Scale is all about the detail. There were more than 140 hours of original recordings made specifically for it to sift through, though I have a rule of not reusing any sounds, therefore I had to be very aware that in just one minute of any given recording I do, there would often be enough new noise to make three albums. It was important that I relax about it. Accidents will happen but, after all, sound isn’t a permanent or consumable force. It is infinite. If the integrity of the recording is right, any moment will sometimes do.
I am usually very explicit about my sources, but this time I wanted to retain more of the mystery — though I will release a few: 12 coffins recorded closing from the inside, 12 meteorites, 12 golf tee shots. I recorded onto a Nagra V, which I also use to master to. These sounds were all recorded at 48k/24-bit then transferred directly to the computer. I then played them back, through the desk (Harrison Series 10) and EQ’d them as I went; sampling the interesting bits in to an E-MU e6400 whilst editing and choosing decent sections to loop. All objects recorded/sampled in the studio rather than in the field were recorded in to a LOMO 19a19, an API preamp, through the desk and in to the computer. By using a quality signal path at every stage, I found I had more control in the end, and it also makes the EQ much more dramatic. For the longer sampling, I used Native Instrument’s Kontakt and the CAD24 in Logic. Abbey Road met my demands easily, as well as an in-house engineer, Chris Bolster, who obviously knew the room, and crucially knew my previous sessions there. Extra recording, mixing and mastering, however, was done in the temporary studio we built around the Harrison desk in our living room.
I’ve learned to always be prepared for an accident, to always be ready to listen when the machines join in. For example, my sampler takes a feed from the master out of the desk, so no matter what comes out, I can always capture it, with effects, EQ, pan, and so on already in place. The Harrison desk has a habit of creating random feedback loops, but rather than seeing it as an annoyance, I just record 10" of it and make a synth patch out of it. My Fairchild spring reverb used to pick up foreign radio stations — on a big band album I did, you could hear bits of Chinese and French radio coming through, and I loved it. It’s the difference, the humanity, the flaws; I don’t want to make music that sounds like it could have been made anywhere.
I think digital will be seen as a foolhardy diversion in studios. It’s so colorless, so uniform — and all built on a lie. I love the ability to transfer huge amounts of audio back and forth, but the idea that digital is a perfect copy each time is a myth. After A/Bing my recordings to LaCie hard drives, I found the FireWire 800s had much more high-end definition than the 400 drives — more clarity and a wider stereo image. This is supposed to be impossible. . . .
I’m not a big fan of drums or drum machines. Why, when you can use anything in the world to make percussion noises, would you use the same thing as everybody else? There were occasional times however, when I wanted to use those sounds, but they had to be recorded differently. So we took the drums underground, up in a hot air balloon, into the sea to record under water, and at 100 mph in the back of my car. I was interested in hearing Leo Taylor, the drummer, playing this familiar feel in a situation where he was breaking the law and at some personal danger. If music in general is to emerge out of this bland funk, we need to start taking a few more risks. I consider jail, pneumonia, electrocution (as the balloon came down), drowning, and death as more stimulating to the musical process than a monitor screen and a mouse.