Carl Verheyen's Cranktone Chronicles

May 15, 2012

I once did a movie trailer for a young producer who played me an industrial-sounding track to “get my direction.” The tune sounded vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place it. My sonic instincts told me it was a Les Paul though a battery of pedals, so after dialing in the right amount of grunge, I went to work on the “wiggle” effects. There seemed to be some Rotovibe swirl and vintage phase shifting in the reference track, and I also added random beeps and squawks with an Electrix Filter Factory.

But the producer wasn’t satisfied. After every tweak I made, he’d play the reference track, and insist that something was missing. I’d go back and adjust my distortion, pedals, reverbs, and delays. The engineer would move his mics, change EQ settings, and fine-tune compression levels. And the producer just got more and more upset that we couldn’t achieve the sound on his reference CD.

After about an hour, I could see we were heading down a centrifugal bumble- pluck to nowhere. I put down my guitar, walked over to the mixing board, and asked, “What CD is this, anyway?”

The producer produced the CD, and I just had to laugh. It was the soundtrack to a Kathryn Bigelow movie I had played on in 1995 called Strange Days. The guitar sound the producer was so intent on copying was mine! I opened the booklet and showed him where it said “Guitars by Carl Verheyen,” but he didn’t let up. Instead, he asked naively, “Then, why can’t you get that sound now?” I thought about explaining how it was a different studio, different mics, a different board, and a different engineer. Instead, I replied, “Because I just don’t feel that way today.” That shut him up. We tracked the tune in five minutes.

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