The Complete Mark Pinske Interview - Day Two
Jan 1, 2003 12:00 PM, Chris Michie
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The Complete Mark Pinske Interview
by Chris Michie
Mix: If I ask you a question about a record that you had nothing to do with, please correct me. Also, if you recorded tracks for an album, but didn't mix it, let me know that. I've found that the CD booklets often don't include proper engineering credits, at least for the studio albums. So just bear that in mind, that I'm not working from a full set of data.
Pinske: That's fine. Bob Stone and I did a lot of tag-team shifts on mixing. Bob never really did any of the tracking. Bob Stone was an engineer we brought in because what had happened was, I started putting in about 113-hour weeks. Frank and I were just - he's cranking almost every waking minute. A lot of times we'd be under deadlines, like a three-month deadline in between the tours or something, and we had a deadline to get an album out. And I would start a mix - we literally got it down to where I would start a mix, maybe halfway through a song. Sometimes we would mix segments of songs, and Bob would come in and take over the mix, or I would mix a song and he would mix a song. So most of his credits were pretty much just "remix engineer." Which is what he did. He would mix the stuff that I didn't mix. But the majority of the albums - probably a half-dozen or so albums that Bob and I did together were collaborative. On "Thing-Fish," I probably mixed the majority of the tunes. He mixed about a half-dozen of them or so.
Mix: That's good to know. What's happened - I don't
know if you're aware of this, but when the whole catalog got reissued
on CD, I think it's been reissued a couple of times, but anyway, the
most recent, the supposedly approved versions, have restored artwork
and new timing sheets -
Pinske: Are you talking about the Rykodisc stuff?
Pinske: Yeah. Some of that stuff got redone pretty badly.
Mix: OK. We can get to that. I'm going back into
ancient history, here. I just wanted to clear up, before working for
Frank, what were you doing for Quad Eight? Did you install and test out
Quad Eights around Hollywood and elsewhere, or were you more of a
bench-tech guy at the factory?
Pinske: I had a multiple number of roles when I was at Quad Eight Electronics. I started out there as an engineer on staff, and I worked my way up to - I was national sales manager, and I went from national sales manager to plant superintendent. Quad Eight had a couple different divisions. It was a pretty large manufacturer. We did a whole side that did nothing but custom film consoles for Burbank and Universal, all kinds of different film studios out in Hollywood. And they were just custom film consoles. We also had another building where we started a commercial line of recording consoles. So there was a whole nother building, a whole nother manufacturing inside that started up that did a regular slew of products. Quad Eight actually, I don't know if you know this or not, but they actually came out with the very first digital reverb that was ever done.
Mix: I didn't know that.
Pinske: Yeah. They had the very first digital reverb. So I was the plant superintendent of the manufacturing plant that did all the commercial products. The was the job I had at the time I auditioned for Frank. The last job I had. There was about 45 people working under me. I had research and development. One of the guys who actually invented the digital reverb stuff, a guy named James Ketchum, who now has DTS systems, which is another film thing, he was one of the guys that was in the research department that worked under me. It was quite an interesting adventure there. That's where I got most of my manufacturing background. Which is more of what I'm into now.
Mix: How did you hear about the audition, and why
did you give up this excellent job to go and work with Frank?
Pinske: That's kind of an interesting question, because some of my friends thought I was crazy to give up the job I had, which was a really good-paying job. But, initially, one of the main reasons I went out to Hollywood in the first place was to try to do studio recordings. Like I told you before, I had recorded a lot, most of my life, on the side, and then I did all this live touring. I had pretty much come to the realization that in live touring you never get credits. You don't get album credits or anything. So I thought, if I wanted to benefit my career, and get ahead in my career, that I needed to do some serious work that would have the credibility, that would get on albums, and this kind of thing. So this was the reason - at least I thought at the time - the reason I was coming out to L.A. So I took the job there as a stepping stone, so I could have employment and be working in L.A., and try to look for some of the other stuff on the side. When I got involved with that company, it became real serious. I really enjoyed it. I was still pretty young, yet. I still wanted to do some more touring and do some recording and stuff. So when the audition opportunity came up for Frank, one of the engineers that had worked for me, that had worked at Quad Eight, had heard about it, and made a couple phone calls and got beyond the list, along with a number of other musicians that were doing auditions. So it was really just a straightforward thing. I went up there, not really knowing any of them at all.
Mix: When Frank Zappa auditioned you for a position
as recording engineer and live sound front-of-house mixer, was the UMRK
facility fully functional? Or was part of your audition to actually
make it work?
Pinske: That's exactly what's happening. It was actually December of 1979, and he was finishing up construction on the studio. The Harrison board had been put in. David Gray, who's now the - I think he's Vice President of Dolby, was the technical engineer up there. He was the guy that was doing all the wiring and installing everything, and pretty much was with Frank Zappa for a number of years. After I'd gotten hired, he was the assistant there. He moved off to Dolby shortly after that. When I got there, he pretty much was finishing everything up. A very elaborate monitoring system, for all the individual musicians, they could all do their own little monitor mix, with the headphone system and everything. It was an unbelievably elaborate setup. So the studio was just being finished. The main reason he was doing these auditions was because he, for the first time, needed a full-time on-staff engineer for his own studio. Before that, he'd always recorded at Cucamonga, or whatever other studios around town. And they were always doing different albums at different places, or maybe a collection of a lot of different places. So this was the first time he needed a full-time engineer. Once all of that went down, once the audition all went down, and we were going on tour, he just wanted to have a full-time guy that would do - at that point, do the sound on the road, and do the recording and mixing with him in the studio when he was off the road.
Mix: So was part of the test to see how you could
find your way around an unfamiliar and brand-new studio?
Pinske: Oh, yeah.
Mix: Did he get you to mix stuff, or just, as you
said in your last interview, patch him into various things when he was
Pinske: Oh, no. He wasn't playing guitar. Interestingly enough, when I walked in, there was a couple of people there trying to goof around with some microphones through the system. There was a studio technician there also, nicknamed Midget. They were having trouble with the headphone system, and they were just trying to do a couple of vocal things, and I walked in, and one of the first things he [Frank] said to me, he says, "Look, can you help them fix this problem?" Well, my chops were up pretty high with troubleshooting consoles. I wrote all the troubleshooting procedures and everything at Quad Eight. And I heard this noise coming out of the cue send. It was like the sound an op amp makes when it's going out. It was a very familiar sound with me, because we used a lot of the similar op amps. It was a Signetics 5534, basically, is what it was. And I said, "That sounds like a bad 5534 op amp. So Frank kind of perked up and looked at Midget and just said - and Midget said, "Well, there are no Signetics IC chips in this console. The Harrison console doesn't use Signetics chips, is pretty much what he was saying. So that was the first meeting that I had. It became an interesting turn of events from there. We lifted out the module that the cue sends were on, and sure as heck, there were some 5534 chips on it. We unplugged one. They were all in sockets, so we plugged another one in, and plugged it back down, and the headphone system came up and started working immediately. So it was kind of like a fluke, because - all of a sudden it really looked like I was cool. You walk into a situation, and lots of times you know something or you don't know something. And you say what's on your mind. In Frank's case, if you didn't know something, the best thing you could do was say, "I don't know." Because you couldn't bluff Frank. It wasn't that kind of situation. It was just that it really was a familiar sound that I heard. So when we put the thing back down, Frank looked at Midget and said, "Midget, I think you owe Mark an apology." [Laughs.] And this was going on before we really started the formal auditioning. We were just goofing off. Needless to say, it put me off to a good start from a technical standpoint. Not necessarily from any other standpoint. That was kind of a fluke.
Mix: As part of the audition, you mixed some
Pinske: As a matter of fact, the first thing we did is, we had some multitrack tapes on. Frank had some pretty raw guitar tracks that I remember. I think it was a 16-track tape that was on. And he wanted his guitar patched through a bunch of things. At this point, there was probably about eight racks of effects down one wall, and about four on the other. And just about everything you could imagine in these racks. Mostly the standard stuff, like your UREI 1176s, your EMT stuff. Frank like a lot of things like Mic-Mix Dyno Flangers and all kinds of different toys for guitars, your Lexicon reverbs, that kind of stuff. He wanted to just do some processing. I think I mentioned this to you last time, the patchbay wasn't labeled. There was all these rolls in the patchbay that had these white tape, the white numbers on them, 1 through 48, down the right side of the Harrison patchbay, but they weren't labeled yet. They were just numbered. The oscillator out was labeled, and the stuff that came from the factory on the board was labeled, but none of the auxiliary stuff that was wired in from the racks was actually labeled. That's where I just took an oscillator and started patch out to see what I could light up. And that's where that other comment thing came from. At that point, we just mixed a few things on the 2-track.
Mix: And the other part of the audition was to go
to the sound stage and work with a band.
Pinske: The other part of the audition came the next day. Down at Zoetrope Studios, at the time Francis Ford Coppola, the studios, they were called Zoetrope at the time. We went down there, and Frank had a sound stage. There was a P.A. set up, and it was pretty much the old what we called the "dinosaur system," some leftover remnants of the red cabinets that he had, the JBL stuff with the long-throw horns and the bullet tweeters that you stack up, the stuff you pile up to hell and back. And two brand-new Midas consoles that were out there, that was the newest version of the Midas console that I'd ever - they had just done. And they were a very different-looking console. It was a different flavor on console that Midas usually did, because they had a slide fader in the mid range, for your variable frequency. So instead of the normal knob, there was a slide, so it was kind of a non-traditional-layout console. But it was their newest thing. Those two consoles were linked together to the P.A. system. And then there was a little rack there, and there was a little cassette machine in the rack that was wired up to it. Frank had Al Santos, who was the production manager at the time, just mess up the board. He just messed everything up. It sounded pretty shitty, basically. There was noise coming off the stage. And Frank had his wireless guitar, then he just looked at me and said, "Now make it sound good." That's the way he was. He was that way with musicians all the time. It's a little different with an engineer, but with musicians he was that way all the time. He'd chart something out and say, "OK, play it." In my case, I just fiddled around with the channels, started off with the drums, and went through in a somewhat systematic fashion, and grouped the drums, grouped the keyboards, and the band was just kind of rehearsing on stage. They pretty much were just rehearsing, it wasn't like they were doing a show or anything. And then I kind of whipped the thing together the best I could, and he said, "Now put some of it on tape." I grabbed a little cassette tape, and they played a couple of pieces, and that was pretty much all there was to the audition those two different days.
Mix: You told me the rest of the story the other
day about how he called you in a couple of weeks. Back to the UMRK
facility, you mentioned the board, which was a Harrison, and the tape
Pinske: At that time, or what we moved to later? Originally it was two MM1200 Ampexes.
Mix: Which were 16 tracks?
Pinske: No, they were 24-track machines, but Frank had 16-track heads that you could just unscrew the head stack and put on a 16-track head stack. And then the last 8 channels just didn't do anything.
Mix: And then monitors? Were they soffited, or did
he have free-stand - how was the control room laid out?
Pinske: The monitors was an elaborate five-way setup. It was a typical Westlake-Audio-type setup, with the walnut horns. Have you ever seen - the big monitors with the walnut horns, and two 15s, and the big tweeter. Most of the big monitors, all the big monitors, there was five major big monitors, so right over the top of the console, of the Harrison console, were - it was all brown speaker cloth. So there was three monitors over the top. There was a left center, and a right. With the idea that he was always going to - that he had the potential of doing film mixing. Most of the time, the left and the right were the only ones operative. The board itself, though, had quad output and whatnot, so you could select the quad output and then there was two speakers in the rear also, that were identical. So all five of those speakers were Westlake systems that were built into the actual ceiling walls, the side wall of the ceiling. He had a conglomerate of different types of near field speakers that he liked to use. We used the JBL 4311s, which was pretty traditional, and then he would also have a pair of Auratones, which were always kept on top of the meter bridge of the console. For the most part, that was most of the standard monitoring system for most of the time.
Mix: On one of his albums, and I don't know which,
there's a note to the effect that "this album was mixed on (brand name)
monitors. For best results, leave your - "
Pinske: Those were 4311s or 4315s, or 4312s, I think. It might have been the white album, I think, or "Drowning Witch" or something. I remember he made a note on it. We mixed the whole album on a pair of 43 - doggone it. The 12-inch JBL three-way. Originally JBL had them called 4310s and 4311s, and they were called 4312s. He had the older version, which had a different crossover point than the brand-new ones he went to later. The 12As and the 13s. JBL kept going through the numbers as they went up, and they changed the type, the style of tweeters they had and everything. This was a kind I had run into before, on an album that I actually played on as a musician. Bill Szymczyk, who had done all the Eagles stuff, had kind of rubbed off on me because I was always asking him questions, I was an engineer asking questions, and he had mixed most of The Eagles' albums on the 4311 JBLs, and he would carry them around with him, and he'd set them on a pair of tripod stands sideways. So when I was doing demo recordings, and home recordings on my own, and recordings with bands in the studio, not anybody that was every known, as I was working my way up, I tried to use some of the 4311s, 4312s, and I usually didn't get the good results on them. So I finally asked Bill when I had the chance. He had all these Gold albums. He had something like 36 Gold albums, the guy was doing something right. And he said the trick is to not let them near any surface. You don't put them on top of any table, you don't put them near any walls, you don't put them in a corner. You don't put them up in a corner in the ceiling. You keep them away from any surface. Because JBL has a tendency to have a very colorated sound. Especially those kind of sounds, the 12-inch speaker with the cone midrange, and then the tweeter. There was just an adjustable path of midrange and treble control. So he always set the tweeter on 12 o'clock, and the midrange on about three o'clock, at about a quarter of the way up. So I started setting it the way he did, because I figured he knew something I didn't, and I could learn from them. And sure as hell, when you took the things away from the surface, a lot of that extra low-end characteristic, that colorated sound is pretty much what I call it, the colored sound went away. They became a lot more of an honest monitor. We tried that. Frank and I had talked about all this kind of stuff a lot of the time. We didn't know what to trust or not trust. And you know the Westlake Audios were very colorated. So what would happen is, if you tried to mix on those, you would have all this fidelity that sounded really good, and then you take the record somewhere else and it would sound terrible. Because there was so much color, so much hi-fi sound. You hook up a mic bike and go, "Wow, this thing sounds great." So Frank and I got into this thing about not trying to - trying to use a more honest monitoring situation, where the monitoring speaker wasn't necessarily doing us a favor. And then you would spend a little bit more time getting the EQ better.
Mix: Back to the studio. Where there separate rooms
for the Bosendorfer, drums, guitars? How many rooms were there?
Pinske: When you looked out through the control-room window - let's just take it from the control room out. The machines were in the back. There were two racks, one on the right side, one on the left side. Gee, I think I even have a Polaroid picture of the control room somewhere. You looked out through the glass, and there was what we called "the yard," which is, out front of the glass, was a carpeted area, close up front, and then it turned into wood. There was two booths on either side. If you're looking out from the control room, out through the studio, there was a sunken booth on the right side, which was pretty much developed and called "the drum room." It had a hardwood floor in it, and you stepped down two steps into it. And it was all glass around it. But it was like an oversize-type booth that was sunken in down the right side. When you looked out to the left side, there was another booth, which pretty much you would call the vocal booth, but again, it was a little bit of an oversize vocal booth. It wasn't tiny, like a lot of them you see. It was carpeted in Sonex, and carpet on the walls. It was a lot deader sound. The percussion room, the idea of the percussion room was to have it a little livened up, and then if you wanted to deaden it a little, you would roll out some carpet over the wood, but it was a wooden floor in it. So Frank had the studio built. It was designed by Rudy Brewer, actually. And Rudy Brewer had a number of typical configurations like this. When you looked out in the room, between the two booths, the room got narrower, and it all turned into wood. As it went back between the two booths, it opened up into this wide back area where the piano was, that had a real high ceiling. You'd go up probably 20, 25 feet, with skylights on it.
Mix: This whole complex was built on the side of
his house, or in his yard, or something.
Pinske: It was built on the side of the hill. You had the house, then you had a basement that tied over to it, so it kind of was to the side of it. The yard itself, he actually built a tape vault in the yard. People must have thought he was putting in a swimming pool, but he put a tape vault down there. Because we had a huge tape vault. Which was locked in. The control room itself had one of your typical bass-trap back wall in it. And that was it. There's two other things that's probably important if you talk about the studio itself. Those were live plastered wood walls. To the right and the back there was a chamber that was 46 feet long that was about 4 feet wide. You could step down into this chamber, and we had feeds going out there for speakers, eight different feeds, and a whole bunch of different mic returns. So we could send sounds into different speakers. We had about six sets of JBL speakers in there, and we also had a Leslie in there. And the speed of the Leslie could actually be controlled by a knob that we had on the console back in the control room. So it was an actual live room. Frank was real fond of using real, live reverb. Because a lot of the digital reverbs weren't quite as good then. And then there was also a little chamber underneath the control room. There was another chamber that was under there. That you had to go down the stairs, and you got to it. There was a tech room downstairs, and there was a little reverb chamber underneath the control room, which we also had eight stereo pairs of feeds going into, and also returning from, with lots of little sets of speakers that we would sometimes feed stuff to and then mic it back up again. We liked to create a real ambient sound all the time, instead of always having dry recordings.
Mix: Was there a permanent drum setup ready-miked?
I got the impression from some newsgroup exchanges that once Frank
finally had a drum sound he liked in the studio, he liked it so much
that it was one of the reasons he replaced the drums and bass on "We're
Only in It for the Money," and "Ruben and the Jets." That's the
question. Did he have a permanent drum setup?
Pinske: He had a studio set of drums, but we normally used the artist's drums. In that particular case, we took Chad Wackerman's drums. We had over a period of time eliminated the fact that John Goode, who's now the vice president of DW Drums, John was our drum roadie on tour. Frank became very fond of him, so John tuned all the drums for us. And what we would do is, John and I and Chad Wackerman, or whoever the drummer was - the ones that you talked about where we replaced the drums on "Rudy and the Jets" and that stuff, I was not very fond of that, because I really wanted - there was a chance for me to be able to remix all the original albums, you're talking about the old box master set, probably, and I was kind of upset about the fact that he wanted to replace the drums, because I had already gotten a pretty good drum sound out of even the mono recordings that were on the original ones, but he kind got - that was him getting carried away again. Trying to say, "Well, we might as well make it better." What we would do is, we would spend two or three days, just John and I and Chad, and we would try all kinds of different drum heads, and all kinds of different microphones, and all kinds of different things to try to get the absolute best drum sound we could get. So when we were done, we would have a really elaborate, great-sounding drum set. And Frank really loved this. He got to love the drum set so much. Where we really started getting carried away was on, like a piece called "Cocaine Decisions" on "Man From Utopia." We just had this EMT compressors, and the toms would sound real big, and all this kind of stuff. So Frank started really liking this really good drum sound, and kind of wanted to start hearing it on just about everything. It was just a phase. We would go through these phases. Unfortunately, when we redid the old box set, a lot of the recordings were so bad, when we got the original 10-track 1-inch masters, and 12-track 1-inch master . . .
Mix: They were 10-track 1-inch masters?
Pinske: Yeah. There was a couple of them that were 10-track 1-inch masters. There was a machine that was built by Les Paul, down at Cucamonga Studios. It was a homemade machine that was probably the only 10-track tape that was ever existence in the world. It was a 10-track 1-inch.
Mix: You said Les Paul. Do you mean Paul
Pinske: No, no. Les Paul. Les Paul and Paul Buff together. Paul Buff was the recording - was the engineer at Cucamonga. Later formed Valley People. Paul invented the noise gates and everything else. Frank actually had the original noise gate that Paul Buff invented. He was always really innovative. But they built a recorder together. It was a 10-track 1-inch. And the funny thing about it is, the darn thing sounded really good. It looked like some old refrigerator or something. It was homemade. We transferred all that stuff over, and when I transferred a lot of these tapes, they would only, in those days, just give one track to the drums. Drums never had much priority, so they might just have one shotgun mic or something in front of a drum kit. It wasn't anything great to listen to.
Mix: That must have been around '84, when you went
digital. You didn't transfer them to 24-track analog, did you?
Pinske: Oh, no, no. That stuff was later, yeah. We had the digital machine them, and I transferred them over to the digital machine. But what I did was, I had to almost make homemade - at that time - you know when I told you we bought the truck from the Beach Boys? In that truck was a Studer 2-inch 24-track. That was a lot better 24-track, sonically, than the Ampex MM1200s. We put the Studer in there, being the permanent fixture in the corner, and what I did was, I made, we kind of made homemade guides so I could take the 12-track 1-inch tapes and play them on the bottom 12 tracks of the 24-track 2-inch head. The problem with that was, it was a real meticulous thing, because you couldn't rewind them fast, because the tape would all creep up, and it wouldn't pack right. You could really only pass them through one time, because the guide system wasn't all that great. I took a pair of 1-inch rollers, for instance, and put them across there. So I meticulously striped those things. Also, we were concerned about the delicacy of the fact that they were old masters, and oxide's falling off them, and all this kind of stuff, so you didn't want to play them any more times than you had to. So, what I did was, I'd do a real slow wind in Play speed, and then I would stripe them across, and the stripe across and hard patch them right across onto the digital machine, so that we could preserve the tracks the best we can, in the minimal amount of time of playing the tapes. So we did that with all the old masters that we got back from the end, the result of the lawsuit. So time-wise, it probably was about '82, '83, '84.
Mix: You mentioned that 1. the UMRK Frank built,
before you arrived, and it cost him $3.5 million, and then you also
mentioned that the out-of-court settlement from Warner Bros. was 12
million or 12.5 million?
Pinske: About 12.5 million, plus all the original masters.
Mix: Was that money that they'd been holding in
escrow, because it was royalties owed to him on his DiscReet catalogue,
or was part of it a sort of, "OK, we'll give you this money to make you
stop suing us?"
Pinske: No, it was just a settlement. Quite honestly, Frank had lost a lot of money. The sad thing about it was, he was already in the lawsuit before I came on board, and the lawsuit, I think, lasted a period of about five years, a little over five years, and he was spending a lot of money per month on lawyers. A huge amount of money. Appealing all the hearings that they had. [End of side.]
Mix: When did the Synclavier show up, and what did
you do with it? Did it go in the studio?
Pinske: Yeah. The Synclavier came right in the control room. As a matter of fact, Steve De Furia, who was a gentleman from New England Digital, came in to do a demonstration for us. Gee whiz, I'm trying to think of the exact time, the exact year - when we did the "Francesco Zappa" album right after that. But he came in and did an audition with the Synclavier, and Frank saw it as a very usable tool. Something that would be - oh, gee, I don't know - something we could use to implement samples and making good recordings, and all that kind of stuff. (Beth, you might want to call Max on the other line. Something keeps beeping me. I think he may be trying to call.) Anyways, so when he auditioned the Synclavier, Frank said, "Well, we need somebody to operate this thing." So he offered Steve De Furia the job. To just come on board with us. And Steve accepted the job. Steve was working with me in the control room when we started going into the so-called Synclavier phase. And him and Frank started doing all kinds of archiving together on the actual Synclavier itself. Heck, we had - at one point, believe it or not, we lost about three months worth of work into that thing, when the Winchester hard drive crashed. It was just a heartbreaker. In those days we still had some of those reliability problems.
Mix: Do you have any kind of representative log of
your hours worked at UMRK on one or more projects? Ideally I'd like a
reproducible diary or studio log showing numbers of hours worked over a
week or so. I'm thinking about a little graphic here.
Pinske: Actually, somewhere in the boxes that I did when I moved, I have a couple boxes in when I moved, I don't keep them readily handy or anything, but somewhere where I moved I have - I actually have some of the original studio logs of - they're basically red notebooks that I wrote stuff down in. there may be some track-sheet-type things. I actually have a real collection of studio lacquers that I did, because Frank had me pretty much do all the mastering runs. He got to where he trusted me, so I would go down to KenDun when we did KenDun, and when we did K-Disk. And then we started doing a lot of mastering over at Capitol, and eventually we ended up with a guy named John Matousek over at Hitsville, Motown. And John was really the coolest guy. And I would run down at two or three o'clock in the morning, and we'd run off a lacquer and I'd bring it back up to the studio and Frank and I would listen to it.
Mix: Of a complete album side?
Pinske: Of - all the albums we did that way, pretty much. Frank stopped going down to the mastering rooms, and pretty much sent me down. We would voice the room. I had a really elaborate voicing method. It would take me - I would spend hours and hours with an Ivie analyzer, voicing the room. And we came down with a voicing curve, to where you could really hear really minute articulate differences. Most people thought we were crazy. I would cut a lacquer, for instance, and Frank would say, "OK, go down and have them take off one half of a dB at 800 Hertz. And I'd go down there, and most of the guys'd laugh. One-half dB? Some of them didn't even have one-half dB increments. But we would do it. And Frank could hear the difference. We'd notice the difference. A lot of times, I would even try him out. I would put the wrong one on, just to see whether or not he would hear the difference, and he would hear right away. So he had this really fine-tuned ability to tune in to frequencies and balances and all this kind of stuff. I guess I forgot the question. I'm sorry. It's about the mastering, though, right? Oh, the logs. Oh, sorry. I don't have anything ready available, without tearing through some of my moving boxes that are all stacked up. I've got tapes and things like that that Frank gave me over the years. Cassette tapes, and some of these kind of things that I've always intended to put on CD, that I never got around to, and I was always going to do it like, next year. I got tons of that stuff that I never got around to. It's mainly just, never had the time to do it.
Mix: Just bear in mind that we'll need some
graphics. At some point I'd like a photo of you. And if you've got a
picture of you and Frank in the studio, that'd be great.
Pinske: I probably have something on my computer, that I scanned in. And I've got a couple of different types of pictures of me, even on tour and stuff with him. There's not a whole lot. Probably two or three different - I might have a shot, maybe an old washed-out shot of the recording truck, and maybe something inside the studio.
Mix: If you come across anything that you think
might look good in print, just put it aside and we'll gather it all up
together when we've got the article laid out. I've got some [questions]
on "Joe's Garage," which according to the information I have was
released on November 19, 1979. But I guess that was Volume One.
Pinske: That was just before I got hired. I got hired in December, 1979. So I was coming in right on the tail end of it. In fact, I think Joe Chicarelli quit 'cause he got fed up with - the way Frank put it was, he would give up on a - he'd want a better snare sound, and he would just, wouldn't stick to it, or something. Kind of gave up on how much tweaking Frank liked to do.
Mix: Did you get involved in mixing Acts Two and
Three, or were you involved in any of the studio work on the second
part of "Joe's Garage?"
Pinske: On "Joe's Garage," no. Not really. The actual releases on that - the full releases were completed before I did. We did a mastering on one, and we redid one cut, I think on one release we did that I was involved with after that, but it was like finishing up busy work. It wasn't anything that's even worth - I wouldn't claim it as any credit at all.
Mix: Was the rehearsal space/warehouse named for
the album, or was it the other way around?
Pinske: That's a tricky question here. Because you could ask me lots of things, like where Dweezil got his name, which is one Gail's toes, and that kind of stuff, but I never did quite understand which came first. The rehearsal place in Hollywood, north of Vine and Hollywood there, was always there. That's where he kept all his band equipment, and then there was a rehearsal stage there. It was called "Joe's garage" the whole time that I know. So he either named the rehearsal place after the album, or he named the album after the garage. I couldn't tell you which one came first. It's like the chicken and the egg. [Laughs.]
Mix: It contained all the stage gear between tours,
plus, presumably, whatever sound and/or lights equipment that he owned.
What kind of equipment was there? Did he own all the keyboards that the
players .. .
Pinske: Oh, absolutely. The amount of equipment was enormous. Frank had a collection of equipment that almost wouldn't end. You'd go down there, there would be extra racks from the tour, there would be different types of microphone cases, there would be enough stuff down there to fully rehearse - guitar amps, monitor amps, mixing boards, that he had owned. Plus what we called the original dinosaur system, the sound system, and later the whole Meyer system. The Meyer system was all stored down there when we bought it. He would keep anything to do with sound. The lights would go in and out. The lights we would buy and sell, but the sound stuff he kept. And he was kind of a fanatic about keeping guitar stuff. That's what that - "blue box for bimbos" was a double rack - it was like taking two racks and bolting them together, and then putting in almost every guitar gadget you could think of. Everything from an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff to your Dyna-Mix flangers - most of this - MXR digital delays, just about anything you could think of that came out was in this rack. And then we had an elaborate preamplifier set up that David Gray did. I think this is one of the things that got David so good with noise reduction, because some of that stuff was so bad. He would build these buffer circuits, and wired up this rack elaborately, so you'd go through all these devices. There'd be chorusing, there'd be flanges, there would be various types of compressors, and third-octave equalizers. The whole gamut of things. And the whole box got it's reputation - Frank called it the "blue box for bimbos." It was blue. And we would use that rack in the studio to record. We would just put signals through it and then run them through Marshall amps. That was at Joe's garage most of the time, and it was normally used on tours.
Mix: Presumably he had a full-time equipment crew,
of at least one person.
Pinske: Yeah. Marque Coy became that person. As a matter of fact, Marque Coy - you know, my nickname was "Markman," and Marque Coy's nickname was "Marque-son." And Marque-son is still working there. He's still at Joe's Garage. You can call him and talk to him, as a matter of fact. He's still at Joe's Garage out there.
Mix: And he was the monitor mixer?
Pinske: He was the monitor mixer, and now he's got the original Harrison down there, and they been doing recordings there for years. All the bands that come through, like Tom Petty, or Rod Stewart, or whoever rehearses there, Marque puts them down on tape. And he records there, so now they've modified Joe's Garage to where it's kind of like an SIR or lead studio, you know, where you rehearse, and you have the ability to record, too. There's a full sound stage there. Marque took most of the original stuff that was in the control room where we did all the albums you and I are talking about, and built a little control room down there. That has most of that original archive stuff in it. Including the tape machine. They rebuilt and refurbished all the tape machines. So Marque Coy has got that stuff there. I'm sure he'd be glad to show you some of that. Are you out there in L.A.?
Mix: No, I'm in Emeryville. The Bay Area. I can get down there. And I might do that. This is turning into quite a project. My next set of questions is about 1980, during which no albums came out. You spent most of the time on tour.
Pinske: We were on tour throughout - it was my first European tour, as well.
Mix: How was traveling? You said earlier you were
traveling with the band, rather than with the crew.
Pinske: Right. I flew with the band. The band would fly, and stayed in real nice hotels. In fact, my room was always between Ray White and Ike Willis'. I don't know why that was, but we kind of got known as the Oreos, later. Because we had two black guys, and I was the white guy between the two black guys. It was just an ongoing little joke.
Mix: Was it a big improvement over your previous
Pinske: Oh, God. It was like stepping into heaven, man. Listen, just so you know, there's no experience like that. You can't repeat an experience like the privilege that I had, being able to record with Frank all those years. When you have the opportunity to work with a true genius, that spends his time and his money just creating, and there's nothing stopping what you're going to try. It's the ultimate for any engineer. And the touring was just as well. As a matter of fact, on tour, I felt like I had it better, because Frank worked me to death off the road. We were always in the studio. We'd sleep four hours a night on an average, and just come back and start right over. On the road, I was in a hotel, and then all we would do is go in and do our sound check. We'd come in and do a three o'clock sound check. After the sound check, we would eat a meal with the caterers, do the show, and then leave.
Mix: Before you had the truck, you had a remote
recording setup. Or were you doing front-of-house for the first part of
Pinske: I did front-of-house for all of 1980. I was the front-of-house mixer. Except for like when we did the Halloween shows at the Palladium, the traditional Halloween shows at the Palladium, I would help with the recordings. Most of the time, I would do the house mix, otherwise.
Mix: But you were recording at the same time?
Pinske: It depends on which stage you're talking about. Originally we had a guy named Claus Wiedemann, and George Douglas, who had a little 8-track Soundcraft 1-inch that we set up backstage, with a bunch of different noise gates and some remote feeds and everything. We did some what you might call pretty, relatively crude live recordings.
Mix: Did you send them submixes from front of
Pinske: Oh, yeah. I would send them mixes. They would take some things direct. We would track things multiple ways. The more we did it, as we went on, the more we ended up - we ended up reusing some of the tapes, because maybe the show wasn't coming out the best. And we milked--a lot of the "Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar" stuff, and that kind of stuff came off some of those. Four-tracks and 8-tracks. Some of them turned out fairly decent. We hired Mick Glossop, who came in and did a live digital 2-track with us one time. And him and I worked together. I set him up a console all of his own, and I did the house mix, and he did the recording mix, and I'd feed him some of the sub feeds from the keyboards, and feed things like that, but he pretty much did some really nice live recordings on his own, of tapes we did later. I wanted to say one other thing. There was a number of engineers that had left behind some really brilliant recordings. I just wanted you to know that. When you pulled some of them out, you just wondered how some of these got so good, that we used on some of those collaborative things.
Mix: I've got some questions coming up about that.
So if you were touring with the band, who set up the mics and your
front-of-house position, and did all the line checks?
Pinske: I did all the line checks. Our crew was very, very - Jesus, I don't know how you would say it in a few words, but incredibly trained. The drum guys, like John Goode would do the drums and the percussions. Each guy - we had a guy doing the bases, whether it was Scott Thunes or Artie Barrow, we would split up - the guys on stage would all be responsible for their own little area. I would go up and check the drum mics. Like we would use AKG 414s on a figure-eight pattern between the crash cymbals, or something like this. I would sometimes check the alignment of the mics. We clamped things down, and put things, and did as much direct-pickup stuff as we could so that we could have less variances in the live sound as well as whatever we were trying to record. And in '80 it was kind of a barbaric start of why we went to the truck later. Because we could only go so far, but we learned a lot of techniques that way. Out front, I had the two Midas consoles. I would have whole racks of noise gates. We gated as much as we could. We processed as much as we could. So we would check every line every day, one at a time, and make sure that when they sound checked - Frank would use sound check as a rehearsal. He would write songs on the road. We'd come back off the road, there may be eight, ten, twelve brand-new songs that he wrote on the road. That's where most of the new stuff would come from, actually.
Mix: We're still talking about 1980, your first
year. Was that when the "Crush All Boxes" project was being
Pinske: No, actually, "Crush All Boxes" came a little later. "Crush All Boxes" was done more off of the other recordings that came after '81.
Mix: I got some source that says a three-album set
called "Warts and All" was planned from I think the Odeon Hammersmith
tapes that wound up being used for "Tinsel Town Rebellion." Do you know
anything about that?
Pinske: I didn't know anything about that title. That might have been something that Bob Stone and Frank did after I had left. Because him and Bob continued on. As a matter of fact, Bob kind of - him and I - we always got along OK, don't get me wrong, but he kind of over compressed stuff, and when he redid some of the mastering, he kind of rushed a lot of it through in a hurry. Some of the CDs that got re-released didn't sound nearly as good as the original vinyls did. They were kind of like reprocessed and redone, and just didn't quite have the imaging I felt like some of them -
Mix: That brings up the question of how come Frank
didn't stop it, or notice it? There was too much going on?
Pinske: Quite honestly, it's a - that's kind of a tough call to make on that. He got pretty fatigued with all the studio work we did. His right ear was getting a little worse, for sure. He was starting to have trouble hearing high frequencies in his right ear. And Frank would pretty much let the engineer in charge kind of run with it. Bob was good. Everybody had their own kind of styles. But Bob was into a lot of over compression and stuff, and most people would notice it, but Frank sort of started letting it go, and almost in a way kind of liking it, just like another one of those phases. He'd just kind of redo stuff just to redo it, rather than because you needed to redo it. A lot of times, we would have a lot of albums, I'm sure you know, as well as you know most of the stuff, that some of the stuff we did was in fabulous shape, and there was no reason to rerecord or re-release some of these tunes at all. We would get into re-releasing some stuff, and it was almost like kicking a dead horse. There was no reason to do it. It was almost like we were doing it just to do it. I think that's where some of that came in. He'd get fatigued. Normally he was a lot pickier.
Mix: Before we leave the road thing, tell me about
John Smothers. He comes up all the time, but I have an incomplete
picture of why his - mangled English -
Pinske: I just pulled this up in the computer, so let me get you the Joe's Garage number. It's 818/765-4261. Marque Coy is the one. That's in Van Nuys. I just thought I'd give you that number while I had you. John Smothers was the bodyguard, of course.
Mix: Who he hired after he got pushed off
Pinske: That happened before me. When he was going into the pits, I think over in London, I think.
Mix: It was in '71. I had tickets for that
Pinske: Did you? Well, then you know more about that than -
Mix: Well, I didn't see it, because he did two
shows, and I had tickets for the second show, and he was -
Pinske: That's when he decided - I think he thought that some guy thought he was - the Frank always told the story to me was, he thought that some guy in the audience thought that he was looking at his girlfriend, and he got all bent out of shape about it, jumped up and threw him in the pit, or something, and he didn't want that to happen anymore. That's pretty much the way he told it to me. But Smothers was an interesting fellow. He looked tougher than he was. He was a pretty nice guy. He traveled with us everywhere, of course. And Frank would make fun of him, and we would use what we would call different variations of his lingo, sometimes even in some of the songs. Frank would refer to some of that stuff. He got the laminated passes, and he had this character about him. But he was - primarily always with Frank, all the time on the road. He unpacked all his clothes, and packed it up and all that stuff.
Mix: I don't mean to pry, but I'm just curious. Did
he have a speech impediment, or is he from a different linguistic
Pinske: He didn't really have a speech impediment. Frank would always - and John actually didn't speak all that bad. He would just say things sometimes that were kind of stupidly funny. Like, "I just sold my house and I got myself a notary republican and everything." But Frank would always take it and put that extra added thing on it, like you know he would. He would make the accent sound more drastic. Like we did with "Thing-Fish," with Ike Willis. When we did Barry - we called it "Barely White," when he did his Barry White imitation - we'd actually tape his tongue with a piece of grey tape to the outside of his mouth, so it would sound more ridiculous. With Smothers, I think he kind of - Smothers almost got a not-quite fair deal on that. He didn't talk that bad.
Mix: I'm just curious, because I never met the guy,
and I've never seen him. And he figures large in the folklore.
Pinske: I'm kind of wondering if he's even alive now. I don't know.
Mix: We're coming up to "Tinsel Town Rebellion."
"Fine Girl," which sounds fabulous, is a studio track, while the rest
of the album is live, with some overdubs on first part of "Easy
Pinske: Yeah. We did overdubs on vocals throughout that album, too. That was like Bob Harris' original audition was on "Fine Girl," off that album.
Mix: Doing the high - boy soprano part.
Pinske: Mm-hmm. Bob was a guy that I used to know, actually played in a band with me in the past, and Ray and Ike were having trouble with falsettos, so I suggested to Frank that we try this guy out. And that was actually his audition, that went on, that whole ad-lib thing through "Fine Girl" was actually Bob's audition.
Mix: I was going to ask about recording the voices,
but now, you'd been working with Ray and Ike for a year already by the
time you came to mix that - work on that album, right?
Pinske: I did all the tracking and all the mixing on that one.
Mix: I only know Ray and Ike from the records. How
would you characterize their voices? Were they working as twin leads,
or did they take alternate leads?
Pinske: Oh, they were absolutely fabulous. First off, they were incredibly funny to be around, and they got along good. Ike's voice, of course - both of them were in the group primarily for their singing. Neither one of them actually read music, you know. And that was very unusual for Frank to have somebody, but Frank liked to surround himself with good singers, because he always called himself a low-grade vocalist. [Laughs.] So he would surround himself with better singers. And Ike and Ray had a blend, along with Frank, and they knew how to blend with Frank. But no, they would take alternate leads. You would have - Ray would sing the bluesy-er stuff, or the ad-lib stuff, "Doreen," and Ike would sing another whole style. Ike would say like "Outside Now." Unfortunately, Ike lost a lot of his voice - his voice was real clear at one time. And him and Ray were in very prime shape in those days. All through the '80s, the live shows had most of their power as a result of a lot of their vocals. Then we had Bobby Martin, of course, and/or Bob Harris singing along with them. And the live vocals were actually quite a treat.
Mix: They come off very well on the stage
Pinske: Incredible. As a matter of fact, that was one of the most fun things about doing the recordings, later, when I got the recording track going, because you could solo these guys up, and they would pour every ounce of their soul into every performance. They didn't save it. They were real, true pros. They put everything they could into everything they did. It was a real pleasure to work with them. The vocals in the studio, however, were like the most fun thing. Unfortunately, the public, or Frank's fans, never got to hear our outtakes. I used to run a 2-track machine, and ATR-102 Ampex. I would just let it run when we did the sessions. Because what was coming through the board would go on there. And these guys would joke with each other, and Frank would make up harmony parts and stuff, and change lyrics. And he would sit on the - he would hit the talkback, and talk to them, and say, "Try doing this," and "try doing that." And those guys would joke with each other, and it was just a cutup. It was just so original, and so unique, the kind of things that would happen. And then they would - especially when you had Ike Willis, Ray White, and Bob Harris, all three of them together out there in the studio. We would track all three of them at a time, all on their own microphone, singing most of their parts all three together at once. And sometimes we'd lay three of them on one track, we'd lay them on separate tracks, sometimes we'd double, we'd triple 'em. That kind of thing. Those outtakes were just - we would have so much fun. Frank would tell jokes, and Ray would say something like, "Ike, you gotta move over, you're lip's too big. There's no room in here." There would be this kind of fun time, which to me, as an engineer, was the most enjoyable recordings of my life. Those vocal sessions were just awesome. And I think some of that attitude, and some of that fun, came out on the tape. I think that's a lot of what made it so good. And of course, Frank's producing. Sometimes he would put together an absolutely fabulous harmony, and then we would erase it. It was painful.
Mix: The live tapes that went into "Tinsel Town
Rebellion," as far as I can make out, came from the '78 and '79
Pinske: Oh, God. They came from - you ever seen the list of engineers on that album?
Mix: That's the trouble. I've got the CD, and there
are no engineers listed, apart from Bob Stone for the additional
remastering. Sorry to tell you this.
Pinske: I got them on my wall here. The actual real album credits, which unfortunately are only on the albums themselves, "produced by Frank Zappa; engineers: Mark Pinske, George Douglas, Joe Chicarelli, Allen Sides, Tommy Fly; remix engineer: Bob Stone; disc mastering: Joe Hansch from K-Disc. So the tracks that we used were tracks that I did. There was a couple of tracks that George Douglas did on a 4-track from live. There were tracks left over from Joe Chicarelli, and then Allen Sides and I did a lot of recording together, even after this, on "You Are What You Is," I think Allen did some recording with me, too, in the studio and out of the studio, and also, Allen did some of the live tapes at the New York Palladium. Before we had the truck, we rented the Record Plant truck. And Allen had done that. So the actual credits on the real album are myself first, George Douglas, Joe Chicarelli, Allen Sides. The albums had all the original credits, and little notes by Frank, according to how things were done originally. Later on, just so you know, I had a little bit of a mini fallout with Gail, after I had left Frank. And because of that, she started striking my name off a number of things. She was kind of mad at me over another issue. Really what it was about is, she tried to order me to do some things, and Frank told her that I worked for him. And pretty much told her off. That put a little bit of a bad nail between the two of us. So later on, when they did all this repackaging stuff, she just decided to skimp on the artwork and everything else. And think some of them was to save money, of course.
Mix: It seems that the CD repackaging has gone
through a couple of generations, of early issues with skimpy packaging,
and then they got Cal Schenkel involved, and came back and redid them,
supposedly with much improved artwork.
Pinske: I'll tell you what, if you listen - you take the "Thing-Fish" lacquer, for instance, and put in on and listen to it, just the original - even one of the original pressings, and then you put on the CD, you almost have to take the CD and throw it in the trash, it just sounds lousy. It doesn't have any of the ambience of the stuff we did off the walls or anything. It was all crushed and over compressed. It's a shame. It's a darn shame. Because we used to do - you realize, we started doing a lot of mastering over at Sheffield, where we did what they called "groove sculpturing." And some of those lacquers sounded immaculate. Absolutely immaculate. I couldn't understand why, when they redid - and of course, we would do, with John Matousek, when I started getting into doing all the really good quality albums, we did a lot of EQ'ing, and a lot of work in the room itself when we actually cut the lacquers. So none of that stuff would have been on the original 2-track. [End of tape.]
Here's the deal. We cut a deal with Ampex to drop hundreds of rolls of tapes at different cities, like Chicago, New York, whatever, well Agfa started bidding against us, and we started using Agfa 468. Now, when we got off the tour, we switched in the middle of the tour on - I think this was about the '83 tour, maybe even the '84 - we started razor-blade editing a lot of the songs together from different shows. And you couldn't even tell the difference in the cymbals across the edits. That's what Frank liked about the consistency we did in the recording. Well, some of the tapes that we meant to mix for an album, after we'd edit them together, we'd usually mix them down to the Sony digital, the 3/4-inch digital 1510 system. Some of them we didn't get to mix, because we edited way more songs than we were able to have time to mix, we put in the tape vault. And a number of these tapes ended up in the vault for over a year. When we pulled them out a year later, the edits didn't work. The cymbals would drop as much as three or four dB at the high frequencies, when they went to the Ampex 456, and then when we went back to the Agfa tape, it would get bright again. This was very frustrating from an engineering standpoint, because you realize, this is analog tape. The longer analog tape sits, the duller it gets. It isn't like the digital medium. So this is one of the main reasons why I thought remastering a lot of the stuff was stupid. Because we had better original tapes a lot, and even remixing some of it. We had better-sounding mixes and better-sounding tapes that were archived on digital from earlier. There was not really a reason to remix some of it. Anyway, without getting into a long story about it, the frustration about all that is, when we did - Terry Bozzio, when I remixed the whole "Baby Snakes" movie, we would have tapes that maybe the first 20 seconds would sound right, and then all of a sudden it would get dull, and everything would change. We'd have to strike the board, re-cue and reset everything, just to make the edit work. And you might strike the board maybe 8, 10, 12 times through one song, just to try to make the sonics match, on edits that originally ran across like butter. So this is the kind of thing that was so frustrating. Same thing happened to me on the "Freak Out" masters, when we got it back. Frank wanted me to do an edit on them, the original "Freak Out" masters, and I went to where the edit was, and there was about ten inches of clear plastic. The oxide had completely fallen off. And it was such a shame. The original 2-track was gone. Never to be heard again. So that's why we tried to recreate that stuff. And by the way, I did totally recreate those original masters with the original tracks on them. There were mixes done of them. And then we later overdubbed Chad Wackerman and some bass and some of this other things, when the old box set got redone, but there was actual mixes. And there was actual transfers of the original tracks that were preserved in immaculate shape. That was one of my whole projects. I did that for - over three months of my time was doing nothing but transferring over the old archives. In my mind, I too, and I imagine a lot of the original Frank fans, would have loved to hear the original stuff redone, instead of the overdubbed drum stuff.
Mix: Going back to "Tinsel Town Rebellion," was
there much difference in the quality of the tapes recorded by Mick
Glossop at the Odeon, and -
Pinske: Oh, Mick Glossop was one of my idols, then. I gotta tell you, I could take out a tape from Mick Glossop, a 16-track, and put it on, and it just sounded great. Sounded great. The guy did some really good work.
Mix: I don't mean to downgrade the other guys, but
I was just wondering what the diff -
Pinske: . . .so many of the tapes sucked, then when you get somebody that did a good job, you just really appreciate it.
Mix: "Tinsel Town Rebellion" was originally
released as a double LP. Did you get involved in the mastering process
for Frank's albums? I think you answered that.
Pinske: That was Joe Hansch at K-Disc. Joe and I did the mastering together on that. He's on a number of albums. Let me get the spelling correct for you on that. At that time, he was at K Disc. Before that he was at KenDun Recorders. And then we moved from KenDun to K-Disc.
Mix: One thing I noticed that Frank Zappa commonly
put between 15 and 19 minutes on a side. Presumably that's because
anything longer than that would require mastering at a lower level. Was
that your experience?
Pinske: Absolutely. We never tried to squeeze 22 minutes or more on a side, because of the fact that we wanted to cut a hotter lever and deeper groove. A lot of that came from Joe Hansch. A lot of the different engineers we used along the way. But when we later got with John Matousek, he was able to get us better-sounding lacquers - oh, Lord, which album was it? "Man From Utopia," or one of the albums I mixed, Joe Hansch thought was a nightmare. He thought it was one of the worse mixes in the world. Later on, whenever I tried out a new mastering room, like when we went from K-Disc over to Capitol Records, because we changed deals quite a bit, Frank would say, "Well, just take - go ahead and take 'Man From Utopia' with you." Or no, it was "Them Or Us," or - and I would take the tape over with me, because there would be a lot of out-of-phase, low-frequency stuff intentionally, you know, on floor tom-toms, or something like that. And when we got to Hitsville, John Matousek ran us a lacquer that was 2 dB hotter than any of the lacquers we released. And it sounded great. And he looked at me and said, "Man, this is a really well-mixed album." And I about died. Because everybody else had told me how many problems it was. Then I realized, I started learning right then and there, that a lot of it had to do with how good of a mastering engineer you have. How well they can set up a lathe or whatever. And what kind of equipment was in the actual room itself, as far as electronics and the signal path, and everything like that. Because John took some of our albums that earlier we had trouble with, "Tinsel Town Rebellion" was one of them, and cut us some actual lacquers that sounded fabulous. The other thing I just want to say real quickly about that, all the original liner notes on Frank's albums and, unfortunately, all the little notes he made like, crediting the people in the crew, like on "Tinsel Town Rebellion" he credits Thomas Nordegg for everything remote, and he gives special assistance - he talks about the AKG microphones we used on something, or he would make notes about how we recorded something and what we did differently. He talks about how the Santa Monica civic Auditorium concert is what we used for the guitar solo on "Fine Girl" and "Easy Meat," and where we took certain things from, Berkeley Community Theater, and how we went back and forth to certain live recordings and in and out of studio recordings and stuff. Those kind of notes, unfortunately, a lot of them just got lost on the CDs.
Mix: There's a striking lack of credit to Mark
Pinske on most of the albums.
Pinske: That's because later on, Gail struck a lot of them out of it. But that really didn't matter to me. I did the original work, and it was on the original albums, and most of the people that were fans knew this, or whoever has the album. I got, like, Jesus, a huge amount out - all of that credit stuff, later on - originally, like I said, I wanted to get some credits in the business. But later on, once I started doing that stuff, they mean a whole lot less. You'd like to take your name off some of the bad work you did. As you get older, it's not such a big deal.
Mix: "Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar," I have to tell
you that the CD version of the three albums in one box doesn't have any
credits for you.
Pinske: I did not do that album. "Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar" was a collection of stuff that was done off of 2-track and 4-track recordings that were--most of them I think were remixed by Bob Stone, but they were not tapes the I had recorded. They were instrumental stuff from previously old stuff, anywhere from 1970 on up.
Mix: They're all pretty old. They're from the
Odeon, Berkeley, Santa Monica.
Pinske: It was before I even was working with Frank. But the albums came out while I was with Frank, but remember how I said Bob and I did a tag team? What Frank was doing is, he was running--we started doing two eight- to ten-hour shifts each. And what we had gotten into for a while was, Bob refused to work more than eight hours. I would work 10 to 12, 13 hours without a problem. Frank kind of got to the conclusion that any engineer's ears wear out, to the point where you just can't get any creative mixing done after a certain point. So we started doing tag teams. I would be mixing one project, and Bob would be mixing another. And what we'd do was, I would finish a mix with Frank, and normally, whenever we finished a mix, we struck the whole board, because none of the tapes--the songs were all different. So Bob and Frank started doing a lot of the 2-track and 4-track stuff in between the sessions when I went home and slept. So those albums, really, most of those "Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar," and "The Return of the Son of Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar," most of those were all instrumental collections of whatever was in the tape vault. There's three different tape vaults, so you know that, as well.
Mix: Do you want to describe them? Were they all
put in at the same time as the studio?
Pinske: No, no. There was one tape vault put in the front yard, but there was a tape vault downtown, and there was also another one that--there was two off-premises, one of them that had all the original Warner Bros. tapes in and stuff. What had happened is, after the lawsuit was over, we took most of the stuff out of that particular vault and moved them all into the main vault, which was outside of the studio in the lawn, built underneath the lawn. And there was a big generator down there, as well, too, by the way, a diesel generator so if the power went off, it would just automatically kick on, we would still have backup power.
Mix: When did Bob Stone joint the organization, and
under what circumstances? He was literally hired as a second
Pinske: He was only hired as a remix engineer, and that was mainly because, like I said, when we started doing these back-to-back sessions, I was doing a lot of tracking. I tracked basically everything. Bob never tracked, as a matter of fact, he never tracked anything. He was brought in--we tried out a couple of guys, too. I'm trying to remember if we brought Davey Moire back. We tried out a couple of guys, and Frank--Bob Stone came recommended to Frank, and he tried him out, and they got along fine, and he seemed to do good work. And most of the time, Frank would tell you what he wanted anyway. There was a little freedom about how you could do your own mixing, but Frank would tell you want he wanted to change in a mix. He would sit there in the gray chair behind you and say, "Bring up this vocal, bring down this vocal, try to make this guitar sound a little bit better, get this keyboard to sound a little bit better, let's put a little stereo spread on this." Frank was a fanatic about having things sound a certain way that he wanted. Because of that, to a certain degree, whether I was sitting in the chair or Bob, a lot of it would come out sounding the same. But however, Bob was a little different. He would over compress a little bit more, and stuff like that with me. At first I think Frank was being a little more careful, and that's why he was doing 2-track, 4-track, and 8-track stuff with Bob a lot. And I was doing the heavier multitrack stuff. And that's where the difference came in a lot of the albums. Then as Bob got progressively better, I actually learned some things from Bob, and Bob learned some things from me, and we kind of started really getting along really good, so we would actually sometimes mix portions of the same song. Which was kind of neat, from an engineering standpoint. It made things a whole lot more creative, and it made things a whole lot better. And it also made things a whole lot more efficient, because Frank wouldn't have to stop working on a particular song or part of an album, just because we were changing shifts or something like that. He could actually keep going. Sometimes Frank would actually go up and sleep while I would tweak something or Bob might tweak something. We might spend two or three hours tweaking the mix, and then call Frank up. Frank had an anechoic chamber that slept in, and we would call him down when we were ready for him. That way Frank could keep his ears fresh, too. It wasn't always sitting there all the time. That's why it's real hard to explain the collaborative-ness. The main difference was, Bob never did any tracking. He just didn't--he was mainly a remix guy. And that's why they're always so careful about saying "remix." Which is kind of a stupid credit, if you think about it. All of that stuff was kind of malarkey.
Mix: If I've got these dates right, "You Are What
You Is," which was released in September '81, I guess it was recorded
during the summer of '81, and that was the first studio album--that was
a studio album, or was that again live tracks with overdubs?
Pinske: It was all studio. As a matter of fact, it's David Logeman on that. I actually did some vocals on that. That was one that was pretty much all my baby. I think Allen Sides helped--you know what's so strange about that one? I think Bob Stone had kind of decided at that point that he was going to take a break a little bit. So he was kind of getting real fatigued from all the live, leftover 2-tracks, so I pretty much was left on my own on that. So we brought in Allen Sides to do some tracking with us. Allen tracked with me, oh, one or two songs, and Frank for some reason just didn't hit it off with Alan. I don't know, they just--I think Allen maybe was a little too opinionated or something like that. But nonetheless, you know Allen always did pretty good work. So on that particular album it was primarily me and Allen Sides did some tracks. And then Bob did some remixing on--oh, gee, that was probably only about four or five of the tunes on that album. This is when he started crossing over and getting a little more involved with the better quality remixing. The full multitrack stuff. The stuff that just wasn't sparse. That's when Bob started becoming part of the overall team. That was in '81. But that whole album was a studio album. We tracked the whole thing in there. We had Motorhead, I think, played a little tenor sax on that one, and David Ocker played a little clarinet. Came in in the overdubbing stuff. And Steve Vai, that was one of the first albums Steve Vai actually did some studio dubs on.
Mix: The Steve Vai audition story is quite well
known--not so much audition, as he was familiar because he'd been doing
transcriptions on a contract basis, is that right?
Pinske: He was doing transcriptions for, believe it or not, for $10 a page. Some people took $15 a page. And Steve made me always promise to never tell Frank how much time he spent on one page, because his transcriptions looked immaculate. The real true story on Steve is kind of interesting, because you'll hear variations. You'll even hear Steve's own version of it, which isn't even totally accurate. Steve was a young kid. I was in the studio setting up some vocal mics one day, and Frank had gotten back a transcription of a live cassette that he had sent Steve called "Persona Non Grata." And Frank came out there with the sheet, and held it up to me, and he said, "Look at this, Mark. You gotta see this. Look at the way he transcribed my guitar solo here. He makes me look like a genius." He did some triple-dotted eighth notes, or some darn thing that just looked immaculate. And Frank said he was just screwing around, but Steve made it look really like it was some elaborate thing. And Frank got a kick out of it. He said, "Yeah, he sent me his tapes. Come on in the control room." I was setting up a mic out in what we called "the yard," out there, where I was telling you about in the studio. I came in, and Frank put in the cassette, and Steve had a band called Morning Thunder, which was a garage band. And I heard all this Jimi Hendrix-type of whammy guitar stuff going on, and Frank said, "I'm flying Steve out here tomorrow." I thought, "What the heck would he fly another guitar player out?" the whole idea was, Frank decided--he'd lost a little confidence in his guitar playing. You knew about that, right?
Mix: No, I didn't.
Pinske: There's about a three-year period in there where he almost didn't play at all. And we did a lot of tours where he just sang, and Steve played guitar. Steve and Ray and Ike. Frank didn't do a lot of solos. And then later on, the fans got kind of picky about it. But his mind already, he was just trying to bring in another guitar player, and he was just going to do more ad-libbing and singing, and just kind of directing. So Steve showed up, and he had this old beat-up Stratocaster. Jesus, I think he just turned 19 years old, he was nervous as heck. Came in the studio, and we went out there and Steve said to me, I was out in the studio with Steve, and he said, "You gotta help me get a guitar sound. And we didn't have any real elaborate guitar amps out there at the time. For some reason I thought he'd bring his own, or something. But we had a little Roland Jazzmaster, as a matter of fact. We cranked the thing up, and kind of got it swinging and feeding back. And Steve, "Yeah, I think this'll be OK, don't worry about it. I'll just play this." Because he wasn't being picky. We took this--I went in the control room, and Frank said, "Take the tracks from 'Persona Non Grata,'" is about an eight-minute piece. It's a pretty long piece. And he said, "Feed him all the tracks except my guitar, and we're going to have him play my guitar part." Which he had transcribed. And I kind of thought wasn't fair. So I looked at Frank, and I fed him the best mix I could--I gave him a pretty elaborate stereo headphone mix, as a matter of fact. And I said, "Steve, OK, just play along with it. Don't worry about it. Just play for however long you can. And then, whenever you want to, drop out." So I rolled the tape, I put it in Record. Steve started playing, and he played all the way through the piece. And Frank said, "My God, bring the kid in." So I told him to come in, and Steve came through the side door, and at the side door we have a little coffee maker, next to a little restroom there. And the door shut, and I was in between the two doors from the control room and where the coffee maker was, and I caught Steve there, and Steve said, "Man, I really screwed up, didn't I?" He was nervous. And I said, "No, man. Gee, I thought it sounded pretty good, Steve." So we brought him in the control room, and then Frank said to me, "Now put my guitar back on, and pan his guitar to one side, and my guitar to the other." And I remember distinctly panning Steve's guitar to the left side, panning Frank's guitar to the right side, or vice versa. I'm pretty sure that's the way it was, and we rolled the tape, and you couldn't hardly tell the difference of the two guitars. I swear to God. The bends, and the articulation, which pretty much told you how much time he spent on it, were--and Frank--probably the only time in my life I actually saw Frank's mouth just drop open. I turned around and his mouth was just dropped open. We listened to probably no more than about a minute and 20 seconds more of it, and Frank just said, "Stop the tape." I stopped the tape, he looked over at Steve and said, "Do you want to go on the road?" Honest to God. He looked over at him and said, "Do you want to go on the road?" So here was a guy that came from probably, I don't know, what? Making $120 a week, to $1,800, $2,000 a week. All of a sudden, he had a livelihood. Before he was 20 years old. And that was something I'll never forget. It really wasn't fair, I didn't think, but the kid held up pretty well.
Mix: So you're saying that around the time "Shut Up
'n Play Yer Guitar" albums came out, Frank had actually more or less
cut back on his soloing?
Pinske: That was an inherent part of the fact that we were doing so much studio work. He bought a $3.5 million studio, we're listening to all these tapes, and he's producing albums. So he's not practicing his guitar every day, and he's not playing. Then we even went one step further, and I redid the whole "Baby Snakes" movie, which I remixed. And by the way, there's no credit on me on that, either. We never changed the film credits. But I did do the remix on all the whole darn film. We were doing some of this stuff from Baltimore, with George Duke and Napoleon Murphy Brock and Ruth Underwood. Some television show. We were redoing the sound on these videotapes. Because we were putting together a little thing called "The Dub Room Special." And we did a bunch of little video things. And Frank was playing unbelievable guitar on this stuff. And I remember him making a comment to me, saying, "Man, I'll never play guitar that good again." And he was serious. You know how you make a statement? But you kind of take it like, "Gee, he's kind of serious about this." And I think what happened is, it wasn't so much that he'd never play that good again; he just didn't have his chops up. He didn't have the desire to play quite as much, and maybe the need to play quite as much. And he maybe kind of saw himself in a different role. So, what we did a couple of those tours and he wasn't really playing solos, some of the audience started writing in to the record company and stuff, and to Bennett Glotzer, his personal manager. I made a deal with Frank then. I said, "Look, Frank, if you want to start playing again, I'll take the Jimi Hendrix guitar down, and Seymour Duncan and I will put some new pickups in that thing, and we'll spice that guitar up." So he could play that, and one of his favorite SG guitars that he loved so much. I said, "Man, I'll make that sucker sing for you, man." You know, the next day I came in, and he was practicing guitar. And that's kind of what ended that thing.
Mix: And in fact, the guitar album is all later
recordings, which you recorded, and is playing through those guitars,
in fact, isn't it?
Pinske: Oh, yeah. There's a lot of stuff then. Later. We built a little equalizer in there. Midget came up with the circuit, that had a little parametric +/- 18dB 3-band parametric equalizer that we built into that Hendrix Strat. [Laughs.] And Seymour, I don't know, we went through all kinds of different pickup designs. That thing was really soaring, it was really singing. It was beautiful. It was kind of like, you know, I told you before, used to hang over the fireplace in the basement. He would walk down through the stairs, walk through the basement to get into the studio. So whenever he went back to the house, he would go through there. It was kind of like the mascot of the studio. It really meant a lot to him. It was just a burned-up Strat. But when we refurbished it, it was kind of just the aura of it all. There's two things I saw that meant a lot to Frank. The Hendrix guitar that was given to him, and then, unfortunately, the sad death of John Lennon. Which had a profound effect on him.
Mix: Which was in 1980, wasn't it?
Pinske: Yeah. We were in Berkeley. He almost didn't go on stage that night. We almost cancelled the show, I think. One of those things on the road, you know?
Mix: Yeah. I haven't got any more questions about YAWYI. As far as I can see, the bass is all by Arthur Barrow, right, and drums by David Logeman?
Pinske: Yeah. That was David Logeman, Artie Barrow. It was probably a pretty crude--my recording level skills weren't as good in those days, in '81, as they got later. It was a pretty bare album.
Mix: There's a lot on it.
Pinske: A lot of good songs. A lot of good vocals. We had Denny Walley come back in. We had Craig "Twister" Steward, as Frank called him. Matter of fact, I think I got an email from Craig "Twister" Steward the other day.
Mix: I've got a question about that, because on the
YCDTOSA series, there's quite a bit of harmonica playing, which is
never credited as far as I can tell. Was that Bobby Martin playing, or
Pinske: Bobby Martin played a little bit, but a lot of that was Craig "Twister" Steward as well. We tracked a lot of stuff with Craig that we never thought we were going to use later.
Mix: On the studio albums. But the live playing
must have been what, Bobby Martin?
Pinske: Yeah. Most of it, yeah.
Mix: I was just curious, because it's never
Pinske: Yeah. It's kind of sad how--Frank's liner notes, from the original albums and stuff, were one of the treats.
Mix: Yeah. The first album I really had, I guess,
was "Uncle Meat--"
Pinske: They were always funny.
Mix: And also he was the first person to really
explain recording technology to the public.
Pinske: You know all those notes are on the Internet. They're all over the place. You can get all the original liner notes everywhere. I got links to some of them on my Web site, on my CD page. As a matter of fact, there's a link when you just click on one of my albums that I did for him, one of them takes you to a link that has a chronological credits of every album. Tells you exactly everything you want to know about every album. That can help you fill in some of the cracks as far as who did what. It's all been documented a million times.
Mix: I've got about 20 or 30 links, but I haven't
actually stumbled across that one yet. But I will.
Pinske: Yeah, Valzemar or whatever his name is. One of my albums on the CD shelf on my home page has a link right to him.
Mix: I should have bookmarked you, and I haven't.
You're. . .
Pinske: Markpinske.com. Or just pinske.com. WWW.markpinske.com. And mine'll come up. The home page is real plain. It just has my address on. Then there's a "CD Shelf 1." I always had an intention of putting a whole bunch of the albums I did on there. And just never kept up--
[Setting up next time.]
Mix: I've got questions for the later albums, but I
haven't spent as much time listening to them. I don't have "Baby
Snakes," for instance.
Pinske: "Baby Snakes" was kind of a--we did a picture disc on that.
Mix: "Thing-Fish" I've only listened to once, but
Pinske: Yeah. That CD, I almost threw it away. It's so sad. I've got the original lacquers, but . . . You get the gist of it all, but it's a lot of overproduced stuff. The "Them Or Us" came out real good. "Man From Utopia" is kind of an interesting album. That's one that Bob and I did together. I think they even spelled my name wrong on that one. That one's kind of cool. It had a combination of some--that was some of the higher-quality studio stuff.
Mix: Quite a bit of "The Man From Utopia" is live,
though, isn't it?
Pinske: Oh, yeah. Frank did that on every album. We would do something from the studio, and then we'd turn around and do something live. And we would mix all the stuff together. He would have the habit of always going back and trying to grab something. He always seemed to think we needed to make a double album, instead of just a single album.
Mix: That's what kind of killed me, as a record
buyer. I gave up around "Sheik Yerbouti." I had everything up to that
point, but then I--
Pinske: Unfortunately, some of the albums would be fine as a two-sided album. They would have been just fine. You kind of wear out the--and then always segueing every song. Always segueing. It's like you're a prisoner from the time you drop the needle. And we spent so much time segueing. In some ways, the first cut of an album would sound better than what we did later.
[Setting up next time.]
When we did all those recordings, remember I told you we had something like 932 tapes after the first three months? Well, when you take a truck on the road for five years, you can imagine how many reels of tape there are. We used to have this joke that, we couldn't even listen to them all, and Frank would say, well, we're going to make albums until he dies, and then I'll still be making albums until I die. It was just kind of a little thing we did, because that is how long it would take to get through all of the tapes. A lot of it was just rehack. You don't want to listen to the same song 450 times.
Mix: But then, on the other hand, all the tapes
were different, in the sense that the shows very rarely had the same
Pinske: Oh, no. He would do the set list about 15 or 20 minutes before the show. He used to look out at the audience, and he would call us all in the dressing room, and we would write the set list right then, before the show. He would decide by the mood of the crowd, and stuff, what he was going to play. And the band had to know 125 songs.
Mix: But were there suites? There is one section
where they play four tracks in a row from "Them Or Us." "Charlie's
Enormous Mouth. . ."
Pinske: We would segue that stuff all together. The hardest thing about the musicians--it was much harder being a musician than it was for me being an engineer, because the musicians would practice 125 different songs, in the soundstage, for weeks. We would go on the road, and then all of a sudden, a month and a half into the tour, two months into the tour, he would call one of the songs that they hadn't played the whole tour, yet. And he would write it down. They'd go, "Man, I hope I can remember this thing." I remember the musicians always telling me that. And I recorded cassettes every night. Even when I was in the truck, or in the house. We would take the cassettes back to the hotel rooms, and the musicians and I would listen to a lot of the shows. And then I would take comments from a lot of the guys like Tommy Mars, or Ray and Ike, or whoever wanted to come to the room and listen. And they would give me comments about how they might want to change their guitar sound, or their keyboard sound. We would work on--my whole goal was to work on trying to get it to sound the way they wanted it to sound themselves. And then working it in, of course, to what Frank wanted. We taped every night. We made cassettes every night. Frank would take the tapes a lot, and then when he didn't take the tapes, he would give them to me, or he'd say give them to one of the musicians. That's why there's so many live cassettes floating around.
Mix: And presumably you've tried you best not to
let them fall into the hands of bootleggers.
Pinske: I did have a Halliburton stolen from me. This is one of the other things that kind of happened when I was in France. We stayed in downtown in Paris, and I had a little Halliburton briefcase. And I set it down to check in, and I turned around, it was gone. And I had like eight live shows in that thing. They were all just cassettes. But every one of them came out on a bootleg later.
Mix: So that's why some of the bootlegs really do
sound like board tapes, because that's exactly what they are.
Pinske: That's what they were. Some of them were my board tapes. I didn't have anything to do with it, of course, but nonetheless, it couldn't be stopped. Some of them actually sounded pretty decent. Every once in a while you get one that was really good. It wasn't easy to make great-sounding cassettes, because you were really trying to mix for the house, mainly. And the house would sound a little bit different. But we got a couple of them in there that were nothing to be ashamed of.
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Modern Recording and Mixing
This 2-DVD set will show you how the best in the music industry set up a studio to make world-class records. Regardless of what gear you are using, the information you'll find here will allow you to take advantage of decades of expert knowledge. Order now $39.95
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Electronic Musician magazine and Thomson Course Technology PTR have joined forces again to create the second volume in their Personal Studio Series, Mastering Steinberg's Cubase(tm). Edited and produced by the staff of Electronic Musician, this special issue is not only a must-read for users of Cubase(tm) software, but it also delivers essential information for anyone recording/producing music in a personal-studio. Order now $12.95
Modern Recording and Mixing
This 2-DVD set will show you how the best in the music industry set up a studio to make world-class records. Regardless of what gear you are using, the information you'll find here will allow you to take advantage of decades of expert knowledge. Order now $39.95
Mastering Cubase 4
Electronic Musician magazine and Thomson Course Technology PTR have joined forces again to create the second volume in their Personal Studio Series, Mastering Steinberg's Cubase(tm). Edited and produced by the staff of Electronic Musician, this special issue is not only a must-read for users of Cubase(tm) software, but it also delivers essential information for anyone recording/producing music in a personal-studio. Order now $12.95