God Damn is a band from Wolverhampton, formed in 2010. The band has a somewhat fluid lineup, centred around Thom Egerton and Ash Weaver, and currently augmented by Hannah Al-Shemmeri and Rob Graham. Released in September 2021, ‘Raw Coward’ is their fourth LP, and the first to be produced by Egerton himself. A few weeks ago NUGEN Audio's Freddy Vinehill-Cliffe chatted with Thom about the new album, his experience of working with Sylvia Massy on God Damn’s 2020 self-titled release, and his favourite NUGEN plug-ins.
You’re Thom from God Damn. Can you tell me a little bit about what the band is up to right now?
"It’s a self-produced record, and it’s something that’s more true to why we started doing this in the first place. Right now I think we’re all about carving our own path and not playing the industry game anymore."
Well, we’re the band that won’t die. We’re on our fourth record with One Little Independent, it’s a self-produced record, and it’s something that’s more true to why we started doing this in the first place. Right now I think we’re all about carving our own path and not playing the industry game anymore. I’m forever thinking “I should probably stop this at some point”, but what keeps me going is that I enjoy making music with my friends, and these are my friends. It’s kind of come full circle, we spent some time playing the game, and now we’re just doing what we like again. And the record label is really behind that, which is nice.
The album’s called ‘Raw Coward’, and it’s a tip of the hat to garage rock production à la ‘Raw Power’. It’s a raw album, in fact it’s disgusting, and we made it in our lockup. Originally we were just gonna release an EP of scratty DIY demos, but when I presented eight songs to the label they said “This is the best album you’ve ever done”. Maybe that was them trying to save a few quid, haha!
That’s amazing! So how did self-production compare to the last record, which was produced by Sylvia Massy?
"It took Sylvia Massy, the woman with officially the biggest microphone collection in the world, to tell me that the best microphone for me to use is an SM58."
The Sylvia record was actually really raw, compared to what we’d done previously. We were making a list of people we wanted to work with, and I’d been given Sylvia’s book for Christmas. I just thought she seemed like an entertaining person to make a record with. I loved her approach, her energy kind of resonated with me, and there were a few techniques in her book that I thought could definitely work for me.
Every time we make a record we’ve always put Steve Albini on that list, and we’ve always cowered out of it because it’s kind of a gamble, isn’t it?
It’s a very exposed thing to do, you really have to perform as a unit. If the performances aren’t spot on then you can immediately tell a band just isn’t tight enough for that style of production.
So we put Sylvia at the top, and we thought “Cool, we’ll do a record with Steve if this doesn’t work out”. But it turned out that she was really into the demos, and she wanted to do the record - we didn’t expect her to be so into it!
I’m 32 now, and I’ve spent most of my life going to studios and soaking it in. All that time, you don’t go around with your eyes closed, do you? You are soaking up more than you realise. And when we made the record with Sylvia I thought “Right, this is my university education. I’m gonna make the most out of this for the band, but also for myself”. She’ll tell you everything she knows, and she wants people to learn from it.
So it came to doing this EP, and I felt like I now had the tools. There were so many things Sylvia taught me that saved me money, and saved me time. You don’t need the world’s best, you don’t need a Neve preamp to make a great record, you don’t need matched pairs of microphones. There are so many things that don’t matter for our kind of music, because I’m not Adele. On our first record I sang into Adele’s microphone, but it turns out that the best microphone for me to use is an SM58. It took Sylvia Massy, the woman with officially the biggest microphone collection in the world, to tell me that the best microphone for me to use is an SM58.
That’s a beautiful realisation to have. It reminds me of Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’, allegedly they used SM57s for the drum overheads on that whole album, and it sounds great.
But even though you self-recorded and self-produced ‘Raw Coward’, you chose not to mix it yourself. What was the reasoning behind that?
"Handheld vocal, one take, all the way through, in the control room, SM58, monitors blaring. That’s how you get the performance, and it’s not perfect, but it’s a performance isn’t it?"
I got to a point where I was so emotionally invested in it, and I was so in the creative zone, that the mixing side of it was detracting from the production side. I will probably mix the next record, but for this one we handed it over to Jonathan Nuñez from Torche. I sent him my ballpark of where I wanted it to be, and he added the knobs and whistles, you know. He made some parts explode a little more, and he made some parts a bit more sensible. He’s got lots of nice outboard gear, there was some fairly heavy tape limiting going on, and loads of Distressor. I’m really into vocal doubling, and he ran it through the MXR Flanger/Doubler.
So you get that Ozzy Osbourne alien vocal sound.
Yeah, it’s kind of cheesy, but I like that. My go-to vocal chain is a RAT, a 1073 and a vocal doubler. Handheld vocal, one take, all the way through, in the control room, SM58, monitors blaring. That’s how you get the performance, and it’s not perfect, but it’s a performance isn’t it?
I remember reading somewhere that Björk will supposedly only do two or three vocal takes. She walks in, does those takes, and then regardless of who’s recording or producing her, if they ask for another take she says “No, I’ve done it now, do what you want with that, but those are the takes, that’s all I’m doing”. It might be apocryphal, but it’s a good story.
Perfect. That kind of conviction conveys really well, doesn’t it? She’s got an idea in her head, and then she gets it out.
As well as producing ‘Raw Coward’, you’ve started producing, recording and mixing other bands. How does NUGEN fit into that process?
"I’m fully in the Paragon ST hole. This reverb is incredible, and the stereo imaging is something you do immaculately."
I’m fully in the Paragon ST hole. This reverb is incredible, and the stereo imaging is something you do immaculately. We talked about Steve Albini before, and you can actually dial in something close to the Albini room sound. It’s cheesy to say it sounds like a real room, but we see through fake reverbs, don’t we? There’s something impersonal about certain reverbs, to me.
Two of the biggest things for my mix game have been the Monofilter and the Stereoizer. The Monofilter is something that I put on pretty much all my buses, it just really cleans everything up. It means I don’t have to EQ as hard, and I can let the natural sound of the instrument come through more. I can place it in the mix rather than carving it so much. The Monofilter has levelled up my mix, I don’t have to play around so much, I can just zip it up, and it’s literally a zipping motion. You can tighten up your mix no end with it.
"If you’ve already got a good stereo image, you wack the NUGEN Stereoizer on your guitar bus and you’ve got huge guitars."
Coming onto the Stereoizer, I will often use a mono overhead on drums, and you can make a realistic sounding stereo overhead using that plug-in. It’s way more realistic, less digital and less clunky than any other stereo width plug-in I’ve tried. And like the Monofilter, you can decide which frequencies are in that stereo spectrum. So much of the drum character, especially in small rooms when we don’t have lots of microphones at our disposal, is coming from very few microphones. There’s all this information that you end up high pass filtering out, but the Stereoizer means that I can place certain things in the wider stereo field and keep that low end in the middle.
This is something Sylvia taught me - I never treat individual guitar tracks, I make a bus of guitar tracks and I treat the whole bus. And by using the Stereoizer and the Monofilter on the bus I can ensure that I’ve always got some guitar in the middle, and some guitar where I want it at the sides. If you’ve already got a good stereo image, you wack the NUGEN Stereoizer on your guitar bus and you’ve got huge guitars. And you can hear them better as well, they’re not being cluttered in the stereo field.
Is there anything you’d like to add? If you’ve got some words of wisdom, I’d like to hear.
Don’t be afraid to experiment aggressively. You’ve gotta go there to come back, haven’t you?