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    • 3
    • mar

    In celebration of Stain’s 20th anniversary, we’ve asked Ron St. Germain to recall a special moment from the Stain sessions. Read his tale about the recording of the final song on the album, Wall.

    O.K. Here’s the story:

    I always challenge myself to do SOMETHING that I have never done before in every album I produce. During the mix phase of Living Colour’s album, “STAIN”, I found that perfect opportunity in the closing song of the album, “Wall”. The message of the song is that “… the wall between us all must fall…”. As the song builds to it’s chaotic, whirlpool of a denoument, so felicitously presented by what ALL the band members were playing (I recall that Doug’s meltdown on the bass into his legendary ‘pedal board of madness’ was particularly awesome), I came up with the ONLY option I could think of that would take the track to the final level:

    My idea was to do an edit LENGTHWISE on the tape to be able to split the left and right channels individually and actually “flip”, one side at a time, the DIRECTION of the music! Initially, the left track would be playing ‘upside down and backwards’ while the right track remained ‘normal’, then instantly, at the second musical section that butted up against the first ‘flipped’ section, the right track instantly flips to ‘upside down and backwards’ and the left channel returns to ‘normal’. I was mixing to 1/2″ tape (at 30ips, I believe) and found my two key musical passages and marked my first and second “out” and “in” points and proceeded to cut the two sections of music out. I put the second piece aside and began with the first.

    To accomplish this type of ‘lengthwise’ edit was a very delicate, time consuming task that required patience, a steady hand and several ‘fresh razor blades’. I was mixing in Right Track’s Studio ‘A’ and their control room window looking in to their large Studio ‘A’ had a ledge that was probably around 12 or 14 feet wide. Due to the length of the sections of music I choose, my ‘method’ was to take that piece of tape (the first section of music to be inverted) and tape it down (with splice tape) to the control room window ledge length wise. Then I took a metal yardstick (yes, I confirmed it was NOT magnetized!) and made tiny dots every 30″ widthwise on the tape to give me ‘guide points’ to lay the yardstick on so I could get an accurate split between the left and right channels right down the middle of the tape. Next was to begin the “incision” process; with the yardstick carefully positioned on my dots, I began to cut the tape right down the middle lengthwise. As with any tape edit, the trick is to make the cut without stopping. One smooth movement is the only way to insure a ‘clean’ cut, devoid of any ‘jagged or wavy edges’ so as to enable a ‘tight’ splice with no ‘airspace’ or ‘gaps’ that create an audible ‘dropouts’ of the program material! I repeated this process several times for the next hour or so until I had (approximately) the last 45 seconds of the song split down the middle. [At 30 inches per second times 45 seconds, that comes to 1,350 inches or 112 feet of manually slitting 1/2″ tape down the middle]! Once the first section was ‘split’, I took the left channel ONLY and ‘flipped’ that half of the mix (a 1/4″ wide piece of tape with the left channel information), carefully lining it up with the right side (still taped down to the ledge) and began the delicate task of “closing” the approximately 56 foot ‘incision’ by (carefully) applying the splice tape for the entire length of the piece. Once the first piece was completed, l attached that back in to the master (with a normal 45 degree slant splice top edge to bottom edge)) and proceeded to do the second musical section (only the right channel this time) and connect that to the end of the first piece!

    After these two sections were spliced back in to the master, I found that I still needed to do a bit more work on the final 15 seconds (approximately) of the song to help convey a sense of the last pieces of the “wall between us all” in its absolute final stages of collapse. Up to now, as with any ‘collapsing wall’, as a viewer, you have to step back a bit to prevent being hit by falling debris, but once the stones have stopped crumbling and the dust clears somewhat, it is safe to approach (and start grabbing pieces to sell as souvenirs like the Berlin wall???). What you hear in those final 10 to 15 seconds (after the inverted reversed channels sections) is how I tried to impart the randomness and jagged unpredictability of the last few falling stones.

    Right after playing it for the band, who were visibly moved by the audio event presented to them, I did make a ‘safety copy’. When I got to mastering, as I was rewinding side two of the album, I remember Bob Ludwig turning around rather quickly as he heard the inordinate amount of splice tape moving by the heads and immediately asked “What was THAT??”!! He had never seen (or heard) of such a splice ever before either, which I was immediately happy about! I played the section for him and he went over to check the splice out and he just shook his head and said something to the effect of, “Saint… you’re crazy”. I just smiled and laughed! Maybe so, but it sure was FUN!

    (Have a listen: https://soundcloud.com/livingcolour/wall )

    Blue Skies!
    Saint

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