Music: Spinal Tap

Jun 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Mr. Bonzai



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Vanston and Cherney Together

The sound is as big and bad as any heavy metal out there. Were you trying to surpass all the metal competition?

Cherney: Well, the sound comes from the musicians. That is what Spinal Tap sounds like. If you can capture that by putting some microphones up and opening them up, that's what you get. Big, big and more big.

Vanston: And angry.

Cherney: Bitter. They're not very nice anymore.

Yes, I noticed. One of them told me to f*** myself during my interview with them.

Cherney: Only one told you that? All of them told me that. You want to know the truth about recording Spinal Tap? They are really good musicians, and some people might not know that. Basically, you set them up in a room and they are all sitting together and they can see each other and they play the songs. That is the secret. Put some microphones up and capture their performance.

Was much improvisation done in the studio?

Vanston: No, we rehearsed for a week before we came in here and played the songs. There's not a whole lot of wizardry going on. You are hearing live tracks of what we cut in the room. There might be a little overdub solo here and there, and we did all the background vocals separately. But the band plays great. They rock.

Cherney: And then we come in here and make it just a little bigger than life so that it sounds good on your iPod.

Did you record the original tracks digitally?

Cherney: We recorded through an analog console, but we recorded to digital for convenience. We did it mostly because of “Jazz Oddyssey,” which was over 40 minutes long. If we had used tape, we would have lost three-fourths of the performance.

Vanston: Which could have been a good thing. Maybe we should have recorded analog. One interesting thing about Studio Ed is that he uses a combination of Pro Tools with a console, the Yamaha DM2000 — a hybrid setup that enables him to use outside compressors like this monstrous Tube-Tech multiband compressor. He's got a Dimension D here, he's got the Publison…

Cherney: Here at Studio Ed I have set it up to have the best of both worlds. The big compromise, you might say. In the world we work in now, you have to have a room like this that costs about $150k, but in the old days it would have cost $5 million.

You have to work affordably. I would rather be in a big studio, with a big console, but I built this place so I can accommodate the budgets that are the reality of our fabulous business today. I was able to make the compromise between mixing in the box and being totally digital, to being able to come outside the box and add some iron, some tubes, and get more warmth and depth and weight to the music.

CJ brought in his arsenal of vintage synthesizers and keyboards for tracking this Tap album. Was that like a step back in time?

Cherney: I don't think CJ has ever really gotten out of 1978, to tell you the truth.

Vanston: That's why I work with Ed — he brings me into the '80s.

Studio Ed is up here on the third floor of The Village. Does that lend itself to using the big rooms downstairs when you need them?

Cherney: Absolutely. These days, just about everyone has a studio at home. I certainly did and it gets lonely. And when people come over, you have to clean up. At a studio like this, there are people who would like to become engineers and they take care of that cleaning up for me. It's a lot better than asking my wife.

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