Legendary producer/engineer Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Kiss) took some time out of his hectic schedule to share some inside information behind the creation of the Eddie Kramer Signature Series.
What was the concept behind Eddie Kramer Signature Series?
To oversimplify the answer, we wanted to address the issue of ease of operation, and we wanted to give people a chance to basically hit one button. It's one of those no-brainer things where you hit the button and you get my drum sound or my vocal sound or guitar sound or special effects. Essentially, it's a number of devices that are combined in a unique way to give my stamp on the sound. In other words, it's a blend that constitutes my final sound that I use on mixes in the studio.
Did you meet personally with Waves developers?
Not only were there many meetings back and forth, because this process in essence is a family affair, in the sense that the Waves family is a strong unit of great engineers, people with terrific minds, not only from an engineering standpoint, but also philosophically, about how to come up with a product that the public will enjoy and get benefit from. So, from the point of view of the day-to-day operations, there were a couple of guys like [product managers] Mike Fradis and Amir Vinci, who were my two main contacts in the technical department, without whose input this would not have been possible. There was a constant back and forth of "Hey, try this out," and I tried it out, and I said, "You know what guys, let's tweak this in a particular manner," and for example, "Let's try the midrange frequency at a different point, let's try introducing a little bit more background noise to make it sound more authentic," that kind of thing.
Waves has got this marvelous reputation, deservedly so, of being the leader, and it shows in the research and development, whereas I think other companies are not, how shall I say, as inventive or as careful with their development. There were many occasions when Mike came to Los Angeles with some of the latest updates, and we just sat in the studio, and literally went through every single parameter that was necessary to make sure that the product sounded damn good.
Do you think that's an essential part of it, having your chains and tweaks in each plugin?
Well, since it's my years of experience that Waves is relying on to put the final stamp on it, it's important that I have this one-on-one with the actual product in my hands. And I have a very good studio that I'm using here in Los Angeles called LAFX, and it's got a beautiful vintage API board and we've got all of the Waves plugins. We've got great reverbs and good sounding monitors and it's the place where I mix all the time. Therefore, when I tweak something, it's going to be exactly the way I want it to sound, the way I've heard it in my head.
These sketches, drawn by Eddie himself, were used in the creation of his Signature Series plugins.
Back in the days when you were working with Jimi Hendrix, could you ever have imagined that one day you'd be mixing using virtual tools?
That's an interesting question. In the mid '60s when the first Helios console was being built, the gentleman who was building it was a guy named Dick Swettenham who was to my mind, a genius. And he was a visionary; he often described to me what the future would be. He often described it as a world in which you would have this imaginary device that you could hold up to a sound and it would capture it and that you could alter it in a digital manner. I looked at him as if he had four heads, never thinking 40 years later this would actually be the case.
But I think growing up in the analog world, never really thinking that the future would be what it is. And for many years, you know, I was quite against Pro Tools and quite against the whole digital concept. Then about 7, 8 years ago, I really got into the whole digital format and embraced it. So when I was first approached by the Waves guys, it was as if I was opening up a new door. I stepped into it rather gingerly, not quite believing what I was going to be able to hear. But as soon as I heard the first prototype of a newly modeled EQ, I was blown away because it was so accurate; I really couldn't even tell the difference between it and the original. So I knew then and there that my relationship with the digital world would be one that I would embrace wholeheartedly.
Do you think the fact that today fewer and fewer recordings are being made in a live studio environment has affected the quality of the music?
I think there are a lot of bands out there that are actually very conscious of the fact that doing stuff in the box has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that the sound of an instrument in a really good studio, in a great sounding acoustic environment, just improves the quality so much. There are bands that have either bought their own rooms, their own private recording studios, building them up from the ground up, or buying old studios that have folded. Or they're going to the major studios that still exist like the EMIs, the Capitols, the studios around here in Los Angeles, where there are many studios that are still functioning. Maybe not quite as much as in the past, but certainly the ones that exist are very busy, because I think musicians and artists realize the sound of a great studio is irreplaceable.