Friday, September 24, 2010

John Goodmanson: Mixing the New Hanson, No "MMMBop"

Sound Check

John Goodmanson is a Seattle-based record producer, recording engineer, and mixer. The list of bands he's worked with is holy: Blonde Redhead, Nada Surf, Death Cab for Cutie, Blood Brothers, Jaguar Love, Sleater-Kinney, Wu-Tang Clan, Gossip, and more. He stays busy for a reason—he's good, and so are his ears. He's a meticulous craftsman of sound. A sculptor of EQs, effects, tonal range, and panning. One thing he does is work with bands to derive their sound, starting by getting songs as live as possible. In the mix-down, he has a divine sense of the tracks, a feel for how sounds should sound, and an awareness of space in a song. Musicians want to work with him because of his experience and because of his working knowledge of gear, rooms, speakers, and soundboards. Goodmanson understands where a band is trying to go, and he's able to get them there. Recently, he mixed Hanson's fifth studio album, Shout It Out. It's been 13 years since "MMMBop." Things have changed.

How did it come about that you would mix Hanson's album?

Years ago, I comixed their ill-fated Island/Def Jam record. Once they got out of that deal, they started their own label, and we've been in touch on and off. I mixed a live concert DVD for them somewhere in there. I'm very flattered that they call me back.

What's it like working with Hanson?

They are awesome. There is no reason for them to be as well-adjusted as they are. They're smart and articulate and very self-aware. They also bleed radio pop songs. They're excellent musicians and sing harmony the way only siblings can.

What surprised you about them?

That there was nothing weird about them at all!

What was the most challenging part of working with them?

They were in Los Angeles and Tulsa while I was in Seattle mixing, so it started a little rough, with the mixes going back and forth over the internet. I think they haven't ever not been present at a mix before. Suddenly, it's the norm for me. It makes it slow to try ideas.

Was there a process? If so, what was it?

They would have a direction. Actually, they had mixed the record once already, and I'd mix and send it to them, and they'd call and have notes/ideas. It seemed like every time I thought I had them figured out, they would surprise me and want something really different. They pushed for things to be more raw and lively. They cut the record together in one room, so there was plenty of bleed and they wanted to retain that.

How has Hanson evolved as a band?

They have facial hair now. Having not been involved in the early stuff, it's hard for me to say.

Do you ever think the one main Hanson dude will go solo? Reinvent himself?

Like to be more urban, like Gwen Stefani or something? I don't know. It'd be like when that dude from New Kids on the Block put out his own record. I'm sure there have been plenty of opportunities for Taylor to go solo if he wanted. That's a very lonely position to be in, I think. There's safety in numbers. Plus, how are you going to fire your own brothers?

Were you ever like, "Oh my God, I'm working with Hanson. They did the 'MMMBop' song."


Do they do drugs? Or drink? Are they married? What is their sexual orientation?

They are all married with kids. I assume they drink. When I first worked with them, they insisted on smoking stogies while they made records. The studio had to get them special from a fancy tobacco store.

What about the drugs?

Probably. They go to all the best parties. But I don't really know. Most people don't do anything, except weed, in the studio. Studio time is too expensive.

Are they sick of the "MMMBop" song?

I can only imagine.

What would you say to people who want to slap the youngest Hanson, the cute one? He's the drummer, correct?

Yeah, the drummer is the youngest. I wouldn't slap Zac, though. He's built like a linebacker and could probably kick the ass of a dozen of your average Pitchfork-eating hipsters.

How did the single "Thinking 'Bout Somethin'" come together?

That was one where I had the mix together and they wanted it way more chaotic and lively, and it totally works. They played the track together live, including solos, and there was quite a bit of drum bleed into the Wurli mics. They really wanted that sound. I didn't polish it up too much. The horns on that song are KILLER. They hired some of the guys who played on all their favorite 1960s and '70s records: Jerry Hey (Earth, Wind & Fire) did the horn arrangements with the EW&F horn section. Jerry is on tons of other records, as well—Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Joe Cocker to name a few. All Music has 14 pages on him. I met him once years ago at a cash machine on Santa Monica Boulevard. The song "Thinking 'Bout Somethin'" works really well. Hanson rule. They're a great band.

What else have you been up to lately? What's coming up?

The Globes EP is out. I hope they put out the full record soon. Recently, I've been working on an LP with Black Whales. Blunt Mechanic will be making a record this fall. A new Los Campesinos record will get finished at some point here. The second Skylarkin LP was released last month. And I mixed a track on the new Weezer that just came out. recommended

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