Producer Gil Norton.Daly City, CA (August 8, 2008)–Producer Gil Norton’s influence on the sound of modern guitar rock is undeniable, but not one to live in the past, he was one of the first producers in the world to work with Digidesign’s Eleven guitar amp emulation plug-in.
Norton’s influence on the modern rock sound is as relevant today as it was when he produced three records by The Pixies during their heyday. In 2007, Norton appeared onstage at the Grammy Awards with Foo Fighters to accept the Best Rock Album award for Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. The man who defined the sound of modern guitar rock more than 20 years ago (prior to the advent of digital recording technology) was now being recognized for his ongoing evolution in sound–sound he now records with a Pro Tools|HD system–and the Eleven plug-in.
“This is easily the most natural sounding amp plug-in I’ve ever heard,” says Norton. “It sits beautifully in a mix and the tone is just brilliant. I think Eleven is a fantastic plug-in–it just makes the guitar sound bigger.”
Counting Crows guitarist David Bryson, with whom Norton worked while producing the band’s most recent album, Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings, is also a fan of Eleven. “Eleven has the best emulation of a [Vox] AC30 I’ve ever heard in an amp simulator,” says Bryson. “Plus, it’s easy to set up and it looks great.”
Pixies lead guitarist Joey Santiago also praises the plug-in. “I love Eleven–it sounds great, it sounds real, and it’s easy to dial in a good tone.”
Norton first started incorporating Pro Tools into his workflow more than a decade ago while producing the 1996 Counting Crows album, Recovering the Satellites, an album that was certified double platinum and went to No. 1 in four countries.
Reflecting on the ethos of the time, Norton says that “back then, I think certain bands were a bit scared of digital recording.” When he brought Pro Tools into the studio to record the Foo Fighters’ 1997 The Colour and The Shape, Norton says that initially the band was wary of the platform because they worried it was a “talent compensator.” Fast-forward to 2007, and those reservations are a thing of the past. “Now Pro Tools is all we use,” says Norton, commenting on his use of Pro Tools|HD on the Foo’s aforementioned Grammy-winning album. “Since the sampling rates have gone up to 192 kHz with 24-bit resolution, it’s perfect. You get all of the top end, and there’s a really nice air around the sound.”
To accommodate his current workflow, Norton employs a variety of plug-ins (including Eleven) and dual Pro Tools|HD systems to keep the bands he’s tracking concentrating on the music and not the technical elements of the recording process. “The idea is to try and keep the band recording and to allow things to happen in the studio without interrupting the flow of ideas. So I’ve found it’s always nice to have two HD systems–one that’s a designated recording station, and another that’s offline for comping, editing, and anything else that needs to be done.”
Among his favorite plug-ins are Digidesign’s TL Space convolution reverb and Reel Tape Suite, the latter of which he says is “stunning–a really good simulation of tape and it sounds great on guitars.”