Friday, December 7, 2012

The Man Behind The Curtain: 'Monster' Co-Producer Greg Collins

 Source: KISS: MONSTER - The Official Album and Tour Magazine #2

Co-producer Greg Collins helped the band to develop a monster sound.

One of the key elements in creating any record of success is finding the right producer. Bob Ezrin, Eddie Kramer and Michael James Jackson worked the controls on many classic KISS albums, but for the Sonic Boom Monster 2009 and this year, Paul Stanley took the reins, and just to make sure that the boat did not deviate off course, engineer Greg Collins was hired to co-produce. The talented Collins spoke with us about how he was working with the hottest band in the world, and what it took to see KISS writing the next chapter of his sonic legacy ...

KISS MAGAZINE: Can you give us a bit of your history, to where you started and how did you become a producer?

GREG COLLINS: I got my first record player, along with four discs KISS - Alive and Alive II, Destroyer and Love Gun - for Christmas when I was 9 years old, so you could say that was the beginning of my obsession with music. For as a teenager, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do. I studied music production at Fredonia State, near Buffalo, New York, and then moved to Los Angeles, where he landed a job as an assistant engineer at the Record Plant, later Ocean Way Studios. This was mid-90s, before music downloads hit the business, so it was a great time to start. I learned to make records of large producers and engineers like Don Was, Jim Scott, Rick Rubin and Mitchell Froom.

I was self-employed in around 2000, making engineer for bands like No Doubt, Red Hot Chili Peppers and System of a Down, and eventually worked my way into the mix and production. In 2005, I was in the mixing engineer How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb by U2, which won the Grammy Album of the Year. That was around the time that I was introduced to Paul Stanley and mixed his solo album Live To Win.

KISS: The first album I did with KISS was the Japanese Jigoku-Retsuden disk (which became bonus disc with Sonic Boom) and KISS classics re-recorded. Did that meeting was the seed that started Sonic Boom?

COLLINS: Yes, I think so. It was a nice experience for the band, and showed how well he could run this training in the study.

KISS: What was the difference in approach between Monster and the previous album?

COLLINS: A Monster difference was that we recorded over a period of time, but for no other reason than to meet schedules and obligations of the band. In terms of the actual recording, I think Sonic Boom was a deliberate gesture to some early KISS records, and Monster was less so. This time we went in search of drum sounds bigger, wider, probably provoke comparisons with albums like Revenge and Creatures of the Night.

KISS: Were there trials Monster, as in Sonic Boom?

COLLINS: In many of them, yes. Apart from being a good hobby, I can get familiar with the songs from the early stages.

KISS: As Sonic Boom sessions and focus back to the basics of recording on tape, Was that a suggestion of yours or something you asked?

COLLINS: When Paul first told me he wanted to do the album, which became Sonic Boom, described it as "an album of KISS with makeup years", so we made every effort to make the process as similar possible at that time, recording the basic tracks live and, of course, using tape. There is a sonic benefit of working with tape, but also forces you to work at a certain pace. It's nice if you have the time, but now seems rarely have. It makes you focus more on performance and less on amassing ever more tracks, which is only too easy when you work with Pro Tools. The film keeps you a little more honest.

During that between Sonic Boom and Monster some applications developed for the integration of tape machines and more continuous Pro Tools. Now you can record on tape and being recorded simultaneously in Pro Tools from the playback head of the tape machine. This gives you the sound of the tape, but without the need for long pauses to transfer the tracks to Pro Tools, which alone can use both formats simultaneously. We use this new system without actually changing our pace of Sonic Boom.

KISS: Was there any attempt to use old amplifiers and instruments on that record, and continued with that in Monster?

COLLINS: We use a similar mount two amps modern / old for Monster. Both Paul and Tommy have their brand of amplifiers, Engl for Paul, and for Tommy Hughes & Kettner, each paired with an old 70's Marshall. The guitars were mostly Les Pauls and SGs were detailed recreations of the originals from the 50s. For Gene Simmons, we use a combination of two slightly different amps, which helped us get a bigger sound and even more aggressive than in Sonic Boom, using the same under the 1975 Gibson Ripper I found in a music store near my study just before recording this album.

KISS: Do you think mixing the old with the new techniques and Pro Tools will become the industry standard?

COLLINS: Yes, it is very common to use old equipment with computer terminals. The tape method plus the Pro Tools seems popular for those who have access to the tape machines and the time and budget to work well, but recently I've just tested a computer program that emulates tape machines and I was very impressed. So, who knows? Things are moving so fast now, and it's hard to say what people use in just a couple of years.

KISS: Monster was recorded in your studio The Nook?

COLLINS: In its original incarnation, it was called The Hook, so I nicknamed the Nook (the nook) as a joke and gesture to its location and size. The sessions of the basic tracks were made in the Conway Studios and the Henson Studios. The vocals, guitar solos and some final mixes were done all at The Nook.

KISS: The "rules" of Sonic Boom of not having external composers, no ballad and that only four members of the band were playing on the disc, a concept Was established Paul?

COLLINS: Yes, and I think everyone agreed that this was what worked best last time, so there was no need for change. As in the last record, all the basic tracks, drums, bass, rhythm guitars, were recorded live and click tracks were not used.

KISS: How is working with Paul Stanley as producer?

COLLINS: There is nothing better than working with someone with experience and talent level of Paul. I, like the original KISS fan, he obviously is someone for whom I feel a ton of respect, and after making four albums with him, I can say it was great experience. I have come to understand why KISS is still able to make music that will live up to their classics. It is interesting that sometimes the artists themselves are produced does not work, because entangled and obsessed with details that are not really that important to the impartial listener. Paul is a rare artist who can keep an overview. No one has a better idea of how it should sound KISS Paul. It also hopes that the people around you do what they do best, and I accept the fact that he values my opinion as a great compliment.

KISS: Stanley has said before that no other configuration of KISS could have done the last two albums. What is the dynamic that makes it work so well?

COLLINS: It's just the right chemistry in my opinion. Paul and Gene have a professional relationship that lasts 40 years, and I think it is because there is a mutual respect between them and, more importantly, a respect for KISS and all that that name represents. Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer are excellent musicians who also so happens that provide the right balance of personalities to the group.

KISS: Now that you've worked with a few discs KISS, what would you say is what most surprised the fans if they saw the band working in the studio?

COLLINS: That's tough ... Maybe listen to KISS relax improvising a song by Neil Young?