Boylan's first imperative as producer was to put up a smokescreen, because the notion of a stiff union engineer sitting next to the compulsively controlling (and still Polaroid-employed) Scholz in the basement of his house on School Street in the lower-middle-class Boston suburb of Watertown was, alternately, too horrible and too comic to contemplate. "Can you picture it?" Boylan asks. "There's Tom working in his basement after working all day at Polaroid, sitting there recording his guitars through a Marshall and the prototype of his Power Soak, which at the time used a massive resistor taken from a theatrical lighting system and that was the size of a briefcase, while some guy from the union was waiting for him?"
So Boylan developed an elaborate ruse that involved flying the rest of the band to Los Angeles, where they were working on non-Scholz material, such as "Let Me Take You Home Tonight," while Scholz remained in his basement, safe from Epic's accountants. Boylan says he paid for the equipment rentals for Scholz himself to avoid tipping off Epic's auditors.
That spring, Boylan returned to Boston to hear the tracks, on which Scholz had recut drums and other percussion and ebony porn keyboard parts. Boylan then hired a remote truck in Providence, RI, and had it come to Watertown, where it ran a snake through the basement window of Scholz's home to transfer his tracks to a 3M-79 2-inch 24-track deck, going from 15 ips on the one-inch 112-track tape to 30 ips on the 3M multitrack. The tapes were taken to Los Angeles, where Boylan, Scholz and Delp settled in for vocals.
"Brad was one of the easiest singers to work with that I've ever met," says Boylan. "He actually hits those high notes; there's nothing electronic helping him. And he did it fast." Singing into a Neumann solid-state 87, running through a Quad Eight console using the onboard mic-pre and EQ and an outboard Quad Eight limiter, Delp sang "More Than A Feeling" in Capitol's Studio C with Warren Dewey engineering the overdubs. One of the more remarkable vocal pyrotechnics on an album where Delp's singing gives Scholz's guitar work a run for its money is on the passage where Delp's ever-rising tenor rides into the first notes of the signature guitar solo, a move Boylan says was planned and executed flawlessly on virtually the first take. All vocals were double-tracked except the lead vocal, and all the parts were done by Delp in quick succession.
The rest of the band was less involved. "If Tom could have played drums, he would have; he was that compulsive about the control of the project," Boylan observes. "He was particularly so with Barry, who had taught him to play the guitar in the first place. But with Brad, Tom seemed to find his limit. He knew he couldn't sing like that. He just sat there and listened for pitch and tempo."
It was in the mixing of the song that Boylan found his only real confrontation with the autocratic Scholz. At Westlake Studios' now-gone 6311 Wilshire Blvd. location, in a three-position manual mix - unautomated since all the tracks were filled, leaving no room for the two tracks required by the studio's new and rudimentary API console automation system - Scholz handled the guitar tracks, Boylan the drums and Dewey rode the vocals, with Steve Hodge assisting. "It was a tug-of-war in the beginning," says Boylan. "I want to make sure any Joe Blow can hear the vocals, and Tom is pushing the guitars up in the mix unceasingly. I was also trying to get the backbeat back into the track; I put a gate on the snare to get the hi-hat out of there and give the snare more punch. Meanwhile, Tom loves nothing more than the crash of cymbals and loud guitars."
Boylan concedes that "More Than a Feeling" is a heavily compressed recording, but notes that its squash came not electronically but rather from what he calls "manual compression." "We were pushing everything on the board to the edge," he says. "The interesting thing is that Tom had decided he wanted it to fade in with the acoustic guitars, and that kind of fools radio station compressors into thinking it's a quiet song, so they don't latch on to it right away."
But aside from nifty, if unplanned tricks like that, Boylan says he also learned something more lasting from this mixing session. "And it's something which I put to good use to this day," he notes. "People, as they listen to a record, will always be able to find the vocals when they want to. I learned that the lead vocal is more apparent than you think it is when you're in the middle of a mix."
Boylan also honed his psychological skills working with Scholz. "He's a genius and he's autocratic - when it comes to opinions, with him it's either`my way or the highway,'" he says without judgment. "When you run into a situation where there is a difference of opinion, I had to remind myself that my purpose in this project was to give Tom the room to do what his vision demanded, but to keep him from shooting himself in the foot. So you use karate: you figure out which way he's going and you go in the same direction, all the while quietly, but seriously, manipulating the situation to move it where you want to go in the end. You never confront. You nudge. That's part of producing records."
That first Boston album would be only part of Scholz's legacy. In 1981, he formed Scholz Research & Design, Inc., a company founded to create high-tech music equipment. After first developing the Power Soak for DI recording, SR&D introduced the Rockman, a small, inexpensive guitar amplifier with headphones which, along with the Tascam PortaStudio, helped launch the project studio as a mass-market concept.
The Rockman, and later variants such as the Bass Rockman, would eventually make Scholz as wealthy from his business and technology pursuits as from his music. He would need it. He spent much of the 1980s in litigation with former bandmates - for instance, Boston guitarist Barry Goudreau sued him, asserting that he hindered Goudreau's professional career by taking so long to make follow-up recordings. Scholz's legendary pursuit of perfection - he is rumored to have re-recorded the drum tracks to one song 108 times - also put him at legal loggerheads with Epic, which also sued him. Boston's second album, Don't Look Back, took two years to make; the band's third and final LP, Third Stage, was not released until 1986, a decade after "More Than a Feeling" stormed the airwaves and on a different label, MCA.blog comments powered by Disqus