There are two old sayings in the recording industry: The first is, "You Can't Polish A Turd". The second aying goes along with the first, "You CAN Polish A Turd, But All You End Up With Is A Shiny Turd". That's happened here a number of times, and why it happened might help some of you out. Since these people won't be coming back, and they don't read this forum, I don't think anyone will be hurt by my explaining what I think went wrong. Case Number 1: A very nice "new age" group came in. They had only been together for a few months; had one or two good players, and a few that had only been playing a few months. They wanted to have the album out by Christmas, and it was late August when they came in. Was this possible? I told them yes. Shouldn't be too hard, I figured. They had a drum machine for the drum parts, and we just had to record the drum machine, two acoustic guitars, a bass part, keyboard, flute, vocals, and some light harmony. Not a big deal. The singer/songwriter and the lead guitar player had been a duo for several years, so they were pretty tight and polished. I started with the rhythm guitars, bass, keyboard, the drum machine, and a scratch vocal to build the basic rhythm tracks. I don't think any song was under 6 minutes, and some were 8 and 9 minutes long. OK, time to stop and explain the principles of airplay to them. They're not interested in "commercial airplay" - they have "artistic integrity". Two hours later, OK, keep my mouth shut and don't argue with them - it's their album. Next problem, the keyboard player is the singer/songwriter's girlfriend - she's never played anything in her life and she's in the band to "help". She can play one or two notes at a time, usually late, and she's not crazy about the lead guitar player (who's the only person that can really play), and he's not too fond of her either. Somehow, over the next month, we get down most of the basic tracks (we'll replace all the bass parts later, since the bass player has a total of 10 weeks under his belt of playing any musical instrument, except native American drums). I work with the singer's girlfriend on some cool keyboard parts for some of the songs and we fly those in over the next month. Same thing with the bass player and the flute player - try to work out parts they can play and help them get the parts recorded, a phrase at a time. After about seven weeks or so, they decide that the drum machine tracks don't "sound right" and we need to reprogram all the drum stuff. We spend a couple of weeks doing that, then they decide they need a real drummer, and they say, "we have this friend who "doesn't have any drums, but can he use yours?". We get him in and he's terrible. So I talk my son Alex into recording all the drum tracks for all 12 of the songs. "Oh yeah, we want to make it more rock sounding, can he do that?". Gee, now the lead guitar player is really stoked by the new rock drums and he wants to add some electric guitar parts. The guy is great on the really delicate nylon string acoustic folky guitar parts, but he thinks he's Hendrix on electric. Power chords, whammy bar dives, and feedback out the ass - on these "new age" songs!!! More distortion, more reverb, more chorusing, and he adds like 4 more guitar parts, bringing the total to 6 or 7 guitars, on these new age ballads. (We bring in a real bass player to play on some of the difficult tracks.) I keep my mouth shut, except to say, "Do you all understand you're taking these songs in a whole new direction than what we talked about when we started this project?" The answer? "Well, we want to make them more commercial." I shut up, but think to myself, "More commercial? At nine minutes long?". Right. Sure. You bet. We finally get to the harmonies. Next surprise, the lead guitar player is the main harmony singer and he has pitch problems. The singer's girlfriend also wants to sing harmony on almost every song and she's never sung in her life, let alone sung harmony. Can I help them with the harmony parts? Sure, I don't mind singing her part into the talkback mic as we punch in each phrase over a period of months - what's a few more months between friends? The schedule is now out the window. A full year and a half goes by with them coming in during off hours to fix or "change" their parts. By mixdown time, the lead guitar player has a "complete vision" of how he wants each song to sound, and he becomes the "producer". "More me" turns out to be his basic theme. Some of the delicate flute and keyboard things (that I worked months on) get thrown out, because "we need this guitar solo in there instead." He actually brings his electric guitar to the mixdown session and he's throwing in last minute guitar parts to each song, bringing the guitar track count to about 12 by now. The singer/songwriter is watching this whole thing from the back of the control room and he's not saying anything. I ask him if this is what he wants. He doesn't answer. His girl friend is glaring at the lead guitar player's back. Finally the album's done - after two years of on/off work. Are they happy with it? No, and by this time, the group has broken up. Six months go by and the singer and his girl friend come back in. "They're my songs - will you remix them for me, the way you originally heard them?" I spend about a month, remixing all the songs, taking out the electric parts, bringing back what's left of the delicate stuff, but it still has the semi hard rock feeling, and the older parts have been erased to make room for all the new guitar parts, so it's now neither rock or newage - just some weird thing, in between. I mix it, but I don't like it. What started out as an honest, delicate album, played with enthusiasm (if not great musicianship) wound up in the "polished turd" category, by trying to be something it wasn't. Bottom line: Everybody connected with this project ends up disgusted with the results. Who's fault was it? Everybody's - and nobody's. So what's the answer if you don't want this to happen? Make sure everybody has a clear idea of what they want the final mix to sound like. Bring in rough tapes of the songs to the studio beforehand, and discuss all the details of each song. And mainly, make sure everybody in the band knows their part. Case Number 2: A heavy metal group came in to do an album a few years ago. Over a series of sessions, they would eventually have enough material to do one or two albums. Fine, so far. All nice guys, good understanding of the business, reasonable expectations, and pretty good players. Over the next few weeks, we laid down all the basic tracks, some scratch vocals, and all we had left were the final guitar parts and finishing up the vocals. All cool so far. I set up a time for one of the guitar players to come in and do his parts - around 2 in the afternoon. Comes 2 PM, I'm set up and ready to record, but the guitar player hasn't shown up. An hour goes by, then two hours, then 3 hours - it's now 5 o'clock - and still no guitar player. Around 6, he finally shows up, stoned out of his mind. He can't tune his guitar, he can't even keep up with the basic tracks, let alone play a speed metal solo. After a couple of hours of trying, he packs up and goes home. So what did he accomplish? He wasted a day for me that I could have booked another group in, kept me waiting for four hours without bothering to let me know he was gonna be late, arrived here unable to play, and didn't really contribute to my image of the band being professional. I was pissed and I think that soured me on the band and vice versa. From that point on, I was slow getting their stuff out and I just didn't care as much. I'm sure we're not high on their list of good places to record anymore, and I'm not sure they're even still around. But it's cool - that kind of group I can do without.