Is mastering the new mixing?
Years ago when you recorded in a studio it would be a battle.
The engineers, who looked like they read car mags and never saw sunshine, had been reared in the soft rock seventies and would do everything by the book. If the VUs crept into the red they would panic and break into a sweat, if anything sounded loud or alive they would do anything they could to muffle this interruption to their cosy world.
When punk came along this presented a real paradox, two opposite worlds colliding, resulting in lots of badly recorded songs that pleased no one, not all of course! Many punk bands got lucky with brilliant local engineers like John Brierley at Suite 16 or were signed to big enough labels to have a few goes at getting this recording thing right or were working with mixing geniuses like Martin Rushent who perfectly captured the music they were presented with.
When you went to get it cut from the tape to vinyl you had to book an early session at the famous Porky Prime Cuts as his ears would ‘go wobbly after the pub’ according to those that knew about these kind of things and you would actually spend more time working out what slogan to get him to scratch onto the run out groove of each side of the record.
The new millennium has seen recording change radically and purists are still appalled by the digital way of making music or still amazed by the way you can email a whole mix down of a song across the internet and remix it really easily and send it back.
Of course we miss the warmth of digital and enjoy the work of Steve Albini in his analogue recording as a ‘work of science’ method of recording.
But the one thing that really stands out now is the way you can master an album with a bit of softwear in your laptop and make it sound amazing. People I know sit on trains with a pair of headphones and make the flat and dull sound like a monstrous raw of a lion of sound, they turn dusty plains into huge mountain ranges of aural delight, they create oceans of high decibel aggro out of trickling streams of timid sound.
And it makes me think that mastering could well be the new mixing…what do you think?