Boston's Tom Scholz: From the basement to superstardo

Thirty years ago Boston?s self-titled debut blazed up the record charts. A miracle of spectacular production, brilliant musicianship and supercharged melodies, the band?s hit singles, ?More Than A Feeling,? ?Peace Of Mind,? ?Long Time? and ?Don?t Look Back? helped define the ?70s generation.
Newly tweaked/remastered reissues of Boston?s first two albums, Boston and Don?t Look Back, solidify their classic status.
Goldmine recently talked with Tom Scholz about the reissues and the group?s do-it-yourself beginnings.

Goldmine: Explain your role remastering the new reissues.

Tom Scholz: The process was very tricky. The reason for doing it at all is that these were mixed for vinyl, which is quite a bit different than a 16-bit CD. A lot of things happen when they make those digital transfers to 16-bit that are not good. While I thought the mixes were very listenable on vinyl, I was very very disappointed the first time I heard those transferred to CD.

Also, these were mixed 30 years ago without automation. Everything had to be done by hand, and there were a lot of limitations with a mix this complicated and with this much production and this many parts, all the vocal and lead parts intertwined.

What I tried to do was address all of the shortcomings that were a result of having to do this by hand a long time ago. People will be listening to this, and then they put on something that was recorded last year in these magnificent studios with limitless capabilities. So I sat down and listened to all of the tracks on CD and made copious notes of all of the things that didn?t come out the way I had hoped or don?t sound good on CD, everything from the intro bass note on ?More Than A Feeling? to the last note at the end of the Don?t Look Back album.

We sat down and started with ?More Than A Feeling.? We went in and adjusted every single thing on these stereo mixes. We got the transfers done by Sony from the original two-track stereo mix to 24-bit [mastering]. We put that on and adjusted it note by note. I used everything I learned from the last 35 years, learning about the physics of music to what happens aurally when you change certain things dynamically or in various frequency spectrums.

We did ultra time-precision adjustments of level changes. We went in and pinpointed percussive attacks and adjusted levels and changed them on what I wanted to get in the original mix. I made dynamic changes that followed specific instruments to change sustain or apparent levels. I literally went through the records note by note. I made the drums sound much better with snares that stand out in the mix, kicks that are punchier, cymbal and high-hat hits that can be heard when they?re supposed to be; a bass that?s tight that you can feel now instead of just hearing it; power chords on guitar that are way more gutsy than they were on those original mixes; lead guitars that are full and aren?t piercing in the high parts; vocals that are out front now and warm and not thin in the mix. We did an enormous amount of work, and we only had eight days because of time pressure from Sony. We lived and breathed these two albums for those eight days. We worked 12-14 hour days, slept eight hours, ate and went right back in.

Goldmine: What sparked your interest in rock ?n? roll?

Tom Scholz: The bands which got me interested in playing rock ?n? roll were The Kinks, The Yardbirds during the [Jeff] Beck days, and The Who. Those were the bands. Before that I had no interest in playing rock ?n? roll or even listening to it.

Goldmine: What was the first record you ever bought?

Tom Scholz: The first record I bought was Truth by Jeff Beck. He was such an amazing guitar player. Beck was the master. Every sound that came off that guitar had a reason and a purpose. He could play fast, but he didn

Leave a Reply