More than "Cop Killer"
Why does this exist?
A night for diehards
Producing vs. mixing, and sonic variety
Madball, Empire (Nuclear Blast, 2010)
"Doing Madball was a huge opportunity for me, 'cause I grew up in New Jersey so I did many shows with hardcore bands back in the day, like Biohazard and Sick Of It All. I was just surrounded by hardcore, thrash metal, and death metal, so of course I’d known Madball since the early days, so to have that opportunity to record them was tremendous. Their label owner is the manager of Cannibal Corpse, and Madball wanted to try something different, so Paul Conroy threw me a bone and put my name out there, and said 'I think this guy will really capture your stuff really well,' because of the way I do things and trying to capture the uniqueness of every band. So they felt like I would be the right person for the job. Again, in recent years, people come to me because of my bridging the gap between old school vibe and modern sound. That’s really been my niche. Madball definitely wanted it to be comparable with more modern albums but have an older school vibe to it, like they’d done on Hold It Down and Set It Off in the early days. So I kinda went for more of a modern punk rock/hardcore vibe, I guess. Jay Weinberg, [Bruce Springsteen drummer] Max Weinberg’s son, was an incredible drummer. I mean, we went through like seven snare heads during the whole recording session 'cause he just would beat the hell out of them. Once again, we went for acoustic drums, which in this day and age is really rare, but I really wanted to capture that grit and organic vibe that Madball has. Really fat bass tones, Paulie [aka "Hoya Roc"] has this Fender P-bass he’s been playing forever, and Mitch [aka "Mitts"], the guitar player, has a very unique guitar sound—he likes to blend a direct sound with a Madison amp and a Mesa Boogie power amp, and we did two tracks with a dual rack as well, to get that amp vibe. You can hear the picking so clearly on that record. And working with Freddy [Cricien] was amazing, 'cause his voice is so expressive and the rhythm of his patterns is so dynamic. And I’m used to recording death metal and those kinds of vocals, so to have Freddy—me and him worked on the vocals for like five days, doubling stuff and working on his attitude on some of the lines he was doing and capturing a real intensity on some of these songs. Some of them were triple-tracked, the vocals, to really get a certain vibe going on, and even some deeper, darker kind of tones and an edge of almost singing on some songs. That was something that was really challenging for me but at the same time it was so rewarding, because I felt like I was really able to work with Freddy to bring the best out of him, and he’s such a dynamic singer, man, he’s such a badass in there. It was a tremendous experience working with those guys."
Abysmal Dawn, Leveling the Plane of Existence (Relapse, 2011)
[Note: Rutan didn't produce this record, he only did the mixing & mastering.]
"I definitely prefer producing, engineering and mixing. Even if I had to choose producing and engineering or mixing, I would rather produce and engineer than mix, because when you mix, you’re kind of subjected to whatever you get handed. With Abysmal Dawn—and I’ve started doing this lately with mixes, because sometimes you get mixes that are done in a way that are completely different from how I would do things—Jon [Haddad, producer] had an engineer I’d done work with before, who’s a really nice guy and did a great job with the drum tones and whatnot, and I had some conversations with the band and him before they even started tracking. Just to kind of—not control the situation and limit his own creativity, 'cause I certainly would never want to do that, but to make sure I get everything I need from the mix. But it is challenging, for sure. Like, for instance, they didn’t use ProTools, so obviously they’re exporting tracks and I have to import them into ProTools sessions, so that makes it a challenge. Different drum tones, different miking techniques, different mic preamps than I would use definitely make it challenging. But what I do a lot of times when I mix is I make sure they record DIs [direct inputs] for guitar and bass, so if I feel like I could capture something better, I will. And for Abysmal Dawn I ended up re-amping the guitars with one of my own Marshall amps to blend with two tracks they’d done with a Mesa Boogie, to give it a little more clarity and girth. So nowadays with technology…I’m mixing a record right now where I ended up resampling drums, re-amping bass and re-amping guitar, so I’m kinda shaping it all over again. With Abysmal Dawn we went for acoustic drums except for the kick drums, if I’m not mistaken. Because they wanted that more old-school death metal sound. When you pop that record on, it has that traditional death metal vibe to it. When you’re working with competent engineers, like I did on that record, it certainly makes it easier to mix, but I prefer to produce, engineer and mix, 'cause to have that kind of input into the whole record from beginning to end as well as control over how everything goes—there’s a certain satisfaction I get out of that, for sure."
Do you like using direct input guitars and re-amping?
"No, I definitely don’t. When I’m recording albums myself, I may record a DI for backup, just in case something happens—I mean, I’ve had random things happen, like I blew up a speaker in the middle of a tracking session, which was pretty devastating. 'Cause if you have to replace the speaker, you have to move the mics, you’re gonna lose that consistency. But because I had the DI, I was able to continue the DI recording and then re-amp that sound with a new cabinet and get a consistent sound. So that’s where it came in handy. But when you re-amp, you’re definitely losing a little bit of tonality and frequency response. So I prefer not to re-amp. I use it more as a tool, like if I’m missing something and the guitar sound is less than desirable, and I feel like I can get a better tone, I do. But I don’t automatically re-amp. I’ve done records where the guitar sounds are great, and I didn’t mess with them. There’s something about re-amping that I feel takes away a little bit—I liken it to when you’re dubbing a tape, you’re getting a signal generation loss. With re-amping, it’s not that bad, but I’d say it’s about a 10 percent loss, in my opinion. Which means a lot, in the big picture. So I choose not to re-amp unless I definitely feel like I need to."
Cellador, Enter Deception (Metal Blade, 2006)
"With Cellador, we were trying to go for kind of an '80s metal vibe, like an Iron Maiden style sound, an '80s metal thrash sound, certainly with Mike [Gremio], the vocalist. That was their first record ever. Their drummer was 16 at the time they tracked that album, which is very impressive, if you listen to the drum performances on the record. It was all those guys’ first album, first time in a real recording studio, all that. And certainly it was a completely different approach [for me] as far as going for a much cleaner guitar sound, a lot of vocals, and a lot of the vocals are harmonizations and different things like that. So we were working on the vocals a lot, and Mike, his vocal style is tremendous. He has a tremendous range and even for his first record ever, I feel like we got some great performances out of him and Bill [Hudson] and Chris [Petersen], the guitar players—even at such a young age, they were phenomenal guitar players. We really worked on getting some awesome, ripping solos and working on all the choruses for the vocals, structuring stuff. That was a great record to do, just 'cause it was more along the lines of power metal, so I really enjoyed that a lot."
Annotations of an Autopsy, The Reign of Darkness (Nuclear Blast, 2010)
[Note: In addition to working behind the board on this record, Rutan contributed vocals to the song "Bone Crown."]
"What I really liked about Annotations specifically is that in the genre of deathcore, I feel like they have a ton of really metal and traditional death metal roots in there. And once again, that wasn’t my mix, so I was limited in what I could or couldn’t do. But my taste for production is not along the lines of what most deathcore productions are. Like bass drops—I don’t like them. That’s my own opinion, and I’m sure other people will say, 'Yeah, whatever, screw you,' but bass drops were cool when Fear Factory was doing it in 1994, but I feel like they’ve kinda been played out. And I really don’t enjoy that kind of overly processed, sterile, everything-fixed kind of sound, especially when there’s bands that are incredible musicians. Annotations, I toured with them and they’re an incredible band live, and there are a lot of bands that have records out that I feel like are amazing bands live, but somehow they end up recording records where they feel compelled to compete with other bands’ productions and make it sound that way. I feel like that type of sound, I hope it’s kind of a fad, that it’ll go away, because, and we’re going totally out of genre here, but why can I pop on a Temptations record from 50 years ago and it still captures an amazing vibe, or even something from the '70s like Kansas or Boston, and you listen to it 40 years later and you say 'God, that sounds phenomenal.' But ten years from now, are you gonna pop in one of these modern standard productions, and I’m not talking about Annotations, I’m talking about the kind of modern productions that exist in a lot of deathcore and metalcore, are they gonna stand the test of time ten years from now? I personally don’t think so. But you can pop in Ride the Lightning or Master of Puppets 25 years later and say 'Jesus, that sounds phenomenal,' you know. It sounds like a real band. Some of the blame is on the bands, and some of the blame is on the producers doing it, and some of it is on the record labels that are trying to...there’s that standard now, and a lot of labels expect productions to be along those lines. I just choose to stick to my own standard of bridging the gap, and really, if people wanna work with me, that’s kind of my niche, so fortunately I don’t get a lot of bands that are looking for that style. There are other guys that do that style, and who am I to judge? There’s plenty of productions out there that sound great, but some are stripping out all the vibe and uniqueness out of what these bands represent and it makes absolutely no sense to me. There’s a couple of things I live by in the studio, and one of them is my motto, which is 'performance over perfection.' I work on trying to capture performances from people, and the imperfections of performance are what lend it character. And character is what gives uniqueness. And to me, that’s what makes albums creative and enjoyable. But when you listen to one record, and then you pop another one on and it sounds exactly the same—the same drum samples, the same guitar sound, everything fixed and edited to perfection—I mean, it’s not even music anymore. It’s just a program. It’s like the Tron-meets-Terminator of music, and I don’t really care for that kind of sound."
1 email address = 5 songs
Cannibal Corpse, Goatwhore and Six Feet Under
Goatwhore, Carving Out the Eyes of God (Metal Blade, 2009)
"Going into that record, I’d seen Goatwhore live many times, and I’d done a record with them before, but we really wanted to capture a more old school, organic, analog, natural-sounding album, but also have it be clear and massive. I really feel like that record is one of the top three records I’ve ever produced, because that kind of sound leans more toward my way of approaching albums, where I really try to individualize every band and bring out the unique sound of what that band perpetuates. And with Goatwhore, Sammy [Duet] the guitar player has this massive, unbridled guitar sound that you could hear even when he was in Acid Bath. And one of our main focuses was to try to capture that beast of a sound, and I feel like the guitar sound on that record is one of the best that I’ve ever had the luck to record. When I’m recording bands, I always hope that guitar players have their own sound. I never like to have guitar players use the same amps and the same everything [as everyone else], 'cause to me that gets tedious and boring, and I think with today’s production standard[ization] we need to individualize and create uniqueness amongst the bands, cause vibe on records is getting lost, and originality as well. We wanted to go for a natural drum sound, a very bass-heavy mix and [put] the vocals right in the pocket. I think that album is not only one of my best productions, but when I see the band live and I listen to the record, the correlation to me is so close to being the way it should be. And that’s something else I feel is lost these days—when you hear a band on record and then you go see them live, they sound nothing like their album. My goal as a producer has always been, and maybe this is my niche as well, I’m always trying to bring out the band, make the band sound like them on their best day. And I think the Goatwhore record really exemplifies that to a T."
They're a legendarily hard-touring band with a ferocious live show. When a band is that much about live performance, is it difficult to bring them into the more disciplined environment of the studio?
"These guys work their tails off; they tour as much as anybody and they’re one of the most professional bands out there. And actually, when it comes to the studio, they have so much experience—Ben [Falgoust] sings with Soilent Green, so Carving Out the Eyes of God was the fourth record I’d done with Ben as a singer, cause I had done two Soilent Green and two Goatwhore, and I’m actually doing the next Goatwhore come August. So he’s super experienced in the studio. Sammy, Zack [Simmons, drums] and those guys—Sammy’s been making records since Acid Bath, so all those guys are well versed in the studio. And we worked together for that record, doing pre-production and sending songs back and forth, and those guys were super prepared to come in, and I think it really shows in the way the album came out—the performances we got were super ace and pro, I think. Those guys are super pro in the studio, super pro on tour, and honestly one of the most professional bands that I’ve ever worked with."
Cannibal Corpse, Kill (Metal Blade, 2006)
"Obviously, with Kill, I definitely felt this was my big opportunity to showcase my skills, because Cannibal Corpse is a huge band, with legendary status in the world of death metal, as well as being friends of mine for the last 20 years. I’ve toured with them, I respect them a lot, I love their music, so there was definitely a lot of responsibility on my shoulders there. But I got involved pretty early with pre-production with them, talking about what we were gonna go for with Kill, and the one thing we wanted was a way more organic, raw approach, kind of like earlier Cannibal Corpse. They wanted to go for a little less modern sound, and more just in-your-face, nasty type production like they had on some of their earlier works. And when we got in there, 'cause it was our first record together, we had to re-establish a new relationship, really. Even though we’ve known each other forever, once we get in that studio—a lot of the bands I do know on a personal level from touring with Hate Eternal or Morbid Angel, but you have to establish a whole new rapport in the studio, and with Kill, I really worked with those guys listening to the songs and making suggestions about structures, the lyrics, the vocal patterns, harmonizations on the guitars, things like that. And the thing with Cannibal is that, like with Goatwhore, we have such a great connection that all cards are on the table. And every record we do gets even more open, so there’s no hesitation, no pulling punches or candy-coating anything. If I think I can get a better performance out of somebody, I tell ‘em, “Listen, you can give me better—do it again.” And those guys are really open to my suggestions on everything to do with the recording process, the songs, everything. Of course, they wrote the songs, they are the masterminds behind the package, but they’re open to my suggestions and making changes and doing things to really make the best record we could. I really wanted to capture Cannibal Corpse with that nasty, organic, raw sound that a lot of people loved in the early '90s, and I think that’s exactly what we got with that record."
Six Feet Under, Commandment (Metal Blade, 2007)
"That was a different situation, 'cause Chris [Barnes, vocals] was producing the record and I was just engineering and mixing it. And he likes things a certain way. We did a couple weeks of pre-production in the studio before we actually tracked the record, which was kinda neat because I’d never really done that with other bands besides Hate Eternal. And once again, it was a record where we went for a natural drum sound, really heavy guitar, and Chris is a guy that likes to really capture the moment as far as his vocal performances. And I respect that, and to a degree I like a similar approach, as far as capturing specific moments in time and then keeping them. Once we’d get a take of something, if he really felt like that was the vibe he was looking for, we just kept it. He’s very focused on vibe and keeping performances akin to their original versions, if you know what I mean. Keeping the natural vibe of what they really did in there. Obviously, the whole thing wasn’t recorded live as a whole band, but in a sense, individually speaking, it kinda was. We got a lot of one-takes and kept them that way once Chris was happy with the performances."
Part 1: What were YOU doing in 2005?
"We actually recorded Confrontation to two-inch 24-track tape on my two-inch machine that I bought from Morrisound, and I remember that one difficulty we had was that Tommy Buckley, the drummer, who also plays in Crowbar, he had this great drum kit that he had for like, I don’t know, 20 years. Amazing drum kit, but it had toured the world for many, many years, and we just had the hardest time getting this thing to stay in tune. I remember joking with Tommy, saying, 'Listen, man, it might be time to retire your baby,' you know? And the poor guy had a heart attack, 'cause he loved this kit, and it was a nice kit, but it had seen better days. So we had a really hard time tuning the drums. But once we got 'em in tune, the record came out great. And when I ended up doing the next Soilent Green record, he had a new kit, so I think old Betsy went into the trophy case. I just retired one of my own guitars recently, cause it had just seen better days, you know."
Paths of Possession, Promises in Blood (Metal Blade, 2005)
"Promises In Blood went fairly smooth. I think the one thing I remember with that record, it sounds funny, is the bass player, Randy [Butman], he likes to wear sandals all the time, and he had this one toe that was, like, infected and was just, like, multiple shades of yellow, and I just remember saying to him, 'Man, I can’t even focus on your record knowing that that toe is exposed in my recording studio like this. Can you get some of that fungi killer or whatever the hell they use to kill that stuff?' So every time I’d turn around, he’d have his foot up on the table, just kinda bustin' my chops on it. But those guys are great, and recording with George [“Corpsegrinder” Fisher], from Cannibal Corpse, I’ve made many records with him, and that was a really fun record to do."
The Absence, From Your Grave (Metal Blade, 2005)
Opening acts: Coheed and Cambria, the Mars Volta, Mastodon, Queens of the Stone Age
The headline says it all. Soundgarden will be doing a full North American tour in July, with Coheed and Cambria, the Mars Volta, Queens of the Stone Age, Mastodon and the Meat Puppets opening various shows. Here are the dates:
With Coheed and Cambria:
07/02 Toronto, ON – Molson Canadian Amphitheatre
07/03 London, ON – John Labatt Centre
07/05 Ottawa, ON – LeBreton Flats Park
07/06 Uncasville, CT – Mohegan Sun Arena
07/08 Newark, NJ – Prudential Center
07/09 Wantagh, NY – Nikon at Jones Beach Theater
07/10 Mansfield, MA – Comcast Center For The Performing Arts
With The Mars Volta:
07/12 Fairfax, VA – Patriot Center at George Mason University
07/13 Philadelphia, PA – Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing
07/14 Atlantic City, NJ – Borgata Spa & Resort – Event Center
07/16 Chicago, IL – UIC Pavilion
07/18 Denver, CO – Red Rocks Amphitheatre
07/21 San Francisco, CA – Bill Graham Civic Center
07/22 Los Angeles, CA – The Forum
07/23 Las Vegas, NV – The Joint
With Queens Of The Stone Age, Meat Puppets:
07/29 Vancouver, BC – Rogers Arena
With Queens Of The Stone Age, Mastodon, Meat Puppets:
07/30 George, WA – Gorge Amphitheatre
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