Interview with Ted Templeman
(Sorry no artwork, mag was ripped.)
I've always worked a lot with guitar players-Lowell George in little Feat, for example, Jan Akkerman, Clapton, of course. So one night, out of curiosity, I went down to the Starwood to see Van Halen play. There was nobody down there, but Eddie just completely blew me away. I'd never heard anything like him with his hammer licks, playing his Back things and stuff. So we made a deal right then and there. But what really nailed me was when he was over my house one day and he was playing an acoustic guitar and doing that same stuff with no sustain-it was amazing.
Historically, the way we worked in the studio changed a lot. First of all, Eddie's such a musical player-and has chops to boot-that what you do with a guy like that, as a producer, is just let him go. In the beginning, as far as the production of the albums, I concentrated mainly on helping structure the songs. I nvever ever had to guide Ed through a soloor anything like that. His instincts are so good musically that he didn't need anything like that; I'd just turn on the tape machine. In fact by the time we did 1984 he had his own studio, so he'd just lay out the solos in the middle of the night and I'd come in the next day and say, Hey thats great. I'm not kidding. I'd like to take credit and say I helped, but I didn't. Never once did I say, Hey, lets do that again. I think Eddie's evolved enough now that he can take control of his own music-he doesn't need a producer that much.
Is he a one-take guy-are you kidding? Some guitarists, like Lowell George, for instance, are fastidious about how they prepare for a solo, but Edward is a one-shot type. I mean, sometimes he'd come in and say. Maybe I should do that one again, but he'd do the whole solo, not just punch in pieces. And as far as his sound, it was great with that rig of his, patched together out of cheap little pieces as it was. To me, actually, the sound was better in the earlier days. As Eddie got more money-he probably wouldn't want me to say this-he lost a little rawness.
But Donn Landee is such a great engineer, he really took a major part in capturing that raw guitar sound. See, certain guitar players no matter how well they play, just don't have a sense of how to make their instrument sound distinct. I mean, Donn would get a great echo sound on something like "Running With The Devil", which could really help with the echo return on the guitar. And donn had a lot to with the sound on "Beat It" that he didn't get credit for-you can quote me on that. I know that he went down there and got Edward sounding, and even made suggestions for the whole track. See that was harder, because when you're working in the context of a band its one thing, but when you take Eddie and put him in another context, and then have to get his guitar to blend into that track-well, that's what Donn Landee did.
But Edward pretty much had that sound of his at the Starwood. As far as I was concerned-and Donn would probably tell you the same thing-recording him was pretty much a queston of sticking a mike in front of his amp.
I'll tell you a great story that'll give you an ideal of what it's like to work with Edward. We wanted to try a mandolin part on something, and he ws out there in the studio playing. So I said, Ed can we take that again? And he just looked up and yelled, Hey F*** Y**, and he took the mandolin and broke it all to bits all over the studio. Then he grinned and said Naw, just kidding, Ted, He just wanted to get the sokund of the mandolin breaking up on tape-Donn Landee has a copy of that at home. But Eddie's always been professional and a pleasure to work with. Of all the musicians I've ever worked with I think he's the most gifted. He's got the chops of an Allan Holdsworth and the melodies of an Eric Clapton. Sit with him in a room for a couple of hours and he'll blow you away.
"I knew these guys before any of 'em could even afford a car," chuckles ace producer Ted Templeman. After a two-album hiatus, Templeman, the man who produdced Van Halen's first six records, is back in the saddle.
"It was a little awkward, in the beginning, because it was a new studio environment. But in terms of the band, it's like we'd never parted," he explains. "Naturally, it took Andy Johns and I some time to get acquainted-I think it was approximately 11 gin and tonics!"
Templeman rarely grants interviews, believing that producers should stay behind the scenes. "I pride myself on being a kind of lighting man," the hit-maker explains with characteristic modesty. "My job is to make the artist sound great, bring out his ideas and not bring attention to myself. I think my biggest contribution with Van Halen was to suggest that we order more pizza."
GW:What was your role on this album?
TT:Eddie once said that Andy and the band built the car, and I painted and polished it. The album was well under way when I became involved. Basically, I was there for the last five months of production. I was brought in to help them complete unfinished thoughts. I also know how to get the band to work quickly. I produced their first six albums, and each of them was created in short periods of time between tours.
GW:Ed suggests that you were brought in to "crack the whip"
TT:Well, I probably have that reputation with the band. On the first few records, part of my job was to keep them on schedule. I really didnt mean to crack the whip, but I had to because we had very little time to record. A couple of those albums were thrown together in sex weeks! They were always on the run. In fact, we wrote a song called "One Foot Out The Door" because that's literally how it was.
GWid you find 5105's informal atmosphere conducive to work?
TT:It was a definite plus. I think the tracks are so good because the band ws free to exercise their art. We actually discussed moving to another studio, but I was the one wo nixed the idea.
GW:How did you divide up production responsibilities?
TT:It wasn't like everybody had specific chores. We contributed equally on everything. All opinions were respected.
GW:What did Andy Johns bring to the project?
TT:A certain amount of abandon, and the drum sound that Alex has always wanted.
GW:What specific suggestions did you make to Ed?
TT:Even before the album started I suggested that maybe he should try going back to writing more riff oriented material. I'm not sure how much of that stuck, but he seemed receptive.
GW:How much EQ was added to Eddie's guitar in the mix stage?
TT:I can't really speak for Andy, but it's minimal. Ed will be the first one to add any EQ if he hears that the guitar is lacking in any area. People always ask me how I got such an incredible sound from Ed. The answer is simple. I put the right microphone in front of the right speaker and stood back. It's really all Ed. He understands sound better than any engineer or producer.
GW:There is a noticeable departure from the past in the sound of the rhythm section. Mike, for example, stands out more in the mix.
TT:When I recording Van Halen's debut, my strategy was just to take the guitar and blow it up all over the face of the damn map, because I thought it was the most amazing thing I'd ever heard. In order to do that I had to sacrifice some of the bottom end. I think we reached more of a compromise on this record. Also, you're hearing Andy Johns, who has recorded some the greatest drummers and drum tracks in the world.
GW:How had Eddie's playing changed?
TT:I see an improvement. Eddie can do every trick in the book, but he has learned the poer of undertatement. He doesn't feel the need to fill up every measure with 32nd note runs anymore. He reminds me of Miles Davis. Miles had chops, but he prefered to concentrate on choosing his spot and playing things that no one would ever expect. That's what Edward is able to do. He's still able to blow the doors off anyone in terms of speed, but instead he's concentrating on his musicalit. That's the major change. I've worked with such legendary guitar players as Allan Holdsworth, Ronnie Montrose, Eric Clapton, Lowell George and Steve Vai, but none them come close to having Ed's fantastic combination of chops and musicianship. I rank him along with Charlie Parker and Art Tatum as one of the three greatest musicians of my lifetime. Unfortunately, I don't think Ed puts himself in that class.