From Brutal Truth to
Neurosis, from Acid King to Buzzov'en, from Crisis to Eyehategod,
from Jawbreaker to Mr. Bungle and The Melvins, Billy Anderson
has produced 'em all. The man is responsible for some of the
most emblematic extreme releases in history, and here at Deaf
Sparrow I've been meaning to get his story ever since this
birdie was conceived. Recently, he was kind enough to donate a
few minutes from his busy schedule to us. Read on and spread the
- First of all congratulations, I was just going through my
collection and realized I own at least fifteen records produced
by you. Really, thinking about it I wouldnít think there is one
underground metal fan in the planet without at least one record
produced by you. You got some classics in your discography;
Brutal Truth, Neurosis, Melvins, Jawbreaker, Eyehategod, Sleep
and the list goes on. So my first question would be, do you
choose who you work with or do bands approach you first and then
you make a decision?
It depends. Some of both. When I first started out, I would go
to a lot of shows and sorta pimp myself to bands I liked. Thatís
how I got a lot of work then. After a while, word-of-mouth
became the way I got most of my work, bands who liked my work
would seek me out. I have luckily never had to work with much
stuff that I donít like. I feel very lucky for that fact.
Musicians usually get
inspired after a great performance; how was it for you? I mean
were you once listening to a particular record and went; 'holy
shit, I want to hole myself up for 50 hours in a studio until I
can get these sounds out of these bands'?
Haha! Well, something like that. I was inspired to start
recording because I was a musician first and we tried to record
and the guy doing it just didnít get it, so I said ĎI could do
thisí and that was my first inspiration. After that, yeah, Iím
inspired always by a great performance. In the studio, itís
always a challenge to know how to get a good performance from
Have you ever said NO to
a band? And if so, what would be a reason why you would choose
not to work with someone? Are you open to all styles?
Iím definitely open to all styles. I have done all kinds of
music; from reggae to hip hop to you name it. I have said no
before to people, because of various reasons. But the bottom
line is that if I donít feel it, I wonít get into recording it
and there will be somebody better for the job.
I know you are also a
guitarist with Blessing the Hogs; but what came first; production or playing in bands?
Were you schooled? And how do you think that being an actual
musician influences/improves your stand as a producer?
I played in bands first. I started playing piano when I was
4-1/2 years old, then drums then guitar at age 14. I started a
couple of punk bands and thatís how I started engineering. I got
a 4 track recorder and when my band went to record, I figured I
could do it, so I did it. I did go to recording school briefly,
I learned some stuff there. But I learned more in a week working
in a real studio than I did in 6 months of recording school. Iím
definitely a musician first just because I always have been. I
think itís important to be a musician as a producer because itís
really difficult to tell somebody what to play or make
suggestions without being able to explain or maybe show them
what youíre talking about. I canít imagine being a producer who
There are different ways
to see the work of a producer; and apparently the role of such
has changed with time. Some bands see a producer as someone who
would guide the recording sessions, mixing and mastering and
also guide the performers to an optimal point. It seems to me
that many bands have different ideas of what role should the
producer play. How do you see the role of a producer?
For me, the role of producer changes from project to project and
varies. I basically approach it like this: I will be the role
the band at the time needs for the project. In other words, if
they just need me to engineer and say Ďsounds greatí and
againí, stuff like that, then I will take that role. But I will
also assume the role of co-arranger, additional musician and
sometimes drill sergeant. It just depends on what is needed of
me at the time.
There are many great
records infested with shitty songs. What happens when you are
producing a record and you think; Ďthis song is shití. Do you
ever confront bands because you consider some of their material
to be subpar? I mean itís gotta be hard to be totally sincere.
Well, thatís a hard one. Thankfully, bands I work with tend NOT
to write shitty songs. I try to keep my opinions pretty neutral.
But if it happens, I try to tactfully suggest things that may
make the song better, then the band can take it from there.
Your siteís discography
cites Sleepís Vol 1 and Buzzovíenís To A Frown as
the first records you produced, which one was first? How did you
get the chance?
I actually donít remember what exactly was the first stuff I
produced, but it was around that period for sure. I think the
Sleep record was before Buzzov'en. I was working in a studio in
San Francisco called Razor's Edge. There were a lot of bands in
and out of there, I had been engineering for 3 or 4 years. I had
done some stuff for a label called Very Small, some singles and
stuff, and the owner came to me and said ĎI'd like you to do this
band called Sleep, theyíre really goodí and he gave me a tape. I
liked it, and we went to Razor's Edge and did it in about 4
days, something like that. Before that, I had been working first
as an assistant engineer, then as an engineer, I had done a
couple albums and singles, etc before that. I started there at
Razor's Edge in 1988 and left in 1992 during the Melvinsí
Brutal Truthís Kill
Trend Suicide and Songs of the Animal Kingdom are
bonafide classics. What can you tell us about the recording of
Well, Kill Trend Suicide was a nightmare. It's one record
that Iím not very fond of, just because it was such a struggle
to make and it didnít come out as good as I wish it did. The
label basically gave like 1,000 dollars to make the whole thing,
me included, so we had to be in this crappy studio that wasnít
even finished yet.. I was literally up under the patchbay
soldering shit to get it working. It sucked. We had to do it in
like 3 days. Sounds of the Animal Kingdom was different.
By then the label felt they should invest more in the band and
we had a nice studio and a good amount of time. Both times I
went to New York and hung out with those dudes, I stayed with
Kevin Sharp. Heís a maniac. Fun times.
What about Coreís
Revival? I remember this trio was on a major label which was
kind of rare for a band like this, it just seemed so out of
place. Was the label looking for a new Monster Magnet?
That was a great record to be involved in. They signed to
Atlantic right around the time when majors were looking for
'grunge' bands and shit like that. I donít think the label was
looking for Monster Magnet (even though theyíre from the same
town...) but more like something that would fit into the Stone
Temple Pilot/ Soundgarden kinda scene. That seems silly to me
because Core was nothing like either of those bands. I took the
record because I heard some demos and loved the heaviness. I
remember Finn was still in high school and his parents made him
wait to graduate before signing the contract. They had been
playing together since they were kids. I went to New Jersey and
did some pre-production, then we went to Warren, Rhode Island to
a studio there. I had worked there mixing Sick of it All's
Scratch the Surface album and loved it. A tiny little town
with a world class recording studio. We were locked in there for
a couple weeks. It was great. After we got the basic tracks in 5
days or so, basically Finn and I proceeded to layer it up with
guitars and vocals. Almost everything I could think to do he
liked and did very well. I remember being impressed with his
talent at such a young age.
Houdini is one of my favorite records, what can you tell us
about this particular sessions?
Another interesting story..That album was started at Razor's
Edge with a few of the songs, Kurt Cobain was there producing
with the band. Some shit happened with the owner there and the
band decided not to work at that studio anymore.. That was right
at the time I decided not to work there anymore. I was doing
live sound for them at the time, so after the sessions there, we
went on the road for a short tour. One song was recorded on the
road at a studio in Seattle. Some other things happened on the
road (canít really get into it) but letís just say that upon
returning from that trip, Buzz took a 'vacation' and Lori quit
the band. After a month or so, we resumed recording at Brilliant
Studios in San Francisco. I actually got to play bass on a
couple of the newer tracks and by now I was the full on engineer
of the project. GGGGarth Richardson was brought in to produce a
couple tracks and we all went in together to mix it. Definitely
an interesting experience.
Neurosis, you worked
with those guys twice (Enemy of the Sun & Through
Silver in Blood). I remember seeing them live in a shitty
place in Missouri and after the show was over I had the most
massive headache of my life because the show was so intense. How
were these recording experiences?
Very intense. Enemy of the Sun was done pretty quickly because
of budget concerns, so there were many late night and long
sessions. Definitely you can hear the intensity and struggle on
that album, kind of a do or die situation. Through Silver in
Blood was even more intense, for different reasons. I had gone
on the road with them, etc, and become good friends with them.
At the time we went in the studio to do it, there was some
intense and tragic stuff going on with some members. I think it
was a really deep and intense time for all of us. I still get
chills when I listen to that album.
Which record are you
particularly proud of?
Amongst others, Ií really proud of the Mr. Bungle albums because
we spent so long on them (9 months on Disco Volante and 5
on California) and they both became really demanding and
difficult and demanded the utmost concentration and stamina.
Basically, Iím proud of most everything Iíve done, some of the
above mentioned albums for the reasons I mentioned. Ití not easy
making a record; getting the ideas of the band together in a
studio and through the mics and cables onto tape. I feel that
any album that comes out is deserving of some amount of pride.
What would you recommend
to someone looking to get into record production?
Donít do it. No, seriously, I would say just work hard, be
willing to put in the extra effort and hours getting to know the
bands and how they work internally and best. Itís the hardest
part. The equipment is just equipment, but working with multiple
humans can require great amounts of patience and time.
I understand youíve
spend a few months in Argentina, how was living in South
America? How is the Argentinian hard music scene?
I lived in Argentina for 9 months. It was really intense in many
different ways. I mostly had a great time. I realized how much
we take for granted here in the states.. Nothing there is
convenient. Itís a lot of work to do anything there, and thereís
really no money to be made, most people are poor. But they are
generally happy, which made me ask myself Ďwhat do i have to
complain about in the U.S?í. I had been there a few times to
record with Los Natas, who are still my favorite band there. I
actually started a band there called Solodolor with Sergio from
Los Natas and a few other dudes. The scene there is pretty cool.
Fans are way more appreciative of music there I think. Any show
is worth going to for the people there, just because its a show.
There are a lot of good bands there, some of my favorites are
Los Natas, Milica, Taura, El Otro Yo and Agente Naranja.
What's next in your
Iím in the middle of mixing and recording a lot of stuff right
nowÖlike 7 albums. I built a mixing studio in my house, so I
take a lot of mixing gigs now in addition to recording at
various places. Iím mixing a band from San Francisco called
Saros, they are amazing. Just finished an
album for Grey (killer doom band from Seattle) Ill be doing the
next Cattle Decapitation album in August.
Photos Courtesy of Taija