Early 90’s rock had a heavy classification imposed upon it called “grunge”: A sea of flannel, Doc Martins, 15-year old’s smoking, the age of cassette-turned-CD. Ah, those were the days. But there was a band emerging from it all that offered an eclectic complexity all its own, and that band was called Failure.
Even though Failure’s first record Comfort in ‘92 was produced by Steve Albini (the very same producer of Nirvana’s In Utero), the pairing just didn’t jive. Failure was, and still is, a sound unlike any other band ever formed, and probably ever will be. And that’s a great thing.
Failure is known for being the influence for many bands we love (check out MXDWN.com’s article “The Importance of Failure: Members of A Perfect Circle, Faith No More, Speedy Ortiz and More Sound Off on the Influential Band”). They’ve toured with TOOL, had a song of theirs covered by A Perfect Circle (The Nurse Who Loved Me), been featured on a Depeche Mode tribute album, released Fantastic Planet – largely considered to be one of the greatest ‘post-grunge rock albums’ ever, had some member-changes, some fallings-out and some reunions as well. It’s been a wild ride.
Today, Failure is still a trio, consisting of Ken Andrews (vocs/guitar), Greg Edwards (bass) and Kellii Scott (drums). Members continue to not only write and record for Failure but collaborate on other projects. Our Director of Marketing, Stephanie Scola, recently connected with Ken Andrews to discuss their fifth album entitled In the Future Your Body Will Be the Furthest Thing From Your Mind which dropped mid-November. Andrews is a busy guy: He produces and mixes for artists including Nine Inch Nails, Beck and Pete Yorn (to name a few), and has even edited music videos such as Tool’s famous Prison Sex. Ken decided to mix/master this latest release, and was kind enough to answer some burning questions on this epic new album:
SS: Can you tell us a bit about the recording process for In the Future Your Body Will Be The Furthest Thing From Your Mind? You said you mastered it yourself. Did you work as a group through that process?
Andrews: We are a trio, but primarily write as a duo so it’s not really an issue in terms of having too many opinions. On this latest album Greg and I wrote and recorded everything in my private studio and then did drums as an overdub at a commercial studio called NRG in North Hollywood that I work at a lot. As far as writing and recording its generally Greg and I working together, although sometimes we write apart and then record those ideas together. Once everything is recorded, I mix and master on my own, but I get feedback from the guys as I’m working. I like to make sure we are all on the same page and generally in agreement on things.
SS: How come you chose to master this new release yourself, and can you talk a bit about the mastering work you do for other bands – how long have you been doing this?
Andrews: Well, mastering is kind of new for me as a dedicated process, but I feel like I have been sort of doing it for years – being a mixing engineer for bands these days requires that your mixes sound fairly finished. I’m a self-taught musician and engineer. Just learned everything coming up in a rock band so on one hand I guess I’m not very book smart when it comes to engineering and knowing electrical theory etc., but on the other hand my knowledge is very practical and is borne out of experience, so it’s a tradeoff. I guess on this record I was pretty happy with what was happening during the mixes, so when it came time to put the final mastering touch on things, it was a pretty simple affair of just level matching the songs and making sure nothing was too out of the zone in terms of tone.
SS: We’re seeing a big increase in high quality home recording studios being built. What’s your thoughts on this?
Andrews: Well I’m a great example of what’s possible with home studio recordings. I’ve had a studio on my property for about 20 years now. I can do everything except live drums there, including mixing. For drum kit I prefer to work at a commercial facility with a big live room, a deep mic locker, and an assistant!
SS: You guys have been together for a long time (20+ years) but with Spotify and TIDAL, your music is being introduced to a whole new group of people. What do you think about this?
Andrews: The benefits from music being on the Internet are massive. People are enjoying music more and have access to a wider variety of it as well. Failure has benefitted greatly from it in that younger people have been able to go back and discover our work in 90s. Our current fanbase is about 50% people that discovered us in the 90s, and 50% people who discovered us post 2010 because of file sharing and the online community of music lovers. The bad side is that musicians and song writers are getting paid less than ever before.
SS: So how the heck do you pull all of this off live?
Andrews: Since Failure rebooted in 2014 we have employed the Fractal Audio Axe-Fx for our guitar and bass sounds. The rigs we used in the 90s were massive analog rigs that were constantly failing and just a chore to deal with. Now we can cover all the sounds from our catalog with relative ease and come up with new sounds for the new albums in a really creative and inspiring way. I’m very pragmatic about gear. If it sounds great, I don’t really care what it is. In this case, it’s kind of a win-win as the sound quality is excellent, but you also get the added benefit of being able to access thousands of different tones.
SS: Looking back on the entire recording process on this new record, are you truly happy with the end result, or are there elements where you feel you would have wanted something different?
Andrews: With my own artist projects I have a hard time letting go and calling anything finished. There’s always something that could be improved. That’s why I’m usually delivering final files on the absolute last day possible! Deadlines are an absolute necessity for me, otherwise I would tweak things forever! Eventually I get to a place where I can accept the project as being complete, but I’m usually not a happy camper for the week or two after delivery. But then we start getting a positive response from the work, and all those microscopic issues just fade away and I can relax and really enjoy the album. And that’s the phase we are in now as the album has just come out. The reactions have been great so far and it feels really good.