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Arthur Nasson on The Recording of "Echo Garden"



The Recording of 'Echo Garden"
My recording process is the culmination of years of trial and error.
Watching and asking questions on any recording session I was part of,
and spending years in the basement experimenting.
I wound up producing all of my albums to date,I think they are unique and
specific as a result.
The only producer I was ever slated to work with was Rolling Stones
Producer Jimmy Miller.
The sessions never materialized,but during our talks he imparted
many ideas,that came from his years of experience.
At the time of our meeting I was a young kid,and he was
caught between trying to capture new glory and
destroying himself with Alcohol and Heroin.
He was very impressed with what I was doing musically,
and was also happy to talk with someone who was more interested in his
process,and ideas about record production,than in asking questions about
what Keith Richards was like.
Recordings like 'Rip This Joint' 'Tumbling Dice' by the Stones,
and "Gimme Some Lovin" by Spencer Davis group,had an intangible quality to
them,they had their own sound,and energy.
I asked him about this and specific questions like why Charlie Watts
Mono one track Drum sound on 'Honky Tonk Women' sounded bigger and more
exciting than modern drum tracks with a dozen or more mic's and tracks on
them.
He attempted to explain his approach, and frankly at the time,
I didn't completely understand what I was recieving.
It wasn't until a few years later when I borrowed an ancient four track
recorder
from my then manager that I began to pull these elements
together.
I had a machine with no EQ,reverb,effects,no nothing,and a cheap radio
shack mic.
If I wanted any kind of sound to happen ,
I had to make it happen in the room and capture it that way.
Whenever my frustration mounted,
I kept thinking back to what was imparted during those meetings.
I would try to paraphrase some of what was said in my attempt to remember.
"The excitement of what's happening in a room during a performance is
something never to be messed with"
'Trying to capture it can be as elusive as trying to put lightning in a
bottle"
" Use fewer mics,keep em wide open,and place em well"
"Signal flow is simple,just get out of the way"
The Guy who produced 'Let It Bleed' liked to let sound bleed all over the
place.
In time I kept thinking about the space,and moved a drum kit into an open
area of a basement,with concrete floors and walls, a plaster ceiling,
and put a mic not in close, but several feet back from the kit,and hit the
drums hard.
I was beginning to be able to capture what I heard in the room.
What hit the tape was the start of something.
There are many people who don't like the sound of 'Exile On Main Street"
they say its muddy,crowded,well,,it was recorded in a basement with
cobbled together equipment,little sound treatment to the room or baffling.
To me it has this magic,where sounds blend, where there is an uncontrolled
dispersion of energy,it feels like being right in the middle of something.
Modern recording is fighting this. Engineers are trying to mic every
aspect of things then compress them and EQ them,and compartmentalize
things.
To me this sucks the life out of performances and makes things sound dull.
The recording of 'Echo Garden' was all about letting go and embracing
chance.
The writing and recording of this album happened quickly,
it would have been impossible to have done this with a band or a producer,
there was no time to explain things.
Mics were left wide open,the little red record light was always on.
It was time to do.
I still have yet to use an outside producer,and stopped using recording
studios after my first album.
I reached a crossroad where I was either going to have to be a slave to
technology,or I was going to embrace what people like
Jimmy Miller was talking about years earlier.
Perhaps the Art form thrives more with limitations,it forces decision
making,mic technique,and creativity.
I have recorded every album after my first in a basement on 8 track analog,
no auto-tune,no digital trickery.
Drums are one mic one track, Real raw performances.
To me there is an urgency and direct honesty to 'Echo Garden"
where sparks can fly anywhere with nothing to slow them down.
This is exactly what I wanted.