Resta: A Collective Collaboration
By Marshall Terrill
Among music producer Anthony J. Resta's dozen RIAA certified gold and platinum awards, are two releases by Collective Soul - Dosage (1999) and Blender (2000).
Most critics and fans agree that the platinum-selling Dosage is the group's best effort to date, which captures them at a blissful and creative time in their career. And while Blender doesn't engender the same warm response as its predecessor, it has aged well over time.
In the third portion of this epic five-part interview, Resta discusses his work on both releases, the group's ability to write and produce well-crafted rock tunes and his on-going admiration of the Georgia rockers.
Q: In addition to Duran Duran, one of your most celebrated collaborations is with Collective Soul, who I think is one of the most underrated American bands of all-time. Tell me in your own words what is special about this group?
AR: I think Collective Soul writes really honest and earthy rock songs that speak from the heart and shoot from the hip. They also are a dying breed of band that isn’t afraid to push boundaries sonically and try different treatments and styles all the while sounding completely coherent as a unified personality regardless of those boundaries.
Publicity photo for Dosage, circa 1999
Q: Your first collaboration with CS was Dosage, an album many fans and critics consider to be their best work because it took them creatively to the next plateau. What do you remember about what they wanted from the sessions, what you wanted from them, and how you got to the end result?
AR: I drove to Miami with a van full of toys not knowing what to expect. I had been working on Suze Demarchi’s solo record Telelove at Long View Farm in North Brookfield, Massachusetts, for a couple of months. At that stage we were going into mixing and they were cool with Bob St. John riding solo during the mix and off I went. Turns out Ed Roland was a fan of Nuno Bettencourt's solo record Schizophonic, which I had co-written and co-produced a bunch of songs. Bob St. John put him in touch with me at Longview. Ed wanted to see if my quirky “Dr. Rhythm Freak” treatment might gel (no pun intended) with the band. So they sent me raw tracks for “I’m Not the One”. I did a sonic treatment of synth textures, then sequenced and programmed drums and a bunch of Mellotron stuff. Ed called me up and said, “It’s super cool but man, where the heck is the one?” He said, “Can you make the rhythmic end of this A LOT more user friendly? And that began our long years of collaboration. I set up in a little room next to the control room and began doing my thing, often dancing around like a cartoon character hence my nickname ‘Dr. Freak.’ I had large racks filled with modules and Akai samplers and FX processors. It was really a mad scientist looking lab for sure.
Dosage (Atlantic Records, 1999)
Q: Dosage was recorded over a four-month period in Miami at Criteria Studios. Who made the decision to record in Miami and do you think ambiance or a setting can influence the outcome of a record?
AR: The band made the decision to work there. It was an awesome studio and being right on the beach (I stayed in Aventura) was really cool. There was this weird bar in the hotel open till like 6 a.m. or something. The main form of entertainment was “Play-ooki Karaoke” where people were not only singing, but playing real instruments along. Every night it was like a scene out of a David Lynch movie. I brought Ed once, and he just kept shaking his head saying, “Wow, this is quite the freak show” or something to that effect. I can’t really describe how odd it was, but my memories of it (clouded in rum and coke) was in that sort of faded super 8mm film look. I’m not sure if being in the Caribbean or Alaska or Switzerland really influences anyone’s playing, but it sure does set up a mood.
Q: We’ve touched on this subject in the past, but I think we’re both in agreement that Ed Roland is one of the greatest songwriters to come along in the last 20 years, and certainly in my opinion, he’s one of the Top 5 of all-time. What do you like about his lyrics and songs?
AR: I love how they speak to the listener and touch them all at once in a million different ways. It’s an awesome gift and I’ve learned more about songwriting from Ed Roland than anyone. He’s beyond gifted. All the number one songs that people didn’t even know were Collective Soul can attest to this. He is a fabulous producer as well. I learned from getting more inside his ELO, Cars, AC/DC influences to find the roots of what he eventually turned into something 100 percent Collective Soul. The band as a team puts together the sonic fingerprint and makes it complete.
Q: It should also be noted that CS’s arrangements are amazing. They have been criticized for their overtly commercial sound but I contend that not many artists are gifted in this way…certainly the Beatles and the Stones were commercial. Your thoughts on this?
AR: Selling ten million records as a rock band doesn’t happen very often. People forget that success and being commercial need to meet somewhere for music to appeal to millions of people….if that makes any sense at all. Critics love to hate successful artists unless they are Radiohead or Sigor Ross or whatever they deem “critically acclaimed and hip” at that given moment. It has nothing to do with the music.
Q: Let’s discuss some of tracks on Dosage. “Tremble for My Beloved” is just so out there. It’s unlike any other song they’ve recorded before or since. What do you specifically recall about the making of that tune?
AR: I tend to put long intros and outros on songs as a rule and then they can either become concept records like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon or get trimmed down to a few seconds during the mix. I think all of the songs on Dosage have this treatment, some more subtle than others. I remember special moments where Ed would be listening to the four ADAT’s I was overdubbing onto with my own mixer and Aux sends of FX that were most often printed. He would be so thrilled about some things and just as many times he’d shake his head and say, “Nope, not a chance.” I love working with artists that KNOW WHAT THEY LIKE. It’s the best way to work. I can be relentless and will try a zillion things until a few special ones connect. Ed helped me learn what was special enough to be in a song and what was just me having too much fun with all my toys. It was a period of growth and experimentation. I was lucky to be given wonderful opportunities like this. I am grateful to this day for that wonderful opportunity.
"Tremble For My Beloved" by Collective Soul
Q: The intro to “Tremble” is a perfect example of your 'soundscaping' technique that Will Turpin, their bassist, pointed out in a recent interview. How did you come up with the intro sound for “Tremble” and merge it with the music?
AR: I would always put down way more crazy things that didn’t really fit the music… just for my own head and for me to come up with the right stuff. Lots of wrong stuff needs to happen during and before you get to the right stuff. Ed would often filter and still does filter what fits and what doesn’t. I think he was really open for experimentation at that time and it shows not just in my parts but the bands parts, the guitar tones, the vocals, etc. Bob St. John and Shawn Grove and Tom Lorde Alge all had amazing sonic input on the record as well.
Guitarist Dean Roland
Q: The next track, “Heavy”, was a No. 1 hit for 15 weeks straight. In the case of songs that become big hits, can you recognize when a song is going to be big or is that an art form in which no one can predict?
AR: Honestly, no. One never really can be sure with what will connect with the masses. It’s an equation that has never been solved. I hear of record companies spending millions to promote what they thought was a “one listen, no brainer, home run, bona-fide smash hit” only to have it fall flat. And other things that were not even supposed to be singles ROCKET to #1.
Q: There’s supposedly a very off the wall version of “Heavy” that was different from the released version. Do you remember anything about that alternative version, which Ed once said, “Needed to come back down to Planet Earth.”
AJ: I don’t recall a version like that. I remember Bob St. John doing an earlier mix of it and some of the stems he used got printed and used by other mixers. I don’t think he got credit for coming up with that gated guitar intro… Bob and I had been doing that sort of stuff for years before "Heavy."
"Heavy" by Collective Soul
Q: “Needs” sounds like it was a big production. Tell me your memories in putting that song together?
AJ: I don’t hear it as the “biggest” production. Just because it has a lot of strings doesn’t really make it the biggest. I love the video to that song. A bunch of the later songs we worked on at Tree Sound and Bopnique Studios (BTW we definitely cut “Dandy Life” at Bopnique) are a little cloudy in my memory. We were passing around 2-inch tapes, hard drives and ADAT’s. Lots of overdubs were done in Ed’s basement in Atlanta. It was a really nice cozy place and we had some of our best creativity flowing on post-production stuff there. I guess I can’t really answer that properly…
Q: “Generate” is one of my favorite songs because of the drum track. I remember in a past interview with ModernDrummer where Shane Evans mentioned that Dosage really pushed his abilities because he was introduced to electronic drums, loops and percussion textures. At first he saw it as a threat, but then realized it could be used as a tool to expand his drumming abilities. This must have been an interesting process to witness?
AR: I think Shane was super open and cool to me, coming aboard and introducing electronica into the mix. I think he added some things like the broken glass loop in one of the songs. He was really open to playing to my sequences, and it's way more fun than playing to a click! I love Shane...he has a great pocket.
Drummer Shane Evans
Q: The other single, “Run”, is considered one of CS’s greatest hits and a concert staple of theirs. What do you recall about this track?
AR: Ed introduces me as the co-writer of the song occasionally and that is very kind of him. We had just finished reworking “She Said” at the very end of the project at Tree Sound Studios. I was playing with beats and sounds and Ed was walking around playing an acoustic. I asked, “What’s that? He said, “I don’t know.” I said, “It sounds like the Beatles...keep going. I put all the beats together and began putting downs some raw orchestral loops and stuff and it just fell into place. The band had to come back at a latter set of sessions to play on it and turn it into what you hear now. I love Tom Lorde Alges treatment of my programming and beats on that track. He’s a master mixer and moves things around and reinvents things in a creative way that makes you excited. He’s not lazy just throwing up the faders and mixing…that’s been my experience. Bob St John and Karyadi Sutedja and Paul David Hager are the same way. I love mix engineers who roll up their sleeves and dive in to their elbows and ELEVATE the music to the next level.
"Run" by Collective Soul
Q: You’ve mentioned before that “Crown” is your favorite song on Dosage. Why does this song resonate with you?
AR: People that know my history and influences realize how much of a Pink Floyd freak I am, and on that track Ed just let go and let me run free. I took his scratch acoustic and ran it through a lexicon vortex and some other stuff and built the track on top of it. The synth bass alone is made up of something like twelve different sounds. Shawn Grove and Ed watched me record the drums with maybe two or three mics and VERY expensive vintage U47 VERY CLOSE to my head to capture the drummer perspective. I played through the song about three times and cut up the pieces in my rack of Akai S3000’s. I sequenced it as stereo mix blend, so that is what you hear on the record. There is one fill in the outro that’s based on a triplet displacement to the pulse that I literally fell off the drums playing. It’s in the outro. We laughed and laughed, so I used it. It’s a cool moment. There is a constant push and pull to the various sections because of how the various parts fit together. We had Pro Tools but I did things in this sort of OBLIQUE strategy way, trying to think like my heroes of the time. Mainly Brian Eno at that particular moment. I love the vocal and the lyrics to crown and my synth solo is so Pink Floyd. Something in the message connects to my dad, who I lost in ‘97. It will always be one of my favorite collaborations of all time.
Bassist Will Turpin
Q: “She Said” was released on the Scream 2 soundtrack and ended up as a bonus track on the album. What’s your recollection on the recording of that song?
AR: That song was a technical nightmare because the time code for the orchestra was at a different rate or drop frame or something, so much trouble syncing the new stuff. I added to the old master it was a very long three-day mix session at Tree Sound Studios and Bob St. John and I were pulling out our hair. It was really stressful. We eventually got it all working. I like the version on Dosage a lot. It’s a great song. The lyrics are so uplifting. I put some weird Mellotron guitar in the pre-chorus that I still can’t figure out why sounds like a Wurlitzer piano.
Guitarist Ross Childress
Q: Collective Soul recently finished a tour where they sang Dosage in its entirety. How does this make you feel and looking back, what was special about that record?
AR: I’m so honored and proud to have been a part of Dosage, and they have been so kind and gracious to mention me in press about it. I think it sounds more contemporary now than when we made it. It’s a classic for sure.
Dosage Tour 2012 commemorative poster and VIP pass
Q: If Dosage was pushing the band in a new creative direction, then it could be said that Blender pushed them further into a more modernized and electronic sound that started with Dosage. Despite the fact that it wasn’t the most popular CS album, it does have a very strong personality. As a whole, what do you think of Blender today?
AR: I love Blender and so do most fans of Dosage. It’s a great record. I wish songs like “After All” and “Turn Around” had been released as singles. I think that might have made it a platinum album instead of a gold record.
Blender (Atlantic Records, 2000)
Q: “Vent” is certainly a highlight for me. What’s your memory of that song?
AR: To be honest, I don’t really remember all that much about it. I did have fun making the djembe and conga loops and some goofy turntable work here and there. I was just getting into using two turntables and messing with white label vinyl from shops in little five points. In retrospect, I’m not so sure it really fit Collective Soul’s sound of the time but we loved trying new things and it was fairly tasteful. I like the scratching at the very end of “Turn Around” into that little classical piano bit I did. I added some weird robot sounds from a contraption that used to be at Boston’s Logan Airport and it became a segue way into “Boast.”
Q: “Why Pt. 2” has an opening sound that has your unmistakably signature. I’ve tried to figure out for years what it is…what the hell is that noise?
AR: It’s a drum sequence from an Akai S3000 through a Lexicon Fireworx unit. Ed bought two and gifted me one. He’s very generous like that. It’s all over that record and Dosage as well.
The "Why Pt. 2" video was filmed at publisher Larry Flynt's estate in Los Angeles
Q: “Why Pt. 2” features a blistering guitar solo by Ross Childress. He has a very individualized style of playing and was interesting to watch. What was he like to work with and what did he lend to the group?
AR: Ross kept to himself a lot. He was always very quiet. He was set up in a different room and we only saw him when he unveiled one of his massive solo textures. Ed used a ‘50s white Les Paul that looked like an SG 3 gold pickup and PAF’s on that song. That guitar has a sound like nothing else. We were shaking the electrical room that we used as an amp booth. I coached Shane to do one of my signature over the barline outro fills. Ed kept it in, which is usually not his favorite thing. I think he threw me a bone on that one. Thanks E!
Ross Childress working on a track in Anthony J. Resta's Bopnique Studios
Q: “10 Years Later” is one of the group’s most interesting songs, though I can’t tell you why other than the sound and tempo is so different. There’s also a sad quality to the song. What do you recall about the session?
AR: “Ten Years Later” is sort of the “Crown” of Blender for me. I really heard something very clear and psychedelic Beatles on it. There are tons of crazy textures like cymbals swelling in tape echos and walls of Mellotron flutes play re-harmonized chords to the song. I also played the slowest drum track I’ve ever recorded on that song, giving it the best ‘Ringo’ I could muster up. That track moves along at 55 bpm. Very hard to play. I can’t remember why Shane didn’t play on it. I think it was pre-production that we just got attached to and left alone.
Ed Roland and Anthony J. Resta at Tree Sound Studios in Georgia
Q: “Perfect Day” is really cool. I love that squawky circular guitar riff. How did you get that sound?
AR: That was all done with turntable bits through FX. That song was a nightmare. I think we recorded it at three different tempos it was very hard to put together. It all started with the main drum loop that was actually recorded by Paul David Hager in Nashville at East IRIS when I was playing drums on a Megadeth remix to “Crush ‘em”. The guitar mics were left on and it created this wild Jeff Lynn sounding drum room. I cut it up and it became the foundation for “Perfect Day” in pre-production. It remained in for the duration and had a really odd swing to it. That was hard to overdub, too.
Q: Of course, “Perfect Day” features Elton John on piano. What do you recall of that session and what was he like to worth with?
AR: Elton was brilliant and his parts were done in an hour. We were told by some Nashville folks that it would be tough going on the piano. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? He nailed it in two or three takes. I’m sure a lot of it was from the second take. Elton was funny, telling a lot of jokes and we all had a “perfect day”. OMG – that’s so corny but you might leave it in:)
Anthony J. Resta with Sir Elton John
The best story was about us going to dinner with Elton that night. After he left, someone came up to us and said, “Not half an our ago Elton john was sitting at this very table.” We were obviously completely invisible. Ed said, “NO WAY! Don’t you know they have lookalikes for everybody these days?” The guy walked away mad muttering, “No, no… it was him.” HYSTERICAL!
Q: “Over Tokyo” was a song written and recorded by Ed in the early ‘90s. He dusted it off again for Blender. Both versions are good but it shines a light on the issue that there are a hundred different approaches and ways to do a song. How do you personally decide which is the right one?
AR: You just try stuff and trust your instincts. You could do “Over Tokyo” as a bossanova and it would still be a great song. That’s another one that the tempo was just impossible to get right. We had to speed up the analog half-inch to speed it up even after it was all done. Crazy. I love the Japanese girls in the break, which was also Ed’s idea. I love that song!
Q: Collective Soul had some personnel changes when they returned for Youth. What was your role on that album?
AR: For Youth they hired Dexter Green to produce. Ed had me come in and add some of my flavor during the final stages. I was not present for the tracking.
Youth (El Music, 2004)
Q: Any other interesting stories regarding songs from that album or those sessions?
A: I remember at one point I was supposed to fly home for the weekend and I was feeling behind. So I said to Ed, “There is some party that I don’t want to go to” and he said “GO!” I’m so glad I did because it ended up being a massive event with all Bopnique artists. It was all day and all night, and I was to be the MC. I did it on maybe two hours sleep. I slept at the board that night.
Q: Afterwords is the last record you did with Collective Soul. I thought it showed a new maturity and depth in their songwriting. I find myself listening to that album more than any other CS record.
AR: I think because the drums were recorded at Bopnique by Karyadi Sutedja with Ryan Hoyle (a real master session player) and we built INCREDIBLE foundations for the songs. Its so organic and warm and phat. I LOVE the sound of that record. It was also the first time I added any guitar stuff on a CS record. Like the George Harrison sounding signature lead line on “Bearing Witness.” It was a really quick little idea that ended up getting used. I to this day can’t figure out how I got that sound. Everyone asks if it’s a slide but it was just a Les Paul direct into an API mic pre. Not sure what was going on with the compression but I think it was a dbx 160 and a Joe Meek SC2 fighting each other for supremacy.
Anthony J. Resta with master session drummer Ryan Hoyle
Q: “Hollywood” was a great single that emerged from the album. Ed said he wanted to write a “summer song” with an ‘80s feel. It truly hit the mark.
AR: We tracked most of that at Bopnique as well. We wanted a last '70s new wave flavor and we got it I think. Some of the stuff Ed had me remove at the mix (we mixed that track at Bopnique) because it was T00 much of a Cars ripoff. In retrospect he was right in toning that aspect down a bit. A couple of the parts I added I’m really proud of like the harmony arpeggio sid station bit that goes with Joel’s guitar in the chorus. And my Baritone guitar that does contrary motion to the rest of the band in the outro. I love the sound of that record. I got chills seeing the ads for “American Idol” where it was featured.
"Hollywood" by Collective Soul
Q: “All That I Know” is another great tune and seemingly another surefire single.
A: We used the worlds only known Solid Walnut Optigan and a homemade drum loop to build the song. I love all of Ryan’s drum parts – he really orchestrated some amazing grooves on that record. We had a great Boston Pops player but down a clarinet solo over the whole outro that I just LOVED. But it wasn’t kept. I don’t remember why.
"All That I Know" by Collective Soul
Q: You haven’t recorded with Collective Soul since 2007. Any plans to work together again?
AR: You never know! I really would love to do another one. It would mark the 15th year anniversary when I first started with them. I think I would be out to top everything. I’ve learned so much and am so much more into “space” and simplicity. I think we would craft another platinum record.
In part IV of this interview, Anthony J. Resta will discuss his other artistic collaborations such as Blondie, Perry Farrell and Missing Persons.
For more information about Anthony J. Resta, visit his website at http://bopnique.com