He had good hi-fi equipment at home when he was just 8 years old, as his father worked for a company that made tape recorders. He used to record his own little radio shows and that was his first experience of discovering microphones and recording. Today, Russ Russell is known as one of the best British record producers active in the rock and metal music industry. He has worked for well known bands such as Napalm Death, Dimmu Borgir, Amorphis and many more.
I, Mohsen Fayyazi, recently had a chance to have an interview with Russ. Follow me by reading this interview (below) to find out more about him, his past, current and future works and his opinions on many things about the metal music industry.
Hello Russ. Hope you are doing well!
Cool yeah great thanks, hope you are too
To begin with, would you please tell me more about when and how you found out that you were interested in music (especially metal )?
Well its a fuckin long story, i’ll try and keep it short – My earliest memories are the music my folks were playing, Beatles, Stones, ELO, Queen, and loads of classical music my dad was into, my Aunt used to play me stuff like Pink Floyd, Wishbone Ash, The Doors, and i loved all that but the first bands that really grabbed me and shook me up were The Stranglers, Sex Pistols and a lot of the New Wave punk stuff of the 70’s, Talking Heads, Blondie, Devo and stuff like that. I was about 7 or 8 years old when i started really buying a lot of my own music, listening to John Peel on the radio, watching Whistle Test and Top of the Pops on TV, i soon got into Sabbath, AC/DC, Deep Purple, and really the flood gates just opened for me, I was into such a diverse mixture of stuff, which wasn’t common in those days, everyone was into just one type of music so i was a bit of an outcast in that way.
But even in those early days I was already recording, my dad worked for Grundig who made tape recorders and we always had good hi-fi equipment at home so I used to record my own little radio shows and all our family get togethers and stuff like that, so at 8 years old I could already use a mic and a tape machine.
How and when did you start your career as a record producer and sound engineer? Can you remember your first client and what the job was?
Well after experimenting for years with tape machines at home, when i was 14 I had a band called The Damage Done and i recorded a lot of our demos and started learning about PA equipment and live sound, for years after that i helped people out with their demos and did live sound for some local bands but it wasn’t until i was in my early 20’s that i actually got a paid job, i was doing live sound for a band called Wishplants and they had to record demos for a record company for their second album and i was asked to do it, we went to a proper decent studio and i though there would be an engineer there but I was on my own, i was pretty nervous about delivering the recording to the record company but they loved it, and the management loved it, so they gave me some more work, and basically i just haven’t stopped since then.
You are mentioned as one of the best metal record producers and I am sure there many bands and musicians who wish to work with you when recording their albums. Can you tell me which factors you take into consideration when deciding whether or not to accept a band?
Well in the early days I took almost anything that was offered but these days i’m lucky enough to be able to pick and choose a little more, so really it comes down to if i like it or not, obviously factors like budget and time scale do come into it but really I just think is there something that excites me about it.
Can you tell me what was the most difficult situation in your career as a producer and sound engineer? And would you like to share if you have any interesting or particular memories (especially as you have worked all over the world)?
There ‘s lots of those for different reasons, sometimes people can be difficult to work with and it makes the whole project difficult, sometimes just the amount of work that has to be done can make it really hard.
From a technical point of view I’d have to say the Dimmu Borgir show in Oslo with full orchestra and choir, that was a little tricky, the live show, the recording, and the 5.1 surround mixing all had their different challenges, I think there were something like 146 microphones, 9 mixing consoles, and 3 recording trucks. The guys from NRK, the Norwegian broadcasting company, were amazing, they took care of all the technical setup but i was brought in to over see it and make sure that everything was being recorded as it should be, it was a pretty stressful day and the mixing afterwards was probably the hardest mix I’ve had to do, although the album i’m mixing right now, Menace, is testing me to the limits too, there ‘s so much going on and the whole thing was recorded in such a weird way.
Have you ever been contacted by a musician or band who you found to be talented, but they couldn’t cover the expenses for recording and yet asked you for help? If not, what would you do if you receive a message like that?
It happens several times a week, I wish i had more funding to play with and could help out more people but obviously i have to earn a living too and pay out for the upkeep of two studios now so I can’t always make it happen. But I try and divide up my year into work that pays the bills, work that puts money in the bank and then leave time for several projects that don’t have any funding, if I think something is really good, really exciting then i try and find ways of making the project work, I’ll sometimes do the job for costs and try and get some money back later when the album is released, and then there ‘s also some projects you know will never make money and you do it just for the love of it.
Perhaps you may know that metal music is illegal in some countries like Iran, Kuwait, KSA and more. Have you ever been contacted by any bands from those countries?
Yeah i get a lot of messages from bands over there, unfortunately most of them can’t afford to come to UK and record but I did work with a singer called Somi from a band called Mortad, she is from Iran, she told me a lot about what goes on there and how hard it is to make music, particularly metal. She’s had all kind of threats against her for what she does, its very hard for us to comprehend over here, we live in relative freedom and can choose to do pretty much whatever we want, to have those kind of restrictions put on your life must have a profound effect on the way you view the world, it does explain why the metal that does come from those countries is so fuckin angry, i really do hope to do more with bands from out there.
I believe producers know the music industry better than anyone else, I would like to ask you how do you see the future of the metal music industry?
Well as with any industry times are hard for everyone right now, sales are low, budgets are small, but its a time of change, musicians are starting to take the power back, its all going very DIY again, if you’re willing to work your ass off you can make it work for you, its hard, REALLY hard, but i know people who are utilising the internet to their advantage, things like Pledge and Kick Start are giving bands a platform and a means of getting their albums funded directly from the fans, its really working. Bands are taking risks, spending money on album budgets and working hard touring to promote the product, sell the merch, and make some money back. I’m very optimistic about the future, metal has cruised through music history ignoring fashions, unstopped by war, famine, poverty, and everything else, metal will never die.
I would like to know your opinion and thoughts on the Finnish metal scene, especially if there are any Finnish band who impressed you recently or in the past.
Well some years ago now i came out to Helsinki to work with Amorphis on the Tuonela album, great band, and really cool people, i had such a good time out there, i would love to come back so if there ‘s any Finnish bands looking for a crazy producer please get in touch.
I went to a few shows while i was out there and the standard of local bands was amazing, there ‘s a real distinctive ingredient to Finnish bands, and Finnish people in general, its not like other places. Aaah I really miss it now hehehe.
Other Finnish bands- ooh i can’t think of many to be honest, i guess i’d have to say the classic Hanoi Rocks, Demigod were great, oh yeah Impaled Nazarene of coarse, Azaghal, Rotten Sound? they’re Finnish right? OK i can’t think of a couple more but I’m not a mad fan of a lot of power metal , sorry i didn’t do very well there did I ? you’ll have to point me in the right direction hahaha.
I probably do know a lot more but i just don’t know they’re from Finland.
As well as producing, what else do you do in the metal music industry? And also what do you do when you are not working on music?
Well I still do some live sound occasionally, if I ‘m at a festival I’ll help out friends bands, or sometimes I ‘ll go back on the road with Napalm Death, after all the years of working with them (it’ll be 15 years next year) we’re such good mates and sometimes its nice to go back out with them.
I also play and write music, i don’t get to do it so much these days because I’m always so busy recording other people but i do still play a bit of guitar and keys and shout a bit sometimes.
But any spare time I have right now is taken up with tattooing, I’ve been learning for a while, got some great teachers, its slow progress because i can’t commit enough time to it right now but I’m definitely heading in the right direction, hopefully next year i can have some time off from music for a while and concentrate on that more.
Other than that I grow chillis and make my own hot sauce, its getting really popular now, I just made a new batch tonight, seriously hot shit !
As my final question, would you please tell me about your upcoming work and your plans for the future?
Well I’m currently just finishing an album with Norwegian band Hellish Outcast, its sounding really good, that will be out sometime next year. I’m also working on an album called Menace which is Mitch from Napalm Death, he came up with the concept and we’ve been piecing it together for the last year, its very different to anything i can think of really, its going to surprise a lot of people for sure. Also i have a new project with Shane from Napalm too, called Tronos, we’ve been writing and recording it for over a year and we’ve got some very exciting guests on the album now but i can’t say too much about it at the moment, we want it to be ready before we give too much away.
Thanks a lot Russ for giving me your time, much appreciated. Feel free to leave a message here for our readers and your fans.
I’d just like to say thanks for asking me to come on Metal Shock, and thanks to everyone for all the cool messages I get on Facebook, it really does blow me away that people like what I do so much, if you see me out and about come say hi and lets have a beer – cheers!
* For more information about Russ Russell: https://www.facebook.com/russrussell1