If producing and engineering a record is a science, then never let it be said that the discipline has lost its appetite for experimentation – not when there are producers like Sylvia Massy around.
Massy has long established herself as one of alternative rock’s go-to producers, having produced albums such as Tool’s Undertow, welcoming artists like the Melvins, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Taylor Hawkins, System Of A Down and many more into the studio. others.
It is perhaps the technical good faith of Massy that the artists register. That is certainly part of it. The other factor is his relentless search for new sounds and new ways to craft a record that other producers – perhaps more timid souls – might consider too radical.
His approaches have included smashing pianos with Tool, blasting (!) a Hammond organ for a Lady Strangelove album, and having Alabama Thunderpussy record their guitar and bass parts in an abandoned power plant cooling tower. nuclear.
Or, and here’s one that surely George Martin never dreamed of, running an electric guitar signal through a pair of cheese sausages.
Massy was in Germany recording Flying Mammals’ 2017 album Vier when the experiment was conducted. Ordinary speaker cables were replaced so that the signal from the amplifier passed through a pair of cheese sausages – käsekrainer in the local parlance – which hopefully would add a certain something to the sound.
Luckily for budding engineers, Massy documents a lot of this on YouTube, and it’s an inspiring example – and reminder – for all of us that the process of creating music is always a learning experience.
We can assume this was the first time Massy used the cheese sausage as a conduit for the electric guitar, and brought a whole new meaning to the idea of a heavily processed guitar signal.
“There were higher quality sausages, but we thought maybe the junky, cheaper sausage might give us a bit more grit,” she says. “What we’ve done is we’ve actually inserted a pair of cheap sausages into the speaker cable. There’s a positive sausage and a negative sausage. I’m going to give the dipping power because we’re going to have some attenuation with the sausage.
Does the guitar sound better with cheese sausages? This is the question and the title of the YouTube video. Well, that’s the most sacred thing, but for the lead guitar tone that James Birdsall is looking for here with his Fender Stratocaster, yes.
Frontman Aaron Birdsall approves. “I think it’s just breaking up a little bit, just a little bit so that’s interesting,” he says. “The sausage adds a bit of a nice break.”
Massy is also convinced, saying the lower quality of the sausages — possibly the high sodium content — contributed to the breakup. Experiment carried out, it is time to track the solos.
All bets were off when Massy recorded Vier with Flying Mammals. On the piano, Massy equipped a beautiful old Bösendorfer with a pair of Neumann KM 54s, a Sontronics Apollo 2 and a Soyus 017. All very conventional. Nice equipment. But then a pipe was installed inside the piano, running along the harp and heading towards a vintage 457 – “it’s basically an SM57 from Shure” – which is stuck in a funnel, taped in place, to capture the sounds through the pipe.
Massy’s YouTube account is a wealth of information for those looking for new recording techniques. If, after the sausages, the garden hose mic technique sounds a little vanilla, consider her 2017 sessions with the Melvins, when she ran Buzz Osborne’s guitar cue through a pair of pickles at the kosher dill, all in search of a better return.
This, she assures us, is a proven method. There’s a real visual element to this too, with the sodium content causing the dill pickups to light up when the signal passes through it.
So once you have the best audio interface, the DAW of your dreams, don’t forget to stop by the supermarket on the way home and stock up on pickles and sausages. If the music doesn’t work, at least you won’t go hungry.