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His Own Special Way

Since the late eighties Nick Davis has been working for Genesis and some of their members. The albums We Can't Dance and Calling All Stations were produced by Nick, he also worked on the DVD-Releases. For a couple of years Nick has been working on new mixes for the rerelease of the Genesis catalogue. The forthcoming releases were reason enough to ask Nick some questions...

it: Hi Nick, thanks for taking some time for this interview. As you can imagine, the forthcoming Genesis SACD Releases are the main focus in this interview. So the first question is, why did you chose the format SACD for the rereleases and why will they not be released on SACD in North America?

Nick: Well, we've chosen the format SACD because - well I really like the sound of it! We had a demo of that machine three or four years ago and I thought it was fantastic. At the time we thought it would be the best way to deal with the Genesis music and do the re-release justice, really - by mixing it in this format. Ok, we see now that it's quite a niche market.
Not releasing the stuff on this format in America has nothing to do with the band, it's just that Warner won't support SACD and so it's not our choice really. We could force them to do DVD-A, but then we would be stuck with two DVD releases and no CD. So that would be quite complicated. So in America, they get a regular CD and a DVD-Video and in Europe you get a SACD and DVD-V.

it: From the technical point of view - is there a difference in quality between the dts 5.1 on the DVD and the SACD 5.1?
Nick: Yes, there's definitely a change in quality between these two formats. The dts soundtrack is still a compressed format, while the SACD offers the full range of 60 to 80 kHz on all speakers, I think. But still - for the regular person with a home theatre system, it still sounds fantastic, i mean even I listen to it most of the time in dts at home but SACD ist still a bonus, really.

it: Would it be possible for Warner to put a DVD-Audio Layer on the DVD-Video?
Nick: I don't think they could put DVD-A and DVD-V on the same disc. Would be a question of space, because you get pictures, video and this stuff on the DVD besides the album in 5.1 - so it was decided just to go with CD / DVD-V.

it: Speaking about the new mixes, what did you do, did you just remix the stuff or is it something completely new?
Nick: We did a complete new mix of everything. We've taken the old analogue multitrack tapes and transfered them onto our protools-system which is running at 192kHz and 24 bit PCM and then mix through on a SSL analogue desk onto this DSD [Direct Stream Digital] system. So you get completely new 5.1 and stereo mixes on both, the SACD and CD Layer.

it: This means you had to produce these new mixes, at least the stereo mixes, by listening to the original mixes and get the new mixes as close as you can get?
Nick: Yes, that's right.

it: Did you add new stuff to the mixes or did you only take the old sources?
Nick: No, nothing has been added, no new instrumentation, but obviously the reverb and stuff like this are new as I had to recreate them. But there are no extras and no other material on there.

it: Are the 5.1 mixes that we know from the Video Show DVD  the same mixes that will appear on the SACDs?
Nick: Generally not, but they are not radically different. I just had more time to do them this time, so I mainly improved things a bit. Ok, some of them - like Land of Confusion, that's completely different, it wasn't really surround on theVideo Show DVD. But I think the Abacab stuff is very similar. I tried to improve them where I could.

it: We heard that the original multitrack tapes from Say It's Alright Joe could not be found at the time...
Nick:..yes and they never were found.

it: so is it some kind of proLogic surround on this one?
Nick: It's a fake surround on TC electronics simulation program.

it: Is there a difference between the SACD Stereo mix resolution and the SACD Surround resolution?
Nick: No, they are the same, both very high resolutions. But I actually don't know how high they are. That's a technical specification of the SACD. It's a one bit system that's running on a ridiculous high rate of 4mHz or something.

it: You have remixed all albums from Trespass through to Calling All Stations now, what's your favorite album and what's your favorite mix if you compare all of them?
Nick: Oh, favorite album, now that`s a tough one. Well I can say that the one that probably improved the most is Wind & Wuthering. It wasn't one of my favorite albums but I like what's on it really and how it has improved. I've always been a fan of Selling England By The Pound and that's still very good. I like Duke as well actually because I think the songs are really solid and I like the sound of Duke. So I would pick Duke, Wind & Wuthering and Selling England as my favorite albums.

it: Did the whole band listen to all of the albums for approval or how did you finalize the mixes?
Nick: Tony Banks listened to absolutely everything - every day he would come in and listen to a mix and comment what was good, what was bad etc. Mike had heard - I would say 50% of the stuff and Phil maybe 5%. Steve Hackett has also heard everything that he is on. Also, Peter had or has the stuff that he's on.

it: What about Ray?
Nick: Oh, of course - he heard  Calling All Stations, yes. I actually haven't heard back from his but he has this stuff since last week.

Nick im Studioit: Peter obviously wasn't satisfied with The Lamb 5.1 Mix. What's the story behind that?
Nick: Well, you know The Lamb was the first thing we've done and it was just a bit tame in the rear speakers really and he had just done his UP thing, which is completely bonkers in the rear speakers and so we needed to get somewhere between the two really, which we did - And I think it was actually quite a good thing because we improved it - and it maybe would have happened anyway because once we realised what was available we started doing more and more, you know. And I've also just remixed the ones I did right after the Lamb stuff, I went back and just put more in the rear speakers, improved everything a bit. But I still have a feeling that I don't want it to be disturbing in the rear speakers, I want it to be exciting, big, romantic - with lot's of energy. I don't want it just to be a gimmick. When I listen to some of the early stereo stuff, it goes left to right - it just drives me mad. I've done it a bit as well, I used it a bit more than I did on the first batch of surround mixes. 

it: What about the other albums from the Gabriel-era. Do they still need Peter's approval?
Nick: Yes, everyone gets to hear them for approval

it: Is that the reason why the early albums will be last to be released?
Nick: I don't really know howw they decided on how to release them but I could also think that if there's ever the chance to see The Lamb again live, then that would be in 2008, not this year, so a release date around Christmas time would coincide with that, maybe they will try that, I'm not sure.

it: Ok, we know that we will have three sets and all sets will have a box set with a bonus SACD/DVD as well. Do you know anything about the design of the boxes?
Nick: I don't, I haven't seen a box, I don't know whether or not they have finally been approved yet.

it: Tell us something about the bonus sacd.
Nick: It includes all the b-sides, 13 tracks for the first boxset. There are videos, these are on the Bonus-DVD of each album, such as music videos, bootleg clips and interviews.

it: What about the bonus disc for the second set? Do you know which tracks will be included or is that still being discussed?
Nick: It's pretty much decided, yes

it: Are 7/8 and Phret going to be included?
Nick: I think just the three main ones, which is Anything Now, Sign Your Life Away and Run Out Of Time.

it: What about Banjo Man and Papa He Said, the b-sides from Congo?
Nick: No, I don't think so. At the moment, they are not included.

it: What about Carpet Crawlers 1999?
Nick: No, that's not going on anywhere.

it: Any information on the bonus disc of the third set? I assume it will be the most difficult one?
Nick: Yes, we only have Happy The Man and Twilight Alehouse and possibly this Jackson tape that keeps being talked about.

it: So the Jackson Tape is likely to be released?
Nick: I think so, yes - as part of the extras on that disc.

it: And what about this tape with Going Out To Get You and Wooden Mask on it. Do you know anything about that?
Nick:  I don't know anything about that - nobody told me about such a tape.

it: The bonus material on the DVDs, did you mix anything of that?
Nick: Not really, I've tried to improve some stuff a bit, but haven't really mixed it. Most of the stuff sounds pretty awful and it wasn't available as multi-track anyway.

it: So this stuff appears there to please some fans.
Nick: That's right.

it: Some of the bonus material was taken from the Three Sides Live video. This hasn't been remixed in 5.1 either?
Nick: Not yet, none of the live-albums are remixed at the moment. It depends, if the SACD sell well, then obviously they'll do the live albums as well. And if they don't I don't think they will do it.

it: That means the bonus material on the DVD is in 2.0 only?
Nick: Yes.

it: A popular question from fans is - will there be subitles on the DVDs, like for the interviews and stuff..
Nick: I don't know. I Don't think so. Wait,aA good point....but I don't think anyone has talked about it. Wait, I call someone to ask for it [does a phonecall]... the answer is no, there are no subtitles.

it: We heard that the SACDs will replace the Definite Edition Remasters?
Nick: Yes

it: Does this also mean that the original mixes...
Nick:...will be gone forever, yes. They will disappear. So everyone who's interested should keeo their original CDs.

it: Ok, some questions from our forum now. How did the quality of the old multitrack tapes suffer over the years and what is the quality like from today's point of view?
Nick:  The quality is generally very good. There is only a limitation because there were not that many tracks on the early albums. Today we have 24 or 48 tracks, in the early days, some stuff was recorded on 8 or 16 tracks, so you have limitations in that way. But the actual quality of the sound on these tapes is generally very high. people always think that old stuff should sound rubbish, but in the old days it was a real craft to be a sound engineer. You studied with a classical engineer and you didn't just walk in and suddenly became an engineer, it was really an apprenticeship and generally the engineers that they used were good and stuff on tapes was good as well, the drumsound was very good. Some people have strengths and weaknesses on doing various instruments tracks so I could tell where people's strength and weaknesses lie but all that stuff generally sounds great.
The deterioration of the tapes - you have to bake them. It's a process where the tapes get heatened up to 50 or 60 degrees which makes the glue sticky again and when you play it on the multitrack machine it doesn't all come off. Otherwise the oxide comes off the backing. So you play the baked tape once and transfer it and you get a very good copy. So generally, there's no deterioration. The hardest work is something else. The paperwork in those early days wasn't really good. So trying to find the track sheets is a lot harder. So I have a perfect multitrack, I know what song it is but I have no idea which tracks were used for the song.
I can work out most of them but - I just did a recall of More Fool Me as we speak and there are three lead vocals and no tracksheet so we didn't know which was was used for the lead vocal. So we had to analyse which track sings which line. So this missing paperwork is more of a nightmare than the actual tape. So the tapes are in a really good condition.

it: You hace produced We Can't Dance and Calling All Stations and now you've remixed it. How was that compared to very early stuff where you were not involved during the production. What was your approach during the 5.1 productions?
Nick: I hate working on my own stuff, really. You always want to do it better and you think 'oh why didn't I do that', things like this. it's ok, but a different sort of thing, I prefer working on stuff I didn't produce.

it: Did you discuss at any point to include the first album?
Nick: I don't think a multitrack exists.

it: Why do you think that the Remixes are better than the original mixes?
Nick: I don't know if they are better [laughs]. Have I said they are better? Ok, I probably did. They are better! They are better in sonic terms. We had more time to work on them, and some of the transfer processes in earlier days have not been good. I don't think the first CDs are good. The remasteres are generally better. Some fans still favor the vinyl, that it's better than the CDs, maybe they cared more when transferring to Vinyl than transfering over to CD, I don't know. The first batch of Genesis CDs were just awful. So the remasters are better than those - maybe they are not better than the vinyl. I just think the new mixes are better, they got more bottom, more bass, more treble - in a nice way.I just think they sound sonically surperior. They don't sound too different, hopefully. I've tried to keep them as they were - cause I'm a fan and I grew up listening to them and I've worked on the remasters and I know pretty much what they should sound like. And I don't want to have mistakes in there. That would annoy me as well.

it: I listened to the promo DVD and recognised a funny voice at the end of Your Own Special Way, was that Mike?
Nick: Yes, I think so.

it: Any plans when all the SACD stuff is done?
Nick: They talked about doing Perkins Palace, the Mama Tour and Three Sides Live a while back but none of them is on the schedule at the moment.

phone Interview and  transcription by Christian Gerhardts
translated by Martin Klinkhardt
photo  ©2006 Dave Kerzner


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