Saturday, December 15, 2012

Resta: The Conclusion

Resta: The Conclusion
By Marshall Terrill
     Producer Anthony J. Resta is not afraid of change.
   He's weathered the decline of the big record labels, the rise of the home studio, the death of vinyl and CD, the birth of iTunes and Dropbox, and has adapted to a sea of change in an ever evolving industry that most critics say is on life support. However, the Massachusetts-based producer/writer/singer/soundscaper just rolls with the times and continues to come out on top.
    In the conclusion of this epic five-part interview, Resta discusses his work with other radical and iconic artists and his big move to the West Coast as he gets ready to enter the world of film and television.

Part IV: 
Q: Let's go through some of the other highlights in your discography, which is quite extensive.

AR: The funny thing is I've done a lot of stuff and what I have cobbled together isn't the entire discography. I'll remember something or hear a piece of music and go, “Oh yeah. I worked on this track” and will have to write it down and add it later on. Happens all the time.

Q: Nuno Bettencourt is an artist who you've known a long time. Your first professional collaboration was on his record Schizophonic (A & M, 1996). Tell me about your relationship.

AR: As you stated we've known each other a long time. We're talking way back in Hanson, Massachusetts, when Extreme was doing early demos with Bob St. John, years before they made it big. He wasn't even signed at the time. We worked on a couple of local things back then as well. He's just a phenomenal talent. We started collaborating and sending each other cassette tapes – and “DATS” (digital audio cassette tapes) .I would send him musical beds and stuff and he would just cut them up and rearrange them. I co-wrote a bunch of the tracks on Schizophonic. He has always been there for me. He's a special friend and a special collaborator. We get along very well and I even co-produced his wife's (Suze DeMarchi) album, “Telelove” for Sony. Suze is an incredible talent as well. We have a rare chemistry and we'll always be working together on something. He's an A-list session cat now and hopefully we'll write some things in the future as we have done in the past. The last thing we did was in 2010 with “King of the Ladies” on the last Extreme album. There's a very cool video to that song.  

 "King of the Ladies" by Extreme

I wrote the main riffs on a mad fuzz bass sound. I was listening to a lot of “Cold Gin” by KISS at the time. We've known each other twenty-plus years. He’s the godfather of my three-year-old daughter as well.

Q: When you know someone before they're famous and you come up through the ranks together, is there a special bond that comes with that transition?

AR: I believe there is because we've both been through many things together – ups and downs; the death of parents; marriage; kids; watching each other's careers take off – so many things. Yes, there's a bond along with a certain amount of pride. We just want good things to happen for each other.

Q: Tell me about your time with the Mudhens.

AR: They were a Boston-based band I was close to when they first broke out. They toured with Neil Young and a couple of other big-name acts in the nineties. They were very much ahead of their time – earthy, organic, fantastic musicians and great songwriters. We did a lot of music together… three records at least . I find myself listening to them again now that they're on iTunes. They sold over thirty thousand physical CD’s, which was no easy feat back then or now.

Q: You probably see acts like the Mudhens who are extremely talented and yet never get that big hit or make it mainstream while there are less talented acts who do.

AR: Yes, I see it all the time and it's an equation that is impossible to figure out. There are so many factors: marketing, being in the right place at the right time, strong public relations, the right demographic targeting. It’s become a science of media manipulation and expensive to do on a grand scale like the majors. We are all just one viral explosion away from making an Internet splash. The thing is, back then it wasn’t like today where the market is flooded with demos from artists looking to break it open. A lot of kids today come up with some compelling with believable recordings based on the technology that is offered. They may not be sonically competitive with the studios who have big consoles but there are some amazing things that come from those laptops and small pro-tools set ups.  Some of my solo stuff tracks like “Love is a Twisted Melancholy Disease” and “Cinematic Mojo” were recorded and mixed on my little G5 LE system. 

 "Love Is A Twisted Melancholy Disease" by Ajax Rayovac

The problem is the unfortunate downside. Too much music with so much of it being almost unlistenable being the equivalent of a nine billion gallon pool trying to flow though a pencil-sized pipe.

Q: Let's talk about working with Blondie on “Pop Trash Movie”. She's a true icon from the 1970s.

AR: That was a very interesting project. Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran had written that song specifically for Debbie Harry. But the song was going to be for a project we were working on called “TV Mania.” 

 "Pop Trash Movie" by Deborah Harry

That was a period when they were deep into samples of people saying obsurd things…. which inspired the project. Anyway, we got a hold of Debbie and met with her in New York City at the Hit Factory for about a week. We came up with two tracks. The chemistry was great and we all got along famously but the timing was off. She ended up getting a record deal shortly thereafter and it was complicated with politics and paperwork. The one track never saw the light of day but “Pop Trash Movie” ended up on the next Duran Duran album. There was talk that the other song “Studio 54” was going to end up in the movie Studio 54, but unfortunately it just didn't happen.  Here’s Simon Lebon singing it live on VH1's “Storytellers.”  

 "Pop Trash" by Duran Duran

Q: Since you brought up the subject of politics and paperwork, I'm interested in hearing how that unfolds when all you're doing is trying to make music.

AR: Anytime you start playing with the big boys there's eventually going to be contracts and negotiations that can get quite convoluted. You've got various managers and lawyers looking out for their client’s interests or people might have a different vision for how a project should come together. It might get to the point where it's too complicated or difficult to work out.

Q: You mentioned “TV Mania”, which is a project that's been sixteen years in the making. What is it about and why has it taken so long to get off the ground?

AR: It's about the absurdity of life through a TV that speaks. It was before we started seeing reality television dominate the landscape. The concept is more of a stage presentation and it was visual in nature. Unfortunately, everybody gets busy and things fall to the backburner. But over the years, people kept hearing about it and asking when it was going to see the light of day. I remember Duran Duran was actually playing stuff from it on their tour before their set. Sonically it's a real interesting record because we spent a lot of time on it.  We'd use things like the Roland Sound Space machines (eight inputs and outputs) that thing cost $40,000 and it made sounds appear as if they were coming from above, below or behind you in the stereo field. The strange thing is that it sounds more contemporary now than when we did it. It feels like performance art. Not too long ago Nick listened to it again and thought it sounded fresh and that we should do something with it and see what happens. He just felt that it was time for it to see the light of day. I spent about six weeks at Bopnique augmenting the tracks and then Bob St.John and I put the finishing touches on it at Sound Techniques and Courtlen.

Q: I guess sort of like the revitalization of Collective Soul's “Tremble For My Beloved.”  I remember thinking that someway, somehow, that song would get discovered. And thanks to Twilight, it eventually happened but it took a good decade. 

 "Tremble For My Beloved" by Collective Soul

AR: Exactly, and that's the case with “TV Mania.” It sounds even better today than it did 16 years ago. I guess we were on to something in both instances.

Q: Elevator Drops?

AR: Great band from the 1990s. I worked with them on Demos, POP BUS 1995 and People Mover. I thought they were one of the most cutting-edge bands ever. Check out “Be A Lemonhead/Beautiful Junkie” on 

 "Be A Lemonhead/Beautiful Junkie" by the Elevator Drops

They were great to work with.  The way they worked influenced me greatly. I’m still collaborating with Garvy J., one of the principle songwriters in the band. He’s also a great producer.

Q: Tracy Bonham?

AR: Loved working with her. I was doing A&R for A&M (Colorblind) back then. I heard the first demos of “The One”, “Sunshine”, “Free” and some others. I freaked out and got them to David Anderlie and Al Cafaro and before we knew it there was a bidding war (Paul and Josh Hager had produced these amazing early versions). I was at the show down showcase at the knitting factory in New York City. Chris Blackwell from Island was there and gave Tracy a vintage Gretsch guitar. The rest is history. Last year we did a remake of Duran Duran's “New Moon on Monday”. It's crazy! 

 Tracy Bonham

She's one of my favorite female artists of all time. She's beyond brilliant.  We are talking about working on another record together again, and I really hope we can.

Q: Tell me about Shawn Mullins.

AR: I met him when he was riding high on his first double platinum single, “Lullaby.” The label wanted a follow up single, which was called “Shimmer” (Columbia, 1999). Peter Collins, who was producing and has worked with everyone from Bon Jovi to Rush, Paul David Hager and myself (thanks Paul) to work on it with him. Incidentally, I got to watch Peter work on a number of projects subsequently and that was life-changing for me. I consider him to be one of my mentors. I owe him a lot just for allowing me to be in the same room with him and watch him work. But my first project with Peter was Shawn, and we hit it off. I actually ended up helping him with his next album and single Beneath The Velvet Sun and “Everywhere I Go” respectively

 "Everywhere I Go" by Shawn Mullins

It ended up being a phenomenal record, so much potential, but it never got the proper push. It's a very cool sonic experience if you listen to it on a set of headphones. It really wasn't what the label was looking for – they wanted another “Lullaby.” Shawn and I are still friends and he's still out there doing it.

Q: And this is a subject that endlessly fascinates me – label interference. They want hit songs from the artists but that is such a hard thing to demand. Art is art and whatever comes out is the result. How do you do deal with the situation when a label says, “We need you to produce hits.”

AR: They often listen to a record and say, “GREAT” but we don’t hear a single. Then they spend more money on a single than we spent making the entire record. It can be very frustrating. But the reality is that you're working for them, so you have to pay attention to what they're saying because they are the ones writing the check. It's important to fulfill their vision, but you also have to fulfill the artist's vision. It's definitely a sticky place to be sometimes. It can be stressful and it was stressful on the Shawn Mullins album. Take for instance the song “Valentine”; it was beautiful and futuristic and straight up pop. But at that time we were making some pretty fearless music. The label allowed us the freedom to make the music, but they wanted hits to sell the album. I think the album was great but it just didn't connect the same way as “Lullaby” did.

Q: I'm surprised to see this on your discography – Megadeth (Capitol, 2001).

AR: That was just a one-off with the “Krushem” Jock Remix. They wanted a more aggressive, hi-tech version for radio and clubs. Basically I re-cut the drums added a disco beat and some bleeps and wiz bang type stuff. I heard Dave Mustaine hated it (laughs). Despite that, it ended up being a pretty big theme for WFF wrestlers. Kathy Anaya at Lippman Entertainment got us that one and we had a good time doing it.  I hear it all the time on sports talk radio!  Paul David Hager and Karyadi stayed up with me for three days doing that on a long weekend in the middle of another project. We were so tired. I can’t remember ever being that tired since.

Q: Let's talk about the Scream 2 soundtrack. When you do songs for movies and soundtracks, is the approach different?

AR: In my experience, a lot of times it's an afterthought just like “She Said” was for Scream 2

 "She Said" by Collective Soul

They sometimes end up choosing something that's already been done. I'm just now getting into situations where I'm actually composing music specifically for the film.  When you're looking at a movie and you're creating music specifically for that project, it's a whole other world. It's extremely exciting to me and I'm looking forward to going more in that direction in the future. For Scream 3, we stripped it down and did new drums, new guitars. That's why “She Said” sounds different on Dosage than it does on Scream 2. It's a whole new treatment.

Q:  Andrea Surova?

AR: Fabulous songwriter/artist who was compared to Carol King in an article in the Boston Globe by Steve Morris.  She is one of the best songstresses I’ve ever met. She should be writing megahits for Mainstream artists like Diane Warren and Desmond Childs. I love her singing also. Truly an undiscovered gem. We worked on two records together. On the first one we did pre-production down in Nashville with a great collaborator and longtime session guru Mike Lawler. Andrea paints musical pictures with songs like “Silverhighway”. We have done quite a few co-writes as well.  I love her music! Here is a great example:

Q: John Cate?

AR: A Fab Americana/Roots/Pop artist in a timeless classic style often compared to Bob Dylan and Tom Petty. I worked with him on Piece of This Town, The Wondershow and X (ten). Those three albums that we did with him are some of the best work I've ever been involved with. We have a great chemistry and his band is just phenomenal. Listen to “California” and that'll give you an idea of who he is as an artist. 

 "California" by John Cate

Q: Perry Farrell is one of the more interesting people you've worked with. Tell me about that experience?

AR: I worked with him on Satellite Party (Columbia/Sony, 2007). He's a pioneer of alternative music and is always pushing boundaries and trying new things. That project had an enormous amount of potential and I think it got perhaps a bit overblown. There had to be a 30-piece orchestra, multiple programmers, gospel singers, multiple percussionists… I guess too many cooks can really spoil a soup. I prefer the simple stripped down versions I worked on because there was so much more space and for my ears it was much more beautiful that way. That album did bring Jim Morrison back from the grave to sing on a couple of songs. The got these tapes of him singing that no one had ever heard, sort of vocal poetry with melodic moments. Somehow they got a hold of them and turned them into music. It was another great opportunity that I owe to Nuno Bettencourt as he was co-producing and got me involved.

Q: Donna Delory.

AR: She's often referred to as the “The Ethereal Girl” because she does very spiritual world music with universal themes. She implements electronica and has a strong connection to the yoga/meditation world. I'm working on her new album and have had cuts on several of her records. We go back to around '96.

"Sky Is Open" by Donna Delory

Q: Her new record really has an all-star cast including King Crimson bassist Tony Levin, who played on John Lennon's “Double Fantasy.” How did you enjoy working with him?

AR: What Tony Levin does on bass is like nothing I’ve ever heard. I must admit that I'm a huge King Crimson fan, too. Listening to his tracks was freaking me out because his playing was just so incredible.  

"I'm Losing You" by John Lennon with Cheap Trick (with Tony Levin on bass)

Q: You recently worked with 17-year-old Jarred Dylan from “The Voice.” How's that going?

AR: Even though he didn't win the competition, I knew when I first heard him he was very special. He had this delivery and persona that were right on the money. I see really big things happening for him. I produced his first EP called In Panic and have started on another one. There are several opportunities for him that are unfolding. Check out the song, “Mistakes.” 

"Mistakes" by Jared Dylan 

It's a song I co-wrote with him and my buddy ORLECK (another fantastic Bopnique artist). Check out his album Grey Suburban Day. Jared wrote the lyrics and I performed the music. All of his material is very strong and I think we'll be hearing more about him in the future.

Q: Even more recent than Jared Dylan is your collaboration with Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad.

AR: We started talking on the phone and he said, “Let's try a couple of songs and see what happens.” We had chemistry on the first day and it was really special. I have to say this upfront: as a kid I was a huge Grand Funk Railroad fan. At the time I had about three albums in my collection and Live Album (Capitol, 1971) was one of them. Mark Farner was just about the biggest rock star hero I could have imagined at the time. Some of the new songs are really going to shock people. He is 100 percent of what he was and then some. He's taken care of himself and he's one of those gifted, soulful singers. Truly one of the greatest singers I've ever heard. He hits the mark every time in tone and range. And he's just so down to earth and cool, too. My little three-year-old daughter Milana’s favorite song is “Rock and Roll Soul” and Mark busted into a vocal on that song for my daughter one day at the studio. You should have seen the look on her face. I have a picture of it and her jaw just dropped. Now she calls me up all the time and asks, “Is Mark Farner at the studio?” (laughs).

 Mark Farner, Anthony J. Resta and Milana Resta

The great thing about Mark, and I find this with a lot of the veteran artists, is that they allow us the space to create. Sometimes people with very little experience want to hold your hand and tell you how to do everything. Then you get someone like Mark who gives you this wide open space, and its just heaven…. it was a great way to collaborate. We connected on more than just a musical level.

Let me just add this disclaimer: I've worked with more than 300 artists and each and every one of them is special. I wish I could talk about each and every one of them here but I know we just don't have the space. I feel bad because it's hard not to mention so many of them. 

Part IV: 

Q: Let's backtrack a bit and discuss the state of the music business. Your rise in the industry was also at the same time as the rise of the home studio and the tail end of the big music labels and studios.

AR: That's right. It all happened around the same time. My studio became a very special place for me and artists, and eventually it took on my personality. It's this old brick warehouse and unlike any other studio you've ever seen before. In the beginning it was just a place to store my stuff while I was off to Miami, New York, London, wherever I worked. I really only used it for my solo stuff working as Ajax Rayovac. Then when I fully acquired enough high end gear and got tired of living in hotels and away from home for months at a time, I took a gamble on this place and I've now been building it for 17 years. I work with  a phenomenal engineer /mixer who's been with me all this time. His name is Karyadi Sutedja and he is a musical mastermind. 

Karyadi Sutedja working on a track at Bopinque!

Together we have crafted the Bopnique Sound a worldwide brand. I couldn’t have done it without him and we will continue on together when we move to LA to operate Bopnique West.  The past few years have brought people from all over the world to us; people who hear the details and the non-generic fearless quality in even the simplest pop songs

Q: It definitely seems cozy and homey with the couches and lighting, and of course, all the toys. Do you feel artists are attracted to this setting?

AR: Its like working in a giant living room. Of course! One artist said he loved coming to my studio because he could come there every day and find something new he hadn't seen before. 

Bopnique's comfy digs resembles a living room disguised as a music studio

It's like a museum. Everyone seems to like the idea of recording in one big room because everybody's on the same page. A lot of studios have that glass between the artist and producer, and they can only talk to each other through a button. It seems like such a cold approach to me. I've abandoned that method and everybody here rolls up their sleeves and works together. If something's not working, I'll pick up a guitar and say, “How about this?” It's more of a team approach.

 Working together in one big room at Bopnique

Q: Why do you suppose there's been this movement towards home studios as opposed to the big state of the art record studio that cuts records for the big labels?

AR: The easy answer is that technology has become more and more affordable. High end digital audio work stations are getting less expensive and so now it's possible for artists to record really great music at a reasonable price. But at the end of the day, it all boils down to is, “Is it a great song or not?” Take a song like “Pumped Up Kicks” by  Foster the People.  

"Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People

It's a very homemade record and was beefed up in the mix stage, but that just goes to show you that if a song is catchy, a hit is achievable in a smaller studio. It's a smash no matter what. But the downside to that is there's just so much more material for us to wade through, and a lot of it is not good. It all has to start organically, and that's with a good song.

Q: One of the other movements I've noticed is file sharing where it's possible for someone to record a vocal in New York and send the file to Los Angeles for a drummer to lay down a track. That astounds me.

AR: It's very commonplace today thanks to, and yes, we do it. You can work with anyone, anywhere at anytime.  

 Producer Anthony J. Resta works his magic on a musical track through

Q: Do you lose anything as a producer from not being in the same room as the artist?

AR: It's nice to be in the same room as the artist but for me, when I do tracks and I'm all by myself listening to the song without interruption or distractions, I can find that magic moment in the song. When you're in the middle of a recording session, it may or may not be that time to reflect, so file sharing definitely has its advantages. In the end though working in the same room wins.

Q: Your newest foray will be composing music for film and television, so let's discuss the Bopnique West venture.

AR: For years I've heard from various sources, including a lot of folks in the motion picture and television industry, that my composing could be perfect for the medium. A lot of my work has ended up in movies. “Out of My Mind” for instance by Duran Duran was a track in the film The Saint

"Out of My Mind" by Duran Duran

There's quite a list and more and more opportunities seem to be springing up in that area. So many up and coming indie film projects are under way. It’s a brave new world for me and the scoring side is scary and exciting. I don't want to replace what I’ve been doing for the past 17 years but there are so many other uses for the “soundscaping” that has become my signature over time. There isn't the same constraint as there is with a three-to-four minute pop song. I like the fact that the music is supportive and secondary to the story and dialog. It’s not about “the song” it’s about creating a mood than enhances but not distracts.

Q: Are we talking writing songs for movies or scoring pictures?

AR: Actually both. I'm working on several projects including a solo record with actor Michael Chiklis. He has a fantastic new primetime show called “Vegas”. He's a very established actor, but he's also branching out as a musician and it's super cool music and I think people will dig it. This track is called “The Connection.” 

"The Connection" by Michael Chiklis

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I’ve added drums, guitar and synth atmospheres on it. His longtime collaborator Bob Pascarella is a monster guitar player/composer and as a team we are really having fun creating.

Q: Do you ever get intimidated by the people you work with?

AR: Never intimidated but always a little scared...and I think that's good. That little bit of fear in the pit of your stomach keeps you grounded and also makes you work harder. The music industry is no different than the movie industry in that if you make something that sucks or is not well received, it travels far and deep, so you've always got to be on your toes. You have to continue traveling down a path that's interesting and territory that's unexplored. It's got to be a lifelong pursuit; otherwise, you grow stale as an artist. So far that's one thing I've never been accused of. 

For more information on Anthony J. Resta and Bopnique!, visit

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