Brian Gardner is one of a handful of the most respected and successful mastering engineers in the world. For decades, he has mastered some of the most notable recordings with hundreds of gold and platinum records to his credit. His staying power is still evident today by being able to command up to 6 out of the top ten albums on the charts. His artist roster is whoever the biggest stars are at any point in time, such as: Michael Jackson, 2 Pac, Outkast, Eminem, En Vogue, Foo Fighters, Duran Duran, Linkin Park, Dr.Dre, Beck, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Rush, Mary J. Blige, Ice Cube, Christina Aguilera, Blink 182, Pink, Nelly Furtado, No Doubt, Enrique Iglesias, Cheap Trick, Glen Campbell, Van Halen, and Janet Jackson, to name only a few. He is truly an engineer with a wide range of expertise.
So Brian, before we get into discussing the mastering of the new Rush album, tell us a little bit about you, how you got into mastering and how you ended up at working at Bernie Grundman Mastering?
I’ve always had a love for music since I was 7 or 8 and learned to play the piano. I regret to this day not pursuing it and I had quit so I could goof off with my friends. I started mastering for schools and college bands etc. and eventually progressed to the pro level at RCA Records in Hollywood in 1965 where I was thrust into the fast lane right off the bat by mastering people like The Jackson Five, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Guess Who, Harry Nilsson, The Monkees, Jose Feliciano, Jefferson Airplane, etc. and started doing some engineering as well. Fantasy Records plucked me out of RCA to work with them up in Berkeley because of Creedence and I spent many years up in Berkeley and worked a lot with Merl Saunders and Jerry Garcia. Later I moved back to LA and had a very successful run at Allen Zentz Mastering through the Casablanca Era with Donna Summer, Kiss, George Clinton including Funkadelics, Parliament, Player, Gloria Gaynor, Ozzy Osborne, Laura Brannigan.. the list goes on. In 1984 I started with Bernie Grundman Mastering and I’ve been with Bernie ever since with a huge run of mega hits. (MAN, if I had only gotten points.woe…).
Coming to ‘Clockwork Angels’, you also mastered the band’s last album in 2007 (“Snakes & Arrows”). What differences were there between the two albums in how you approached the mastering?
The last album in 2007 was mostly one inch two track and was more dense and had a thicker texture than the new album. Technically Nick Raskulenicz [producer on Clockwork Angels] had it together as always and made my work so much easier. Artistically with Clockwork Angels, there seemed to be a turn towards more presence and I noticed an artistic shift in the overall vibe, that being it was more an atmospheric feel being blended in, so any altering of EQ had to be done carefully but regardless the Brilliance of Rush would prevail.
What were Rush’s specific wants and needs for the mastering on this album?
Each member had their particular concerns, relative of course to their parts. It is awesome hanging with these legends, being casual, at the same time paying attention to the mastering. Nick’s nature is to loosen the vibe up with his very presence and he made everyone feel at ease. We’d often be engaged in idle chit-chat while this huge sound of music permeated the room. Very cool guys.