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What about Helter Skelter? That’s still one of the most ferocious guitar sounds ever committed to tape...
“Paul wanted to make the most distorted sound ever, so just everything was cranked. They cranked in the studio, we pulled everything down upstairs, and it just gave you what you hear on Helter Skelter.”
You also worked with Pink Floyd in the early part of their career. How did their approach contrast to that of The Beatles?
“The Beatles were all-powerful; they could do whatever they damn-well pleased. Floyd weren’t that big when I worked with them. They’d had minimal success with their first two singles, and they were going through this weird period – I’m sure there were many weird periods with Syd Barrett, but the final weird period with Syd, because it was the last single they did with him – Paint Box and Apples And Oranges.
"There was a little tension, but they couldn’t spend as much time experimenting as The Beatles. Their experimentation came in later. They slowly built up their following, and became more powerful, which led to The Dark Side Of The Moon, which put them into the same league as The Beatles.
"The Beatles tended to experiment with typical things, like they’d want a piano, but they’d want it to sound totally different. Whereas Floyd, they’d have things that would create weird noises, but they didn’t necessarily use straightforward instrumentation so much.”
Do you have any advice for recording guitars, based on your experiences?
“Go back to old guitars. I don’t like modern guitars, modern pickups. I’ve been told there are people making pickups that are more like the old ones. I have yet to find them. I tend to find there is a high shrillness to a lot of pickups these days. I would far sooner have an old guitar that has a great sound, but is very buzzy, than a new one that sounds like every other guitar, but without any hum and buzz. We’ve become too picky.
"Unless it’s just the guitar, you don’t hear all that noise, because once you get the drum kit in, and the bass in, they are creating the same kind of frequencies as any hum or buzz, so you don’t hear it so much, if at all. Don’t be picky and ruin a good guitar sound to try to get something clean.
“The other thing is: get it in the studio. Don’t fall for the whole thing of, ‘Well, we can take this, copy and paste it, and move it over’. People don’t seem to use their ears as much as their eyes these days, looking at the computer. We’ve lost the heart and soul from the music. It has to be perfect. As humans, we’re not perfect, and music has to have emotion. Emotion isn’t perfect.
“We’re reaching a point that we have to make a turnaround, otherwise music is doomed. I think that change will come. I’m a firm believer in talent, but it’s pretty bad at the moment. I liken it to before The Beatles.
"There were so many acts signed because of the way they looked, as opposed to the way they sounded. They were manufactured, and so many acts today are manufactured. Then The Beatles came along and changed everything. It’s almost like that again. We’re waiting for that next Beatles.”