An Interview with the Legendary Heavy Metal Album Producer
that took place late August, 2014.
Interviewed by Glenn Milligan
Glenn: What got you into Producing originally?
Bill: Like most people my age, music was always a big part of my life. I would spend hours in my room with my headphones on, listening to records and reading the lyrics, credits, everything written on the covers and inlays. I would see the words engineer and producer and always wondered what those people did.
I was so into music that during high school I got a job working for a record store chain in LA called ‘Music Plus’. After High School, I quit the job to go to the University of Southern California. I lasted 2 semesters, dropped out and went back to working at the record store.
My friend Jim Faraci (Who went on to engineer the RATT and Poison records) who originally got me the job with Music Plus had started going to a school to learn recording engineering and I said, “Hey! I want to do that!” and I enrolled at a place in Hollywood called ‘The University of Sound Arts’ and learned how to use the recording equipment.
I then got an internship at a studio that one of my teachers worked at called ‘Track Record’. I started engineering my own sessions, and soon after meeting Mr Brian Slagel and working with him I got known for recording Heavy Metal. The producing part was just a natural progression from just being the engineer.
Glenn: Who influenced you when it comes to Producers and in what ways? What is it about it that you like so much about it from the word ‘Go’ overall?
Bill: The first record I really remember saying WOW this sounds amazing was Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’. It was the engineering of Alan Parsons that blew me away. The sounds of each instrument that he got on that album still blows me away to this day. Then a couple of years later, Queen released ‘A Night at the Opera’ and I thought Roy Thomas Baker’s production was incredible. The sound of the record and all the intricacies of the movements of the instruments that made me say “Who produced this record, I want to be like him.”
I also went back and started paying more attention to what George Martin did with the Beatles in their later years. Once I started engineering and producing myself, it was Michael Wagener who worked with Accept, Metallica, Dokken etc that I looked up to. I was also very influenced by Max Norman who worked with Ozzy, Armored Saint and Megadeth just to name a few. I just loved the way these guys make the records they worked on sound so good. I was lucky enough to work with Michael Wagener on the Flotsam and Jetsam ‘No Place for Disgrace’ LP, and at the same time Michael was mixing that record, Roy Thomas Baker was in the studio next to us working on something. I got to hang out with two of my influences.
Glenn: Why did you initially want to be a Heavy Metal Producer as opposed to any other styles of music?
Bill: Simply because Metal
is my favorite type of music and what I enjoy listening to. When you
are engineering or producing a record, you will hear the music over
and over and over. In my opinion you HAVE to be into the music if you
are going to sit there and hear it hundreds of times!
Bill: I was recording and managing a band named Dietrich in the early 80’s. One day, the singer came to me with a magazine called “The New Heavy Metal Revue” He said this guy, Brian Slagel had just released an album of local bands called ‘Metal Massacre, and suggested I give him a copy of the latest Dietrich songs, just in case he was thinking of putting together another compilation.
I got in touch with Brian at OZ records where he was working at the time, talked a little metal with him and dropped off a cassette. A few days later he called me and told me he wanted to use one of the songs on Metal Massacre II. I then asked him if he had any other bands he wanted to put on the record that needed recording and he said as a matter of fact, there is the band Armored Saint…I recorded them and.. I also ended up assembling the tapes for Brian.
At the time I was normally
working at the studio at night, so I told Brian if he needed help with
the label I was available in the daytime. He took me up on the offer,
and I would drive to Woodland Hills where he was living with his mom,
and he had a desk and a phone set up in the garage. I would sit there
with a list of radio stations and fanzines who we would mail the product
to call these people to convince them to play and review the records.
The most memorable thing now about the early days is just realizing
that I was at the center of the start of the underground metal scene
Bill: Dietrich was the first band I produced. They all worked at Music Plus with me. When I first started working at Track Record, I was not paid but I got to use the studio when it was not booked. Since I liked their music (they were always compared to Van Halen at the time), I asked them if they would come in and let me record them and of course they said yes. They are the reason I ended up meeting Mr. Slagel and I credit them for starting my career.
Glenn: How did you feel when you first saw your name on an album, especially when you saw the exact albums in record shops?
Bill: It was the Dietrich
EP and it was AWESOME! Hard to describe. It was a high better than drugs!
I was still working at the record store Music Plus when it came out,
so I got to see it in the record bins at work!
Bill: There is no one band I am more proud of working with than another. They have all contributed to the success of my career. That being said, my work with Slayer is what most people attach my name to. But I have to say I am still blown away by the fact that a kid I worked with when he was 16 in a band called ‘Cryptic Slaughter’ is now the bass player for Ozzy! (Rob Blasko Nicholson).
Bill: The toughest albums I have worked on are probably the ones I did with WASP. The shortest time I spent on a WASP record was 8 months, the longest almost 2 years. Just spending that much time working on any project is draining. Not sure I have EVER overcome this!
Glenn: Okay, so how was it working alongside WASP for the various albums - especially with my buddy, Stet Howland?
Bill: The best thing about working with WASP is that I got to work with who I think are two of the best drummers in Metal. Stet Howland and Frankie Banali. Stet was comic relief for me through some difficult times working with WASP. He always kept me laughing. As for Frankie, the man is just an amazing drummer!
Glenn: What part of the process is your favorite and why?
Bill: I would have to say
the engineering is still my favorite thing. I like setting up the mics
and experimenting with different sounds.
Bill: The Mentors. Hands down. Most of the time I was on the floor laughing hysterically at El Duce!
Glenn: If you could work with any particular band you haven't had the chance to work with, who would it be and why?
Bill: Black Sabbath. They
are my all time favorite band and why I am in this business.
Bill: I honestly have never
thought that way. I still say people buy records because they like the
music, not because they like the kick drum sound so I don’t think
my contribution is above the songs therefore I just don’t understand
Bill: Yes, I have to like the music.
(Photo by Juan Garcia)
Glenn: What would you say they look for in you and for what reasons?
Bill: I don’t know.
I guess you would have to ask one of the bands, LOL.
Bill: I would hope I do NOT
have a signature sound. I am there to capture the sound of the band.
I can say I keep things old school. So many records I hear now all sound
the same. Very mechanical, using lots of triggers and computer cutting
and pasting. I don’t rely on today’s technology that can
make anybody sound good. I would rather have the bands actually play
their parts right!
Bill: My street hockey team that I played on for years when I was young was named Skull and I was #7. Nothing too exciting.
(Photo by Juan Garcia)
Glenn: What made you decide to build ‘Skull Seven’ and what are you most please with about the studio and why?
Bill: When someone would hire me to do a record, they had to rent a studio and pay me also. If I had my own studio I not only could get paid more for a project because I wouldn’t have to share the budget with a studio, I could also cut the entire budget down and make the process less expensive for the bands.
I am pleased about the sounds
I get. I spent a lot of money on my mics and pre amps so I get things
sounding good before it goes into the digital world
Bill: At Skull Seven they get my experience also. I do occasionally have friends use my studio (Joey Vera and Billy Anderson) because they like my equipment and I don’t overcharge.
(Photo with Joey Vera by Mars Castro)
Glenn: What would you say makes a good Producer and why?
Bill: Someone that can capture
the spirit and sound of the band.
Bill: Since so many record
labels have folded I am just amazed that not only is MB still around
they are doing better than ever. They have found a way to survive in
the digital world and to be honest I have no clue how Brian does it.
I do have to say it seems they put out much more material than the old
days, but is there such thing as too much metal? I give Metal Blade
Bill: Slayer because of how big they are and the fact that they are still doing it and kicking *ss.
Glenn: If you could take 5 albums only that you produced to a desert island to play for that rest of your days on that island, which ones would they be and why?
Bill: Since I don’t listen to anything I produce, that is a very hard question. I guess I would bring Fates Warnings ‘Awaken the Guardian’, Sacred Reich ‘The American Way’, Trouble ‘Psalm 9’, Flotsam and Jetsam ‘My God’, Tourniquets ‘Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance. Just because I like the songs on each of these records. I can’t say that I would play them however, LOL.
Glenn: What artists are you currently busy with right at this moment and how are things going?
Bill: At the moment I am
recording an LA band, 'Resistance', just finishing another LA band that
I worked with almost 30 years ago, 'Ruthless'. Finished mixing a band
from the Netherlands called 'Damned Pilots'. Currently mixing 'WorldView',
new band of an old friend George Ochoa, the guitar player from the band
'Deliverance' who I also did years ago. Set to mix a new 'OMEN' record
Bill: Don’t do it!
Get a real job with weekly paychecks!
Bill: There have been many memorable moments. Traveling across Europe with my friends in Fates Warning while recording the 'Still Life' record. Getting to meet my idols Roy Thomas Baker and Max Norman. Working with Michael Wagener .
Meeting Rob Halford. Being able to call people like Vinny Appice, drummer in Black Sabbath my friend. Also getting to meet people like Glenn Milligan!
A big thank you to Bill for an amazing Interview!
All photographs are published with the approval of Bill Metoyer.
Special thanks to OZZFestAmy for introducing me to the great man!