|Website:||From Ashes Rise site|
Darkwülf gets inside the head of Brad Boatright, the man behind the recent Sleep and High on Fire remasters, and guitarist for Portland destroyers From Ashes Rise.
BR: Brad, for all our readers who might not know who you are, tell us who you are and what you have done.
BB: My name's Brad Boatright, I'm an audio engineer at Audiosiege here in Portland, Oregon. I also play guitar and sing in From Ashes Rise. Somehow I've managed to not go deaf in the last 20 years.
BR: What was it like when Southern Lord contacted you regarding the Dopesmoker remaster?
BB: Well, initially I was contacted to do a trial run of sorts for both Dopesmoker and The Art Of Self Defense. Greg Anderson from Southern Lord called me back in December about that and a few other things, and I honestly don't think it really hit me right then. I've been a fan of those guys as musicians since the Asbestos Death days, right up through all the High On Fire stuff, so I've always felt a connection with the music. My first reaction was to just have a go at it- confidently thinking I could use my intimacy with the songs and sounds for the betterment of both volumes, while at the same time thinking “don't fuck it up”! So I went and had a listen to the Tee Pee release while taking some notes.
BR: Sparing absolutely nothing, tell us from start to finish how you went about making the best album ever made (Dopesmoker) into an even better album?
Honestly, I began by listening over and over at different volumes and taking notes. I'd play it on the stereo, in the studio, through headphones, speakers, my monitors, just trying to get into the music and into the sounds. There are a few tricks on it that I'll keep to myself, but many times mastering is all about proper usage of EQ and compression and this was no exception. When you're working with stereo tracks you're limited to dealing with the whole mix in stereo form- 2 tracks- and you're limited in what you can do, but there are ways to bend the sounds to get 'em where you want 'em. You've just got to have a plan and visualize the arrangement of sounds. You've got to know how to split things up, know what you're hearing, and you've got to know what muscles to use to get the sounds arranged.
After a few listens, I felt I was “pushing” my ears to hear harmonic content in the guitars that really needed to come out, but the recording didn't seem like it needed to be brighter. I can really only describe the EQ'ing process on it as the equivalent of taking an old weathered painting, say a portrait- someone's face front and center- and cleaning up the surrounding edges to find a masterpiece of a landscape beneath the grime. There was a lot of low end masking, especially in the outer portions of the stereo image, that was just suppressing the incredibly rich harmonic content in the guitar sound. There are so many guitar tracks on this record, and possibly my favorite part of it is the droning, dissonant reaction between the different tracks- it's microtonal and brilliant. Some people have asked if I added reverb. I didn't- it was always there but you can hear it now because the resonance of the low end isn't suppressing it. So basically, start to finish- just EQ and compression. And a few other things.
BR: I've just heard the new High on Fire remaster, it is fucking brilliant! You seem to be quite handy at the production/engineering/mastering thing. How did you get into production?
BB: Thank you. I'm still learning, and I've still got a long way to go. I've always had an affinity for the recorded sound, and I've been fortunate to have worked in some amazing studios with some amazing people on both sides of the glass. Back in '97 I enrolled in the recording industry program at a college outside of Nashville, Tennessee and spent two years looking over people's shoulders in overcrowded classrooms. I've always looked forward to recording sessions to the point that I'd plan them out way in advance, tweaking sounds and the like. I'm just obsessed with sound- with recording it, and manipulating it. Every sound I hear has an image attached to it- a color, or a shape. I embraced the obsession and one day decided to just go for it.
BR: Tell us about your remaster work on 'The Art of Self Defence'.
BB: Another fun, “no-pressure” job! This one was a blast, and it seemed to go a little quicker than Dopesmoker, but I started by spending two full days on “Fireface”, which was the song Greg and I chose for the trial run. The band were in the studio at the time recording their new album with Kurt Ballou, so I remember thinking whatever I did had to be good because I kept having this fear of them playing it back in the studio with Kurt picking it apart. But really, it was just listening over and over and over- lots of aural fatigue. I was a bit of a zombie afterwards. Matt's guitar sound on this record is a bit more detailed, and in the end I think the drum sound- a really amazing sounding kit- benefited the most.
BR: Anything else being remastered we don’t know about?
BB: Not right now, as far as “remasters” go. I've had a busy year, but it's slowed down a bit with the Summer months.
BR: Some readers might be wanting to become a producer, any advice for them?
BB: Listen. Use your ears, and perfect your listening. Your brain and your ears are the most important tools in the studio, and you've already been blessed with them. Refine them, and learn to listen. With good ears everything comes naturally. You'll know when the room isn't right. You'll know when the monitoring isn't right. And you'll know that the difference in two disproportionately-priced pieces of gear isn't just that one is supposed to make things sound better, it's that it does.
BR: Brad, as well being a superstar producer & engineer you also shred guitars & sing with bands. Nothing's been released since 'From Ashes Rise' Live Hell, anything we should be looking out for?
BB: We're gearing up to release a two song 7” on Southern Lord, our first studio recordings in nine years. We recorded it back in January, and it'll hit the shelves on July 17th.
BR: What band would you love to work with that are active/inactive right now?
BB: I'm a freak about low end, and I enjoy working with slower, heavier stuff. It's a lot of fun taking the slower transients and just squeezing 'em. Recently I got to work on a hip-hop recording that was incredibly fun so I'd jump at the opportunity to do more of that type stuff. I've also mastered a few garage-style, even surfy projects recently that are fun because you can blast it into the red and it sounds good.
BR: Any old albums you would love to remaster?
BB: Oh, that's a tough question... Some of my favorites already sound killer! I'd love for Sleep to do a remaster/reissue job on Volume 1 though.
BR: You must know of some great bands needing some exposure, hit us with them!
BB: Sarabante, Autarch, Ripper, Seas Will Rise, Rituals, Iron Cages, Death Machine, Little Sister, Carved Out, Lost Lands, Thee Chemicals, P.RO.B.L.E.M.S., Kraken, Complications... I've got an online, download-only label called Audiosiege Media, and it's an imprint of Moshpit Tragedy. I try to release bands that are of lesser-known status, so many of these have releases available for download at moshpittragedy.com.
BR: In what ways do you challenge yourself so as an artist so your work is improved with each release/production?
BB: As an engineer I try to always get better, so I'm always brushing up on things or referencing other people's work. I've got good friends who do the same thing so talking shop helps a lot. As a musician, it's just about staying open and being tuned in to the flow.
BR: Outside of music what is your biggest influence?
BB: Philosophy and experience.
BR: What you listening to?
BB: This morning I listened to Muddy Waters, Ghost, and Quicksand.
BR: The world is fucked, what are we going to do to change it?
BB: Try to inspire future generations, change ourselves and let others learn from our mistakes.
BR: PC or MAC?
BR: If the world was going to end tomorrow, what would you say to our readers to soften the blow?
BB: I'd say that the last twenty four hours can summarize your life- will you work around the clock to build a futile escape, or will you accept your limited time and devote it to the things that matter the most?
Posted: Mon 2 July 2012