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Thread: Eddie Kramer Interview - Recording Engineer Producer Magazine 1976

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    Eddie Kramer Interview - Recording Engineer Producer Magazine 1976



    H.C.: I can't let you get away without talking about your work with Mr. Guitar and his group: Jimi Hendrix and his Experience. What did Jimi want in an engineer? - Let 's go back even further than that! Chas (Chas Chandler, Jimi's co-manager) found jimi in the Village, took him to England ('66), they found Mitch and Noel (drums and bass), and you were on staff at Olympic. Before they contacted you, had they done "Hey Joe" at Kingsway? (London] .

    E.K.: Mmm ... (yes) . .Jimi and Chas, I think, were basically unhappy with the sound. They knew it could be better than that. But, Jimi looked for someone who had imagination -- someone who could "fly" with him, so to speak, in the sense of suggesting ideas and coming up with crazy things, and that would interpret technically what he was thinking musically. I was the new, young engineer at Olympic, just starting to make my name, and they decided to take a chance ... poor guys, I don't know why they did it. (laughter)

    H.C.: So he felt you could translate his "head" electronically.

    E.K.: Yes.

    H.C.: Going back to this "open" sound concept from your Olympic days, I seemed to notice it when you did Voodoo Child ... if you did it or (Gary Kellgren ...

    E.K.: I did.

    H.C.: .. which I assume was ... 100% live'?

    E.K.: Oh, yes, Voodoo Child was. Many tracks subsequent to that at Electric Lady, when we were working on the album, just before he died (Sept. '70), while cutting live, I always had an M160 (Beyer) on his vocals. They 're the only mike you can get any separation from and still give you a reasonable vocal sound. And more often than not, when Jimi would cut "live" vocals, we could never top them.

    I worked with him at the Record Plant in '68. In '69, we had a parting of the ways brought on because Jimi wanted to take over everything including mixing, and I had to put my foot down -- not that I didn't want him involved. I wanted him involved -- to the point where the best mixes were the ones where he was involved, but directed. I would sit down and prepare the mix and give Jimi a particular guitar or particular vocal and the interchange of ideas were good as a team.

    H.C.: Could you name some specific titles?

    E.K.: Oh, I would say ... "1983" in particular, a classic example -- which was a 14-hour straight mix which Jimi and I did together. I got the basic thing together and made suggestions, then Jimi would say: "Hey, could you make it sound underwater?" -- that was his favorite phrase. Since there were so many things happening in the mix, it was essential that Jimi be involved. Once it got to the point where Jimi wanted to do everything -- that's when I put my foot down -where we had the disagreement. It was a short-lived disagreement to the point where I designed and built Electric Lady studio for him.

    HC.: What do you mean, ''Jimi wanted to do everything?

    E.K.: He wanted to mix and engineer as well. When it came to setting up the board, he wanted to take over the board. At that time I felt very strongly about that - someone taking over something which I was doing for him. And it later turned out, that he would leave everything to me.

    HC.: It seems like he was going through a change in '69.

    E.K.: He was going through a change. He was recording at the Record Plant - I didn't have anything to do with it. I was designing and building him a studio and I was independent as an engineer doing Zeppelin, etc., plus building him a studio which took 13 months to build. He was very impatient, understandably so, it was a complex studio, solid as a rock. I ran it, built it, put it together, was recording, producing -- it all became too much so I decided to break away and become an independent Producer-Engineer. I feel a lot happier about it.

    HC.: How about your approaches on Are You Experienced vs. Axis vs. Electric Ladyland?

    E.K.: Each album got consecutively more complex -- I think Electric Ladyland is possibly the pinnacle of special effects.

    HC.: What about the development of ]imi in the studio?

    E.K.: Jimi was just developing as an artist and his music was getting more and more complex and I think it reflected itself in the way the albums were sounding. I had to develop more and more stuff to do.

    HC.: So more demands were made on you.

    E.K.: Yes, of course.

    HC.: How many mikes do you think you may have used?

    E.K.: That's a very good question. (pauses) Snare, bass drum, two overheads ... 4 or 5 mikes.

    HC.: The reason I ask is: do you follow the theory that the more mikes you place on a drum set, the worse it will sound? ... Phasing, hot-spots, etc.

    E.K.: Mmrn mm . _ . very difficult to answer that. It's more of what you want in a set of drums, if you want that "presence" from each drum or if you want that big, overall, open, splashy spread. I use the combination of both. I can't really say one is favored over the other.

    HC.: I noticed a definite difference in the presentation of Mitch between the first three albums and Cry Of Love , Rainbow Bridge•

    E.K.: I think you can attribute that to Jimi's emotional and growing changes in his music and becoming aware of his "blackness" and aware of the fact that he had to start changing his image.

    H.C.: What I hear is change in perspective: bass drum-snare balance, cymbals, etc. Instead of looking at a kit, I'm looking at individual items in that sometimes shuffle-beat.

    E.K-: Bass and snare would be up more in the things you 're thinking of. He (Billy Cox) was playing more of an R&B type of feel by necessity because of Jimi's influence. It certainly made everybody sit up and think. It had to influence his music - no question. He didn't want to get up on stage and jive around - he just wanted to play music.

    H.C.: Which I think he accomplished on Band Of Gypsys, {'70)

    E.K.: I agree. Outside of all the ranting of Buddy Miles. There was a lot of that edited out.

    H.C: Could we take apart 1983 and And The Gods Made Love: off of Electric Ladyland ... if you used some phasing .

    E.K.: Yes .

    H.C The panning, Jimi's guitar effects, the slowed-down bass drums on the intro of Gods ...

    E.K.: At this point I would like to say that people should really try to discover those things for themselves. When it gets to special effects and such, I think the albums should rest as they are and people should just enjoy them for what they are.

    H.C.: Any comments on the Alan Douglas involvment?

    E.K.: Absolutely not. Suffice to say that I refuse to recognize what he's done. I think what he's done is a travesty of musical justice. I refuse to get involved in anything altering what a man has done. I would never have gotten involved in it. Unconscionable!.

    H. C.: You also did some work with a New York group called Cactus, some of which you recorded at Electric Lady , and the drums of Carmine Appice also held up well for me, especially on something like Song For Aries.

    E.K.: Thanks. There was a certain amount of kidding that took place between Carmine and Mitch and a mutual appreciation and admiration for each other's work.

    H.C.: I considered Mitch having more of a jazz-swing feel whereas Carmine had more of a heavy-handed 4/4 approach. Fair statement?

    E.K.: Oh, yeah, fair statement. I think Mitch had the lighter touch and certainly more of the ability to play complicated fills and disturb the beat and then come back down on one.

    H.C.: I particularly notice on his brushwork on something like Up From The Skies. {Axis LP)

    E.K.: Oh, that's great -- that's lovely.

    H.C: Another thing would be that when Hendrix was playing in '66-'67 Mitch did not always serve as the traditional timekeeper of the group in that he could float around and Noel {bassist Noel Redding) would be the anchor-man.

    E.K.: By necessity. Mitch had the ability to ... almost read what Jimi was thinking. Even though Jimi would dictate a lot of the things to play on the run-downs -- where to put accents and where to put fills -- it was generally left up to Mitch 's imagination, which was pretty vivid. Jimi would never cease to be amazed at Mitch's ability to play ridiculous things.

    H.C.: He's my favorite drummer ...

    E.K.: He's certainly one of my favorite drummers -- no question about it. Mitch for me is really "it".

    H.C.: ..... and I wish he'd get back into the scene. How did your treatment vary in miking Mitch as more of a "lead"
    instrument as opposed to Carmine's drums?

    E.K.: I remember miking Mitch on the Axis album, which is the one you like, by raising him on that platform about a foot and using distant miking and close-miking - with that D30 on the bass drum and, more than likely, 67's or C12's on the cymbals ... probably C12's, and 87's on the floor toms.

    H.C.: What about his creativity?

    E.K.: There were no meetings in advance, and Jimi created things in a very loose sort of fashion. He knew in his own head what he wanted to do and how he wanted to create -- he had pages and pages of lyrics to choose from -- but he knew exactly what he was doing; every over-dub, every backwards guitar solo, every double-tracked thing was very carefully worked out ... in his own head.

    H.C.: In a very private sense then.

    E.K. In a very private sense. So I was not to know what he was going to do until he walked into the studio. I don't think anybody else did. There were jams and rehearsals, but I wasn't privy to them.

    H.C.: So it was a matter of "let it flow''.

    E.K.: Very much.

    H.C.: I was very impressed by Axis, which you did -- particularly the drums.

    E.K.: Olympic Sound!

    H.C.: There seems to be a variance in the drums between Axis and Are You Experienced with Mitch.

    E.K.: Probably a different kit ... I probably recorded them better. More than likely on Axis, I set up a drum platform at that time.
    Over the last 4 or 5 years, if I could find 6 old U47 's, I'd use them exclusively for drums.

    H.C.: The old tube-type.

    E.K.: Mmm (yes), one of my favorite mikes of all time. At Olympic the C12 ... the old C12's. 67's of course. D20's, which you cannot find anymore -- rare beasts ... or was it a D30. They only made a few of them. Also, a lot of AKG dynamics.

    H.C.: Do you remember using any of the BBC PGS mikes?

    E.K.: Very rarely. I hate them actually ... lacked separation ... horrible. If I were to use a ribbon, it would have been for trumpets and trombones. Better than that was the old STC ribbon, sort of flat-shaped, made of brass, kind of wedge-shaped -- wonderful old thing. I try to follow the whole concept of classical recording to make the instrument sound as real as possible ... as natural as possible and that's the thing I strive for as much as I can.



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