Three On A Tree(3)

Paul Manousos sits down with legendary Seattle, WA, super-producer Steve Fisk (Nirvana, Soundgarden, Low) for a quick question blast.

EQ: How has the change in technology changed your view on how we make music or how you record it? Are you more inclined to work “in the box” these days?

Steve Fisk: I really miss having a booth, or any really acoustically isolated spot. Lots of birds, dogs, and cars get into recordings these days. Anytime I need to record more than one person at a time I’m better off in a real studio. But my own work lives happily “in the box.” I use a Folcrom RMS216 and a Summit TPA200 to get in and out of Pro Tools, but that doesn’t affect what I mix on Robert Lang’s SSL. There used to be an API in there and we used the pres for the electric guitar work, in order to sound more like “Stairway to Heaven.” Most of my projects go to tape first, as drums and guitars benefit from this treatment. I tend to use 456 tape so I can actually overdrive it; the “modern” tape stocks don’t crunch that much.

EQ: When using plug-ins, do you find yourself not having to think ahead as much as you do when going the “old fashioned” route and just running everything outboard?

SF: I never think ahead and I try to use plug-ins the same way I use hardware. Digital de-essing seems to work a little better than the boxes I’ve used, but other than that I prefer to steer clear of plug-ins and just utilize my hardware.

EQ: In the case of For Better or Worse [Editor’s note: author Paul Manousos’ solo debut], would you have made the same record if you stayed 100% in the box instead of using Robert Lang’s SSL and mixing to tape? What made you choose the hybrid approach?

SF: I wanted to use a real studio to get live takes from the three-piece rhythm section, I hate starting a record relying on click tracks. You need a good room, the proper isolation, as well as the good microphones, and so on.

Most people I work with tell me they get better vocal takes in a home studio — for a myriad reasons. They know they’re saving money. There isn’t an owner or intern, or often other band members hanging out while they’re trying to “deliver.” I wouldn’t be the first person to complain about the sterile studio environment but, on the other hand, Lang’s piano wouldn’t fit in my living room. So as we muddle thru this hellish period of rethinking music production, it seems like everyone has a reason, or an excuse. I’m sorry to see studios close down, and I don’t like being part of the problem.