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R/E/P => R/E/P Archives => Terry Manning => Topic started by: thesoundguy on February 07, 2005, 10:19:32 pm

Title: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: thesoundguy on February 07, 2005, 10:19:32 pm
Terry-

Its probably not worth me trying to convey what kind of influence the ZZTop catalog has been on me on various levels professionally, personally, whatever.  The early catalog is rarely celebrated for the incredible recordings that they are, and its rare where Im from to be able to have any kind of sophisticated conversation about the band, I hope I dont scare you away with a barrage of questions:

First off, the edit from Waiting For The Bus onto the one of Jesus has got to be the single most bestest greatest edit that any human has ever done with a razor blade.  That edit alone is worthy of a big space on the wall in the rock and roll hall of fame, put the master tape right up there.

What kind of console was Tres Hombres mixed on?  Im assuming this is a 16 track master mixed to 1/4"?

Can you comment on the drum setup on this record?  Were they in a booth, or baffled in a larger room?  Was the kit on a linoleum floor?  Sounds a little brighter than carpet.

Assuming there were scratch vocals from the tracking sessions, were any used on the LP or are all the vocals overdubbed?

The Fadeout on Beer Drinkers is about the most insanely perfect fadeout anyone could make...

Are we hearing mostly fender tweed amps on this record?

Do you recall if during the tracking sessions, the guitar solos were played live with the rhythm tracks, or if the backing rhythm guitar over the solos went down with the band?

Do you recall how long it took to track and mix?

Were you involved in preproduction meeting for Tejas?  If so, was there an intentional and motivated effort to take the record in a new direction, or did the sound of the record just simply result from the work flow?  

Do you recall if Ten Dollar Man was one of the fiirst songs tracked for this record or if it was recorded towards the end of the sessions?  The snare drum move right before the DI guitar comes in absolutely gets me off every time I hear that song and is one of my favorite mix moments on all the zz records.  Leaving  dusty's cough coming into the last verse is a righteous rock moment, more people should take note of stuff like that, the average engineer would have muted that.

Was the master for Gimmie All Your Lovin VSO'd up a whole step?  I have an original LP that definitley has a pitched up version, always wondered at which step along the way this occured.

Thanks for enduring my somewhat long list of questions I never imagined Id ever be able to ask the source...

dave
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Pramrod on February 07, 2005, 10:49:05 pm
YA MAN!!! Like he said! ZZ rule NATIONWIDE and Terry, your work with them is beyond heavy- seminal in fact!!! and let me just say that ZZ STILL kicks major ass (i've seen them 3 times in the last couple of years, including a front row center directly in front of the reverend- YESSSSSS). any further insight into ZZ and your working methods with them are greatly appreciated. long live ZZ TOP!!! tone, tone, tone for days...
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: russrags on February 08, 2005, 09:21:54 am
Hey Dave,

I don't think Terry worked on Tres Hombres, he came on board later during Fandango.  The 1st few albums were recorded in Tyler, TX my home town !!!!   I've spent a lot of time in that room and have pictures I'll have to dig up.  When I worked at the Studio 1982-1985 the board was an MCI console.  There's a Custom board all wrapped in plastic in the attic, it might have been used, I can find out.  This was the desk I learned on ... a funny story:  I live in Nashville now and do a lot of work for Leon Russell.  While digging through Leon's warehouse I found the MCI board and turns out Robin Hood Bryans sold him the board the the late 80's.  Small world.

Yea I'm REALLY interested in some great ZZ stories too.
I've always been a huge fan of Terry Manning's work.

Russ
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: compasspnt on February 09, 2005, 10:33:49 am
Hey Dave,

I'll try to get to some answers to your great questions tonight.  Thanks!

Russ, as mentioned in some previous thread here, Tres Hombres was mostly tracked at Robin Hood's.  It came to me for overdubs and mixing, which I did.

Thanks, guys!

TM
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: compasspnt on February 10, 2005, 02:10:44 am
thesoundguy wrote on Mon, 07 February 2005 22:19



First off, the edit from Waiting For The Bus onto the one of Jesus has got to be the single most bestest greatest edit that any human has ever done with a razor blade. That edit alone is worthy of a big space on the wall in the rock and roll hall of fame, put the master tape right up there.


Wow, thanks!!!

Quote:

What kind of console was Tres Hombres mixed on?  Im assuming this is a 16 track master mixed to 1/4"?


The console was our (Ardent's) custom designed SpectraSonics, built by Auditronics of Memphis under license from SpectraS in Utah.  It was a 16 tr 2" recording, mixed to 1/4".

Quote:

Can you comment on the drum setup on this record?  Were they in a booth, or baffled in a larger room?  Was the kit on a linoleum floor?  Sounds a little brighter than carpet.


I wasn't at the original tracking, which was done at Robin Hood's Studios in Tyler, TX.  Tres Hombres came to me for overdubs and mixing.

Quote:

Assuming there were scratch vocals from the tracking sessions, were any used on the LP or are all the vocals overdubbed?


There were some scratch vocals used, but most were overdubbed.  I reached back to the scratch for some of the "aside comments,"  such as "they gotta lotta nice girls there" in LaGrange.   There was one great one that I almost put in, and have always wished I had, into LaGrange.  During the mid point of the guitar walk-down/drum stop bit, Billy said "Goin' halfway round the world and back again..."  but we left that out, amongst many other things he said.

Quote:

The Fadeout on Beer Drinkers is about the most insanely perfect fadeout anyone could make...


Thanks!  Good ole "Philly Ending."

Quote:

Are we hearing mostly fender tweed amps on this record?


Some, but some are also from BG's customised Marshall heads, which he renamed "Rio Grande" brand.  The controls were all labelled in Spanish, and the logo was palm trees.

Quote:

Do you recall if during the tracking sessions, the guitar solos were played live with the rhythm tracks, or if the backing rhythm guitar over the solos went down with the band?


Most of the solos were overdubbed.  The rhythm was usually played with the band.  There were a lot of overdubs here, for instance many of the tom rolls are doubled.

Quote:

Do you recall how long it took to track and mix?


Can't remember how long I took in yesterday's session...I think we mixed one or two songs a day average.

Quote:

Were you involved in preproduction meeting for Tejas?  If so, was there an intentional and motivated effort to take the record in a new direction, or did the sound of the record just simply result from the work flow?


What is a "preproduction meeting?"  Seriously, Billy and I were just always looking for new ways to do everything.  New or different guitars, amps, everything.  On this session, the amps were Vox Super Beatle transistor ones.  We just went in a bit cleaner direction.

Quote:

Do you recall if Ten Dollar Man was one of the first songs tracked for this record or if it was recorded towards the end of the sessions?  The snare drum move right before the DI guitar comes in absolutely gets me off every time I hear that song and is one of my favorite mix moments on all the zz records.  Leaving  dusty's cough coming into the last verse is a righteous rock moment, more people should take note of stuff like that, the average engineer would have muted that.


Thanks.  Can't remember tracking order, unfortunately.  I like finding little anomoly things to leave in certain tracks.  There's a lot of that in ZZ stuff.  I used to look for and find it in Beatles' records, so I had to do it too.

Quote:

Was the master for Gimmie All Your Lovin VSO'd up a whole step?  I have an original LP that definitely has a pitched up version, always wondered at which step along the way this occured.


Not sure about this one.  I think I may have done a sped up version for a single.  But this was on an LP???

Quote:

Thanks for enduring my somewhat long list of questions...


That's it, this puny little list?
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Andi Gisler on February 10, 2005, 04:01:09 am
compasspnt wrote on Thu, 10 February 2005 08:10


I like finding little anomoly things to leave in certain tracks.  There's a lot of that in ZZ stuff.  I used to look for and find it in Beatles' records, so I had to do it too.



This site here is really cool....

http://www.pootle.demon.co.uk/wgo.htm

Andi
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: russrags on February 10, 2005, 09:23:06 am
This is for you Dave,

You were asking about ZZ Tops 1st few records, about consoles and Studio space.  I dug up a couple of pictures for you.

Tyler, TX  Robin Hood Studios.
This is an MCI console although I'm not sure if it was the board used in tracking.  Terry if you were ever over there at anytime during Tres Hombres or Fandango???  As I said there's a custom board in the attic.  The Machine was MCI 2" 16-track / Scully 1/4" 2-track.

The Control room sits 4 or 5 feet above the tracking room floor  looking down.The Tracking room is aprox 24' square with a 10' ceiling and wood floor, with two booths behind the left side of the picture.  

Robin Hood Bryans said his contribution to the sound was by EQing the Bass up high and the GTRs down low.  Robin had already worked with Billy Gibbons before with his band before ZZ, "The Moving Sidewalks" I believe???   The 1st Album, Rio Grande Mud, Tres Hombres were all tracked here.  

Although these records are very dear to my heart, Terry Manning did take ZZ Top to the next level.  Throughout their career they have always changed and we have welcomed the next level.  That's one thing I like about them for sure.

enjoy the pics,
Russ

index.php/fa/795/0/

Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: russrags on February 10, 2005, 09:29:17 am
The picture (of another session) doesn't show the room off as well as I would like, but Franks drums were setup where the horn players are on the left, in front of a wood wall.  Alot of early reflections were captured in the recording.  


index.php/fa/796/0/
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: tenaciousJay on February 10, 2005, 02:10:56 pm
Wow, great to have you here, Terry. Billy Gibbons is one of my biggest influences on guitar, both playing and tone-wise (And Jimmy Page is the other!).

I'd love to know anything about the sessions for Deguello, specifically anything you can remember about the wide range of incredible guitar tones - amps, guitars, pedals, microphones, rooms, whatever.

That one seems to get overlooked as a classic ZZ LP but it's always been one of my favorites. Bad, Nationwide kills me every time I hear it. Do you recall how Billy played that first solo? There's a part right after the intro of the solo where it sounds like he's quickly tapping 2 notes octave apart with his left hand but I could never get it to sound right.

Also, have you heard the new CD box set at all? I've heard it's a much better representation of the way the LPs sound but haven't actually gotten a chance to listen myself.
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: compasspnt on February 10, 2005, 09:37:54 pm
tenaciousJay wrote on Thu, 10 February 2005 14:10

Wow, great to have you here, Terry. Billy Gibbons is one of my biggest influences on guitar, both playing and tone-wise (And Jimmy Page is the other!).


Me, too!  I have been very lucky!

Quote:

I'd love to know anything about the sessions for Deguello, specifically anything you can remember about the wide range of incredible guitar tones - amps, guitars, pedals, microphones, rooms, whatever.


On the Deguello sessions, we were really ramping things up as far as equipment and direction.  This album I think is the progenitor of "Eliminator."  Billy brought for the first time A LOT of guitars and amps to the session.  I had always in the past only had one or two, maybe three guitars, and usually just "the" one amp around, for almost any session.  It just wasn't thought of in the 'earlier' days to need a wide selection, just as it wasn't contemplated to need any outnoard mic pre's or such.  But this time was the first time I remember a truckload of gear coming in...today it's common practice; anyone who has the gear brings it!  (REM were recently in our studio here in Nassau for three months, and they brought EVERYTHING they own, which is a LOT of gear.  It filled over 90 LARGE road cases.)

We did indeed use various guitars and amplifiers during this Deguello session (by the way the "Deguello" is the bugle call that used to be played by the Mexican army back in the Texas-Mexico war days.  It meant "There will be no quarter, only death, for any who don't surrender now!"  This was played, for instance, at  The Alamo.), and I employed for one of the first times during an album session, various mic's and mic placements for guitar.  Billy had his Les Paul (Pearly Gates) of course, but also Strats, and some wild cheesy Japanese guitars.  Amps would have been the various Marshall's (or his Rio Grande customised ones) as well as some Fenders, old Gibson's and I think maybe a Magnavox.

Again, this entire album was recorded in Ardent Studio A, on the SpectraSonics/Auditronics console (USING THE CONSOLE MIC PRE'S OF COURSE), and tracked to either 16 or 24 track 2" (can't remember which now).  It would have been mixed probably to 1/4".  BG did indeed have an assortment of pedals, the ones out then which are 'vintage' pedals now.

Quote:

That one seems to get overlooked as a classic ZZ LP but it's always been one of my favorites. Bad, Nationwide kills me every time I hear it. Do you recall how Billy played that first solo? There's a part right after the intro of the solo where it sounds like he's quickly tapping 2 notes octave apart with his left hand but I could never get it to sound right.


Unfortunately, I don't remember that exact guitar moment right now.  I haven't heard this album for many years, again because I refuse to get anywhere near the AWFUL "CD Remixes" which totally ruined ZZ Top's legacy on CD.  But I did purchase the box set recently; haven't had any time to listen to it, but I will look to see if this is on it, and try to figure out what you mean.

A couple of items concerning the recording of Deguello, though:

•On "Dust My Broom," there was, intentionally, absolutely NO reverb or delay of any kind, and every instrument possible was recorded by direct injection (DI); no amplifiers were harmed in the making of this recording.

•The horns which appear on a couple of songs were actually played by the three group members themselves.  They had bought the saxes, and spent months learning and practicing for this purpose.  I did have to use some pre-Protools sampling and editing techniques to get them right, but they did play it!  (I would often then use my early methods for sampling and moving parts out of time, or other methods to tune things which needed it.  Also, vocals were heavily comp'd, or at least heavily punched.  So much for the "good ole days" of REAL live music!)

•On "Manic Mechanic," which I really loved, there was obviously heavy treatment on the vocals...quite a bit of it was recorded with the multi vari-sped up, so it would be slow and huge on playback.

Quote:

Also, have you heard the new CD box set at all? I've heard it's a much better representation of the way the LPs sound but haven't actually gotten a chance to listen myself.


Same here, as mentioned.  I WILL try to find time to check it out and report, though!

Thanks so much for your interest  and questions!

Terry
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Bill Mueller on February 11, 2005, 12:17:36 am
Terry,

I work for Heil Sound out of St Louis, in the early seventies and one of my first bands was ZZ Top. After a couple of months as a PA rodie, the band hired me away to do guitars. I worked with David Blaney and Pete Tickle on tours supporting Rio Grande Mud and Tres Hombres.

Once, Billy broke a string on Pearlie and I had to bring him his black square guitar. I remember it had a palm tree inlaid in the neck. Anyway, it was at Jepperson (I believe) Stadium in Houston. I turned the wrong way when exchanging guitars and found myself facing 75,000 people. Gulp. I managed to make it off stage without falling and was more careful not to look out into the crowd after that.

About those Rio Grande amps. We kept them perfect. I mean perfect. After two years on the road, they looked like the day they were made.

Terry. I just wanted to say that the band worshipped you. I hung out a lot with Frank and then Billy and they always were in awe of your talent.

Best Regards,

Bill
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: tenaciousJay on February 11, 2005, 03:48:02 am
Thanks for the detailed answer, Terry.

C'mon, you know the part!

daaah, dit dah.
bu- dumbula dumbula dumbula dumbula dumbula dumbula
daaah, dit dah.
etc.

LOL well that probably doesn't help.

I had also read somewhere that that album was tracked in a bunch of different studios, sounds like that's not true.

And any thoughts on Pearly? could you tell it was special or was it just a typical nice early LP?

Bill you could answer as well - any road stories would also be cool.
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Radd 47 on February 11, 2005, 06:30:27 pm
If you want hilarious road stories, check out Sharped Dressed Men by David Blaney. Probably not a favorite book of the band's, but...

My favorite is the gig in the freezing metal shack down in New Mexico somewhere.

Hey Bill, do you remember the Tres Hombres gig at Winterland SF with Eric Burden? I sure would like to know who that guy playing the Les Paul for Burden was.

Man ZZ was was load! I was up front, and all you heard was white noise interspaced by tight moments of silence, then more white noise. That's when they did all those choreographed dance steps.

Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Bill Mueller on February 11, 2005, 07:53:19 pm
OH MY GOD. Dave wrote a book? He must be divorced.

Bill
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: compasspnt on February 14, 2005, 01:39:02 am
tenaciousJay wrote on Fri, 11 February 2005 03:48

Thanks for the detailed answer, Terry.

C'mon, you know the part!

daaah, dit dah.
bu- dumbula dumbula dumbula dumbula dumbula dumbula
daaah, dit dah.
etc.

LOL well that probably doesn't help.

I had also read somewhere that that album was tracked in a bunch of different studios, sounds like that's not true.

And any thoughts on Pearly? could you tell it was special or was it just a typical nice early LP?


Hi Jay,

OK, I listened..the box set seems to have the original mix of "Nationwide," but mastered a bit brighter than the original Ludwig mastering.  But at least it's not

THOSE AWFUL REMIXES FOR CD WHICH WERE RUINED, at least on that song.  I  haven't had time to check them all.

Of course I now remember the "Nationwide" solo part.  It was one of those things only Billy G seems to be able to do.  I think it was......

___________________________
POST EDITED BY MODERATOR:

In the interest of veracity, I have deleted my first educated guess remembrance of how this part was played, in favour of <louder>'s post below.  I happily admit that I probably got the details skewed, and that louder's playing method is more likely to be the correct one.  I do this edit so as not to perpetuate any further myths!
___________________________


...Even though Billy did this, and all of the guitar parts, in the control room right in front of me, I just can't remember every technical detail of the playing.  Sorry not to have the perfect answer!

No this album was totally tracked and mixed by me in the same Ardent Studio A.  It's also not true what Billy has said in some guitar magazine interviews, that we put a whole lot of amps in a circle, facing inwards, with the sound coming out of all of them at once, and had one mic in the centre of the circle.  He just loves to send up the interviewers with a good story!

Pearly was a very good early Les Paul; it was very special to Billy because it was THE guitar for so long for him.  Those instruments were already looked on as vintage, ultra-collectibles, at that time.  So those facts made it special to all of us.

Someone else asked about the guitar sound on "El Diablo."  I remember that Billy and I BOTH played that one, at the same time, on the same instrument.  In other words, four hands!

Regards,

Terry
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: louder on February 14, 2005, 07:26:00 am
hi
terry,thank you so much for your replay,i am realy glad.
as for the solo nationwide,i saw billy play it in a tv live show in germany,and it`s like this:he is playing 2 c notes a octave apart(fifth string, third string),so i am so sorry to tell, but no open strings here.
best regards
pedro
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: compasspnt on February 14, 2005, 08:44:14 am
Thanks, Pedro.

I hope somebody can figure out exactly how to play it!

Terry
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: tenaciousJay on February 14, 2005, 12:05:22 pm
Thanks again Terry.

Stupid to think that you would remember the one line but it's one of those moments that stick out to me every time I hear it. Same way with Heard It On The X when it breaks then it starts with a slide solo - gives me chills every time.

Thanks louder, I did think he was just slapping the strings with his left hand as an octave, when I try it I have to mute behind them with my right hand or it's a mess. Sounds like he can mute it just fine with his left hand - or maybe he's muting by the bridge.

Terry I wonder if you could comment on the guitar sound in Eliminator. What I always heard it was all Rockman - but was there an amp mixed in as well? And thoughts on the direction of that album as a whole - it certainly was a huge change in sound, even if there were hints of it on earlier albums.
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: compasspnt on February 15, 2005, 10:20:05 am
tenaciousJay wrote on Mon, 14 February 2005 12:05


Terry I wonder if you could comment on the guitar sound in Eliminator. What I always heard it was all Rockman - but was there an amp mixed in as well? And thoughts on the direction of that album as a whole - it certainly was a huge change in sound, even if there were hints of it on earlier albums.


The full story of the making of Eliminator (the politics, the chicannery, the technical aberrations, the high social drama, the exodus, the payback) is one that I cannot tell.  Even if I could, there certainly wouldn't be room for it here!  It probably won't even make it into "the book" (or the movie).  Just don't forget that truth is often stranger than fiction!

However, I will address certain specific musical or technical issues, and I'll begin with your guitar amp question.

THERE WAS ABSOLUTELY NO ROCKMAN USED ON THIS RECORDING!
Not a little bit, not a tiny bit; NOT ANY.  I don't know how these stories get started.  Billy may indeed have used Rockman at a later date, after I left the situation, but I did not allow it when I was working with him.  He did bring one in to try, but I was not satisfied with the sound, compared to an amplifier.

The amp used, almost exclusively, on Eliminator was a Legend.  This was about a 50 watt hybrid unit, employing a tube/valve preamp, and a transistor power amp.  This is the amp which has a finished wood case, and a rattan-type cane grill.  It has one 12" Celestion speaker.  Legend were later bought by, or at least distributed by, Gibson, but they were independent when we started using them.  I still have this amp; it is almost new.  A couple of years ago I plugged one of the Eliminator guitars into it, just to see...there was the sound!

The guitars were custom built by Dean.  Dean were out of Chicago, and were trying to break into the high end (a la Jackson, PRS) market.  They were very nice, albeit different, instruments.  Subsequently however, they got a contract with Sears to make guitars, so they opted for the big bucks, Korean manufactured, low end market instead.  But the ones we used were very nicely made.  There were two which we employed.  One was somewhat like a cross between a Flying-V and a Moderne shape, very long "ears," and the other was a sort of a warped, pointy Stratocaster-y shape.  Both guitars had a single DiMarzio Super Distortion high output pickup, and almost no controls.  I don't think there is even a tone control...what would you need one for?  They have big, heavy, brass bridge/tail pieces bolted into the body.  These guitars were very live, very resonant, and would verge on resonant feedback at all times; they were also very hard to keep in tune because of this.  But they were always alive.  Billy has the first one mentioned, and he gave me the latter, which I still have.

The guitar was recorded with basically only one setup; one amp (Legend), one speaker (12"), one guitar (Deans, the two were almost exactly the same), one mic (AKG 414B-ULS, I still have it) in one position (about 5" from the cone, placed at a slight angle off axis), one mic pre (the SpectraSonics console).  98% of ALL guitar on this album, whether lead or rhythm was done this way.  Any variations were from the player himself, who, remember, did not even have a tone control.  That's how good Billy was back then.  We did use very briefly a small amp by Ross, but we didn't like it much, and I think only a tiny part or two was kept from this, if any.

The rhythm guitars were done in a precursor-to-Protools style.  Short phrases were played, and then double tracked, onto one set of tracks, and then the chord change/next phrase was played on a second set of tracks.  This allowed a seamless transition between changes; since the Deans were so close to feedback at all times (acoustically, through the fairly loud JBL monitors), we couldn't even lift the fingers to change chords!  Then I would trim the edges of each section by punching in and out to silence at the beginnings and ends of the phrases (somewhat analogous to "trimming the region" today).  This method also "eliminated" to a degree the loud harmonic squeaks between chord changes. The punch in/out points, if done exactly perfectly, made for a primitive cross fade of probably 10-20 ms, and ended up sounding very different as rhythm guitar, sort of like a big train rolling down a track, almost out of control; without knowing how it was done, one wouldn't really realise why it was different.

For the leads, as always, there was a lot of punching done.

The bass was mostly played either by Billy or by me, and was either a bass instrument, or a Moog Source (the Source was a Mini Moog [rhymes with 'Vouge'] analogue synth with digitally controlled parameters...I still have this, too).  Synth chords were played on a Memory Moog (polyphonic Mini).

Billy sang great, different vocals, as usual, and the harmonies were done either by Jimmy Jamison or by me.

There are a MILLION more things which could be told about this distinctive album, but as mentioned, most of it is probably better left unsaid.  But one interesting thing, at least to me, was the recording of "Legs."  We had tried it a couple of ways unsuccessfully at Ardent, so I decided to try a new approach.  I had a 24 track studio in my attic at home, so I took Billy's lead guitar and vocal home on a 1/2" two track L/R ("samples").  I recut the entire track myself, and then hand flew in Billy's parts onto the track.  This meant careful timing of the play button on my MCI 1/2", for each and every phrase, as after a few seconds, they would drift out of sync.  I mixed it there through my Soundcraft 1200 console (these were also the mic pre's) onto the MCI 1/2".  The multitrack was also the Soundcraft 2" machine, which I really loved.  Then I did a totally different version, which became the long "dance mix" later released to clubs, and it is now included in the new box set.  Later, I saw a review of this dance version credited, to Jellybean Benitez ...go figure!

Anyway, that's a lot about Eliminator for now.  Thanks for your interest!

Terry
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: strawberrius on February 15, 2005, 11:17:09 am
terry -

are u saying you played the drums on LEGS? 1 @ a time O.D. style? or a kit?
that is insane - whenever i work with drummers, there is a fill that has become known as the "zz topper"  which is any snare fill that ends with the last 2 16th notes of a bar (all over LEGS).

if this is true, then u r the creator of the famous "zz topper" fill. and although this is not a revolutionary drum fill, it has been mentioned by name in just about every rock session i have done in the last 18 years.

kudos!!!!

-john fields
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Bill Mueller on February 17, 2005, 06:06:57 pm
Wow Terry, this is a great thread. It's great learning some of your techniques that made those records what they were. Your real technique however is fearlesness.

Question. Did you ever record Billy's square black "Palm Tree" guitar? I don't remember who made it but it had a very different sound from Pearly, kind of dry and focused. I also remember that it was difficult to tune. I don't think I ever got it right. Billy would always retune it, even if I spent a half hour on it.

I will never forget ZZ Top's live shows. You would think they could not get any more intense and then they would do an encore and just shock you with the extra level of heat. Then they would do a second encore and kick it up two notches higher. Once in LA (Paladium I think), they did three encores and I thought I was going to faint from the intensity. My heart couldn't take it. Of course they were also the loudest damn band ever heard. Six of those Rio Grande stacks! Billy had two full stacks on his side and one of his stacks on Dusty's side and visa versa.

Thanks again.

Bill
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Radd 47 on February 17, 2005, 08:45:44 pm
I saw them a while back when BG had the Orange amps. Then I noticed a tiny Alamo off to the side with a mic on it. Clapton used to do the same thing.

I remember a story about Billy getting hit on the hand by a flying beer bottle one night. They walked off the stage and didn't come back. The crowd was pissed, so they grabbed the guy who threw the bottle and passed him to the front, where he was hauled off backstage by the roadies to recieve what punishment I do not know of but can imagine.

I wish I knew how he get's that intermittant speaker break up sound on Dusty's "Loaded" and a few other tracks. Sounds like a loose wire or something.

Hey Terry, what the heck is Billy saying at the end of Sharped Dressed man? Added by you I presume from one of those other tracks?

Thanks Terry! Cool posts!

Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: compasspnt on February 20, 2005, 03:20:15 pm
Radd 47 wrote on Thu, 17 February 2005 20:45



Hey Terry, what the heck is Billy saying at the end of Sharped Dressed man? Added by you I presume from one of those other tracks?



As I recall, he's saying (just as the final solo begins),

"You can't lose with the dress I use....now dress 'em up real fine!"

TM
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Brian Kehew on February 25, 2005, 05:41:40 am
Thanks for the info Terry. I'm a longtime engineer and I think your ZZ albums (particularly "Fandango") are THE 'hi-fi' rock recordings. (I MUCH prefer them to the celebrated Steely Dan stuff!) But only if you get to hear them right... which is tough!

Unless one owns the old "Greatest Hits" CD (with the cowboys on the cover - find it!!!!) ALL of the issued ZZ CDs are terrible. So far - there are only rumors of the original mixes on CD... I have never found them, aside from the cowboys CD - buy it!!! (or The Box Set - later down...)

I talked to Billy about this once - when the "SixPack" came out - all the old albums were remixed with chorus, delays, triggered drums, etc. Billy says "It was to please the modern fans of the new ZZ sound. Myself, I prefer the originals." Me, too. AsS he knew I cared SO much, Billy once sent me a whole box of all the ZZ Cds in hopes that some might be the original issue - no luck (BTW - a kind and wonderful guy, I must say! He even gave me some lessons on playing ZZ hits on gtr; including "We never do things the HARD way...")

The Box Set - not good. It is probably the worst mastering job I've ever heard on such a release. I work in reissues for Warners for a living, and (true to ZZ fashion), this was done by the band's people. But, on the box, each track sounds SO different from the next, and some are downright dull, others really brittle. It certainly does not respect the original tapes - which you can hear on the "cowboy" hits CD - find it, everyone!!! It is sonically stunning (and I think it was even taken from safety tapes!)
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Brian Kehew on February 25, 2005, 05:47:59 am
I forgot to mention "Blue Jean Blues" - wow!

What a pure and beautiful sound. I use this track (ONLY from the old "cowboys" hits CD!) to show people what one can do with mics and a studio. You can even hear the subtle amp buzzes and room ambience around the drums. Very tricky to record such empty music, really, compared to the loud, full stuff!
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: compasspnt on February 25, 2005, 07:34:25 am
Thank you so much Brian.  It's nice to know a few people out there care.

I cannot even begin to say how depressing it is to me that the original sounds have almost never been related properly to CD.  To have worked so hard, and cared so much, and then for other people who have absolutely no idea about the intricacies of sound or production to carelessly ruin it all, or worse, to have intentionally injected a vision of their own which is crass and ridiculous, is the height of sonic absurdity.

And yes, the new box set at least is taken in part from the original mixes; but as you say, the mastering is unbelievable.

Rant over; sorry for that!

Terry
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: sqkychair on February 25, 2005, 02:59:15 pm
Oh wow,
I just found this thread.

ZZ Top had an immeasurable impact on my guitar playing. First found them during the Fandango era. Still one of my favorites.
Deguello is right up there as well. Love Billy's playing.
Frank's Top 40 ranch is just down the street from me.

Terry, thanks so much for giving us all this great info around here.

Quote:


That one seems to get overlooked as a classic ZZ LP but it's always been one of my favorites. Bad, Nationwide kills me every time I hear it. Do you recall how Billy played that first solo? There's a part right after the intro of the solo where it sounds like he's quickly tapping 2 notes octave apart with his left hand but I could never get it to sound right.



tenaciousj,
I used to play this tune long ago. I remember struggling with it for a little while, but finally got pretty close by forming the octaves at the 3rd and 5th fret, A and G string.
I palmed the pick and used my thumb and middle finger. My palm was close to muting but not quite, just a little damping to hold down stray high end stuff. Rapidly pick with the thumb (low note) and third finger (high note) and you should get it.

Speaking of great fade outs, I love the fadeout on Nasty dogs, funky kings. First the groove could just go another minute or so as far as I am concerned. Laughing Then, everything SEEMS to fade up into some great mono place in the sky.
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Radd 47 on February 25, 2005, 04:36:04 pm
I love the fade on Pincushion also. Off the Antenna album, don't know who engineered that. Cherry Red is also a good outro.
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Brian Kehew on February 28, 2005, 01:53:39 pm
>>I cannot even begin to say how depressing it is to me that the original sounds have almost never been related properly to CD. <<

... When even "The Archies" probably have good-sounding issues on CD! (But then again, the Beatles don't!)

There IS a parallel between the Beatles and ZZ on this: the managment itself - they "do their own thing" which worked well for them over the years. Bill Ham was a genius, as ZZTop OWN their own masters since 1970 (which was rarer than a horny Racquel Welch then)... and Apple does what they want, when they want. Each side has a little too much control in this case.

But in a few situations, the stock methods are pretty good - especially WBros "Rhino" wing that ONLY does reissues (I work mixing for them). Unfortunately, they didn't let Rhino do the work on this, and the mastering is among the WORST I have ever heard - everyone notices it. How and why in this day and age can it be so porrly done? (I'm not talking about limiting too much, for a change, but bright and dark eq randomly across the music, argh...)
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Bob Olhsson on February 28, 2005, 05:04:30 pm
Brian Kehew wrote on Mon, 28 February 2005 12:53

...Bill Ham was a genius, as ZZTop OWN their own masters since 1970 (which was rarer than a horny Racquel Welch then)...
Not nearly as rare as people seem to assume!
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: stevieeastend on March 01, 2005, 02:22:24 am
I can?t believe what you guys are stating here!!!!! Is this really true that all the great original stuff has been removed, replaced, destroyed??? You are kidding, aren?t you?
ZZ-Top IS one of THE inventors of our common understanding of rock?n?roll that we got today. I cannot believe that the record industry has destroyed one of their roots... This is really a bad thing!!!!

I wasn?t aware of this as I still always listen to the vinyl stuff on my longplayer and I never felt to replace all my vinyl stuff with CDs as I know what sometimes happens to the masters. I thought in america this would be different and they would care a lot more!!! Sad, sad, sad....


cheers
steveeastend
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: thomh on March 01, 2005, 05:32:02 am
Speaking of vinyl, Terry. Did the original vinyl releases do justice to what was on the master tapes or did compromises have to be made when cutting?

Thanks,
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Radd 47 on March 01, 2005, 01:38:39 pm
That mexican dinner on the inside of the Tres Hombres album used to make me hungry until I found out that it sat there for a couple of hours before the photographer took the picture!

There's nothing like a good cardboard enchillada.

Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: compasspnt on March 01, 2005, 03:49:22 pm
I LOVE that photo!  It always makes me hungry.

I have been to the actual restaurant where it was set up and photographed (forgot the name of it now) and the food was indeed as good as it appears to be.
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Bill Mueller on March 01, 2005, 07:27:11 pm
For a few shows on the Tres Hombres tour we had a caterer who laid out spreads like that for the whole band and crew. I almost only eat Mexican whenever I go to LA or Houston. In a few days, I am going to Austin and I am going to eat myself unconscious.

Best Regards,

Bill
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Brian Kehew on March 01, 2005, 10:01:02 pm
Bob Olhsson wrote on Mon, 28 February 2005 13:04

Brian Kehew wrote on Mon, 28 February 2005 12:53

...Bill Ham was a genius, as ZZTop OWN their own masters since 1970 (which was rarer than a horny Racquel Welch then)...
Not nearly as rare as people seem to assume!


You have some experience with Racquel we ought to know about???
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: compasspnt on March 06, 2005, 07:31:36 pm
strawberrius wrote on Tue, 15 February 2005 11:17

terry -

are u saying you played the drums on LEGS? 1 @ a time O.D. style? or a kit?
that is insane - whenever i work with drummers, there is a fill that has become known as the "zz topper"  which is any snare fill that ends with the last 2 16th notes of a bar (all over LEGS).

if this is true, then u r the creator of the famous "zz topper" fill. and although this is not a revolutionary drum fill, it has been mentioned by name in just about every rock session i have done in the last 18 years.

kudos!!!!

-john fields


Hi John,

Long time, no answer...sorry!

Well, I guess it can now be told, as long as you promise not to pass it on, but yes, I played the drums on "Legs," and in fact, almost the whole album.  As mentioned, this song was recorded in my attic, except for Billy's lead guitar and vocal, which came from a previous studio version which was unsatisfactory.  (Oh, if I could tell the whole, real story!  Maybe someday...)

The drums were a combination  of things.  There was programming, on my Oberheim drum machine, and then a multitude of samples triggered in over the snare as well, using an AMS DMX, and very carefully manually trimming the input volume to catch every beat properly.  The hat was a sound from the Oberheim mixed with some sampled things and some white noise, then gated and triggered from an arpeggiated spike.  Then I one-at-a-time overdubbed certain other drums, some toms, and definitely cymbals.  On some of the tracks of the album, I added to the tom sounds with a Simmons electronic kit, just barely mixed under the real ones, for tom 'fatness.'  For the rest of the music track, a lot of it was programmed (step programming!) in my MemoryMoog.  There was just barely enough memory in it to get a few things, then I'd have to re-program and punch in.  I remember on one arpeg-16th sound, there was enough memory to do the whole song, but not to add any chord changes.  So I would use a cassette case to hold down the tonic key (wedged in place using the F# black key as a 'holder') and then make the temperament changes with the detuning wheel.  Not very easy, with the high technology available back then, but it forced you to be creative!  I had to set the amount of detune for one change, then record the two passages, then re-set it for another change, start from the beginning every time, and punch in on the right spot.  It took forever!  The bass I played manually on a bass instrument, then doubled it in the manner mentioned above with the Moog.  The rhythm guitar I played normally with a guitar, run into a Marshall head, then into my Harbinger speaker-booth-box (Ronny Montrose design out of SF).  The pads and angel voices came from a Yamaha DX-9...I didn't want to spring for the whole cost of a '7'!  The background vocals were done by me and Jimmy Jamison (who is now lead singer for Survivor, and can be seen on a new ad on TV, I think for Gateway or something like that).  Jimmy did a lot of great BV's for me over the years.  He can sound like whomever you put him with!

I mixed "Legs" from my Soundcraft 2" 24 track, through my Soundcraft 1200 console, onto my MCI 1/2" two track...I still have and use that 2 track today.  Works like a hay baler, but actually records well...it's the tranformerless electronics version.  The Soundcraft stuff I sold to Sun Studios, who put it into the famous old building.  U2 recorded "Angel of Harlem" on it!

As for the drum fill, I would hate to take any credit as an inventor of a fill!  Billy and I worked out most of the fills together...we were very into what type of fills would work in what places.  We were expecially fond of the one you mention, and also were trying to find places where a fill could extend into the first couple of beats of the next bar, after a normal fill would have ended.  I don't remember if we actually executed this or not...I'll have to listen to the whole Eliminator album now, just to see!

Anyway, that's some of the story.  Thanks for your interest!

Regards,

Terry
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Norwood on March 06, 2005, 07:44:27 pm
Bill Mueller wrote on Tue, 01 March 2005 16:27

For a few shows on the Tres Hombres tour we had a caterer who laid out spreads like that for the whole band and crew. I almost only eat Mexican whenever I go to LA or Houston. In a few days, I am going to Austin and I am going to eat myself unconscious.

Best Regards,

Bill


Bill you have to check out Papasito's when you are in Austin, amazing tex-mex, also Rudy's is about the best barbecue in the world.  I could go on forever, I don't miss much about Texas(I moved to LA from Houston about 6 months ago) but I do miss the food!
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Bill Mueller on March 07, 2005, 06:09:28 am
Michael

Excellent! Thank for the tip.

Bill
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: jimmyjazz on March 07, 2005, 10:54:01 am
compasspnt wrote on Sun, 06 March 2005 19:31

strawberrius wrote on Tue, 15 February 2005 11:17

terry -

are u saying you played the drums on LEGS? 1 @ a time O.D. style? or a kit?
that is insane - whenever i work with drummers, there is a fill that has become known as the "zz topper"  which is any snare fill that ends with the last 2 16th notes of a bar (all over LEGS).

if this is true, then u r the creator of the famous "zz topper" fill. and although this is not a revolutionary drum fill, it has been mentioned by name in just about every rock session i have done in the last 18 years.

kudos!!!!

-john fields


Hi John,

Long time, no answer...sorry!

Well, I guess it can now be told, as long as you promise not to pass it on, but yes, I played the drums on "Legs," and in fact, almost the whole album.  As mentioned, this song was recorded in my attic, except for Billy's lead guitar and vocal, which came from a previous studio version which was unsatisfactory.  (Oh, if I could tell the whole, real story!  Maybe someday...)


Terry, this may get into the part of the story you can't tell, but I always wondered why Frank Beard seemed curiously absent on ZZ Top records as they started going ga-multi-platinum.  It was blindingly obvious, even to the barely-ZZ-Top-fans such as I, that the drums were pretty much electronic.  What happened?  I never felt the drums on earlier releases were anything but good, so it doesn't seem to me to be an issue of talent.  Was "Eliminator" really just a Billy Gibbons vanity record?
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: jimmyjazz on March 07, 2005, 10:57:11 am
Bill, here are a couple of different options for ___-Mex and BBQ:

*  Nueva Onda -- best breakfast tacos & migas in town
*  Fonda San Miguel -- upscale interior Mexican food, truly outstanding
*  Nuevo Leon -- best TexMex in town, in my opinion.  Cheese heaven.

*  Artz Rib House -- best pork ribs in town, bar none
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: compasspnt on March 07, 2005, 11:11:25 am
jimmyjazz wrote on Mon, 07 March 2005 10:54



Terry, this may get into the part of the story you can't tell, but I always wondered why Frank Beard seemed curiously absent on ZZ Top records as they started going ga-multi-platinum.  It was blindingly obvious, even to the barely-ZZ-Top-fans such as I, that the drums were pretty much electronic.  What happened?  I never felt the drums on earlier releases were anything but good, so it doesn't seem to me to be an issue of talent.  Was "Eliminator" really just a Billy Gibbons vanity record?




Definitely not a vanity record.  It was an attempt to reach ga-multi-platinum status.

However, this is indeed part of the story about which I should not speak.
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Level on March 07, 2005, 12:49:29 pm
T, How is Billys health? I heard he had a rought time of it not in the too distant past... (if you don't mind)


PS:

I brought up the drum issues (first thread) on tres a while back and I thank you for your postings...we are on the same page for sure.
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: compasspnt on March 07, 2005, 02:21:05 pm
Level wrote on Mon, 07 March 2005 12:49

T, How is Billys health? I heard he had a rought time of it not in the too distant past... (if you don't mind)



I haven't heard anything in the past few months, so I shouldn't comment past the fact that there were some health issues at one time.  I wilkl try to follow up.
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Bill Mueller on March 07, 2005, 07:14:29 pm
compasspnt wrote on Mon, 07 March 2005 11:11

jimmyjazz wrote on Mon, 07 March 2005 10:54



Terry, this may get into the part of the story you can't tell, but I always wondered why Frank Beard seemed curiously absent on ZZ Top records as they started going ga-multi-platinum.  It was blindingly obvious, even to the barely-ZZ-Top-fans such as I, that the drums were pretty much electronic.  What happened?  I never felt the drums on earlier releases were anything but good, so it doesn't seem to me to be an issue of talent.  Was "Eliminator" really just a Billy Gibbons vanity record?




Definitely not a vanity record.  It was an attempt to reach ga-multi-platinum status.

However, this is indeed part of the story about which I should not speak.


Terry,

Obviously there have been some fireworks over the years. I also made a comment about Bill Ham in an earlier post that on further review seemed a little harsh. you were a gentleman and left it alone.  I appologize if I put you in a bad position. I also want to make sure that you know that I always respected Bill, more than most anyone else and on a par with Dee Anthony.

As someone who knew the band and Bill, I always wondered about the studio dynamic in the studio, if that is a more diplomatic way of putting it. Thanks for the illumination of Eliminator. I would love to learn more (within bounds) about Tres Hombres as that and Rio Grande mud were the albums we were pushing when I worked for Heil and ZZ.

Thanks again.

Bill
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Radd 47 on March 07, 2005, 08:38:50 pm
Sharped Dressed Man and Gimme All your Lovin clock out at 124 beats per minute. A groove people like for some reason.
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Bill Mueller on March 08, 2005, 06:21:55 am
Sorry Terry.

Bill
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: compasspnt on March 08, 2005, 09:28:15 am
As interesting as personal issues regarding ZZ Top, and other artists, may be to all of us, perhaps it is best to confine this Forum to the more technical and production aspects.

In that vein, I think I will for the most part refrain from comment about personal problems, as well as intra-band political  squabbles.  All bands have issues, as we all know, and all bands have their good side.  I prefer here to focus on the music.

Thanks for all of the interest and questions!

Terry  
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Radd 47 on March 08, 2005, 12:10:11 pm
OK, I fixed the post. Sorry Terry!
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Brian Kehew on March 13, 2005, 07:46:25 am
Everybody loves everybody again! Yay!

I still find it fascinating that one's character can still be so obvious (or missing) on a processed and mixed record.

Rhythmeen, is a wonderful ZZ album (one of the very best songwise), with a real drummer, not a machine. But a different drummer than on the old ZZ albums, for certain. I don't question why even, but the ears don't lie.

(There was a KISS album a few years ago - their first "reunion record" - called Psycho Circus. EVERY Kiss fan I knew spotted the one track Peter Criss actually played drums on...)
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: russrags on March 15, 2005, 09:00:20 am
Rhythmeen:  "Bang Bang My Shang-a-lang"
REALLY
gets me going !!!

I LOVE playing that song at weddings Laughing

Yea .. I like how they went back to beginning with a garage band sound.  As long as they'll keep makin' em ... I'll keep buyin' em.


Russ
http://home.bellsouth.net.p/PWP-russragsdale
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: John Ivan on March 15, 2005, 09:26:14 pm
Just a comment;

I am a huge Billy/ZZ fan. The thing I find amazing as a writer ,engineer and multi instrumentalist is how you folks shifted gears and reinvented rock and roll not once but, twice. It gives me hope for this Rare Earth thing I'm doing. We are writing for a new record and the ZZ top story is great inspiration.

Every Time I hear billy play,on records or live I'm blown away. He just has "IT".

Thanks for the great stories!!
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Brian Kehew on March 17, 2005, 06:30:58 am
I see now there is a double-disc greatest hits ZZ package out. Anyone heard it yet? Original mixes and sources? Good mastering?

I still cannot believe Bob Ludwig mastered the "Chrome" box set. Literally some of the worst mastering I have ever heard, from ANY facility. And on such an important project...
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: rankus on March 18, 2005, 03:57:47 pm
'
'
'
Wow!   What a thread.

I too want to thank Terry for taking the time to answer these questions.  Truly an inspiration to all.!!  (Running to the studio as we speak)  Razz
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Level on March 18, 2005, 05:26:54 pm
Brian, not the worst...but not what I would have expected. I listened to the London originals on vinyl early this week. The good stuff of course.
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: compasspnt on March 18, 2005, 06:44:20 pm
Brian Kehew wrote on Thu, 17 March 2005 06:30

I see now there is a double-disc greatest hits ZZ package out. Anyone heard it yet? Original mixes and sources? Good mastering?

I still cannot believe Bob Ludwig mastered the "Chrome" box set. Literally some of the worst mastering I have ever heard, from ANY facility. And on such an important project...


Haven't heard the double set...On Chrome, at least most of the sources were original, but I agree that it wasn't the best mastering of the sources.
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Brian Kehew on March 19, 2005, 06:41:59 am
>>On Chrome, at least most of the sources were original, but I agree that it wasn't the best mastering of the sources.<<

Yes, and Hitler wasn't the most humanitarian of leaders!

A/B it with the old "cowboys" greatest hits CD - which was likely done from safety copies - and you'll see how bad it really is! And someone OK'd it.... geeez.
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: senorsmoke on March 29, 2005, 04:27:57 am
Totally amazing thread here...thanks Terry.
"Deguello" is a work of absolute genius. I haven't cracked it open in a while but KNOW those sounds in my head. I recall hearing it for the first time in high school and just being in awe of the TONE. Very dry and spacious. Also the rhythm is so "down" and funky...I worked for a year trying to figure out all those guitar parts and trying to find the right inversion to play on "Nationwide"...a simple triad sliding a half step! I'm just realizing also the connections to Memphis and the Hi sound and the Sam and Dave cover. I had thought until this thread that the Top had recorded at Ardent later...when Larry Nix mastered my record there he had told stories of Billy and how great he was and I didn't realize my favorite ZZ Top record was created there.
Also the stories about the punching of the guitar to change chords is just great, and the way you did the drums on "Legs"...jeeeeezzus!!
Last time I was out on tour the fellas and I bought a gas station CD of greatest hits for the van...we were listening just flabbergasted at the shithouse drum sounds someone "updated" for the kids to like. I'm sorry you worked so hard only to be screwed...
What a record though...damn.
George
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Brian Kehew on April 01, 2005, 01:48:45 pm
Good interview with Gibbons in Guitar World this month. Some details that actully AGREE with the Truth now and then. And some tall tales too...!
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: maxim on April 01, 2005, 09:52:23 pm
terry wrote:

"Definitely not a vanity record. It was an attempt to reach ga-multi-platinum status.

However, this is indeed part of the story about which I should not speak."

perhaps, this belongs on a separate thread, but i'm trying to work out why exactly this process often involves replacing the original drummer

it's so common, it's become an arhetypal rock'n'roll story

is it to do with the difference between live playing and recorded drums

after all, it doesn't seem to happen (as much) with other instruments

in my experience, the great drummers i've worked with have all translated well to tape, but not always to the "hit" level

maybe the clue is contained within the word

is "hit" drumming just about hitting the kick and snare hard on the alternate beats, and everything else is detracting from that feel?

i don't want to make this personal, but instead talk about it in a general production philosophy manner

could you elaborate on this phenomenon?

Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: russrags on April 02, 2005, 08:19:15 am
I'm REALLY surprized Billy Gibons didn't make the "Top 100 Guitar Players of All Time" in Rolling Stone a few months ago.


Russ
http://home.bellsouth.net/p/PWP-russragsdale
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: compasspnt on April 02, 2005, 08:39:19 am
maxim wrote on Fri, 01 April 2005 21:52

... I'm trying to work out why exactly this process often involves replacing the original drummer...

it's so common, it's become an archetypal rock'n'roll story

is it to do with the difference between live playing and recorded drums

after all, it doesn't seem to happen (as much) with other instruments...

is "hit" drumming just about hitting the kick and snare hard on the alternate beats, and everything else is detracting from that feel?

i don't want to make this personal, but instead talk about it in a general production philosophy manner

could you elaborate on this phenomenon?




I think it is surely obvious that there is a big difference between professional session musicians and the average live band player.  There is no substitute for crisp, well played parts when it comes to putting together a production.  However, sometimes session players can sound "the same," and perhaps can lose the "trashy edge" that some bands have.

It seems that the drums are the most critical in this regard.  Drums are the most difficult to "punch in" parts, and they need, in most cases, to be completed before other overdubbing can commence.  For some reason, it does seem harder to make an average drummer come up to "pro record" level than the other instrumentation.  In almost all cases, the singer is the one that cannot be replaced, so you have a given there.  Guitars and basses and keys can be punched and punched, even in tiny segments, until they are more acceptable.


The standard way to get around the drum thing has been, short of replacing with a pro or using a machine, to record many takes and edit between them (aka "Metallica Syndrome").  But even with this, and perhaps sample replacement, there is still some hard to define difference that a studio pro "just knows" how to make.

Having said all of this, I will make it clear that my preference is always to use the actual players, to not edit between takes extensively, to maintain the best "live" feel the band can perform, in general to not resort to trickery.  But sometimes you do what you have to to get the best record.

Also I will reiterate that this is not referring to Frank, ZZ's drummer.  I stated before that I will not talk about certain aspects of the ZZ recordings, out of respect for the band and management.  Frank did a marvelous job on many records, and this reflects upon him as a great drummer.
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: Brian Kehew on April 02, 2005, 01:41:20 pm
Keep in mind the times: When ZZ started using drum machines (and Frank used triggers live onstage) guitar rock from the '70s was a dying (or dead) beast. When ZZ ruled MTV, where was Mark Farner, Frank Marino, Trower, Nugent? ZZTop survived by adApting, and adOpting the sounds of synths and drum machines. A whole new audience.

Remember when Bruce Springsteen started using synths "Dancing in the Dark"? Petty did ("Don't Come Around Here No More"), Van Halen ("Jump"), etc etc. To many rockers, that was practically "disco", or a move to it! But, it worked, and kept them current and on the charts.

In the case of drummers, natural human feel was OUT, and everyone was a slave to the machine rhythms. I mixed a Doobies track - the last studio recording with Michael MacDonald. The drummer was ON there, but he only played VERY VERY stiff - just like a drum machine - all the way through the song! Oddly enough, to further push the "drum machine" aspect, he had but ONE track, all the drums submixed in mono!

David Robinson of the Cars is one of my favorite drummers of that era. Listen to their first record and EVERY drum fill is memorable and musical as hell. By the third album, HE was a drum machine... they credit him, but it isn't him.

Just because I am odd, I still use an 80's programmable drum machine on pop and rock records... the samples aren't great, and we don't use loops. It does work - it's just a weird time that people don't accept that now...
Title: Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
Post by: maxim on April 02, 2005, 07:04:37 pm
terry wrote:
"I will make it clear that my preference is always to use the actual players, to not edit between takes extensively, to maintain the best "live" feel the band can perform"

that was my philosophy when i started recording

partly, because i wanted to differentiate myself from other 'laptop warriors', partly, because the records i aspired to, had human feel, partly, because i felt a machine could't replace a cooking grooving drummer, intuitively reacting to the rhythmic push&pull of a song, and, partly, because i wanted to make my life hell

i went for the 'metallica' approach, but trying to leave the edits large (verses and choruses)

i'm happy with the results, but

i've also been thinking about the psychoacoustics of pop production

it seems to me that the metronome is indispensable if you want to set up a hypnotic trance

in that state, our highest/frontal lobe functions are turned off, allowing us to give up on conscious control (and act like chickens in front of strangers (a bit like alcohol))

no wonder people think pop music is 'escapist'

so in essence, we want our drummers to behave like machines, and, perhaps, that's why they find it difficult

just thinking out loud