A cool interview with Eirik The Norwegian on Ram

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Claudio Dirani, May 25, 2007.

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  1. Claudio Dirani

    Claudio Dirani A Fly On Apple's Wall Thread Starter

    São Paulo, Brazil
    Hi all,
    I did this interview with Ram's engineer, Eirik Wangberg, nicknamed by Paul McCartney as Eirik The Norwegian. We shared emails in 2005 when I was finishing a book I released in Brazil on Paul's recording/discography.
    It's not that long, though. I hope the contents are interesting anyway!


    Question: Before we start, I'd like you to talk a bit about how you ended up working with Paul on the Ram recording sessions.

    EIRIK WANGBERG: Before I entered in the picture, several tracks had been recorded in New York (at Columbia and Phil Ramone's A&R studios). Paul had started the album there with Jim Guercio, a Chicagoan producer/engineer at that time, but apparently it did not turn out as planned. When he came down to Hollywood, I was asked to work with him at Sound Recorders, and that's how we started working together. It lasted (the work with Paul) for almost six weeks, continually.

    Eirik on Ram – track by track


    Q: What pleases me the most is the distinctive sound of the guitar riffs. Any particular engineering trick to achieve it?

    EW: The sound you are talking about may come from one of the guitarist's effect boxes, or I might have added some stuff while mixing. If you are referring to the beginning, I remember wanting it to be pretty and "not touchable", something magic. I always try to space off guitars, marry so to speak, for them to be "bigger than life" in wonderful image.


    Q: How did you achieve the vocal effects on the bit "well I thought,
    well I thought...well I thought you was my friend?"

    EW: Good question! When I recorded Paul's vocal, I let him have, besides his stereo headset, two small speakers that I placed in front of is face and pointing towards his ears. This way so that he would be able to feel the music too, not just having the sound in some cans. He would then be surrounded by the sound to sing better, which was what he wanted.

    Having done this, these monitors gave it some leakage, actually a nice one. So I had it recorded, and in the mix, here and there, I opened this leakage up, adding some special delay. Wow, I think it really rocks, and I am sure you can hear where this is done, especially if you are listening to it through headphones (best for RAM - near field!).

    RAM ON

    Q: Do you recall this track being much more longer than the 2 versions that ended up on the album?

    EW: Oh, yes, it takes you into another song! And, at the very beginning of the tape, I edited out Paul and me talking and whistling to my dog, sitting next to him in the studio. Incidentally, Paul had my dog as his pet for six weeks (laughs).

    Q: By the way, this other song inserted on Ram On happened to be Big Barn Bed (released later on Red Rose Speedway, in 1973). Did Paul originally intend to include a full version of the track on Ram?

    EW: I don't think so. I was supposed to stop the mix before this song starts – but I found the transition going down so cool I wanted it before the fade! I believe I heard the full version of the song, absolutely.


    Q: How did you achieve the sort of "4 dimensional" Paul and Linda angelical

    EW: It was quite a challenge for me to do these things. But, when it works it's really lots of fun - especially if the arranger (Paul) knows his job. As Paul really knew what he was doing (laughs), the harmonies and voice tracks (there were many ones) did not step on each other or kill each other in the mix. As you may already know, Paul is here inspired by the Beach Boys vocal arrangements, whom I also have recorded. Elton John calls these harmonies the best he's ever heard!


    Q: To record his main vocal, is Paul playing piano alone or he did on
    an acoustic guitar?

    EW: Actually, the main bulk of the track was recorded in New York, but I would gather it is Paul playing the piano on both songs (I clipped them all together).

    One of the coolest effects is the thundering storm bit throughout the song. How was it achieved?

    EW: Yes, it's really cool indeed. For this sound, I used a mono track which I got from a film studio, recorded it over twice and made an artificial stereo out of it. Then, in the mix, I panned the thunder over… I am particulary proud of this bit! It's not often mentioned, but if you check the song out it was one of the first recordings where the synthetizers were used on the vocals. Listen to it carefully: it sounds like the choir was done beneath the water!


    Q: Such a distinctive sound on Smile Away track Is Paul's bass notes. Is he playing bass with effects added on later on the mix or is it a real fuzz bass performance?

    EW: To tell you the truth, there were eight bass tracks recorded for this song! When we started to record Smile Away, I thought the bass track didn't sound good at all. Then I told Paul: "Should it really be like this?" He answered "Can you give me more of it?" We then both did our best to distort the heck out of the sound by different means, but the sound had to be "streamlined". In the mix I push them like crazy.

    This is the first time since "I Saw Her Standing There" (Beatles) Paul inserted the 1, 2, 3, 4 counting into a song. Of course, I left the bit in, and it's so great to hear that kind of thing, I must admit.


    Q: Do you recall Paul recording the scat vocal solo? How did it happen to
    be in the song?

    EW: The scat is something he wrote while he was recording the song, and, of course, it can be heard traditionally within jazz records. Great song, love it!


    Q:I've heard that Paul did 90 vocal takes until he decided it was
    useable. Do you remember any of that?

    EW: I don't think it's correct! But if it's true, I'm sure it was done in NY. I can't remember.

    Q:Yes, I got this information from a New York source.

    EW: Well, it must have been done with the band then. Tell you what: Paul is one of the fastest vocalists I have had in the studio - out of about three hundred I worked with. Most of the time, he picked the best take after recording two or three takes, just well after I had set up the sound. That is, if we didn't record syllable by syllable to double-track something intricate. Man, what a singer...


    Q: What was your participation-level on Eat At Home?

    EW: Most of this track was done in NY. What I did some mostly was engineering some over-dubbing of instruments and vocals. Particulary on this one, we re-recorded some vocal tracks and guitars to get it done.


    Q: It looks like Paul "glued" two songs to record Long Haired Lady. Can you recall if the Love is Long bit was really a single bit put it together?

    EW: No, it just sounds like it. I mean, in the mix I first stripped the track off of the NY Philharmonic strings arrangements, and then added instrument by instrument back to the track as it went along - just to make a bit more interesting.

    Although the main bulk of the track had been done in New York, we did record a lot of background vocals at Sound Recorders.

    There is also something about Long Haired Lady I'd like to mention. I remember playing the song back to Paul in the studio. He rested his arms on my shoulders after hearing it and, as I turned and looked at his face, tears were rolling down. Paul is a very, very sensitive person! Listening to his vocal work with Linda really got him into it. It was amazing.


    Q: What about the epic recording of Back Seat of My Car? What kind of work did you do in LA?

    EW: We did lots of overddubing, such as brand new bass and guitar tracks. Plus, I edited the orchestral bit at the end of the song and, following Paul's taste, mix the drums to the fore. Other cool bits were done, such adding more vocals such as the improvisation and ad-libs that we superimposed almost syllabe by syllabe.


    Q: As a maybe crazy (but great) idea for promotional purposes, Paul recorded the Now Hear This Song of Mine spots after his work on Ram. Tell me about your role on this production.

    EW: Right, yes, this is a one-sided limited album (only 500 copies were pressed) to promote Ram. The thing was that Paul told me the radio stations could use some musical cuts to introduce RAM to the market, such as radio spots. To record and produce 'em, he kind of said to me:“Eirik, I'll play you a couple of tunes on the piano and then Linda and I will sit down in the studio, and you can ask us some questions, anything you want”.

    After we get it done, he just said: "Now, take all these elements and and do what you feel like with them"! I was stunned. So I mixed it all up, cut the tracks here and there, added sounds of real rams, rain storms and other bits. It was really a lot of fun doing it!. Having all done, I played the results for Paul, and he just loved!

  2. cousinvin

    cousinvin New Member

    Bristol, UK
    You need to write a book! Not just a Brazilian Paul book but a serious career overview/disography/analysis. Youre one of the only writers I've ever read who asks the questions I would ask and expresses interesting, valid and reasonable opinions on Macca's work.
    fatoldsun likes this.
  3. cb70

    cb70 Senior Member

    Good interview. Either his memory is failing or he wasn't present at the time but Long Haired Lady was recorded as two seperate pieces at first. The version that ended up on Ram is what he's speaking of above but there are two earlier versions in the vaults where each song is separate.
  4. Claudio Dirani

    Claudio Dirani A Fly On Apple's Wall Thread Starter

    São Paulo, Brazil
    How kind of you!
    But I think we have some great US/UK writers that do great questions too.
    On an English language book it's a nice idea, by the way. I'm open to publishing offers :)
  5. Claudio Dirani

    Claudio Dirani A Fly On Apple's Wall Thread Starter

    São Paulo, Brazil
    Thanks. It seems that's not only Paul's memory that's full :)
    All these guys who worked on early albums have told us different things. Like on The Beatles Anthology, it happens all the time :)
  6. stevemoss

    stevemoss Forum Resident

    Agreed. Nice interview, Claudio!
  7. Claudio Dirani

    Claudio Dirani A Fly On Apple's Wall Thread Starter

    São Paulo, Brazil
    Many thanks, Steve. :thumbsup:
  8. Squid

    Squid Active Member

    Yep, great questions, Claudio - it's great to see an interviewer get away from that 'What was it like to work with...' nonsense. Love that stuff about Dear Boy, one of my favourite tracks on Ram. Angelic. :angel: :righton:
  9. joelee

    joelee Senior Member

    Thanks for posting this Claudio. Very informative and a fun read.
    fatoldsun likes this.
  10. babyblue

    babyblue Patches Pal!

    Pacific NW
    Excellent! Thanks for posting. I learned quite a few things I didn't know about the RAM sessions.

  11. intv7

    intv7 Senior Member

    Boston, MA, USA
    Bound to happen after 36 years. :D
  12. Claudio Dirani

    Claudio Dirani A Fly On Apple's Wall Thread Starter

    São Paulo, Brazil
    I'm glad it helped. Thanks.
  13. Thanks Claudio. "Ram" has been one of my favorite albums since it came out in 1971. I know it got bashed by critics at the time (in the US and UK) but it has since been re-evaluated and recognized as one of his early solo masterpieces.

    Thanks for enlightening us on the recording process. I had never connected the bit at the end of "Ram" with "Heart of the Country" simply because it sounded so different and just thought that Paul ended up using that fragment to create "HOTC" when it seems as if it was already written for recording.
    tug_of_war likes this.
  14. Verano

    Verano New Member

    Norway, Europe
    Again – brilliant questions! Ram is such a good album. I listened to Wild Life yesterday. Wish Some People Never Know and Tomorrow was included on Ram :ed:
    tug_of_war likes this.
  15. RBtl

    RBtl Forum Resident

    Toronto, Ontario
    Thanks, Claudio!
    A great interview about one of my favourite McCartney albums.
  16. cousinvin

    cousinvin New Member

    Bristol, UK
    You should self-publish

    You should self-publish.

    Collect all of your Paul interviews/writings, print up some copies at Kinkos and sell it on the web-- you'd get quite a few sold through sites like this and MaccaCentral.
  17. Claudio Dirani

    Claudio Dirani A Fly On Apple's Wall Thread Starter

    São Paulo, Brazil
    Vin, thanks for the tips.
    Do you mind telling me what does Kinkos mean?
  18. stevemoss

    stevemoss Forum Resident

    "Kinkos" is a chain of office document service stores... they have photocopiers and fancy computer printers... they can print individual pages, or full documents and staple or bind them for you.
  19. Claudio Dirani

    Claudio Dirani A Fly On Apple's Wall Thread Starter

    São Paulo, Brazil
    Oh I see. Very interesting.
    We don't have it here, though. Anyway, it's a great idea because I have cold feet on publishing companies. I released my book over here and I've been stollen. They are being prosecuted this very moment...:mad:
  20. DanG

    DanG On Green Dolphin Street

    Claudio, thanks for posting this interview.
  21. Solaris

    Solaris a bullet in flight

    New Orleans, LA
    Really interesting, thanks for posting. Someone needs to do some serious work on Paul's recordings in the 70s. A recording sessions book would not be out of line.
  22. Starwanderer

    Starwanderer Forum Resident

    Valencia, Spain
    Thanks, Claudio! :)

    A really interesting interview :righton:
  23. Harry Krishner

    Harry Krishner Forum Resident

    Excellant interview thanx so much!
  24. Claudio Dirani

    Claudio Dirani A Fly On Apple's Wall Thread Starter

    São Paulo, Brazil

    Thank you.
    That's something I have been dreaming to do since 2000. The nearer I got was a book here in Brazil, but it doesn't focus exclusively on recording. It wouldn't sell. And trouble is: it's in Portuguese.
    Anyway, Chris Brewer (cb70 here in the board) have been working on this stuff since 1996 with his site. Hopefully, he might come up with something and use my stuff if wanted to.
    fatoldsun likes this.
  25. cb70

    cb70 Senior Member

    Thing about it is, Paul was kinda keen on the idea of a sessions book for his solo output and asked Lewisohn in the late 90's if he would do it. Lewisohn flat out said no because of the state the session logs were in and some were missing altogether. It would've been too much work.

    ...but with that said, everything now has been documented on Paul's end and it would be great if it turned into a book but I'd rather have the music first :D
    fatoldsun likes this.
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