Elliot Mazer Channeling Janis...and Neil
"Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the mix is so delightful . . . ." No, it wasn't snowing when I visited producer/engineer Elliot Mazer this summer, and the Wrath-of-God-like thunderstorm was actually showing signs of stopping. But I was more than happy to let it rain while, inside, I enjoyed sneak previews of two legendary albums Mazer originally helped record and has now remixed for six channels: Big Brother and the Holding Company's Cheap Thrills, featuring Janis Joplin (for Super Audio CD), and Neil Young's Harvest (for DVD-Audio). Mazer was about to begin a new DVD-A, Sinatra at the Sands, when I came calling. - Ken Richardson
When I talked to Neil [for the February/March 2001 issue], he said only some of Harvest would be multichannel. Did he have to be persuaded to okay a remix of the entire album for DVD-Audio?
Neil and I decided we wouldn't do it if it didn't get us off as much as the original did. . . . In general, you're among the musicians when you're listening to the Harvest remix inside the corral of your speakers. The electric songs, though, were originally recorded with a PA in a barn. We even had mikes outside the barn picking up reflections from the hills; that's the basis of the ambience in the surround channels for those songs. As for how the band is spread, look at the photo on the back of the LP!
How did you handle the center channel for both Harvest and Cheap Thrills?
I used it for various things. Usually, I put a voice or an instrument in all three front channels. In a real room, sound never comes from one specific place.
Have any Big Brother members heard the finished Cheap Thrills on SACD?
We haven't gotten discs to them yet because they don't have SACD players. But Laura and Michael Joplin, Janis's sister and brother, came to the studio. They listened and loved it.
Does it bother you that these two albums are reappearing in different formats?
No, I like both formats, and I'm happy that both albums are coming out sounding so good. But hardware manufacturers should make more machines that play both. The fan who loves James Taylor shouldn't have to buy two players to hear his Warner Bros. and Columbia albums.
Have you heard any mixes by other engineers that you've enjoyed?
Yes - George Massenburg's mix of Randy Newman's Little Criminals [on DVD-Audio] and Elliot Scheiner's mix of Sting's Brand New Day [on DTS 5.1 CD].
You just got new speakers for your home. Why did you upgrade?
My old stereo speakers were the size of an icebox. I wanted one system that would work for everything from vinyl to surround. I just put in an NHT Evolution M6 system. There's a subwoofer in each of the left and right front cabinets, and I have separate woofers for the surrounds. The system is extremely versatile. I can tune the rear channels differently if I wish.
Why should people get excited about multichannel music?
It can thrill a listener more easily than the most expensive stereo rig. A cheap surround system gives more value than a stereo system at the same price. . . . The record labels, the gear makers, and the press must spread the word and let people hear how great DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD are.
But in the age of MP3, can high-quality audio be marketed to the masses?
I don't think people get goosebumps from MP3.
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