Date: June, 2001
page: title: David Bottrill Discusses the New Album author: Jim Batcho TOOL David Bottrill Discusses the New Album After a five-year wait, Tool fans can now rejoice. The band's highly anticipated new album Lateralus finally hit stores May 15. The album marks the return of co-producer, engineer and mixer David Bottrill who accomplished the same duties for the band's previous release Aenima. Both the band and Bottrill are no strangers to Pro Tools. Singer Maynard James Keenan's other band A Perfect Circle used Pro Tools almost exclusively for its debut album. Other members of Tool have personal systems, and Bottrill himself uses Pro Tools liberally on all his projects. Having grown up firmly in the familiar world of analog, Bottrill still prefers to track much of his work to tape. But material is then transferred to Pro Tools where much of the creativity takes place, before finally mixing back down to analog. "For this album, we recorded drums and bass to analog tape and put all the multitude of takes into Pro Tools," he explains. "I edited those in Pro Tools and put a stereo mix of the drums and bass on separate tracks down to another tape where we recorded guitars. I then put those tracks into Pro Tools. We manipulated everything there and then mixed from Pro Tools out individual channels out into an SSL J- 9000." The main exception to this methodology involved the vocal tracks, which were all recorded direct to Pro Tools in Keenan's home. "All of Maynard's vocals, went straight to Pro Tools," Bottrill says. "We recorded all his vocals at his place in L.A." Bottrill says the members of Tool liked the flexibility Pro Tools offered in being able to make minor fixes to otherwise excellent performances. "They loved it. They loved the ability to touch up drums. (Drummer Danny Carey) was quite happy to have me go in and do a little bit," he laughs. "It's really minor stuff that I had to do to him or any of the guys because they're all such great musicians. The editing work that I was doing was really kind of miniscule. But it added to the fact that they could just go for it with performances and know that if there's something amazing but there's just a little flaw, I could repair the flaw and keep what was amazing." A Worldly Perspective to Metal Long before he began working with Tool, Bottrill had made a name for himself primarily in London and also in Los Angeles working with on incredible diversity of progressive, experimental and world music projects. He worked frequently with Peter Gabriel, both on his studio albums and world music releases for Gabriel's Real World label. Artists as diverse as King Crimson, Youssou N'Dour, David Sylvian, the Afro-Celt Sound System, and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan have all experienced Bottrill's production, engineering and mixing magic. So he says it was an odd experience when an up-and-coming metal band from LA kept calling his manager to have him work on their next album. "They called my manager and sent me some music from Undertow," Bottrill recalls. "I hadn't really heard of them, being more ensconced in the British music scene. I hadn't done that kind of heavy music to that degree. I thought at first they had me confused with someone else. (Laughs)" Bottrill was surprised to learn that the members of Tool were big fans of the projects he worked on. "Danny was a big King Crimson fan, Adam (Jones, guitarist) liked the album I did with Robert Fripp and David Sylvian, and Maynard's quite a world music fan." After meeting and getting along with the band members, Bottrill decided to go for it and the collective got to work creating Aenima. Bottrill says working with a band like Tool is quite a different approach production-wise from working on more experimental projects. But he says it mostly comes from having the time and resources that come with a rock band's big budget. "There's much more of a budget on this than when working on a world music album," he says. "With a world music project, you set it up and you go and you get what you get. You can't afford to spend the time agonizing over every note that's played. It has to be about the performance and you have to set the scene to create the best opportunity for performance. With Tool you get to bring that to the table - setting the scene to get a great performance. But after that you're able to analyze it and work every note and decide what will go where. You have the luxury and the time to be able to do that." The same could be said of Pro Tools. Bottrill is quick to point out that Pro Tools can simultaneously speed the process up and slow it down, depending on how it's used. "It's made things a lot easier, but because it's opened so many options, it can make things a bit longer too," he says. "That's more because the possibilities are there. I'm able to try things out and spend time doing things." Ultimately, Bottrill says, the end result is far better with Pro Tools than without it. "For example," he explains, "with a singer I'm able to do a bunch of takes and really get him feeling comfortable singing, and then go and comp it all. It takes longer to go through all the takes, but ultimately I'm able to get a better performance. Pro Tools allows them to just perform and not think about the tape being on. They can loosen up and be more free in their performances. The same goes for the other musicians, knowing that the ability is there to repair any small flaws. The discipline is to not go 'oh, I'll fix it in Pro Tools.' You have to be self-disciplined enough to say 'you know what, you can play it better than that.'" The Digital Tool for an Analog Mind Although schooled in the disciplines of analog multitracking, Bottrill - also a keyboard player - is no stranger to using digital sequencing software on his productions. He was an early user of Performer and shifted to the other major sequencers over time. But when MIDI was integrated into Pro Tools software, he abandoned the need for a separate sequencing application. When the MIDI started happening, I found that Pro Tools was all I really needed," he said. "I liked the philosophy of Pro Tools being a hard disk recorder with a sequencer built into it, rather than being a sequencer with a hard disk recorder built into the side. It just felt more stable. Audio work was easier. The drum editing, the track grouping, is so much easier to do." In addition to his work with Tool, Bottrill worked on some songs in London for the band Muse last fall. He recently began mixing an album for a new American band called Flaw.
Posted to t.d.n: 06/28/01 14:46:04