Interview with Terry Date
You have no doubt heard Terry Date’s work. He has been a top tier producer/engineer for nearly 30 years, twiddling knobs for some of the biggest names in the rock and metal world: Pantera, Soundgarden, White Zombie and Deftones to name just a few. We truly appreciate Terry taking some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for One Louder Magazine.
One Louder Magazine: Hi Terry! In 1984, Metal Church released their first full-length, self-titled debut album. This was your “professional producer” debut in the music world, as well. What do you remember from these times, these sessions?
Terry Date: We recorded very fast…I think two weeks total. We spent half our time in the bar at the Dog House restaurant around the corner. The vocals for [the cover of Deep Purple’s] ‘Highway Star’ were recorded after one of those Dog House visits. Dave Wayne sang the whole song naked.
OLM: You were 28 years old at the time of the release. What were you doing up to that point?
TD: I spent a lot of time at Steve Lawson Productions recording whoever came through the door.
OLM: For the next five years you worked almost primarily on a band’s first album, but by the late ’80s / early ’90s, you were starting to work with bands on follow-up releases: Soundgarden, Pantera, Deftones, Limp Bizkit. How do you think you were able to make the transition from working on a band’s first album to working with bands on subsequent releases?
TD: It was a natural progression. If the band liked what I did on the first record, we just tried to continue it onto the next record. Hopefully our communication got better each time we worked together.
OLM: What were some of the major changes you noticed from bands’ early/debut releases to their follow-up releases. For example:
Pantera: Cowboys From Hell (1990), Vulgar Display of Power (1992), Far Beyond Driven (1994), The Great Southern Trendkill (1996)
Deftones: Adrenaline (1995), Around the Fur (1997), White Pony (2000), Deftones (2003)
Soundgarden: Louder Than Love (1989), Badmotorfinger (1991)
Limp Bizkit: Significant Other (1999), Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water (2000), Results May Vary (2003)
TD: I would say that as a band went from new to established, the amount of obligations/distractions increased. Sometimes it was harder to focus. They also gained recording experience which made the process easier.
OLM: Some say that bands should work on new albums with different producers, engineers, etc. to “stay fresh” and “have a different set of ears” while others say that a band should stay with the same producer(s) and/or engineer(s) because they “know” the band, their sound, their strengths and struggles. Which side do you take and why?
TD: I’m happy to do as many records as a band wants me around for, but that decision is for the band to make. There is a different answer for every situation.
OLM: You work almost exclusively with rock and metal acts. What excites you about working with this genre, what is the draw? Have you always been a “metal head” or did you listen to other things while growing up?
TD: I listened to many different things growing up, but I think I was always drawn to a darker sound.
OLM: How important is it to like the material of the bands you work with?
TD: As important as it is to like the people in the band.
OLM: A few acts you’ve worked with are quite the cast of characters. Andrew Wood with Mother Love Bone was pretty flamboyant, White Zombie was known for a darker, more grizzled look, Slipknot wears masks on stage, etc. Do their characters come across in the studio, as well, or are those looks/acts for the public only, all business in the studio?
TD: Everyone has some of their stage personality in the studio, but I would think masks would get uncomfortable after 12 hours.
OLM: Do you still listen to albums you engineered/produced? Which ones are you particularly proud of and why?
TD: When I finish a record, I have listened to it close to 1000 times. It takes me a long time to listen to it again, to try to forget about all the little things that bug me. There are 15 to 20 records that are my favorites, mostly because of the experiences that went along with them.
OLM: Are there any albums that you engineered/produced that you would like a mulligan? Which one(s) and why? What would you change?
TD: I think there are always things that I would like to change but I think it’s a good idea to resist the temptation and believe in your first instincts.
OLM: Tell us about some studio magic that we may not know about. In other words, what part(s) of songs/albums/other may not have been part of the song/album/other going in, but happened on-the-fly in the studio? Tell us about some “happy accidents”.
TD: The feedback at the end of ‘Fucking Hostile’ from [Pantera’s] Vulgar Display of Power came from Phil throwing the vocal mic into the garbage can in the control room; it was covered in barbecue sauce when we pulled it out.
OLM: What artist(s) / band(s) would you like to work with that you haven’t yet and why?
TD: I’m always searching for the next great challenge…still trying to make the perfect record.
OLM: You have worked with some amazing musicians in your 25+ year career. If you could assemble one “superband,” who would be in it, why and what would that album sound like?
TD: There would be too many people and it would be chaotic.
OLM: Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power turned 20 years old last month [February, 2012]. When you were working on it 20 years ago, did you know how special it was at the time? Could you envision the staying power it would have? Will there be a re-mastered, re-released edition with unreleased songs, live tracks, demos, etc?
TD: You always hope that a project you are working on will still be valid 20+ years down the road. That was a special record with special musicians, so it is not surprising that it is still going strong. I’m not involved with re-releases, but since [Pantera’s] Cowboys from Hell was re-released two years ago, I’m sure Vulgar Display of Power will do the same. [Ed note: it was announced after the interview took place that a 20th Anniversary Edition of Vulgar Display of Power would indeed be released].
OLM: On the other end of the spectrum is Limp Bizkit who everyone and their mother seem to ridicule. Are the Bizkit guys as lame as everyone makes them out to be or are they pretty ok dudes?
TD: They are some of my favorite people to work with, some of my favorite times in the studio and some of the best musicians I have worked with. I will support those guys always and don’t agree with people making fun of them.
OLM: At what age did your interest in music as a full-time career occur? When and how did that transition take place?
TD: I started recording at a college radio station in Moscow, Idaho. I would record live shows on a Crown 4-track reel-to-reel and sometimes bring people up to the station to record acoustic stuff. I was about 20 years old. It seemed to be working, so I moved up to a 24-track studio a few years later.
OLM: Do you seek engineering/producing work or do artist(s) / band(s) seek you out? How does that work?
TD: Most of it is word of mouth. In the early days I would go to the clubs and bring friends down to the studio to do demos or EPs. After they started getting attention, people started seeking me out. I also have management in Los Angeles.
OLM: Do you only work with proven, international acts or do you also accept work from the local talent pool?
TD: I have done both and still do.
OLM: Many musicians have incredible egos. How do you handle it when situations like that arise?
TD: Every personality is different, but being a performer requires a certain amount of self-confidence.
OLM: What advice do you have for someone who wants to work in the music industry?
TD: Make sure the love of the process is more important than anything else.
OLM: Have you ever had the “rock star” dream? What did you (or do you) play?
TD: No…and I play the stereo!
OLM: What projects have you been involved with lately?
TD: A new Vendetta Red LP will be released in Spring 2012…and more to come!
OLM: What are some of your hobbies? What do you like to do when not working?
TD: I have built my own home studio in my spare time. I spent many hours soldering patch bays, etc. I didn’t hire anyone. I just spent many hours stripping cables and soldering wires.
OLM: The desert island question: if you were stranded on a desert island and could take the collected works of five artists, who would the five be?
TD: Frank Zappa, Neil Young, Jefferson AIRPLANE, Jefferson STARSHIP…and anything to get me off this island!
OLM: Who are your guilty listening pleasures?
TD: Old Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.
OLM: How can people find out more information about you?
OLM: And to finish things off…I may be a little biased, but I believe I’m saving the best questions for last! One of my all-time favorite bands is Dream Theater. I am a total DT nut, love those guys! What can you tell me about the When Dream and Day Unite sessions? Were the guys easy to work with? Would you consider them to be passionate or clinical (or both)? What do you remember most from those sessions?
TD: We all stayed in a 2-bedroom apartment near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The studio was called Kajem/Victory and was an old gun factory. I was told it was the factory that made the gun that killed Abraham Lincoln.
We made the record in three weeks and the guys were very much fun to work with! They were very dedicated, but also very human. The singer on that record was a little different than the rest of them and I don’t think he made any more records with them. [Ed note: Charlie Dominici was the vocalist on When Dream and Day Unite. This was the only Dream Theater album he appeared on; James LaBrie has been DT’s vocalist ever since].
Rehearsals for the record were in the basement of a beauty salon. We rehearsed after business hours and entered the basement through a trap door under one of the barber chairs.