I’ve done plenty of re-mastering in my time, but I don’t actually like re-mastering a lot of the time. First, I find that most people do it to milk their record again. Second, they want it to sound more modern. I don’t agree with that.
I like a vintage car: I like its patina, the way it drives, the whole reason why it was good in the first place. I love the nostalgia of it, the sound it makes.
I feel the same way for music. I want to hear how it sounded when they made it. I don’t want to listen to the latest version of it; it doesn’t represent what they were doing at the time, the technology that was there, how they experienced it – whether it was muffled or quiet.
I want to know that, and why that was and how that sounds. Sometimes with re-mastering, they can over-polish it and make things sound too clear, too loud, and too in-your-face. It makes it sound nothing like the original. Sometimes the original was good because it had a bit of depth and horribleness and griminess to it. I think that’s a shame because there was a lot of time spent when they were initially mastering it to capture the spirit of what they were into and the sound that they liked.
If you listen to an old Jimi Hendrix record, it’s got a certain thing about it because that’s what he was trying to do when he was in the studio. I want to hear that, and I want to respect it. I don’t want them to go back to the multi-track and remix it how they think it should be today, mainly for the mix engineer’s and the mastering engineer’s egos.
I’d rather go back to the original two-inch tape and repress some vinyl from that with the original settings. That’s what I would like as re-masters so that I can hear exactly how it sounded. I don’t see many plus points for re-mastering people’s stuff apart from maybe making some more money out of it. If you are thinking of re-mastering something, try and keep that in mind and listen to the original. And if you need to transfer it from tape, try to capture the same vibe as they achieved in the first place. I think that’s the best you can do as a mastering engineer: to not re-master it and re-polish it and keep it the same.