Professional Sound - April 2018 - Page 42

PS: For “Slip Away” by Perfume Genius, it sounds like there are a lot of sonic layers to this song. How did it get built up? SE: So basically, there is this instrument that Blake Mills, who produced the song, has. It looks like a guitar but it doesn’t actually have strings on it. It has these kind of metal paddles. He ran that through some amps and stuff and that was the kind of foundation layer and it’s actually what starts the song. That was kind of the main building block, and then from there a lot of what the song is about is these drums, and so we spent a ton of time just building up drums. There was an initial, sort of, drum machine beat that was laid underneath, and I think that was even- tually stripped away by the end. But then we had a guy come down and he was kind of recreating what was the initial drum machine beat. So we did that and then a lot of it was just overdubbing layers of drums, but pretty much for months [laughs]. It was like different layers of drums and patterns and stuff like that. Even when I was mixing the song we were still adding layers of drums and tiny little percussion elements and stuff like that. Because of how much stuff we kept putting on it, there were so many drum lay- ers and stuff at the end that, I think, it was kind of the hardest to mix, sonically, on the whole record because I was just trying to fit all that stuff in there. It just kind of kept turn- ing brown. You’d listen to it and be like, “Oh, it just sounds like a wash again.” Then we’d have to go back in. I think I’d finished mixing the record and then that song was mixed and I think it was still bugging us a little bit. It wasn’t quite there and then I went and remixed it again at my studio. That time it felt a lot better, but it was definitely one of the harder ones on the record to do. PS: What I love about The War on Drugs’ sound is that it’s classic, but it’s not pastiche. It sounds classic and contemporary at the 42 42 • PROFESSIONAL • PROFESSIONAL SOUND SOUND same time. How do you achieve that sonic balance? SE: I think there are a lot of people who do an amazing job of recreating a past sonic experi- ence, or something like that, but I don’t know if I’m really good at it [laughs]. A lot of times I think I’ll aim for that and I think that people hear that in it, maybe, but the problem is I feel I get excited about modern bigness and modern tonalities and the way that, say, hip- hop mixes sit and stuff like that. So even if I’m not trying to be influenced by something like that, it’s in my brain. So a lot of times, if I’m aiming for one thing, the other stuff will still leak in. I know on that record I was really aim- ing for the way a lot of Bob Clearmountain or Daniel Lanois mixes and stuff sound. But I think that by even aiming in that direction, it never quite hits that. It maybe touches on it, but it doesn’t really ever go there completely. So I think that’s the answer. It’s an accident. Like I’m aiming for one thing and accidentally hitting some sort of modern thing as well. PS: What was the mixing process like on “Pain”? SE: I had like a week or something by myself and I was supposed to be mixing a bunch of songs and I kept coming back to this one because I just had a certain idea of how I wanted it to sound and it was really impossi- ble to get there. So I think I spent a few days on it, trying to get it to that point but it was really hard. I think there was a moment where I had the feeling like, “OK, I think this might be it.” Then we were working in New York, we were working on a bunch of songs, and I had something to the point where I wanted to play it for [band leader Adam Granduciel] but I didn’t want to play it for him while I was in the room because I was kind of nervous about it because I’d been working so much on it. So I ran a couple of things through some cool gear that was in New York when Shawn Everett Nominated for: “Slip Away” by Perfume Genius from the album No Shape “Pain” by The War on Drugs from the album A Deeper Understanding he was out of the room, because I wanted a few of the effects that were in there, and then I printed a final version and sent it to him and was like, “OK, I hope he likes this.” He heard it that night when he went home and he was really excited. That was the first time where I was like, “Oh thank god.” PS: What were the effects at the studio in New York you wanted to add to it before Adam heard it? SE: When we went to Electric Lady, they had this whole rack that was pretty much older ‘70s and ‘80s modulation gear. Any time I saw a piece of gear like that in a studio, like some kind of weird old Marshall time delay or something like that, I would get excited about it. It was specific to the period I’m aiming for, so I try to find little moments or places where I could use a piece of gear like that inside of the song. I was just kind of screwing around with different effects like that on his voice and I think I was running it through some combination of modulation effects that they had at that studio. Michael Raine is the Senior Editor of Professional Sound.