VIRTUAL NIGHT ANGEL
KEITH "FLUFFY" AUERBACH
APRIL 10TH, 1996
Keith "Fluffy" Auerbach is one of the most respected and
talented Producers/Engineers in the music scene.
Fluffy works at Chicago Trax Studios where many of my
favorite artists have recorded.
Just seeing his name and knowing he's involved has
continuously convinced me to buy many releases.
Virtual: Do you prefer to be called "Fluffy" or Keith?
Fluffy: Pretty much everyone calls me Fluffy. I prefer to be called either, so take your pick, but you might as well call me Fluffy.
We did the Revco Beers, Steers, and Queers record and that's the first record "Fluffy" appeared on.
My name on The Land Of Rape And Honey record, is my name.
It's just a set of circumstances that led to people calling me Fluffy. After it appeared on the record, I was like, well, I want people to recognize my name, so I've been Fluffy ever since.
I typically meet a lot of
muscle-bound guys, pumped up full of testosterone. Occasionally I run into someone who thinks my name is rather silly or feminine, so fuck em'.
Virtual: When did you first begin engineering?
What was the first band you
Fluffy: The first actual session that I did was a blues band from Chicago called,
"Mike Gibb and The Home Wreckers".
A guy I had known wanted to Produce and put up the
money for recording this band. At the time, I was an Assistant Engineer at
Trax. Typically Assistant Engineers have another job as well, as I did.
really cool Blues band which was probably the first true session I did which
was booked under my name.
Although I had set stuff up, started tracking
Midi oriented stuff when engineers were late.
I did do a session in which I blew up
a whoofer on the big speakers which was studio B at the old
Chicago Trax. It was with a House artist named, "Chip E." I think that was
the first session I got thrown into by the studio.
Assistant Engineers typically do engineering work, even though they're not
hired as an engineer on a project.
Virtual: What year would you say you engineered the blues band?
I was thinking
you may say The Land Of Rape And Honey was your first and that was
done in 1988.
Fluffy: Probably a couple years before that in 1986.
Virtual: Have you ever worked in another studio besides Chicago Trax?
Fluffy: Yes I have. I've worked at Packyderm which is a really cool studio in
Minnesota. It's way out in the middle of the woods. There's a house right
next to the studio. When you walk in there's a great big room with a Baby
Grand Piano, a Webber grill out on the patio and you live there. There's a
bunch of bedrooms, it's called a residential studio. They're real common in
Europe, and U.K. Studios. Your in until your done with your project
and then you don't live there anymore. I did that project for the Pigface
Fook album, we did part of it at Trax and mixed it at Pachyderm.
I've worked at Vintage Recorders in Phoenix, Arizona, which is where the
Gin Blossoms did their first record. In an old methadone clinic, that's what
it used to be. The control room where we mixed the stuff in, used to be the
lab, I was told, where they used to dole out the methadone to people.
That was a pretty interesting history with that place. A band called, "Widow's Rose"
from Chicago. We did their demo there.
I've worked at
Chicago Recording Company, and Studiomedia in Evanston, too. I like to go to other studios. It's a
challenge you're not use to that keeps you on your toes. It's important to work at more than just one studio. It's different circumstances, and being in a different environment that gives you a perspective. Not having all your usual reverbs and usual microphones and so on that allows you to experiment. Perhaps more so, than always working in the same room.
Virtual: Have you been to Warzone Studios?
Fluffy: Yes. They're next door neighbors right
now. I guess they're not too thrilled having another studio next door. I used to work with Die Warsau before they opened up Warzone. Before Van
Christie became much like Al & Paul from Ministry, very much into doing
their own engineering. Mixing things themselves and having an engineer
that would work their schedule, and not be scheduled like a System
Engineer typically is for an eight or twelve hour shift or something. Have
someone dedicated just to them and deal with things they really weren't
Like when I first started working with Al & Paul, when it
came to mixing drum kits and stuff like that Al was very unfamiliar with a
lot of microphones and mixing a drum kit. Since I had done it so many
times, that was one task that was definitely, "Fluffy, go do this." As far as
things like vocal compression, as time grew on they began to do more of
their own engineering, particularly mixing.
Then they grew into a stage
where they didn't need so much as an engineer as they needed someone
there with them to run the tape machines.
I think bands that are
successful like to have more hands on participation with their music, as far
as engineering. If you talk to Sascha from KMFDM, you'd find that he's a
lot more involved in that area.
Virtual: You have worked with bands from smaller independent labels
Alternative Tentacles, Cleopatra, WAX TRAX, Cargo, Van Richter, and
major labels (i.e.) Warner Bros. with Ministry and Armageddon Dildos.
How is it that both the independent and major labels have the benefit to
work with such a superb Producer/Engineer?
Do you only work on bands
that you like?
Fluffy: No, pretty much a prerequisite for working on something isn't whether it's
personally my favorite type of music. I really don't have a favorite type of
music. I like such a wide variety of music that I can't say what my "favorite"
Really, my only
prerequisite is that there's enough budget for the time. I put in enough time for free, hours
that are not counted on the clock. So I feel as far as doing a project for free,
I do work out the money situation with friends that have bands and am
more lenient, then when a record label is involved, because obviously they
have some money. They have a label and they want to record and put out
records. That's the nature of what they do, so they need to pay for that.
far as saying, "Well, I won't do this project because I really don't like their
music," I've never run into that, to be quite honest with you, although I've worked
with bands that I'm not crazy about. Bands that are of a cheesy nature or
kind of leaning more towards bubble gum rock, I'm really not into.
Virtual: I'm sure you made those bands sound a hell of a lot better. I haven't heard
anything cheesy that you've done. I really thought that you did pick and
choose the bands you wanted to spend your time on. I also heard that you
really liked Eric Powell's work, and how you wanted to engineer 16 Volt.
Fluffy: Yes, that was totally that kind of situation. I was really into working with them. I
had met Eric when I was in Portland on tour with My Life With The Thrill
Kill Kult. When he contacted me and sent me a tape of his
stuff, I liked it a lot. I was going to have him stay at my house if he
wanted, I really wanted to work with him, as oppose to having gigs thrown
my way by the studio. I never go into the studio blind, I'll talk to somebody
on the phone just to find out what their music is about, and what to expect and
get organized. As little as that is preproduction, it's at least something
tangible before I go into the studio. Obviously I like to accomplish so much more beforehand, it's so beneficial.
Virtual: How many different recording rooms does Chicago Trax Studios have?
Fluffy: Trax has just moved. They bought the building which encompasses
Warzone. The new Trax houses three rooms, in addition to editing and duplicating facilities. The old location, all the music your familiar with was done at the old location which included two rooms. Room A was the larger, better mixing room. Studio B was much smaller, basically an overdub room, a Midi oriented room.
Virtual: Could you give me a rough idea on how much it would cost to have you engineer and record an album with a band at Chicago Trax?
percentage do you get out of the budget, as oppose to Chicago Trax?
Fluffy: Chicago Trax gets 70% of the money, at least. When a band's not on a label,
the studio has what they call an unsigned artist package. They make
available a certain amount of time in studio A, a certain amount of time in
studio B, cassettes, supplies that will be needed, quarter inch cassettes
(now a days is a scarcity), or DATS to mix down to. Bands that aren't on
labels and have no financial support behind them other than their own, are
a less expensive means for recording.
However, if the bands on a label, the
studio has an hourly rate (that in the end, end up coming down from).
As far as if you really want to pick apart the hours and the hourly rate and
see what the budget really should have been for the amount of time spent
in the studio. Basically the studio is really good. I'm surprised at the kinds
of deals Reid has thrown, especially for Cleopatra and the Electric Hellfire
Club and Pygmy Children.
Paying me isn't what is not affordable to people, it's studio time. No studio is cheap. There are always records that sound good, but were done for amazingly little money, but I think that's much less frequent. Those people then tend to think that they can expect that consistantly. "No way", and trying to convince them that they might
have to spend some money next time is so hard. To them it seems to be some scam or something. Truth is, they may have gotten lucky once, and they may get lucky again, but they also have to realize that recording is only going to cost more in the future, just like everything else.
Virtual: What about Armageddon Dildos? I heard that they paid $20,000 to record
Fluffy: Oh, well they paid more than that, but they had the budget to do it. We
spent five or six weeks working everyday. With Pygmy Children they
came back to mix after their equipment crashed while we were tracking. They had to go back and
track everything at a studio in Maryland and came back to Chicago Trax to
mix. As I recall, Trax didn't charge them for the first weekend we were in
the studio as the equipment crashed, so we couldn't do anything. That
happened on the first night I believe, we had another two nights booked
and the studio didn't charge them for that.
The reason why you find such
differences in budgets or how much someone paid to do a record, isn't
really how much the studio is charging to do a record, it's how much time
the Artist/Label is buying.
With Armageddon Dildos we did a lot more production on
things. We had Matt Mitchell from the Skatenigs, from Texas play guitar
on it. The cost of airline tickets, Matt getting paid, staying in a hotel, there
was definitely a lot more money involved with that project.
Children are on Cleopatra, a smaller independent label so they aren't able to
put up the kind of money that Armageddon Dildos' label (Music Research in
Germany and licensed to Sire in the US for distribution in the states).
There's a lot more money to be had when your affiliated with Sire, so there's a
lot more time subsequently you can spend on the project.
The Dildos came over with the
intention of capturing a different sound then their previous albums, which I
know we did. I know they were pleased with it and I've heard good things
from people. I hope their fans are pleased as well.
Virtual: I really love Armageddon Dildos' Lost. It is very different than their
previous work that I'm also very fond of. I think you really captured a new
sound Producing and Engineering for Armageddon Dildos and Pygmy
Children. Even though the two had such different circumstances in the
amount of time in the studio, and in their budgets.
Fluffy: Thank You.
Virtual: What engineers do you admire or enjoy working with?
Fluffy: I don't really work with other engineers.
Virtual: What about Steve Spapperi and Dave Oglivie?
Fluffy: Dave came out for awhile on The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste record
and was basically a producical figure.
He really didn't do much in the way
of actual engineering. He was more of a Producer, although he didn't get
credit as such, I believe.
Virtual: What about H. Beno?
Fluffy: Howie Beno is a programmer and has produced some things, but again, not
really an engineer.
I know Testify/Van Richter Records likes to say
different, not that he's not capable of doing such, but he really doesn't work
as an engineer. The people that I work with like Howie, or Dave Oglivie,
they were both very different, but they weren't in a co-engineering sort of
capacity. I really don't work with other engineers on projects that I'm
As far as who I admire, I really admire everybody that does
good work. I have a lot of respect for people that set industry
standards early on, like John Glen, Bob Claremountan and so forth. A lot of
the music they work on now, being commercial, aren't exactly my favorite
thing to listen to.
People in the Rock genre like Don and Terry Dane who
were pioneers and got a lot of bands signed and into studios and what not
Jack and Dino worked at Trax on quite a few projects. It's hard
to say one or two names in general.
I think Al and Paul do an amazing job
producing and engineering on all the things they're working on. They're
going to be doing a new Lard record at the new Trax which is obviously
partly owned by Ministry. I did the first session in Al's room.
it studio East and West now, getting away from the alphabet and going
into directions. I worked on Al's board which was brought up from Texas
and most of his gear is in there. What was studio A at old Trax is going to
be the equivalent of what studio B is at the new place. There's going to be a
third studio which will be better than studio B at the old Trax. That will
also be the budget room, the least expensive, and will be quite a bit bigger.
We'll be able to do rhythm tracks for an entire band, which we couldn't do
before in the old studio B. The new studio kicks ass, it will be great when
everything is set up. The sound is really nice in the new studio, I'm really
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