IT OCCURS TO ME THAT I SHOULD perhaps throw a glimmer of hope at GP readers, as opposed to all the gloom and doom I’ve been spewing lately about the collapse of session dates, diminishing recording quality, and machines taking over the world. I mean, we’ve all done the dance with the technology stuff. And technology is wonderful if you use it properly, and not as an excuse for bad playing or singing. Non-destructive editing, endless amount of recording time, plug-ins—you can try millions of things and risk nothing. But, ironically, if you can’t sing and can’t play, technology can make you sound perfect. And that’s what we have today— records where everything is perfect.
Happily, life is on a pendulum, and I think we’ve now swung so far to the right, that we’re at a point where everybody knows everything is auto-tuned and fixed. Want a test? Listen to a record, and then go see the band live. If they sound awful, well, now you know how the record was made! But it’s high time for that pendulum to swing back the other way, and I think that it is.
I only have to look to my son, Trevor, and his crew to see that some young people want to go back to the woodshed and practice, practice, practice. They care about playing well, and they want to sound great, but they want to sound great without bringing in all the magic fix-its. They don’t want to work that way, and they don’t want their music to be all slicked out with every little glitch repaired. They get that there was something wonderful about the records I grew up listening to. I mean, hey, there were a few mistakes in a lot of those classic tracks. Things were loose, and a little out of tune or whatever, but when you go back and listen to a Rolling Stones record, you don’t go, “Ugh, that’s out of tune.” You go, “Wow, that is wonderfully beautiful.” I find it exhilarating to hear kids say, “Yeah, yeah—we know. Records today are all bells and whistles. We gotta get back to the real deal.”
Now, the real deal is where I like to work. I just co-produced, co-wrote, and played a couple of things on Lee Ritenour’s 6 String Theory album [see the interview with Ritenour]. There are like 25 guitar players on it, and it was really fun. Some incredible music went down—some great jazz, blues, and country picking. It was a real eclectic group, and everyone did their sh*t live. You started from here, you went through all the mess, and then you came out the other end. That was the take. People would walk in and say. “Wow, man—everybody is playing at the same time!” There’s a magic that happens when you do that, and people are amazed when they see it, which cracks me up, because that’s the way it was supposed to be when I got in the game.