Interview with John Douglass
want to. Ah, introduce my engineer, John Douglas. Basically, this is a guy that I've made almost records with in the past two years. If you think about that, that's a lot of records. Basically, he does everything that I do. Um, and really, really? Well, I have gone through something like 12 different dudes in the past year who have not cut it. And this has been the only guy who's managed to keep the gig with me. So I think that speaks for itself. And he has prepared some videos for you guys that show how to do this at the complete expert level and get it done super fast. So with that, I want to bring John on and let's see if we got some audio. John. Oh, John, can you hear me? Yeah. Hey, how's it going? Cool. No problem at all. So I guess now that I've, like, given you a big introduction, I want to ah, ask you about nightmare scenarios. Yeah. Um well, I guess usually the common problem is, um, sloppy drummers. Uh, and you've gotta pull apart thes these hits that are either bunched up, ...
um, and get him on the grid. And I find that when you're editing drums like that, um, in doing the sort of beat detective method, if you pull hits apart more than, say, like, 15 milliseconds, you start to hear these little buzzy glitchy artifacts. Yeah, beat detective doesn't always work for everything. And there's some ways around that. But it it's kind of like a puzzle you have to go through and get everything in time. And then, um, kind of mark all the places where you're hearing artifacts and then just try to go through a mall and and make it sound natural again. So when I've sent you nightmare scenarios, how long on average do you think it will take you to go through and edit and clean up and sample? Replace an album's worth of drums? Yes, and the worst of situations. Two weeks, 2.5. Something like that. Two weeks, um, for editing, cleanup and samples and all that kind of stuff. Um, be that probably editing would be something like five hours a song and then three hours for cleanup or so in samples and stuff. So I just want toe point out to people on the Internet who spend 345 days per song. Mind you, I just asked him about a nightmare scenario, like the worst possible situation. And it takes five hours a song. That's what you guys should be aspiring to. That means that in the best of cases, when everything is cool, it only takes you a few hours toe bang through a song, get to the next one and send it over to me, right? Yeah, something like that. Yeah. So just ah, just basically, I think that's Ah, good. Good gauge for you guys to measure against us. How fast are you moving? If it's taking you multiple days to do this, you're moving way too slow and probably focusing on the wrong things. And with that, I guess I want to talk to you about different edit methods. Like, how do you actually decide to do the right things? Like, when would you do beat detective versus elastic audio versus manual editing? Like what? How do you make the right calls on that? Because if you make the wrong calls, it's almost like a wormhole. You go, uh, and spend way too long editing drums and ruin your life. Sure, Well, like the Remember the first couple albums I worked on with you. I started adding the drums and logic, and then I had to pull him in a pro tools and do all these Emmanuel edits to fix all the stuff that I messed up in logic. Um, so usually what happens nowadays is I'll start on beat detective for these bands that where we're quant izing 100% or 90% of the grid. And then once everything's in time, we'll go through and put markers everywhere that I hear, like a buzzy snare or some kind of glitchy weird edit going on. And then, depending on the situation, either will use elastic audio. Um, the thing with like the buzz he edits is your hearing you you pulled two hits apart, and then you're hearing part of one of the wave forms twice, and you're here picks up on that, and it sounds kind of like a glitchy things. So an alternative to that is to, ah, use elastic audio to stretch things, but there you can run into. If you're not careful, you can run into, ah, phase stuff and kill your high end, sometimes as well. Yeah, and it can degrade the transient quality. So another way that you could go about fixing a problem like that is copying hits from somewhere else in song. Whether it's, um you know, if you have four snare hits in a row and the last one is giving you problems, maybe you can copy the 2nd 1 over to the 4th 1 or copy an entire Phil from somewhere else in the song. Um, it really just depends. The main thing there is, you have to pay attention to what else is going on before the Phil and after the fill, so that when you copy and something, the bleed matches what it was originally. If you have, if you have a crash that's ringing out and you copy in something where crashes not ringing out, then you're gonna have the crash disappear for a second, and it's gonna sound weird. So, basically you're using your ears the entire time, no matter how faster moving. Even if we're editing stuff to the grid or very close to the grid and you're powering through it at three hours a song or something, you're still listening the entire time. You're not just doing this by sight, right? Absolutely. There's There's a lot of this tedious stuff that you can do by sight. But once it comes to um going through and making sure that all your edits are actually ah, good to send to the producer than you really have to just kind of, uh, listen to everything very closely over and over. A lot of times I use headphones where, like, I may start editing a song on speakers. But then I'll switch to headphones to really be ableto focus in on the small details. Yeah, I've noticed headphones always tend to reveal everything that's wrong with edits, and a recording clicks and pops that you didn't notice where they're bad fades bad pace all that. If you can't hear it on your monitors, plug in your headphones that everything, the truth will be revealed. Basically, now I know that you use a bunch of custom shortcuts, and I've started to use those lately through a program called Quickies that you introduced me to, and it's basically revolutionized how I work in pro tools now. That's not really within the scope of this class, but it bears mentioning that if you want to get really fast it this. There's a bunch of menu commands that don't exist as shortcuts within pro tools that you might want to customize. So I wanna ask you what you think the importance of that is, and has it changed your life as much as it's changed my life, it's really great. Um, it there's a lot of menu items and in pro tools that I use a lot and they don't have shortcuts assigned to him. And you can kind of take care of that situation if you're on a Mac in the keyboard. Shortcuts. Pain in the system preferences. You can assign menu items to be custom shortcuts. Um, but there's a lot of stuff that ah, you get a lot more complicated with quickies. Um, whether it's automating repetitive tasks or, um, if you have a more mind for ah, like I have a programming background. So, um, you can create stuff where it's repetitive and, um, do a repetitive function over several tracks or several regions. You can get really intense. Um, you can have quick keys. Click on certain places on the screen for you and, um, that I make a lot of use of that in some of the drum cleanup shortcuts that I've made for. Ah, for this. Yeah, I actually have seen Mark Lewis replace entire songs in 45 seconds with key commands. Now that doesn't work anymore using multi samples. But point is that with one key command, the whole song, like a machine gun, would just lay itself out pretty accurately. So this can save you a lot of time. And just to point out something that he was saying, Like for instance, uh, bring, I'll make a fade like delete fades, as you can see right there. There's no fate on there, so it's great out. But as you can see, there's no shortcut for that. But something like deleting fades. It's something you want to be able to do very often, and if you factor how many times you want to do that, times clicking here, scrolling here, waiting for that to pop up, scrolling over than hitting Delete factor That times on album, you've added a couple hours to your workflow times, a bunch of other commands in the menus. You've added days, so you're literally save yourselves days by customizing your own shortcuts. Now, say you have a really good drummer. How would you approach that? Well, um, sometimes it depends on whether there's a kick pad being used or not. Um, but your dad's kick pads. Not just for bad drummers, right? Absolutely. Um, it makes my life a lot easier. And, um, you know, if there's things when you're editing a drummer, used a real kick, Um, like, if you have ah, double bass section or a blast where there's snares on top of kicks at the same time, you're gonna end up with some flam ing that is undesirable. Um, and so you're gonna have to kind of correct that flaming, and that could be a delicate process. But with a kick pad, you can just kind of nudge those. You know, if you have a kick in a snare that aren't quite lined up, right, you can just nudge the kick over without having to touch what's going on in the hands. Um, and that could be a huge time saver. Yeah, and also as faras, the mix goes, Not having it in your rooms can actually be quite Aneke. You savor and compression saver. So I would just want to ask you about that, cause we didn't actually get a chance to go over the kick pad in detail on Day one. Ran out of time. But I think that the kick pad is something that's very, very misunderstood that a lot of drummers should become more comfortable with because you will get through recordings a lot faster and it will not make a difference in the final mix now. So you have a drummer like Sean, someone like that. That's incredibly dynamic. His style is clearly dynamic. Of course, you would never use a kick pad. But if you're doing some super fast death metal superfast program material, you may as well do it. It's not like you're gonna have natural kick drums in there anyways. Anyways, back to the original question. Say I sent you tracks from a drummer like Sean, uh, where you wouldn't use beat. Detective, how would you approach it? Well, uh, say first you want to listen through the song a few times and get a feel for it. Learn the parts. So use your years. Yeah, absolutely. Use your ears. You want to find what I do a lot of times is I'll find a section of the song that I don't think needs any editing. And then I will go through like you were doing in a minute ago and kind of measure the distance between the hits that are taking place in that section and where the grid is cause so you can kind of get a reference for how far off from technically perfect he is to kind of get an idea of how much you could get away with as faras Ah, being off time. Um, so you need to be able to use your ears to make make sure that it sounds good, but you can also kind of use that as a visual reference of roughly like if I'm looking at the grid, how far off hits could be before I know I need toe listen through and maybe nudge it around a little bit. But then, after that, I will Ah, you know, I'll set my my nudge value to something low like three or five milliseconds, and then kind of set a margin of error for myself, as's faras. How how far off the drums could be, and then just try to get everything roughly within that margin of error. And it definitely makes a difference who you're reading the drones for. Producer wise, right? Cause different guys have different definitions of what's right. Absolutely. Some people are gonna want it. Um, toe where you can, like in a double bass section. Um, it may be you may need to correct that a little more than you would with a groovy section. Um, they may want it so that it's 90% there, like pretty much on the grid and just a little bit of variation, or admit they may want it to sound pretty much just like the raw takes. Um, so you definitely got to know the producer. Yes. So you've got to basically take on the producers tastes and then use musical judgement to give them back something that they will deem acceptable, right? Yeah, absolutely. So I think that takes a certain type of work ethic because you have toe not only do these extremely tedious tasks, but you have to do them according to somebody else's tastes. So, yeah, like this. This studio is deciding what's good enough. Um, so it doesn't really matter if you think that they're wrong, you're adjusting your process, toe their preferences and, you know, it's it's definitely takes, um, perfectionism and a willingness to be corrected. When you do something that you think is right, and they they disagree, Um, but how often would you say that I used to send stuff back to you back when we first started for issues like that where I just thought musically, it needed to be a different style of edit. It used to be somewhat frequent, right? Yeah, let's say a song or two per per album or something like that, Yeah. I mean, obviously it wouldn't be the whole album or else I wouldn't have asked you to do another one. But, you know, whenever that happens, it's time to move on. But I I definitely can remember that you've sent stuff my way. And while it was edited exactly right. I mean, there's absolutely nothing wrong with it whatsoever. It was edited and in just style great. I just thought that artistically, it had to be a little bit different. So now that really doesn't happen anymore, because I say I wanted this style and it comes back this style. So I think that adopting how you edit for producers hugely important and I've had to do the same thing because I've edited for a number of producers and still do, and they each want something different. Some guys 100% to the grid. Some guys want it 90% of the grid. Some guys want Tom's to ring out forever. Some guys want to sound like there's a harsh gate on all your toms, and they're just like little little transients. You just have to know what they want, what they think is good and give that back to them. And when you're editing for somebody else, it's not really the time or place to be injecting your own tastes. I think, Yeah, yeah, I I think that that's really, really important. So again, like I said, it takes a certain type of work ethic to be able to do this stuff and a certain skill set. And I guess I am wondering if you could talk to Internet land and tell them walk kind of skills you think they would need if they were to actually do this in real life. for a living. What would they have to pick up? What would you say would be, like some of the top things they could pick up? Well, it seems like anybody who considers himself like a studio guy knows pro tools or logic or Q base or something like that. But you really need to get fast. And you need to practice your craft on, um, on other tracks before you really kind of go in and do the real thing. So I I had edited drums before I started editing drums for you. Um, same thing with, you know, anything. Guitars, vocals, whatever. Um, but, you know, you always need to be looking for ways to improve your workflow, get faster. Um, you need toe be a perfectionist, even when the stuff that you're given, like if you're given a really bad drum performance and it's driving you crazy trying to get it in time, you still you can't sacrifice quality just because the drummer sucks. You gotta just power through it and figure out a way to make it work. Yeah, I think it's important that, um, that, you know, people in my situation are actually being a part of the process because it's like the old situation with the studio intern who goes and gets coffee. It's like That's not so common anymore. And we need We need ways to get people involved in the process that they can spend time working on records so that they can kind of move up in the recording world. You know, this is a good way to do it where a lot of people are. Producers were working out of their homes. And you in my situation, you can just work from home for the most part. And, um, do things on ah, more flexible schedule. Obviously you got a, ah, be in touch with the demands, the time demands of whatever studio you're working for. But, um, you know, if you can be a robot and do all the studios menial tasks exactly the way that they want it, that's great. But and then once you master that you consort to, um improve their workflow and teach the next round of interns. Yeah, that's basically what's happening here. I think that it bears noting I think that's actually really cool that you said that the coffee making toilet cleaning intern is kind of a thing of the past. Big studios, air shutting down and lots of the big producers are working out of their homes. I know a bunch of them and have done a bunch of work for those guys and have gone of their studios. And you would be amazed to see that top producers are working out of bedrooms these days because it really doesn't make that much of difference. I mean, a $1,000, studios nice, but it's not a luxury that everyone can afford it. It's not a luxury that everyone even wants to afford anymore. There's definitely problems that are inherent with being on the clock that much. But I'd say that there's a flip side to the coin of being on this new type of schedule, which is that you have to deal with calls from me at three in the morning, just like I have had to deal with calls at three in the morning from a producer that I would work with. You have to be basically on call 24 7 to do this stuff because the nature of this business is very fluid, I guess when there were big facilities and they were more common. Work hours were a more normal thing. Like, you know, you get to work at and you leave it alone or something like that. Now it's so It's so fragmented that yeah, you need to be ready to go a 3 30 You need to be ready to cancel plans with your family on some holiday. You need to be ready to just drop anything and just do what's required for the gig. And so I think that you guys should all be willing to do that if you actually want to do this. So you said that they should know pro tools. You said that they should practice this kind of like if they were learning an instrument right the same way that you would practice guitar, you should practice recording. You can't just Yeah, you can't just take on a gig without working on the skill set required. Like you can't just take on a new editing gig for a big producer and show up not having edited anything and think that it's gonna fly. Just like you wouldn't get a gig with a big band and show up not having ever played the songs it doesn't doesn't make sense. So you mentioned pro tools you mentioned practicing. You mentioned getting more efficient with your workflow, which would be using things that quick keys, custom, short cuts and really knowing your programs. And you mentioned improving other people's work flows, which is bringing value to the situation and making yourself more valuable than just a robot. So I think that those air four key points that everyone could really drill into their heads. If you could drill it into your head, you might actually be ableto get a job in this. Is there any other skill set you think would be important or philosophical mindset that you think would help anyone getting into this? I think the, um, communication is probably something that's overlooked by some people who were, You know, I'm a fairly technically minded person, and it could be, um, you know, it could be a challenge to ah communicate effectively. Whether it's, you know, talking about audio in general is could be kind of tough. Um, so when you're talking about drum at its via email or text message, you really have to be as clear and um it is clear as you can be about about these sort of things, that there's no miscommunication. You know, you can't just assume obviously, you don't want to blow up your guy you're working for with questions about whatever it is you're working for, because then you're wasting their time. And why would they hire out somebody who just spends the whole time asking questions? But, um, you need to make sure that you know what the producer expects and be able to communicate effectively with him and in a timely manner. Let me add, Yeah, we live in 2014. So taking more than a day to reply to an email even more than a few hours is kind of unacceptable In studio world, you need to be able to respond quickly. And if you're not gonna be able to respond quickly, you need to let people know which goes back to the hole communication thing. Super super important. And, ah, I want to thank you for joining us today. I think that talking about getting gigs is a slight deviation from what we've been talking about this whole time. But really there's probably a whole group of people in the chat rooms who want to do this for a living. And what point is there to learning all this stuff? You're not going to have a professional mindset. You're not doing this to be a hobbyist. Most likely, or at least that's not a mindset that makes sense to me. So I think that if someone had told me what John just told you guys at the beginning, I may have saved myself a few years of hardship and not getting gigs, whereas now I understand these things. If I'm taking a gig for someone else, these things that he talked about are things that I just do naturally. I think that anyone that I would hire would have to have these skills or would have to be very close to having these skills nailed. And let me tell you guys that communication kind of trumps everything. If someone's a great communicator and they still have a little ways to go on the musical side of things, it's okay to teach them. It's not so bad, but if there's no communication there, you're not even gonna know it's better to just move on. So is John have a great day. Thanks for joining us. And thanks. Very me on. I'll probably be talking to you later on today. Good deal. All right, man. Take it easy yet.