Producer's Desk: Tucker Martine

Jun 1, 2012 9:00 AM, By Blair Jackson



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What did “processing” mean in the context of a live group?
In that era, which is pre Boss looping pedals and all that, the Lexicon Jam Man had just come out, so I had two of those and you could do live on-the-fly sampling with those—catch a phrase and trigger it, or even play it backwards, or you could make loops, so I used those a lot and I had a ring modulator and tape delays and reverb units. Sometimes I would take a phrase that someone would play and I would mangle it some way and reintroduce just the return from a cavernous reverb or something.

Did you end up getting a Mackie console?
I did. It was 24x8. I was so happy!

That changed a lot of people’s lives, along with the MDMs of that era: the ADAT and the DA-88. They helped democratize recording. It sounds like you were on that road already.
I was on that road already, but I can’t imagine what would have happened if that hadn’t come along, or something hadn’t come along at that price point. I might have thought I was priced out of that business, because I took a pretty thin resume to all the studios in Seattle—I was ready to take out the garbage and stuff, but no one was calling me back, so I thought, “That route’s not going to work. I just need to learn by doing it.” I’ll read stuff and any time I can ask questions of somebody I’ll do that. I tried a million things and made a bunch of mistakes and made some bad-sounding recordings, but eventually I got better at it.

How long did you stay in that spot?
I was in a house for one year when I first moved to Seattle, and then I moved to the first place I dubbed Flora, because it was on Flora Avenue, and I was there for 11 years. [His Portland studio is also called Flora.]

Did you feel limited by your basement studio?
No, but I was always eager and excited to work in better studios, too. I think that’s one of the reasons I hung on and worked for Wayne Horvitz for a number of years—because he was involved with quite a few projects that had enough budget to go to “real” studios. That gave me more experience and more confidence, and it informed what I did at home.

When people come to you, I assume a lot of them know your predilection to electronics and doing interesting textural things. How often do people want that from you, vs. wanting a straight documentary thing?
It depends. Although I’ve certainly put my aesthetic on some of the higher-profile things I’ve done—like My Morning Jacket and, to some extent, The Decemberists—in truth I’m usually just trying really hard to make it sound like the band and to make it sound really good. I’m not sitting there thinking, “I haven’t gotten any of my trickery on here yet!” There’s trickery in making things sound like they haven’t been futzed with a lot, too.

More often than not people aren’t explicitly asking for that, but I feel very fortunate that I tend to attract people that are excited to try different things and willing to take some risks.

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