THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TRACKS
“Other Side Of The Tracks” Recording Blog 019
Thursday, March 15th, 2012
“Other Side Of The Tracks” A Recording Blog by Shawn Bradley
Part of my production and engineering education came from attending Berklee College of music in Boston, MA. During my first year there I applied at a local studio called ‘Sound Techniques’. Any time that I was not in a class I was spending all my time at the studio sitting in on sessions and learning anything I could. Working at the studio introduced me to a ton of musicians, producers, and engineers. Anthony J. Resta was one of the producers that made quite the influence on me during that period. He really got me thinking about sounds and new ways to capture it. A few years back I reconnected with Anthony. Recently I thought it was time to share some of his experiences and production work with you.
Anthony J. Resta is a fellow Canadian born in Saskatchewan who has crossed the border and made a name for himself around the world earning twelve (12) RIAA certified gold and multi-platinum awards. Some of his past clients have included Duran Duran
, Elton John, Needtobreathe, Collective Soul, Guster, Megadeath, Perry Farrel, Nuno Bettencourt, Andrea Surova, Dale Bozzio, TV Mania, Shawn Mullins, Del Marquis of Scissor Sisters, Green River Ordinance, Sarah Evans, The Cinnamon Fuzz, and Blondie. He recently earned his 12th RIAA Gold and Platinum certification for his programming and production work in the soundtrack of the successful ‘Twilight’ films.
Anthony currently works with engineer Karyadi Sutedja at studio Bopnique Music in an old textile mill just west of Boston. The 4,000-square-foot (370 m2) studio is chock full of vintage gear from the fifties, sixties, and seventies, as well as high end modern recording gear. Anthony has been focusing on his new project the ‘ELECTRONS ‘ with guitarist Warren Cuccurullo (Duran Duran), drummer Steve Ferrone (Tom Petty), keyboardist Roger O’Donnell (The Cure) and songwriter Eric Alexandrakis.
I spoke with Anthony from his studio in Boston, MA via Skype.
Interview with Producer Anthony J. Resta
SB: How did you get started in music and discover your interest in production and engineering?
AJR: I basically started off interning and all that stuff. I always had a knack for slowing down guitar players it seemed like… I started off as a drummer and I remember recording tracks then two weeks later everything was going faster than the guitars. Then everybody would say “wow those drums sound draggy”. At that point I said “jeez I think there is something wrong here”. It was almost like a lightbulb going off in my head. I just always had a knack for hearing stuff and I didn’t realize what I was hearing at the time. It took me a few years to figure it out that I had a sort of gift for that and that was the beginning of it. I kinda worked my way into it gradually working with Bob St.John, Chris Lannon, Tom Soares, Paul David Hager, different engineers around Boston as a producer engineer team. Slowly I picked up my own sort of style and stuff.
SB: At what point in your music career did you decide study at Berklee College of Music and what was your major?
AJR: I studied Music Synthesis and percussion, but I was really interested in the studios even back then. I used to bar tend during the day and work in the studio after I left Berklee. It was just something that I always wanted to do and I’ve always been fascinated with it.
SB: During my Berklee days I was interning at a local studio called ‘Sound Techniques’ and was fortunate enough to sit in on a few session while you were working on the Duran Duran ‘Medazzaland’
album with Bob. St.John. Not sure if you remember…
AJR: That’s crazy.
SB: One thing that struck me was your use of abstract recording techniques and samples. You mentioned to me at the time that you had set up your DAT machine to the TV at home to grab weird samples from switching stations in the middle of the night. Techniques like this and your use of effects such as stomp boxes, circuit bent instruments, etc. has helped define your sound. Can explain what led you to this style rather than what some might call standard recording practices?
AJR: Ya… I’ve kinda come full circle. I’ve gone from the most extreme circuit bending and found sound and manipulation. Then sometimes there is nothing more beautiful than a mandolin right on a good mic. I kinda got known for all that weird stuff, then as the years went on Karyadi and I started doing more and more organic music. It’s funny, a lot of that stuff is just as challenging in it’s own way. In some way it’s harder. I have a fascination with that side of it now. I always liked science fiction. I used to love the music from the ‘Twilight Zone’ and ‘Outer Limits’. There was a fascination with space that I had since I was a kid, and I thinks it’s all part of creating that ‘Outer Limits’ soundscape. SB: Has this ‘Outer Limits’ soundscape fascination helped you with your new project the ‘Electrons‘?
AJR: Ya…. I think so. It’s become more and more of a focus. It’s cool that we all have different backgrounds. It’s fun to just throw stuff into the pot and see what happens. It’s a whole new thing. Warren’s got this really angular angle from the Zappa influence and we both love people like Stravinsky. It’s really cool. I may take one of his guitar parts and cut it into odd note groupings. Then he might be explaining to me a rhythm that he’s hearing and then he’ll sing it by saying something some crazy sentence like “Baka Daka Waka Daka”. It’s something you can’t really count but then when you write it down or see it in an email I’m like “Oh I get it”. It’s fun to be around people like him cause he’s such a high level musician it kinda frightens you and makes you want to get better and work harder. He was like that when he was in Duran Duran and I was working with him. He could listen to like a hundred things in a mix over the phone and tell you that you left something out in the second verse. He’s got some crazy ears.
SB: Did you do most of the tracking for the Electrons at your studio ‘Bopnique Music’ in Boston?
AJR: Steve Ferrone cut his drums in Los Angeles, Warren cut his guitars out there too and then Eric did his stuff in Colorado. They sent everything to Karyadi and I and we added all my stuff in and slowly put it together over a 3 day period. There are different ways we work. Sometimes I’ll send a bunch of grooves to Warren or I’ll send an ambient piece to Eric and he’ll add some classical glockenspiel, harpsichord or something. It’s different all the time.
SB: Sending tracks back and forth via the internet is still kinda new for a lot of people, but I remember you doing this back in 1995 with ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) How has this changed for you over the years?
AJR: It’s so simple compared to what it used to happen. You used to have weird things happen where it would become joined stereo or some crazy weird thing. They’d be hearing something totally different than what I was hearing. I almost got fired a couple of times from that. I remember one time Warren said “We were looking for orange marmalade and you gave us chocolate fudge.” (Laughs)
SB: Analog and digital… Are you sticking mainly ITB (in the box) for your mixes?
AJR: Karyadi uses a Dangerous 2bus and uses quite a bit of analog gear. We got this animod that we’ve been putting on mono room mics and playing around with the Cranesong Pheonix plugs. He’s really good at good at getting stuff to sound like tape. He’s really gifted and has really developed it over the years and he keeps getting better and better. We recently were considering adding a 2inch 16 track 3M machine that I ended up passing on because of the headaches from maintenance and all that stuff. Funny thing… the guy that bought it was in my studio the other night and he’s got no place to put it. He says he’s gonna leave it here, so it looks like we are going to end up with it anyway.
SB: Any new products that you are liking? Have you dived into iPad apps for making music?
AJR: I haven’t tried any iPad apps, but I love the SoundToys plugs. The guys are from Vermont and they make plugs such as the Filter Freak and Devil-Loc. They’re plugs are so musical and sound so good, they’re incredible. I love playing around with that stuff in conjunction with tape delays. I love tape delays and I’ve got a bunch of different flavours. I kinda don’t really do the same thing twice. You just plug in a bunch of stuff and start trying things and stumble across something cool.
SB: Has the availability of great sounding plug-ins caused some of your creativity to steer away from sitting with all your guitar pedals?
AJR: Yeah I hate to admit that but the SoundToys were the first one’s that made me go “wow”. I love Roger Linn’s ‘Adrenaline’ thing. It’s a guitar sync thing. It’s kinda like the adrenaline pedal but it’s a software version. You start playing around with that stuff and it’s pretty amazing how much better things sound then they did even 2 years ago. But I still like to put together a harmonic octave generator, doctor scientist reverb and a tremolo and just have a bunch of things in-line. Not necessarily all on at the same time but just to try for different sections and see what sounds good.
SB: Are there any synthesizers that have made an influence on your work?
AJR: I recently found an old Korg wavestation SR on craigslist for like $200 and I’d never had one before. It is vector synthesis and a lot of pretty wild possibilities with the waves tables and all that. I stated going on the internet and I found all this sysex stuff that people have been dumping up on various sites for the last 10-15 years. You find one and download the sysex library right to the machine and some of the sounds are amazing. Springboards for creating your own stuff. It’s kinda a forgotten type of synthesis that I’ve never used before.
The Nord G2 modular was a life changing synth for me. It’s a virtual analog but it has patch bay that you plug in literally 240 different modules. They have things that they call “probability” where you can set parameters for various things to maybe or maybe not happen over a given amount of time. You start stringing them all together and they take on a life of they’re own. I’ll leave them running sometimes for a few days and I’ll come back and there will be stuff in there that sounds like babies crying or it’s almost like “HAl” in 2001 a Space Odyssey. Some of the things that I have stumbled across on that thing are just mind bending and like nothing else i’ve ever heard.
SB: It seems like a lot of the earlier 80′s dance sounds and reverbs are coming back into modern mixes….
AJR: It’s all coming back now… it’s funny for a few years nobody wanted to hear that stuff. That was old. Everything dry, and now getting these bands drained in reverb. I’ve got a funny ‘Foster the People ‘ story…
I was at this camp grounds up in New Hampshire and I was standing in this line for the fried food kitchen. It was really hot and I heard this song coming from the kitchen. It sounded really unusual, it sounded like an early 60′s thing. It was ‘Foster the People’ but I didn’t know it, so I said to the guy “That’s really cool, what is that?” He goes “Foster the People”. So then when I bought the CD though it didn’t sound anything like it sounded coming out of that crappy little boom box and I was really disappointed (laughs). It just had this tiny like early 60s very early Stones vibe to it, and then of course the CD was this glossy massive super produced thing. It just shows you that sometimes your perception of something can be really off by how your listening to it.
SB: Thanks a ton Anthony for taking the time to share your experiences with the readers of ‘Other Side Of The Tracks’ and Canadian Musician.
AJR: No problem, loved it. Really enjoyed talking with you… It’s nice to finally connect and let’s stay in touch.