Modern Recording, March 1979

A Session with Fleetwood Mac - Spinning Platinum

by Murray M. Silver Jr.

MR: Seated before our microphones today is Richard Dashut, one of two masterminds behind the recording and producing of the incredibly successful Rumours album. Richard, can you explain this unique association with your partner Ken Caillat and the band?

RD: Titles are too general. In every situation a producer and engineer might do something different, but in this case, Ken and I both co-engineer and co-produce. The credits will read: Produced by Fleetwood Mac with Richard Dashut and Ken Caillat. As far as the band goes, musically they are the only geniuses around here. They produce themselves when it comes to what they want in sounds and arrangements. As far as organization is concerned, the details, making suggestions, keeping things running and the instruments tuned, we have that responsibility.

MR: How long is the recording of this [new] album going to take?

RD: Hard to say right now. To give you an idea. Rumours took eleven months to record and it's only a single album. There is a possibility of a double album this time. So, I'm not sure how long it will take, but it will probably be a few months.

MR: Do you sense that the band is being cautious in following up Rumours? Is there any pressure in following a 14 million seller?

RD: No, not really. For us, the pressure is in making sure we come up with something different. We are always looking for a change. It is very important for us not to rest on our laurels and simply repeat the past. It is more important to grow and try things we haven't done. In that respect there is no pressure because this album will be a different character.

MR: Are the writers coming into the studio with the material and everything previously prepared?

RD: Yes. The songs have been developed over the past year or two - since the end of Rumours. For the most part, they are not arranged. That is saved for the studio to get everyone's input; a lot of the words will have been yet unwritten. As far as exact wording, arrangements and how it will be approached, that is pretty much decided in the studio. The band will walk in with the basic ideas that they recorded at home on cassette but everything else is saved for the studio.

MR: Are there any collaborations between members or do they still prefer to write alone?

RD: As far as the writing goes, they do not pair up and write songs. "The Chain" was written that way [collaboration] because it was conceived in the studio. As far as working on background parts on the basic tracks, they will go over to each others' houses, sit around the piano and work things out. Although I haven't seen much of that on this album.

MR: On each of the last two albums there were two singles and four other songs chosen for FM airplay. The band does not go for themes and concept albums, so I'm wondering what will be the focus of a double LP. What is the purpose behind that?

RD: This album will purely be an expression of desire, of love, of music. We are thinking of doing a double because of the fact that there have been very few great double albums out. We're talking maybe the Beatles [the "White" album] and Elton's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. I can't think of any others, unless you want to consider the first Chicago album where one side was completely free-form guitar and improvs.

We feel we've got a lot of good material. The band is very prolific, so there is no problem in finding enough material for four sides, and there won't be any cereal filler, either. There will be four very strong sides or we simply will not put out a double album. We're not doing it for the hell of it. We feel we have a lot to express and two sides won't cover it completely.

MR: Does Fleetwood Mac consider Rumours to be a pop classic?

RD: We knew we had something hot after the first two months of recording. We would sit back and listen to some of the basic tracks before the overdubs were added and we'd say, "My God, this is sounding really good; we've got something here."

We knew in our hearts and in the back of our minds that we were doing the heaviest stuff we'd ever done. The music was taking on an unexpected aura; the character was much different from anything else they had ever done. We had an idea that we had made a good album before it was released but we had no idea that it would #1 on the charts for six months.

How do you explain something like that? I don't know. It doesn't change you that much, but it's funny ..... you can go into the studio and make a successful album, but it does not necessarily mean that you feel fulfilled just because it sells 14 million copies.

MR: Were there any mistakes on Rumours?

RD: Oh yes. As far as mistakes go, we're talking about maybe the way Kenny and I wanted to record some things or maybe the way we wanted a song to sound. It really isn't a matter of mistakes, but rather a little bit of hindsight. After spending a year working on it we couldn't stand to listen to it; but today when we hear it, we are basically pleased.

MR: Who the hell are you anyway?

RD: Hey, look, I went to college - philosophy, psychology, the whole thing. I quit because I was board with not learning the things I wanted to know. I moved from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and I didn't have a clue as to what I wanted to do with myself. I considered getting into motion pictures, music, a bunch of things.

What did I know about music? Well, I grew up with a bunch of guys who were musicians and everybody around me was playing guitar so I took up a few instruments, but I never had the strict discipline to practice eight hours a day, seven days a week.

So the question I put to myself was how do I want to express myself. I was looking for a way to reach out and tell people I wa salive. I was in that frame of mind when I heard about this studio that a friend's mother had a silent partnership in. That was Crystal Studios in Hollywood.

Because I had some sort of "in", I thought I would go down and apply for a job. I had never been in a recording studio and I hadn't a clue as to how albums were made. It wasn't a burning desire that prompted me to do it because I didn't even know what an engineer was and I wasn't the kind of guy who goes out and buys all the albums and sits for nine hours a day listening to them. For me, it was a matter of walking into the studio to get a job around musicians in order to get a sense of purpose. At Crystal I was working for nine months literally sweeping floors and cleaning out toilets. The only time I was allowed in the studio was to clean out ashtrays.

I remember the first time I walked into the control room and saw these tremendous speakers and tape machines and this big board with all these knobs - I hadn't a clue as to what it was all about. It was so far above me, it was such a long range goal, that it kept me going. The fact that I had to start from scratch and grow into something combined with the marvel of all the equipment made me realize that this was what I wanted to do. Here was a chance to combine what I enjoyed doing - listening to music and hanging around musicians - with a career which I hoped I could one day make money at. I never dreamed that I would ever make money at this business, it wasn't my initial intention.

MR: What groups did you work with at Crystal Studios?

RD: I was cleaning out the toilet for Jackson Browne and I had to sweep the floor one day when James Taylor walked in with muddy shoes. I was a biggie then. You could say I was in charge of "cleaning up everybody's act." You haven't lived until you've been on your knees scooping out a toilet. It's the lowest common denominator. I played it safe. I started out with toilets and worked my way up.

MR: How did you get out of the bowl and into the studio?

RD: I met a gentleman named Keith Olsen at Crystal. Keith engineered the Fleetwood Mac album. At the time, he was working at the mastering facilities and we would spend some time talking about our common interests.

A political thing came down at Crystal and a co-owner decided he didn't want me around anymore and he fired me for personal reasons. For two weeks I laid around in a depression, undecided between suicide and the French Foreign Legion. Keith and David DeVore got together and said, "Hey, you know that young punk who used to sweep floors in the studio? He's a good stickman, why don't we hire him for Sound City Studios?" Keith was head engineer at Sound City, so he asked me to come to work there. I jumped at it immediately.

MR: What sort of a job was it?

RD: Here's the funny part. I was an apprentice maintenance man, a boffin. A boffin is what the English call a technical genius, the man who knows how to fix everything.

MR: Did you?

RD: No. I was a total failure at it. They quickly realized that I was not cut out for fixing equipment. I think they got the message one day when they asked me to replace a resistor and I asked, "What's a resistor?" I kinda gave myself away there.

After three or four weeks of aligning tape machines only to have engineers playing tapes back finding no high end at all, they decided that I was not suitable. Keith still liked me in spite of all of this and he decided that I might make a good second engineer. So, finally, into the studio. Finally, a button pusher, tape changer and keeper of the logs - all the fun stuff.

MR: Who were you working with?

RD: We worked with such people as Emitt Rhoades and Domenic Troiano; nothing huge, but known people.

My first job at Sound City was to paint the control room. On the second day of the job there was a gentleman standing in the corner with his girlfriend smoking a joint, and because I like smoking joints myself, I went and joined them and we became instant friends. That couple was Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.

MR: You're kidding.

RD: No, I'm not. This was about a year before the Buckingham Nicks LP came out. They had been up north in a band called Fritz and had done a few demos with Keith when they decided to go off on their own. They were trying to cut a record deal. It took a year but it finally happened.

As it happened, I eventually moved in with Lindsey and Stevie and worked as Keith's second.

Lindsey had a Ampex 4-track and he set up a studio in my bedroom. It was delightful after spending all day in the studio to come home to more music. I had to sleep between the editing block and one of the empty reels.

All this time Lindsey spent co-writing and arranging the Buckingham Nicks album, most of which was dating back two years from the time when they were playing up north. That is the way Lindsey has always worked, at home on a 4-track. His music never came from magic - although he has lots of that - just a lot of hard work. He also gave me quite a bit of basic recording knowledge on such things as bouncing tracks and synching.

The Buckingham Nicks album was the first album that I ever seconded with Keith. I spent about two years as his second and another year with Mark Smith. Mark and I mixed the Bachman-Turner Overdrive Not Fragile album together. I only got the chance to work my own sessions on weekends when the studio wasn't booked and mostly worked for friends or people who could not afford to pay for the work. I was an easy touch.

MR: So, after Stevie and Lindsey dropped the second Buckingham-Nicks album to join Fleetwood Mac, how did you get into the picture?

RD: I got a call from Lindsey and he asked me if I wanted to go on the road to mix sounds for their concerts. So, I had this important decision to make - do I give up all of this or do I go on the road and eat? I made my decision before Lindsey was finished asking the question. And for a whole year, some ninety shows, I did the sound for the Fleetwood Mac tour in late '75 and through '76.

MR: Did you know how to mix "live" sound?

RD: Hadn't a clue. I hadn't even been to that many concerts much less mix them. It was a whole new thing, but I wasn't really happy except for the two hours during the show when I was in heaven. I love the aspect of losing myself in the mixing, it's like meditating. But it's the other 22 hours a day on the road that I hate. Hey, these are great stories. The whole scene about this band is that it is so un-typical, so un-what-you'd-expect.

MR: Where does your partner Ken Caillat come in?

RD: During the tour, we had stopped off to do a show for King Biscuit Flour [sic] Hour and I had to find a place to re-mix it because it had been recorded very poorly. I ended up at Wally Heider's Studio primarily because it was available and had a good mixdown room.

So, I come walking into the room with two tapes in my hands and there sits Ken. I sat down to begin work and I was feeling a little nervous. I introduced myself as an engineer, he said the same and we sat silent for a few minutes. Then he asked me if I smoked weed, and I said, "Yeah." He followed up by asking if I wanted to get high, and, like with Stevie and Lindsey, we became fast friends.

We put the tapes aside for a few minutes, smoked a joint and spent most of the night mixing tapes. The band liked the job and they liked Ken, I liked Ken, everybody liked Ken.

MR: How could Fleetwood Mac come to ask the two of you to engineer and produce their album if you virtually had no experience?

RD: Deke Richards was originally scheduled to engineer Rumours. I remember meeting him at a party shortly before recording was due to begin. The band had asked me to second on the album and I approached Deke and told him how much I was looking forward to working with him. Deke said, "Oh, I guess you haven't heard, I've got my own engineer I work with." And I said, "I thought you were the engineer." And Deke replied, "No, I'm producing."

The thing is, Fleetwood Mac doesn't hire producers. Deke was not hired to be a producer. The band doesn't need one. They are capable on their own. They don't need someone shouting in from the control room telling them what to do.

When the band found out about Deke's intentions and the fact that he was going to ask for a bit of money to do it, it didn't work out and they decided not to use him.

I remember walking out into the parking lot with Mick wondering what we were going to do for an engineer when he just turned to me and said, "You're going to do the next album," just like that.

If you want to know the truth, Rumours is the first album I've ever co-produced on my own and one of the first times I had engineered on my own. I'm not kidding. It's gross, isn't it? It's silly. What did you expect, heavyweights?

R: Yes, quite frankly.

RD: That is what's fucked up about the music business. You've got a lot of experienced people running around with preconceived ideas of how music should sound. Album after album after album turn out the same. Maybe it's time for people who don't know what the fuck they are doing to come along and work solely from their feelings, not because they are [technically] knowledgeable, but because they may have something to offer artistically. Maybe out of a naive energy something heavy can come out. Rumours had not the slightest element of preconception. It was born out of an expression of desire. I'm sick of bullshit from producers who say, "Leave me alone, I know what I'm doing."

MR: Richard, you're getting a little angry .....

RD: If you want to know exactly my sentiments on the matter, I'm bitter. The music business has become very disillusioning to me. I used to look up to the heavyweight producers and engineers because they were amazingly talented, but turn on the radio and maybe there's one out of ten songs that is decent.

Any huge moneymaking machine, like a dinosaur, is not going to adapt to change. The future of the music business lies in the hands of the musicians and writers, not the producers or engineers who try to manipulate them. They are safe with their formulas. They know the public is going to buy it and they stick with the tried and true. The business is commercially oriented, not artistically motivated.

MR: Do you think that is what prompted Fleetwood Mac to change from being Britain's #1 blues band to a west coast pop group? Did the Mac discover a formula to crank up its own moneymaking machine?

RD: Nothing prompted Fleetwood Mac to do anything. There is no motive behind them; it's all instinct. Fleetwood Mac got together in its present form because Mick felt Stevie and Lindsey had a lot to offer; it just happened. All Mick needed was a vocalist and a guitarist. He didn't say, "Aha! Let's mix a British blues band with a west coast sound and see what we get." It worked out into an amazing combination, but it certainly wasn't planned that way.

MR: We have talked about what makes a great band, but what do you think makes a great producer and engineer? Are there any? Face it, Rumours was your first time out. What changed you from a men's room attendant into a successful engineer and producer?

RD: My high school education.

MR: No, seriously. Is there any such thing as a great engineer and producer or are they just fortunate?

RD: I think that the highest qualities that a producer or engineer can have are sensitivity and understanding. Being able to listen to and absorb what the artist is trying to express instead of making the artist fit into a preconceived mold of how the engineer or producer thinks they should sound. They must free their professional egos to allow them to become open to the song and the artist. The music can tell you what it needs.

MR: I can see how you can do that with a band that you have known intimately for many years. But what happens when a new act comes to you and says, "Do for me what you did for Fleetwood Mac"? Is it possible to do that without moving in with them for several years?

RD: No, it is not possible. Not to the degree of the relationship that I have with Fleetwood Mac. It's possible, in as short a period as you might have, to be open enough and try to get to know them. I don't think musical engineering is that cut and dried to where you can go into a studio and get hot and do it. The initial steps are getting to know the artist and understanding what you are working with and what he hopes to achieve. Then you figure out how you can help him.

As far as a new act goes, the engineer should provide a center point and base from which the group can build. If I cannot establish a personal relationship with an artist, quite frankly, I won't do the project.

MR: What were some of the problems that you encountered in your first time out as an engineer and producer?

RD: The first problem was that Ken and I had never done an album together and that Ken had not been around us very long. The second problem was a basic feeling of insecurity, which turned out to be an asset.

I was going through feelings such as "Should I really be here?" I mean, I knew sound, but I was wondering if the band thought that I was doing a good job. Ken was going through the same sort of thing.

The sessions had a lot of problems. We went through seven pianos and five piano tuners. After awhile, Ken and I were wondering if we still remembered how to get sound down on tape. Before each session, I would tune drums for an hour-and-a-half to three hours in order to get the perfect sound. In the studio, Mick played his old beat-up road kit and after playing two takes, the drums would go flat because the screws were loose. A tremendous amount of time was spent just on getting drum sounds.

It took two months just for everyone to adjust to one another. Aside from equipment problems, there were psychological problems in that the band was going through a tremendous upheaval. There were break-ups and realignments which had a tremendous effect on their music. Defenses were wearing thin and they were quick to open up their feelings. Instead of going to friends to talk it out, their feelings were vented through their music. It created a certain sensitivity. Our personal lives were in shambles and the album was about the only thing we had left. We were huddled up in this little house in Sausalito working 18 hours a day and our only release was our work, so we were going to make sure that at least that was going to work out right. We put everything we had into that album. There was no magic to it, no key to success, just a lot of hard work. It was no accident, it was eleven months of working and re-working.

MR: How do you and Ken divide your duties?

RD: Our roles were not exactly defined on Rumours. Here we were two engineers who did the same thing where there was room for only one person to turn the knobs and keep it coherent. In other words, if Ken is working on drum sounds and I am working on guitar sounds, we aren't going to match up. It has to be done step by step in order to layer the sound frequencies properly.

What I found myself doing - since Ken is much more technically able than I will ever be, because I know nothing about electronics - was assuming the role of producer. I was able to accept that I have a certain talent and certain deficiences. I work with people who know what they are doing. I don't think one man should be able to walk around thinking, "Hey, I know everything." You have to be able to accept help.

Ken has always been a fiddler. You know the kind of guy who likes to put together models and take apart clocks. My gift is communication - being able to work with people. I know when something feels right even though I do not have the ability to sit down and work out a musical passage myself.

As it worked out, I assumed the role of producer - communicating with the band, providing input, keeping things going - and Ken sat behind the board on my left where the input modules were, so he was more the engineer.

Fleetwood Mac is very demanding. You have five individuals and each will want something different at the same time; it goes on constantly.

MR: How do you reconcile all five of the differences?

RD: We tried all of the ideas to see how each one sounded. If somebody has an idea, we will talk about it first. Then if they still think we should do it, we'll try it. No matter how good a musician is, you just don't know how good something is until you put it on tape and actually run it up through the speakers themselves.

It was a completely democratic process. We tried all of the approaches before making a final decision. I will say that Lindsey has the most concrete musical ideas of anyone. If anyone has a final say, it's Lindsey.

MR: By album's end, how would you describe your function, as a co-producer and co-engineer?

RD: In order for Ken to be alone at the sound board long enough to get something happening, I had to be there directing, keeping things going and keeping the band off Ken's back. We would overlap in quite a few areas. On the new album, Ken will do most of the technical engineering and mic placement and I will be doing the organizing and communicating. It will be pretty much the same as before, only more defined and less overlapping.

MR: What had Ken done before Rumours?

RD: He was mostly a remote man. He worked with Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills and Nash on most of the "live" recordings. Doing "live" sound enables you to develop a keen sense of how to handle problems immediately as they arise and Ken is good at that. He keeps himself covered and has control over what he wants.

MR: Many times a producer gets in the way between the artist and the engineer. I suppose that under this set-up you were working to alleviate that.

RD: Ken and I have never had that problem. In some instances our arrangement might have slowed things down a bit because I might have wanted to hear one thing played back and he might want another. It wasn't like we were fighting, it was just that we were working to get something that we both liked. We are here to make good music, not show each other how good we are. It was a matter of getting to know each other. We have no defenses and no egos to protect. That's the key; attitude is the most important thing in the studio. We learn from each other.

The same time and energy spent in combatting an ego can be redirected toward something more positive. Many producers fall into that game, where they don't want to be considered expendable in the least.

MR: Who do you mix for, the kid cruising in his car or the audiophile?

RD: We mix to please ourselves. We are not directed toward any particular market. We mix the way we think it should sound and at the end of a session, we walk out knowing that that's the best we can do.

MR: How much time do you spend in post-recording?

RD: That is the most important stage. We will have basic tracks, but we really won't know what the final product will be like. We won't have any idea about what sort of overdubs we will use. We will have the drums and bass, so it is futile to try to lock yourself into a sound on the basic tracks. We leave things open as possible for mixdown.

We change sounds quite a bit during mixdown to fit things in. We might change the EQ radically, take a dolby out or run things through an amplifier. It's quite an involved process for us. We will have a lot of neat things on tape and if you're not sensitive to it, you can blow the hell out of a song.

MR: Are the special effects added in the studio or during the mix?

RD: Special effects will be recorded on tracks while we are cutting so they can get the feel. Not that we know what the feel is going to be, but sometimes we will provide a certain effect, such as delay, that might inspire them to do a part that they normally would not do. The sound in the headphones might be a certain way; or maybe there will be more delay on the guitar and Lindsey will want to play less busily because of the sustain. So, he will build his part around that rather than if he had no effects requiring him to fill in with more notes. Therefore, it is important to provide the atmosphere while cutting as far as effects go. By trying different sounds you never know where it might lead to.

MR: What do you hope to capture on the basic tracks?

RD: The purpose of the basic tracks is to get a solid drum track where the time is straight all the way through without worrying about anything else. Most often we have to combine several tracks to get the drums right. After one take, if only the first half is good, we will make a 24-track copy of that first verse and then make two other verses out it.

MR: Therefore, may we deduce that the rhythm section is the key to the Fleetwood Mac sound?

RD: Certainly, but as far as recording goes, the key is editing. We are not ashamed of creating an entire cut from editing and overdubbing and completely reworking a song. If you listen to Rumours you will find the timing on that quite good throughout both sides. The tracks are very solid, which is probably why it has sold so well. You pick up at the start and keep going without losing the feel. We took a tremendous amount of time just doing the drum tracks to make sure they were on time, not too busy and had the right feel so that all of the overdubs would lay on them easier. It is a more basic approach. Rather than trying to get five instruments on a basic track, we will start with two or three and wind up taking everything off but the drums. That is one factor of the Fleetwood Mac sound.

MR: What are the other factors?

RD: The major factor of the Fleetwood Mac sound has been the group as a whole. Lindsey is amazing when it comes to knowing sounds. They are all gifted as musicians. Things that helped to shape and form their music have been in the editing: a meticulous care for perfection of every beat and the process of sitting with a song month after month until we've heard it so many times that what goes on tape has to be good simply because nothing else sounds better. When you've been with a song that long, anything that is mediocre simply is not going to make it.

Some groups can go in and do an entire album in six weeks, sometimes just to see how fast they can do it. That is fine for the others, but that's not how we work. It is a long proces of staying with it, trying different things and getting the best possible edition.

MR: Is that why Fleetwood Mac will not do a "live" album?

RD: We will not do a "live" album because we believe that "live" music and studio sound are two different things. I personally do not like "live" albums. I would rather go to a concert and feel it rather than hear a recording of it. Editing in a studio is essentially the art of an album, and you can't very well do editing on stage.

MR: What differences are there in mixing Fleetwood Mac in the studio and mixing their concerts?

RD: In "live" mixing I start off by leaving everything flat until they get into the first number. I remain very flexible and treat each song individually. It is a very psychological thing that you are doing to the audience. If Lindsey takes off on a really hot solo, I bring it way up. When he steps into that spotlight, everyone's eyes are on just him; he's the center of attention, so I turn it up to emphasize that because I think the audience anticipates it. I don't think I mix the same songs or the same shows in the same manner from one concert to the next. The different locations can do funny things to ambience and acoustics.

MR: How does the band react to criticism of its concerts?

RD: First of all, the band does not read reviews. They realize that they are human and that they make mistakes. On an off day, if a critic writes about something which he has accurately perceived, then criticism is a good thing.

Several reviews have been unfair in that the critics suppose too much. One article accused Stevie of being lackluster because she was [supposedly] bored with having to perform the same old songs, which isn't true.

Criticism is usually well received, but we do what we do best and the audiences love it. Maybe Stevie isn't feeling well; maybe it is 100 outside and she is wearing all these clothes and she's been singing the song for three years. Maybe she can't get herself psyched up each time even if there are 80,000 people out there. Ok, so she can't do it, so what? If there is a critic out there who wants to make something of the fact that her voice isn't in the best of shape, what's the point? That's reality. Fleetwood Mac is not a group of gods.

MR: Yes, they are.

RD: No they're not. That's the thing I'm trying to relate. The phenomenon of their success can overshadow the actual music itself. Perhaps Fleetwood Mac has become such a sensation that people are more in tune with that rather than Fleetwood Mac's music itself.

MR: Well, heroes are hard to find .....

RD: I know Rumours was one of the heaviest things out in a long time. To create that, the band just does its job better than anyone else does their job. They don't feel special about themselves.

MR: Will you improve on Rumours? Can you put the same effort into this album? Did the old feeling come back?

RD: That's a good point. The struggle to improve on what has come before is a great pressure. The approach we are taking is to do something different, to keep growing so that when we come into the studio we have that sense of urgency which is usually lost after a big album.

We worried all the way through Rumours. We worried that it was taking too long and that it might not sell. We spent damn near half a million dollars on the album and it could have just as easily gone nowhere. There was a sense of urgency and struggle which kept us going at our peak.

Many people would think that same sense of urgency isn't here on this album, but it is. We created one by atempting to do a double album and to create such a variety of songs with different sounds and textures that at this point, we have no idea how it's going to turn out. So we have the same worries about creating something new. No one here is that secure in his success not to worry.

MR: How do you cultivate "different"?

RD: First, you look for the spark in wanting to find a different sound. You cultivate it by trying different sounds and techniques. There will be a lot of qualities from Rumours as well as a lot of new things.

At this point, we have the basic tracks to half of the songs and again, it's the overdubs that will take them in a particular direction. So, I'm not sure how "different" is cultivated; we are still looking for it.

We aren't here to do a technically perfect album; we want sounds with character. I think back to the fifties when the only songs came from the floor of the studio .... but they had character. Why does the snare drum have to sound like a thick piece of beauty? Rock is the snare sound, the roomy sound, and I like that old Elvis quality. I tend to shy away from technical sterility.

MR: Do you think Rumours is Fleetwood Mac's best work?

RD: No.

MR: Do you think for its time it was your best work?

RD: Yes.

MR: Would there be drastic changes if you could remix Rumours today?

RD: No. I'd leave it the same as far as mixing is concerned. It is a statement for where we were at that time. >From hindsight, I can say that we could have improved it, but I really wouldn't want to touch it. It was the best we could do at the time.

MR: What is the relationship that you and Ken have had with the band at this point?

RD: Technically, if the band doesn't like what we are doing, we abandon it. We all get together and discuss it. We don't say, "This is the way it's going to be." We work together for a common cause. It isn't like they do one thing in the studio and we do something else in the control room; we have a common ground. It works the other way too. If the band is doing something that we don't like, we tell them.

MR: Mick, why did the band go on tour while recording this album?

Mick Fleetwood: I suppose we did it to feel like a band again. We needed a short break from the studio, but not a complete break from playing. So, we picked up a very few dates just to tighten up. Communication on stage is almost like mental telepathy and it was important to become attuned to one another before spending any more time in the studio.

MR: For the first time in recent recollection, the Mac's performances were sharply criticized. In point, one report blames Stevie for throwing off an otherwise exceptional performance because she appeared disinterested. Also, there were a few concert cancellations. How do you react, ultimately to such criticisms?

MF: We read what critics have to say, but that does not mean we are affected, just interested. I think occasionally they forget that we are human and that we will have our off days. Stevie, in particular, has had difficulties with her throat, and it tends to be a bit overpublicized. It's not so much a lack of interest, but sometimes it is hard to work yourself up to the same level of frenzy night after night. Some of the earlier cancellations were due to Stevie, but last time out it was Lindsey who collapsed. He was given a spinal tap which developed complications, but he's come around.

MR: Why does the band remain tight-lipped about a project in the works?

MF: Because of the way we go about recording only there isn't much to talk about until it's in the mix. Things are very flexible, very changeable up until the very last stages and there seems to be no point going into detail about the album while we are only recording the basic tracks.

MR: Do you hear from old friends from time to time?

MF: Jeremy Spencer is recording again and he is in LA from time to time. Peter Green is in the process of putting himself back together. He had been working on a solo album in England, but I'm not sure what's become of it.

Fleetwood Mac is presently recording in a new studio which was custom tailored for the Mac by the Village Recorder's [LA] staff in cooperation with Dashut and Caillat. The Mac had requested the use of two complete studios for one year's rental and were denied due to the fact that the one remaining studio would not be able to accommodate the long list of heavy-weights queuing to get in. So, while the band plays on in the comforts of Studio D, carpenters perch precariously overhead to make adjustments that the band may request.

To explain the instruments through which Mac music passes on its way to being grooved into vinyl, Ken Klinger, Chief of Electronic Maintenance guides us through Studio D. From the control room, there are four rooms which are capable of total isolation while remaining visually accessible. All rooms open on to the largest and centrally located room where the band is set up in very close proximity. The rooms come decked out with video cameras and playback units, track lighting which can facilitate television cameras and slide projectors which beam large scenic panoramas onto room walls to provide atmosphere.

"The board is the Neve 8078", Klinger proudly points out. "It is the newest and the only one in the country, one of two in the world presently. It's 40-in/24-out with a sixth generation Necam computer. It is a true digital computerized system in that the faders actually move by themselves after they have been programmed. It is able to store 999 mixes on one disk and its merge function makes it possible to select exactly what you want from any mix and combine them. The SMBTE time code allows the computer to run the tape machine and therefore the console and tape are linked in every aspect.

"The monitors are a custom job by Village Recorder personnel utilizing JBL components. The speakers are time-aligned, mounted physically in the cabinets so that the highs, mid-range and lows will arrive at the same time. The speaker cabinet adds no sound of its own. You get only what you put into it."

"The rooms needs very little EQ," adds Dashut. "The sound is very clean so there is no definite setting."

Klinger continues: "We have two Studer A80 VU Mark IIs named Hansel and Gretel; they are Swiss, get it? They are 16/24 track machines. Then, there are Donald and Walter, named for Steely Dan. They are Ampex ATR-100s, 2 tracks. And also the MCI JH-110 2-tracks named Hymie and Saul because they're originally from Miami ..."

MR: Explain the construction of Studio D and how it was customized for Fleetwood Mac.

KK: You will notice that no two walls connect and that walls do not directly join the floor or the ceiling. This completely eliminates low frequency vibrations leaking from one source into another room. The ceilings are movable. By pushing a button, it is possible to automatically revolve the slats in the roof to provide as "live" a sound or as dead a sound as you wish. Just let me know and I can make doors pop out of nowhere, make walls disappear ....

We have a very sophisticated talk-back system between the control room and the isolation rooms. It operates independently of switch flipping and is activated automatically whenever recording is not in progress. There are tie lines in every wall of every room to connect any instrument to any amp in any room. Lindsey can play his guitar in room #1 and come through an amp in room #4 simply by patching his guitar onto the tie line.

Finally, we have added direct boxes at comfortably convenient locations in the control room so that John can practice a part alone while the band is recording. That way, there is no interference and a lot of time is saved. There are forty mic inputs at every panel around this studio.

MR: Which headsets have you selected?

RD: I like the Koss Auditors for the highs and for more definition in the midrange. I like the AKG 240s for warmer sounds.

MR: What special effects do you employ in the studio?

RD: The limiters, tap slap and sometimes a digital delay.

MR: Let's discuss mic selection.

RD: McVie plays an Alembic bass which we take direct, no problem. Miking Mick's drums are a problem because he has a very strange habit of playing with his mouth open.

The drums are miked overall by two Neumann M49s about six feet away and at a 45 angle. Sometimes I use very few mics to avoid phasing problems and at other times I mic each drum individually for the separation. The drums are always meticulously tuned somewhat flat.

On the toms, I prefer the U-47 FET for the lows and the KM-86 for the highs [both Neumanns]. The Shure SM-57 is a good mic for the bass [drum] and snare, but the Beyer M-88 is my favorite overall for the bass. I place one in the center and another on the side for the midrange attack.

The snares can be miked with any of the three among the KM-86, SM-57 or the AKG C-451E for the highs. The 451s are also used as overheads on hi-hats and the Nemann KM-84 is sometimes used because it isn't quite as "edgy" as the 451.

MR: What keyboards does Christine have set up in the studio?

RD: Christine plays a Yamaha Electric CP30, a Rhodes 73 and a Hohner Electric Pianet which are all miked direct. On the 9-foot Yamaha Grand piano, I use three mics placed for the highs, midrange and lows. In that manner I can then switch around to see which mics I want to keep.

MR: What do you use for the vocals?

RD: Neumann U-87 or a U-47 tube-type. Sometimes a M-49 if I want a brighter sound.

MR: The miking and special effects on Lindsey's guitars are of special interest. Let's take the miking procedures first.

RD: We sometimes use a Fat box to mic Lindsey direct. When he plays acoustic, we use a Sony ECM50 taped to the face of the guitar. We place a 451 and a SM-57 on the amps or use the U-47 tube-type in place of the 57.

MR: Lindsey, your fingers look like hamburger. I cannot recall having ever seen or heard you using a pick. Could you give me a lesson or two in your technique?

Lindsey Buckingham: Right now I think I own about fifty guitars. My favorite electric guitars are a Gretsch, a Fender Stratocaster and an older Gibson Les Paul. I have never used a pick. I also tend to play with rather extreme pressure on the frets.

MR: What special effects do you use in the studio?

LB: Special effects in the studio are almost restricted to tape slap. On stage I use a Space Echo and a Morley Volume Pedal. I built my own fuzz box by using the guts out of something else.

MR: Richard, give me some idea of how you assign tracks.

RD: The bass guitar and drums are priorities so I run a direct from the bass onto track 1 and mic the bass amp on track 2. The bass drum is on track 3, the snare on 4 and the tom-toms on 5 and 6 with the cymbals, too. Tracks 7, 8 and 9 are reserved for the keyboards usually and 10 and 11 are for Lindsey's guitars. The rest of the tracks are for the vocals and overdubs.

MR: What's this thing?

KK: This thing is a "Dingle."

MR: And that is .....?

KK: A microphone.

MR: But it is only an eighth-of-an-inch square and only as thick as a sheet of paper.

KK: And it costs $7.86 and is as good as any Neumann. [Please Neumann, send all complaints directly to Mr Klinger - Ed.]

MR: You mean to tell me that you are recording Fleetwood Mac on a dime-store microphone?

KK: Actually, that's not what it is made for [ie, recording instruments].

MR: I didn't think so.

KK: They cost us $7.86 including tax. We use them on acoustic guitars, pianos, drums and are as sharp and clear as any Neumann. Only we won't tell you who makes them because it is our secret. But I will tell you this: we have bought a crate of them and we are going to cover this studio with them - the walls, everything. We have named it Dingle for obvious reasons.

MR: I can't believe that I am sitting in the midst of one of the world's most lavish recording studios and they use 10¢-mics to record supergroups. The only thing that you need is a machine that talks back to you.

KK: We have that right over here. The Necam has made it almost impossible for an engineer to make a mistake. If you enter the wrong code, it tells you politely that you've fucked up.

[Taped across Necam's face is a quote from the motion picture 2001: A Space Odyssey which reads: "I know I've made some mistakes in the past, but I'm better now. - Hal 2001 AD."]

MR: And at home ....

RD: At home, Mick and Lindsey have both 4-track and 8-track tape recorders. Lindsey uses his home studio for developing songs and Mick uses his as a music room - a breeding ground for creativity and to have friends over for a jam.

MR: On a social level, how are the members of Fleetwood Mac interacting?

RD: Most noticeably, Lindsey and Stevie no longer have to worry about survival. I think their prosperity has made each more of an individual.

Emotions are not running as high as they were during Rumours.

MR: And their music?

RD: Exceptional.

Thanks to JulieK and Karen for posting this to the Ledge and to Anusha for formatting and sending it to us.