October 1, 2020

’74 Hit Parader Article on Rock Recording

 Pete discusses recording. Quotes taken from an interview with Richard Robinson.

"I think the thing is really what makes fidelity really a difficult thing is the fact that the actual poorness of the recording sound is a kind of trade-mark with us. The roughness of the recording has got to do with the roughness of the music. And it was very hard, when we were laying down tracks for ‘Quadrophenia’ to get plenty of balls into the sound and still have it sound clean.


"We’ve been conscious of the fact that the roughness of the tracks is … contributed, you know. If you get hold of one of those early Beatles albums which they released in stereo with vocals out of one side and tracks on the left or something you can see how terrible the sounds were, what they would actually put up with…


"… You see, the whole conception of ‘Quadrophenia’ was geared to quadraphonic, but in a creative sort of way. I mean I wanted themes to sort of emerge from corners. So you start to get the sense of the fourness being literally speaker for speaker. And also in the rock parts the musical thing would sort of jell together up to the thunder clap, then everything would turn slowly from quad into mono and you’d have this solid sort of rock mono … then a thunder clap and back out again.


I mean I’d conceived it in that way. When we came to mix it we spent months mixing it and then found out that MCA was using the CBS quad system and … you might as well forget it. So our engineer remixed it in the same manner that it was mixed in stereo, the same sort of creative approach. We’re going to do a completely new album, practically. Because so much of the album is actually in the mixing, the blending and everything."


So there will be a quad album?


"Yeah. For a while we’ll see our records as two editions, one in stereo, the other in quad … one in a stereo mix, one in a quad mix. That has to be the way it has to be because stereo at the moment is so much more mature and advanced than quad is. Everyday they make an improvement in the quad set-up; you know everyday I get a piece of mail through from CBS telling me that they’ve got another dB of separation from front to back and that, you know, if we buy the new modified encoder-decoder we’ll get better results.


"And then the next week there’s another modification you can buy for another forty thousand dollars which gives you another dB separation front to back and a positioning encoder which puts all your sixteen tracks at various points — guaranteed positional separation and that’s an extra forty thousand dollars! It’s a load of…


"Record companies can’t make the same mistake again that they did with singles and albums, I mean they just can’t, they’ve got to compromise. Because for somebody … for us doing the mixes it’s tragic. We just can’t spend that much time mixing albums. Do you know what they say to bands? The record companies? They say, ‘Well, you send over your sixteen track tapes and we’ll mix it.’ And the Doobie Brothers did that I think.


"They gave their tapes to somebody and some punk engineer at their label mixed it and it was horrible. They wanted our sixteen track tapes. We were going to send them over just as a joke. They would practically fill this room, the tapes. In my studio in the country where we were mixing we had a workshop stacked to the ceiling with tape.


"I do quite a lot of editing. Not necessarily to tracks, more to overdub things. Like doing dubbing with synchronized mastering machines — sixteen track machines — and dubbing over better overdubs from copy tapes. Say you’ve got a sixteen track backing track, you make — say, six copies of it. It gives you the opportunity to do dozens and dozens and dozens of vocal overdubs. Then you sync up the machines and bounce the best vocal overdub back onto the master machine in sync with the track.


Or, if you want the highest fidelity on the vocal just use the safety copy. That’s one thing … Sometimes recording gets like a job. We do it in fairly normal hours. We start at about ten thirty, eleven … The most job-like approach to the making of ‘Quadrophenia’ is that we insisted on having our own studio. We built it specifically for the album.


There’s a strong chance we’ll never record there again because it’s always booked! And we can’t get time. There just aren’t any studios in London, there are only about ten. Everybody in the world wants to record there."