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Dealing with a band that knows it better.....

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by gie, Mar 3, 2001.

  1. gie

    gie Guest

    Hi there,

    Right now I'm in the mixing fase of the production of an alternative rockband (kind of Afghan Wighs style?!). They came to me, because the heard some other projects I mixed/produced. They said they liked the way I made those bands sound...
    But...
    Now I started mixing.. Nothing really different than the other projects... but... they want things changed... Now I'm not the kind of guy who says he knows everything better, but they are giving me corrections wich already differ with themselves.. (does this make sense?) :(
    Do U know what I mean... we all get these stuff sometimes.
    "We want to be an INDIE-ROCK band, so don't build a big rock-sound"
    and right after that:
    "Mute the backing-vocals (a 'lalalala' part), otherwise the song doesn't rock, and also mix the guitars in that part of the song twice as hard, so it sounds dynamic!" :confused:
    So I'm getting these mixed messages (this was just one example... I have a list with like 10 of them!).
    I already explained a lot about dynamics (that If you want a dynamic song, you should write a dynamic song, and not play 4 distortion parts all the time, and then just rise it in one part of the song to make it dynamic. You have to cut something..)and I told them that it's hard to do my job, with these mixed messages... and the singer/guitarplayer/songwriter wanting all the guitars to be louder than the rest (just like rehearsel room?!) :confused:
    But.... how do I get my message across??
    If I do exact what they want I will get a ridiculous mix that only they will like, but since I get all my clients after they hear something I did, i don't want to blow a reputation that I am carefully building.
    So... what works? Any psycho-tips?
    And yes... I already explained stuff... and I even made a mix like they want me to, and they LOVED it... But everyone I played it to said it sucked... And it really sucked!
    :confused:

    Help me out...

    GRTX
    a confused GIE :confused:
     
  2. RandomGuest

    RandomGuest Guest

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2001
    Originally posted by gie:
    I even made a mix like they want me to, and they LOVED it...

    Then you're done, the client is happy. Your job is to have the client leave your place happy, if they're happy, you should be happy for them.

    But everyone I played it to said it sucked...

    Who gives a ^#$% what "everyone" says. "Everyone" said that 'Two Against Music" was the 'Album of the Year'. "Everyone" is basically an asshole.

    These guys may have a different sound in their collective head than "everyone" else has at the moment. What you may think 'sucks' because it's flowing against 'current convention' may be a ground breaking new sound, or it could indeed suck.

    The fact of the matter is, this is what this act wants, this is the way they hear themselves, they're pleased. You did your job. End of story, move on...find another project.

    "Everyone" made drums sound like a Hugh Padgham album in the 80's..."everyone" wanted to be a cross between Steve Albini and Butch Vig in the 90's...so who the ^#$% knows, this thing could go 'bigger than Madonna' and everyone will be clamouring to be you in the latter portions of the "ott-s".
     
  3. Mixerman

    Mixerman Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2001
    I'm always very careful to determine whether I'm just wanting to be safe, or whether what I'm being asked to do just plain sucks. It's very easy to play it safe, and that's a comfortable place to be when mixing. But safe's not usually the right place to be when mixing. You want to be aggressive.

    I'm not saying this is the case here, but sometimes when mixing, it's important not to let yourself be too comfortable. This is what helps you develop, and expand your repretoire of understanding pushing the limits. As a mixer, I feel it is better to err on the side of over aggressiveness, then it is to err on the side of perfect balance.

    The other thing you have to balance, is whether the group is getting fooled by their inexperience in the studio. Or if they are experimenting, on your time and your reputation, only to want to do the mixes again. If I figure this is the case, I take the following course:

    Anytime the band wants to do something that I think is ^#$%ing up the mix, I explain why, but I do it anyway, and try and illustrate. For instance, if the guitars come up so loud they drown out the mix, I explain that drums provide more of the rock then the guitars do, and I show them by example.

    I also am sure to always tell them I'm happy to give them what they want, but they might not be happy with it later, out of the studio.

    You have to be vigilant, but you can't be stubborn, and you can't be a dick about it. You need to be open to things that make you uncomfortable. Then you can point out to the band that you have been open to their ideas, and totally willing to try them, and see if it really is as great as they think it is, but upon evaluation...

    I never speak about why something doesn't work in a mix, until I have come up with several reasons WHY it doesn't work. The more information and arguments to show why they are going down the wrong path, the better a chance you have of swaying them. This also causes open dialog, and who knows, you might be swayed yourself.

    Also, see my 10 Steps To Better Mixing. The steps are designed to cover this exact scenario.

    Mixerman
     
  4. Bear's Gone Fission

    Bear's Gone Fission Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2001
    [Warning, this advice is from someone who's never mixed records for money, so the advice is probably worth less than you payed for it.]

    If they're happy with a mix you think would blow your reputation, tell them ok, if they want to put it out, fine, but give them a pseudonym and explain that you don't want your name attached to it. If they really are satisfied with the results in the end, they will likely come back to you to replicate them, if not, well, it's not like you didn't warn them. You can be diplomatic, telling them that you don't want your name associated with it because you doubt you would get enough mainstream business by association, or, if you feel comfortable about it, tell them flat out why.

    da Bear
     
  5. davemc

    davemc Guest

    I have done a lot of this. Where the vocals are 3 times louder than the mix. Where bass is quiet as the bass player is also.
    Funny things is a lot will agree with me months latter when the CD is released, although they have to be happy with it as they pay you.
    Personaly I am not happy with a lot of the things I mix, sometimes only unhappy with one or two things. Its art everyone has a different slant on things.
    It is funny how they use audio buzz words that they do not have any idea what they mean. "I want to keep or the loud soft parts in my drums, so make sure you really compress them."

    Even the bands where I was meant to be producing it did not mean I had the final say. Whoever bitchs and moans the most in the band has the final say.
     
  6. alphajerk

    alphajerk Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2001
    i JUST went through this. had the PERFECT mix in my mind sitting up and had the band come in and listen before it was sent out for mastering... needless to say, there were some things they wanted changed... i was frankly too tired to even argue the fact. one song, the vocalist wanted the take where he sang out of tune in the song instead of the really good take i had in there...

    it IMO compromised the mastering too. they were like DAMN thats a load of bass... well thats what they wanted, thats what i gave them. they even mentioned the compromise technique [the bass level WAS a compromised level! should of heard it where they REALLY wanted it].

    anyways, point to the story. they LOVE the recording. in their radio interview yesterday they totally plugged my studio reading like a massive advertisement. then they played the song... i was stunned, like oh damn. dont really agree with the end result fully, what are people going to think... damn he ^#$%ed up that recording. nope, just a bunch of messages saying it sounded great.

    what the ^#$% do i know anyways? the cd changer on random has changed my entire outlook on recording and mixing. since its my cd changer and i listen to what i LIKE [unlike radio] it amazes me with the sonic qualities between the different songs over different groups. and being that i like them all, what does that really say to me? i care a helluva lot more about whats being played than how it technically sounds.

    the trick is to get the band happy with the results.
     
  7. davemc

    davemc Guest

    Or the big trick is getting all the band members happy?

    4-5 different ideas on what it should sound like. I feel like a bloody politician trying to get votes.
     
  8. gie

    gie Guest

    Originally posted by davemc:
    I feel like a bloody politician trying to get votes.


    Yep... that's the feeling...
    The thing is... The whole band doesn't agree on the things I told U about....
    It's 90% the singer/songwriter/guitarist...
    The bass-player, drummer and solo guitarist are very happy with my mixes so far...
    The frontman wants his vocals deeper than deepest.. and his guitar louder than loudest... ("I always do that at home with Cool Edit, and I like that", he said..)
     
  9. gie

    gie Guest

    Originally posted by Mixerman:
    But safe's not usually the right place to be when mixing. You want to be aggressive.
    I feel it is better to err on the side of over aggressiveness, then it is to err on the side of perfect balance.


    I also am sure to always tell them I'm happy to give them what they want, but they might not be happy with it later, out of the studio.

    Mixerman



    ThanX Mixerman...
    I think it is/was a little of everything you mentioned...
    -They were experimenting a bit on my extra time
    -They are not experienced in studio situation.. Basicly the frontman wants me to mix the songs the same he does at home using Cool Edit :)
    BUT...
    -I was going to much for a safe mix... I have to admit now...

    Just talked to the guy about his vocal and guitar level... we worked it out... I gave him several reasons like you told me... and he was OK with it... admitted to be insecure about his voice... (usual stuff..)
    I promised him that I will work my ass off to get him happy... we had a few drinks and things were smooth again... :)

    ThanX everyone for your reactions....

    ... damn perfect balance.... I don't like perfect balence when I listen to music... but I have to admit, that when I'm mixing I seem to feel a need for a perfect balance...

    :eek:

    GRTX and ThanX again!

    GIE
     
  10. e0cue

    e0cue Guest

    When I'm in this situation, I print 2 versions. My version, and their version labelled "This is the sissy sounding version that the clients begged me for" & the different versions (voc up, t.v., etc.) that come with it. Most of my clients know me well enough to know my sence of humor.
     
  11. Solar

    Solar Guest

    Well I just have a little phrase in my contract that says I may opt to mix in private if I feel that is what needs to happen to make the best record. This solves the problem instantly. I've never had to use it... probably cause they know it's there.

    But if you're their employee and have no such contact you just gotta do what they say. Anyhow, the interesting question (as mixerman nailed) is-- is it REALLY crap... or is it just so over the top that your brain isn't even seeing how cool it is yet. Cause it's something new. It's probably just total crap, but we can't know. But then sometimes total crap sells records. Sheesh, who knows.
     
  12. gie

    gie Guest

    Originally posted by Solar:
    Anyhow, the interesting question (as mixerman nailed) is-- is it REALLY crap... or is it just so over the top that your brain isn't even seeing how cool it is yet. Cause it's something new. It's probably just total crap, but we can't know. But then sometimes total crap sells records. Sheesh, who knows.

    It was not Total Crap....
    It was more like someones MONITOR-MIX on stage...
    But he agrees now.... cause the rest of the band (after playing it to honest friends) agreed it was crap... The singer now admits that he had problems hearing himself back, and hoped to solve that with turning the guitars up way loud...
    BTW... My mix wasn't to good either I have to admit...
    It was like MIXERMAN said.... TOO MUCH a PERFECT MIX.... so boring...
    I started again... and now trusting my feelings... much better now...

    ThanX again everE1 !

    GRTX
    GIE
     

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