WW: Do you prefer to work straight through with one engineer?
GM: I prefer to work with one engineer for a particular job, but I don’t want to work with that engineer all my life.
WW: Many Beatles recordings employ techniques or tricks such as phasing very tastefully. Did the ideas for these techniques come from engineers? Or, to put it another way, do you encourage your engineers to make suggestions?
GM: I certainly would encourage engineers to make suggestions. But in fact, all the techniques we used that you’ve described have come about not because the engineers made suggestions, but because we actually asked for particular sounds.
Phasing came about as a result of experimenting with the automatic double tracking, ADT, which was, in fact, suggested by an engineer, who strangely enough wasn’t a balancing engineer. He was a backroom boy who came forward with this idea. He was an EMI bloke; he’s now in fact running EMI studios, which is nice. And so phasing came about as a result of that — playing with ADT. In most other cases they’ve been a result of personal experimentation in the studio. My experience with spoken word recordings—building up sound pictures without music was invaluable in that respect.
WW: Are there any special considerations that you keep in mind when producing a 45 RPM single release?
GM: Obviously it’s got to be a little more concise than an album track. There are a lot of things which you put on an album, which stand up on an album because they are part of a long scene, which obviously wouldn’t mean anything on a single. In any case, you are making records to a certain extent for a particular market. One is well aware of the nature of the music that is played on the top 100 in the “states”, so you’re obviously thinking of that when you select your single.
WW: Is there any instrument, or instruments, that you consider particularly important, especially with regard to singles?
GM: No, I don’t honestly consider any one thing to be particularly important — I think they’re all important. When I’m doing a recording of a rock group, I do actually, mentally, go through every sound that I’m hearing, saying, “Is that the right sound?” I apply the same devotion to each one. If you miss out on one, you’re not doing your job.
WW: Is it true that the early Beatles records were remixed by Capitol for release in the states?
GM: They weren’t remixed by Capitol; they might have been re-equalized by Capitol. Yes, in fact, I’m sure they were. The story was in those days that American record players were different from English record players, and therefore they had to cut their own masters to suit their own tastes. And they did that; and I didn’t like the results, but I couldn’t do anything about it.
WW: Could you describe the differences in sound between the American and British releases?
GM: I didn’t think they (U.S. releases) were as good. It’s difficult to get a good answer to that one because I was hearing their records on my machine and I don’t know what they would have sounded like if I had heard them on their machines. They may have been alright, but they generally sounded much thinner and harsher than our sound, and less bass certainly.
WW: Early Beatles records were characterized by a particular vocal sound which has been very influential on pop music in general. How did this come about?
GM: Because we had particular kinds of vocalists, really.
WW: You mentioned ADT.
GM: That was a particular sound we put on. You know, once we got over the first hurdle of being a success, they were always looking for something new. They were continually coming to me and saying, “Do something different.”
They were always prodding and trying to push some things out a bit further. John hated the sound of his own voice, which I personally thought was a great voice, and quite often he would come to me and say, “Can’t you do something with my voice; it sounds terrible.” He’d say “I know it is terrible, but let’s do something about it. Don’t make it sound like me,” which was worrying in a way because he expected magic.
I don’t know quite what he was expecting to hear, but it wasn’t what he was producing and consequently we did play about with the voices quite a bit. Sometimes, I think the results weren’t very good, but in a lot of cases they were.