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Studio Pass: Sylvia Massy

Lesson 4 of 27

Introduce the Band, Thunderpussy

Sylvia Massy

Studio Pass: Sylvia Massy

Sylvia Massy

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Lesson Info

4. Introduce the Band, Thunderpussy

Lesson Info

Introduce the Band, Thunderpussy

Well, this is Thunder Pussy, and this is gonna be a great day! We are so excited. Now we did choose a song. Mm-hmm. The song is Speed Queen. Indeed. All right. By the way, I'm Sylvia. (laughing) Okay. A couple people I haven't met. Yeah, maybe we just introduce you guys. Just pass the mic down and... Cool. I'm Whitney, I play guitar. I'm Ruby, I play drums. I'm Lea, I play bass. And I'm Molly, and I sing in the band. Cool. I had a couple questions, since we're here. Tell me about the writing of this song. How old is Speed Queen? You wanna start this off, 'cause you... Yeah. This song is, I think it's over, maybe about a year old, since we actually finished composing it. It's actually, basically, Lea lives in Fremont, here in Seattle, and there's a laundromat. There used to be a laundromat, and it had a big sign out front and it was called the Speed Queen, and some of the dryers were named Speed Queen. And I always wanted to write a song about this characte...

r, this Speed Queen, and I love motorcycles. Molly and I love to ride. I have an old BMW, and I just think motorcycle culture is really cool, and so in my mind, this character, the Speed Queen was this leader of this motorcycle gang, and I wrote a song about basically... I've wanted to write like a concept album, and initially this was gonna be maybe like the beginning song about how this Speed Queen became the Speed Queen, essentially, and this is someone, like a lost soul sort of being found by the Speed Queen and being taken in on this long motorcycle ride or whatever. So the song is sort of... It's got this kind of vibey, classic rock sort of grungy motorcycle vibe that all started with a laundromat. (laughing) That's awesome, and so it's a driving song. Totally, it feels like a driving song. Yeah. Yeah, like it goes to double time at the end. It just gets crazy. I definitely feel like sort of a wind-in-your-hair kind of vibe, you know, when it starts to pick up and everything. What do you wanna get out of this song? Well like I told you yesterday, this is like... The guitar tone in the song for me is paramount, because I think it's just such a guitar heavy song. The riff is pretty crushing, and it's really groovy at the same time. The drum beat is really, really important to it. It's a really cool beat, and I think it's just a really sort of... It's laid back, but it's just kind of a head banger, you know, I want people to move and really be moved by the song, and it's like I said, sort of this epic tale, and I always imagined it being just like a song that would take you someplace, you know? I think it's a sexy song, and a sexy beat. So I wanted to really have that kind of slinky feel to it. I think slinky is a good word, yeah. Yeah, great. And now, we did discuss some of this, but as far as overdubs and other instrumentation that would be added to it, do you have any restrictions with how it would be presented? I mean, one question that I like to ask is, is this recording supposed to represent you live or can it go beyond that? Like, say if we had an opportunity to bring in a string section, or organs, like a B3 organ or something, are you open to having instrumental ideas brought into the production that are not in the band? That's a great question, and yeah, we're always open to that. We always want a song to be the best it can be. It doesn't have to be... Our live show is our live show, and it's its own thing. And a live album is a live album, but I know we're all big fans of letting a song sort of take on a life of its own in the studio and seeing where that goes. And always into trying things, experimenting, and if we can't reproduce it live, who cares? Oh, good. I think it's also important for us, the experimentation and also how many layers you can add on to something and then strip it away. So just basically getting weird. I mean, you already said that with our live show. We never really know what form it's gonna take once we get on the stage, and in the recording studio it's kind of like, okay. We have the base, but how do we add all these other textures to it, or... I mean, yeah, how do you mess with it? And then really kind of hone in on that, on the form of it. But yeah, I think the recording studio is a place to get even more weird, because you can hear it in a different kind of dimension. Yeah, we're all about the layers. So Molly, you're the singer. How open are you for doing harmonies or doubling, or anything like that? I'm very open. Okay, does anyone else in this song sing backup? Not at the moment, but I definitely think it's something that we're open to. We love gang vocals. But I was also gonna say, another thing that I think is exciting about getting to do this in the studio is that the song becomes what it is in the studio, and then we get the challenge of trying to figure out how to play it live if we want the live version to kind of reproduce it. And something that Molly's been doing recently is learning vocals live, which is a huge challenge but also a huge opportunity. So to be able to do that in the studio and then do it live, I think would be really really cool too. So the idea would be maybe we do harmonies or something in the studio, and then it's your job after the studio to figure out how to reproduce that live. Exactly, yup. Yippee! It's funny too, because playing with a vocal processor, I'm in a way... I don't even know if purist is the right term to use, but I've been hesitant in using something that will layer my vocals live, because a live performance for me is like seeing what happens, it's crazy, but it's also like this pure form of rock and roll, or I don't know. A traditional classic rock setting without a pedal. So it's been a really good challenge in how to mess with my own techniques, or how it changes everything with us, but yeah, anyways... If it sounds cool, do it. That's the motto. Great, great. And just fix it later, or what? You know, maybe it's gonna be great, you know? We'll just try things. I've got plans.

Class Description

Over the last 30+ years, Sylvia Massy has built a career as one of the gutsiest and most innovative recording engineers and producers. She has worked with legends like Prince and Johnny Cash, and won awards for her work with bands like Tool, System of a Down and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. In this once-in-a-lifetime experience, you will get a peek inside the recording process of one of rock’s legendary engineers. 

While she is a proficient master of vintage gear, Sylvia stresses that great records come not from having the right gear, but from capturing great performances. Join Sylvia as she records a song in the studio with Seattle alt-rock band Thunderpussy, and learn how to work with an artist to capture that magical take in your own work.

Pulling from her years of experience and sharing stories from her newly published book Recording UnHinged, Sylvia will show you:

  • How to get interesting and vibrant drum sounds, using the room and the drummer to your advantage
  • Capturing great sounding guitars at the source, without editing and reamping
  • Pushing vocalists to deliver their best vocal takes 
  • Mixing both in the box and through a console using outboard gear

Sylvia is also known as a prolific educator, speaking and teaching at some of the best recording schools around the world. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from one of the industry’s most celebrated A-list producers. 

Ratings and Reviews

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Jimmy Foot

This Studio Pass episode with Sylvia Massey covers a lot of ground. From fundamentals like correct mic placement and phase to experimentation with amps, cell phone delay and a few extra parts, Sylvia makes it fun! I have been lucky enough in my career to work with a number of great engineers and producers. I haven't had the opportunity to work with her, but Sylvia is certainly in that category, and anyone who gets a chance to work with her would be a lucky person. This broadcast is the next best thing. Great job there at Avast Studio and fantastic camera work! And as for Thunderpussy; you guys rock!

Marc Felish

Wow, that was such a blast. Thanks so much Sylvia and everyone else for making this such a fun experience. I picked up so many new ideas that I can't wait to try out! Sylvia is such a creative producer, it was so much fun to be a fly on the wall watching everything. Loved it!!

Marcus Soares

Awesome! A great opportunity to pick into the creative mind of one of the greatest and get that kind of knowledge that you can't acquire otherwise. Highly recommended!