In The Moment-The Wedding Present Applies Steve Albini’s Three Rules for Genuine Recordings - EMusician

In The Moment-The Wedding Present Applies Steve Albini’s Three Rules for Genuine Recordings

When The Wedding Present decided to dust off their boots and get back into the studio, main man David Gedge said there was only one choice in terms of engineers: Steve Albini (he hates being called a producer, if you haven’t heard).
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“We had worked with Steve before, and it has always gone over really well,” Gedge tells us from his Sussex, England, home. “He reminds me of some of the old engineers we recorded with at [legendary BBC recording studios] Maida Vale. He’s totally dedicated to capturing the moment.”

As Albini is the consummate EQ personality—namely, a recording musician—we figured he could impart some useful knowledge about capturing the moment in the studio. Using The Wedding Present’s newest release, El Rey [Vibrant], as the backdrop, Albini discusses his three rules for honoring a band’s natural state in the studio. Overtrackers and bands that fuss with mic placement for three weeks would do well to make notes.

RULE #1 BE BRIEF

“I want to say you should take no more than four days for the basic recording, but it could be as little as three,” says Albini. “By contemporary standards, that is pretty quick, but most contemporary records are terrible. All an album should be is a representation of a band doing its thing presented in a permanent format. It shouldn’t take a month to do that.”

Gedge concurs with Albini’s get-inand- knock-it-out philosophy. “When we made our first album it took six weeks, despite being well-rehearsed, and having all our material already well-arranged,” the vocalist says. “But you’d listen to it, and wonder if it was worth all the trouble [laughs]. When we did Seamonsters with Steve, we recorded it quickly, and it sounded brilliant. It also cost half the money!”

RULE #2 TRACK LIVE

“I prefer letting bands play in the studio like they play live or in rehearsal,” Albini says. “Eye contact and other non-verbal forms of communication are very important. It helps if they are in close proximity to each other—not reach-outand- touch-you close, but at similar distances as when they are playing live. I
resist screening one musician off from the others, because that is essentially a ‘live overdub’ situation. Bands are very complex with their interactions, and bands are a very fragile system. The recording process shouldn’t interfere with their natural interaction. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that all the albums people refer to as classics or benchmarks are records that were tracked by the band together as an ensemble. And there is nothing in contemporary recording that would make this practice obsolete.”

RULE #3 SPEAK YOUR MIND

“David [Gedge] is comfortable around me,” says Albini. “He knows he is the boss, and he knows how to tell me what he wants. I tend to follow the band’s lead. If they don’t feel that they did a good take, then I believe them. If they think they did a good take, then I believe them, as well. If they feel burnt out or
unproductive, we’ll drop the song for the day. You have to succumb to the group dynamic and not force anything. If there is a consensus on what everyone wants to do, then that is what you do—especially when it comes to a band like The Wedding Present, who have such a strong identity. For a third party to
come in after the fact and say, ‘You have been doing this wrong for 25 years, let me straighten you out’ would be ridiculous. Bands should do their thing in the studio. They should always call the shots.”