Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) on HiRes and Surround

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kstuart

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From about.com :

EMI continues to remaster the Tull catalog and I had the opportunity to review the first three releases. What's in store for the next batch?

Well, that's a sore point. Well not a sore point with me so much -- but a sore point with EMI because I keep promising (laughs). I ran across an old photograph to send them a couple of days ago, and some of the other missing master tapes the week before, and I still have to write the liner notes about the early days next week. There are three new releases planned for the end September, beginning of October, which are Warchild, Minstrel In The Gallery, and Too Old To Rock N' Roll. There have been several more that have already been remastered, which I've got, and they haven't been released yet. I was looking in my studio, and there are three or four others that I haven't really checked out yet because we remastered pretty much everything in the early months of this year.

Last year, with the Beatles and Pink Floyd, there was an urgency to redo their stuff with the new generation of mastering hardware that's been around now for a year or so, and is now fairly well proven. So, obviously the bigger and more sensational acts tend to monopolize the time at Abbey Road for using up all that remastering stuff. But we were in the queue, and we got some of ours done towards the end of last year and during the early part of this year. I would say we probably got two-thirds to three-quarters of the material that could be used is now mastered...is now safely on hard disc at 24-bit/96k resolution. In terms of digital quality, it is now safely stored and, for all intents and purposes as far as the human ear can now discern digital at that standard, is really indistinguishable from analog.

The latest digital technology is a great improvement. In fact, yesterday I just ordered a new 24-bit mastering machine for my studio because, I guess, from here on in, anything I do in the studio will have to be at 24-bit. I don't really want to make any more 16-bit masters. Unfortunately, from '86 onwards until now, they're all at 16-bit because like everyone else I mastered them in the DAT format -- a 16-bit format that really defines the quality of the masters from there on. People might say there's no point in remastering anything from '86 onwards because it's already as good as it can be, but, in fact, there are substantial improvements that can be made from those original digital mixes. There are better converters, from analog to digital, digital to analog. You can actually get a better quality of 16-bit performance now than was the case a few years ago. But they're never going to be 24-bit, put it that way. Unfortunately, I stopped using the analog tape, I think about in '88. And so there are no analog master mixes. All the multi-tracks are analog, but the mixes were digital from then on. So it's only pre-86 that there's a real major benefit to be derived from remastering.

Have you ever considered doing any DVD-Audio or DTS releases?


It's sort of inevitable, but I certainly wouldn't be going back to do surround sound mixes of all Jethro Tull's albums. I just wouldn't. Not only would I not want to do it personally because it's an enormous amount of work; it just wouldn't capture, it would never sound the same. I actually don't really like surround sound music. I've worked with the medium extensively. In the early 70s, we did three albums, which I mixed in quadraphonic, and I found it a pretty daft business, really! I decided it was a bit irritating in order to justify the medium -- scattering instruments around in the audio field in such ways that makes people feel they don't defile you for money by hearing some guitar solo coming over their left shoulder. What's the point? It's actually irritating acoustically, disruptive and confusing. I'm not a big fan of surround sound in that context.

In a live performance, there's some justification for doing it. There's some justification in wrapping some of the sound around the ambience, but people would listen to my mixes and say, 'Oh they're far too subtle, it just sounds like stereo with a little bit of reverb coming from behind my head.' What the hell do you want? If you want to go and see some psychedelia in action, then I suppose you could surround sound mix some of that sort of music that might go with it. But most music I don't think really benefits from it at all.

I'm all for improving the bit rate of ...future music, DVD or whatever you want to call it. I think if we're ever going to do some surround sound, I'll probably limit it to a Best Of album. I'm not sure I'd want to go back and tamper with the stereo mixes; you'll never get it to sound the same again, that's the thing. Mostly, analog tapes are unplayable; there's simply no chance of going back and working with all the analog tapes. The oxide started falling off years ago (laughs) and they're virtually unplayable now. I do have two or three that I did copy over to multi-track...for instance Aqualung, and I think, Thick As A Brick, and a few others were copied. We did some multi-track-to-multi-track transfers, so they ought to be good for a few more plays, but certainly we don't have all the albums.
 
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Quadwreck

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Based on those quotes, he seems to be weakening in his opposition to releasing surround mixes. I email him about two times a year on the subject, to no avail. Try him yourself at [email protected].
 

Cai Campbell

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Very interesting read, thanks for posting that! Kind of depressing to hear his views on surround-sound, but how can you argue with the creator of the music! In any event, I'd be more than happy to get hi-rez stereo releases of the Tull classics. But jeez, I want to enjoy them in surround as well... Moral of the story: don't toss your vintage quad Tull media! What was the third title he mixed for quad? "Aqualung" and "Warchild" were the only two commercially released, right?

 

Quadwreck

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Both "MU" and "Minstrel In The Gallery" were announced for quad release, but did not materialize. Certainly some work was done on "MU", as the stereo release featured the quad version of "Aqualung", and a slightly different mix of "Song For Jeffrey" is specific to only that album. It may very well be both albums were readied, but Ian only remembers one.
 

JonUrban

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He's one of the artist of the quad area that was never a quad supporter, even thought he had the two releases. In every interview I ever heard, he let it be known that he did not like the idea.

John Lennon was another artist that comes to mind with the same attitude. Listen to the Imagine and Walls & Bridges Q mix compared to the Ringo and McCartneys. You can barely tell the Lennon releases are even quad.
 

Quadwreck

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In a December 1980 interview with the BBC, John Lennon said that when Capitol asked him to do a quad mix of "Walls And Bridges", he did it for the "eight people who listen to quad" in a slightly peeved voice. He wasn't all that favorable to stereo.
 
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