Mike Ragogna: How did you separate The Stone Roses’ sound from all the other acts you were producing?
John Leckie: For the time, it wasn’t technically that different from anything I was doing. I mean, sometimes I’d use a sample for the snare drum or, particularly, the bass drum. You’d get the drummer to record one really good hit, and you’d sample it and trigger it from the “played” snare drum. So as the drum in the track is being played, it’s triggering a sample to fire so all the drum hits are the same kind of thing. But I’d never replace the original snare, I’d always use the sample to back up the live. Bass drum tones needed to be the same each time with the same impact on every hit, and you can do that with a sample quite easily. It’s just a normal technique I’d even use today.
MR: So that was part of the layering-in of the sounds.
JL: Yeah, things were layered–guitars were double-tracked, sometimes we’d double-track an acoustic guitar playing what the electric guitar did. We’d have two electric guitars and two acoustic guitars on each side all playing the same part, and it creates a kind of drone and harmonic thing.
MR: I imagine you used a couple of other non-traditional tricks too?
JL: We’d do anything for what the part was to make it sound amazing. Like on “Bye Bye Badman,” the guitar is being played through a revolving Leslie speaker.
MR: But, generally, the band played live and you captured the moment.
JL: That’s right, yeah, that’s where you start off, you come and set the band up as if they were on stage, and they play. You get a guide vocal so everyone’s in the mood as if it’s a gig, and you just go for the best take. Sometimes it takes a few goes, sometimes you might get it in the first take. Or sometimes it can take twenty, thirty, forty takes, you get depressed and really hate the song, then you come in and do it again and it’s perfect. Luckily, nearly all these songs had been played in front of an audience before they were recorded. I love that because you know if the song works. When you’re dealing with songs that have just been written that have never been performed in front of an audience, you never quite know how good it could be or what the “fat” is or what you’re indulging in that the audience really isn’t going to get off on. So it’s great that the Roses actually performed these songs on stage before they were recorded.
MR: How much part replacing did you have to do?
JL: From the original track of them all playing together, you may only keep the bass, drums, and rhythm guitar, but you don’t tell them that because everyone’s going for a great performance. It depends on what the song is really.
MR: With forty-eight tracks to fill, did you find yourself keeping those original performances anyway?
JL: Yeah, you save everything if you can. But twenty-four tracks is easily used up once you start doing things in stereo like keyboards, or once you have two amps going, that kind of thing. It’s not like working with digital Pro Tools or a work station where you can record every microphone kind of thing, like when you have four mics on the guitar. On tape, it’s recorded on one track, but on Pro Tools, you would record those four microphones, which gets really tedious if you start double-tracking. Before you know it, you’ve got endless tracks.
MR: Do you prefer recording with a fewer amount of tracks?
JL: At that time, I was getting into slave reels, but I recently did a record with My Morning Jacket where we used a sixteen track machine, and only twelve of the tracks were used. If you think about it, if you get a good drum sound, the drummer’s going to love it, everyone’s going to get off on it. And there’s no reason why that couldn’t be on two tracks. But just for safety, I put the bass drum on another track, so there were three tracks of drums.