Sylvia Massy, author of Recording Unhinged: Creative and Unconventional Music Recording Techniques, was featured in the mid-January issue of Recording Magazine. In Recording Unhinged, Sylvia Massy and her cohort of celebrity music industry producers, engineers, and recording stars discard fixed notions about how music should be recorded and explore techniques that fall outside the norm and yield emotionally powerful, incredibly personal, gut-wrenching, and even scary recordings. Take a look at the excerpt below.
Coming back to the book, one of the cool things is that it’s not just your techniques and ideas. The book is filled with a lot of great examples of strange and wonderful techniques from other engineers. Do you have a favorite somebody else’s? Or moments putting the book together, or even in your career, where you thought, “Wow, that’s so cool!”?
Sylvia Massy: There’s so many of those wow moments. For instance, Matt Wallace was the one that top dmd about reamping a snare by taping another snare to a PA speaker, running the original snare through it, and milking the new snare. There is a legendary story from Roni Saint Germain which I got him to share for the book, with the singer from Bad Brains being in jail for possession of pot and they recorded his vocals from jail over a telephone. He describes in the book how they did that…
I’ll stop you so readers will go buy the book to hear the rest, but it involves smoking a page out of a Bible before the take…
I was really excited to be able to share some of the legends and amazing techniques from these engineers in the Recording Unhinged book. There are so many more stories to come… I hope to write a second book.
I was going to ask: since you’ve done the book, do you have any new techniques you’ve used recently or that have excited you?
Oh yes. Oh yes. Something for the second Recording Unhinged book includes taking a speaker cable out of a guitar amplifier, and before you plug it into a guitar speaker, you cut it in half, separate leads… and then you plug in some potatoes into those leads so you have a positive potato and you have a negative potato, do you understand what I’m talking about? [laughs]
This sounds like high school science experiments where you light a light bulb with a potato.
That’s where the inspiration came from. I mean, you can light a light bulb with a potato, so why can’t you filter the audio from a guitar with a potato? It turns out that a potato filter will actually add a nice high shelf to your guitar tone and it adds a kind of graininess which is really quite interesting.
So now you’ve got your potato filter, but you can try any number of other times. You can try carrots, you can try apples, oranges… I find that hot dogs are very good; in fact, two days ago I used a pair of sausages that are cheese sausages, they’re German cheese sausages [laughs]… sorry, I can’t stop laughing while i’m telling you this, but it was incredible! I think it was something to do with the cheese. There was a sound that I couldn’t believe and so for the Flying Mammals session that I’m doing in the castle, if they’ll let me, I’ll cut a cable and we’ll try some of these cheese sausages on guitar.
Here’s a bit of warning, though. If you’re going to do this at home, it’s better to use a solid state amp for this, because the tube amps don’t like it and they eventually start smoking and you’ll probably blow some of the fuses, but the solid state amps seem to do pretty good.
There are more stories, too. Ed Cherney actually told me how to wire household appliances into the guitar chain… but you’re going to have to actually get the next book so I can draw the diagram on how you wire it up.
To read the full interview, pick up the latest copy of Recording Magazine.
Congratulations are in order! Recording Unhinged: Creative & Unconventional Music Recording Techniques, by Sylvia Massy, has been nominated for a NAAM Technical Excellence & Creativity (TEC) Award at the 32nd annual show. These awards will be presented January 21, 2017 in Anaheim, California.
Sylvia has worked with the likes of Tool, System of a Down, Johnny Cash, and Prince. In addition she’s received a multitude of gold and platinum awards for her work with Sevendust, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and and Tom Petty. Aside from music she’s an accomplished fine artist, columnist, educator, and entrepreneur. Why not add author to that list?
Recording Unhinged: Creative and Unconventional Music Recording Techniques dares you to “unlearn” safe record-making, to get out from behind the windshield, stick your head out the sunroof, and put the pedal to the metal! Sylvia Massy and her cohort of celebrity music industry producers, engineers, and recording stars discard fixed notions about how music should be recorded and explore techniques that fall outside the norm and yield emotionally powerful, incredibly personal, gut-wrenching, and even scary recordings.
Recording Unhinged contains captivating, eye-popping illustrations by Sylvia herself. As if being a celebrated producer isn’t enough, Sylvia’s iconic illustrations bring real and imaginary recording situations to life.
The NAMM TEC Awards are presented annually in celebration of the pro audio community by recognizing the individuals, companies and technical innovations behind today’s sound recordings, live performances, films, television, video games and other media.
The nomination process began with a two-month call for entries of standout technical and creative products and projects that have made a significant impact on modern sound and music. A panel of respected industry voters from pro audio publications as well as members of professional music, technical and creative organizations, along with select NAMM members carefully evaluated each entry before selecting the nominees.
Sylvia Massy, author of Recording Unhinged: Creative and Unconventional Music Recording Techniques, is featured in a new video that is now available on Lynda.com. Click play on the video below to watch a preview and check out the full video in the link below!
Recording Unhinged: Creative and Unconventional Music Recording Techniques dares you to “unlearn” safe record-making, to get out from behind the windshield, stick your head out the sunroof, and put the pedal to the metal!
“There have been countless how-to books on sound recording, but this isn’t one of them. Sylvia Massy has a unique perspective on what makes musicians tick and how great recordings are created. This book is a brilliantly assembled insight into their world and is a cracking good read,” says Alan Parsons.
Recording Unhinged, Sylvia Massy and her cohort of celebrity music industry producers, engineers, and recording stars discard fixed notions about how music should be recorded. They explore techniques that fall outside the norm, yielding emotionally powerful, incredibly personal, gut-wrenching, and even scary recordings. With commentary by Hans Zimmer, Al Schmitt, Bruce Swedien, Jack Joseph Puig, Dave Pensado, Tchad Blake, Bob Clearmountain, Linda Perry, Michael Franti, Michael Beinhorn, Bob Ezrin, Geoff Emerick, and many others, this book includes the stories, tips, and advice that you won’t find in any other instructional manual.
“Working with Sylvia on Undertow was an absolute pleasure. Whether recording the destruction of a piano with sledgehammers and shotguns, or dialing in killer drum sounds with the greatest mic choices, her approach was always fresh, fun, and never preconceived. This book will assuredly inspire some wacky recording sessions!”, praises Danny Carey (drummer from TOOL).
Recording Unhinged is also unique in its inclusion of exercises, diagrams, jokes, photos, and other images all related to more adventurous recording techniques. Throughout the book (and on the cover) are many full-colored illustrations – created by a musical genius – Massy herself!
Sylvia Massy, author of Recording Unhinged, was recently interviewed by Mike Levine a contributor of AudioFanzine. AudioFanzine is an online magazine that caters to musicians as well as sound engineers, home-studio recording enthusiasts, and audio and lighting engineers. They spoke about her book and some of the unconventional techniques it offers up. Read an excerpt of the interview below!
The book is really impressive. Not only did you write it but you also illustrated it, including the very colorful cover. Why did you decide to do the book in the first place?
The book came out of just having all these weird things that I would do that other people wouldn’t do, and I noticed that when I went into sessions, I was building interesting things, so I thought I’d share that. And then talking to different engineers that I’m associated with at the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and at trade shows, I realized that they also had some interesting techniques that nobody had really documented. And there were about 35 different people that I interviewed, and I collected their stories and some of their techniques. And then I illustrated some of their techniques, because I’m better at drawing it out than trying to explain it. It’s much easier for me. And that turned into doing much larger illustrations and caricatures of these people that I was interviewing. So I just went on with it. And with the help of Chris, my manager, and the co-writer of the book, we created all of these different panels. The Producer Pods and Engineering Marvels and the people in the industry that are heroes.
The book is kind of modular. Little short pieces all organized by type of instrument to record or type of recording technique.
It’s like tapas. You’re going to take a little bit of this and a little bit of that and put it on a plate and enjoy it.
It makes it really easy to read because you can just jump into any chapter, grab a few things, go somewhere else, etc.
And that’s what I was hoping, that it would become a coffee-table type book, where you could open up one page and get inspired. Especially if it was just on the corner of your console or on top of a speaker. Then you just open a page and it should help unstick you.
The book offers lots of unique ways to get results in the studio. For example, I love the part about distracting singers.
It’s something that I’m really good at. I worked on my techniques over the years on how to get a great performance, and a lot of it has to do with distracting the musician or the singer so that they stop thinking about themselves. You can be really goofy in the studio. You can adjust the temperature to get an effect. If you want the singer to be angry, because you have an aggressive part, then you make it uncomfortable for them. Or, I read something about John Lennon hanging upside down once, and I thought I’d try that. It was a disaster, actually, I wouldn’t do it again. The poor guy almost had an aneurysm. That was actually Serj Tankian, the singer from System of a Down.
You had more success with Serj when you set up a tent in the studio for him to use as a vocal booth.
That worked out, really well. If you’re in a studio where you don’t have an isolation booth, and there’s too much reflection from the walls coming back into your vocal mic, a tent works great.
So the tent was there for sonic reasons, but it also gave him give him his own space to be in while singing?
The initial reason was to calm down the reflections. But it turned into his special place, and was even better.
Was it a canvas tent?
It was just a regular camping tent. It was tall enough that you could stand up in it and you could stand up a mic in it. And also, it didn’t require stakes, because we were in someone’s house — Rick Rubin’s basement, actually.
Read the article in its entirety here!