producer l mixer l engineer
Jimi Hendrix, led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones
Few producers ever achieve the body of work that Eddie Kramer has. Since entering the field in the early 60s, hes worked with Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and the Stones, to name a few. He even engineered the Woodstock recording. Kramer may fairly be described as a production/engineering legend.
Kramer arrived to record Woodstock at 6:00 on the first morning of the festival. His rig used for recording shows at San Franciscos Fillmore West was waiting for him in the back of an 18-wheeler, which would be his studio for the historic weekend.
I remember looking at the venue as the sun was coming up, Kramer recalls. It was chaotic and I was unprepared for the state of construction that was still going on. You have to think about the state of remote recording: it was quite primitive. We had a 12-channel mixer, two Shure mixers and two Scully 8-tracks. The sharing of the PA and recording mics made life a little tricky. Kramer and his crew worked in alternating 12-hour shifts.
Kramer engineered the recording of Led Zeppelins Physical Graffiti. The acoustic portions of the song Black Country Woman were recorded outside, an approach that presents its own challenges. But as Kramer explains, I dont like to think in terms of problems but in terms of solutions. Every session has its difficulties: whether the gear breaks down, whether the artist breaks down, whether the microphones dont work. These are impediments. You figure a way out.
Even a casual rock fan recalls Robert Plants solo vocal towards the middle of Whole Lotta Love. In the moments before each lyric is sung, its previewed in what sounds like an engineering glitch; a pre-echo of sorts. What really happened was that during the mixing process there was an extra vocal track, Kramer explains. The master vocal we were using was fine. The other one kept breaking through because the console fader was not muting correctly. In the process, Jimmy Page and I looked at each other, cranked the reverb and it was perfect. Its one of those wonderful mistakes that one keeps in. Too often today mistakes are not kept in. We are so ProTools-mad that weve become obsessed with cleaning tracks.
Like anyone in a modern production facility, Kramer uses ProTools. But thats not always his starting point. I still like to record in analog and then dump it into ProTools because its easy to work with, he notes. The problem is that in the hands of an amateur or a perfectionist, it becomes your worst enemy. Youre squeezing the life out of the music by making it all bloody perfect. Get the band to play it right in the first place. Music is meant to be played by people looking each other in the eye; interacting. Thats what its all about.
Kramer expresses his approach to engineering succinctly. Get the damn thing down on tape. Well discuss it later. Capture the sound, the mood, the moment. Engender an inspired performance from the artist. Make them feel that its the greatest moment theyve ever completed on tape. Youve got to make the artist comfortable enough to let their guard down and give it their all. Were basically servants of the music; servants of the artist.
Currently Kramer is involved in a number of projects: working with two big artists he declines to name; mixing a Jimi Hendrix film shot at the Royal Albert Hall; a TV series and a book entitled From the Other Side of the Glass that will include photos taken by Kramer during recording sessions and other significant music events. He also helped John Storyk design and build The Document Room, a Malibu studio. Previously the two worked together on the design of the famed Electric Lady Studios in New York.
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