An Exclusive Interview with Producer/Engineer Forrester Savell (Karnivool, Dead Letter Circus)
Last week, recording software masters Toontrack unveiled the Progressive Foundry, an expansion pack for industry-standard drum programming software Superior Drummer 2, that features five complete kits (a total of 17 snare drums, 31 cymbals and five hi-hats) all captured on 26 separate channels and spanning a staggering 63 gigabytes of raw, unprocessed sounds. It’s just a part of their ongoing Metal Month celebration — which lasts all of November — that features a slew of new products catered to the metal recording engineer’s needs.
The drums in the Progressive Foundry were all recorded by renowned producer Forrester Savell (Karnivool, Dead Letter Circus) at Sing Sing Studios in Melbourne, Australia. Today we’ve got a quick interview with Savell about his approach to recording in general, including some tips and tricks and some of his most memorable experiences in the studio.
What is the first instrument you start with in a new mix?
Definitely the drums. They’re such a broadband instrument that they influence and help define everything else in the mix. Plus, there’s usually the greatest amount of diversity in the way they can be recorded, so getting a grip on the tones in addition to focusing on the rhythm of the song helps me understand the song as a whole.
Is there one instrument (including vocals) you think is harder to get right than any other? If so, which one, why, and are there any workarounds you usually end up falling back on?
It used to be bass until I started mixing with a sub. The work around for any troublesome instruments is trial and error along with a lot of repetition. Having the freedom in a mix schedule to try something out, sit with it for a few days, then come back and try something completely new — all the while comparing to the previous mix — is essential to making improvements.
What is the single most important piece of hardware equipment in your mix arsenal?
The piece of hardware I have been using most consistently over the past eight years on almost every mix (other than the DAW) is the Distressor. It gets a go every time whether it’s on bass, kick, snare or vocals.
What is the single most important piece of software equipment in your mix arsenal?
The single most important piece of software would have to be ProTools 11; being 64bit has allowed my mixes to completely open up and not be restricted by memory, which in turn allows me to reach for whatever plugin I want rather than being restricted to whatever plugin the system can handle.
Name one album you wished you had mixed.
Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd.
Which album in your discography are you most satisfied with overall in terms of sound?
I Am Giant’s Science & Survival really felt like we had defined a special sound. I was uncertain how it would go as we tracked it in an unknown studio in France, — and some parts were done in a weird little maintenance room — but when the mixes started coming together it was unbelievably satisfying to the point where I really took notice of the process and equipment we used to achieve that. I’ll aim to apply those techniques in the future.