Recording - January 2017 - 12

I n t e r v i e w a n d b o o k r e v i e w b y P a u l V n u k J r.

A few years ago at Sweetwater's GearFest, I had the pleasure of meeting and sharing lunch with well-known engineer
Sylvia Massy, known for her work with Tool, System Of A
Down, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Cash, Prince, and many
others. During our chat, Sylvia let me know about a book she
was writing and illustrating that would be called Recording
Unhinged: Creative and Unconventional Music Recording
Techniques.
Now that the book is out and available from Hal Leonard
Publishing (see the details at the end of this article), I thought it
would be great to talk with Sylvia further. But before we start
the interview, here's a quick review of Recording Unhinged...
As the title suggests, this is not your usual recording technique book, filled with standard recording and mixing advice
and rules. Rather than "Dos and Don'ts", it's more a book of
"never say Don't and go ahead and try it!".
The book is written in Sylvia's frank, down-to-earth, and often
sarcastically humorous style. It urges engineers young and old to
break out of sterile rooms and sterile techniques. Recording
Unhinged encourages experimentation; Sylvia explains that many
of the ideas are more about inspiration and having fun than nailing "perfect" takes and mixes. As you will read in the interview
below, Sylvia is more interested in creating memories and experiences that infuse the recording process with excitement and a
sense of adventure.
Recording Unhinged is not so much a textbook that you need
to read cover to cover in one sitting (although I have read it
through twice already [and so has his Editor!-MM]), but is
more like a concordance of tips and tricks where you can flip to
any section at any time and find inspiration. Sylvia also enlists
the help of her friends in the industry, including Jack Joseph
Puig, Hans Zimmer, Elliot Scheiner, Linda Perry, Rick Rubin,
Geoff Emerick, and many more. This star-studded cast contributes some of their best and weirdest recording secrets. The
book is topped off with Sylvia's beautiful and often hilarious
illustrations.
Unlike what you get in most of today's movie trailers, I don't
want to give up too much of the plot beforehand... but if you are
interested in the sound of tracking in odd spaces, learning about
strange and vibey music gear, and recording guitars being
thrown off of a cliff, this book is for you.
In our interview, Sylvia told me about her history in the
industry, more about the book, and further techniques and stories that didn't make it into print... and since this is our
drum/percussion issue, I also asked her about some of her
favorite mic choices, mic placements, tracking, and mixing
techniques for drums.
True to form, Sylvia called in to do the interview from the
place where she was currently in a tracking session... a castle
in Germany!
12

RECORDING JANUARY 2017

Castles, Prisons, and Submarines
To kick off our discussion, I was going to
start with "Where did the idea for the
book come from," but I'm more intrigued
by what the heck you're doing in a castle
in Germany!
Sylvia Massy: I've always had the idea
that recording should be an adventure, that
it's an experience that is more than just documenting the music, is memorable beyond
the mix, and stays with the musician forever.
So I try to build in some kind of adventure
in every session. I've found a few spots that
I really like, to inspire musicians to bring out the best in their performances, and one place that I really love is this castle in Germany
outside of Dresden, called Schloss Röhrsdorf.
Just a castle or a studio as well?
Both! It's a really unique space, it's got a Neve/Siemens console,
a whole rash of fantastic East German tube mics and recording
equipment. It's also got a bunch of incredibly solid and unusual
instruments so [the musicians] don't have to bring a thing with them
in order to really have a good time here. But it's more than just a studio, outside are vineyards and inside it's got a huge staircase and a
lot of interesting archways, hallways and staircases that are acoustically wonderful, a band apartment, a huge commercial kitchen, it's
a full experience. You come here and just immerse yourself in the
recording.
Sounds like you really love this destination!
This is my third visit, but there are other places like this that I've
come to love, too. There's a studio I went to earlier this year on an
island in a prison outside of Helsinki called Suomenlinnan Studio. It's
an opposite feeling to the castle. The castle's grand and it's legendary, you feel special being here. The prison is claustrophobic
and kind of scary, so you're going to get a different performance.
We did vocals there for a Swedish metal band called Avatar and it
really helped to bring out a different type of performance.
Who are you recording now at the castle?
They are called Flying Mammals, a band from Idaho. Another project that I did here was a set of piano/viola concertos and sonatas.
That type of music in a castle is really astounding, especially
because the castle has a beautiful antique 9' Bösendorfer that is
amazing.
Let's take a quick step back... how did you get started in the
music business?
I started in San Francisco in the 80s, where I got to do a lot of
great punk and metal bands, and I had my own all girl punk-metal
band. I learned from folks like Mark Needham and I was working
with a band called the Sea Hags, with whom I co-produced an
album with Kirk Hammett from Metallica. The album turned out great,
and they got a deal with Chrysalis Records from that recording.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - January 2017

Contents
Recording - January 2017 - Intro
Recording - January 2017 - Cover1
Recording - January 2017 - Cover2
Recording - January 2017 - 1
Recording - January 2017 - 2
Recording - January 2017 - 3
Recording - January 2017 - 4
Recording - January 2017 - 5
Recording - January 2017 - Contents
Recording - January 2017 - 7
Recording - January 2017 - 8
Recording - January 2017 - 9
Recording - January 2017 - 10
Recording - January 2017 - 11
Recording - January 2017 - 12
Recording - January 2017 - 13
Recording - January 2017 - 14
Recording - January 2017 - 15
Recording - January 2017 - 16
Recording - January 2017 - 17
Recording - January 2017 - 18
Recording - January 2017 - 19
Recording - January 2017 - 20
Recording - January 2017 - 21
Recording - January 2017 - 22
Recording - January 2017 - 23
Recording - January 2017 - 24
Recording - January 2017 - 25
Recording - January 2017 - 26
Recording - January 2017 - 27
Recording - January 2017 - 28
Recording - January 2017 - 29
Recording - January 2017 - 30
Recording - January 2017 - 31
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Recording - January 2017 - 33
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Recording - January 2017 - 72
Recording - January 2017 - Cover3
Recording - January 2017 - Cover4
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