I got the chance to venture deep underground into the well hidden Studio 4 in Conshohocken, PA last week. I caught up with Will Yip after the inaugural Studio 4 Session featuring Anthony Green and Tigers Jaw.
In "Sound City", their sweet spot is their drum kit. There's some kind of magic in that room; it just sounds perfect. Is there a sweet spot in the architecture of Studio 4?
Taylor from Daylight texted me and was like, "Yo, I'm watching Sound City, and listening to Sound City records... our drum room's better." I love Sound City, I grew up on those records, but that room (motions towards studio), you heard when Anthony (Green) did that second song, when he hit that big vocal today, the room exploded. That's something special about that room. Everything sounds fucking huge. Just the architecture, it's physics. Phil (Nicolo) got awesome designs, none of the walls are parallel, some are 93 degrees, the others are 96 degrees. We got lucky when that room was finished. Everyone who's played drums in that room has fallen in love with it.
Any bands you're hoping might come your way? Or is there any band in the mainstream that you'd like to work with?
I would like to work with any awesome band. I know that sounds political of me to say but I think the special thing is, I've never chased after bands. That's kinda my thing. I always want the people that I'm working with to want to work with me. So I never think of it the other way, even though I probably should. That's never been my thing. If I don't want to sit here and have this interview with you, we're not going to have a fucking good time, if I was just made to do it. But, no, I want to be in this room with you right now, and we're going to have a fucking good time, a good conversation. It's cool if a band doesn't want to work with me, but if we do, we're going to have a fucking good time because I want to work with you because I love your music. Anyone that has great music, I'm a fan of. Lauryn Hill, I grew up on Lauryn Hill records, because she's so honest and sincere. That's the theme of the records that I make, honest and sincere records, not a certain type of genre. Nirvana records, Lauryn Hill records, everything is just honest and sincere that I grew up on. If they want to work with me, then hell yea, game on.
If there's any record that you could go back in time and engineer or produce, what would it be?
To be a part of? Fucking In Utero. I wouldn't want to ruin it. Just to be in that room.. those tones changed my life.
With such a sharp ear for music, how do you listen to music, just in the public without being so critical, or trying to tear it apart?
You have to for this job. I like to think I have a pretty unbiased ear for stuff. I can get right in it and say, that's a millisecond off, and then just say, you know what? It's cool, don't worry about it. I can take myself in and out of micromanaging and not micromanaging pretty easily. That's why I made Anthony Green mixes really tight, and the Pity Sex mixes are really open and really gritty, in the best way. Each one, we thought, was supposed to be like that. You have to be able to take yourself out of surgical and non-surgical maneuvers.
Do you ever pick up flaws in other producers' work?
Of course (laughs), if I'm out to do that. If someone says "What do you think of the sound of this record?" I'm going to tell you, but if I'm just enjoying it and listening to it, I'm just going to listen to the song. The song is more important than the sound. That's how I produce records, I don't produce for the sound. I don't give a fuck about the sound. I really don't. I care about how a song makes me feel. The sound supplements that. However the song speaks to me. There are times when I'm listening to a record and I'm just like, dude, this doesn't feel right to me. The sound could be cool, but whatever happened with the production...they used the wrong 808 or sample for this, or they could use a real drum kit instead of a fake drum kit, something doesn't speak to me right about this song, it sounds kinda fucked up. But, I never get into a minute thing about songs. I don't have to, I think that's kind of nerdy (laughs). I enjoy music, I enjoy songs, I enjoy imperfection. But the songs have to feel good. That's where production gets fucked up, is when it doesn't feel good anymore. It could sound perfect, and still not feel good. To me, Dookie is the best Green Day record, by far. Their newest records are perfectly mixed, but something doesn't feel right to me. Dookie spoke to my soul, it spoke to my heart.
How do you balance your regular, everyday relaxation with work?
I don't. Right now I don't. I feel like, at this part of our lives, I'm in my 20s, this is the time where we hustle and work at it. I do it until I pass out every night. After this, I'm going to go bowl two rounds and then listen to some I Am The Avalanche mixes that they sent me. There's nothing else I'd do. I'll catch a Phillies game at 7, have some dinner, and then do some mixing, do some editing. This is who I am. This is all I know. Of course I love other stuff, I'll make some time and hang out with my family and the misses and the dog, but they all know why I do this, and how much this means to me. Right now, I have the chance to make the coolest music with my best friends, and I'm lucky. Why would I not do that every second I can?
Do you or any bands that you work with have any pre-recording rituals or superstitions?
Not really... I don't work with weird people like that (laughs). Every band, we create our own thing that we do every day. Anthony (Green) and I have to have salads and iced tea at 3. Every day, no matter what we got done. We just need to do it and enjoy that time.
With Polar Bear Club, we needed to step out after we've worked an entire day and eat wings and a couple beers to decompress, every day. I become a chameleon, I'm not the type of producer where I say "This is my record, I do whatever I do." I'll do what they like to do.
Of all the bands that you've worked with, which one would you want to be a member of? Don't worry, you won't have to kick anyone out to make room for you. Also, this doesn't necessarily mean you like their music the most, just that you clicked with them on a different level.
Okay...that's a tough question. I love every band I record, and I think so many of these bands are perfect. Anthony Green and I, we wrote this record with Keith from Good Old War, and it became our baby. We have the same exact mindset with stuff. A band like Daylight, that 90s hard hitting style, that's my shit. But Anthony and I see eye to eye on decision making. But Daylight, that's just what I listen to, I can play that stuff like the back of my hand. Every other band, I wish I could play in their bands, but I don't think I'm good enough. I don't think think I could hang with the Balance dudes.
Multi-genre producer and engineer WILL YIP will be releasing Off The Board: A Studio 4 Family Compilation on October 8th, 2013 featuring un-released and EXCLUSIVE songs from a slew of bands all recorded and mixed at Studio 4 including:
Title Fight, Circa Survive, Balance and Composure, Man Overboard, Citizen, Turnover, Daylight, Koji, Tigers Jaw, Polar Bear Club, Dead End Path, Sainthood Reps, Mongoloids, None More Black, Light Years, Pity Sex, and Anthony Green.
“This comp represents everything that I’ve done in the past ten years of my life,” explains Yip. Proceeds are being used for a down payment toward his partnership in the legendary Studio 4 located in Conshohocken, PA. “I want to give the punk, hardcore, and alternative community of awesome bands a home,” he adds.