interview with flood
in june 2008, just before the release of með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, we asked people on our message board for a list of questions for the albums producer, flood. here are his answers.
how much did you feel needed changing? did the band's very distinctive style need much tinkering with, and did the band themselves offer any resistance to any of your tinkering?
one of the main objects for sr on this record was the idea/need to change and progress as a band. there are many areas in which change can be affected- songwriting, arrangements, lyrics and sonics- and to begin with the band wanted to go with a more acoustic, performance based direction. at the beginning i tried to instigate different ways of arranging songs but this was not very successful and met with some resistance. however this was a very positive thing as it focused the band and helped them understand what the core and soul of sr was- vital when changing direction- and they then wrote and did basic arrangements to about 8 of the songs during the month of december.
did you learn something from sigur ros that you would like to use in your future projects?
a confirmation in old fashioned mic techniques and the importance of performance and “human” feel.
did the band show up with tracks, loops, or samples from their own recording process that made it onto the record?
there was nothing prepared for the sessions as far as loops and samples go. but the band were fully rehearsed and had 12 songs written before we started.
sr has generally used analog sounds, processing, and outboard effects into digital recording and editing in the past. did you basically keep this workflow intact?
yes the analogue flows into digital was how we worked but not as they had done usually. we recorded everything on analogue tape and then transferred it to the digital medium-pro tools; logic8; and soundscape. then only on mixing did we use digital fx to process some of the sounds. but the main signal process was analogue where at all possible
did you wanted to keep one of the previouse albums' sound, or try to make a whole new sound? and how much of the new album would you say is driven by your own influence?
the whole process of change was very collaborative, and so a new sound was sought by everyone. i wanted to reduce the amount of reverb used and the band wanted to be more acoustic and performance based. so all of us helped shape the sound by a lot of trial and error.
how long have you been a fan? what was the first song you heard by them and how did it make you feel?
i had been working on a film documentary in early 2000 and my friend suggested “svefn-g-englar” as a possible piece of music to accompany a scene. not only was the song perfect for the scene but i was blown away by the music and had to find out more. so i bought agaetis byrjun, saw the band in dublin twice, listened to them in many different places and enjoyed all their releases as a fan.
did the record come out the way both you + the band wanted, or is one side somewhat disappointed with the final results? this is in no way an admission to disliking the record, instead, you're only admitting it didn't get to sound however it was you or the band wanted it to, but still needed to release it.
i can only speak for myself, but i was very happy with the way the record ended up but it is only the beginning of path that can be traveled. there were lots of things we started but did not fully realize, so this means there many areas still to explore!
what was the strangest recording method / instrument utilized during the sessions?
there was nothing out of the ordinary, except the chance to use one of the best collections of mics to its fullest potential.
do you measure yourself against your last project, or are there a selection of previous records that you prefer to compare your current work to? how does this one compare to that?
i never compare projects as i feel each one is unique, but this was a very creative and enjoyable project.
bands like radiohead, coldplay, and sigur ros have such distinctive sounds and recording techniques that i imagine it can be a bit daunting to be the 'new guy.' did you ever feel out of your league? like you needed to go home and do homework for the next session?
no, not from being the new guy but from the point of view that i might not be able to help the band achieve their objective.
does it seem as though sigur ros knew the direction of their new album before they began working with you or was it a natural progression for the band?
i think the band had a good idea of what they wanted and what they didn't want, so maybe that can be thought of as a natural progression.
were there any ideas that came up that were too crazy to realise?
at what point in the production process do you start thinking about the media that the listener is going to experience the music in? is the fact that a lot, probably even a majority, of listeners will hear the record in a compressed digital format on less-than-optimal speakers or headphones something that you don't worry about until you're doing final mixes, or does it influence the sounds and tones you try to get right when you're tracking?
for me i never comprise or adapt the sonics to suit so called inferior mediums. i believe if you have a great song it will transend any medium and so the sonics become a bonus. when i mix i listen to many types of speakers from big to small, from studio quality to cheap boom boxes, in order to try and make the track have the same emotional impact whatever you listen on. it would be impossible to get a song to sound the same on all speakers, so by trying to achieve a similar emotional response what ever you listen on or through addresses the problem. also some compensation can be made in mastering.
what's your favorite part of the album?
all of it.
the handclapping and "lalala" at the opening (gobbledigook) remind me of the phasing/layering techniques of steve reich. when you were preparing for the sessions, did the band mention reich as an influence, and if so did you listen to any of his music?
there was no mention of mr. reich.
i'd love to know your topline thoughts on your treatment of "space" working on this new album for the band. s/r obviously has had a penchant for extremely deep and dripping reverb washes on prior productions -- and judging by the first track on this one at least -- it seems that there's much more of an immediate focus and "room" based treatments. with this, i'm also eager to hear your thoughts on the challenges in blending all these disparate elements of the bands music -- mangled sample dittys, organic instruments, bowed guitar, choirs, real strings, odd percussion tunings, etc...
my main thoughts on the “space” for this record was to try and use less reverb and artificial ambience and allow the depth and directness come from natural ambience. i hoped this would help to have a less layered/produced record and let the performance come out. as for how things blended it was very obvious, fairly quickly what combinations of sounds would work on each track, so it was not very challenging in making decisions on instrumentations as it almost did by itself!
how hard was it working with sigur rós?
there was nothing hard about working with sr, just a lot of good creative energy and good fun.
did you sometimes disagree with choices of the band, or did the band sometimes disagree with your choices ?
yes to both things but that is part of making a record and i feel is vital to the end result.
the band has, i believe, once said that they liked the smashing pumpkins. were there similarities between the way you worked with both bands ?
not many but the desire to capture performance and willingness to experiment would be 2 similarities.
you met the band for the first time in october 2007 and now the album is finished in may 2008 - were you expecting the process to go that quick?
yes it was oct 2007, in iceland. the album took about the length of time i expected, it could have been even a little quicker but i had prior commitments in the middle of recording. it was really good making the record that quickly as there was less head and more heart used.