In conjunction with a recent Metal Hammer retrospective on SKID ROW's self-titled 1989 debut, producer Michael Wagener spoke with writer Clay Marshall about the making of the album. Some select "outtakes" follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On his first impressions of SKID ROW:
Michael: "Atlantic flew me out to see SKID ROW in Jersey. I think it was the Stone Pony or something like that. They played that night, so that was the first time I met them, and also the first time I heard them play. I liked them instantly. I knew the band would be able to go somewhere. They were all professional people — they were all 100% musicians and very, very dedicated. Atlantic asked me, 'Could you do something for them?' I go, 'Yeah, sure I could. That's what I do.' That's how we got together, and to this day, we're good friends. Rachel [Bolan, bass] lives here in the same town with me, and we see each other for parties and get-togethers and stuff like that."
On recording the album in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin:
Michael: "The original idea was to find a big room to record the drums in. I asked [fellow producer] Roy Thomas Baker what he would do, and he said he had worked at that studio in Lake Geneva, and they had a big convention center right next door, attached to the studio. They had a big room. Truly, it was a big room. They had 120 cars in that room the night before for an auction, so yes, it was big. That's where we put the drums, and that's where we recorded the drums. Most of the reverb that you hear on the drums is that room. It's not a reverb unit — it's actually that room. I've recorded everywhere — in subway tunnels and stuff like that — but it was really cool. It was a good studio at the time — really well-outfitted. For the first week, there was nobody in the convention center, so we could have it."
On helping the band choose which songs made the final cut:
Michael: "It's always a band decision. When I do a record, I become a fifth or sixth band member. It's a band decision — everybody needs to be happy. I'm not going to force anything on anybody. We didn't have any differences, really, when it came to song selection. It was just like a decision that we all made together. There was a couple of songs that didn't make the album just because they didn't really like those songs to begin with... I don't care what's at the top at the moment. I go by, 'Okay, I like that song. What do you guys think?' That's exactly how it went. We went through the songs and picked our favorite songs, and put them on the record. If you look at the charts and say, 'Okay, that song is Number One,' that song is already a year old, or older. You're looking at something that is history already, because it was recorded most likely at least a year before it goes on the chart. I don't care about that. I just go by what I feel is a good song, and we all did. That's what we went by, and that's how we picked the songs that went on the record."
On the album's sequence, and the fact that its singles don't open the record:
Michael: "The sequencing was worked out between me and the band. The label comes up with what they want to put out as the first single. They picked the song that was not the first song. To me, it doesn't really matter. I love all the songs on this record — every single one — so they could have picked anything."
On maintaining his relationship with the band after the sessions ended:
Michael: "Normally, when a record is done, we go our separate ways because they go on tour, and I'm working on the next record in the studio. At the time, they were all living in Jersey, so we weren't really that close just because of time. We would always talk on the phone, but we didn't see each other that much. I went and saw a few concerts when they were on tour, but that's about it. But they were always in touch, and we always talked, and did little things together — I mixed 'B-Side Ourselves' later on — and all that kind of stuff. But everybody goes their own way, because there's work to do."
On how he feels about the album 30 years later:
Michael: "To this day, it's still my favorite record that I recorded. From the recording standpoint because it clicked, and we were like all one group. It was just a wonderful time that we had, and even the second record [1991's 'Slave To The Grind'], we had a wonderful time. To me, the memories of that recording session are just amazing."
Wagener — who has also produced albums by METALLICA, MÖTLEY CRÜE and ACCEPT, among others — recently re-teamed with SKID ROW to produce the group's forthcoming album, the concluding chapter of their "United World Rebellion" trilogy and SKID ROW's first recording with current vocalist ZP Theart (DRAGONFORCE, TANK, I AM I).
Photo courtesy of Michael Wagener's Facebook page