Today ill be talking about a music producer who’s work has covered a range of genres and to explore the varying creative demands placed on him. I have chosen The producer Butch Vig to talk about because of his style and reputation of producing. He had many creative ideas he contributed towards major albums such as ‘Nirvana- Nevermind’ and ‘Smashing Pumpkins- Siamese Dream’. Vig incorporated many techniques into his style of producing over time. This included Overdubs and vocal double tracking. He was influenced Strongly on a few producers but mainly the Beatles producer ‘George Martin’ and the Beatles use of double tracking in songs. He uses double tracking on Nirvanas Nevermind album. Although Kurt Cobain wanted a more low-fi recording just like their album ‘Bleach’ Vig convinced him to have double tracked vocals on the album. I think the whole album was completely different to their previous album recording wise. The album was alot more cleaner and slick compared to the low-fi crackling of the other album. The double tracking help in the recording by making the vocals stand out more and for the whole instrumentation to be clearer in the album. This is one of the reasons Nirvanas Nevermind became so popular and is said to be one of the greatest albums of all time. Vig made the recordings more commercial and also made the tracks age well. As they don’t sound out dated at all. Kurt Cobain even said “Butch Vig recorded the album perfectly” in a 1993 interview. He seemed quite good with breaking grunge and indie bands into the mainstream limelight. Smashing Pumpkins are one of my favourite bands of all time and Vig’s production made the first two albums of theirs seem iconic and guided the bands sound to transform though-out their other albums. Although there was a lot over pressure on him after creating Smashing Pumpkins album ‘Gish’ and just producing Nirvana’s top selling ‘Nevermind’. He had a lot to live up to in his reputation of ‘siamese dream’. But Corgan and Vig managed to create a very ambitious sounding album. I think this is why im researching Butch Vig, its because he has produced loads of important albums and bands. That he has all produced with their own unique sound to them. His Ideas changed song structures, song styles, song sounds. Going back to Smashing pumpkins, the song ‘Disarm’ is a very good example of where his opinion mattered. This is because originally the song was written to be a hard rock song. But the song just didn’t sound right for the band or Vig. Instead of messing with the arrangement more. His idea was to strip the whole song down and even came up with the idea of recording strings to the song. This changed the song completely from a hard rock song to a more stripped down powerful song. But the alternative version is still sometimes played.
(Example of both versions): Alternative:
As you can see from both styles, Vig’s idea contributed a lot toward the album version. His job as a producer needs him to be creative with ideas when a song or album doesn’t sound right. He worked really hard on even a small section of a song, just to make it sound right, especially with nirvana’s and Smashing Pumpkins high demand for success. In some cases even working on small sections of songs for two days. He worked on countless projects and album recording ranging from Garage rock to electronic and power pop and has incorporated different creative thinking toward each album. This is so each recording album sounds different to the other and doesn’t just sound like the same band or album.
Another interesting thing he has produced, is his production of the last three Foo fighters albums. But the main one i’m interested in talking about is the newest one, ‘Sonic Highway’. This is because the whole album was recorded in different areas of America played though the documentary show ‘Sonic highways’. The show looks through the states music history and the recording process of each song influenced and recorded in the different states. Rolling Stone magazine reviewed this album and said:
‘These songs are some of the band’s most ambitious moments yet. The closer, “I Am a River,” grows from sprawling to self-righteous over seven minutes, with Grohl getting emotional on top of an orchestra. On the other end of the spectrum is the low-key “Subterranean,” an abstract, Floyd-ish ballad about starting over after the end of a relationship that defines you – a subject Grohl knows a thing or two about. But there’s not enough here that’s as endearingly offbeat as the Foos’ early records, or as darkly thrilling as Wasting Light’s best songs.’
The review on the Rolling stone website talks about the creative ideas of the songs on the album and how the locations and history behind them influenced the track. This is because music scenes were very different in different states and some genres were more popular in certain area. These songs featured many people from different music scenes from jazz bands to guitar legends. But it also mentions its different to there other albums. But i think they writ negatively about how it isnt as popular or as good as their early work and their album ‘Wasting Light’ which butch Vig also produced on. Personally i think Sonic highways is a good album, but its better to listen to the album through the tv series while they look at the music heritage and record in the different studios. Listening to the album on its own i think is quite average compared to some of the songs they have recorded. heres a track from this album-
Im also going to look at another review of a band called ‘L7’ and their album-‘Bricks are heavy’. This was also produced by Butch Vig in 1992. This Grunge album is one of many, Vig produced in the 90s. The review is on Allmusic.com:
‘Though they hailed from sunny L.A., L7 became the poster girls for grunge in 1992, with the meteoric success of their third album, Bricks Are Heavy. While their previous efforts had sounded sloppy and uneven, Nevermind producer Butch Vig helped the girls obtain a tight, compact sound on Bricks, pushing them to focus on their songwriting to boot. After all, great albums need great songs, and that’s exactly what you have here.’ -Allmusic
The review on this website talks about how Vig helped produce this album to one of the bands best studio albums. He made the album obtain a tight, compact sounds and helped the bands songwriting and structure to their songs. The songs are more well prepared and suited for the album. Vig made an another album like ‘Nevermind’ that wont be outdated. In my opinion the album is much better than their album before. With good riffs and popular lyrics, i think its their most popular album. It also has my favourite song by them on ‘Pretend that we’re dead’-
Vig started his career as a drummers in many bands but on the side built a home studio in his early career. But his producing career built more of a reputation for himself than being a drummer. He was already a well know producer before he started a band called Garbage. Although they were not a big as some of the artists he had produced. I think the bands he produced all had a bit of influence into the style of his band garbage. Heres an example of Garbage in 1995, with their hit song ‘Only happy when it rains’ and you can tell what bands influenced the style of this song.
But some of his earliest productions date back to 1982. This was the start of his producing career and it has developed alot with different producing styles and techniques used along the way. Although he mainly produced rock and grunge type bands. He also knew about producing more electronic bands too. But throughout the 80s he was producing more punky noise rock bands such as killdozer and the other kids. From 1985 he produced one or more bands every year until 1995 when we was working on garbage. The goes to show how hard working he was and how developed as a producer he has become over the years. This example is a band called Laughing Hyenas with their song Hells kitchen vig produced in 1985. I think this shows how different his producing over the years has become compared with all the other examples ive played.
The last thing i am going to talk about is another producer that was producing around the same time a Vig. Albini has recorded over 1,500 albums over time, mainly with obscure artists. But he has also produced similar bands albums to Vig such as Nirvana, the Pixies, the Stooges and Cheap Trick. But Albini’s opinion on his producing was that putting producers in charge of recording destroys the records. Albini’s doesnt want to threaten the artists control over the records. Although Vig didnt threaten control, he also pitched loads of ideas to the artists to make it better or to make it more commercial. I think Albini’s technique to his recording is to not over complicate the recordings but to just get the right sounds for the actual album. But he is also known for preferring live recording as much a possible instead of multi-tracking. His techniques are different in that way compared to Vig. His also tries to place mics in different places to try and get the correct sound and ambience for the recordings. Compared to Vig, i think he is more experimental with how he gets his sounds but tries not to overcomplicate things.
Thanks for listening.