"Just For The Record" is a brand new section at the RockUnited site where 'DJ Urban' has a look at some old(er) records/albums in the great history of hard rock and metal. It could be some "obscure" minor record label release that simply didn't get the attention it so rightly deserved the first time around. It could also be a what you would call a "classic" album or sort of a best-seller. They all have one thing in common though. They all ROCK and and they all have at least one classy enough band member to answer our q's.
MASS: "Voices In The Night"
MASS and their second album "Voices In The Night" from the year of 1989 (Enigma Records - produced by Stryper's Michael Sweet). The U.S. band MASS was from Boston and formed in the very early eighties. Originally signed to A&M the band experienced a lot of contractual problems and their first album was eventually shelved (and it's still unreleased, I believe?). The band itself released a four track EP simply titled "Mass" in 1984, before the first offical album "New Birth" was released on RCA in 85'. No luck over their either as RCA decided not to give them any support. Enigma Records decided to pick up their contract and Mass recorded another EP in 88' (Take You Home), before we're 'up-to-date' with this very album. Unfortunately, we're sadly aware of what happened to Enigma Records shortly afterwards. Yep, out-of-business, belly up, bankruptcy. Geez... bad luck, what if, and why? are some of the words strongly connected to the band. "Voices In The Night" is a great and fun album with soaring vocals and classy guitarwork. I guess it's always going to be compared to Stryper, since their vocalist (Michael Sweet) produced the album, provided background vocals, and more as you'll soon find out. However, this blend nicely in with the likes of TNT's 'Tell No Tales', a mere hint of Rainbow, and overall melodic hardrock with big backup vocals. The band consisted at the time of Louis St.August (vocals), Gene D'Itria (guitars), Kevin Varrio (bass) and Joey Vadala (drums). Mass has just recently released their brand new album "Sea Of Black" and check out their site for all info. Here to tell us everything about Mass 'ala 1989, their excellent lead vocalist, now and then, LOUIS D'AUGUSTA...
How long did this album take to make from start to finish, recording-wise?
We spent a total of eight to nine weeks working on Voices in the Night album. Two weeks of pre-production just choosing the right ten songs that we felt would work well together. We had about 18-20 songs to choose from so once we had chosen the ten we just rehearsed them over and over until they were good and tight. The next six weeks we spent recording basic drum & bass tracks then onto rhythm & lead guitars and then last we recorded my lead Vocal & backing Vocals. Mixing took about a week.
What kind of initial budget are we talking about here?
Enigma records initially gave us $20,000 but we ended up getting 10 more so a total of $30,000 was spent on Voices. Not a lot for this time period considering acts like Stryper etc were getting 100,000’s of dollars for their recordings.
How much of the budget did you actually spend on useless equipment and other nonsense?
Thinking back we did not have to spend too much on equipment. Gene ended up using Michael Sweets equipment and Joey used Robert Sweets drum kit. We even lived in Michael Sweet & his lovely wife Kyle’s (RIP) home for 9 weeks in order for us to save money on the budget.
What kind of 'sound', production wise, did you have in the back of your mind, prior to entering the studio?
Don’t think we had a particular sound in mind going into this project. Every time we do enter a studio there’s always a certain type of mystery regarding what the album would sound and feel like in the end. Obviously with having Michael Sweet producing we knew it would be a good clean tight sounding album with big backup vocals. That just happened to be the sound and thing that was happening in 1988.
What kind of input did the producer have during the process?
The songs were already written by the time we landed in LA and Michael Sweet just helped us to pick the top ten songs out of the bunch. We worked hard on getting everyone a great sound out of their individual Instrument. Working with Michael was a lot of fun and he was just like a member of the band trying to make the best record possible with the budget we had.
And were you pleased with the final outcome? (sound - production wise)
Yes, I think that album came out pretty well crisp, clean and punchy at times. Personally I would have loved to have had more time to add some more vocal ad libs but I was last in recording and pressed for time. I think I did all my lead vocals in three days and the very last day Michael was driving me to the airport right after my session. Lol!
Did the producer use any (weird) experimental miking and/or recording techniques?
No it was a very normal recording experience. No tricks just MASS going through the recording process of first laying down basic tracks and then the start of the layering of the cake I like to call it.
How much time did you spend on overdubs?
Personally I would sing a song two or three times then we would just choose the best vocal lines from each section and move on. So it all came together pretty quickly.
Which band member spent most of his days in the studio and why?
Gene the guitarist I would have to say because he needed to lay down rough guitar tracks first then go back in and do all his rhythm tracks than again to fatten them up. Then he added his lead guitar solos to all the tunes last.
Which band member hardly spent any time at all in the studio and why?
I would have to say Joey (Drums) and Kevin (Bass) cut all their tracks in like one or two days. Kevin might have punched in a few bass lines here and there but they were both done quite quickly.
Let's talk about the lyrics. Are you just as fond of them today or are they typical of its time?
95% of my lyrics are auto biographical so whatever is happening in my life at that particular time it seems to pour out of me onto paper. I was twenty five at the time of this recording session and going through a divorce so that’s why you hear songs/lyrics like “Chance to love” and “Call out your name”. Yes, I am still fond of the lyrics and melodies I put together for this record and all of the other MASS albums as well. When I go to play a particular MASS album now, it just sort of takes me back to that period in my life and all that was going on around me.
How did you go on about capturing your 'live sound', or perhaps you didn't?
Just over the years of playing together, getting better at our own individual instruments helped to develop the MASS sound we currently have now. It’s a pretty simple sound with a lot of emphasis on full heavy guitars we call a “MASS”ive sound!
Did the record company interfere anything on your "sound" and "songs", considering what's 'hot and not' at the time?
No not really, they never interfered with our song writing. Although RCA records did want us to record a few more rock pop tunes like “Do you love me “which was off the “New Birth” album. Lol!
Your favourite songs off the album and why?
I really like most of them but if I had to choose a few I would have to say “Chance to love” I had a deep personal connection with this one and like the whole vibe of the tune. “Call out your Name” liked my vocal performance on this one. “Miles Away” I dig this tune as well for its vibe and diversity of vocal ranges. Low deep vocals on the verses, received several emails from fans asking if it was Joe Lynn Turner singing the verse’s Lol!
Any 'oh-I-wish-we-had-never-recorded' song on this album?
No not really proud of them all and glad they all made it on to this record it just feels like a nice group of tunes that fit well together.
Were there any other tracks recorded during those studio sessions that didn't make the cut?
No, I wish there were so we could have used them later as bonus tracks elsewhere, Ha! We just picked ten and recorded ten.
What's your honest opinion about the songs and the production today? Dated, fresh, a mess?
Personally I think the songs are very good and fit this time period well. Over the years I believe we have become much better song writers. I still think it sounds great and yes it is very 80’s sounding so it is dated but that’s when we recorded it late 1988-89 era. It’s a very clean crisp sounding album that still sounds just as good today in my opinion.
Are there any 'crazy' behind the scenes anecdotes from these sessions that you can share with us?
We had a blast recording this album as we do with all our albums. This one was a bit special to us because it was our first time recording in California and we jumped from studio to studio which we never really done before. We would record the drums in one studio and then move to another to record guitars then another for vocals, etc. We just had a lot of fun and laughs during "Voices in the night" way to many things to mention but here is one. Michael Sweet would dress up every day in a different spiffy suit and play Mr. Producer. We gave him the nickname Mannequin mike. At one studio I believe it was on the busy street of Melrose Ave. Michael would stand in the studio big window holding perfectly still for quite a long time. Many people would come up to the studio glass and look in and study this mannequin figure. Michael would then jump and people would freak out! We would all be in the back just crackin g up laughing. Thank god he never gave anyone a heart attack and he would always run out and apologize for scarring them as well.
Were you ever a "priority" case or merely just another release at your record label?
Well I would like to think we were a priority for the label but the label wasn’t around enough for us to really find out. Just before we were scheduled to film our very first video for Voices in the Night “Reach for the sky” was cancelled because the label had folded and filed for bankruptcy. I think the video would have pushed the album a lot further. I guess this would be a good question for the Hein’s brother’s owners of the Enigma record label.
Did you ever feel like the record label supported you guys enough afterwards? (promotion-wise, tours, etc.).
What we saw from Enigma and there promotion dept was absolutely great! I only wished they could have held on and not folded. We were only there for a little over two years and we had already released two CD’s and where involved in many publications, did many interviews and the radio airplay was picking up on the west & east coast because of their push. They would even fly us out to various stations to do radio tours, etc. Like I mentioned before we were just about to film our first video for them and then there was talk of us going over to Japan to support Stryper on their current tour. So I did like what I saw in the short time we were with the label.
Any regrets whatsoever? (regarding the album of course)
No regrets what so ever, we are proud of the album and will treasure all the great times we had making it and working with our dear friend Michael Sweet. We will also fondly remember the graciousness of his lovely departed wife Kyle for inviting four strangers from Boston to live with them while making this record.
If there's anything you'd like to add, say, or promote, please do:
Would just like to thank you Wally for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts on the Voices in the Night album and to let everyone know we still are rocking harder and heavier today! Still having a blast doing what we love to do create and perform music! I would also like to mention here that we have a brand new release
- April 23, 2010 - called MASS “Sea of Black” on the Escape Music label (UK). Thus far the reviews that I have seen are calling it the best MASS album ever! Which is always very nice ? We are very excited about this release and think it is fantastic as well and believe old and new MASS fans will highly enjoy the new MASS “Sea of Black” Cheers!
Interview by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,