Jeff Lynne

Nov 1, 2012 9:00 AM, Mix, By Matt Hurwitz

Strange Magic


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Jeff Lynne

Jeff Lynne

Since his introduction to the recording studio in the late 1960s, Jeff Lynne has proven himself a continual innovator. With the formation of Electric Light Orchestra (Lynne, Roy Wood, Bev Bevan) in 1970, he introduced the inclusion of orchestral string players as permanent members of the band, adding a new layer to the pop soundscape. Soon after, the move to Giorgio Moroder’s Musicland studio and collaboration with engineer Reinhold Mack in the mid-’70s culminated in what many consider Lynne’s crowning achievement in recording, ELO’s 1977 double-LP release, Out of the Blue.

Following the breakup of ELO in 1986, Lynne turned heavily to producing other artists, including George Harrison, Dave Edmunds, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and a band listed at the top of his recording heroes, The Beatles themselves, for whom he produced the group’s Anthology reunion tracks, “Free As a Bird” and “Real Love” in 1994-95. He was also, of course, a member and co-producer of The Traveling Wilburys, with Harrison, Petty, Orbison and Dylan, releasing two acclaimed discs in 1988 and 1991.

Lynne released one solo album, Armchair Theater in 1990, and 22 years later, on October 9, released a second, Long Wave, a tribute to the classics he heard on the BBC on his father’s long-wave radio in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Released the same day was Mr. Blue Sky: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra, for which Lynne has taken a second pass at some of ELO’s biggest hits.

Recording of the two albums took place at Lynne’s Los Angeles home, where he has lived these past 17 years overlooking L.A. and on a good day gaining a view of Catalina. The space has a warm tone with wood-paneled rooms, and Lynne might plug in anywhere. As Joe Walsh, one of Lynne’s most recent collaborators [see Mix August 2012], says in a new documentary (Mr. Blue Sky: The Story of Jeff Lynne and ELO), “Every room in that house is a recording room.”

The control room still reflects Lynne’s analog roots, with a classic 40-channel British Raindirk Symphony LN1 console, a load of EQ modules rescued from his previous Raindirk Series 3 desk, AMS DMX 15-80, S-DMX and RMX-16 digital delays, API 550 and Massenburg 8200 EQ units, API 512b and Brent Averill 1073 and 1272 mic preamps, and plenty of UREI 1176 limiters. Lynne and engineer Steve Jay, with whom he has collaborated for the past five years, record to Pro Tools and mix through the Raindirk, monitoring through Yamaha MSP-10s or Event Opals, as well as larger ATC SCM100 speakers.

Lynne records guitars and vocals in a half-office/half-studio space next to the control room and drums in an extra room filled with spare CDs, box sets and 7-inch vinyl. A very large wood-paneled, high-ceilinged room downstairs, looking much like the interior of a warm hunter’s lodge (and formerly used to store pinball machines by the previous owner), is used for recording piano and string and choir sections, among other things.

For Mix, Lynne reveals his current recording process, as well as that of his pioneering work with ELO, some techniques of which remain in his massive bag of recording tricks.

You’ve had personal recording studios for years. When was your first?

[Points to a Bang & Olufson Beocord 2000 Deluxe reel-to-reel machine in the control room]. That’s my original studio. I got it in 1968. I had a Mellotron in the front room of my mom and dad’s house, and I had that set up, with a record player right next to it in this big cabinet. It’s a 2-track “sound on sound” machine. So you would record on the left track, and then record a mix of that along with, say, a second guitar, onto the right track, and just keep bouncing, adding a vocal or a bass drum. Sometimes I’d bounce 20 times—you’d see through the f***ing tape! It was like Scotch tape in the end. And I could do the best phasing on Earth.

What did you learn from using it?

I learned to experiment. I learned about having sounds together, seeing what piano sounded like with the guitar and how to include the Mellotron.

What do you like about the rooms you use here for recording?

Everything’s made of wood. The big room downstairs has just the right amount of bounce—very soft, not trashy, like a big room can be. The other room, where I record guitars mainly, has just that perfect ratio of room and guitar, like the old BB King kind of blues sound. Dry, but slightly wet. No reverb. I never use any reverb. And my drum room, which is like a storage cupboard—I have some great fun recording in here. You’ll see, I’ve got tielines in each room that lead back to the control room, so there’s no cables running down the halls.

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