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Author Topic: Really great new interview with Mark Linnett  (Read 854 times)
Pablo.
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« on: November 23, 2021, 06:24:52 PM »

Today I got in my email the latest number of Tape Op magazines, with a really interesting interview with Mark Linnett, which I proced to share with you.

Key points:

The economics of an archival project. (Feel Flows has performed really well)
The next one!
Remixing
Why Chuck Brtiz stopped recording
Locating tapes
Working on iHeart Radio


Mark Linett
Surfing the Sessions
by Larry Crane

We first interviewed Mark Linett in Tape Op #47
about his work with Brian Wilson and The Beach
Boys. Since then he’s overseen an extensive amount of
The Beach Boys’ archives, and with the recent release
of Feel Flows: The Sunflower & Surf’s Up Sessions
1969–1971, I dropped Mark a line to see how projects
such as these get done. We also got the chance to talk
about his mobile recording work. Check out this
interview soon on the Tape Op Podcast as well!

You’ve done a fair amount of these Beach Boys box sets now.

A ton of them. My first CD was Pet Sounds [remastering], all the Capitol era albums, and
the bonus tracks, the ‘93 Good Vibrations box, and The Pet Sounds Sessions.

That’s a good starting point. That Good Vibrations: Thirty Years
of The Beach Boys box set was kind of my introduction into
what extra tracks were out there.

Yeah. The one that we did in 2013, Made in California, that’s even more extensive and upto-
date, just in terms of the mastering. It didn’t get quite as much attention. The
difference between the record-buying public in 1993 and 2012 was quite large. I have a
gold record for selling 125,000 copies of the Good Vibrations box. You bought it or you
didn’t back then. In ‘93 we couldn’t even steal it online.

Yeah. That was a totally different era.

Totally different world. This new one’s a big success having sold out its initial run of, I think,
10,000 physical units, which is exceptional these days.

How do the economics of this work?

Whenever we do a project, we tell them what we’re
proposing – as far as how big it is, and then how much
it’ll cost. It’s all price-fixed. There’s no more “just do it and
bill for it until it’s done” kind of projects, on probably any
level. They somehow run some algorithm that says, “Yes,
we think we can sell X, and so we’ll allow you to do Y.”
In this case, it’s exceeded what they expected, so I guess
the guardrails will be somewhat wider next time. It’s all
beyond me. I miss the good old days, when, on any
project, not just this one, it was pretty much, “Do it until
the money runs out.” I worked on so many projects back
in the day that seemed to have endless budgets. Of
course, they would never recoup.

With the instigation of something like
Feel Flows, are you and archivist Alan
Boyd discussing what’s in the vaults?

Oh, yeah. The main advantage we have is that for 20
years now, we’ve been transferring and archiving
everything to high-res digital. Up to this point, we
pretty much had everything already on file and from
that we had a pretty good idea of what we had to work
with. There’re maybe 20 or 30 tapes for the next period
that I need to pull and transfer. We’ve transferred
about 90 percent of the Beach Boys’ holdings, which
are very extensive.

I find it amazing that items weren’t lost
in the archive, or not archived.

Yeah, some were. Actually, of their major recordings,
there’re a handful of things that we don’t have and
never found. We don’t really know what happened. We
could guess at a few cases. There are some that have
come back to us over the years, either under
somebody’s bed, or tapes that were borrowed by
persons known and unknown. I personally paid for a
huge pile of stuff that was being offered to us by some
kid ten years ago. Clearly, he wasn’t the one who got
them. I wound up paying for them and sitting on
them, and I was finally able to get someone to pay me
back. But if I hadn’t bought them, they would have
gone who knows where.

Right.

There’s a studio out here called Valentine [Recording
Studios, Tape Op #116]. It’s actually back in business
now. The Beach Boys recorded in it in ‘68. They did
some of 20/20 there, the song “Break Away.” Around
10 or 15 years ago, an engineer friend of mine called
me up. I had called them – as I called every studio
in town I knew they’d ever worked at one point,
looking for material – and asked. He said, “No, we
don’t have anything.” This was when they were still
in business. When the owner died, they basically
locked the door and left it. His kids owned the
building and were running another business next
door [Metropolitan Pit Stop].

With the little cars!

Oh, you’ve been there?

Yeah, I’ve been to the studio.

Somebody got in the studio and said, “Hey, I was in the
tape vault, and there’s a Beach Boys tape.” I got ahold
of the then-owner, which was the daughter, and I got
to see the 1-inch tape, but they wouldn’t let me have
it because they weren’t studio people. It took me eight
years to get it back. It wasn’t until Nic Jodoin, the
producer who’s been running the place, took over and
told them, “No, no, no.” I finally got it back after eight
years. It was the 1-inch, 8-track master for a song
called “All I Want to Do,” which is on 20/20. It was
three different reductions from a previous 8-track, with
three different lead vocals. Two by Dennis [Wilson],
one by Mike [Love], the Mike one being the one that’s
on the album. But it took eight years to get it back.

When you come across reduction mixes,
are you always able to synchronize
them back up with the previous tape?
You obviously did so for Pet Sounds.

Oh yeah, sure. I do it all the time. I was actually looking
at something over the weekend and debating whether
to or not; I probably will try to sync it up. I’ve gotta
see what’s been added, because sometimes parts get
added as the reduction is made, as part of the
reduction, and that can be an issue. Not terribly often,
but in this period. Until they got to 16-track they were
still doing 1-inch, 8-track. And then Steve Desper
would mix the track down to two or maybe four tracks
on the next 8-track, leaving 4 tracks or 6 tracks for
vocals. We have a number of songs like that on this
set. Going forward it’s all 16-track.

Yeah. That starts to make it an easier
transition, in certain ways.

Yeah, it’s one less thing to do. I’m going to miss the fact
that Desper isn’t engineering anymore, because his
work was so good. When you pull the tapes up, it’s a
real revelation. Not a surprising one.

I assume you’re sourcing the original
master mixes on a lot of this for the
albums?

Yeah. We reissued the two original albums. This project
has been very convoluted, for a lot of reasons. We were
talking at one point about doing a remix, and some of
the fans were disappointed that we didn’t do a remix.
But then if we had done it, there would be fans who
would be annoyed that we’d done a remix. I personally
felt like, given the number of formats, we have a five
CD box, a two CD box, and vinyl, 4 LP vinyl and 2 LP,
that maybe we should have done it. It was never really
seriously discussed, however. Possibly from a cost basis.
It seems to me that unless you’re The Beatles, you don’t
get away with that.

To be able to hear an album in a
different light can be really
fascinating, to understand how the
music was built.

Just to hear it. I remember when I started with this
organization in ’87, working on Brian’s first solo record.
I don’t remember why, but, at some point, we rented
an Otari machine. It was a 1-inch 8-track, or a machine
that had 1-inch heads. They sent over the 1-inch Pet
Sounds master, which had about half the album on it,
with the track in mono and the rest of the tracks, some
of them anyway, being vocals. I just remember being
able to push up the faders and hear that. At that point
I was completely unaware how it had started. The
tracking date was done on three tracks of a 4-track and
bounced down to mono. But yeah, I love hearing that.
I wish I could have made records back then. It was a
lot more exciting than the layer cake approach. By the
time I got into the studio, it was 16-track already. We
were heavily into building it in pieces. There’s nothing
wrong with that, but there are few things I’ve done,
even if they’d been done multitrack in the digital age,
where you’ve got everything out on the floor. I did a
soundtrack for a cast album years ago in New York, with
a full pit orchestra, and the singers in booths. A cast
album is very expensive, because they get paid a
considerable amount for every day that they’re
recording a soundtrack album. You pretty much have to
get it right on the spot. You don’t do endless vocal
overdub sessions. Of course, they’ve been doing eight
shows a week. It’s not a heavy lift for them to do that.
But to do something that way, with everything laid
out and coming at you. I once asked [engineer] Chuck
Britz, who did all of the early Beach Boys records – all
the big hits – why he stopped. When I met him in
1993, he was working in the tape copy room at Hanna-
Barbera. A wasted talent. I asked him why he stopped
making records at a fairly young age. His answer was,
“Mark, I couldn’t stand all that overdubbing.” I can
understand that! Those vocal sessions must have been
hard enough, because that took lots and lots of time.
To go from the excitement of cutting the “God Only
Knows” backing track in one long four or five hour
session and never changing a note, to, “Oh yeah, let’s
sit around all day and do voice overdubs and isolate
everything.” That must have been tough for an
engineer. I’m sure he was on salary, but I’m sure he
booked overtime at some point.

With the archive work, when do you
make a call whether to do a new mix?

Well, this album was kind of interesting in that there
were some original mixes that we didn’t use. But,
frankly, sonically they weren’t terribly great.

Just odd balances?

There are a few things on here that never made it to CD
before, so we specifically included that. I suppose, to
a certain extent, it’s a kind of vanity that you want
to do it as opposed to just leaving it. Like I said
about remixing the albums, I’ve never really heard
anybody else’s remixes that I thought were better.
Maybe that’s just me, but I never really found The
Beatles remixes… It’s like, they remixed Abbey Road?
Why? Remix Who’s Next? Why? If it’s only as an
alternate way of looking at it, it’s fine. That was our
big thing when we did Pet Sounds in stereo, to make
a big point that it’s not meant to replace it. It’s just
an alternate way of listening to it. It specifically
wasn’t ever meant to be released on its own, which,
of course, lasted about a minute. What worries me
about remixes is that since everything is online and
streaming, if you go and listen to something, which
version are you going to get? If that’s what’s being
exposed to a new listener, as opposed to what the
artist originally approved and intended, then it gets
a little dicey. I would never want to do it and have it
replace the original.

What’s the next Beach Boys era?
Holland?

It hasn’t been set in stone yet, but I think it’s going
to happen. We’re going to do Carl and the Passions,
Holland, and we also have their concerts from
Carnegie Hall in 1972 and another one the day
before in Passaic, New Jersey. Those all have to be
released in some form. The other thing that’s been
driving a lot of this is this weird copyright law in the
U.K. When it was last modified, it said that what
hasn’t been commercially released within 50 years of
its creation – not released, but creation – if it wasn’t
released within 50 years and it does come out, it’s
public domain. It’s why you see these Dylan
bootlegs. The problem with The Beach Boys, is that
somewhere in the early ‘80s their stuff got heavily
bootlegged. We’ve been dealing with that, because
if it’s already out there as a bootleg and we don’t
release it legitimately, then the anybody can own
the bootlegs. Let’s release it legitimately in some
form to retain ownership. It’s kind of been a boon
for the fans. The project we did in 2018 for the
Friends and 20/20 albums [Wake the World: The
Friends Sessions, I Can Hear Music: The 20/20
Sessions], which unfortunately not was not a
physical release, wouldn’t have happened at all if it
weren’t for the copyright. We did all the usual
things; tracks, mixes, but there was a lot on there
that was unreleased, including half a dozen live
shows. If it weren’t for that copyright law, we
probably wouldn’t have been able to do those
projects. That’s the wonderful thing about The Beach
Boys controlling their tapes and not turning them
into Capitol all of those years. If they had turned in
all the Pet Sounds takes we have, Capitol would have
kept maybe the last three or four tracks, or the eight
tracks, and that’s it. They would have thrown out the
sessions. I don’t blame them; you can imagine they’d
need a warehouse the size of Rhode Island by now.

You’ve focused on the live recording
aspect recently.

Ten years ago I basically put my focus on live
recording for broadcast. I work for iHeartRadio,
among others. Tomorrow will be our sixth show this
year. We’ll be doing Coldplay tomorrow. When I get
done with you, and I’ve gotta go over there and get
my COVID test.

You never thought you’d be doing that
just to do a job!

No. You think about all kinds of things, but a pandemic
that’s going to shut down the world and everything
you do was not at the top of my list for worry.

Describe your mobile truck and
everything for us.

Yeah, we built this mobile truck 11 years ago. It’s
actually the same as what we have at iHeart, based
around a Digidesign D-Control as the mixing surface.
Using a static Pro Tools system with plug-ins as the
mixer, which is great because if you go out live and
just capture it, you can pick it up on a drive and take
it home and pick up right where you left off. That’s
what this truck originally had. I think we were
probably running 80 inputs, or something, max. Then,
about five years ago, there were worries about the
reliability of using the Pro Tools surface that way.
There’s no redundancy and Pro Tools can be quirky.
I’ve noticed.
We got rid of those and bought Lawo digital consoles.
They sound great. I’ve still gotta mix in Pro Tools, so
we’re going to start over if I do that.

How many inputs are you currently
running on your mobile truck?

It depends. The truck can do 192, and that doesn’t
happen anyway. You get close to that at the Grammy
Awards because they’ve got two stages and all that.
For iHeart we can do 80. About 12 of those are taken
up with audience mics and production. We’ve got
hosts and media playback. Coldplay’s way more than
that, but they have a real good stem mix setup. We’ll
be dealing somewhere in the neighborhood of 40,
plus production. It’s funny to put up a 16-track or a
24-track tape and just go, “Oh, this is nothing. This
is nothing!”

<www.mandbaudio.com>


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thetojo
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« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2021, 07:04:57 PM »

Great interview. Really interesting, covering a few things that you don't often hear about, like the economic considerations.

Thanks for sharing it.
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Emdeeh
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« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2021, 08:48:26 PM »

Great insights -- thanks for sharing!
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Joshilyn Hoisington
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« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2021, 07:27:45 PM »

It's OK, Chuck, I won't make you overdub a single darn thing!
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Awesoman
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« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2021, 05:46:06 AM »

Should they proceed with another box set documenting the Ricky/Blondie years, I wouldn't mind hearing those albums remixed.  They always suffered a little from sounding dry and adding a *tad* more reverb and a fuller stereo sound might breathe new life into these albums.  And maybe we can finally get an official release of "Carry Me Home"...!
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