|John Derbas, of the Dave Clark 5 fanzine 'Bits and Pieces' puts questions to the man who mastered "Glad All Over Again", Mastering Engineer Mike Brown.
- What is your background in the science of recording?
I have been interested in sound for literally as long as I can remember and got my first job in the industry in 1974.
- How did you become a Mastering Engineer at Lansdowne?
I've been a mastering engineer since 1977 and 10 years later I was asked to join the Lansdowne group to work alongside another well respected mastering engineer "Bopping" Bob Jones.
- Did you ever have any experience on the other side of the mic?
As an artist? Noooo! In fact I may be one of the few recording engineers who isn't a wannabe musician! The closest I get is being a presenter on local community radio.
- How long have you been at Lansdowne?
Since 1987, though I spent a lot of the time at CTS Studios in Wembley which is where our mastering facilities were based.
- How and when did you get involved with mastering the the Dave Clark 5 tracks'?
My first involvement was with the greatest hits compilation "Glad All Over Again". Dave Clark initially approached Lansdowne's Chris Dibble about the project and Chris naturally turned to me as head of mastering for the Lansdowne group to oversee the project and my involvement was very much "hands on".
- What approach was taken to master these analogue tapes? Were they mixed to CDA files directly off the analogue masters or was there some tweaking to compensate for a digital copy? Past re-releases of analogue masters proved problematic when converted to digital such as with the Beatles and Led Zeppelin tracks.
To be honest, I'm not aware of the problems you're, referring to. The main dilemma when remastering old and much-loved hits is that people are used to the crunch, punch and distortion of their vinyl copies. As a result people have in the past heard new digital versions of old hits and sometimes felt them to be weak, or that there is something missing. This applies particularly to the old rock and roll tracks from the 1950s but also to some extent to the sixties tracks as well.
I see these kind of remastering projects as an attempt to create the definitive release which will hopefully be better, in many respects, than any single, LP or CD release which may have been available before. The question I always ask myself is "How would those artists have wanted their tracks to sound if they had today's technology back then"? The result is never going to be identical to the old vinyl sound, but hopefully it will be clearer and more detailed.
- Past statements by Adrian Kerridge and Dave Clark indicated that they would master the analogue recordings backwards to minimize the decay of the drum waves. Were any techniques used in mastering the digital recording to enhance the drum sound?
Reverse copying was a technique that was occasionally used when making analogue tape copies but it's not really applicable to today's digital technology. Modern transformer-less signal paths can handle the transients. The most important thing is far more basic. You need to identify which tape, of the several alternatives often available, is the actual original master. Fortunately this is often obvious, either by listening to the tape or from visual clues.
- How many versions were there of the DC5 hits e.g. "Glad All Over', "Catch Us If You Can", "Bits and Pieces" and "Can't You See That She's Mine"?
No different versions, just different copies of the same thing and it is obviously important to use the one which is the best, technically.
- Did Dave Clark have his entire library remastered?
- The U.S. release of the "History of the Dave Clark" on Hollywood records was in monophonic, why? Were any stereo masters made?
As you probably know, the Hollywood release was made from tapes we did here. Dave Clark himself actually felt that the mono mixes were better than the stereo ones and felt that they should not be neglected just because the stereo mixes were available. That said, we did go into stereo at the end for "Live In The Sky" and "Everybody Get Together".
- How involved was Dave Clark in the mastering process?
Very involved. More so than some artists or producers normally would be for a remastering job.
- How was it working with him?
Dave can sometimes be demanding, but that's because he knows exactly what he wants and has a very good pair of ears. It's actually good to work with people who know what they want and are able to articulate it.
- What were some of the things Dave Clark really wanted to express or enhance in the recordings?
It wasn't really a question of enhancing, the primary concern was to ensure that their presentation was as loud and clear as possible.
- The $64,000 question. Did he indicate that he would be releasing a complete package of DC5 songs in the near future? If so, was he to include any extras like out-takes or other versions?
I believe it is part of his long-term plan to remaster the entire DC5 catalogue in which case I would expect any stereo versions of the hits to be included at that time. I'm sure they will be approached with Dave's usual eye and ear for detail.
- Do any former members of the DC5 ever drop in the studio? Have you ever met any of them?
I've only met Dave himself. Shame really, I was actually a DC5 fan when I was young, and even had a poster of the band on my bedroom wall. I remember paying particular attention to Mike Smith, perhaps because he was one of the few pop stars at the time who shared my name!
- After mastering all those songs did you have any favourites that you caught yourself humming the melody?
My favourite has always been "Catch us if you can" but I also have a soft spot for "Red Balloon", don't know why but I just find that track very nostalgic.
- How long did it take for you to master those tracks, how many reels of tape?
Reels of tape? It's all done on hard drives! I guess we got through about a dozen DAT tapes, a couple of dozen CD-R discs and a couple of PCM1630 U-matic cassettes in the fortnight or so that the "Glad all Over Again" album took to complete.
My fault, I meant how many reels of analogue tape did you source for the definitive masters when converting to digital?
Oh, must have been at least 50 or 60!