The development of recording technology has run parallel to a reorientation in popular music production. The goal of getting a good sound is no different now than it was when the first recordings were made, but the idea of what a good sound is and how it should be achieved are radically different.
The role of the recording producer in popular music is very important; the producer plays a very big part in the realisation of a composition by deciding what technology should be used and how to use it. Interplay between the musician, record producer and engineer is critical to the recording process. However, what is eventually fixed to tape must first be composed around the limitations of the available technology. Thus the most direct interactions between music and technology occur during composition and realisation.
There are a number of record producers who have become famous for their distinctive sound and their particular techniques and application of varied developments of studio technology. Some producers take much advantage of the technology available to them, whilst others seem to prefer to employ more classical techniques of record production, tending to shy away from the increasing practise of digital studio technology.
Ross Robinson, well known for producing nu-metal' bands such as Korn', Deftones', Limp Bizkit' and Soulfly', generates his own distinctive sound. Robinson focuses more on capturing the soul and spirit of the music that he produces. He does this by resisting the use of digital technology and continuing to use analogue, stating that the digital realm is very trendy, and it's not a very permanent sound, it's just too synthetic, it doesn't come from flesh and blood.' (R. Robinson. Quoted by A. Pertout. Ross Robinson: The Art of a Record Producer [online]. Available from: http://www.users.bigpond.com/apertout/Robinson.com. [Accessed 02/06/01].)
Another producer known for his creation of a specific sound is Butch Vig, who became famous for his work on the album Nevermind' by Nirvana. (1991, Geffen).
Butch Vig had a tendency to record everything dry, steering away from the use of effects when recording. He would use quite a lot of compression on Kurt Cobain's vocals so that he could control his dynamics, and would also do some double-tracking.
Vig would record the guitars in a very different way, with a great emphasis on the use of distortion. On the track Breed', Cobain used a Rat distortion pedal which was direct injected . The signal was split and run into an amp and the direct injection was run to the board to create a fuzzy white-noise kind of sound' (Butch Vig, from R. Buskin: Butch Vig. Talking Garbage. [online] available from: http://sospubs.co.uk/sos/199/_articles/mar9//butchvig.html. [accessed 29/05/01]).
Working with the band Garbage promoted a different take on producing for Butch Vig. Instead of simply producing the band, he was also a member of it. Samplers played a huge part in Vig's work in Garbage, unlike with Nirvana, where recording was based primarily on live instruments. I got bored spending so many years recording really fast, straightforward punk records, so that's why we didn't want to approach the Garbage record from the angle of a band playing live. Instead it was like "We can record 47 guitars on this song, mix it down to a stereo sample, then run it backwards, record another 20 guitars and process them so that they sound...