Al Schmitt Interview :""
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Adrian Lucas Witaszczyk: There are so many extraordinary things that you've done over the years… Looking back at your career, how did you find the time to do it all? You have to be not only very well organized but also self-confident? What is your work organization like and do you have any problems making decisions?
Al Schmitt: I've found the time to do it all because I just love what I do. I work a lot and I never get tired of going into the studio. I Just really enjoy it. I think the key was that hard work has never been a problem for me. Oh, and I guess I live long enough to do it all! And with regard to the next part of your question, no, I don't have any problems making decisions. I know pretty much what I want to do and what I want to achieve. So when I have the opportunity, I make up my mind quickly.
You started your adventure in the world of recording studios in New York, during weekend trips to the studio belonging to your uncle Harry Smith... What fascinated you the most in your uncle's studio?
Yes, that’s true. I would go over there every weekend and spend the weekend with him and watch him as he recorded.
His best friend was Les Paul, so, Les Paul was my uncle Les and I would hang out with him a lot, as well as with all the great singers and musicians that he worked with. I would get to be there with everybody, and then, they would talk to me and it was just a wonderful experience. And it was a glamorous kind of life, you know? So, when I grew up, I wanted to be just like my uncle Harry.
Was it love at first sight? You know… You entered the studio and already knew that you would spend the rest of your life there, or was it a passion that developed slowly?
Absolutely! From when I was a child I always knew what I wanted to do. I always wanted to be an engineer, like my uncle.
What skill do you value the most in yourself?
Oh, the fact that you can count on me, and if I say I'm going to do something, I do it. If you ask me if I can help and it's possible for me to do it, I will do that. Oh, and I'm always on time. I don't disappoint people. I have some features of character, my personality that I like. I grew up like that. My father taught me to treat everyone like I wanted to be treated, so I do that. So, if I say I'm going to do something, I do it.
Album or artist who has defined your musical taste?
Oh boy. Well, Henry Mancini would be the first artist, then Frank Sinatra would be another. And, as far as rock and roll, certainly a band like Toto and Steely Dan… Yeah, that pretty much says it.
Was there anything you were afraid of in the recording studio at the beginning of your career? Something you thought you would never learn?
Wow. I don't remember having any fears, but yes. I was afraid of recording a large orchestra at one time. That was something that I was a little bit afraid of. And the biggest fear I had was of French horns. So the engineer that I was learning from explained to me that there was nothing to be afraid of. He showed me how to record them and I went on and did it and that's it. I don't have any fears anymore.
You recorded Michael Crawford.... do you remember his vocal chain?
Michael Crawford. Oh my God. No, I don't remember Michael’s vocal chain details, but I think It was probably a Neumann U47 and a Neve 1073 preamp I think. Yeah, that was pretty much it. Maybe also a Fairchild compressor.
Did his voice require any special treatments?
No, not really. He’s a great singer, it was all his beautiful voice.
Where did your love for classical music orchestra come from?
Wow. Yeah, I love large orchestras! My uncle would take me to Carnegie Hall and we saw a large organ, and a really large orchestra there and I just fell in love. I love music, and all kinds of music. I love classical music, I love opera, I love Bebop Jazz. I love it all, the Big Band Swing. So, yeah, I just have a love for music period.
How do you usually prepare for your studio work?
Usually I find out from the producer what the instrumentation is going to be. I'll call him up and find out exactly what we're doing and what they're looking for. And then, I sit down with my assistant and we figured out how to setup everything. How are we going to set up the musicians and we figure out what microphones we are going to use. Then we get to the studio, something around three hours before the start time and we set everything up. We check everything out, all the microphones. We make sure everything's working correctly; we make sure that we don't have any phasing problems, and that's it. So, usually, by the time the musicians are getting into the studio, I'm all ready to go.
What do you pay attention to when making your first decisions about the shape of the sound? Are you concentrating on key instruments? The construction and arrangement of the song? Its Dynamics? Dramaturgy? Maybe you try to understand the story presented by the vocalist, and on this basis you choose the sound and the way you mix the project?
Wow, that's a tough question. Well, I try to find out if it's a vocal song, who the singer is, and what the song is about. I try to talk to the singer before the session if it's possible, and find out what they liked to hear in their headphones. So, I try to prepare for everything. I think one of my good qualities is the fact that I'm always prepared and ready to go, and there are no last minute surprises.
How important is pre-production for you?
Pre Production is the most important thing. It is where you have to understand what's going on in order to prepare for everything. So, the pre production is when you sit down and decide what kind of sound you're looking for, what's the expectations, what key, what’s the instrumentation, who the singer is, and then figure out how are you going to capture all that.
How important is it for you to choose the right instruments, to achieve so-called natural separation?
Well, I don't particularly like a lot of separation and things like that. I like things that bleed. So I always use really good microphones. Most of the time, the microphones are in the Omni position. So they're open all the way around because I love capturing the leakage that gives things a little bit more of a three dimensional sound. So, I look for the leakage and try to use it as much as I can.
So, are you using bleed on any tracks?
Yes, I love the bleed, sometimes even on vocals.
Looking at your career I get the impression that you pay special attention to vocals, am I right?
Oh yes, of course! The vocal is the most important thing! I mean, if that will be the singing artist, the vocal is the most important. I always tell people that on the record, the artist's name goes on the front. If you're lucky, your name goes on the back. You know, it's an artist's record and you must pay most detail to the main artist, the singer. You have to make sure that they feel comfortable, that they are hearing well, that the headphones are right for them. Or if they're in the room, that they are in the right spot in the room where they can hear everyone. They have to see the conductor, and It’s nice if you could have a view of them too so you could see what they're doing on the microphone. So yeah, for me the singer is a very important part of the record. Most of the times, the most important part of the record.
Could you tell me how you usually start working, mixing the vocals?
You see, I started early with vocals. I mean, I started doing vocals when I was 19, and I would do a little voice and piano or a guitar and voice and piano, or a guitar and voice. So, I've been working with vocals all my life. I enjoyed singers anywhere from Frank Sinatra to Billy Eckstein to you name it... So, you know, times are changing but I still use the same proven methods. I use what simply works. Of course, the basis is always a really good microphone, a preamp and the atmosphere in the studio. But, it depends on the vocal. As you know, every vocal is different. There is a difference between Frank Sinatra, Natalie Cole and Diana Krall. They all sing differently. They have different textures and techniques, so you have to be aware of that and be prepared for what they need.
Larry Carlton, George Benson, Neil Young, Barbara Streisand ,Toto... You worked with them many times, you came back to them most often.... What decided that? Work atmosphere, mental understanding? Were you a fan? Did you like the material? Or are they are just inspiring and interesting people from whom you could learn a lot?
I like to work with them in general. I liked the material and their music, but most of the names you just mentioned are all outstanding at what they do. And so I like to work with people who are the best, and the people you mentioned, they are some of the best at what they do. So, I'm always comfortable being in there with people who really know how to sing or play the guitar or whatever and, their confidence in themselves, and my confidence makes it work. But the most important thing is that I really enjoy working with great artists.
You have witnessed the development of the world of audio, of brands,... Which mixing desk, in retrospect, do you consider to be the most successful design and why?
Oh, that’s another tough question. I like working on Neve consoles. I love really good microphones, whether it's Neumann, Royer, Audio Technica, Schoeps, or a C 12. Great microphones are the most important thing to me. I don't use EQ when I record and I don’t use much EQ when I mix, so I like to make sure I'm capturing everything the way I want it, so I don't have to try to change the sound at all.
What features should a mix engineer have?
Well, the best feature that the mixer should have is the ability to balance. To be able to get a good balance and to know where to place things, how much bass, how much drums, how much piano, how much brass, how much violins and where to put the voice. It's all about balance. I think that's the number one feature. Great, really good mixing engineers have great balance.
Let's now enter the shoes of the producer... What should a good producer have?
A producer should have a great knowledge of music. He's got to know what the artist wants. He's the guy that captures what the artist is trying to do and comes up with the ideas, and maybe helps with the songs. They got to have a great knowledge of music. Hopefully, they should have some knowledge of the equipment that we're using, and be able to be a psychologist in a sense, to be able to handle difficult artists. Some artists can be very temperamental and he has got to know how to handle them. Other artists need to be encouraged to get the best from them. So a good producer has all those qualities.
You have mentioned Toto… You are the father of the sound of Toto. What do you value the most in this band?
Oh, I love those guys. You know, what's great about Toto? They have so much fun in the studio. I mean, they make great music, but they have fun doing it. It's always a joy to be in the studio with those guys. They are just great. They're friends of mine and they’re also friends with each other, and it's great to be with them. They enjoy what they're doing and they do it so well, and it's always a pleasure to be a part of that.
Which album was the best for you to work on with them?
Toto IV, with Rosanna and Africa and all those great songs. That was my favorite. Listening to this album you can feel the wonderful atmosphere that prevailed in the studio while recording.
You worked with Miles Davies, how dp you remember him? What kind of musician was he?
Oh, he was an incredible musician. He had so many great lines. He said once, “it's not the notes you play, it's the notes you don't play that make things sound so great.” He was an outstanding musician and knew exactly what he wanted. Maybe you don’t know this, but he was one of my all time favorite musicians even before I ever worked with him. So I used to go see him at clubs and stuff like that all the time, and also listened to his albums. He was, and still is one of my favorite artists.
Did he have his own patterns, or did he always improvise?
Well, he was pretty much an improvise type of guy. You know, I don't think he ever played the same thing twice. I mean, when he was doing takes, take one was different than take two, and take two would be different than take three. He was always in the moment of how we felt. So, you had to be prepared and you had to capture what he was doing.
So, what decided which take remains on the album?
Well, that was a combination of things. Usually it was the producer that decides which take was the one. But sometimes it was a combination, in which the producer, artist and the engineer get involved... Sometimes we were making takes and somebody said, “hey, let's go back and listen to take one.” So, we go back and listen and try to figure out if maybe that's the take we should use. Sometimes, you don't hear something about the first take. Sometimes it has the passion, so... But basically it was the producer, who decides which take stays on the record. Unless it's Frank Sinatra, then, he usually had the last word.
Natalie Cole ... the secret of her sound ? Her vocal sound ? Which mic which desk and outboard gear did you use on her vocals?
Wow. There is no secret there. That's how her vocal sounded, and my job as the engineer was to capture that beautiful voice as best as I can. I must tell you Adrian, that she was just amazing. She’s another example of a great mixture of passion and technique... She would stand right in front of the orchestra and sing live. She was so good. And, there was no EQ on her vocal at all. And what I would use is a Telefunken U47 microphone, and it would go into a Neve preamp, and then we would use maybe a little compression with a Fairchild. That's it. And the rest of it was her voice. She just had a beautiful voice, like Barbara Streisand. It's the same way. Beautiful voice.
You won a Grammy in the category of best engineering twice for your collaboration with Henry Mancini....did you feel that you were going for a Grammy while working on these releases?
Did I feel it back then? No, I didn't. I didn't have any idea we were going to be nominated or anything. My first nomination with Henry Mancini was for Breakfast At Tiffany's, and then my second nomination was with a Hatari! And I won the Grammy for Hatari! for the best engineer, so no. When you make a record, only maybe sometimes when you're done do you realize how good it is, and that maybe there's a chance for something. But back then, no, I didn't have any idea that there would be any Grammy's involved.
From your perspective, what prevailed, what decided that it was you who ultimately reached for this award?
Just the fact that you know, you did a good job and you captured everything, and everything just sounds really good. And when you play it against other things, it just jumps out. You know, sometimes you can get a sort of an idea. When I did Toto, I had a pretty good idea that we were going to be nominated for a Grammy because it sounded so great. So, that's the best answer I can say now.
Do you remember the equipment and methods you used when working with on these releases with Henry?
We were using great microphones at RCA back then we had incredible microphones. Lots of great Neumann microphones and Telefunken microphones. So, it was just a matter of using old great microphones, and Henry Mancini used the best musicians in the country on those records. That's why everything just sounded so great. My job was just to capture that sound. So, you know, putting the right mic in the right place is the most important thing. And, you have to learn how to do that.
How technically conscious of a vocalist was Frank Sinatra?
When I did Frank Sinatra, he just wanted to stand right in front of the orchestra and then he asked me for a handheld wireless microphone and that's how he would sing. He wanted to make it like a show, like he was doing a performance. So, he stood right in front of the band and sang on a handheld wireless microphone.
Was he able to move in a recording studio? Did he understand the world of equipment? The world of the studio?
Oh yeah, he did! He understood everything and he knew what was going on. He knew what kind of microphone he would like for what particular song he was doing. He understood the recording process very, very well.
So, Is it true that Frank Sinatra had his favorite microphone with which he usually recorded?
Yes, he did have one. There was a favorite microphone and they still have it at Capitol. It's a Telefunken U48.
Oh, and what’s the difference between U48 and U47?
Technically, it's just a pattern. U48 can only go cardioid and a binaural, and a U47 can go cardioid, binaural and Omni Directional. So, it’s just the pattern difference. Otherwise, it had the same tube and everything.
Can you say how he was working on his vocals? Was he a perfectionist? How many approaches did he usually need to lay down his tracks?
Well, he would only do a vocal once or twice, so you had to be ready to capture it. He'd walk out of the studio if you didn't capture it on the fly. So, if you’re not doing the right thing, you are in trouble. You really had to be prepared with Frank to make sure everything was working right before he even came to the studio. It was important. He was a perfectionist, but he always wanted to get it right the first time. So, very rarely would he do more than a couple of takes.
How did you get that unforgettable velvet sound of his voice? What preamplifier did you use which compressor ... you know I ask about the periphery, outboard gear?
I think we were using Neve preamps, the old Neve preamps, a lot of those, but I have no idea what preamps they used at some of the early things that he did. I think they used whatever preamps Capitol had in those days, I'm talking about 1955/56/57. I wasn't there then so, I don't know what they used.
Any Outboard gear?
A very little compression and I always tried to use the Fairchild and just a touch of it. Maybe a dB or a half dB or something. Because I love the sound of the Fairchild. The tubes, you know...
Yeah! And it makes things more forward...
Yeah, Fairchild is a great unit.
Toni Braxton, another great vocal talent... why do you think she disappeared?
Yeah, I don't know what happened there. I don't know why she disappeared. I know she had a child that had some health issues, but I don't know anything more about that. She was a wonderful singer. That’s for sure. I only worked with her one time and I remember that I really enjoyed it. I thought she was just great and I don't know why she's disappeared. As I said, I think maybe she's taking care of her child. But, honestly, I don't know anything for sure.
I wanted to ask you now about the recording studios.... it certainly hurts you that so many of them are being closed... do you think that we can somehow prevent it? Change it today?
I don't think we can. You know, the problem is that so many people have home studios, really, too many people have studios in their homes. So, a lot of the studios where people would be coming in, to overdub a guitar and vocals and whatever, suffer. People are now doing that at their homes. So, the studios lost a lot of business. I don't think we'll ever get it back.
The great studios, like Capitol, Abbey Road Studios in England or Avatar, formerly the Power Station in New York. I think those big great studios will stick around, but a lot of the smaller studios must surrender and go out of the business.
Yes, but when we come into the studio, we also pay for the atmosphere, for inspiration, for all these priceless feelings and things, not only for the equipment and know how…
No, no, exactly! But, so many people are doing overdubs, all the vocals in homes, guitar overdubs in homes, even drum tracks in homes, and it sounds raw and rough. And, it really bothers me. I think that it has created a problem with the way music sounds today. A lot of those things don't sound like they would sound if they were done in a major studio or in a good studio. And, it bothers me. I think it all affects the music in a negative way.
Yes, and in a home studio you won’t be able to record great sounding live drums, so…
Yes, well, I don't work in home studios. I only work in good studios. I love to work at Capitol or in the Village in LA, or Sunset Sound or East West. We have some really good studios here in California, that are still operating and working. And those are the only places I work. If I go to New York, I work at Avatar, or the Power Station as it's called now. I love working at Abbey Road in England. That's another great studio. I'm blessed that I don't have to work at home. I even don't have a studio in my house and I never will. I don't like the idea of it. And I don't want to be in a situation, where I'm sitting around and suddenly I’m starting to think, oh, maybe I should add more bass in it. Then I run down to my little home studio and do that. When I'm done with the studio, I like to come home and relax. I like to spend time with my wife and my pets and listen to music, watch tv or read a good book and get away from the studio.
Which studio do you like best in Abbey Road?
Oh, I like studio two, the same room where The Beatles worked in. I love that room. I worked there with Diana Krall. I worked there with Paul McCartney. That's an amazing and great sounding room.
Once a record was a mystery... everything was a whole. Atmosphere, sound, lyrics, cover…All these elements merged, permeated and today … We get singles, streaming services… there is no contemplation, no concept albums… why has music changed so much ?
Well, I don't know. I think it's because of the invent of CD's and all that stuff. You used to have the back cover of the vinyl. You had there the information about the producer, the engineer, you had the musicians, you had sometimes what microphones were used. That was the layout. There was always a little story about the album and the way it was done. And now on CD's you don't get a lot of that. A lot of people don't even bother with the CD's, they are just downloading stuff and they don't have all the information about the record. They don't care about this information. I think it's very sad, it used to be that you could name all the musicians that played on the record. That doesn't happen much anymore.
Yes, we don’t communicate with artists today, we can’t identify ourselves with music albums…
Yeah, exactly. Not the way it used to be that's for sure. People don't know where it was recorded, who recorded it, there's not any of that info.
What do you think about plugins? Do you use them sometimes?
I don't mix in the box. I don't do anything in the box. I don't know how to do it, and I don't do it. Everything I remember, I do with the analog board and it's all analog except I use Pro Tools and I go up to 192 in Pro Tools when I'm recording or mixing. I don't like in the box, I don't use plugins or any of that stuff. I just record the same way that I use to record with the orchestra. A console into Pro Tools, as, now we don't use tape anymore, because it's hard to find a good tape and it's so expensive. So, now we go into Pro Tools, up to 96 or 192. It sounds fabulous. So we don't need tape anymore. So, I don't do anything in the box. I don't know how to. I don't care to.
Your opinion on the phenomenon called the loudness war?
Well, I think that's crazy. I don't know what's going on. Every CD is trying to be louder than the one before it, and everybody's trying to make things louder. You know, Adrian, I have a theory that if you want to listen loud, just turn the volume up, and you can listen to as loud as you want. It's just stupid that people made these things. Everything is compressed as hell and distorted, I'm not thrilled with that and I'm not into the loudness war at all.
Why do you think we are so eager to use compression today?
To make things louder, that's the thing. And then, you know what? A lot of engineers get lazy instead of using their ears, moving faders, and properly doing everything else. They're letting compressors do some of the work, and you just can't put everything in a compressor. It just squashes the sound. You don't get that open sound. So, I'm sorry, but I choose to use very, very little of compression. I'm do this tastefully and that's it. The only time I could use more compression is if I'm trying to get an effect on something.
So, why are so many engineers forgetting about dynamics today?
I don’t know but it is so unnatural. Almost all music today is near squashing. I've seen guys recording vocals, and the person recording it was pulling seven, eight, or even ten DB, it’s ridiculous! You know, I'm the old school guy and that's the way I like it, and that's what I do. And when people want me to record and do stuff, they want me because I do what I do. I just did a great album with Trisha Yearwood, which is called Let's Be Frank, and it was produced with Vince Mendosa doing the arrangements and it's just came out, and it's a beautiful record. It sounds great and I'm really happy with it. The vocals are incredible. The songs dynamics are incredible as well, so, you know, this is what I love to do and I do it my way.
What do you pay attention to when selecting equipment?
I always pay attention to the quality of the equipment, you know, who made it, what is inside... I like to talk to the manufacturers. I don't just use something, because it's there, I want to find out, how it was made, who made it, what's involved with it. So, I like to get to know the manufacturer or the designer and find out what they have in mind when they do it. And then I decide whether I want to use it or not.
You mentioned that your favorite compressor is the Fairchild, I know, that you usually don’t use EQ, but if you must pick your favorite equalizer…
Well, I have a few. George Massenburg has a great equalizer. John Oram has a great equalizer that I use and I really like. Neve preamps, a lot of them have great equalizers on them. So, there are quite a few good equalizes around. And when you're equalizing, sometimes it's not about what you add, it's what you take out, that's also important.
You mentioned John Oram, I also know his equipment. Did you use only his equalizers? Have you ever mixed on his console? You said that you love Neve consoles and what about the desks from Oram Sonics?
He makes great equipment. I don’t get a chance to use much of his consoles because the studios I work at don’t have any. A lot of home studios have his gear and I’m hearing some wonderful recordings done on Oram consoles.
The worst memory from the studio?
Oh, that's a really tough one. I don't know if I have any worst memories. I'd have some memories where the board went down and we had to sit around for a while and try to get the board back. I don't know, but... there was one group that I worked with many, many years ago , and, it got so crazy. I had called my attorney to get me off the project, so, that was probably one of the worst times in my life. We start working at 8:00 and then we'd go till three or four in the morning. Then the next day we come in at 9:00, then the next day at 10:00 and then, we were coming in at midnight and work until nine in the morning and it was crazy. So I asked my attorney to get me off.
Equipment that never let you down?
Well, most of the time a good Neve board is usually a pretty cool thing to be working on, oh, and good Neumann microphones rarely ever let me down, you know, that kind of stuff.
Which of your records do you come back to most willingly?
Oh wow! Some of the Mancini things. A lot of Diana Krall, Toto IV. There is a lot of music that I listened to. All the records that I've done and the records that other people have done. I love Miles Davis. I love the old Bebop things that I grew up with, Big Band records. I love Big Band music. So, I guess it depends on my mood, or when I'm in the mood to listen to certain records.
The session you remember the most?
I think there are two. I think Frank Sinatra and I think Sam Cook, whatever records I did with Sam, I'll never forget those. Those were just amazing times…
Is there still anyone with who you would like to work with? Someone you would like to mix the album with?
Oh Wow. You know, I've worked with everybody pretty much. But yes, there's one person that I would like to do a record with now and that's Sade. I love the way her voice sounds and I think I could make a great record with her.
Oh, now you hit me! You and Sade would be a great combination. I think she needs a return to a really organic sound, so…
Oh, there you go! She's great. She's retired now though, and I'm not sure she's going to come back.
I like the sound of her first two albums the most. Diamond Life and The Promise. Both have an incredible atmosphere. Songs such as: Sweetest Taboo, Haunt Me, Never As Good As the First Time, Jazabel…
Yeah, me too. The same here!
I know that your favorite microphone is Neumann U67. Why this particular model?
Yes, that’s right. Because you can use it on anything. It works great on a voice. It works great on upright bass. It works great on guitar. I heavily use it on strings. I use it on saxophones and I can use it on trumpets. It works well on everything. If I could only have one microphone, that's the microphone I would choose.
Any difference in sound between U67 and U47 and the other models?
Honestly, I don't know how to describe it, but it is different. I like the U47 on voice, but the U67 also works well on voice and everything else, and I'm not so sure about the U47. It works well on voice. It works well on upright bass and that kind of thing. But, I don't use it on strings, so, I think the 67 is the most versatile microphone made and I love the new one that they just made.
Working with sound is work in which we constantly learn something new.... is there something you don't know yet?
Oh, that's a funny and great question. Yes, there are still things I don’t know yet, and I hope to find out more great things. I think I learned and I still learn something every time I go into studio. Something about a new microphone or something about an instrument. I learn something every day I go in, so I'm sure there is a lot left for me to learn.
Do you still experiment in the studio? You still try to break the schemes?
Yeah. I still experiment with setups and microphones, you know, I tried new microphones and see how they work out. I experiment a lot. Yeah. That's how you learn, by trying new things.
Your most daring experiment in the studio?
Well, there's been so many of them. Some of them work out. Some of them don't. I did a setup one time, it was years ago at RCA and everybody showed up, the band and everything. But, as soon as I heard the first notes played, it sounded so terrible. I had everybody in the wrong place in the room. I had to tell everybody to take a break and re set the studio up. This story ended up so that I had to change the studio, so, that was the one, when it didn't work.
What would you like to share with others from the perspective of these four decades of your experience?
Oh wow. Well, for me, the most important thing in the studio is to be kind to everyone, you know, treat everyone like you want to be treated. I think that's the most important thing. And what I would say for young engineers and young assistants, get a notebook and draw the setups, keep the setup sheet, so you know, what other engineers did, and how they did it. What microphones they used... I think that's important for young people to do. Those are the things I can share. That's what I was told to do when I started and it certainly helped.
The most valuable advice? The most valuable lesson you got in the studio?
I think the most important thing was, that I was told and told to always be on time. To always be ready to go. So, you know, get there early, get everything ready and make sure you're set up and ready to go when the musicians come into the studio.
Your most beautiful memory of youth?
Oh, that's a hard one. My most beautiful memory... Well, God, I have so many great memories. Wow, maybe when my first child was born, yeah I think that is one of the most beautiful memories of mine.
If you were to start your career today... what would be your first step?
If I was going to start my career today, I would go to school. And I would go to a university like Berklee in Boston, and learn as much as I could about music and recording and really immerse myself in learning there as much as I could. And then, when I graduated I would try to get a job at a studio…
If you were to compare musicians once and musicians today, is the world of music developing? Is it moving forward or is it eating its own tail and retreating?
You know what Adrian? I think the musicians, they used to play together a lot. They played together not only in the studio, but they also played in clubs and things like that. I don't see as much of that anymore. And I miss that. You know, that back in the Bebop era and jazz and those kinds of things, it was the music that I love the most, and you don't see much of that anymore. It's not happening. Young people aren't interested in it. They're more interested in rock and roll and that kind of music. So, these days you just don't see as many clubs. You don't see as many places for musicians to play.
Is the audio industry today still about music or rather about money? What is in the first place today?
Well, I would hope, it would be about music, but I think it's more about the finances and money and downloading music… and all that stuff. You know, you just don't see many people going out buying records anymore. And I think that's a shame. People download songs or albums, but they don't know who played on the album. They don't know who produced it, who engineered it, in what studio it was done in. So they just don't get all the credits. And as I said, I think that's a great shame.
Could you tell me more about working with the king, with Elvis Presley?
I only worked with him one time and we worked something like twelve hours straight in the studio. He had just got out of military service. I was doing the album, called the G.I. Blues and I worked on part of that just for the one day. But I can say, that he was very kind. My assistant engineer admired a bracelet he had. Elvis had a turquoise bracelet that day, and my assistant said, oh, that's a beautiful piece, and I collect such a little art like that. And he just took the bracelet off and gave it to him, and I thought that was really, really a generous thing to do. So I said to Elvis, Elvis you have that beautiful car in the garage. And I was thinking, oh, maybe he'll give me the car. But he didn't do that. So, that was my working with Elvis. He was great. He was very nice, very kind, and we had a good time in the studio, it was a lot of fun. We ordered some food in and we had pizza and stuff. So, it was twelve hours straight with him and a lot of fun.
Thank you so much Al, It was such a pleasure for me to listen about all these things and experiences.
I thank you Adrian!
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