the tool page

toolshed.down.net

spark becomes a flame

This site is now an archive; it is no longer being updated. See here and here for details.

ARTICLES

select a year

The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Digidesign.com

Date: June, 2001

Transcribed by
Trent (Trentnhs15@aol.com)


  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