Sixx: A.M.製作人兼主唱James Michael的訪談。
談到了Motley Crue與Sixx: A.M.的不同。
I've got to keep breathing.
Because tomorrow, the sun will rise.
Who knows what the tide could bring?
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Mötley Crüe Producer and Sixx:A.M. Vocalist James Michael Talks Shop
Elianne Halbersberg| 04.06.2010
James Michael came to prominence in hard-rock circles as vocalist for
Sixx:A.M., the trio assembled by bassist Nikki Sixx, with guitarist D.J.
Ashba, to transform his memoir, The Heroin Diaries, into music. What was
originally a recording project became a touring group as a result of the
CD's success. Sixx:A.M. is now working on a follow-up.
Michael has a lengthy history with Sixx, dating back to his writing and
production work with the bass player and Mötley Crüe. What many fans don't
realize is that he also has a successful career as a multi-platinum engineer,
producer, songwriter, musician and arranger, and that his background is rich
in, but not limited to, hard rock and so-called heavy metal. In addition to
tracking bands like the Crüe and the Scorpions, he has also worked with
country artists, such as Deana Carter and Sara Evans.
In the following interview, James Michael discusses his studio techniques,
his passion for making records and finding the pocket without a drummer.
How has your approach to working with Nikki changed over the years?
That's a great question. It hasn't changed at all. The day he showed up at
my house to write the first song for New Tattoo — he's the same person.
That question excites me because I realize that our friendship has stayed
consistent and we still have that good give-and-take and appreciation for
what each other does.
Can you be too comfortable working with an artist?
I guess you could, but that would then make you not as effective as a
producer. You always have to throw a fistful of nails in when things get too
comfortable. For me, it's instinctive to do that. The music-making process
is about the discomfort, working through things, challenging yourself and
discovering new things about yourself.
Nikki's roots go back to analog and tape, what one might call the "old
school" way of making records — "old school" now meaning anyone over 30.
How does this impact what you do?
Mine are in analog and tape, too! I was very lucky to start engineering at 14
on large analog consoles and two-inch tape machines. I was always a tech
geek, so as soon as the first Mac Classic came out, I was pushing it to the
limit. I have that old-school style, but I’m also cutting-edge efficient on
digital recording. I'm one of the handfuls of guys who cut his teeth on the
cusp and can do both. Having the same recording experience as Nikki, we speak
the same language and that's very important. We appreciate the old and the
new and can find the sweet spot between the two. We also know when we've
gotten there. Being from the other era of recording gives us an advantage.
Are the "new school" producers missing out on that history?
I think that if I answer "yes" to that question, which I could, I would
also have to say that some purists are missing out as well on some amazing
new advances. From a personal standpoint, a new engineer who never sat in
front of speakers and listened to a song on vinyl, yes, he's missing out on
the magic from the past. But a guy who has only mixed drums by cutting tape
with a razor blade and who needs three days to edit a take when I can do it
in ten minutes on Pro Tools is missing out, too. It's important to find the
hybrid, the common ground, to make the best music you can make.
Let's talk about your gear.
On the Sixx:A.M. CD, all of the drums were programmed. I have an extensive
drum sample library that I’ve built over the years. All of the amp
simulation was done on [Digidesign] Eleven or the Line 6 Pod and other
plug-ins. It was all recorded through a Neve API, with very, very
high-quality analog mic pres: solid-state or tube. I used the Digidesign ICON
console and mixed everything in the box, the same thing I did with the
Mötley Crüe record [Saints of Los Angeles].
What is your studio setup?
I started off with an analog studio many years ago, with a Fostex 16-track
half-inch tape machine. I can't remember which console I had at the time.
Then I made the transition to ADAT, and at the time, it was incredible. When
Alanis made Jagged Little Pill, that was the first record made on ADAT
digital to get that notoriety. I loved that Glen Ballard had the balls to
make that transition. With Saints of Los Angeles I wanted to push that
envelope as hard as I could, and with amp emulation.
Anyway, I went from ADAT to Pro Tools twelve or fifteen years ago and I have
constantly updated since. My studio in L.A., LBG — Lightning Bolt Garage —
was designed with a feel for songwriters and the functionality of a full
production and mixing facility. In this day and age, with record sales down,
with the costs of going to a studio, you can come to a guy like me who can
turnkey a record. I basically have a control room and a couple of live rooms.
The Crüe album and the bulk of Sixx:A.M. were done there.
On Sixx:A.M., all the drums were programmed. On the Crüe album, they were
all tracked in MIDI. It's Tommy's performance, but they were triggered and
I accessed my sample library for sounds. It's a cutting-edge way to make a
rock record. The guys are all very experimental and it wasn't hard to
convince them to try this. Tommy was way into it. He loves technology as much
as I do and hates spending all this time in the studio to get sounds and then
being limited. That's not to downplay the sound of a great drum kit and a
live room, but it can be limiting in post-production. We could have changed
every tone in his drums up to the final mix. The flexibility is incredible.
To a degree, I've cut down on outboard gear considerably. I still track with
a strong signal chain: a Neve API, 1176s, LA-2As — everything you would
expect in a world-class tracking studio.
In the box, I deal with the ICON console for mixing. Nothing is external
anymore. I like that when you say that something is 100 percent recallable,
it's 100 percent and not 98 percent. I could recall Saints and make an
adjustment of 1dB and a half if they wanted it. Any sacrifices going from
analog to digital you make up for in cost and ability to recall.
What led you to production and engineering?
Frustration. The frustration of writing a song, giving it to an artist, and
the producer either doesn't get it or doesn't produce it adequately. A
number of times the songs weren't interpreted the way they were intended,
and sometimes it was a little issue — the way a note on the guitar rubbed
with the melody line was overlooked by the producer and the magic was
completely lost. Sometimes it wasn't even in the ballpark.
As we talk, I realize I'm a complete control freak and maybe I need to go
talk to someone! [laughs] I need to see things to completion, and I think
what my colleagues know and appreciate about me is that I do it on time,
within budget, and make it the best it possibly can be.
Who are your influences?
Good question. I would have to break my career down into parts. Artists:
Freddie Mercury and Paul Rodgers are artists I love, who became my idols.
Producers: Mike Clink's work on Appetite For Destruction [Guns N' Roses]
excited me, and I had the good fortune to become friends with him and produce
with him. The list would go on and on — any particular recording I loved,
that producer would become a hero. Mixing: Chris Lord-Alge and Mike Shipley,
who is a friend, colleague and hero. It's always a moving target — tomorrow
I may come across something on iTunes and have a new hero.
You also play a number of instruments. What led you to each and what's in
your arsenal now?
Necessity. I would learn out of necessity. I was 14, my dad was paying for
sessions and the engineer was padding the bill by working slowly. I would
think, I can do this quicker! Necessity was always behind me expanding my
horizons. If I write something on piano, I don't want to hire someone to
play it on guitar; I'll learn to play guitar. Again, it's the control freak
in me. I want things a certain way, and that's another reason I love working
with Nikki and DJ — it's not "I can do it better," it's "I'd never have
thought of that."
I play guitar, keyboards — I love the Hammond B3; it's one of my favorites,
drums, bass. I would love to play harmonica. I taught myself sax for a while.
Given enough time I’ll figure anything out.
Are you a collector? Do you endorse anyone in particular?
I don't have endorsements. I've always stayed away from endorsements so
that I'm not obligated and I'm free to change whenever I want. I am a huge
Line 6 fan, and I love Eleven. I was one of the first to use it unabashedly.
I have a Gibson ES-175, a jazz guitar that I love for its deep, rich, mellow
sound. I have a large collection of guitars that I don't play that often. I
go to them for specific reasons, for that character orthat tone, but there is
no particular favorite.
We always hear about the bass and drums being in the pocket to create the
backbone of a band. There's no drummer in Sixx:A.M. How do you build that
with bass and guitar?
In the studio, we build a bass track, and whether it's programmed or real,
there's a drum track, and then we get the bass and drums locked in. It's
not a big challenge. What it comes down to is getting capable musicians,
locking it in, and then finding the pocket is easy. If you don't, it's a
Some of the songs on The Heroin Diaries were years old. How did you keep them
modern and fresh? What was added, musically and technically, and how did you
keep them from being just an experience of living in the past?
Those are great questions. First, an old song is an old song if it was
released a long time ago, and none of those songs were ever released. I wrote
four of the songs: "Dead Man's Ballet," "Van Nuys," "Permission" and "Courtesy
Call." They were all written for my album and they happened to fit with The
Heroin Diaries. That's a heady answer, but it's not a matter of keeping a
song modern. If you wrote it ten years ago and release it now, then it becomes
what modern is. You produce it with modern sounds, the way it sounds good now.
You don't take something you recorded ten years ago and try to mix it and give
it a fresh sound. The fact that the record has done so well and established a
sound for Sixx:A.M. means, I guess, that you can consider this a modern sound.
But if it had tanked, people would listen to it and say it doesn't seem