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Dark Side SACD Engineer Speaks on Remix of Album Print E-mail
Friday, 28 March 2003
Article Index
Dark Side SACD Engineer Speaks on Remix of Album
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Storm Thorgerson had come up with a cunning plan to release the disc on 03/03/03.

3 times 30 backwards. The 30th anniversary, and a whole page full of numerology relating to the album, the band, and the number 3.

This meant a work schedule for Joel (my assistant engineer) and I that was probably reminiscent of the actual building of those 3-sided Pyramids that Storm had photographed 30 years ago for the original album cover.

Incidentally, 3 times 3 is 9 which, Storm reliably informs me, is the number of letters in Pink Floyd. Coincidently, 9 was also looking like the number of lifetimes it may take to complete the mix, with what we had in mind.

Technical rambling

David Gilmour had told me that earlier generation multitrack tapes existed for each song. That was all I needed to hear. Whatever it took, I wanted to use those tapes.

When recording the album, the band had used a similar technique to that used by The Beatles during the Sgt. Pepper sessions. Apparently The Beatles would fill a 4-track tape and then combine, or pre-mix those elements to one or two tracks of a second 4-track machine, giving themselves more free tracks to work on.

The technique was applied to Dark Side but with two 16-track tapes. The original, non-Dolby, recordings were made and then the drums were pre-mixed to a stereo pair, keyboards were combined, and vocals were bounced together to a new Dolby “A” tape.

The original stereo mix of the album came from this “dub” reel, which contained a combination of first, second and third-generation elements.

The drawback was that the album was recorded before the days of time code and multiple tape machine lock-ups. Additionally, the multitrack machines used in those days were notorious for running a different speed from one end of the reel to the other.

Consequently, the original tapes were never intended to be used for the mix because they wouldn’t sync up. The combined speed error after copying a song was pretty dramatic.

I know many people who’s answer to this dilemma would have been to transfer the elements of both tapes into a digital workstation, line those elements up visually, and start mixing. I just felt that a 5.1 mix of this album had to come from the analogue tapes, and thankfully, those tapes were still in good condition.

The musical arrangements of these songs have such a beautiful simplicity; Uni-vibe guitars combine with Wurlitzer electric pianos played through Leslie speakers and droning Hammond Organs, all very often playing in the same register, and all held together by strong melodies and great lyrics.

The way the band voiced the instruments, coupled with Chris Thomas’ propensity to douse everything in lots of echo, creates a gluey, homogenous, three-dimensional sound that really gets under your skin. This is very much an analogue record.


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