Interview by Jordan Valeriote[note – this interview was originally done in 2014. It has been reposted here.]
You may not know much about David Bendeth, but I could almost guarantee that you know his drums. Since crafting that instantly recognizable snare sound on Paramore’s “Riot,” which he also produced, Bendeth has become a choice mixer for rock & metal bands across the globe. Though his mix technique is decidedly “old-school,” his mixes are setting the bar for today’s heavy music.
David Bendeth is truly a giant across the entire industry. Since his start as an artist in the 80’s, Bendeth has moved though various titles including staff producer, songwriter, and A&R executive before ending up at his current role as a producer, engineer and mixer. With over 60 million records sold throughout his career, it’s easy to see why artists are eager to have his touch on their record. David was kind enough to give us some insight into his mixes, his gear, and his world.
You’ve been doing a lot more mixing work lately for hardcore & metal bands (Bring Me the Horizon, Of Mice & Men, Underoath, etc). Are there any differences in how you approach these mixes compared to a more mainstream/pop record?
I feel I approach every record I am doing differently. With a lot of the newer hard bands, I am trying to approach with the idea of clarity and respect for lyrics a lot more than the ways of the past.
What’s your go-to vocal compressor for these types of bands with screaming vox?
For screaming I love to use the STA Level or the 1176, they can weather most storms in the dynamics.
Your drum sound is widely admired by mixers everywhere. What advice would you give to someone trying to improve their drum sound?
Try and find a great drummer to work with, make sure you have the right mics, sticks, drum heads, tuning, and groove. Finding space in arrangement is the key to making a great drum track. Ride the drums as a drummer would. Most samples cover up good dynamics and feel.
Any recommendations or favourites for drum heads?
I really like Evans heads, they really go the duration which is about 3-4 songs on average. I also like [Remo] Ambassador for certain songs that need a little more sensitivity.
What’s your go-to snare chain when getting started on a mix?
These days it has been through the SSL console, with a lot of back buss. I love the ADR Design and the AMS reverb. I have also been using fireworks a lot lately.
What do you mean by ‘back buss’?
Back buss is taking multiple tracks and sending them to another EQ/compression chain. The SSL is great for ganging up tracks as they have built in compressers on each strip. I also like to use Neve 1073 and Compex ADR compressors. Dan Korneff has also built a fantastic SSL type, Alan Smart type [compressor] that i like to strap across the buss as well in stereo.
What’s normally happening on your master fader?
It stays at the top until the end and I fade it!
Hah – I’m in DAW world, I guess I should say master buss. What’s do you usually have happening there? Any EQ or just compression?
Just a tiny bit sometimes of API EQ across the buss, and usually a compressor or two in very light mode.
You created David Bendeth Drums for the Steven Slate Drums platform. What was your goal when you set out to make this product?
My goal was to give creative people some tools to make real sounding drums that could cut through loud bass and guitars. I also tried some different techniques for toms and dynamics with samples.
I believe you use Cubase at your studio. What made you choose Cubase?
I have been using Cubase since 1994. I just love the program and the engineers I work with find it easy to edit on.
Walk us through a typical day working with a band at your studio, House of Loud.
Depends on what we are doing. Eat lunch, get to work, pre pro, tracking or mixing and stay until midnight six days a week, every week.
You mix on an SSL with some choice outboard, but are there any plugins that you can’t live without?
I can basically live without any plugin. I cannot tell a Fairchild plugin from an 1176. I think they do a great job on artwork for all these colorful toys. To me, if i can’t see the back of it, it’s something I use when I run out of real gear.
Is there any recent piece of gear, be it software, hardware, plugins, etc. that has had a big impact on the way you work?
My Friedman amp head, my Fujigen guitars, an API EQ, another Lexicon 200 reverb.
From your side of the glass, what do you think are the challenges with the music industry today? What are the opportunities?
The challenges are always the same — writing and finding great songs with artists that can perform them. The opportunities are always with people that are passionate and committed to excellence and willing to go the extra distance.
What brought you back into engineering and mixing after spending some time on the A&R side?
I always had worked in the studio, even during my A&R years. I grew up in the studio and it was not much of a transition for me. I was the guy they sent to the studio to see if everything was going according to plan. I was very lucky to have the opportunity to work with many of the greats as an A&R person, like Jack Joseph Puig, Michael Brauer, Chris Lord-Alge, Andy Wallace, Bob Rock, Danny Lanois, Arif Mardin, Bob Ezrin, and Jack Richardson. It was a great learning experience for me, and I take those lessons with me every single day.
Who are your favourite mixers out there today? Anyone that you get inspiration from?
I love a lot of mixers. Andy Wallace, Randy Staub, Mark Endert, Eric Valentine, Manny Marroquin, Serban Genea, Jay Ruston, Chris Lord-Alge, Tom Lord-Alge, Jack Puig, Bruce Swedien, Trevor Horn… ◊