Pros Talk

Multiple Grammy Engineer Francis Buckley on SBS Designs – Namm 2015

2015 NAMM Post production stops by the MV Pro Audio Booth # 6809 and speaks to Multiple Grammy engineer Francis Buckley

4 elements to make a great record with Multiple Grammy award engineer Francis Buckley talks about Quincy Jones, SBS Designs, Systems By Shorty and more.

Francis Buckley, Multiple Grammy Award mix engineer (Tamia, Quincy Jones, LL Cool J, Van Halen, Black Flag, ETC…) talks about his personal philospphy (the four elements) to making a great recording

Check out this great interview with Francis in the MV Pro Audio booth, Hall A #6809, 2015 NAMM

Multi Grammy Winning Recording Engineer/Producer Francis Buckley: 4 Steps to Make a Great Recording

Francis Buckley, Multi Grammy Award Mix engineer (Tamia, Quincy Jones, LL Cool J, Van Halen, Black Flag, etc…) talks about his personal philosophy (the four elements) to making a great recording This is Noland of and I’m here with Francis. We’re here at the NAMM Show. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions just in regards to what you’ve done with regards to Post Production that you’ve done some more actually for sound engineering. Is that right?

Francis Buckley: Yeah, my main focus is music recording. Okay.

Francis Buckley: And I’ve been an Audio Engineer for 35 years. Uh-huh.

Francis Buckley: I started out in a small studio in Hollywood. First album that I engineered was for a group called Black Flag. Nice.

Francis Buckley: I did their debut album called Damaged. And I went from there to MCA Music Publishing and I ran the publishing studios for 10 years where I got to meet all these great song writers. Oh wow.

Francis Buckley: And at that time, it was still the old school recording producer who was usually a guy on the phone with a big cigar whatever, and then in that period from 1980 to 1990 was when the song writer became the producer. Oh sure.

Francis Buckley: So I know all the song writers. Oh wow.

Francis Buckley: And the one song writer that I spent the most of my time with was a gentleman named Glen Valor. Okay.

Francis Buckley: And Glen did a—we did the Alanis Morissette record and then we did the Wilson Philips records and we did some work with Quincy Jones. From there, I kind of went out independent and did a lot of work with Quincy. I won a Grammy Award for Best Engineering working with Quincy on an album called Q’s Jook Joint. How did that feel?

Francis Buckley: That was amazing. Yeah.

Francis Buckley: I’ve worked with a lot of producers before but I’ve never worked with a producer who just his presence brought an energy to the session that just I mean because you’re in the studio with Quincy so you want to do great but you want to great plus because you’re in the studio with him. Sure.

Francis Buckley: And he was just the most magnanimous person I’ve ever worked with. Do you feel that the personality of a person really super influences the way that you could come up with a kickass sound?

Francis Buckley: I think so because with Quincy, his thing was “You’re a pro, you’re here to do your gig, do your gig.” Right? Right.

Francis Buckley: And there was no second guessing any of my decisions. Really.

Francis Buckley: Including my decisions to use ADATS on that record. I have people to this day refuse to believe it it was done on ADATS. But you don’t have to believe it but it was, it was done on black face ADATS. And for me what it was was I knew Quincy likes to have as much tracks, as much ability to record what he wants when he wants to do it. Right.

Francis Buckley: So what that gave me the ability was do I need more tracks? Yeah, just plug it in the unit and I got eight more. So it was a challenge but it was a lot of fun. Do you kind of change your style to kind of match them or…?

Francis Buckley: Yeah, oh yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. So you have to go do a research before you get in the booth?

Francis Buckley: Yeah. And I’m one of those people that I don’t feel I should ever make an artist rethink what they’re doing in order to compensate for my recording abilities. Right.

Francis Buckley: In other words, you do what you do. My job is to record it. Right.

Francis Buckley: My job is to get out of the way. Put up the mics and get out of the way, you know. Oh wow.

Francis Buckley: Yeah. Yeah. So I’ve always been that kind of a minimalist, you know. I don’t need a million pieces of gear. I don’t need the biggest recording council in the world. I need, you know, my personal philosophy is just four elements to making a great recording. You got to have a great player. That’s one.

Francis Buckley: You got to have a great instrument. Two.

Francis Buckley: You got to be in a great environment. Three.

Francis Buckley: And you got to have a great recording engineering. Wow.

Francis Buckley: Right. The gear to a certain degree doesn’t matter. Right. Okay.

Francis Buckley: I’ve done some great stuff on Mackie consoles. There’s an old saying, “It’s not the toy, it’s the boy.” Right.

Francis Buckley: Yeah. Yeah. But now, didn’t the Rolling Stones, didn’t they record—I can’t remember what song that was, but I remember reading about their drummer had like a traveling—it was almost like a toy kit like you’re saying.

Francis Buckley: Yeah. And they used it on the track.

Francis Buckley: Yeah, absolutely, because it was like when those are the kinds of things where you let other outside things influence what you’re going to do and it’s like, no, don’t think that way. Yeah.

Francis Buckley: Don’t think, “Well, this recording isn’t going to go well because I don’t have…” So what you’ve done is you’ve introduced an element of negativity. Sure.

Francis Buckley: And it’s like negativity, I mean you’d be surprised how one little word can crash a session, how one little word can make it soar. So you’re talking about negativity. You’re talking about what you bring in to that session, just your own personality.

Francis Buckley: Yeah. I’ll give you a good example. Okay.

Francis Buckley: Say for instance, I walk in to a studio and I pull out iPhone is the only thing I got. And the singer says, “Is that the microphone you’re going to use?” If I go, “Yeah, let’s see what we get.” Immediately the singer says, “This is not good.” Yeah, right.

Francis Buckley: I would say, “Yeah, this is what we’re going to use. Let’s get to work.” Right. Right.

Francis Buckley: Whether I don’t like the mic or not you’ll never know. Yeah.

Francis Buckley: So… I’ve kind of thought it like Damone at Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Francis Buckley: Yeah. Where he’s like, “Hey, Debbie, check this place out. Isn’t this place great?” No matter where he’s at.

Francis Buckley: No matter where I am. Yeah, yeah. And that’s the attitude because we as recording engineer, our job is to create this safe, warm environment for the artist to come in and bear their soul. Wow.

Francis Buckley: Because that’s where the performance has to happen is in the studio. Right. Right.

Francis Buckley: Like for instance I also teach audio engineering at Musician’s Institute, right. And I tell my students it’s not the—the artist is going to come in and you got to give them that environment. It’s all about the performance. I asked them, “You guys heard of the Beatles?” “Yeah.” “Have you ever seen them live?” “No.” And you never will. Right.

Francis Buckley: So the only performance we have is what’s on the disc. Right.

Francis Buckley: That’s where the performance is. So you have to set up this environment where they feel free to express themselves in any way they want. Right.

Francis Buckley: If they want to jump around and act crazy, I got to let them do it to a certain degree. Sure.

Francis Buckley: I had a situation not too long ago where somebody brought me a track and I’m listening to the vocalist and I hear a vocalist with a V8 but it’s only on second gear, and I’m going, “I don’t get it.” I hear this power but I don’t hear her expressing it. And he said, “Oh yeah, the engineer put up a microphone and told her don’t sing too loud because you’ll damage my microphone.” Oooh.

Francis Buckley: And I was like, “He said what?” So her entire performance was like diminished. So I told them I said, “Look, go back in the studio. Get her to recut these vocals.” When they turned her loose, it was night and day. Wow.

Francis Buckley: The emotion. Because that’s what we’re trying to capture, a performance and emotion. Wow. That’s awesome. Francis, let’s talk real quick about the booth.

Francis Buckley: Yeah. We’re here at the Pro Audio and the Softube Booth.

Francis Buckley: Right. Who’s using this gear?

Francis Buckley: Just about everybody. Softube is one of the leading software, audio software manufacturers. They make all plug ins. They make all kinds of stuff but their forte is what we call modeling. So they go and they get a piece of hardware and they turn it in to software. And they to my ears they’re the closest of anybody. Really.

Francis Buckley: Their Trident A-Range EQ. I was a big fan of Trident consoles. Love them. When I saw that I went, “Great.” I know that EQ so well and it was like, “Wow.” This is as close as you can get—I mean you’ll never get 100% because this is digital and that’s analog. There’s always going to be a difference. But they’re so close. Right.

Francis Buckley: And they’re very meticulous. They won’t let a product go until it meets their exacting standards. Wow.

Francis Buckley: So they really really do their homework. What do you say would be the number one application for this in the post environment?

Francis Buckley: I don’t know if I can say there’s a number one because they make great EQ’s, great compressors. If you need a great EQ and great compressor, or if you’re looking for that vintage piece that we used to have that doesn’t exist anymore, they’re making lots of it. I know a lot of people out there are wondering if you are endorsed by them or are you endorsed by them or you use their products or…?

Francis Buckley: I don’t do endorsements. You don’t. Okay.

Francis Buckley: No, because I like to be free to select what I want. So what I try to do my reputation is more valuable than some of these products. Right.

Francis Buckley: Right. So if I’m using it, you know it’s something that I’ve researched. I don’t let my name to anything unless it’s something that I really think is great. Wow.

Francis Buckley: So as far as you ask about application, it’s whatever you need and they make a product it’s up to you to put it in your application. Wow. Interesting.

Francis Buckley: We’re also showing the Soyuz microphones out of Russia which are amazing hand built microphones, old school types. They build their own capsules. They line their own transformers. It’s all hand soldered… They’re made out of the old rockets that….

Francis Buckley: … in a facility that was an old military warehouse. Really.

Francis Buckley: And when they bought the warehouse, they found these boxes of old tubes. : Really.

Francis Buckley: Because the Russian military never switched over to solid states so they’re still making tubes. Really.

Francis Buckley: So they started making these microphones out of them and they’re really a no holds barred super high quality microphone. Wow.

Francis Buckley: Yeah, well built. You just mentioned a couple of products. What was the first name of the product?

Francis Buckley: Soyuz is the microphone. Okay. What was the second product?

Francis Buckley: Softube, Soyuz. We’re also doing SBS Designs out of New York. Okay.

Francis Buckley: Really high end analog products. And the thing is with analog, one of the things I tried to introduce to my students is that analog, it has to be expensive. Yeah.

Francis Buckley: … if you really want quality audio. I’ve heard this question, “Why do old records sound better than new ones?” Okay. Well mostly because old records were made on either on a Neve , on API, a really really high quality recording console. 9:43 Right.

Francis Buckley: Nowadays, we have well you walk around the shelves. There’s a lot of inexpensive analog gear. Yup.

Francis Buckley: And if you’re going to introduce analog in to it, it’s really got to be high quality or you’re going to diminish your quality. Yeah. Some people say that most expensive thing is the one that cost the least.

Francis Buckley: Yeah. Yeah. Or the best tool for the job maybe the one you’re holding in your hand. Could be, yeah.

Francis Buckley: Yeah. So you got to be a little bit of a chameleon in this business. I have seen guys who will say, “Oh I can’t record if I don’t have this.” And I go, “Oh you poor guy.” Yeah, right, yeah.

Francis Buckley: Because what if you’re called in to a session, you go sorry, you don’t have the right equipment. Well, you’re out of the gig. Yeah. Yeah.

Francis Buckley: You have to adapt. Francis, where can people find out more about you and then also more about these products?

Francis Buckley: Right. Well of course, How do we spell Soyuz?

Francis Buckley: S-O-Y-U-Z. Got it.

Francis Buckley: It is exactly like the Soyuz Spacecraft. Okay.

Francis Buckley: That’s what they named it after. SBS which stands for Systems by Shorty. Okay.

Francis Buckley: Because the guy Shorty is the owner of the company. Okay.

Francis Buckley: He hand build here in the USA. All hand build, hand soldered, super high quality components. For myself, Okay.

Francis Buckley: Or find me on Facebook. And that’s

Francis Buckley: Right. Cool. Hey, Francis, thanks for your time. We really appreciate it.

Francis Buckley: My pleasure. Awesome information.

Francis Buckley: Thank you. Will see you next year at NAMM. Yeah. Yeah. Enjoy the rest of the show.

Francis Buckley: Yup. Thank you. See you.

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