APPETITE FOR DISCUSSION
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SoulMonster
APPETITE FOR DISCUSSION
Welcome to Appetite for Discussion -- a Guns N' Roses fan forum!

Please feel free to look around the forum as a guest, I hope you will find something of interest. If you want to join the discussions or contribute in other ways then you need to become a member. We especially welcome anyone who wants to share documents for our archive or would be interested in translating or transcribing articles and interviews.

Registering is free and easy.

Cheers!
SoulMonster

2016.01.25 - Spitfire - Interview with Matt

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2016.01.25 - Spitfire -  Interview with Matt Empty 2016.01.25 - Spitfire - Interview with Matt

Post by Soulmonster Tue Jan 26, 2016 8:10 am



Transcript:

Matt: Well, Henson, I mean, Henson came later on. The studio was originally owned by A&M Records. Herb Albert and Jerry Moss put the "A" and "M" in A&M Records. When I recorded here in the early 90s it was still owned by those gentlemen and the label was right here on the lot. The lot goes all the way back to Charlie Chaplin. Charlie Chaplin, being the great film director and producer and actor, built the studio lot when there wasn't really much around here, you know this was pretty open territory, and the studio made films here on the lot.

So when I started working here late 80s, early 90s, the studio was officially A&M Records, A&M Studios. And the room that we're sitting in was probably most famous for We Are The World. You know, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones put that together and I believe that was mid 80s. That, you know, amazing track here with all these huge superstars that came in to sing on it for the world to hear and kind of find out about this particular studio.

And then when we came here to record with Guns N' Roses, we chose Studio A mainly for the space of it. And in those days we recorded live, you know. The band was all set up in the studio, if you look behind me in the big room, it's pretty massive, you know. They do full strings in there and you can get a lot of people in there. But you know, we were spread out, we had the drum kit set up over against that wall and then Slash and Duff and Izzy had a little room. Izzy liked to hang out in the vocal booth over here. So we had Izzy in there and then Axl's room was actually back behind those glass doors. Axl had a piano back there. When I first joined the band, the amp room was the furthest down being those slide doors so all the amplifiers could go in there.

You know, a lot of what went into making the record in those days for us was just the sheer enjoyment of playing music and being here in the environment that we created in in the studio. You know, we work hard. You know, we'd come in at noon, which is in my opinion, anything before noon for rock'n'roll is a little bit suspect [laughs]. So we'd start around noon. You know, get the coffee going and coming off the night before or whatever we had to do. You know, we would get out in the studio and cut a track and then Mike Clink, the producer, would sit here at the console and instruct us and what to do next. You know, we recorded live in those days, so we cut the tape. There's really no click tracks to speak of. You know, we would do you one or two takes and then if it wasn't happening, we would maybe blow it off and do it another day. But in general, most of those records were recorded in two to three takes, tops. And Slash used to say to me, I would say, "Hey, what do you think about doing one more?" And Slash turning me and say, "You just want to suck the rock'n'roll right out of it, don't you?" [laughing] I'd be like, "OK, that makes perfect sense to me." You know, it wasn't about being perfect. It was about the spirit of it. You know, the energy that went into the track. Sometimes I think that he felt, for the music that we were making at the time, if it was being thought about too much, the thought process went into recording or I'm gonna think about what I'm doing now, that took away from that sheer moment that we were creating, you know, around the music. 99.9% of the time what you hear on those records was what went down together, you know, that was the push and pull of the music. There was no computers in those days, so it was about what we heard back at the moment, so we got the best sounds going in that we could. It wasn't about, like, you used to hear that expression, "Oh, we'll fix it in the mix," now they just fix fucking everything [laughs]. So it's like we're just gonna fix everything.

You know, we just came in here and this was our home. You know, we created an environment that made us want to be here and make music. And it was an amazing time, you know, we recorded 35 songs in here. And I remember, Axl Rose walked through that door right there, came through, and the little slider went up, and there's a push button door here, it's a bit like Star Trek, you know, "Beam me up, Scotty" kind of shit, and the door and go, "woooosh!", and then in comes Axl, you know, I probably had a headband on, I don't remember, but you know, it's like, "Hello!" I remember when he said - we were all sitting here - and Axl said, "We're gonna put out all the songs, we're gonna do a double album." Because when we came in to record Use Your Illusion I and II, the intention was we were gonna record all these songs and then make one great record, you know, which a lot of bands do. They record 20.... A lot of people don't know this, but bands will come in the studio record 25-30, who knows how many songs, and then they'll sit around and select the best, you know, 12 or 13 pieces of music that are gonna represent the next great record that they're working on, trying to make, right. So when he said that, we were all like, "Oh my God!" you know. Maybe going into some recording, some of them, I didn't have the.... I always try to give my 100% on everything, but there was a few that I was like, "Oh, this probably won't make the record," or "I don't know if this is a great," you know what I mean? In myself, I never, as a band, we never really talk like that. We were always putting our best foot forward in the music, but there were certain songs, right We were kind of like, "OK," and then Axl came up with this incredible idea. So in those days you remember records were on vinyl and then there was a thing called a cassette, which was very bizarre looking little thing. And if you had a double album in those days it went behind the cash register. So we had to go up to the gentleman that, say, at record store and say, "I'd like to see that double album," because if it was over 20 bucks, or whatever, they had to put it back there. So Axl goes, "I know how I want to do this, I wanna put two volumes of one record out with the same album cover in different colors so it can be in the front bin where people would walk through the record store and be able to shuffle through the bin and hold the records and look at them." And I remember looking at him going, "Fucking guy's a genius" [laughing]. It was fucking genius. It just was.

Except for there was this other guy named Garth Brooks. And I remember when we opened the Billboards, you know, Top 10 of that week or Top 40 or whatever the fuck, records came out and Garth Brooks is number one and we were number two and three. Well, like, "Who the fuck is Garth Brooks?" [laughing] Fucking Garth Brooks. And then the next week we entered the charts at number one and two. But, you know, when he told us that this country guy named Garth Brooks is gonna... But that was really funny.

Those records, you know, that we made here, Use Your Illusions I and II gave us this amazing 3 1/2 year run out on the road, you know. We were able to continue to put out videos and we just stayed on the road forever, which eventually practically killed us all. But, you know, it had a lot of legs like they'd say in the music business. In those days when you made a record, you know, the idea was you go out and you promote the record in your tour and you play the songs and you continue to release singles. Something like that.

Making a good drum recording... Really, you know, I've made great drum recordings in garages, I've made them in houses, I've made them great studios. I think it goes a lot with the guy that's behind the board twiddling the knobs. You know, I've been in some of the best studios in the world and had the guy twiddling the knobs that didn't really quite know how to twiddle, and the shit would just be crap. And then I've worked in very small studios with great engineers that are able to get really cool sounds and what you have to work with. And I think what happened here at A&M Studios, which is called Henson now, was magic of the team that we put together. You know, Mike Clink was the premier producer of the time. He knew how to capture the live element of a band on a recording and capture the essence and the attitude of the band and the musicians involved, right. So it wasn't like... I think a lot of times when you listen to music and you listen to a band or a great band like the Stones and Zeppelin and Queen or AC/DC or any of these great bands, I think somehow that studio or that moment in time and that producer captured the essence of that attitude that goes into playing the music.

And when I came in here with Mike Clink, you know, the first track I did with him here at A&M was Knockin' on Heaven's Door. So we came in here to sort of try the room. And we did a track for this film called Days of Thunder, which Tom Cruise was the star. And I remember at the time we hired the drum kit of Jamo [?] who was [?] Carlos' drum tech. And he had a kit and he came in and it was all tuned up and I sat down. It was a beautiful Gretch kit.We set it up and Mike miked it get really cool and baffled it because the room is really big. We weren't really looking for a big room sound. We were looking for kind of a more tight rock'n'roll, in your face, punchy, se we baffled the drums off quite a bit. Didn't really use the entirety of the room for the drums per se. Like a lot of guys think, "Oh, we're gonna get a big rock drum sound but we're gonna go to this massive room and it's gonna sound huge," and things got carried away with that in the 80s. Mid 80s. Everyone was trying to like go and capture this Kashmir, John Bonham kind of thing, which, if you really listen to that, it's not a big room, it's John Bonham, you know, and it's the way they miked the drums and it goes with the other instruments. So something happened in the mid 80s where it was like, "Big drum rooms! Let's go record the drums in a swimming pool!" and you know, microphones everywhere and, you know [imitating big drums], and reverbs and all these things started happening, you know, to drums. And the thing about Guns N' Roses was there was more of a traditional rock band, is that we studied the bands that we were into and that we studied were the great bands that came before us. You know, like the Stones, Aerosmith, you know, ZZ Top, Cheap Trick, I can name a list. And there was a punk element to it. So we we loved early Pistols albums, Clash records, you know, they were down and dirty.

So when I came in here with Mike Clink and he started setting up the mics, I was always very interested in what he was running stuff through, so I became like the guy that knew the name of all the microphones and, "What is that on the kick drum?" "You know, that's a 47 fat [?] on the front head" and the typical SM-57 microphone on then snare, and we used Sennheiser 421 on the toms, which we are using for this particular piece for Spitfire using that same identical tom mike. It looks like a big shaver but it just it works really well with that big tom sound we created. And I think the one thing I did get off those records was a pretty great tom sound that really represented who I was as the new drummer coming into GN'R, out of the first record. It became more of an epic album. You know, Axl wanted to make an epic record. We couldn't make the same record twice, we wanted to go forward, we wanted to move into a bigger arena, being epic, meaning we're gonna be an arena band, play stadiums, and we're gonna go... And I've said it to some bands, like for instance bands like Kings Of Leon, Strokes, bands like that, that I know those guys, and I saw them making these low fi records with low fi sounds and then when Kings of Leon made an epic sounding record, all of a sudden they're in arenas, they're playing with U2.

It was in Axl's mindset to make this grandiose piece of music. And at first, when I joined the band and the pianos were involved, and the strings, I was like, "Whoa!" you know, I thought I was joining a two guitar, bass and drum band. But then I understood, you know. For songs like November Rain and Don't Cry and Estranged, these big sort of epic pieces, me and Axl sat... I believe we were over there on the floor. We ordered some Russian caviar. We had a bottle of vodka. We sat here, me and Axl late at night, and we listened to Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me by Elton John. He was a huge Elton fan. You know he loves Elton. We're eating the caviar and drinking shots of vodka and this big epic tom fill came by, Axl goes, "I want you to do that, something like that on November Rain, and I want you to mark every section with this signature musical fill that would be representative of not only that song but I want you to use it again as a little snippet in Don't Cry and I want you to do it again in Estranged." I said, "You want me to do the same drum fill?" He said, "Yes." Sounds like OK. So I did the most famous fill that drummers give me shit for all the time. It's called the Pat Boone, Debby Boone. And it goes Pat Boone, Debbie Boone, right? And when I played that Axl said, "I love that, and I want you to do here, here, here and here." And then he sat in there on the piano and I was out there. And we went around the cymbals too, and he played notes on the piano, "And when I go to this chord, I want you to hit that cymbal." And I'd hit it and he'd thought he heard like a G note or maybe it was a C. "When I go to this court, I want to hit that cymbal." And so we worked out this whole thing, just me and him. And the rest of the band came in for doing whatever. And we had it all worked out. And we recorded that piece of music, November Rain, and then Estranged was originally part of November Rain, it was segwayed into Estranged and it was this huge 20 some minute epic thing. And we cut it in half and made it separate. But it was part of what he called The Trilogy, which Don't Cry was included in that. So it all sort of was a story that went interspersed. And on that particular trilogy I used this snare drum that's sort of become famous and my my tech and good buddy Mike Fasano had this drum and we named it Big Red. And it was this Birch deep drum. And the color of it was red and it was a [?]. And we used that on all three of those tracks and it had this real thumpy low end to it and it was just a great ballad thing.

And when I did those records, I got really into snare drums, you know, it's like, I thought at the time it'd be really cool to experiment with different tonal things with the back beat. You know, "What should I use for this particular song that would speak?" It wasn't about... a lot of drummers in rock bands have signature snare drum sounds that just sort of play through the whole album, right? Like Alex Van Halen' [?] snare drum, you know, [?]. I kind of thought, "Well, I'm gonna kind of take a different approach. And I don't want to say I used a different snare drum on every song but I used probably 20 different snare drums, maybe a little bit more on those records. And there was this song called Locomotive. And I just gotten a hold of this really cool, Noble and Cooley [?] drum. Which was kind of a little custom snare drum company up in upstate New York, I believe. On the East Coast. And it was this little white shell, 5 inch deep drum. And it just had the most killer crack sound to it. So I grabbed that and as soon as I kicked in to Locomotive, started with the drum fill, the band was like, "Wow, that's so cool, I love the sound of that." So we ended up using that.

But the two probably most representative drums on those records is Big Red and then, you know, Boom Cooley [?] drum. And I played with a lot of different things, you know. I kept the kit pretty similar. I used three rack toms on that album. And I, you know, then when I played live only used one rack tom, like the way we recorded but I had a little bit more to work with, you know. And then I messed with the cymbals depending on what I was doing sonically.

[did not transcribe the last part which was not about Guns N' Roses].
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2016.01.25 - Spitfire -  Interview with Matt Empty Re: 2016.01.25 - Spitfire - Interview with Matt

Post by Soulmonster Tue May 09, 2023 9:00 am

Finished transcribing this.
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