Classic Interview: Butch Vig

Butch Vig, producer, drummer, and songwriter for Garbage.

Butch Vig, producer, drummer, and songwriter for Garbage. Vig put his name on the map when he produced Nirvana’s groundbreaking Nevermind and Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream. The new Garbage record Bleed Like Me varies from the band’s past as an electronica- heavy act, but better represents what they’ve always sounded like live.

Signal Path
“This time around, we made a conscious decision to get in the room and turn the amps on so we could get some feedback so that it resonates,” says Vig. “We would run some of our guitar tracks into the Line 6 XT Pro Pod, and some into Matchless, Mesa Boogie, Marshall or Fender amps. We also used a German amp called the Diezel—they are great for the crunchy stuff.”

“We used the Littlelabs PCP Distro to split the guitar signals to the different heads and Pod,” explains engineer Billy Bush. “All of the amps were routed to the same old Marshall 4x12 slant that we have at the studio.”

“But if there was a secret weapon on the guitars, it was the Palmer Speaker Simulator that we used,” says Vig. “It’s designed so you can record in your house without an amp, but it sounds better than even a DI. It’s got some tonal controls and it sounds like the amp is right in your face.” The band also used some Chandler TG-2 and Channel pre amps, the Groove Tubes ViPRE, Focusrite 430, and Manley SLAM as preamps for guitar tracking.

Mic Position
“We tried to use good microphones: a Neumann FET47, the Røde NT2, and a Shure FM57. We also used the Royer 121 ribbon mics and Coles ribbon microphones. We moved them back from the amp about six inches, and would line them up so we could get them all in phase. I like to put headphones on and not have anyone play the guitar or any other signal coming through,” Vig says. “Then I’ll listen to the different tones of the background hiss and move it around so I can kind of balance the low with the high, bright, clear sound. Once we get those set up on a session, we’ll make sure they’re in phase so we can mix or match and that can take a while. Then we split between those and figure out what is best for the recording.”

The band’s process is enabled by the twin Pro Tools HD rigs that Vig has set up at Smart Studios and at his home studio.

“I’ll start putting in automation, EQing, balancing, and panning things,” explains Vig. “I like the Massenberg EQ because it’s got a great high and low pass filter. When you’re recording big guitar tracks, you want to put in a high pass at 60 Hz or 80 Hz. That way, you still get the fundamental body, but it doesn’t have all the sub stuff making the song sound muddy.”

DATE:March 2003-December 2004
STUDIO: Smart Studios
ALBUM:Bleed Like Me
PRODUCER:Butch Vig and Garbage
Billy Bush