2007 Rock Zone Interview with Dave-English




Thanks for taking the time to answer this. Please don’t be too brief in the answers.

1-How would you define your work as producer?

My job is to figure out what the band is trying to do and then help them do it to the best of my ability.  A lot of that entails keeping people focused on the stated goals for a given song or record.  I know that there are producers out there who use a band as a vehicle for their ideas, but that’s not me.

2-Why did you decide to be a producer?

There are two main reasons.  One, I think that it was a natural progression from engineering.  The big difference between engineering and producing seems to be responsibility.  I became aware that I was taking on the responsibility of booking the studios, finding musicians, handling budgets and making sure that things got done on time, so I asked for co-production credit on some early records that I worked on and the bands agreed.   The other reason is that I really enjoy working on lots of different types of music.  Being in a band and only working on music with that group of people felt too constrained to me.  The more I know about being in a successful rock band, the less interested I am in being in one!

3-Did you ever study to become one or did you just learn, let's say, 'by ear'?

I did go to school to become a recording engineer.  I attended the State University of New York at Fredonia.  It’s a four year program for a B.S. which is split with two years of music school and two years of science.  It was a great program and now I do a little teaching there also!  Of course you never stop learning by ear though and every band I work with shows me some new angle or process that I had never considered.  That’s part of what is so much fun about exploring music with so many different people.

4-Is there any producer that you consider as your main reference?

No. I usually like music first.  A great song on a 4-Track is always better than a terrible song with great production.  So I think that you can find many examples of a band working with the right producer and making a great record, but a lot of those records would have been great anyway.  Most producers make a lot of records, but you usually only hear about the ones that work really well or are commercially successful, so it seems like they know what they’re doing, but it’s always really about the band.

5-What album would you choose for its production values in rock music history?

Just one?  I can’t pick just one!

6-Which album do you wish you had produced?

Prince- Purple Rain  I can’t say enough good things about it.

7-What criteria do you apply when it comes to choose the bands you work with?

Are they nice? 

If you are going to spend twelve hours a day with a bunch of people, you have to be able to get along.  I don’t care how great your music is if you are a dick.

Do they have a good work ethic? 

I like to work about ten to twelve hours a day.  After that I can’t really concentrate too well.  I need people to be ready to work when we start the day.  I know that there are times when nothing is coming to your head, but there’s a lot of work that goes into making a record.  Don’t forget, “Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.” (Thomas A. Edison).

Are they willing to come to my studio? 

I usually only work at Tarbox Road Studios.  It’s a studio that was built in 1997 by me, Mary (my wife), Greg Snow, and Andrea Wasiura so that I could work near home.  It’s about ten miles from my home and is very well equipped.  I used to travel all the time, but I think that it works out really well for the bands to come out here away from the distractions of a city and record companies etc.  The kind of people who are willing to come out here and really concentrate on making a record are the kind of people that I like to work with.

What are their goals for the record?

When a band starts to talk to me about what they want to do  for their next record,  I want to know that they are focused and agreed about their goals.  If they seem too wishy-washy, or are unclear about where they’re going, then I can’t really help them get there. 

8-Do you argue a lot with the bands you produce?

No.  I used to argue about things, but there’s no reason really.  It’s their record not mine.  If I feel very strongly about something,  I’ll make a case for it but if they don’t like the idea, then it’s over and we’re on to the next thing.  I am always trying to have a session where no idea is too weird.  As long as we have the time, I’ll try anything.  I’ve found that it’s a lot better to just try an idea instead of talking about it.  Then everyone can hear it and hear whether it’s working.  Talking about music is like talking about painting.  You gotta just hear it! You gotta just see it!

9-What should people pay attention to, to know if an album is well produced?

For me that means a lot of things behind the scenes that may or may not be coming out of the speakers like did the band get the help the needed to accomplish their goals?  But just based on what you can hear,  I always like to hear new combinations of sounds and absurdities that somehow help the final product.  I especially like to hear rough edges in rock music.  It’s usually more interesting to me to hear a few mistakes and accidents than just perfect music  especially with all the tools available in the studio today. There are records that I really don’t like that I know are brilliantly produced because as a listener I can hear that they did everything that they were trying to do.  It’s hard to describe, but sometimes there is a great coming together of the songs and the sounds which to me means that the production is good.

10-I guess an album is comprised of three main aspects: songwriting, performance and production. Which is the importance of production? Which percentage?

I’ll go with 33 1/3. Production can vary from helping with the songwriting, to knowing when to leave it alone and stay out the the way, but the producer is part of the team and has to be ready to help as much or as little as needed.

11-Which are the characteristics that define your productions?

I think that I’m more defined by the bands that I work with.  I work with people who are trying to break their own prconceived notions of music.  They are looking to surprise themselves and look at things in a different way.  For me that’s a lot of fun. 

12-What’s your modus operandi? Do you prefer to record all instruments live at once, each instrument one by one, etc...?

That’s something that varies from song to song, sometimes even from verse to  chorus!  It’s different every time.  I don’t have a personal preference at all though.  I think that you just do what has to be done at  that time.  I will always try to find out what the feel of the song is though and make sure that we start with that so that the feel is right from the beginning, but often you just don’t know until you know!

I’m lucky that I work with people who are aware that the idea we are going for isn’t always the best idea.  Sometimes when you’re putting down the 48th track, you realize that this sounds was what you should have been doing the whole time so you just get rid of the old tracks and start over with the 48th one!

13-In which studio do you usually work?

Tarbox Road Studios. 

14-Which of the albums you have produced do you feel more proud of?

It changes all the time, but at the moment, Brazil- The Philosophy of Velocity.

Please fill this as well

Full Name: David Fridmann

City of residence: Fredonia

Bands you have worked with: Low, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Brazil, Thursday, Café Tacuba, Kaolin, Sparklehorse, Bass Piggy, Lake Trout, Mogwai, The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev

Last album you have produced:Low

Website: http://www.netsync.net/users/fridmann