"He's still devoutly analog," said EE consultant Williams. "One of his favorite sayings is, 'Wherever there's a microprocessor, there's trouble.' "
"I still record the same way I always did," said Scholz. "The master goes to tape, and I mix in analog. My board is a 20-year old [Audiotronix] mixing console. They're not any better today in fact, they're probably worse."
Even the tape Scholz used to record the debut album Scotch 226, which was recently discontinued remains his choice for recording. He stocked up on the brand because his recording techniques and equipment are geared for the 226's "head room" and bias adjustments.
Filling out the vintage recording gear are a "very old" Fadex fade r automation system and two 3M M79 24-track analog tape decks. The equipment fits well with the recent renaissance of the "primal" rock sound a movement that amuses Scholz. "Now people are falling all over themselves to get ahold of these old tape decks," he said. "Fortunately, I'm very slow to change something that's working."
Scholz does accomplish some mixing with digital editing tools. "Computer programmers can fool with it until the end of the world, but there's still no way you can play guitar effectively on a keyboard; keys are extremely limiting. Fingertip control over strings is quite phenomenal.
"[The same goes for] the human voice," he said. "When it comes down to getting the music recorded that you want, you're stuck with playing it."
Reproducing the Boston sound live while adhering to the idiosyncratic Scholz equipment list has proved problematic for the technicians who work on the group's shows. A typical Boston tour can employ 12 or more engineers, who attend to as many as half a dozen semi tractor-trailers' worth of gear and that's the ebony porn least of their worries.
"A lot of the Boston gear is very vintage; it's just not replaceable," said Vivek Maddala, a hardware design engineer at Tektronix Inc. (Beaverton, Ore.) who worked preproduction for last summer's tour. "Typically, you have three or four backup pieces of equipment to count on. But everything that Tom owns is highly modified. So, for example, if something goes wrong with the Rockman sustainer in his primary rig, you can't simply swap it out with another [generic] sustainer. Probably 99 percent of the people [listening] wouldn't notice. But Tom's very meticulous about his sound."
That has proved a key factor in the long-term success of Boston, despite the notorious stretches between releases. In 1986, Third Stage debuted. Though it had been years since a Boston release, the album shipped platinum and hit No. 1.
Another three years of recording brought forth the band's fourth plat inum album: Walk On, released in 1994. Last year's Greatest Hits compilation offered two new songs and garnered more platinum.
Today, Scholz is busy writing, playing and recording the next Boston product "the plan is to have it out for Christmas and to tour next spring" and he's sticking to his analog-based formula.
He's also keeping an eye on the future of music distribution, particularly via the Internet, and there is an official Boston Web site . "Once you're set up over your phone line or cable, you certainly don't need to take a trip to a music store," he acknowledged. "I'm sure it's just a matter of time before the music store as we know it is a thing of the past."
Scholz has also formed a new design engineering company, Hybrid Design, though it's a sure bet he won't be running it.
Meanwhile, he continues to have an impact on young musicians and engineers. Tektronix' Maddala was 12 when Third Stage came out. "I wanted to emulate the 'Tom Scholz sound' in my own music," he said, "and I was absolutely influenced by him in my career as an engineer."
For Scholz, though, it's all about the music."Music is an escape for me," he said, "and if a few million people can escape along with me, that's all I could hope to accomplish."
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