My old pals face to face are celebrating 25+ years as a band with a ton of good stuff. Their latest album Protection (released March 2016) marked their return to Fat Wreck Chords and has earned great reviews everywhere. A new 7″ single from the album is coming out in May. The band continues to tour all over, and in May and June of this year they will reprise their legendary 1996 “Econo Live” tour with a series of small club shows around the U.S.
The band’s classic first three albums have also received long-awaited vinyl and digital reissues through Fat Wreck, remastered by the outstanding Joe Gastwirt. The second album Big Choice is a special case: For the reissue, Trever and I remixed the entire album from the original multitrack master tapes. The new mixes give the album a more honest sound, presenting the band’s performances straightforwardly and without the “studio polish” that adorned the original release. (See below for more about this process.)
Recording notes: Remixing a classic record like Big Choice is a perilous prospect. As a fan I generally prefer to let a work speak for itself as it was originally conceived––to be a product of the people who made it, and of the place and time in which they made it––for better or for worse. I usually don’t enjoy later “improvements” made to works like the original Star Wars films, or classic stereo (or mono!) records remixed for modern surround formats. I don’t mean to assert that such modifications are unequivocally wrong; I simply don’t enjoy them as much. And I know that many music fans are similarly protective about the works they love.
Big Choice is a classic of the genre, and a fan favorite. But there were aspects of its production that Trever had always found unsatisfying, that kept it from being a pure expression of the songs and performances. So we set out to present the album in a way that would be absolutely familiar to fans––no changes or edits to anything recorded, the same performances, same balance, same overall aesthetic––but in a more raw state, without the artificial reverb that was used to excess on vocals and drums in the original mix.
The album was produced by the great Thom Wilson and originally recorded to DA-88, a digital tape format that was popular in the mid-nineties but bereft of the flattering sonic effects of analog tape. Working at Stagg Street Studio in Van Nuys, California, Trever and I transferred the digital tapes to a Studer 24-track analog machine, running some tracks through various analog outboard devices to lend a bit of harmonic “warmth” to the brittle, thin digital recordings. We then mixed the tracks on the studio’s API console very simply, without automation, referring carefully to the original mixes for balance and energy. We kept the drums and vocals dry, and accentuated midrange in the guitars. The new mixes were printed to 1/2″ analog tape on an Ampex ATR-102 machine and eventually handed off to Joe Gastwirt for mastering. The result is a more straightforward, “tougher” sound that (I hope) does justice to everything that’s great about this record while delivering its emotion and power even more purely than before.