Michael Fischer of KNAC.COM recently conducted an interview with famed British recording engineer/producer Max Norman (OZZY OSBOURNE, Y&T, LOUDNESS, MEGADETH, MALICE, LYNCH MOB, FATES WARNING, SAVATAGE, GRIM REAPER). An excerpt from the chat follows:
KNAC.COM: How did you hook up with Y&T?
Norman: I quite like doing that record "Black Tiger". That was one of the first times we did solos sitting in the control room for Dave Meniketti's guitar parts. We used to do that with Randy. I was great friends with Y&T's drummer Lenny Haze. I remember going to his house and he had this one room reserved for cats. It was knee-deep in cat shit. For that kinda music, Lenny is one of the best drummers that's ever been. That guys a real slugger, he slugs his way through. He's a true drummer! Y&T got busted by customs for coming into England to track "Black Tiger" claiming they were not working there. We just told customs "They're coming over to do an album" and they said "Well, all right then, now get outta here!" I wanted to do the next record "Mean Streak". I think they got mad at me or something so they got Chris Tsangarides to do instead.
KNAC.COM: So when did you first meet Ozzy?
Norman: The story is...the first time I met Ozzy...I thought he was a roadie! (Laughs) I was the resident engineer at Ridge Farm Studio and Ozzy was coming in to record "Blizzard of Ozz". I knew of BLACK SABBATH, but that day I didn't know who Ozzy was, actually. I didn't recognize him.
KNAC.COM: (Laughs) That's funny!
Norman: That day I first met Ozzy, he came in to the studio and I said to him, "Go sit in the control room, I'm going to make some tea." Ozzy said, "All right, put some music on." So I put some music on, and I brought him some tea thinking, "He's a roadie and where the hell is the truck with all the gear?" And then this guy comes hopping up the stairs and says, "Hey, Ozzy, what's happening?" And THEN I realized it was Ozzy! It's a good job I didn't say anything to him...know what I mean?!?
KNAC.COM: Where you a big fan of BLACK SABBATH?
Norman: Yes, I just didn't recognize him. Maybe because he didn't have a lot of make up on. That was a lot of fun. We did a lot of records down there with Ozzy. We did "Blizzard of Ozz" in four weeks.
KNAC.COM: So who was originally hired to produce "Blizzard of Ozz"? Chris Tsangarides?
Norman: Yes. I was just the resident studio engineer. We had just built that room and put in a new Solid State Logic board. It was the second one in England. At that time, it was a big deal. I didn't want "Blizzard" to sound like crap. But it didn't sound too good with Chris to start. He was doing some things that we're fundamentally that were really bad like he put the drums in a very low ceiling room that was all concrete. So if Lee hit the cymbal it was like the whole room turned white! It was very ambient and difficult to control. The band were looking a little glum... When Chris would leave the control room, I would replay the tape in the headphones and rebalance the mix to make it sound decent. After one week of that I said, "Fuck this guy." I was tired of fixing his mistakes, he was just not getting it. Then Ozzy fired him and then called me and asked me if I wanted to do the record. And I said "Sure." That's how I ended up producing and engineering that record and the next four.
KNAC.COM: What was it like working with guitarist Randy Rhoads?
Norman: Randy was a great player! He spent a lot of time playing. That's all he ever did really. He didn't drink or do drugs. He was a clean-living guy and was very quiet. All he did was play guitar and he was obviously pretty good because he was playing 12 hours a day. He was a big fan of Eddie Van Halen! When it came to his guitar sound, he wanted it a lot brighter than Eddie's. We did some pretty interesting things at that time like triple tracking solos which have never been done before.
KNAC.COM: The first time I heard "Blizzard of Ozz", I noticed how different the guitar tones were.
Norman: Yeah, that record has a lot of tonality. We had a lot of doubling. Randy would describe what he wanted and we would get that sound. There are quite a few clean sounds on there and acoustic stuff. Mainly the guitar sounds good if the guy playing it is a good guitar player.
Read the entire interview at KNAC.COM.