I ran off some rough mixes and headed back to the hotel. I had the next day off before mixing began and decided I wouldn’t obsess over what we had. I managed to avoid listening to the mixes until the following morning. I took a 3 hour drive and made mental notes of what I was looking to do. Mixing was a headache back then, you had to patch the effects to the channels you wanted and had to choose wisely because you were limited by the physical number of effects you had. It was analog and it was stressful. We would have the rehearse bumping the faders when needed as the board was not automated, either. There were dozens of moves to make each song and if you screwed up you had to start over.
Big reverb drums were the trend at the time but I wanted these drums to sound big without it sounding like they were in an empty airport hanger. I also intended to make the guitars sound massive but allow room for the bass. This was the first time the band was not on the same page as me. I made the ultimate dick power move and had them wait in the lounge until I finished the first mix. I knew what they should sound like and now I just had to convince them of it.
Once I was done I opened the door to the lounge and told them they could come back in. There was one rule – they could not say a word until they listened to it three times. I pressed play and watched their faces go from worry to amazement. I had sold them on their sound, today would not be as difficult as first thought.
Since this was a raw, energetic band I was able to keep the same setup for most of the songs, making small adjustments as needed. 6 hours in and I had 9 mixes complete. I had the engineer run off a CD while I took a half hour walk. The CD would record in real time, no quick transfers back then. I headed back, grabbed the CD and hit the rental car. I wanted to A/B what we had with a few others I brought along, just to be sure. After about an hour of comparing I was sold, this was exactly what I dreamed I would have. I headed back to the studio and finished off the remaining songs. I was drained but excited to be able to finally shop what we had created.
I had 100 copies made with the intent to get them in the right hands – from managers to A&R reps to taste makers in the rock press. The taste makers could help create a buzz that would help with the labels and managers. First reactions were amazing, I had 4 pretty decent interviews lined up in a matter of days. The label reaction was a little colder than expected but I did manage to get the band hooked up with a great management team. They would be taking over shopping the CD. Within a week they got them on a major summer festival tour, too.
Weeks turned to months and the band was still not signed. Reps loved what they heard but didn’t want to take that leap and sign them. That major label deal was not going to happen so the band and management decided to take a deal with an independent label that had decent distribution. The deal was enough to repay my initial investment plus a few thousand for my efforts. The release went on to sell 65,000 copies. Very decent numbers for an independent release but not the hit I expected the band to be. Infighting lead to the band breaking up before they got to make a second record. Each of them tried to start something new but none of their new creations had the power and magic of the original band.
This was also the last band I tried to work with on this level. I still listen to their CD and wonder what more I could have done. They had it all… except for success.