"I would say my biggest strength in the studio is getting good guitar tones, and having both the guitars and bass sit in a way that maybe not everyone can do," says Taylor Young when I ask him what he feels like his strong suit when it comes to producing a record. We're sitting inside the control room of The Pit Recording Studio in Van Nuys, CA, Taylor's headquarters whenever he's not on the road either playing drums with Nails, or guitar in Twitching Tongues.
You might not know it, but there's a good chance you've heard one or more of the many projects Taylor's tracked, mixed and/or overseen at his studio in the last few years. In recent months, he's worked on such heavy-hitting releases as Dead Heat's Certain Death, Judiciary's Surface Noise, and Section H8's Phase One. "The hardest part about the recording process is getting excited about the vocals," admits Taylor when I ask him about the flipside to my earlier question. "Maybe it's because I'm a guitarist and a drummer. Don't get me wrong, I do the best I can to get the best takes with vocalists, but I have the most fun doing the guitar solos and stuff like that."
Before I forget, Taylor's brother, Colin Young, is also a musician, with Twitching Tongues, Eyes of the Lord, and The Midnight Sons among the bands they've played in together throughout the years. But back to The Pit!
On the musician side of things, I've recorded many times throughout the years, but I am the first to admit that outside of having certain opinions about sounds and tones, I'm practically illterate when it comes to the art of recording. That doesn't stop me from asking Taylor about some of his pet peeves about the process. "I hate super fake drum sounds. I'm talking about records where it almost sounds like it's so perfect that a person didn't actually play the parts. That bothers me. I like it to sound human. It doesn't mean I don't like reverb on the kit. I like effects, and things like that. There are people who just record the shells and then record the cymbals separately. That's crazy to me.
"I guess I just hate the very modern drum sound a lot of people use these days. That's not really for me."
How did Taylor learn how to record in the first place? "I took a recording class at Pierce College here in the Valley and I got a C [laughs]. But there was no hands-on stuff, it was all technical. Anyway, I've had to learn a lot of that technical stuff the hard way on my recordings. I've also learned a lot from having something go wrong and finding ways to fix it through the internet. When Nails was in the studio working with Kurt Ballou on the Unsilent Death record, he said to me, 'if it sounds good, then who cares?' I've lived by that motto ever since."
Since he's a formidable musician in his own right, I ask Tayor if he ever gets involved with the songwriting and/or arrangements during the pre-production phase. "Ocassionally, but it's rare. Xibalba and Judiciary are two examples where I had demos and made suggestions with the arrangements, or whatever. There also have been a few times where the band have asked me to play a part because it's taking the guy in the band forever to get it down, or if they just ask me to before we even start. I don't have a problem doing that, but it hasn't come up that many times."
An aspect about producing music that cannot be overstated is the psychological part to it all. I've seen insanely talented musicians struggle in the studio thanks to nerve issues, something Taylor understands. "There are some people who love playing live but hate recording, and then there are people who are the opposite of that. Actually, I can't say that there are too many people I've met who love recording but hate playing shows. I think my brother and I are the rare exception where we both prefer making records over playing shows. Sometimes the expectations are too high when you're playing a show. Other times it's just so much work to get everyone together to do the show. All of our bands have members in them who don't live in California, so that doesn't help," he laughs.
Heard below, Nudie Mag is a new power pop trio featuring Colin Young along with Alec Faber (True Love, Freedom) and Shannon Faber that Taylor has been working with. I wanted to include their demo here to help showcase some of his range in the studio.
So, how does Taylor juggle playing and touring with multiple bands with his work at The Pit and blocking out time for clients? "When both Nails and Twitching Tongues were very active, it was kind of the perfect amount of time. I would go on a tour and book studio time around it. It seems like I'm not recording enough but the reality is that I'm in the studio as much as I ever have in the past."
Taylor recently got to mesh both his work as a drummer and as a recording engineer on a 7" from Nails featuring the tracks "I Don't Want to Know You" and "Endless Resistance," both tracked by him at The Pit and mixed by Kurt Ballou (Converge) at his GodCity Studio. As you can hear in the video below, the results crush:
One part about owning a business that some people struggle with (including myself) is the whole idea of marketing yourself, or your services. Taylor explains how he handles getting awareness out there about The Pit in the age of social media. "I have social media pages for the studio and myself, which I wish I didn't have to do, to be honest with you. I wish I could just be dark on the internet and still get business, but that's basically impossible to do that these days."
Does it matter to Taylor if he's not all that into a band/artist, in order for him to agree to work with them in the studio? "I mean, it helps [laughs]. I've only declined—maybe—three bands ever. But it definitely makes me better at it if I find the band enjoyable. It's rare that someone's horrible. I can usually pull something good out of any band I work with. I'll always do the best to my ability to deliver a great recording for anyone I work with."
As my visit winds down, I quiz Taylor on some of the producers that helped inspire him along the way. "Steve Evetts (Human Remains, The Dillinger Escape Plan) was incredible then and is incredible now. Kurt Ballou is a techincal genius while still getting real performances out of bands. Scott Burns (Obituary, Suffocation) was an early influence. He got monstrous sounds on his stuff and he had to do pretty crazy things to get his drums to sound the way they did. I remember reading where he had to have someone use a calculator and literally find where the kicks would be, so that he could figure out where to run the triggers so that he could have them clicky enough to cut through everything. It was pretty insane shit. Another influence was Colin Richardson (Napalm Death, Carcass). One of my favorite productions of all time is the first Brutal Truth LP [Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses] that he did."