Exclusive: Producer Mike Fraser Talks To BW&BK About New AC/DC Album - “I Think It’s Back More In The Direction Of The Razor’s Edge”
September 5, 2008, 10 years ago
Special report by "Metal" Tim Henderson:
BW&BK; had the opportunity recently to speak to a true icon in the Canadian music business, one that “hangs out” in circles we can only dream of, populated by the likes of METALLICA, JIMMY PAGE, AEROSMITH, VAN HALEN, RUSH, WHITESNAKE, MOTLEY CRUE and THE CULT. Well, maybe not actually hanging out, but his magical hands have been on the boards, mixing, mastering and producing these giants. And that’s just the hard rock/heavy metal portion of his career. Some of his recent clients include ELVIS COSTELLO and NORAH JONES. And we can’t forget some of his Canadian content - LOVERBOY, KIM MITCHELL, TOM COCHRANE, CHILLIWACK and of course BRYAN ADAMS’ monster, Reckless.
At this juncture, Vancouver-based Mike Fraser - who calls home Warehouse Studio - is being talked about in AC/DC circles, as he’s one of the masterminds behind the sonics of the Aussie band’s more than eagerly anticipated new album, Black Ice, due out on October 20th. You may recall he’s worked with the boys before on 2000’s Stiff Upper Lip, 1995’s Ballbreaker and 1990’s The Razor’s Edge, as well as having remastered the band’s entire catalog in 2003.
Here are a few excerpts from the chat - more will be online soon!
BW&BK;: It’s been pretty quiet in the AC/DC camp since the spring. As news slowly trickles out to the masses, how far into this process are you?
Fraser: “Well, Black Ice has been done since April. So it’s been sitting there waiting to hit the airwaves since then.”
BW&BK;: How much pressure is there knowing that Black Ice is easily one of the most anticipated rock/hard rock records over the past few years? Do you guys feel it inside?
Fraser: “Oh sure, I do. I’m not sure if the band does. They are pretty low-key, easy-going guys. They don’t think about any of this kind of stuff. They just come in and get it done. As Malcolm (Young) says, when they are writing songs, if you can thump your foot to it, it’s worth a go. I don’t think they think in terms of that. For sure Brendan (O’Brien) and I did. It’s been nine years since Stiff Upper Lip and at one point there I was thinking, is there ever going to be another AC/DC record, because that’s a long time. Finally they gave me a call. We started March 3rd on the record and I was like, ‘Somebody pinch me; we’re actually sitting here listening to new AC/DC!’”
BW&BK;: Is there any particular reason for the nine years? You take a look at any number of high profile artists - it may be years between records due to touring commitments, label delays, marketing set-up etc. But why did it take nearly a decade to return?
Fraser: “I think it’s a combination of things, and you’re right, so much of the world has opened up for touring, they are often out on the road for three years almost solid. So that’s gotta take a pretty heavy toll on things, including your personal lives. And once they’re done with that, they want to take some time off. Time seems to go fast - they probably took a couple of years until they started writing again. I know the writing process for this took quite a while. They have a little studio in London, so Malcolm and Angus (Young) are holed up there for quite a while, sitting there going through ideas. At one point Malcolm had told me that they had about 60 or 70 song ideas on the back-burner. Then they had to sort through all those and pick the best ones. I think they took their time on this - they aren’t in any rush. I’m sure the world is waiting for AC/DC, but they don’t necessarily need to be making more money! I’m sure they have everything they want and they’ve sorta ‘been-there-done-that’ several times. So where is the inspiration to get out there? I know they love playing and they love getting out in front of people, but really, what’s their rush? They like to wait until it’s right. And now was the time it felt right... ‘Let’s go do it.’”
BW&BK;: Over the past week, the entire world has only heard the first single. You’ve been listening to and building this record for almost half a year! What is your opinion? Obviously you are a fan and you’ve leaned pretty heavy music-wise in your career. And AC/DC must rank pretty high as one of your favourites with all the work you’ve done with them in the past.
Fraser: “I think it’s back more in the direction of The Razor’s Edge. The band only does records that they want to do, and what they’re into. For instance, on Stiff Upper Lip, what they wanted was a really dry, bluesy-type record - not so rip in your face rock. And that’s what they did and delivered. This one they wanted to kick it up another notch and rock. And I would say as a fan, it’s back towards The Razor’s Edge era, a little bit more up-tempo stuff.”
BW&BK; (joking): Aren’t these guys too old to be up-tempo?!
Fraser: “(Laughs) You tell them that! They are never going to get back to that Flick Of The Switch or High Voltage sound, because they aren’t the 20-year-old kids anymore either. Your whole persona kind of changes. How do you write about getting laid and drunk every night if you’re not doing it, if you know what I mean (laughs). There are a lot of bands that have been around for a while, and I think they have a harder and harder time to stay street-connected with the kids, when you aren’t really a kid yourself. I have kids that are teenagers now, but I keep in the loop through them, and not through my own personal experiences anymore. I think a band that has such a long life like ‘DC, Metallica, Aerosmith, it’s really hard to keep coming up with those cool things that are now going to connect with kids that could almost be your grandkids.”
BW&BK;: Very few bands can say they have such a wide demographic...
Fraser: “The cool thing about AC/DC - everybody has got their genre of music that they love, but no matter what genre you are talking about, everybody loves AC/DC. They seem to cross over so many boundaries. You go to their shows and you see grandparents with dusted-off leather jackets and they are there with their grandkids in leather jackets. It’s just amazing that they appeal to such a broad range of people. It’s a testament to their hard work.”