Music: The Killers

Dec 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Heather Johnson



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L-R: Mark Stoermer, Dave Keuning, Brandon Flowers and Ronnie Vannucci

L-R: Mark Stoermer, Dave Keuning, Brandon Flowers and Ronnie Vannucci
Photo: Torey Mundkowsky

During one of the worst times ever in U.S. economic history, the reports of stock market nosedives, high unemployment and other gloomy events seem endless. But there is at least one positive outcome of all this mess. If it weren't for our slowing recording industry and the real estate downturn, there wouldn't have been a certain recording studio for sale in Las Vegas. And the celebrated rock foursome The Killers wouldn't have bought said studio, nor would they have remodeled the place, bought a few pieces of equipment and turned it into Battle Born (, the recording home for their third studio album, Day & Age, released November 25 on Island Records.


Remix Article on The Killers

The Vegas-based quartet — vocalist Brandon Flowers, guitarist Dave Keuning, bassist Mark Stoermer and drummer Ronnie Vannucci — had outgrown their barren rehearsal space and wanted a more comfortable place to prepare for their busy tour schedule, work through song ideas and, ideally, record them. “We were hoping to look into some of these foreclosures that were happening in some areas of Vegas,” says drummer Vannucci. “We wanted to find a home or a nice lot where we could make noise, but that didn't really materialize. Then, on the very last day, the realtor says, ‘I know a guy that wants to sell his studio in central Vegas. It's not listed yet, but I'm sure you can take a look.’” Ten minutes later, Vannucci was at the doorstep of Studio V (aka Studio Vegas), a mid-sized facility with two control rooms, a live room with two iso booths, a drum room and a decent stock of equipment, most of which could stay with its potential new owners. “I made an offer right then and there,” says Vannucci, “hoping the other guys would like it and I wouldn't have to pay for it myself!”

With the paint dry and a newly purchased API 1608 console with 16-channel Expander installed, as well as pairs of Westlake BBSM-10s and Focal Twin 6s, The Killers could record their new album at their own studio without the tick of the clock counting down the billable hours. They had the freedom to experiment and re-record liberally; however, most of the time, they found that the first or second take was the best one.

Similarly, they followed their instincts when choosing Stuart Price to produce Day & Age. Price, an electronic musican/remixer/producer whose background includes remixes for No Doubt and Coldplay, as well as producing Madonna's Confessions on a Dance Floor, had produced The Killers' Grammy-nominated remix to “Mr. Brightside” and their 2007 Christmas single, “Don't Shoot Me, Santa.” Although the band had only worked with Price as a remixer, they trusted the creative and personal chemistry at play.

“The Killers have a history of changing direction radically on each record,” says Price. “They recorded their first album very quickly — they were recording and mixing a song a day. They spent a lot more time and got a lot more in-depth in making the second record. So for this third record, I suppose they were equally interested in making it in a slightly more chaotic way, which would give rise to it being a little more of-the-moment. So it became an odd but interesting choice to have a remixer produce the record. They took a big risk, but that's really the only way you can generate excitement.”

At the same time, Price, with his primarily electronic and dance-music background, took a risk when signing on to work with a rock band. “I always thought it would be great to make a rock record with remixer's ideas,” says Price. “After doing The [Killers] remix, I was secretly hoping that they would be interested in working on an album. So the two ideas just married up really nicely. And I really think that's what this album is — a rock record made with remixer's ideas. That, for me, makes it new and groundbreaking.”

Trans-Atlantic Demo Recording

The Killers' spontaneous approach to Day & Age came after months of preparation. Beginning in early '08 after wrapping up their winter tour, each bandmember began coming up with song ideas, and then uploaded those ideas via e-mail and Apple iDisk accounts so that the rest of the band could build off of them. “We could add, change and shoot things back and forth this way,” says Vannucci. “We ended up with something like 50 ideas for songs, so when we did get into the rehearsal room, it was like, ‘Okay, let's go down the list.’ Every idea saw the light of day.”

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