Watch Def Leppard’s Hysteria Classic Albums. If anyone is going to make an argument for or against big-time production, that album certainly has to be up there. They used two reels of analog tape for every single harmony and we are talking multiple harmonies. Very few bands imagine that they’ll be spending the entire day on one single harmony on one single song.
More importantly, who can afford this? The documentary says that Def Leppard had to sell 5,000,000 copies to break even. Obviously, they came out of this adventure alive (and then some) or there would be no article or documentary discussing it. What band has that kind of coin lying around? Adele is the biggest thing we’ve seen in some time (pun optional) and she sold 4.6 million copies in 2011. (Just a few years ago Disney On Ice was the best selling album of the year.) That means she would have been in the red if she used Def Leppard’s budget. Obviously times have changed. The point is very few people are moving enough units for the big time production treatment even if studio costs are plummeted.
With this fear of overproduction comes the disdain for new tools. There are tools out now that can save you time, money, or simply improve the intensity of your recordings. (This has always been the case, but a compressor from the 60s doesn’t scare as many people as snare drum replacement or Autotune.) Never advocate that an engineer automatically start meddling with the sound of a band, particularly if that band has a definable sound. However, there’s no reason to ignore technology that helps a band get THEIR sound when maybe the mics aren’t picking up the sound in their head.
Quite a few bands who are dead-set against Autotune and sample layering (but almost never against brickwall limiting). They’ll site how they, “Don’t want the T-pain sound”. Really? You don’t want your Iron Maiden-esque band to sound like a hip hop artist from 2009? I had no idea! These bands dig up examples of a tool being pushed to the extreme and then judge it.. “I don’t want to ride your children crusher. I think I’ll walk to the studio.” It doesn’t make sense to judge studio tools based on times when they’ve been intentionally abused.
The real issue here is trusting the engineer. If you are working with an engineer you don’t trust….WHY???? If you can’t listen to their previous work, sit down and have a chat, and not say to yourself, “Yeah, this is a guy we want on our team” then you shouldn’t be working with that engineer. It’s as simple as that. There are enough good recording guys out there who will do your music justice to settle for anyone who won’t.
When you tie an engineer’s hand behind his back, you are simply asking for trouble. Asking a handyman to ditch the screwdriver just because you read some whackjob article in Guitar World is absurd. What the hell do you care! You don’t tell him how to do his job. You just need to make sure the engineer knows exactly what you want. (They should be the most adamant about finding that!)
- Def Leppard re-records own music to spite record company (geek.com)
- Def Leppard Covers Def Leppard to Solve Property Dispute (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
- Def Leppard Sever Relationship With Universal Music Group Over Royalties (noisecreep.com)