Interviews

THE MAKING OF DAATH, PART 2: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH CO-PRODUCER/CO-ENGINEER/MIXER MARK LEWIS

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THE MAKING OF <EM>DAATH</EM>, PART 2: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH CO-PRODUCER/CO-ENGINEER/MIXER MARK LEWIS” width=”500″ height=”333″ srcset=”https://cdn-p.smehost.net/sites/2ed48fdcc3904f548299cd86d78e9885/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Lark_Mewis_10s.jpg 500w, https://cdn-p.smehost.net/sites/2ed48fdcc3904f548299cd86d78e9885/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Lark_Mewis_10s-300×199.jpg 300w” sizes=”(max-width: 500px) 100vw, 500px” /></a>
<p>Whether you realize it or not, you probably own an album that Mark Lewis has worked on. He started working with Jason Suecof at the already-legendary Audiohammer Studios for 2005’s Roadrunner United collection; since then, either working with Suecof or on his own, he has produced, engineered, and/or mixed a ridiculous number of major metal releases, including albums by Death Angel, Chimaira, The Black Dahlia Murder, DevilDriver, Trivium, Six Feet Under, Whitechapel, Demon Hunter, Charred Walls of the Damned, The Autumn Offering, and more. Hell, just last week <a href=we debuted a Holy Grail track, and didn’t even realize that Mark mixed the song until after the fact!

Mark is obviously ridiculously good at what he does, but he also happens to be a super cool dude — which is probably why artists are so ready to work him over and over again. In fact, Daath’s self-titled album, which Century Media will release on October 25 (pre-order it here), is his second time working with guitarists Emil Werstler and Eyal Levi (who co-produced and co-engineered the album with Lewis) just this year — he was also on-board for their excellent Avalanche of Worms album (and wrote a great guest blog for MetalSucks upon that album’s release).

When I was in Atlanta for a few days this past June visiting Daath in the studio (read my report here), I managed to pull Mark away from his console for a little while to pick his brain on the creation of this ridiculously good album. Read the full transcript of our chat after the jump.

THE MAKING OF <EM>DAATH</EM>, PART 2: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH CO-PRODUCER/CO-ENGINEER/MIXER MARK LEWIS” width=”300″ height=”270″ srcset=”https://cdn-p.smehost.net/sites/2ed48fdcc3904f548299cd86d78e9885/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Daath-Cover-300×270.jpg 300w, https://cdn-p.smehost.net/sites/2ed48fdcc3904f548299cd86d78e9885/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Daath-Cover.jpg 500w” sizes=”(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px” /></a>This is your third time now working with these guys in some form or another — at least with Emil and Eyal.</strong>
<p>Yeah.  Technically it would be more, because there was a little bit of work done at some point on <em>The Hinderers</em>, which of course, never saw the light of day.  There’s quite a few of us, a lot of mixers that took part in test mixes for that album.  That was kind of a no brainer that Colin [Richardson] ended up mixing it, because he did an amazing job.  It sounded phenomenal.  This would be the third time that I’m making a record with them that would get released.
<p><strong>From an outsider’s perspective, what have you seen change in the band over the past few years?</strong><div class=

They’ve definitely become more of a consistent band stylistically.  I’ve seen that in a lot of bands, especially bands that I work with after their first album, or where I’ve done repeat albums with them.  You see a band really start to find their style, more or less because they have a more concrete lineup.  I think when they made The Hinderers, it wasn’t nearly as a cemented of a lineup as it is now, and there wasn’t the chemistry that had been developed between Emil and Eyal and things like that.  You start to see, not necessarily a formula, but certain things that work.  I think they’re finally figuring that out.  Even I don’t sometimes understand exactly how they work, but somehow we end up making pretty great records together, I think.

How do you feel as a producer/engineer about the approach they’re taking to making this record?  They have the skeletal structures worked out, but then all the fun stuff is getting written right there on the spot.

That’s a lot of fun.  We have a lot of fun in the control room.  I will tell you that it was a little frustrating tracking the drums.  I’m sure that Eyal or Kevin [Talley] would tell you that, too.  Normally as a producer — and it’s getting harder and harder because budgets are getting smaller and smaller — you’d like to be able to sit with a band for a few weeks and do preproduction with them, rather than just exchange demos on the internet.  Which can be great —  I can get a demo and write them an e-mail or get on Skype or whatever it is and make a suggestion —  but when you go in sometimes with the songs a little open-ended, it can be a little nerve-racking.

But at the same time, I think we captured some pretty magical stuff, because Eyal’s idea was to not over-think this [record], because you end up trying to match demos or try to recapture a vibe that was so good.  It’s like, why redo it?  Keeping demos is fine, but I think the approach was, “Let’s not over-think it so we can capture it really right rather than trying to make a more polished version of the demo.”

A big part of your job is working with a lot of different personalities.  Is it hard to switch gears, to know that this is how you have to communicate with this member of the band as opposed to how you have to communicate with that member of the band?

I don’t look at it as something difficult.  I think that’s what has allowed me to do what I do.  What I do isn’t magic.  Sure, I can capture magic or whatever that is.  I think a ton of what I do is being able to communicate with band members, because there are tons of guys who can run ProTools and a million guys who can put a mic on a guitar cabinet.  You have to be able to communicate.  I think a lot of us out there working are able to do that.  It’s a big part of making everybody in the band feel comfortable, because definitely every band has different tensions and different things that you have to work around.  That’s a big part of why you’ve got to keep it fun and try to keep it humorous or make people feel comfortable.  You can’t ever make them feel threatened.

THE MAKING OF <EM>DAATH</EM>, PART 2: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH CO-PRODUCER/CO-ENGINEER/MIXER MARK LEWIS” width=”500″ height=”223″ srcset=”https://cdn-p.smehost.net/sites/2ed48fdcc3904f548299cd86d78e9885/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Emil-and-Mark.jpg 500w, https://cdn-p.smehost.net/sites/2ed48fdcc3904f548299cd86d78e9885/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Emil-and-Mark-300×133.jpg 300w” sizes=”(max-width: 500px) 100vw, 500px” /></a>
<p style=This wonderful photo of Emil Werstler and the back of Mark Lewis’ head courtesy of being in the middle of the ninth straight hour of that evening’s recording session.

How much work do you do in advance of the recording process starting?  It does sound like they had kind of a sound in mind for this record… or am I totally misjudging that?

Like how much work do I do in preparation?

Maybe you don’t do any; maybe you just listen to demos and think about it.  I guess that’s what I’m asking: what do you do in advance of making the album?  [laughs]

It’s different with every album.  I just came off the DevilDriver record, and their preproduction is very complete.  It’s different for every band.  On Dååth, preproduction was a little bit more open-ended, which is two really cool approaches.  It’s like with the DevilDriver, I was able to make more detailed notes than I was with something like Dååth.  At the same time, we’re still discussing songs, still discussing where we’d like to go with it.  There are definitely visions that people try to present you with before you start a record.  You kind of have to do a little research.  You have to figure out, “Is this going to be one of those records where I’m just basically making a straight forward metal record with guitar, bass and drums, or am I just making one of those records where it’s going to be layers and layers of stuff?  What do I really have to prepare myself for?”  That helps, at least for me, budget my time.  “What am I getting myself into here?”  Sometimes when you’re just making a record that’s very straight forward, and sometimes you end up doing Dååth records like this one, where it’s extremely layered, and you really have to figure out what things are most paramount.  Then you can let Emil or Eyal go off on their own and spend five or six hours tweaking an overdub that I don’t have to be there for, because it’s just not a critical thing for a producer to be a part of.  That’s the main thing, when you have this many layers, is that you have to really pick and choose what you want to spend your time on, unless you can spend six months on an album… which is not really possible anymore.

Did you have goals for this album coming into it?  Obviously it’s much more collaborative in there than just you shutting up and hitting the “record” button.

Yeah, it is a collaborative thing.  I definitely had a vision for it.  I know that we really wanted to make a record that was different and not modern sounding.  They specifically said to me, “We know the records you’ve done, and we know the records that you and Jason [Suecof] have made together.  We love the way they sound.  That’s not the way that we want to sound. We don’t want to sound like The Concealers again, and we don’t want to sound like The Hinderers again.  We don’t want that drum sound or that guitar sound.”  That’s my comfort zone, and every producer has their comfort zone.  They were like, “No, we want to make a real sounding record.  We want to make a statement.”

One of the things that was a real mission for us was to have a drum sound that was very real and believable. It was like a big wall of sound, kind of like those older records.  A lot of that comes from the players.  It’s something that you can pull off with guys like Kevin and guys like Eyal and Emil and Jeremy [Creamer].  They’re all just incredible musicians, and they can make a real record. Not that the other bands that I’ve worked with can’t, but… some bands specifically want a more modern sound. These guys just want to sound like them, which is something that I think is great.  It’s more of a challenge and more of a signature sonically for somebody to want to create, rather than just be a part of some sound that they associate me with or associate AudioHammer with.

THE MAKING OF <EM>DAATH</EM>, PART 2: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH CO-PRODUCER/CO-ENGINEER/MIXER MARK LEWIS” width=”299″ height=”300″ srcset=”https://cdn-p.smehost.net/sites/2ed48fdcc3904f548299cd86d78e9885/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Avalanche-of-Worms-299×300.jpg 299w, https://cdn-p.smehost.net/sites/2ed48fdcc3904f548299cd86d78e9885/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Avalanche-of-Worms-150×150.jpg 150w, https://cdn-p.smehost.net/sites/2ed48fdcc3904f548299cd86d78e9885/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Avalanche-of-Worms.jpg 383w” sizes=”(max-width: 299px) 100vw, 299px” /></a>Can you talk a little bit about what, if any, you see as the division of responsibilities between yourself and Eyal, or what it’s like to have a co-producer on a project?</strong>
<p>I think just about every band can kind of co-produce to some degree, but I think that Eyal is very driven musically, and definitely has a vision that he sees as wanting to be complete.  He’s normally there for 90% of the time, whether he’s tracking or whether he’s sitting behind me while I’m tracking somebody else.  In the end, it’s kind of his baby — although I don’t think he’ll ever want to take away from the contributions of the other guys in the band.  But he’s just that type of guy, and he’s a producer himself.  It’s kind of a no-brainer.  He also knows when to step away, and we have a really good working relationship.
<p>When we did <em>Avalanche of Worms</em>, it was like, they showed up at the studio with two weeks to mix a record that was 65% done.  It’s like, “Okay, here you go Mark.  There are two songs that are done.  Get started on the mix, we’re just going to go into the other room back here, drink coffee and stay up all night and finish tracking this record while you’re mixing it.”  He knows what it’s like to be in the trenches in the studio.  It’s not hard to share with somebody like that, especially when there’s a mutual respect there musically.  He’s worked with brilliant, brilliant producers.  He’s worked with Colin, he’s worked with Jason, so he knows how to communicate to somebody what he wants.  I can only hope to do as good a job as they’ve done in the past.<div class=

That’s very modest of you.

Just the way it is, man.  Those dudes are amazing people.

You haven’t had a vacation in forever.  You literally stepped off the plane from doing DevilDriver and came right here.

[laughs] I did, yeah.

And this has not been an easy work schedule, obviously.

No, no.

What’s next for you once you survive this… I guess I should say “if” you survive this. If they let you leave Atlanta alive.

I still have to tie up some loose ends on the DevilDriver, and then I get to go to Orlando and see what that brings me.  I’m sure there are quite a few things on my plate.  I can’t say right now exactly what those are, but there are definitely some records coming up that people will be listening to for sure that I’ll be involved in. I’m notorious for never taking a vacation, but I think most of us in this business are.

Cool.  Anything you want to add?

I’m excited about this record.  I’m hoping that it starts to catch on, that people start to realize that these dudes are pretty much some of the best musicians in the genre. They’re so incredibly unique and such good people.  I don’t know.  I’m just lucky to be involved in it, and lucky to have what I have.

-AR

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