Music: Weezer

Sep 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bryan Reesman

INTO THE "RED" WITH THREE SESSIONS

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Lee also knows how to push people positively. While Wilson was recording his parts for “Troublemaker,” the producer told the drummer that a fill he had played in the chorus would have made him trip on the dancefloor. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh, man, I don't want to make anybody trip,’” recalls Wilson. “In the past I would've been a little bit more standoffish because I always wind up arguing with people at some point, but it made me realize what a badass he was when my first reaction was not to be confrontational. That's the mark of a good producer, when you immediately have a deep respect [between you].”

“Jacknife is the first guy there and the last to leave,” adds Wilson. “He's also wicked hands-on and is way into Logic and stuff like that. Rick is on the exact opposite end of the spectrum. He's a nonmusician with the good ears. For him, sitting in the studio for four or five hours is a total drag. He would rather hear what you're doing once and comment on it, and then you go back and work through it. You do that until he says, ‘Okay, that's really great.’”

“Working with Rick is great,” concurs Cuomo. “He's able to listen to what's going on and immediately pinpoint the most important thing that needs work.”

In looking at how Weezer's studio sound has evolved over the years, Cuomo says he feels that the band has a much more musical and sensitive feel today. “On our first record, the Blue Album, it was all we could do to just stay in time and play along to a click track,” he recalls. “It sounded a little mechanical, although powerful. Now we're able to not use a click track, and it just sounds more musical to me.” (Wilson reveals that the group did use a click for “Pork and Beans” because the chorus is one BPM slower than the verse.)

While there is a lot of overdubbing during the making of a Weezer album, “at the heart of everything we do is a really good live take,” remarks Cuomo. “It also feels like everyone has found a place in our sound where they can flourish and really contribute. The Blue Album sounded more like me controlling everything. I demo'd the songs before I taught them to the guys. It sounded maybe two-dimensional, and now it's got all these different personalities and sounds like we're gelling.”

The recording and mixing of the Red Album paralleled the group's classic-rock influences both sonically and in terms of performance. Engineers this time out included Andrew Scheps, David Schiffman, Dana Nielsen and Tom McFall. Rich Costey mixed the album, aided by engineer Justin Gerrish, at Avatar Studios in New York City. Cuomo says that Wilson is the band's “sonics” guru, and he was very involved from recording through to mastering. “I became far more interested in the engineering side of stuff,” confirms Wilson, “and a lot of what you hear [on the Red Album] is me trying to preserve the atmosphere around the drums rather than what a lot of people do these days with active rock, which is to close-mike everything and bus-compress the shit out of the drums. Then you bring up the ambience with what's left over from the overheads. But a lot of these songs have a kick drum mic, a snare drum mic and two faraway overheads. Just by paying attention to how hard you hit the cymbals, you can still play rock that's got some spirit to it rather than the more focused sound that you hear a lot today. It's more like Zeppelin but not totally room-based.”

Despite all of the different sessions and people involved, mixer Costey brought it all together in the end. “I think just having one person at the helm during mixing, using all the same gear, [made it] stand a pretty good chance of having it sound cohesive,” muses Cuomo. The band had a meeting with him prior to explain their old-school philosophy, which the mixer was totally on board with. “We threw tracks at him from different sessions with different producers and all different kinds of sounds, but it really came back sounding like an album. Pat was very involved with mixing and making sure that it just didn't end up sounding like a cookie-cutter modern-rock album. He wanted to make sure that we retained the character of those recording sessions and of this band.”






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