GC Pro Audio Solutions - Fall 2011 - (Page 14)
B O N Z A I V A U L T
By Mr. Bonzai
Bruce Swedien has recorded, mixed, produced and composed for records, TV and film, with hundreds of artists, including Sarah Vaughn, Diana Ross, Donna Summer, Roberta Flack, Mick Jagger, Curtis Mayfield, Barbra Streisand, and Patti Austin. He has won five Grammy Awards for Best Engineered Album: Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Bad, and Dangerous, and Quincy Jones’ Back on the Block and Q’s Jook Joint. Swedien’s creative skills have produced the most listened to records in history. He’s a record breakin’ engineer! Where did it all begin? When I started in this business, the goal of recording a popular record, or any kind of record, was to present the music as though the listener was there, and to re-create the original soundfield with as much accuracy and clarity as we could. One record, in my estimation, is responsible for a major revolution in recording — Les Paul and Mary Ford, “How High the Moon.” It was so successful and broke through just like a shining light. All of the sudden it dawned on me, and perhaps subconsciously the public realized it as well, that it was no longer necessary to present popular music in concert-like form. I discovered that it was perfectly all right to bend reality. On that record there is only one instrument and one voice. Les Paul plays all the instrumental parts, and Mary Ford sings all the vocal parts. There isn’t a shred of reality on that record. All of sudden, with the tremendous popularity of this piece of music, pop music took a big turn. We realized it wasn’t necessary to have reality in popular recorded music — maybe it was not even desirable. From that point on, recording took a lot of turns — all of which are fascinating to explore. But that one record forever changed popular music. I talked to Les about it and he, of course, denied that there was any real pioneering being done by him. But that record was a turning point and we’ve never looked back.
The Platinum Viking circa 1998
Bruce Swedien at an SSL 9000J in 1998.
What did you learn from Quincy Jones? He told me once, “It’s much easier to be done than to be satisfied.” I drive everybody nuts with that philosophy, of course. I also learned about Quincy’s kaleidoscopic approach to music — examining it from one angle, and then you turn it and look from another angle. What makes a great producer? A great producer is like a great director in motion pictures — he knows how to cast the work at hand and choose the right musicians, engineers, orchestrators, and copyists. Then he gives them the freedom to do what they do well. Any tips for people recording at home? The musical values are always the same.
The only difference in recording at home is that you have to keep the dogs quiet. Do you have any interesting business tips? Keep it in the family — someone you can trust. Any advice for getting a good start as an engineer? Listen to a variety of live music…a lot. Develop in your mind’s ear a benchmark based on live music, real music. Learn how to identify a good musical balance in an acoustical situation — all music is conceived to be heard with acoustical support. By acoustical support, I don’t mean reverb or echo. Then pick a good school. And finally, the most difficult thing for young people to learn: trust and follow your instincts. n
GC PRO AUDIO SOLUTIONS
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of GC Pro Audio Solutions - Fall 2011
GC Pro Audio Solutions - Fall 2011
Table of Contents
Bonzai Vault: Bruce Swedien
Secret Sauce: Just Like Starting Over
Learn to Earn
Gear Trends: Setting Bass Traps
Tech Trends: Living With Loss
Legacy: The ABCs of DSPS
Audio Myths: Follow the Bouncing Sound
GC Pro Audio Solutions - Fall 2011