Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Ken and Paul Hamann, October 25, 1996

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Index
00:00:00 - Ken's start in recording

Play segment

Partial Transcript: --is that a DAT?

Segment Synopsis: Schmidt Horning opens with talking about playing live for the first time in years, and then begins the interview with Ken Hamann. Ken begins talking about his start in recording, specifically with polka and commercials. He talks about using stereo in radio and says that there wasn't much sense in recording in stereo when there was no way to listen to it. Ken talks about his first stereo recording, a big band.

Keywords: Acoustic; Background tracks; Big band; Broadcasting; Cleveland (Ohio); Cleveland Heights (Ohio); Commercials; Euclid Beach Park (amusement park); Guitar; Jazz; Mono; Orchestra; Polka; Radio; Radio broadcasting; Recording; Rock 'n' roll; Stereo; Stereo records; Studio

Subjects: Cleveland (Ohio); Guitar; Jazz; Orchestra; Radio broadcasting; Rock music; Stereophonic sound systems

GPS: Cleveland (Ohio)
Map Coordinates: 41.482222, -81.669722
00:05:12 - Ken's first experience with recording rock music

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I'm trying to remember my first experiences.

Segment Synopsis: Ken talks about the difficulty of recording Bill Haley & His Comets at the Masonic Auditorium in Cleveland, Ohio. This was mostly due to the logistics of transporting the equipment and the inability of some parts of his equipment to deal with the loudness of the band. Ken also talks about how these difficulties with recording weren't unique to Bill Haley, and how he was able to work with the Neumann microphones to solve these issues.

Keywords: Ampex Electric Corporation; Amplification; Amplifiers; Attenuation; Bach Festival; Berea (Ohio); Bill Haley and the Comets (Artist); Cable; Classical music; Cleveland (Ohio); Distortion; Euclid Beach Park; Mack, Wayne; Masonic Auditorium; Microphones (models): Neumann U47; Microphones (models): Telefunken; Microphones, Neumann; Mixing; Orchestra; Randle, Bill; Recorders, tape (models): Ampex; Recording; Rock 'n' roll; Sensitivity; Severance Hall; Telefunken

Subjects: Berea (Ohio); Cleveland (Ohio); Georg Neumann GmbH; Orchestra; Rock music; Telefunken G.m.b.H.

GPS: Cleveland (Ohio)
Map Coordinates: 41.482222, -81.669722
00:10:10 - Equipment Ken designed and included into his recording system that made it easier to record rock music

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Was this because people didn't quite understand how the, you know, the, the--(sigh)--I mean, I'm understanding what you're telling me and I, I'm trying to express myself about this with how little I know.

Segment Synopsis: Ken explains that the original Neumann microphones were intended to be used for recording orchestras, and how he was able to get around it by introducing attenuation into the recording system. He explains that everything he learned was used at the Bill Haley recording, and how he set up the microphones (and his recording environment) to adjust for the loudness of these bands.

Keywords: Altec; Amplifiers; Attenuation; Bach Festival; Bass; Berea (Ohio); Bill Haley and the Comets (Artist); Classical music; Distortion; Drums; Electric guitars; Equalizers; Fader; Gain; Grand Funk Railroad (Artist); Level; Microphones; Microphones (models): Altec 632C; Microphones (models): Altec 633A/C; Microphones (models): Altec Salt shaker; Microphones (models): RCA 44-BX bidirectional; Microphones (models): RCA 77-DX; Microphones (models): RCA ribbon; Microphones and coloration or distortion; Microphones, Neumann; Microphones, dynamic; Microphones, placement of; Microphones, ribbon; Mixing; Plug-in equalizers; Randle, Bill; Recording; Rock 'n' roll; Sensitivity; Snare drums; Sound pressure; Telefunken; Upright bass; Vacuum tube; Vacuum tube amplifiers; Volume

Subjects: Double bass; Electric guitar; Guitar; RCA/Ariola International; Rock music

00:25:01 - How the "rock sound" was discovered through trial and error

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So, and this is--you're all--you're having to do all this just by, by trial and error because there's nothing in the literature or anything--

Segment Synopsis: Ken begins by explaining that, in the beginning, no one really talked about recording rock music because the industry as a whole was still very focused on older styles of recording and more traditional music. He also talks about how he would try different recording styles with all kinds of groups -- from high school bands to professionals. Schmidt Horning and Ken briefly talk about the budget that the studio runs on. Ken then goes on to talk about working with Joe Walsh in the studio.

Keywords: Audio Engineering Society (AES); Audio engineering; Bands; Bubble bag; Don Gregory and the Montclairs (Artist); Electric Guitar; Experimentation; Guitar; Hammond Leslie speakers; Horns; James Gang (Artist); Marshall Amplification; Marshall amplifiers; Musicians; Procedure; Producers; Professional conventions; Recording equipment; Rhythm and blues (R&B); Rock 'n' roll; Trial and error; Walsh, Joe (Artist)

Subjects: Audio Engineering Society; Marshall Amplification plc; Rhythm and blues music; Rock music

00:33:49 - Where some recording techniques originate and how they are achieved

Play segment

Partial Transcript: That's something that I'd like to talk about.

Segment Synopsis: Ken explains who started phasing, explains what phasing is, and how phasing was achieved. Ken explains how fuzz (or overloading) is achieved, and why many guitarists prefer tube amps to SSL amps. Paul Hamann enters the interview and discusses audio examples that Schmidt Horning might be able to use in her presentation.

Keywords: Acoustic guitars; Amplifiers, solid state; Amplifiers, vacuum tube; Beatles, the (Artist); Electric guitars; Even order harmonics; Fuzz; Grand Funk Railroad (Artist); Guitars; Hamann, Paul; Harmonic sounds; Harmonics; Microphones and coloration or distortion; Musicians; Odd order harmonics; Overloading; Phasing; Recorders tape; Recording tape; Vacuum tube

Subjects: Beatles; Electric Guitar; Guitar; Harmonics (Electric waves); Rock music

00:42:16 - Various tracks that Schmidt Horning might be able to use in her upcoming presentation

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I was talking earlier about bass distortion.

Segment Synopsis: Ken begins by offering Schmidt Horning a track from Grand Funk Railroad that showcases the difference in types of distortion. They go in depth about various artists from the Cleveland area that she might be able to use in her presentation showing these different types of distortion and specifically guitar effects.

Keywords: 30 Seconds Over Tokyo (Album); Bass; Bass guitar; CDs; Chicago (Ill.); Cleveland (Ohio); Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS); Compact discs; Electric bass; Electric guitar; Engineer's scrapbook; Flint (Mich.); Grand Funk Railroad (Artist); Guitar; Pere Ubu (Artist); Polka music; Rock 'n' roll; Yankovic, Frankie

Subjects: Bass guitar; CBS Broadcasting Inc.; Chicago (Ill.); Cleveland (Ohio); Electric guitar; Guitar; Rock music

GPS: Cleveland (Ohio)
Map Coordinates: 41.482222, -81.669722
00:47:07 - Different ways of recording rock guitar

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So, do you--

Segment Synopsis: Ken explains that how a guitar is recorded totally depends on both the sound the artist is looking for and the position in the band the guitar has. Typically lead guitars are recorded by having their amps miked, and rhythm guitars are recorded via direct input.

Keywords: Bass; Bass guitar; Clean sound; Direct input; Double track; Electric bass; Electric guitar; Engineers; Equalization; Equalizers; Guitar; Leslie speakers; Recording; Rock 'n' roll; Sound Effects; Walsh, Joe (Artist)

Subjects: Bass guitar; Electric Guitar; Guitar; Rock music; Walsh, Joe

00:51:22 - Artists that Schmidt Horning may be able to talk to for her presentation

Play segment

Partial Transcript: What other guitarists did you work with that--

Segment Synopsis: Ken suggests that Schmidt Horning talk to Bob Fraser, and she then explains that she's not interested in just rock guitar. They begin talking about upright basses and bass guitars, and how difficult it was to record them early on. They then talk briefly about her presentation and the event it is for.

Keywords: Acoustic bass; Ampeg; Bass; Bass guitar; Classical music; Dobro Manufacturing; Dobro guitar; Electric bass; Electric guitar; Fender; Fender Musical Instruments Corporation; Fender, Leo; Fraser, Bob; Guitar; Jazz; Paul, Les; Pick-ups; Resonator guitar; Rickenbacker; Rickenbacker International Corporation; Smithsonian, the

Subjects: Bass guitar; Electric guitar; Gibson Les Paul standard guitar; Guitar; Jazz; Resonator guitar

00:57:43 - Differences between generations of musicians

Play segment

Partial Transcript: That's really a problem that I have nowadays too.

Segment Synopsis: Paul begins talking about how he dislikes the newer generation of equipment because they were designed to make the rock sound (heavy distortion, etc) at a lower volume. Paul explains the history behind this design choice, specifically that it was designed for modern live music venues.

Keywords: Amplifiers; Amplifiers (models): Fender Twin; Amplifiers (models): Mesa Boogie; Amplifiers, boogie; Amplifiers, champ; Amplifiers, vacuum tube; Distortion; Electric guitar; Guitar; Hendrix, Jimi; Level; Live music; Live performances; Mesa Engineering; Music clubs; Volume

Subjects: Electric guitar; Guitar; Hendrix, Jimi; Jimi Hendrix Experience (Musical group); Rock music

01:01:28 - How they achieved a certain sound / Paul's favorite band

Play segment

Partial Transcript: You pushed it, you pushed in the studio?

Segment Synopsis: Paul and Ken talk about how they were able to achieve the sound on the song "I'm Your Captain (Closer to Home)" by Grand Funk Railroad. They also go through several bands and talk about the sound that was popular at the time. They talk about Blue Cheer, and how they were one of the loudest bands of the time.

Keywords: Allen Theater (Ohio); Allen, Steve; American Bandstand; Amplifiers; Bass; Big Brother and the Holding Company (Artist); Blue Cheer (Artist); CDs; Carson, Johnny; Compact discs; Electric bass; Funk music; Fuzz; Gibson Humbucker; Grand Funk Railroad (Artist); I'm Your Captain (Closer to Home) (Song); Jazz; Jazz bass; Kramer, Eddie; La Bella nylon guitar strings; Level; Microphones (models): Neumann U47; Microphones and coloration or distortion; Outsideinside (Album); Rock 'n' roll; San Francisco (Calif.); Speakers; Steve Allen Show, the

Subjects: Allen, Steve, 1921-2000; American Bandstand (Television program); Bass guitar; Big Brother and the Holding Company (Musical group); Birmingham (England); Blue Cheer (Musical group); Carson, Johnny, 1925-2005; Georg Neumann GmbH; Grand Funk Railroad (Musical group); Jazz; Rock music; San Francisco (Calif.); Traffic (Musical group)

GPS: San Francisco (Calif.)
Map Coordinates: 37.783333, -122.416667
01:10:03 - Interview recap / working with Bloodrock (Artist)

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, I have to--let's see, when do I have to leave by?

Segment Synopsis: Schmidt Horning explains that she needs to leave, and asks about other materials that she might be able to get from Ken to use in her presentation. Specifically, she asks for photos from Ken pertaining to the Ampex portable equipment and artists using the studio, and Ken offers her a video of Grand Funk Railroad playing in the studio. They then begin listening to "D.O.A." by Bloodrock, and Ken discusses working with them in the studio.

Keywords: Ampex Electric Corporation; Bach Festival; Berea (Ohio); Bloodrock (Artist); Bloodrock 2 (Album); D.O.A. (Song); Flint (Mich.); Fort Worth (Tex.); Grand Funk Railroad (Artist); Recorders, tape (models): Ampex; Recording studios; Rock 'n' roll

Subjects: Berea (Ohio); Bloodrock (Musical group); Grand Funk Railroad (Musical group); Rock music

GPS: Berea (Ohio)
Map Coordinates: 41.37, -81.8625
01:13:40 - What recording was like before limiters / bands / current state of equipment

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Any, any thoughts about the first time you recorded an electric guitar? Can you remember that?

Segment Synopsis: Schmidt Horning asks Ken if he can remember the first time recording an electric guitar, and he expresses that he doesn't remember. She then asks Ken about his history with limiters in recording. Ken explains that, in the beginning, no one used limiters and that the recording relied on the engineer's ability to use faders appropriately. Ken also explains this is the reason he prefers linear faders to knob faders. He goes on to discuss the first time he encountered this type a fader, in WHK (a radio station in Cleveland, Ohio) and in a beer hall in Berlin, Germany.

Paul Hamann talks about Blue Cheer's set up and their album "Outsideinside". He also explains what a full stack is in the context of amplifiers. Paul goes on to express that the sound would have been very good despite the large amount of amplifiers, and Schmidt Horning asks him to borrow the albums. Paul then explains that many guitarists preferred bass amps to guitar amps and why.

Schmidt Horning begins telling a story about her guitars, and goes on to explain the return of Gibson as a force in quality guitar manufacturing.

Keywords: Amplifiers (Models): Fender 410 Bass Amplifier; Amplifiers (Models): Marshall; Amplifiers, bass; Amplifiers, super bass; Berlin (Germany); Bloodrock (Artist); Blue Cheer (Artist); Clarity; Cleveland (Ohio); Electric guitar; Faders, knob; Faders, linear; Fort Worth (Tex.); Gain; Gibson Brands, Inc.; Gibson Guitar Corporation; Guitar; Guitars (Models): Fender Statocaster; Guitars (Models): Gibson ES 335; Guitars (Models): Gibson Les Paul; Harvard University; Limiters; Marshall Amplification; San Francisco (Calif.); Smithsonian Magazine; WHK Cleveland

Subjects: Bass guitar; Berlin (Germany); Bloodrock (Musical group); Blue Cheer (Musical group); Cleveland (Ohio); Electric guitar; Fort Worth (Tex.); Gibson Les Paul standard guitar; Guitar; Marshall Amplification plc; Radio broadcasting; Rock music; San Francisco (Calif.); Stratocaster

GPS: Berlin (Germany)
Map Coordinates: 52.516667, 13.383333
01:23:35 - Technology Ken used to help improve his studio

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So, I mean, can you think of any other, sort of innovations you had to, to make to try to, you know?

Segment Synopsis: Ken talks about buying the first equalizer, and why he did so. He goes on to finish his answer about limiters that he began earlier, including that the limiter he was using added some distortion.

Paul mentions that the guitar solo in the song "Play That Funky Music" (playing in the background) was recorded using one of his base amps.

Ken goes on to explain why he preferred to record without limiting.

Keywords: Beer halls; Distortion; Electric guitar; Equalization; Equalizers; Germany; Guitar; King, Tom; Limiters; Microphones and coloration or distortion; Mixing; Outsiders, the (Artist); Play That Funky Music (Song); Wild Cherry (Artist)

Subjects: Electric guitar; Guitar; Rock music; Wild Cherry (Musical Group)