Neil Dorfsman on remixing Morning Glory in 5.1 for Super Audio CD

In this exclusive new interview for Oasis Recording Info, the Grammy award-winning producer Neil Dorfsman, perhaps best known for his work with such diverse artists as Dire Straits, Sting, Björk, and Paul McCartney, speaks for the first time about remixing Oasis’s classic album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? in 5.1 surround sound for the Super Audio CD edition.

Interview by Tom Stroud. Additional questions and footnotes by David Huggins. Info on SACD authoring by Woody Pornpitaksuk. Pictures reproduced courtesy of Neil DorfsmanUpside Down: The Creation Records Story, and Charger & Chris C. of the Steve Hoffman Music Forums.

The Super Audio CD of Oasis' (What's the Story) Morning Glory?, which features a multichannel mix by producer Neil Dorfsman

Above: Epic Records’ Super Audio CD edition of Oasis’s classic album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, which was released in the USA in 2003 and features a 5.1 surround mix by producer Neil Dorfsman as well as the original stereo mix by Owen Morris. The SACD was simultaneously released in the UK by Helter Skelter, an imprint of Sony Music Entertainment (UK) Ltd.

What was the brief for the remix? How were you approached?
Neil: There was no real brief on the mix. I was approached by Sony Records. Usually when you’re doing a 5.1 mix there is no brief. Basically that only happens when you’re remixing in stereo for the actual album and multiple people are mixing. Sony was reissuing some of their catalogue in 5.1 and wanted the Oasis record mixed and they just thought I might do a good job, so they approached me.

Were you a fan of the album anyway? Did you know it pretty well as a listener before you took this on?
I was a big fan of the album. I knew it very well. I thought it was an incredible record and I thought it was an iconic record, not only sonically, for its very compressed and processed sound, but also for the writing and the performances. I thought the record was amazing.

Why What’s The Story (Morning Glory)? in particular? Was their debut album Definitely Maybe ever considered for SACD?
I don’t know why they chose that record in particular, other than [as I said] that it was such an iconic and large-selling record. And I think they thought there was a giant audience for it. It was funny because, when we were mixing it, I asked one of the people at Sony Records if this disc did well, how many it could sell… just out of curiosity. And he said, ‘well, if we sell ten thousand of these we’re doing amazing.’ And ten thousand – for any record at the time – was not considered very good, considering that the record had sold multi-millions, and Sony had spent hundreds of millions developing Super Audio CD.[1] So it was kind of odd, to me, that that would be considered a good-selling SACD but it is what it is, so…

Where did you mix it and how long did it take?
I mixed the record at Sony Studios in New York and it took about eight days.

Oasis are famous for noisy, turned-up-to-11, un-separated, ‘wall of sound’ production.[2] Is it a slightly odd thing to mix their music in surround? Sometimes it seems the band prefer mono to stereo, let alone multi-channel…
They are famous for their noisy, turned-up-to-11 un-separated sound. And I was a little hesitant about the 5.1 mix because of that, because 5.1 tends to separate instruments out in a way that’s semi unnatural in my opinion, and that’s sort of the point of it all… the Oasis record could’ve been mixed in mono and it would’ve been just as powerful. As you say, Oasis are famous for their ‘wall of sound’ kind of production and it was a little daunting to do this 5.1 because, by its nature, 5.1 mixing separates elements out in a way that isn’t presented in the stereo mix. And I was a little worried about that… I wanted to get a certain clarity but retain the intense energy of the original stereo mix; I found that kind of daunting.

Tell us a bit about the process. You go to a studio and you’re presented with the multitracks for the album – presumably as reels of tape rather than digital transfers?
I went into the Sony Studios in New York and I wasn’t presented with multitracks on tape [but] a Pro Tools session, which was partly frustrating because whoever transferred the original source tapes to Pro Tools didn’t label the tracks. So, basically, I was given audio… 1 through, whatever, 32 or 40, all unlabelled. Only the takes that were used on the record were included on the transfers I got but the labelling was a little dodgy because there were multiple parts that were not on the final record. So what I had to do was import each tune into my session and carefully, almost bar by bar, section by section, see what elements were used in the mix that the guys actually used on the final record; there were a lot of parts that were muted on certain sections, un-muted in others, and actual complete parts that were not used in the stereo mix that I had to decipher through and figure out what was going to be in the final mix that I did. The transfers came from the label, I think. I’m not sure the band even knew the record was being mixed in 5.1.

Did you have any guidance or direction on how to approach it? For an album made in Pro Tools it would be easy to recall the final mixes (complete with all the processing) but presumably here you had to start from scratch? 
I tried to stick as close to the master stereo mix by Owen Morris as I possibly could, and it was a little bit of a bug hunt going through and finding all the parts, and labelling them carefully about what was to be used and where.

How often did you refer to the original mixes – and in what form? Did you have the stereo mix reels or were you working from the CD?
I referred to the original mixes constantly, not only for parts but for the integrity of the vibe that they were going for. So I would always have, on a separate source, the CD on my session. I would flip between it and my mixes, just to make sure that the general balance felt good, that the energy was the same. Maybe mine was a little clearer, possibly a little punchier, a little louder in some sections but I did not want to make it sound like a completely different approach to what is clearly a classic record.

Were you also supplied with un-mastered, flat copies of Owen Morris’s original stereo mix for reference during the production, (or perhaps a transfer of the DAT used to cut the CD)?
I wasn’t supplied with an un-mastered flat copy of the original mix… I wasn’t supplied with anything actually, except the Pro Tools sessions. I owned the CD personally because I was a big fan, so I just brought it into the session, imported it, and used that as a reference point.

What did you learn about the band’s creative process? The album was apparently recorded quickly and economically. Basic tracks were effected quickly and then probably lots of overdubbed guitars etc. Were there reels full of false starts? Were there any surprises there?
I didn’t really learn much about the band’s creative process [and] I couldn’t really tell how the record was recorded. I think most of the guitars were probably overdubbed, although I couldn’t really tell because they were so close-miked that you don’t really know if there’s other instruments in the room with them. There were no surprises except I was super impressed by the guitar sounds, they were really incredible… really focussed sounding and really excellent sounding. I wasn’t sure what to make of it because when you hear the stereo mix it’s difficult to tell what the source material is going to sound like because, as I say, with an album as famous as a hallmark for seriously limited and compressed stereo mixes… [listening to the CD] I couldn’t tell if that was done as part of the recording or in the stereo mix. [Listening to the multitracks it was clear that it] was done in the stereo mix. The recording was very good: vocals sounded great, drums sounded pretty good, and the guitars sounded really good.

Neil Dorfsman at work in his studio. Photo courtesy Neil Dorfsman (2014)

Above: Neil Dorfsman at work in his studio today. Photo courtesy Neil Dorfsman (2014)

Can you take us through the mixing process for a track? Do you start with the drums, and then build the mix slowly? When do you add the effects and compression? When do you consider the placement of the elements in the stereo field? Be as detailed as you like…
My process for mixing is pretty much unchanged. I generally set up all of my effects on the console if I’m mixing on an analogue console. If it’s something that’s a studio recording I’ll have a ‘go to’ set of multiple stereo effects that I will set up before I start listening. And then, as I go to each song, I put up all the faders of the audio and check out the overall vibe and tone of things: get a balance, listen to it down, get a sense of where the energy should be and where I want to take it. And then again, in this case, I compared it to the original CD.

Then I’ll tear it all down and start with the drums and vocal. And then I’ll always have the vocal in, throughout the whole mixing process; I may mute it occasionally just to work on some particular thing, but I will always have it in as a reference point. To me it’s the most important part of the record – not only the lyrics but the sound of the voice, and the presence and energy of the voice, [as] that’s what the band is supporting. So I’m always referencing the band’s energy and the sound of the band [compared] to the sound of the voice. Luckily in this case we had two great singers, [which] makes it very apparent where you want to go.

Once I’ve torn it down I put up each track individually and slowly build with EQ, compression, and effects, and I’m placing elements in the stereo mix – actually the 5.1 mix in this case – as I go. And I’ll tinker with that. Sometimes when everything’s in you’ll want to try and move some stuff around, get some more sense of space. In some cases I might’ve been a little timid with the 5.1 rear speakers so, once I’ve got everything in [and] I’ve got the overall energy balance, I’ll move things towards the back or move them around and not generally re-EQ, but balance the effects and balance the positions of instruments. I rely on compression fairly heavily and I’ll often parallel compress… I’ll send out, let’s say, one particular guitar, to two channels of my board and compress one heavily and not compress the other one very much at all, and blend them together to get a punchy and tough sound. I think I did that in this case.

I don’t think the guitars needed that much EQ. The hardest part for me was working on the drums, getting the drums punchy. I felt the drums could’ve been punchier on the original recording and I didn’t want to use samples and actually replace them, so that took a bit of time [to] get those to where I wanted them to be.

Was it pretty obvious what you needed to do with each track? Were there ever moments of mystery – “how did they get that sound”?
It was pretty obvious what I needed on each track. I didn’t really doubt where I wanted to go with it: I wanted to make it clear and punchy. The recording, as I said, was very good. There wasn’t too much mystery as to how they got their sound; pretty much it was recorded as presented.

What’s it like working with Liam’s voice in a mix? Did you need to add much in terms of EQ, compression, and reverb?
The vocal was well recorded and beautifully sung in pretty much every case, so I didn’t have to do too much to it; I would always put a little EQ, compress again, doing the parallel compression on the vocal (one channel compressed heavily, the other a more hi-fi representation) and then add reverb and effects. The effects, generally, would be like a slight doubling, a tight doubling. And then a longer delay, maybe with some repeat on it and [like] a slight small room and some sort of longer type of reverb to give it some space. And that was often panned to different positions in the 5.1 panorama.

Owen Morris has noted that, in remastering the album recently, the biggest bit of processing required was de-essing the vocals[3]; was this something you recall needed doing as part of your remix, or were the multitrack transfers free of that problem?
The de-essing… in the original [mix] it probably required de-essing because it was so limited and smashed that the S’s tend to get a little spread-y. I always, as a matter of course when I’m mixing, de-ess in my own way when I’m mixing on an analogue console. So I was careful to do that during the mixing process and I don’t think that was as much of an issue for our master as it might have been for the original stereo mix.

Here’s Noel talking about the recording process for Definitely Maybe: “I just set the band up in one room, no sound baffles, no headphones, Our Kid in a vocal booth ’cos you have to, played it live and I put guitar overdubs on the best takes. If you listen to the snare drum mike on the master-tape you can hear every instrument. Nothing is separated, volume right up. Must be the loudest album since The Who’s Live at Leeds.”[4] Does that apply to the Morning Glory session tapes? Presumably they were separated and cleanly recorded, unlike Definitely Maybe.
The tracks on the record I worked on were recorded in what’s come to be considered the ‘normal’ way, in the sense that there was isolation on most instruments. It didn’t seem like it was all recorded live in a room with tons of leakage. It was well recorded and there was good separation. They were cleanly recorded and I don’t think there was that much ambience on any of the tracks. I added that stuff later in the mix.

Owen Morris’s mixing style with Oasis involves a lot of reverb. Was this mainly from reverb units or were there ambient room tracks on the tape?
The reverb on the vocals and everything was created by reverb units: EMT plates or digital reverb units, because there was not much ambience on the [multitrack] recording.

The multichannel mix room at Sony Music Studios, NY, circa 2002

Above: The multichannel mix room at Sony Music Studios in New York, circa 2002. The room was equipped with an 84-channel Neve 88R analogue console and B&W monitors, used for ‘surround mixing on Super Audio CD, music recording and feature film mixing.’ A report published on the AMS Neve site in November 2002 stated that ‘an archive of existing material’ would be ‘remixed from its current analog form to Super Audio CD on the 88R.’ (Source: AMS Neve website). Photo courtesy Chris C. of the Steve Hoffman Music Forum.

Did any of the tracks require specific help? Owen Morris is on record as saying he hated the drum track on Some Might Say and hid it in the mix as best he could.[5] On the SACD it’s much more prominent in the mix.
I don’t really remember the drum track on Some Might Say. I don’t remember the drums that well, except that I always felt that the drums on the stereo mix of the record were small-sounding, and that was probably to make the guitars seem as large as possible and the vocal to stand out. I wanted to get the drums a little bit more present without making them sound “doctored” in some way, so they probably are more prominent in the 5.1 than in the stereo mix.

Some Might Say was recorded at a different time, in a different studio, and with a different drummer. Did it stand out from the other songs when you were mixing the album?
I don’t really recall if it sounded different… I couldn’t tell what studio it was tracked in. There were no session notes which, y’know, I always like to get extensive notes about how it was recorded and where, and all that other stuff [like] comments on certain approaches the producer wanted to take on the mix. I think that’s always helpful. But, as I said, I had almost nothing.

The 5.1 mix runs to the same durations as the original mix. We know that originally Some Might Say came to a full end and it gets an early fade at the mixing stage.[6] Did any of the other songs run much longer or need editing? Did anything good end up on the cutting room floor?
I don’t really remember if any of the songs had different lengths or different endings. I tried to just, basically, honour the stereo mix as well as I could. I don’t think anything ended up on the cutting room floor except parts that were left out of the original mix that I didn’t feel it was in my purview to put in, if the band had not included them in their final mix.

On Hello, Noel’s backing vocals at the end (“It’s good to be back” etc) are filtered for a megaphone-type effect; was this on the multitrack recording, or did you have to re-create it during your mixdown?
As I recall (and it’s been a long time) I think I had to re-engineer the background megaphone effect; I don’t think it was on the original [session] recording. I’m fairly sure it wasn’t, but I’m not 100 percent sure. I think I had to recreate it, which is not hard.

The album, like most Oasis albums, is carefully sequenced with bits of audio vérité between the songs (the acoustic guitar and birdsong on the front of Hello, the cough between Roll With It and Wonderwall, the tape warping effect before Some Might Say, the various pieces of Swamp Song, and the cross-faded radio and water effects between Morning Glory and Champagne Supernova). Was it fairly easy to recreate the album’s sequence? Were all the elements available to you?
The sequenced audio vérité was on the sessions in a lot of cases, but in some cases it wasn’t and I had to take it from the CD, fly it in, and “5.1-ize” in some way, with delay, reverb, or just panning. As I said, a lot of the radio stuff on Morning Glory and the water effects on Champagne Supernova were on the session; where it wasn’t I would just grab it from the CD and try to make it integrate into my mixes.

Did the multitracks contain an alternate bassline on Wonderwall? (This was mentioned by Owen Morris in an earlier interview[7]: apparently they tried out a simpler version than was featured in the final mix, as they initially thought the version heard on the LP was too fussy, before settling on the version we all know).
I don’t remember an alternative bassline for Wonderwall… there might’ve been. Perhaps it was deleted before I got my session, but I don’t really remember it. I’m hoping there wasn’t, I hope we got the right one! I don’t even know, actually.

On Don’t Look Back In Anger (at 1.10 on the original mix) the lead vocal features Noel singing “her soul slides away” whilst on the backing vocal he sings “my soul slides away.” This is fixed in your mix and I wondered how you got round the issue.
I think I did fix a little funny thing on the backing vocal for Don’t Look Back in Anger. In Pro Tools it’s so easy to fix. I’m assuming that they didn’t record in Pro Tools when they did the record originally, so they probably just left it in as it was.

There was a rumour that Liam sang on an early version of Don’t Look Back in Anger[8]; you mentioned that the multitrack transfers had multiple parts that were not used on the final record, and I wondered if a vocal by Liam on that tune was among them.
As far as Don’t Look Back in Anger with Liam singing… I don’t really recall that. I do, however, recall other tunes with Noel singing guide vocals that were awesome. [They were] not to be used on the final mix because Liam eventually did the lead vocals but I don’t recall honestly whether Liam sang Don’t Look Back in Anger, which was eventually done by Noel. But, as I did say, there were multiple parts that had to be weeded through before I got to what was eventually culled for the final stereo mix, [which] I wanted to match as closely as possible. I don’t remember this particular case, but I do remember vocals by Noel which Liam ultimately did on the final record. I don’t remember the reverse being true, but it’s very possible. As I said, I was just looking for the material that was ultimately being used, and not paying too much attention to the entirety of the audio… I was just trying to get down to what I needed because I was under time pressure.

Liam’s vocal on Hey Now! has a unique sound – more reverberant and with a slightly more diffuse sound than on some of the other tracks… How did you achieve that sound?
I probably added a little more effects to Liam’s vocal, probably some delays and some more reverb than on the original. Probably an EMT plate, maybe a digital reverb and possibly some tape delays on him for that classic ’60s-’70s vocal sound. The thing with 5.1 mixing is that you have so much space to fill that I probably found myself adding a little bit more effects to do that than they did in the original stereo mix. There’s so much of a stage to fill out on the 5.1… so rather than just put ambience in the back speakers and the band in the front – like a live performance – I tried to spread things around a little bit more.

Did you remix the Swamp Song (the two untitled instrumental tracks on the album) or fly it in from the CD (it’s got lots of sound effects and reverb on it)? It’s a mix of studio recording and drums (possibly other elements) flown in from a concert recording[9]… was it an odd track to mix?
I don’t think I remixed the Swamp Song. I don’t think I did any instrumental tracks but I’m not 100 percent sure. I didn’t really pay attention to the titles so much as what was in front of me. I don’t really relate to songs when I’m mixing in a title format, like when you’re listening to a CD; it’s more like, you’re just dealing with data and music and the task in hand, and not the tune as a hit, or what kind of tune it is.

Was the song Step Out on the multitracks and, if so, was it ever considered for inclusion on the SACD? (The track had been planned for the original UK CD, but clearance issues, relating to its similarities to Stevie Wonder’s song Uptight, meant that it was left off the record, later appearing as a b-side to Don’t Look Back in Anger)[10]
I don’t remember Step Out on the multitracks. That’s an inside thing, I don’t really know… sorry.

At the end of Champagne Supernova there’s the drone and the gentle drum rolls, then an acoustic guitar fades in to finish the track. Was that a final flourish or did the acoustic track play through the song and it was mixed out until the end?
I think that was arranged in the recording, [where] the acoustic guitar came back in to finish the track. I think that was not faded in the recording but began again at a certain point and I emulated that in the mix.

Did you mix anything else – Bonehead’s Bank Holiday[11]? Any of the B-sides?
I don’t really remember mixing any B-sides… I don’t think there were any B-sides presented to me. Bonehead’s Bank Holiday… I don’t remember that. It’s been a while!

Owen Morris and Noel Gallagher at Rockfield Studios

Above: Owen Morris and Noel Gallagher at Rockfield’s Coach House studio during the main tracking session for (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? The console pictured is a 60-channel Neve VR with flying faders.  The sessions were recorded on a Studer A820 (not shown). Original footage by Tim Abbot. Frame reproduced from DVD edition of “Upside Down: The Creation Records Story” documentary by kind permission of Document Films.

The original mixes would (presumably) have been done in the analogue domain – did you do anything differently because you were working with digital elements where cutting and pasting is much easier? Were you tempted to fix any performance errors or clean up any punch-ins etc?
I think the original mixes were mixed to analogue, or maybe they were mixed on an analogue console to a DAT or something, I’m not really sure.[12]I don’t really approach things differently when I’m working with digital elements other than that I can fix things easily. And, if I have an analogue console, it sounds fine. If I’m working completely digital on a digital console, working in Pro Tools only, I have to do a lot more work to get things sounding the way that you want them to. I was tempted to repair certain aspects of performances but I didn’t feel it was my right to do that. I figured that what was on there was – on some level – a choice by the band and producer and, like I said, you have to approach this stuff with some humility and a little bit of reverence for what they had done, again because it was so popular and so well done that you don’t really want to mess with it too much.

On Definitely Maybe Owen Morris varispeeded the final mixes of some songs to add extra texture.[13] Did you need to do that with any of these songs? Liam’s vocal on the title track sounds like it’s been sped up, although it must be the vocal rather than the whole track…
I don’t think I varispeeded anything when I was mixing. I don’t know if they were vari-speeded when they were put into Pro Tools… they seemed the same tempo as the CD I was aping to, so it must’ve been done at the transfer point from the original tapes. Liam’s vocal might’ve been recorded with the tape slowed down slightly to get that effect.

Owen Morris has said that, at the time, he wasn’t confident about his mixes and would use heavy compression to glue the tracks together.[14] When you did the remix did you find yourself using lots of compression, reverb etc to get the same effect? Was the “Oasis sound” on the tapes or was it in the mix?
The heavy compression was evident from the stereo mixes I heard. They weren’t [heavily compressed] on the source material I was working from, so that was something done in his post-production. I did try to get the compression sort of like the stereo mix, although I left a lot of that to the mastering. Compression on the 5.1 speaks in a different way than compression on the stereo mix[15], so I left that to the mastering when the mix was done. The Oasis sound was on the tapes to a certain extent, in that the guitars were super-present and super great sounding, as were the vocals. But the hallmark compressed sonics was done by Owen in his mixdown.

The CD is famously very loud with lots of distortion and not much separation. On the SACD the elements sound cleaner and more defined. Is it true to say that the album was well recorded but that the hardening up happened at the mixing stage? On the SACD the strings and acoustic guitars sound much cleaner. Presumably the multitracks aren’t all “in the red”…
The CD is indeed loud, with lots of distortion. The clarity [on the SACD] is part of my mixing style. I don’t think I was chosen to mix the 5.1 because of that particularly; I think they just wanted someone to mix the 5.1 and I was lucky enough to get it. I do try to make every element that is recorded clear somehow in the mix, which sometimes goes against possibly the intent of the band – I figure if they record something they want it to be heard, but that’s not always the case; sometimes you want it to be felt, or sometimes you just want to add it to the overall vibe. And that’s probably a little bit more like the way that Oasis, at that time, was approaching their recordings. I tried to make things a little bit clearer and possibly a little bit more hi-fi, but I was always keeping in mind the intent of the band, and I didn’t want them to be disappointed. I’m not even sure that they knew that the 5.1 mix was being done, and was being done by somebody they didn’t know. I was a little worried about that.

Mastering engineer Vlado Meller, who is credited with mastering the Morning Glory SACD, as well as several US promo CDs for Oasis.

Above: Mastering engineer Vlado Meller, who is credited with mastering the SACD edition of Oasis’s (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, as well as the radio edits included on the US promo CDs of Rock ‘n’ Roll Star, Live Forever, and Supersonic.

Was there an approval process for the mixes? Did you have to do any tweaks – “more vocal here” etc? Did Noel hear it, and how? Did they set up a surround playback?
The approval process for the mix was basically to send them to the record company and have them sign off on it. I do not think that the band was involved, which kind of felt weird to me. I don’t really like it when other people mix my work when it’s not known to me that it’s being done. And I don’t really know if the band was even told that it was being done. I know they were playing in New York while we were mixing it, at the Beacon Theater [the band played two nights there on 13th and 14th August 2002 – Ed.]. And I was a little concerned that they might come by the studio and not know who was doing their mixing and what was being done with it. I always like the client to be there as much as possible, so it did feel kinda weird that they were not involved.

How conscious were you of the fact that some people would be hearing it as a stereo downmix? Did you have that in mind?
I was pretty conscious about hearing the record as a stereo downmix; I always have to keep that in mind when doing a 5.1 mix. But, basically, I feel like most people are buying the 5.1 to listen to it in that format. So, while the balances will change slightly in the downmix, I was really more concerned with keeping the 5.1 mix true to my vision at the time.

Did you have any involvement in the mastering of the SACD? Was it a pure DSD [Direct Stream Digital] mastering or were any of the elements derived from PCM sources or analogue tape?
I did participate in the mastering of the SACD, which was done by Vlado Meller at Sony Mastering Studios. We tried to replicate, as much as possible, the limited sound of the stereo mixes. The DSD transfer was always in the DSD format. It was not on tape. I think I might’ve printed to a multitrack – [possibly to] five tracks of a multitrack, but I don’t really remember. I think we pretty much stayed in the DSD domain, and I don’t think we even looked at the analogue tapes.

The version of the original mix on the SACD sounds very close to the original UK CD mastering. I understand the original CD was cut from a DAT master – was that the source for the stereo mix on the SACD, or did the label provide a DSD conversion of it for the mastering session?
I don’t know for sure but it’s very possible that the record company provided a mastered version of the original to the mastering engineer, to either re-tweak or just basically re-compile into the SACD. I don’t know if the record was originally mixed to a DAT but I got nothing and, as far as I know, the mastering guy got nothing. You’d have to check with Vlado. It’s very possible, [knowing] the way record companies do business, that they just gave him a master from the original mastered sessions for him to basically import, unless he personally heard any changes that he wanted to make. But I’m not sure if that’s the case.

Oasis in Sony's Super Audio CD catalogue for February 2002. The planned SACD release of Heathen Chemistry was never released. Scans courtesy Charger of the Steve Hoffman Music Forum

Above: Oasis titles listed in Sony’s Super Audio CD catalogue of forthcoming titles, published in September 2002. The planned SACD release of Oasis’s 2002 album Heathen Chemistry, complete with multichannel mix, was unfortunately never released. Scans reproduced here courtesy Charger of the Steve Hoffman Music Forums. Click to open the full-size image in a new window. Double-click on the resulting image to view it in full resolution.

Have you ever met or discussed the album with anyone who worked on the original recordings?
I haven’t met or discussed the album with anyone who worked on it… I’d love to at some point. And I haven’t listened to my mix since it was done! I have no 5.1 system at home. Like I said, 5.1 was supposed to be this sort of “best thing since sliced bread” and it never really took off. Too many [competing] formats, I think.[16] I don’t have a system, so I don’t listen to 5.1.

Do you listen to your own work once a project is completed? Can you enjoy it?
I find it very difficult to listen to my own work. There’s albums that I did ten or fifteen years ago that I’ve only listened to recently and I’m the kind of person that only hears everything wrong with what I’ve done… so I don’t like to subject myself to that kind of self-analysis.

How did this project compare to others that you have done? Were you at all daunted by remixing an album that was – ahem – familiar to millions? A huge commercial success.
It was daunting because the album is so iconic and so great, and has such a sonic stamp… it’s like remixing Elvis Presley, or something like that. It’s daunting because you want to stay as true as possible to the original mixes which have a unique sound, but at the same time you want to bring something more to it. I hope I did; I’m not really sure if I did, but I hope I did. And it was also daunting because, as I said, the band was not involved, as far as I know. So you’re kind of hoping that they’re going to like what you do. And you’re kind of wanting to reach out to them for some guidance or some input, but at the same time that’s not really the job description; you’re given a job to do and you’re answering to the record label, assuming that they’re on the same page as the band. So, yes, it was very daunting and very difficult for a lot of reasons, but I really enjoyed it because I thought the music was amazing.

Basically, what I took away from doing the project is that, when you’re doing such a legendary record as this one, you really have to approach it with a bit of reverence and a bit of serious intent to honour what the band was trying to do, what the producer was trying to do, and the time and place of the record, almost as a historical document. I feel very grateful that I got the opportunity to work on it. But, at the same time, as I said earlier, I really would’ve liked the band’s involvement because maybe we could have been a little bit more adventurous with the 5.1 mix, as opposed to staying close to the stereo mix. We could have maybe gone further in another direction, and made it a more completely different and exciting experience for the fans.

Top of Page

Interview by Tom Stroud for Oasis Recording Info. Answers © Neil Dorfsman. Footnotes by David Huggins. (Published June 2014).

Footnotes

1. (Back to article) For background information on the Super Audio Compact Disc (SACD) format please see the following articles:

‘CD, The Next Generation: Super Audio Compact Disc’
(Sound on Sound magazine, July 1998)

‘How does the Super Audio CD format achieve higher quality?’
(Sound on Sound magazine, August 2004)

‘Hitchhikers Guide to SACD production’
(Guide to producing Super Audio CDs on the Super Audio Production website)

‘You Are Surrounded’
(Hugh Robjohns’ series of articles on mixing in surround, originally published in Sound on Sound magazine) Part 1: ‘A History of Surround Sound’ (linked in the above title) contains links to all nine parts of the series.

Owen Morris’s approach to using compression when mixing Oasis
2. (Back to article) Owen Morris (2004): “A lot of the mixing was, out of necessity, all [about] the ultra-compression… so you’d just get a kind of wall of noise.” (Owen Morris, quoted in the ‘Making Of’ documentary included with the 10th anniversary DVD edition of Definitely Maybe). “As you can tell from [Definitely Maybe] I go for the old Shel Talmy technique and compress the fuck out of everything. The most obvious example of that is Columbia. I put tape delays on the kits with a kind of Phil Spector or a Tony Visconti sound in mind. He had a great way of placing sounds, especially guitars.” (Owen Morris, quoted in Melody Maker, October 1994). In his article on Recording Morning Glory Morris also noted that “In my dreams I think my mixing is influenced by Phil Spector and Tony Visconti. My reasoning behind this ludicrous claim is that I love heavily compressed, roomy drum sounds (Spector) and my stuff sounds like no-one else (Visconti).” (Morris, 1995)

De-essing Morning Glory for the 2013 remaster
3.
(Back to article)
Owen Morris (2014): “Basically, Ian Cooper’s new versions sound like the ½″ tape masters, with very minimal EQ-ing. I think that de-ess-ing WTSMG was the biggest bit of processing… and now it just sounds right.” (Morris, 2014).

Noel Gallagher on the recording setup at Sawmills Studio for Definitely Maybe 
4. (Back to article) Gallagher, Noel. Interview by Mark Ellen. ‘Through the Past Darkly.’ MOJO. Issue 14, January 1995 (pp. 54 – 60). Print.

Recording the backing track for Some Might Say
5. (Back to article) Some Might Say was recorded in March 1995 at Loco Studios in South Wales, and was one of the last tracks that original drummer Tony McCarroll recorded with the band. Speaking to Q magazine Owen Morris (2010) said that “[T]he backing track [on Some Might Say] was faster than we’d ever intended, which Noel and I hadn’t noticed when drunk […] But we had to fucking use it because Liam’s singing was undeniably brilliant (Morris, 2010).

Morris recalled in Paolo Hewitt’s (1997) book Getting High that “What happens when Oasis get in the studio is that Noel is all hyped up and starts playing double fast. And at the end of it… we were like, this is too fast compared to the demo. So we got the band back in and Noel was saying, “You fucking bastards, it’s all your fault.” But it was him who had started it quicker. We did three takes and picked the best one. But me and Noel were like, ‘We’ve proper cocked this up.’ The drums were all over the place, proper tragic bit of drumming on that track because it just loses it on the first chorus. So on the mix, we had to try and hide the drums which for a rocking track is very unfortunate.” (Morris quoted in Hewitt, p. 304). “I mixed it on three separate occasions, finally putting on all the delays and chaos in an attempt to hide the mistakes.” (Morris, 2010)

Replacement drummer Alan White (2000) stated in an interview he gave to Rhythm magazine that he wished he could have played on Some Might Say as “it’s one of my favourite tracks, but Tony did that. Even though I egged Noel to let me re-record it, he wasn’t having it” (White, 2000). Summing up in 2013 Owen Morris reflected that, “Actually, I really like the finished version of Some Might Say that’s on Morning Glory. Yes, it’s almost a disaster of a recording… and the single sounded terrible. But I like my EQ’d version on the album… and the song is one of my favourites. I think it’s a good thing” (Morris, 2013).

The original ending of Some Might Say
6. (Back to article) This mix (by YouTube user ‘PaghWraith’) is sourced from the Guitar Hero stems and presents the song in a less compressed form, and includes the full band ending that was trimmed from the officially-released single and album versions.

The alternate bassline for Wonderwall
7. (Back to article) Owen Morris (2007): “I think there was some debate about the bassline. Noel did the bassline that’s on the record and Liam sort of got really angry because it was too funky for Oasis. I think Noel might’ve tried just humouring him by doing a less funky bassline, but it didn’t sound as good. So, obviously, Noel got his way. Pretty much – if Noel had a specific idea about the bassline – it was quicker just for Noel to play it; and Guigs didn’t throw any tantrums or ego fits at all, because he was happy for Noel to play it if it made the record better and quicker; that was fine. (Owen Morris, quoted from BBC Radio 6 documentary “Classic Singles – Wonderwall” in which record producer Tony Visconti reappraised the song).

Did Liam Look Back in Anger?
8. (Back to article) I recently emailed Nick Brine (who, in 1995, was studio engineer at Rockfield during the Morning Glory sessions) to ask if he could provide any more background info on the question of whether Liam ever sang Don’t Look Back in Anger. He kindly took the time to reply with the following.

“I can’t really offer up any definitive answers to [this] question. I’ve been thinking hard and trying to remember as much as I can to be able to give you a better insight but I’m not 100% sure […] My understanding is that Liam did record a vocal on the album version of Don’t Look Back in Anger during the Rockfield session. Never intentionally to end up on the record and I think it was just one run-through for a bit of fun really. Don’t recall him ever singing on any other “early versions” or demos of the song. I could be wrong on the first part but seem to remember him singing it that once. Certainly have never seen or heard a tape of it though.” (Brine, 2014)

I also emailed the producer Owen Morris via his website asking if he had any recollection of Liam singing Don’t Look Back in Anger. He stated that:

“I was there on the session. Liam absolutely did not sing Don’t Look Back in Anger at any point. Noel sat him down and played him Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back in Anger and asked which one Liam would prefer to sing… in the knowledge that Noel WAS going to sing the one Liam decided NOT to sing. Liam chose Wonderwall. Liam, at no stage, went in the studio and sang Don’t Look Back Anger. Nick Brine’s memory is incorrect, but he could’ve been setting up mics or making the tea, while Noel, Liam and myself were working out the next few days’ recording plans.” (Morris, 2014).

I also forwarded Owen the following quote on the topic.

Noel on Don’t Look Back in Anger… “When I gave [Liam] Don’t Look Back in Anger he’s singing, ‘But don’t back in anger, not today.’ I’m saying, ‘It’s don’t look back in anger. ‘He’s saying, ‘Well, that’s not what’s fuckin’ written ’ere, chief’” Surprisingly, this exchange did not lead to the usual fraternal punch-up but served as confirmation to Noel of his dyslexia.’ (From MOJO, December 1997, p. 64)

Owen replied: “I have no knowledge of [the above] exchange. Noel first played the song at Sheffield a week or three before the Rockfield sessions started… it is my guess that he tried Liam out singing the song then… and gave it up as a bad job.” (Morris, 2014). My thanks to both Owen and Nick for taking the time to help out on this question.

Recording The Swamp Song
9. (Back to article)
Owen Morris (1996) recalls that “During the fifth week [recording Morning Glory at Rockfield], all we did was put a version of The Swamp Song down. But everyone wanted to fuck off and get home. It ended up about five times too fast. We ended up using the drums from the Glastonbury concert and overdubbing on them while we were mixing [at Orinoco Studios in South London]. This in itself was wild, because it was only Alan White’s second gig with Oasis (the first being a warm-up in Bath the night before) and it was the first song of the set. Alan’s playing was immaculate.” (Owen Morris, quoted in his article on Recording Morning Glory, published in the first issue of the Official Oasis Magazine)

Why Step Out was removed from the album
10. (Back to article) Paul Mathur (1997) recalls that ‘one of the tracks on the original tape [of Morning Glory] was called Step Out,” adding that Noel boasted that it was, ‘“Uptight by Stevie Wonder and Rosalee by Thin Lizzy […] in the same song!!!” Before the eventual release, Stevie would run his fingers over a report in Braille of Noel’s comment, declaring that there was nothing big or clever about a British rock ’n’ roll group paying tribute to his genius and managing to come up with a Heavy Metal Northern Soul classic. He’d ask for ridiculously excessive royalties and Oasis would drop the track from the album, putting it on the B-side of a single and sending him a cheque for a few thousand quid.’ (Mathur, p. 141). Step Out was eventually released as a B-side on the CD single of Don’t Look Back in Anger (released 19th February 1996), where the songwriting credit was shared by Gallagher, Wonder, Cosby, and Moy.

Bonehead on Bonehead’s Bank Holiday
11. (Back to article) Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs (2005): “The thing that’ll stay with me is Bonehead’s Bank Holiday, the song we recorded as the extra track for the vinyl. I remember Noel strumming it out – this really quirky song with really poppy lyrics. And then he says, “I want you to sing it,” knowing I can’t fucking sing. So Liam takes me down the pub to get some Dutch courage. Two pints turn into six. Soon I’m in double figures. We come back at midnight, legless, and there’s Noel and Owen, waiting for me to record my vocal. The lyrics are written down, but I’m too fucking drunk to read, so I’ve got Liam holding me up, holding the lyrics in front of my face. We’re making up the words. Everyone’s crying with laughter. Months later I got an envelope through the post with this cassette. It just had ‘BBH’ written on it and it was five hours of outtakes of Bonehead’s Bank Holiday from Owen. I still play it a lot. It’s this snapshot of the band at its most harmonious.” (MOJO, June 2005)

The recording and mixing workflow for Morning Glory
12. (Back to article) Recording engineer Nick Brine (2014) notes that during the Rockfield session for Morning Glory “the mixes were simultaneously recorded to half-inch tape and DAT. There would have been a 2nd DAT copy as a safety. I would always make a master copy DAT for Owen straight from the desk and also a DAT copy which came from the half inch. This would act as a safety copy and an alternative to master from if it was felt that it sounded better. Also, FYI, Morning Glory was recorded on Studer A820 and 827 analogue tape machines.” (Brine, quoted from private correspondence, 2014).

Owen Morris on his use of varispeeding
13. (Back to article) Owen Morris (2010): “I would also varispeed the tape (usually speeding the track up slightly) to a place I felt was exciting.” (Owen Morris, 2010 interview for Q Magazine)

Owen Morris on how the original 1990s Oasis masters compare to the remastered versions prepared in 2013
14. (Back to article) Speaking in 2011, Owen Morris recalled that, when it came to mastering the original Oasis CDs, he initially had “no confidence in the sonic integrity” of his mixes and so had “decided [to] attempt to use VOLUME (i.e. quantity rather than quality!) as my rather blunt tool. With both Definitely Maybe and Morning Glory, I used mastering as a tool to help my not very great sonically mixes to sound OK in the outside world.” (Morris, 2011). In 2013 he felt that Ian Cooper’s remasters of Definitely Maybe, Morning Glory, and Be Here Now helped to reveal the full potential of his original mixes in a way that had not been possible with his original masterings “from almost 20 years ago.” (Morris, 2013). Morris added that, “I was never a mastering engineer and over EQ’d at the time.” (Morris, 2014).

How compression works differently in surround compared to stereo
15. (Back to article)
The mastering engineer Jonathan Wyner (1997) has commented on how compression works differently in multichannel surround compared to two-channel stereo:

“I have some clients for whom it was important that the surround project have a little bit more impact and be slightly louder than the stereo version, and this is just in terms of SPL in the room. Fortunately, having the multiple channels in the room provides additional SPL. It doesn’t take a lot for a 5.0 version to compete with its stereo companion simply because there is more energy from the 5 speakers. You’d be surprised […] My contention is that something that is well recorded and well mixed, sounds loud naturally.” (Wyner, quoted in Katz, p. 246)

Background info on the slow adoption of 5.1 by listeners
16. (Back to article) For background detail on the difficulties faced by the SACD and DVD-Audio formats, please see the following articles by Steve Guttenberg: ‘Whatever happened to 5.1-channel music?’ (published by Stereophile magazine in July 2009) and ‘Why did SACD, DVD-A, and Blu-Ray fail as music surround formats?’ (published by the C-NET website in June 2011).

A note from the SACD authoring engineer
Woody Pornpitaksuk (2014) recalls that he authored the Morning Glory SACD at Sony Music Studio in New York City, working from DSD files, and that the original stereo mix was most likely sourced from a Sony U-Matic (1630) master tape and converted to DSD for the release. He added that the masters for this SACD release are likely stored on AIT tape in Sony’s archive (Pornpitaksuk, quoted from private correspondence with the author, 2014).

Top of Page

References

Arthurs, Paul. Interview by Danny Eccleston. ‘Silhouettes and Alcohol.’ MOJO. Issue 139, June 2005 (p. 88). Print.

Brine, Nick. (Email correspondence with David Huggins. 2014).

There We Were… Now Here We Are: The Making of ‘Oasis’. Channel 4 television documentary. Dir. Dick Carruthers. Broadcast: 3rd September 2004.

‘Sony Music Studios Installs 84-Channel Neve 88R Analog Console in Studio B.’ Posted on Digital Pro Sound website via AMS Neve. November 2002.

Gallagher, Noel. Interview by Mark Ellen. ‘Through the Past Darkly.’ MOJO. Issue 14, January 1995 (pp. 54 – 60). Print.

Gallagher, Noel. Quoted in ‘The MOJO Readers’ 100 Greatest Singles of All Time’ MOJO. Issue 49, December 1997 (p. 64). Print.

Guttenberg, Steve. Whatever happened to 5.1-channel music? Stereophile website, published 7thJuly 2009 (Accessed 28th June 2014).

Guttenberg, Steve. Why did SACD, DVD-A, and Blu-Ray fail as music surround formats? C-NET website, published 25th June 2011.(Accessed 28th June 2014)

Hewitt, Paolo. 1997. Getting High: The Adventures of OasisLondon: Boxtree.

Mathur, Paul. Take Me There: Oasis – The Story. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. 1997. Print.

Morris, Owen. 1994. Quoted in Melody Maker (edn. published 1st October 1994)

Morris, Owen. ‘Recording Morning Glory.’ The Official Oasis Magazine. Issue 1, Winter 1996 / 97 (pp. 3 – 12). Print.

Morris, Owen. ‘On Mixing Definitely Maybe and Producing Morning Glory.’ Q Magazine. 2010. (Issue number and pagination unknown). Print.

Morris, Owen. Interview by David Huggins. ‘How I Mastered Morning Glory.’ Oasis Recording Information. 2011. Online.

Morris, Owen, quoted in article by Richard Buskin. ‘Classic Tracks: Oasis – Wonderwall.’ Sound on Sound magazine.  Volume 28, Issue 1. November 2012 (pp. 46-53).

Morris, Owen. ‘Remastering Definitely Maybe, Morning Glory and Be Here Now.’ Website post. (Published 12th November 2013, on Owen’s website). Online. (Accessed February 2014).

Morris, Owen. ‘The Rise and Fall of Me Recording Oasis.’ Website article (section on Morning Glory). 2013. Online. (Accessed 25th June 2014).

Morris, Owen. (Email correspondence with David Huggins. 2014).

Oasis, Definitely Maybe (Creation Records compact disc CRE CD169, 30th August 1994)

Oasis, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (Creation Records 13-track promotional compact disc CRECD 189P, August 1995)

Oasis, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (Creation Records compact disc CRECD 189, 2nd October 1995)

Oasis, ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ (Creation Records compact disc single CRESCD 221, 19th February 1996)

Oasis, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (Sony Music Entertainment (UK) Ltd / Helter Skelter Super Audio compact disc 481020 5, 2003)

Upside Down: The Creation Records Story [2-Disc Special Edition] (Dir, Danny O’Connor, 2010) (Region 2 PAL DVD, Document Films. 2011).

PaghWraith. Some Might Say [Remastered for greater dynamics and no clipping] YouTube video. Published: 12th October 2010. Accessed 9th June 2014.

Pornpitaksuk, Woody. (Email correspondence with David Huggins, 2014). 

Robjohns, Hugh. 2001. ‘You Are Surrounded’ (Hugh Robjohns’ series of articles on mixing in surround, originally published in Sound on Sound magazine) Part 1: “A History of Surround Sound.”

‘Wonderwall’, Classic Singles, Episode 3. BBC Radio 6 Music documentary. Presenter: Tony Visconti. First broadcast: 20th June 2007.

White, Alan, quoted in 2000 interview for Rhythm magazine. Future Publishing. Available online via the Wayback Machine [accessed 27th June 2014].

Wyner, Jonathan, quoted in Bob Katz. 1997. Mastering Audio: The Art and the Science, 2nd edition. New York: Focal Press (p. 246).

Top of Page