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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Meanwhile Back At The Ranch: Interview with John Nowland, Audio Engineer | Audio Technology

John Nowland
Broken Arrow Ranch, California, ~2008

Recently, Thrasher's Wheat re-posted a 2009 major examination of the The Making of The Neil Young Archives Volume #1 . Those were exciting times for both The Neil Young Archives Team at Shakey Pictures, as well as, us here at TW for our small role in the product rollout. So here's a journey through the past as we look forward to the next chapter in the long twisting road of the NYA saga.

This post's for you, Archives Guy! Enjoy!

From Meanwhile Back At The Ranch | Audio Technology by Andy Stewart, here's a behind the scenes look at Neil Young’s mythical Redwood Studios with John Nowland, Audio Engineer. John is Broken Arrow’s studio manager and ‘in-house’ engineer along with Tim Mulligan, Chief Engineer-Mastering Engineer-FOH Engineer, John Hausmann, Engineer, and Harry Sitam, Chief Technical Engineer.
Sitting in ‘His Master’s Wheels’, John Nowland and I spoke for hours, listening to master tapes, running through the transfer facility’s technical setup and solving the problems of the world. John’s been working in this office for 17 years and managed Broken Arrow Ranch twice, the first time in the early ’80s, when digital recording was first becoming fashionable, and again since 1990. He’s the man behind the archive, the master of two-track transfers and an accomplished engineer. The following is just a small fraction of our conversation, which began the moment I stepped through the door.

John Nowland: This is my office. I come here every morning, go through my emails and then check around the place to make sure things are working. I’m working on several projects at once in here, all the time. We’ve got a vinyl pressing of the live Massey Hall concert from 1971 to sort out this week, and I’m waiting on test pressings for two others as well: Neil and Crazy Horse at The Fillmore and Living With War. As soon as they get here, the headphones are going on and I’ve got to approve those.

My second stint here began on New Year’s Day 1990 after Neil called me up and asked me to come and tackle what he thought might be a couple of weeks’ worth of work, transferring some of his old master tapes. I think it was David Briggs who then rang half an hour later and said; “No, no, no... don’t come down for a
couple of weeks, expect to be here for three or four months!”

So I did. I came back here full-time and immediately started working on transferring analogue master tapes into the digital realm at 16-bit/44.1k. Then, of course, 20-bit came along and made all that work obsolete. Everything was changing so fast. You know what it’s like, a new piece of equipment comes out or a new chunk of wire, a new A/D converter... whatever. Finally we got to the point where the Pacific Microsonics Model 2 [HDCD format] was brought out, which allowed us to transfer at 24-bit/176k. The Model 2s have two totally separate processor units in them that are either 48k or 44.1k, so they do 192k or 176k respectively, and they do them ostensibly better than anything that’s been made before or since.

Then, more recently, I think it was 2003 – again on New Year’s Day of all weird things – Neil called me up and said; “You know, I think I want you to do everything 192 as well.”

There was a great interview recorded in mono on a Nagra by L.A. Johnson, of Neil by over by the Harvest barn at the time they were recording the album in ’71, with him listening to a version of the song "Words".

Neil’s sitting out there playing with cow patties and drinking a Coors and talking about how great it is, hearing the sound bouncing off the hills. So we found the
take he’d been listening to at the time – which was an outtake – remixed it in mono to emulate the balances of the one in the interview and then drove a pair of Altec 604s, a Mac 2105 power amp and the Genex machine over to where the ‘Harvest’ mobile recording truck was originally positioned next to the barn, set up four Klaus Heyne-modified Neumanns (two U87s and two 86s) right where Neil had originally sat when the interview took place and blasted it out into the hills and re-recorded it.

We then did a 5.1 mix at Redwood after delaying the four surround tracks by the distance from the truck to the mics. We had to look at the original footage with Mulligan to ascertain the exact spot Neil was at during the interview. Had to edit it a bunch though, as there are a lot more planes flying overhead these days than in ‘71. A great coincidence occurred as a jet flew over at precisely the same moment as in the interview, during one of our many record passes. That 15 minute piece probably cost more to do than the DVD-A made, but it was a giggle!

John Nowland (left) w/ Will Shanks and the Green Board

Full interview @ Meanwhile Back At The Ranch | Audio Technology by Andy Stewart. (Thanks for link seldomlogical!)

Also, see The Making of The Neil Young Archives Volume #1 and INTERVIEW: Neil Young and John Nowland, Studio Manager and Engineer.

Labels: ,


At 1/22/2018 11:48:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Re: The Green Board, Neil had mentioned in his book that it was used to record Pet Sounds. Recent discussions on a Beach Boys message board, have people stating quite emphatically, that this was not the case.

At 4/02/2019 12:31:00 PM, Blogger katy bloch said...

do you have tim mulligan's contact info..i am an old college roommate from eugene, where he will be with neil young in May 2019...trying to make contact before he comes here...i am at



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