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How I Got That Sound: Tom Lord-Alge

Live ‘Lightning Crashes’ By Joe Matera
Published June 2023

How I Got That Sound

Three‑time Grammy Award‑winner Tom Lord‑Alge has an extensive list of multi‑platinum landmark albums and singles to his credit, including Blink 182’s Enema Of The State, Steve Winwood’s Back In The Highlife, the Rolling Stones’ Bridges To Babylon and Weezer’s Maladroit to name but a few. Asked to pick a favourite sound, Lord‑Alge highlights the guitar on Live’s 1994 hit ‘Lightning Crashes’.

“I came in as the mixer as the album was recorded by Lou Giordano. On the recordings, with the guitars there were anywhere up to three to four different microphones on four different amplifiers all going at once, so I got to choose between what I would use.”

Feel The Noise

'Lightning Crashes' is taken from Live's 1994 album 'Throwing Copper''Lightning Crashes' is taken from Live's 1994 album 'Throwing Copper'

“On ‘Lightning Crashes’, the first thing I noticed was that the guitar amps were really noisy. The song starts out with the guitar volume turned down, so it’s kind of a clean sound and then it builds in intensity to the roar in the chorus. For the beginning part I just chose whichever mic and amp had the least amount of noise, because if you listen to the beginning of that song, the first guitar has a lot of noise going on. This was all done on analogue tape, as at the time it was right about when Pro Tools and DAWs were starting just come in.

“When I finally got the balance that everybody liked, Jerry Harrison, who produced the album, listened to it and said, ‘Give that to me and let me record it into Pro Tools and let me see if I can denoise it,’ as he had an early version of the software. So, it was my first introduction to Pro Tools too. And it seemed like it probably took him forever, trying to denoise the intro to that song. Then the band and I listened to it again and we were like, ‘You know what, we like the noise!’ So, we ended up going with the version as recorded, with all the amplifier noise.

“When the song starts it’s just one microphone, and as the song progresses you can hear me start to feather in the other amplifiers, especially around the second verse, where you can hear another amplifier come in with some chorus effect on it. I just kind of mixed the track as I went along and feathered everything in.”

Tom Lord‑Alge: Almost all of the ambience on that track was me just sending audio out to the room.

The Last Resort

“I mixed the track at Music Head Studios in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, which had been built in what used to be a Playboy resort. It was a big hotel and had like a convention centre attached to it. By the time we got there it was ready for the wrecking ball, but the studio was still operational. The studio had a great recording room and, on that song — and album in general — I miked up the recording room and set some speakers up in the recording room. Almost all of the ambience on that track was me just sending audio out to the room.

“It worked out well for the guitars, but also the vocals and particularly the drums. I did add some flanging but back then, I was doing the old‑school tape flanging. I printed the instruments onto half‑inch tape as a stereo mix, then would fly that back into the multitrack and just slightly vary the speed up and down to get the flanging effect so you got that full effect. That’s the thing with flanging, you can’t get it to go before the sound happens, otherwise you’ll never really get that kind of jet engine sweeping sound that you would do if you did it the old‑school way.

“I never would have chosen it as a single, so hats off to whoever decided to release it as a single, because it really was the song that defined that album and really made that album explode and sell well.”

Hear The Sound