As part of our partnership with Swedish recording software company Toontrack for Metal Month all November, Gear Gods will be bringing you a series of exclusive interviews and features to highlight Toontrack’s new products designed specifically for the metal recording engineer and player.
Toontrack’s newest release is Metal! EZX, a drum sample library for EZdrummer based on a new drum recording engineered by Daniel Bergstrand (Meshuggah, Devin Townsend, In Flames, Behemoth, etc). The raw material was then individually remixed by Mark Lewis (The Black Dahlia Murder, Six Feet Under, Holy Grail, etc), Jason Suecof (The Black Dahlia Murder, Job For a Cowboy, Born of Osiris, etc) and Bergstrand himself into nine drum kits tailor-made for metal. Metal! EZX is a must-have for recording enthusiasts looking for the absolute best tones in programmable metal drums. Learn more about Metal! EZX and purchase it here.
To celebrate the release of Metal! EZX, we landed an exclusive interview with Bergstrand, Lewis and Suecof to talk recording techniques, mixing strategy, their favorite records they’ve worked on and more.
Q: What is the first instrument you start with in a new mix?
What is the first instrument you start with in a new mix?
Daniel Bergstrand: I always start with the kick and the ambiences.
Mark Lewis: I tend to pull up the guitars first and listen to them with no EQ so I know which direction I need to go in – EQ, re-amp, etc. But at pretty much the same time I’ll pull up the drums and bass so I can hear how everything is sounding together. I will make a decision on how to treat everything once I hear the tones working together.
Jason Suecof: I start with drums because they are the foundation of the album. If your drums don’t sound good, the rest of the mix is going to be weak.
Is there one instrument (including vocals) you think is harder to get right than any other? If so, which instrument, why, and are there any workarounds you usually end up falling back on?
Daniel: I guess I have to say the ride cymbal. it’s such a multilingual instrument. I sometimes use several mics and I volume-ride them during the mix. I’ll even add hits from Superior Drummer if needed.
Mark: Tough question! I’ll say that guitars and the snare drum are the most time consuming quite often depending on what I have to do. Maybe bass if it’s a bad performance or a bad sounding bass. Those are the three instruments I hear that most other mixers don’t get right according to my tastes the most often. But you never know what you’re going to get sometimes when you are mixing an album someone else has engineered. I’ve had struggles and I’ve had a very easy time with every instrument. It’s a blessing when it’s easy and a nightmare when it’s not.
Jason: I think it’s sometimes hard to get bass guitar right because there’s so much going on in metal. yYou have to find a good place for the bass to live with all the kick drums going on. It takes a good amount of kick automation to make sure your bass doesn’t get buried. You just have to work at it until it’s right and automate the hamburger out of your kick drums.
What is the single most important piece of hardware equipment in your mix arsenal?
Daniel: Hard to say, maybe one of my Fatsos from Empirical Labs.
Mark: That’s a toss up between my preamps and converters. They are both vital to a good sound. I prefer Neve 1073 (or Neve inspired) preamps and I use Apogee Symphony converters. And if I can’t use those, I prefer Lynx or Avid converters.
Jason: I would say any set of my Genelecs. They are speakers I am familiar with, and that’s something you want – a listening source that you know what you are hearing on. So, that – and ears are pretty important!
What is the single most important piece of software equipment in your mix arsenal?
Daniel: Maybe Izotope RX, that software still chocks me.
Mark: Pro Tools! Nothing makes sense to me like that program. I could do mixes with their stock plugins if I had to.
Jason: Avid Pro Tools HD.
Name one album you wished you had engineered.
Daniel: Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile.
Mark: Tough question too! So many amazing recordings and songs I wish I could have been a part of. But I’d say I’d love to have been there for Metallica’s Master of Puppets, Megadeth’s Rust in Peace and Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss. Oh, and Steely Dan’s Aja! Or Black Sabbath’s Sabotage. Or 16 Horsepower’s Haw EP. Or Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along The Watchtower” recording session…. I could go on for days! Those recordings all fascinate me.
Jason: I wish I could have worked on any Death album or anything with Chuck Schuldiner since I was such a huge Death fan. That, or if there was a Megadeth album in between Rust in Peace and Countdown to Extinction.
Which album in your discography are you most satisfied with overall in terms of sound?
Daniel: Puls by Port Noir.
Mark: Hmm… How about top five? Black Dahlia Murder’s Nocturnal, Bury Your Dead’s Beauty And The Breakdown, Devildriver’s Winter Kills, Arsis’ Unwelcome and Whitechapel’s self-titled. There are lots of others I really enjoy too.
Jason: Nocturnal by Black Dahlia Murder. It was tracked well by Eric Rachel. Great players, great songs! Overall I feel it’s just a pulverizing album that hits you in the head with a hammer and destroys your soul!
Metal! EZX is available now via Toontrack right here. Watch the trailer below.