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Friday, January 04, 2013

Producer John Hanlon On Recording Neil Young's two latest albums, Americana and Psychedelic Pill

Producer John Hanlon

Here's an article that we missed getting posted last year which really deserves highlighting.

A very essential read if you're into all of the technical details of making a Neil Young album. Here's a Mix magazine interview with producer John Hanlon about the recording process for Neil Young's two latest albums, Americana and Psychedelic Pill. From Mix magazine's October 2012 issue, Producer John Hanlon talks about recording Neil Young's two latest albums by Barbara Schultz:
In August 2011, Hanlon got the call to head up from his home in Malibu to Young’s ranch in Northern California. “They told me we’d be working with Crazy Horse and Mark Humphreys,” Hanlon explains. “Mark is Neil’s monitor engineer onstage; he runs the P.A. in the studio. We record everything live, with no headphones. There’s some overdubbing later, but he always goes for the live performance feel. It’s always about the performance with him.”

“I was to build a studio in one of the houses on the ranch where David Briggs and Tim Mulligan had done American Stars ’n Bars with Neil back in the ’80s,” Hanlon says. “And he wanted to do it 8-track analog, which meant we’d also snapshot to Pro Tools, but he wanted an 8-track setup, in the building they call the ‘white house.’

“First I went up for some preliminary meetings with my assistant engineer, John Hausmann, to lay out the space and check out the acoustics. I purposely didn’t ask how they had set up the room for American Stars ’n Bars. I wanted to feel the vibe in the room without any preconceived notions of copying what they did. That was the 1980s; sounds and amplifiers, and where people’s heads were, would have affected the sound coming off of the instruments and from their souls at that time, anyway.

Everything changes.
More of interview on Mix magazine.

John Nowland (left) w/ Will Shanks and "The Green Board"
The Making of The Neil Young Archives

Also, see The Making of The Neil Young Archives.

Labels: , ,


At 1/04/2013 09:25:00 AM, Blogger John said...

If anyone is interested in reading another Neil Young blog (it's hard to compete with this one), I've started a blog that focusses purely on the albums rather than trying to out-Thrash Thrasher on the news front. The idea is to do an essay on each album, going into context and analysis, mixing the known facts and a (critical) fan's ear.

I've covered the self-titled debut and intend to go through all the albums along with related artists like Buffalo Springfield, CSN(Y), The Rockets/Crazy Horse, etc.

At 1/04/2013 10:03:00 AM, Blogger Old Black said...

I really enjoyed this article - thanks for posting the link. I learned something that I already suspected (especially now that I have both Americana and PP on vinyl) - the low-end is treated differently on both. I find the mix on American has too much low end and that subtracts from the mids that I like from Crazy Horse. It gives it a muddy sound. According to this article, Neil was using a Deluxe and Tremolux with Americana and went to the 6l6 Deluxe and Maggie 280 for PP. The latter set up gives his rig a lot more mid-highs. Also, Billy's rig benefits from not potting up a preamp before his amp on PP.

Very cool stuff. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during those sessions (a vibrating fly at that).

At 1/04/2013 10:43:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stars and Bars was not recorded in the 80's, come on man!!!

At 1/04/2013 11:12:00 AM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I also cringed when he repeatedly mentions the notion that American Stars & Bars was recorded in the 80's...ughhhh...I know Briggs broght you in for Ragged Glory Mr. Hanlon but geez...

At 1/04/2013 11:13:00 AM, Blogger Jonathan said...


At 1/04/2013 10:59:00 PM, Blogger wardo said...

Ugh indeed. Could he have been thinking of Hawks & Doves? Could the writer of the article have been bothered to take two seconds to fact-check it?

At 1/05/2013 08:40:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well he DID go in with a preconceived notion that Stars and Bars was recorded in the 80's LMAO!

At 1/05/2013 07:20:00 PM, Anonymous Johan said...

Is that the studio that's pictured in the movie Horse Back that was up on Neil's site last year? It must be. So much cool old equipment. I just got PsychPill on Blu-ray and that was really cool to see the HB video in HD quality. It was cool in quicktime but on the disk it's really cool. I do wish that NY had found the original film footage for more of the videos, especially walk like a giant, instead of blowing little pixilated artifacted youtube videos up to 1080 res.

At 1/06/2013 02:29:00 PM, Anonymous The RealDOD said...

I just purchased a DAC (Digital- to Analog) portable amp for my Ipod Classic.Ragged Glory thru this amp is just sublime now, as is the Pill. I'm hearing stuff I didn't before.The amp bypasses the Classic amp output thru the dock connection on the bottom.Ralph's drums and Billy's bass are thumping like live now.Wow! Is this like PONO coming this summer?. I can't imagime what lossless will sound like!

At 1/06/2013 07:21:00 PM, Anonymous Jos said...

A nice article on technical engineering stuff, but it is the result of the recording that counts. And that's rather disappointing, mr. Hanlon. The mixing of Psychedelic Pill is messed up. On all songs, on Drifting Back in particular, the guitar solos from Neil are too far away in the background. Sometimes Neil's guitar is drowned by Poncho's guitar. The sound balance of both guitars is totally wrong. Disappointing!

At 1/08/2013 02:37:00 PM, Blogger Dmitri Karamazov said...

Psychedelic Pill is UNQUESTIONABLY a great record, in the tradition of Zuma and Highway 61 Revisited. By this I mean: GREAT songs + GREAT performances + GREAT recording = GREAT record.

Once again, Neil shows the world how it's done!


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