch of riffs and some songs. I've been a fan of [bassist] Steve DiGiorgio since I was twelve and working with him in this band, man it is great, I'm a giant fan of Carcass and Death and grew up listening to tech metal and so it is a dream come true for me.
You have injected humor into metal, especially with an earlier project called Crotchduster where you assumed the alias of Fornicus 'Fuckmouth' McFlappy
Yeah it is old school isn't it? I only had a chance to mess with it around 2002 and 2003 and it is basically just me making fun of metal. I think metal is pretty fun. Dude, I write metal and play but I still think metal is funny. And you have to know that, otherwise you're in for some fuckin' trouble. The idea started out similar to like a Tenacious D type thing but it wasn't that at all by the time we finished. Funnily when I put the whole thing into Pro Tools and once I got it in the system, I had fun mixing it and it was more of a joke than anything but people like it so that is fun. It was fun and silly.
Finally, how has producing and recording metal bands evolved for you over the years?
Everything has become way more user friendly for the home studio type of musician. And a lot of times now, we can mix something for people who tracked it at home whether that be DI-ed guitar tracks or vocals or whatever, I still think you're not going to get the type of drum tones at home that you would at a studio. Unless you have an amazing living room, which is what we've been looking for forever and never found it until we later found it across the street, and luckily it was diffused correctly which helped us have to treat it minimally. It is a matter of having that type of right room that airs your drums the way it is suppose to sound. But it has become a lot easier for people to record at home.
Interview by Joe Matera