Jeff Northrup: Producer, engineer and musician!
Jeff Northrup talks over his recent work on the MR.com CD, plus Shortino/Northrup, working with Johnny Edwards and much more...
So Jeff, you have just finished mastering my own CD Compilation - after doing a great job on Volume 1. Thanks again. Can you walk us through the mastering process?
First of all, thanks for letting me be a part of such a great collection of songs and artists!!
Mastering is definitely the icing on the cake so to speak, of making a good mix sound even better. After a song has been mixed, there are usually some frequencies that are fighting each other for their space in a song. i.e, the bass guitar may be in the same frequency as the kick drum, or there might be too much low end from the guitars fighting with the bass. What this causes is the song to sound a bit muffled in the low end of sound.
By isolating these unwanted frequencies, you can sort of weed out the ones that are less desirable which makes that part of the mix sound clearer. The same goes for the high frequencies. There may too much high end or not enough.
It is also possible to make in instrument such a guitar that was mixed to low to stand out more by boosting only a narrow bandwidth that enhances it and therefore makes it perceived to be louder. Then there comes the compression. By compressing the entire mix and or certain frequencies, everything becomes not only louder, but makes the mix sound more even. The kick drum and bass will get punchier, the guitars get crunchier and everything finds its place in the mix. However, it is just as easy to make a good mix sound bad if there is too much re-equing or too much compression/limiting. It is truly an art to make a good mix sound great and compete with the CDs that we all purchase in stores, or online.
What are the most challenging aspects of this aspect of recording and why is it so important to get it right?
The most challenging part is not to add or take away too many frequencies because the mix will become either too bottom heavy and blow out your speakers, or too thin and make the mix weak. Same with the high end. Too much and it rips out your ear drums, too little and the mix won't shine. It's very important to get it right because this is the final product going to the masses. Or if it's a demo you want to get the best sound before it hits the ears of the Record Labels.
To those that may not be as familiar with this process, when a label talks of having the original music re-mastered, what does that mean and how can it improve the quality of the recording?
Labels that want something re-mastered usually do it because it was mastered a while ago and today's mastering is a bit more advanced. Generally, you want to get the original mixes (pre-mastered) and work with those. Because most older mastering sounds a little duller than today's and that they mastered records at lower levels than today, by re-mastering you get a punchier, clearer and superior sound.
You are also an accomplished producer - do you find it hard to "produce" yourself, or wouldn't you have it any other way?
Actually, producing myself is too easy. I wouldn't mind having a co-producer or a great producer step in and take over. A lot of magic happens that way and others will often times have ideas that enhance a song that I might not have thought about.
You also have a song included on my new Compilation release, another cracking rocker featuring vocalist Johnny Edwards. You were working with Johnny on an album - what happened to that and is there any chance some tracks will be released? Or maybe the album will be finished one day?
Johnny is one of the greatest and relatively unknown singers. A few years back he moved back to Kentucky with his wife and kids to really start over and get away from the music biz.
I talked to him about doing a record and he was excited. After recording some songs (one of which is the song on MR.com V2), we had a deal and contract on the table. Johnny decided shortly after this that he just didn't have the time or desire to continue. It is a shame, but I have to respect where he is coming from. There a few songs from these recordings that are on the Shortino/Northrup "Afterlife" CD. And no, there probably will not be any future CD with Johnny.
Was the from the archives release of the original Northrup album with Johnny a success? It was certainly met with favorable reviews.
It was a success in that it got a lot of attention and brought me back into the minds of those who knew of me and into the CD players of those who hadn't. I gained a lot of new fans from it.
Let's talk about the new Shortino/Northrup release. It's second time around for you and Paul. How did you get started on this release? And why was it 10 long years since the last album together?
Well, Paul and I had been in touch for quite a while and we always talked about another record. I had just finished recording the XYZ "Letter To God" CD with Terry Ilous. We recorded drums at Paul's studio. Again we talked some more. After Johnny Edwards bowed out of doing the record.....whalah! It was the perfect situation and the timing was right. I started writing a lot of new songs and we incorporated the songs I wrote with Johnny and it wasn't long before we had the songs for the album. It did take ten years due to timing and the fact we both were doing other projects.
The original Shortino/Northrup was also recently re-released. That's a very nice little package, with the bonus tracks etc...Afterlife is a very moody and lyrically dark and descriptive album. Where did the songwriting influence come from for this album?
Well, except for the songs that were lyrically written by Johnny, I wrote everything else. Unfortunately I was going through a divorce after 18 years and was very depressed. Therefore a few of the songs are specifically about that. Kind of a healing process. The song "Like A Stone" was written as a goodbye song to my ex.
I try not make my lyrics generic, so I put things more metaphorically and poetically. However, there are a few songs that have nothing to do with that subject. Until the album was finished, I didn't really realize that it was as dark as it turned out. But I have to admit that the final result is something we are all proud of!!! There are some kick ass jams on too.
Do you plan on starting work on the next album any time soon? What do you have in mind for the next album, when it comes?
Oh yeah!! I have already begun the writing process. The next record is gonna be a mother F*&^%r. I am going to let it all hang out with some killer rock. I haven't decided who to work yet. Hey, if there are any singers, bassists etc. that are interested in being a part of it and collaborating, I would love to hear from you!!! Any suggestions anyone???
You also hooked up with Terry Ilous several years back. How did you originally get started?
I was originally being set up to replace Marc Diglio back in 1993 when he first left the group XYZ, but they had just found someone else. When they finished the tour, Terry contacted me and we still together today on various things.
The Cage album is rather underrated I think. Any chance that could be re-issued?
Yes. Terry and I have discussed re-mastering and re-releasing Cage with some bonus songs.
As XYZ, you managed to record a great hard rock record that was also quite contemporary. Were you happy with the results from that album and the fan response?
I am very happy with the record "Letter To God". There are some fantastic tracks on it. Everyone played and sang their asses off. Terry wanted it to be a little more modern than the previous XYZ and it is. As far as fan response, it was about what I thought it would be. Very mixed. Some loved it, some thought it was a bit too different.
Might you do another XYZ album soon - and if so, what have you discussed with Terry as far as style for this album?
We have discussed doing another album soon. I'm not sure he wants it to another XYZ record though. We'll have to see. What do you fans out there think????
You are right in the middle of this melodic rock scene as it stands today - complete with the challenges of corporate changes and file sharing etc....where do you see things going?
I really believe that the Melodic Rock scene will always be around. I do see a slight shift in music here in the states with bands that actually incorporating some of that sound! A lot of people just prefer to hear great music, vocals and guitar playing. As far as where it's going, boy even the record companies are still trying to figure this out. Perhaps a lot more bands will be trying release there stuff from there web sites and get independent distribution!
Is it important for the artist to remain in ownership of their own music?
Definitely. Especially if an occasion such as getting one or more songs placed movies, television etc. Without retaining your rights you are screwing yourself. We artists get screwed enough as it is.
XYZ for example did their own release of the album for the USA.
What about the other project you are working on - the 11:11 project. Can you describe that to us?
The 11:11 Project is a little bit different than what people are used to hearing from me. It's balls out music, but it's definitely more modern. Sort of Nine Inch Nails meets the Beatles. A bit psychedelic even. It's the only recording I have done where I am singing and playing all of the instruments. I am very proud of it. It was signed and ready to be released here in the states, but the label went bankrupt just before.
Outside of music you have some interesting hobbies...tell us about the dinosaur bone hunts!
I have been infatuated by dinosaurs since I was 5. I studied them and learned about paleontology and digging bones. I did my first dig about a year ago and am going on my third dig this month!! I have quite a collection now.
Anything else in the back of your mind you would like to tell us about Jeff?
As long as there people all over the world that appreciates and is buying killer music, I will continue putting out great product. I don't see an end to it in the near future!!
And is there anything you would care to add?
Yes. Thanks to everyone who supports Rock music!! Without you, you wouldn't be reading this now. Also, thank you Andrew for having this great web site for people to come to and be able to not only find great bands and read the latest on Melodic Rock and other styles of music, but also be able to discuss it (and have interesting posts) amongst each other. It is also a huge benefit to us artists!!
Plug your web site Jeff - where do we find you?
Please visit my web site at www.jknorthrup.com. Drop me an e-mail, sign the guestbook and find out a little more about me. I also have a page where you can reach me about Mastering, mixing and recording. To all the musicians out there, if you would like to contact me about collaborating (writing/recording/mastering etc.) on a record, I would to hear from you too!!!!
Thanks again for taking the time out to "chat"!