We sat down with recording engineer, producer, and musician Billy Bennett to talk about some of the records that taught him the most about how to make a record.
Highlights include recording vocals like Aretha Franklin and Iggy Pop, how Dave Fridmann gets his signature drum sound made famous by The Flaming Lips, touring with MGMT, a demo of modular synths, the Grateful Dead's live recording techniques, making the first Whigs album, and a whole lot more. It gets a little technical at times, but there are some great tunes on here, and you'll enjoy this episode if you're interested in the techniques and technology used to make some classic albums.
You can check out Billy's music here and get his full playlist with notes below.
Billy's Playlist & Notes
Down On The Street - The Stooges
Straight rock. Dry sounds, and killer performances. Most likely a hand-held mic, which you can hear by the breath sounds, not a pop, but a little fuzz, just a little plate reverb on the guitar, some delay, 15 ips tape delay, and a very dry drum sound. You can hear the beginnings of AC/DC in this. But AC/DC would have a drier vocal even at times. Double guitar solos, one drier and more up front than the other. Spaced pair on the overheads, beginning to do some stereo drum techniques. Snare is a little to the right.
The Spiderbite Song - Flaming Lips
Dave Fridmann's drum sounds. That opening riff on drums is just nuts and fuzzed out and filtered. The Flaming Lips were where hifi prod and psychedelia meet, paving the way for bands like MGMT and Tame Impala.
Hello It's Me - Todd Rundgren
Intro talking is usually trimmed off the front. Sounds like they are having fun in the studio. So many bands come in and are uptight. I always dug this and the song is one of my favorite melodies and arrangements.
The Weight - Aretha Franklin & Duane Allman
Listen to her voice—take a LOAD off annie, PUT the weight—she is just shredding that mic. Sometimes they plug the mic straight into tape or a compressor. This is what ANALOG distortion sounds like.
Spiritualized - Ladies and Gentlemen
A stellar example of arrangement, mixing, and performance. Drug music :) The mix is incredibly lush, detailed, and exact. When asked to reissue/remaster, he said, Why? It's perfect!
Siberian Breaks - MGMT
How to put a song like this together with so many sections. Transitions presented a difficulty— making space for the sections to overlap, while still giving a count-in for overdubs. It was mastered in sections and put back together. Being married to a section, needing acoustic guitars and then saying we were so married to the mix that we didn't even wanna try it. If someone asks, it's worth actually considering, instead of pushing aside. Sometimes people don't come out and say so they ask.
Lyrics always came last, kind of left everyone in the dark, subconsciously controlling the final outcome, which they reserved the right to do. So many ideas, 5 studios. Took 9-10 months to make that record.
Beach Boys - Wouldn't It Be Nice
Difference in initial mono release, remixes, and stereo versions, for people so interested in the different versions of classic songs that are out there. Compare to Beatles in Mono which is remixed? and way more bombastic.
Owsley - Spectrum
This guy is who I learned about modular synths from.
The Wanderer - Eden Ahbez
More of the "P" popping sound, but I just love how mysterious this thing is.
Exotica - Martin Denny
Beautifully recorded music, live in a high school gymnasium in Hawaii. All about the musicians, with decent equipment of the time, it was all "hifi." All the "jungle" sounds are made by one guy in the band.
My Ideal - Chet Baker
My favorite vocal sound and instrument choice—the celeste, a small xylophone-type sound with a manual or keyboard. You can hear the bleed from his trumpet into the vocal mic, as it gets a little phasey for a second.
Montague Terrace In Blue - Scott Walker
Recorded live, all written out, sung live. You can hear the layout of the instruments in the studio. Drums, percussion, acoustic, bass all on the left, string section, harp and horns on the right, you can hear the bleed over to the right mics when the drums kick in. Plate reverb vocals in the center.
Music in This Episode
- "Half the World Away" by the Whigs from Give 'Em All a Big Fat Lip, 2005
- "The Weight" by Aretha Franklin with Duane Allman from This Girl's in Love with You, 1969
- "The Spiderbite Song" by The Flaming Lips from The Soft Bulletin, 1999
- "Siberian Breaks" by MGMT from Congratulations, 2010
- "To Be Young" by Ryan Adams from Heartbreaker, 2000
- "Owsley" by Spectrum from Songs For Owsley, 1996
- "Hard to Handle" by The Grateful Dead from History of the Grateful Dead, Vol. 1 (Bear's Choice), 1973
- "I've Been All Around This World" by The Grateful Dead from History of the Grateful Dead, Vol. 1 (Bear's Choice), 1973
- "The Legend of Zelda" by Kōji Kondō, 1988
- "Cooking Up Something Good" by Mac Demarco from Mac Demarco 2, 2012
- "Rain on Tin" by Sonic Youth from Murray Street, 2002
- "30 Days in the Hole" by Humble Pie from Smokin', 1972
- "Rocks Off" by The Rolling Stones from Exile on Main Street, 1972
- "Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space (I Can't Help Falling in Love)" by Spiritualized from Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, 1997
- "Drive My Car" by The Beatles from Rubber Soul, 1965
- "Wouldn't It Be Nice" by The Beach Boys from Pet Sounds, 1966
- "Sparkle City" by Shuggie Otis from Inspiration Information, 1974
- "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" by Wilco from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, 2002
- "Montague Terrace (In Blue)" by Scott Walker from Scott, 1967
- "World Wide Jeb" by Billy Bennett from Placate Your Illusion, 2015