What the master tapes tell us about this Doobie Brothers track

The sound engineers at OEM Inc. have spent thousands of hours with the original masters of the most famous songs ever recorded. They use them to create products like Jammit, an iPhone app that allows you to remix and play along with those original tracks. There are many, many things to learn from those original tracks. Through a partnership with Gearhead Communications, OEM Inc. engineers are sharing their discoveries exclusively with Premier Guitar readers in what we like to call Secrets of the Masters

“China Grove” by The Doobie Brothers
From the album The Captain and Me (1973 Warner Bros.)
Produced by: Ted Templeman
Engineered by: Donn Landee
Written by: Tom Johnston
Recorded at: Warner Bros. Recording Studios in North Hollywood, CA
Available in the JAMMIT “Classic Rock Vol.2” application

One of the many great things about ’70s music (besides all the artificial stimuli) is that most bands recorded a new album almost every year. This was the case for The Doobie Brothers when they returned to the studio shortly after the release of their 1972 album, Toulouse Street, to start production on their third studio album. After having success with Ted Templeman at the helm for their first two albums, The Doobies continued the proven formula for what was to become their most successful and recognizable album to date, The Captain and Me. Recorded in North Hollywood at their record label’s recording studio, the song “China Grove” would help propel The Captain and Me to double platinum sales status and become one of the band’s most loved singles.

I always love the opportunity to peek into the recordings of some of my favorite engineers and producers, and both Ted Templeman and Donn Landee are near the top of my list when it comes to albums from the `70s. From Van Halen to Montrose, the simplicity and focus, yet size and depth of their productions always seems to catch my ear. Upon dissecting the multi-tracks for “China Grove” I wasn’t all that surprised to see (and hear) everything laid-out and organized nicely, and immediately sounding familiar with the faders at zero and without EQ or effects. I spent a few minutes listening back to the album mix to get myself reacquainted with the overall vibe and sonic imprint that I’d be trying to match for the Jammit version of the song. After several passes through the timeless song, I dove in headfirst.

Tracks (in no specific order):
1) Bass Drum
2) Snare Drum
3) Drums
4) Hand Claps
5) Tambourine
6) Bass
7) Guitar Rhythm-Tom
8) Guitar Rhythm Overdub-Tom
9) Guitar Lead
10) Guitar Harmony
11) Piano Lo
12) Piano Hi
13) Lead Vocal
14) BG Vocals
15) BG Vocals Hi Harmony
16) BG Vocals Lo Harmony

At this point in recorded music history, most bands were still playing together while tracking in the studio as opposed to overdubbing almost all of the instrumental elements. It was evident right away that this was the case, as I could hear some guitar amp sound leaking into the drum tracks and some drum tracks leaking into the guitar track. The leakage was very slight, which most likely meant that the guitar amp was well isolated in another room or booth.

Drums Just Keep on Lookin’ to the Left
The drum recording appeared to be relatively simple with only three tracks—kick, snare and a mono drum track that could have been an overhead or room mic, or a combination of several microphones bounced down to a single mono track. The drums sounded great as is and didn’t need much more than a little high-frequency equalizing. The one anomaly about the drums was that they were panned slightly off center. Usually in rock music, the kick and snare are both straight up the middle, but this song had the kick in the center while the snare was slightly to the left and the drum track even more to the left. That’s a bit strange, but it sure created a nice pocket on the right side of the spectrum for the guitars and percussion.

The production on this song was pretty standard for a song of this time period. Aside from the drums, there were some additional percussion, tambourine, and handclap overdubs. The bass performance and sound on this song is top notch. It sounds to me like Tiran Porter played the melodic line using a pick and plugged direct into the board. Matching the sound was a cinch. The vocal tracks were also quite easy to mix, as they sounded darn good right off of the tape. A little reverb and slight EQ was all that was needed to get it sounding like the original.

Talkin’ ‘Bout Rhythm Groove
Other than the guitar solo and harmony overdubs, the guitar on this song is relatively straightforward, as well. From what the track- sheet read, the main rhythm guitar track was played by “Tom,” which I’m assuming was Tom Johnston, the band’s lead singer at the time and the writer of the song. An additional guitar overdub was added later to fill out the sound and thicken up the rhythm section. I spent a significant amount of time balancing and panning the rhythm guitars to get them to match the original album version, but couldn’t quite seem to nail it. I threw on some headphones to get a closer inspection of the original and noticed that the quarter-note delay that is on the main guitar track in the intro and re-intro is bypassed once the verse kicks in. This one subtle change allowed the rhythm guitars to sit properly in the mix.

I added a bit of reverb to both guitar tracks, but automated both the reverb level and the track volume of the cleaner guitar track in the bridge. Back in the day, this would have been done manually by whoever in the room could lend an extra hand to the mixing console. In 1973, fader automation on a recording console wasn’t a standard feature like it is today, so any volume, pan, or effects rides would have to be done in real-time as the mix was being laid down. This used to be part of the magic of mixing. It was a performance in and of itself. Today, one engineer can replay the mix over and over recording each and every push of a fader and turn of a knob until it’s just right before having to commit and print it as the master mix.

Mix Masters
In the days predating automation, it wasn’t uncommon to find the engineer, producer, band members, and sometimes even assistants performing these same moves all in one pass, like a well-rehearsed orchestra. If someone didn’t hit their cue, or adjusted the wrong knob, the whole mix would need to be done again from the beginning. Everything from grease pencil marks on knobs to razor blades taped above the faders (to block it from moving too far) helped make this cumbersome process a little easier. In many cases, the relative inaccuracies of this method produced some really magical results.

I have fun mixing just about every song we release for Jammit, but for some reason this one made me feel slightly nostalgic, even though I wasn’t even a glitter in my mother’s eye at the time it was made. It made me remember the stories I’ve heard many times over of how things used to be done when motorized faders on a console was as far-fetched as a little white box that can hold 10,000+ songs in your pocket. Having these limitations really put a premium on talent and ingenuity. Now I’m not going to go as far as to say that today’s music isn’t as good as it once was. (I wouldn’t want to sound too much like an old fogey, would I?) But it definitely makes me wonder if a lot of these songs that we call classics today would have been the same, worse, or better had the musicians, producers and engineers had all the tools and freedom from limitations that we seem to have today. I guess the only way we’d ever be able to find out is if we could take a nuclear-powered DeLorean back to 1973. Unlikely, just like the iPod 37 years ago.

To see/hear how you can play along to (with tab) and make new mixes of “China Grove” and other songs from the original multi-track masters, check out www.jammit.com.

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Dissecting the foundations of Mötley Crüe''s sound

The sound engineers at OEM Inc. have spent thousands of hours with the original masters of the most famous songs ever recorded. They use them to create products like Jammit, an iPhone app that allows you to remix and play along with those original tracks. There are many, many things to learn from those original tracks. Through a partnership with Gearhead Communications, OEM Inc. engineers are sharing their discoveries exclusively with Premier Guitar readers in what we like to call Secrets of the Masters

"Looks That Kill" by Mötley Crüe

From the album Shout at the Devil (1983 Elektra)
Produced by: Tom Werman
Engineered/Mixed by: Geoff Workman
Recorded at: Cherokee Studios in Hollywood, California
Available in the JAMMIT “Mötley Crüe, Vol.1” application

Mötley Crüe has always been known for their wild antics and endless debauchery, but listening back to their earlier albums, it’s apparent they are much more than womanizing, drug-dazed party animals. Their second album, Shout at the Devil, launched the band into mainstream notoriety, and it would be looked on as one of their strongest albums musically. Released well before the swarms of wannabe ’80s rock bands, “Looks That Kill” was quintessential Mötley and it cemented the band’s rightful place in music history, influencing the next generation of rock ’n’ roll in the process. While we were mixing several songs from Shout at the Devil for Jammit’s Mötley Crüe bundle, “Looks That Kill” was the standout track when it came to dissecting the tracks and recreating the original mix. Let’s dig in and I’ll tell you why.

The original LP cover of Shout at the Devil.
Recorded in the band’s adopted hometown of Hollywood, California, Shout at the Devil was definitely a step in the right direction both musically and sonically. Having garnered some success with their first album, Too Fast For Love, and having secured a big record deal with Elektra, the Mötley boys had the resources to get into a world-class recording facility where they could spend the time necessary to carve out their signature sound. Dubbed one of the best recording studios in America, Cherokee Studios would play host to the recording sessions that would ultimately lead to a bigger and better Mötley Crüe sound. Recording aficionados may recognize Cherokee as the home to one of only a few Trident A Range consoles, which even today are renowned for their amazing sound and which most certainly left a sonic imprint on “Looks That Kill.”

Larger-Than-Life Foundations
Any Tommy Lee fan most likely knows, and hears, the influence that Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham had on him. And listening to the isolated drum multi-tracks shows an intentional lean toward a more open and lively Bonham-type sound. The drum tracks consisted of two kicks (one for each drum in Lee’s double-bass setup), a snare, stereo tom tracks (several toms bounced down to a left and right pair), a hi-hat, an overall stereo kit track, and a mono ambient track. I always loved the wide-open kick sound on this album, which was a welcome departure from the tight, dry, overly muffled drum sounds of the late ’70s. The cracky, bright snare complemented the kick drum nicely, and when mixed in with an abundance of the overall kit and room microphones, it made for what would eventually become a Tommy Lee signature: larger-than-life drum sounds. Having worked extensively with Tommy in the studio, I can attest to the amount of time that would’ve been spent tweaking and experimenting with the drums and the microphones to make sure everything sounded big and bombastic. Tommy would repeat this concept again on "Girls, Girls, Girls," on which he experimented with drum triggers, and then again on the album Dr. Feelgood, creating one of the best drum recordings known to rock ’n’ roll.

The album was reissued in 2003 with added bonus tracks on the Crüe’s own label, Mötley Records.
As soon as I deciphered the track arrangement for “Looks that Kill,” it was apparent that songwriter and bassist Nikki Sixx wanted to expand on his sound as well. There were three tracks for bass: a DI track and two amp tracks. Most recordings from this era typically only have a direct track or an amped track, but the fact that three separate bass sounds were recorded was evidence of the attention placed on the overall sound of the rhythm section. The amp sounds like a slightly overdriven Ampeg SVT, with one track having a lot of midrange bite and the other providing a substantial amount of low end. All three sounds were combined in relatively equal levels to provide the complete sound. The sound of Nikki’s bass and amp in this song lends itself well to the solid pedaling of Tommy’s drums and Mick’s guitar. I couldn’t detect any drums leaking into the bass tracks, which leads me to believe that they were overdubbed after the drum tracks were complete.

Wide-But-Tight Guitars
The guitar tracks in this song provided the biggest surprise. Being a fan of Mick Mars and his love of gear, I figured most Mötley albums were tracked with many tracks of layered guitars using different amps, pickups, etc. But for “Looks That Kill” there was only one performance of the rhythm guitar track, but two separate tracks. One track was panned left and consisted of a microphone that was quite close to the cabinet. The other track was of the same guitar signal and performance, but it was a distant room mic that, when panned hard right, combined with the close mic to create an awesomely wide but tight stereo field. The same technique was used for the solo overdub. I know Mick has always used a combination of amps mixed together, so I’m not going to speculate about which amps were used for this song. All I can say is that the thick, nasal distortion found on almost all Mötley albums is instantly recognizable, and when it’s combined with Mick’s unique style it creates a sound that blends well with the rest of the band’s instrumentation.

Mötley Crüe’s Mick Mars. Photo by Ken Settle
Sparse Vocals
Like most early-era hard rock songs, Vince Neil’s vocal tracks in this song are relatively sparse, production-wise. There is a single lead vocal throughout the song, with a double in the chorus. Unlike some of the other songs from Shout At The Devil, I can’t hear too many punch-ins, which leads me to believe that Vince’s performance in this song was lightly comp’d (most likely in whole sections) from a few different takes. In the mix, a slight slap delay and reverb was applied to give it some of the space that Tommy’s live drums and Mick’s distant amp mics created. Additional production in the song included a synth drone in the chorus that followed the implied chord changes of the guitar, as well as some background and gang vocal tracks. I can imagine it now, the Mötley boys surrounding a single vocal mic chanting, “She’s got the looks that kill!” Classic.

Sonic Magic
Throughout Mötley Crüe’s storied past, there have been many accounts of recording sessions that consisted more of girls, drugs, and parties than actual recording. And although the Crüe most likely wouldn’t deny that fact, they’d also be the first to relive some of the musical and sonic magic that was captured during those times. “Looks That Kill” and Shout at the Devil were the foundation that the next 25 years of Mötley Crüe would be built on. It was the first time—but certainly not the last—that they really found their own sound, and today it continues to stand the test of time.

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Breaking down the mix of one of Alice Coopers breakthrough hits

The sound engineers at OEM Inc. have spent thousands of hours with the original masters of the most famous songs ever recorded. They use them to create products like Jammit, an iPhone app that allows you to remix and play along with those original tracks. There are many, many things to learn from those original tracks. Through a partnership with Gearhead Communications, OEM Inc. engineers are sharing their discoveries exclusively with Premier Guitar readers in what we like to call Secrets of the Masters

"I'm Eighteen" by Alice Cooper
From the album, Love It To Death (1971 Warner Bros.)
Produced by: Bob Ezrin and Jack Richardson
Engineered by: Brian Christian
Recorded at: RCA Mid-American Recording Center (Chicago, IL)
Available in the JAMMIT “Classic Rock Vol.1” application

Alice Cooper has always been best known for his outrageous stage persona, and he practically invented the genre of shock-rock, but it’s the clever, yet hooky songs that have kept Alice in the forefront of the music industry for over 40 years. Love It To Death was the band’s third album and would signify the change to more hard rock and anthem-based songs, thanks in large part to their new producer, Bob Ezrin. Ezrin is well known for co-writing and arranging many of the songs that he produced, and his involvement on this record definitely shaped the way the world would eventually come to know Alice Cooper’s music. “I’m Eighteen” was the song that would bring Alice into the mainstream.

Having spent many days in a recording studio reminiscing about the sound and vibe of older, classic albums—which seems so hard to achieve in a world of modern equipment and recording techniques—my interest was definitely piqued when I got my hands on the original master multi-track for this timeless song. Unlike most recording sessions of the last 10 to 15 years, this track actually had documentation: a properly labeled tape box, a typed track sheet and a handwritten track sheet… a very nice surprise to start off with. The handwritten track sheet confirmed that the song had been tracked at RCA Mid- American Recording Center in Chicago, and although some of the other songs on the album had been recorded at 30 IPS, “I’m Eighteen” was marked as being tracked to the 16-track 2" tape at 15 IPS without any noise reduction. The track layout was marked as follows:

1. Bass Drum
2. Drums
3. Drums
4. O/A Drums
5. O/A Drums
7. Guit.
8. Guit.
9. Bass
10. Acc. Guit.
11. Acc. Guit.
12. Vocal & Harp
13. Lead Guit
14. Harp & Organ
15. Tom Tom Back Beat
16. X

Track six wasn’t labeled as having anything on it, but when I played the tape back there was another guitar that was a double to the guitar found on track 8 but slightly more overdriven. I listened very carefully to the original mix, and it didn’t sound like the unlabeled guitar part had been used, but it was definitely cool to hear a slightly heavier guitar sound that may have thickened up the guitars in the mix if it had been used.

One of my favorite things about mixing songs for Jammit that were recorded in the seventies is being able to observe the many different practices of recording drums. Some engineers would have a kick, snare and stereo overhead setup; others a kick, snare and mono room. What I found interesting about “I’m Eighteen” is that it had a mono kick track, two stereo pairs of drum kit tracks (one being overheads and the other being an overall room/kit sound), but no snare track. The main drum sound in the mix was derived from the stereo pair on tracks 4 and 5, which had a great overall balance of kick, snare, toms and cymbals. Although I mixed in the kick drum track for a little more punch and the other stereo drum pair for ambience, the original mix could have very easily sounded great with only this single stereo pair of tracks. Drum recordings from this era aren’t nearly as full-spectrum as they are today, but when mixed in with the rest of the track, they sound big and full. The one anomaly that I didn’t notice in the original mix (until dissecting the multi) was that there was an overdub of a tom-tom on the backbeat (beats 2 and 4) of the intro and choruses. This had an effect of fattening up the snare drum that also played on beats 2 and 4, a unique idea that would be a precursor to triggering and layering samples in the upcoming decade.

The guitar tracks in this song were equally exciting to hear. Glenn Buxton and Michael Bruce played similar parts throughout the choruses, but with a nice interplay between the two that created a bigger and wider effect than if one player had doubled his own part. The lead guitar solo sounded amazing, with an ambient mic’ing technique that made the sound pop out from the rest of the mix. The lead guitar licks that accent certain parts throughout the song shared the single track with the solo part, but with a much more dry and cutting sound. Again with most songs I’ve come across, there is a pleasant surprise hidden in the multi-tracks that goes somewhat unnoticed on the album mix. The guitar part in the verse of “I’m Eighteen” is two acoustic guitars, one being fed through a rotating Leslie cabinet, which gives it a completely unique sound—half acoustic, half electric. The acoustic guitars were panned hard left and hard right, which created a lush landscape for the simple arpeggiated pattern. This is definitely one of those parts I wish was turned up louder in the final mix.

The bass in this song (as well as many other Bob Ezrin arrangements) is used almost as a counter melody instead of a simple root to the guitar tracks. It is so effective in creating movement, much like in an orchestra or piano part. The actual sound is pretty clean and dry, which initially led me to believe the bass was plugged into a DI, but in certain sections of the song you can hear slight leakage, so it was most likely a good-sounding, well-recorded amp. The lack of leakage in certain parts of the song indicates that some of the bass was overdubbed, while other parts (like the outro and ending accents) were played live off the floor.

Alice’s vocal in this song is one single voice throughout the entire track: no doubles, no harmonies, etc. The vocal was tracked dry (unlike some other Cooper songs that we’ve used in Jammit that have been printed with reverb and/or delay), but had some reverb added in the mix to create a little more size and depth. Another thing I love about recordings from this era is the simplicity and raw emotion the shines through each and every line of lyrics, unlike some of the overproduced vocals of today. While listening to the vocal track on its own, I heard and felt every little squeak, snarl and crack that came out of Alice’s convincing performance.

With the exception of a harmonica overdub in the intro, doubling the lead guitar, and a single chord of an organ on the very last hit of the song, the production value in this song is really the arrangement and melody, more so than the actual recording. It becomes quickly obvious that the most time spent on “I’m Eighteen” was the crafting of the song and getting great (but not necessarily perfect) live performances. The sonic significance of the recording doesn’t seem to have nearly as much of an impact when all the pieces work together cohesively and you’ve got great musicians playing a great song. Everything from the main opening riff to the simple yet effective verse guitar part has made this song a personal favorite from Alice Cooper’s vast and impressive catalogue—and one that still holds up as if it were 1971 all over again.

To see/hear how you can play along to (with tab) and make new mixes of “I'm Eighteen” and other songs from the original multi-track masters, check out www.jammit.com

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Behind the recording of Pantera''s ''92 hit from Vulgar Display of Power, "Walk"

The sound engineers at OEM Inc. have spent thousands of hours with the original masters of the most famous songs ever recorded. They use them to create products like Jammit, an iPhone app that allows you to remix and play along with those original tracks. There are many, many things to learn from those original tracks. Through a partnership with Gearhead Communications, OEM Inc. engineers are sharing their discoveries exclusively with Premier Guitar readers in what we like to call Secrets of the Masters

Pantera had been refining their heavy metal chops since the early ’80s and although the success of “Cowboys From Hell” put them on the map, it was their next album, ’92’s Vulgar Display of Power, that established them as the band that would conquer the world of hard-hitting, powerful rock music. Even as grunge was putting an end to anything even closely related to “metal,” the signature song from Pantera’s second major release (and sixth studio album), “Walk,” could knock the teeth out of anyone who dared to listen to it loud enough. It was this song that first introduced me, and probably a lot of other people, to Pantera’s unique brand of heavy metal.

The first time I heard the song, the plodding rhythm and menacing vocals grabbed my attention while the overall sonic quality of the song grabbed me by the neck and smashed me into a wall of sound. The guitar was the most defined, razor sharp (without being harsh) thing I’d ever heard, and the production sounded so simple yet so full and huge. Since then, I’ve always wondered what the secret ingredient was to pulling off such a powerful sound. After deciding to include Pantera in our initial release of Jammit apps, I was excited to find out.

First Steps
Upon receiving the 2" 24-track tapes, the first thing I noticed was the title, “The Walk.” As the tape was being transferred to digital audio, I was crossing my fingers that this was the song I knew simply as “Walk,” and not an un-used version or demo. It didn’t take long for me to recognize that familiar intro riff and 12/8 time signature, and once the first line of lyrics came out of the speakers, I knew this was the master take that was used on the record. The one thing I didn’t expect was that there was also a slave tape. Having heard the song hundreds of times, I didn’t anticipate that the song would have more than 24 tracks. I began soloing some of the tracks from the slave and quickly realized that it was mostly experimental stuff that didn’t get used in the mix. There were a few alternate background vocal parts, loops made from guitar recordings that ran throughout the song, an alternate bass sound, etc. I have a strong feeling that at some point the band or producer Terry Date questioned the simplicity of the song and tried to incorporate some flashier production. In the end, however, almost every track that was used in the final mix lived on the master tape.

I began to set up the mix by going through each track one by one, taking note of the instrumentation. The tracks that ended up in the final mix included the following: kick, snare, hi-hat, toms left, toms right, overhead left, overhead right, bass direct, bass amp, two rhythm guitar tracks, two guitar tracks that had various accent guitar parts, a guitar solo track that was a comp of several other guitar solo takes, two lead vocal tracks, a low octave vocal track, and six additional tracks of the famous “re… spect… walk” barks.

Getcha’ Gear
I immediately jumped on the guitars. I wanted to hear what mix trickery would be needed to get the sound that Dimebag is so closely associated with. My initial observation, slightly anti-climatic yet exciting nonetheless, was that the sound you hear on the record is the sound coming from Dimebag’s fingers playing his Bill Lawrence (pickups)-equipped Dean From Hell guitar plugged into a solid-state Randall amplifier. Other than some hi EQ boost and a slight dip in the mids, the sound on tape is the sound you hear on the record—no trickery needed. What struck me the most about the guitar tracks was how locked his parts were. Through the entire song the rhythm sound was a lead and double and they were about as tight as I’ve ever heard on any recording. There were only certain sections where you could actually tell there were two guitars playing. Amazing!

The other observation worth noting is Dimebag’s judicious use of a noise gate. Between every rhythmic stop and pause there was absolutely no amp hiss, hum or fret noise. This method of trimming the noise leftover when resting on a note created a cool effect that helped maintain the tightness of the guitar tracks.

Flying Solo
As I made my way to the guitar solo, I started to feel a similarity between Pantera and Van Halen. I know it sounds crazy because the music is so different, but there are definite similarities between Dimebag’s approach to this song and Eddie’s approach to the first Van Halen album— consider the minimal use of guitar overdubs and the how the rhythm guitars drops out when it’s solo time. Most bands around this time would layer guitars upon guitars upon guitars, but during the solo to “Walk” there was only one guitar track playing (using the neck pickup).

Dimebag in 1992. Photo by Stuart Taylor courtesy of Frank White Photo Agency.
For this track, a little delay was added in the mix to create some space around the otherwise empty section. Dimebag employed his soonto- famous harmonic dive-bomb at the tail end of the solo, which was the only part of the solo that was doubled. After listening to the unused guitar solo tracks, or what I took to be unused, it was quickly apparent that Dimebag had recorded three takes of his solo and then printed the best parts from each take onto a separate, master solo track. All three tracks were very similar, so it was obvious that Dime had worked out a solo part instead of just winging it.

The last thing I noticed about the guitar parts, which was kind of a surprise to me, was that there were overdubs during the outro of the song: an additional rhythm track and a lead solo track. Although you can hear them in the mix, they definitely weren’t featured. Being able to isolate that lead part fully revealed that Dimebag was doing a really cool counter melody with some insanely well-controlled whammy bar work, something that Dimebag is still revered for to this day. Looking back, it would have been great to hear more of this in the final mix.

Bass from Hell
Moving on to the bass—I was really impressed with the sound of Rex Brown’s amp. Most mixes rely on the direct sound and then mix in the amp for flavor, but I found that using more of the amp gave me a sound that was closer to the original mix. The style in which Rex plays really has a lot to do with the power of the sound. It drives in a way that is almost a hybrid between a guitar and percussion instrument. By playing chords in the chorus instead of just single notes, he really fills out the sound like a bassist is supposed to. The whole band is such a tight machine but soloing the bass with the guitars exemplifies how locked they really are.

Drums from Hell
When I dug into the drums I was pleasantly surprised that the kick and snare drum on tape were actually used in the mix. I always assumed the tight, clicky kick drum was a triggered sample. I used a sample in my Jammit mix to accent certain frequencies of the spectrum but the original kick itself had the character heard on the albums. The snare sounded a little more augmented and was actually the hardest part of the mix for me to match. It had a very distinct crack and reverb that gave it a strong imprint within the mix. I had to scroll through a bunch of ’verbs before finding a starting point that gave the drums that familiar size. The drums on tape are very dry and no room mics were recorded; it takes reverb to give the illusion of Vinnie Paul playing in a large arena. Like Dimebag’s guitar and Rex’s bass, the drums have their own part of the mix carved out; when played with the rest of the instruments, they are part of a tight and powerful combination.

Vocals from Hell
Phil Anselmo’s vocals in this song really put the cap on this aggressive metal staple. The simplicity of the track layout follows suit with the rest of the mix. There were two lead vocal tracks, which played off each other and slightly overlapped in the verse, a low octave vocal doubling the pre-chorus and then a stack of background parts of Phil layering the chorus hook “Re… spect… walk…” I’ve heard several stories of Terry Date recording singers in the control room with a Shure SM58 and no headphones, but for this song it’s hard to imagine that was the case. There was very little, if any, leakage in the vocal microphone and the sound is so consistent and even that it would have been tough to get that performance while holding the mic still. Regardless, the compressed sound and angstfilled performance was absolutely perfect for the song and really filled out the sonic spectrum.

Final Thoughts
Re-creating the mix of this milestone song gave me incredible insight into the sound of Pantera. Having been a fan of the band since the early ‘90s, the production of their albums has always been an enigma to me. How can a band have so little going on in the instrumentation and arrangement yet sound so big and powerful? After mixing this song and a few other Pantera classics, I can say that the old adage that “less is more” is brilliantly demonstrated throughout the Pantera catalogue. Each element has its own space and because all the players execute their parts to perfection, the whole mix sounds bigger than the sum of its parts. This is definitely something that has been lost in today’s over-stuffed mixes in which you can’t tell who’s playing what. Young bands looking to figure out a way to make their music sound bigger, fuller and more aggressive should definitely take note of the almighty Pantera! (R.I.P. Dime)

To see/hear how you can play along to (with tab) and make new mixes of “Walk” and other songs from the original multi-track masters, check out www.jammit.com

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