In your role as producer how do you approach a recording session? The number one focus is the song, then the arrangement needs to set it like a gem. I really think a producer's work does begin before you ever get into a studio. You've got to make sure you're recording the right material and its probably less said than it should be. How great is the song and how can you make great either by challenging the writer on lyrics or chord progressions or whatever it may be, and then working out a basic arrangement kind of in your head, before you hit the studio so that there is some kind of guiding principle to what the recording process is going to be that is steeped in a belief of how good the song is and how to best translate. From a songwriting perspective, what elements are integral when it comes to crafting and recording a pop song? First of all something should be unique, and in some way never before heard, and a uniqueness can come from a bunch of different places. But it starts by having either a sound that's identifiable or a riff or a hook that's identifiable or a lyric that's identifiable. A great song is kind of a succession of things you want to remember and ultimately can and that comes from you from all different angles, from a beat to a melody to a lyric. A record should also have a sense of motion, carrying you along in an exciting or meaningful way. Do you favor digital over analog or do you utilize both mediums? I like whatever sounds good and that seems to change over time. Both mediums work. The bigness of analog is great but, as someone who is very focused on arrangement, digital is very useful. What comprises the main elements of your recording and mixing console? We've lucked into having a Trident A Range, one of the few left standing. It's a great old console to track with, but I prefer the precision of a desk like an SSL for mixing. Lately it's become easier and easier to finalize mixes in Pro Tools. What advice you can you offer those who have home recording set ups in regards to producing better recordings? The room you're in matters! Whether you're listening, mixing or mic'ing something be aware of the room's acoustics; use them to your advantage or neutralize them. That often makes a difference between a pro-sounding recording and a demo. Do you think the proliferation of home studios and the easy access to recording technology has impacted on the standard of recordings, in a detrimental way? It's great that more people are getting involved in music making. Technology is a powerful way to level the playing field. We've started a company called Music Mastermind that to enables everyone to become musically fluent. We're at a time where the traditional models are challenged of the traditional ways of doing things, and even though I'm talking to you from a recording studio where we are right now, and where Kyle from Matchbox 20 is playing guitar with his amps all over the floor, we are doing things like we are doing them back in the 1990s, so there is still complete validity in my mind to a traditional recording session but at the same time everybody are doing things so much differently using computers and digital processing and I think that is a great thing. Ultimately all these different techniques become our new instruments, our new way of communicating so you need to take them into account. It's an exciting time to be creative!
"Carlos is incredible! It's amazing to hear someone with such an indelible tone and emotional power."
How do you go about capturing guitar tones in the studio? What mikes and mic'ing techniques do you use? It all starts at the amp (or amp modeler). We focus a lot on getting it to sound right in the room before capturing the tone with great mics such as Royers, Josephsons, U-87s, and the old standby SM-57s. Having different amps, pedals and effects help create something unique. We close mic a lot, we're right up on the cone a lot maybe off axis and maybe on but even then the room plays a role. To give you an example of what we're doing at the moment with the new Matchbox Twenty album, we've got the big amps out in the big room where a lot of the drums come from. But right now we're cutting a Vibra Champ, a little amp and we had it out in the big room and we moved it to the small room where we cut tighter drums. And in just that movement of room, and even with close mic and the same mics and everything, and same guitar, changed the character of the sound and got more what we wanted, this in your face sitting on the speaker bod. So it is important to pay attention to what environment you're recording in. How important is getting the right drum sound to the overall final recording? Drum sounds are very important. By having the vibe right coming off the drums, the whole song starts going in a good direction. You need to pay attention to that stiff from the beginning because it affects everything that comes after. If people are really feeling a great drum sound and a great drum performance, the whole record is better for it. In what ways do you think the recording process has evolved for you over the years? The more things change, the more they stay the same. I'm still listening for the emotion and am attentive to getting it across to the listener. You also became CEO of Virgin Records, directing the label's successes with Gorillaz, The Rolling Stones, Ben Harper, Janet Jackson, Lenny Kravitz and others. In the record industry climate that it is today, with the impact of downloading on record sales, what is your philosophy in tackling these issues in order for a record industry' to survive and sustain itself in future? We have to find new ways to connect. The listening audience needs to be more involved than ever. The industry must find ways to make that connection meaningful and lasting. What are your current projects we can expect to hear from you in future? We're currently in the studio making Matchbox Twenty's next album. I'm excited to be working with them again. This really only the fourth album from the band and its really killing because everybody is bringing their best game, everybody is stepping out on the songs and they're such great players now as they've been around the world so many times now, that they've just gotten better. There is a combination of energy and a little bit more better at earning their stripes somewhat so they're in this sweet spot. I think they have graduated to being the band they have always wanted to be. Also, Music Mastermind is launching a new music creation platform called Zya early next year. I can't wait to hear what people create! Interview by Joe Matera Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2011
"Though there are good and bad days in the music industry, ultimately it's the work that matters."