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Posted by Syph on October 13, 1999 at 16:27:12:
From Guitar World - Nov. 1999
by Howard Massey
It isn't easy living in the shadow of a famous older brother. Just ask Andy Johns. While his older brother, producer Glyn Johns, was crafting albums for such luminaries as the Beatles (Let it Be), the Rolling Stones (Beggars Banquet), and the Who (Who's Next), young Andy quietly made his own way, producing and engineering albums for the likes of Jack Bruce, Jethro Tull, Traffic and Ten Years After.
Andy soon came into his own, making his mark as an engineer on some of rock's most infuential and best-selling albums, among them: the Stones' Exile on Main Street and Goats Head Soup, Led Zeppelin III and IV and Van Halen's For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. We recently caught up with Johns at his favorite faux-English pub on Sunset Strip in L.A., where he reminisced over a pint or two of ale about working with three of the most infuential guitarists of all time: Keith Richards, Jimmy Page and Eddie Van Halen.
Guitar World: How did you get hooked up with the Stones, Zeppelin and Van Halen?
Andy Johns: My brother Glyn worked with the Stones and Zeppelin. I think I met Jimmy
Page when I was 14, and I'd also known the Stones since that time. When I started out as
an engineer, I was working at this little place in London called Morgan Studios, and
Zeppelin booked in [to make LZ III]. I don't know why they chose Morgan. It certainly
wasn't to work with me.
I got to work with the Stones because I'd started working for Jimmy Miller, their producer. My first session with the Stones was also at Morgan. They came in to do a version of You Can't Always Get What You Want, and it was a disaster, so they went to Olympic Studios and did it properly.
Eddie Van Halen I met backstage at Madison Square Garden. We ended up in the kitchen with a bottle of Jack Daniels. He was sitting in one sink and I was in another. Eddie, being Eddie, always did most of the talking, and I would try to shout my way in. With most people, if you shout and scream, by the third time around they'll say "yeah?". Not Ed, he shouts louder than anyone. But we got on really well.
GW: Exile on Main Street was recorded in what has been described as appalling conditions. What difficulties did the recording create for you?
AJ: It was tough, man. At the time of Exile, the Stones had moved to the sought of
France because of England's tax laws. It was their idea to rent a house to record in, but
they couldn't find a suitable place. They ended up using the chateau that Keith was living
in. It was a lovely place, with a proper basement, not a wine cellar. It had one big room
at one end, and there were several other rooms as well. I put Nicky Hopkins in one room;
Bill Wyman's amp was under the stairway, and Charlie, Keith and Mick Taylor were all in
one room. But the room was made of stone and plaster, so it was difficult getting a good
sound in there. And the electricity was always going on and off because the south of
France is not technologically up to date. It was incredibly humid and very hot, so the
guitars would constantly go out of tune halfway through a song.
Plus, the Stones being the Stones, they didn't become productive until about 11 or 12 at night. You might get two or three good hours, and then things would fall to bits again. Most of the time, they were the worst band on the planet - out of time and out of tune. And then, it might take a few hours or a few days, but it would just come together. Bill might get up out of his chair and start playing; Keith would go stand next to Charlie, and this magic thing would happen. And - boing! - you'd have this off-planet experience. I just remember being very bored but having the time of my life.
GW: How involved was Keith in the creation of his sound?
AJ: If I were to ask Keith, "What do you think of that sound I've got?", he'd go, "Oh, who cares, man." He would use the same setup all the time, which made things a little difficult. I'd get a sound that would work for a mid-tempo song in D. Then we'd go to the next tune, which might be a ballad in A, and the sound wouldn't work. It made things a little difficult.
GW:Do you typically close-mic guitars or do you use room mics?
AJ: With the Stones, we would close-mic everything, using two dynamic mics at a
45-degree angle. That was my standard way of miking guitar amps before I figured out you
could mic the room and not just the instruments, which I did with "When the Levee
He then goes on to only talk about LZ and VH...so I'm not typing all that crap:) But hopefully someone will dig this article...