Interview With David Bendeth Producer of the ELV1S 30 #1 Hits CD and DVD Audio

By: Kevan Budd
Source: Kevan Budd
June 19, 2002

The following is an interview with David Bendeth (DB), producer of the ELV1S 30 #1 Hits CD and DVD Audio by Kevan Budd (KB). David Bendeth kindly gave permission to share this interview with all fans.

DB...Wow Kevan are you writing a book? You ask many intelligent questions and I even understand some of them, so I will try. Some are unanswerable at this time so please work with me, thanks!

KB...please you could tell me if the new number ones CD will be available with DVD audio or sacd audio or just plain CD? And will the Elvis catalogue when re issued be in sacd or DVD audio or copyright protected audio? As many fans are asking these questions.

DB...Thanks for your note and question. As you must know this is a very difficult question to answer right now. All of the labels are undecided on the universal format as you might have heard. Labels are lining up behind both formats. We here at BMG are looking at and considering DVD Audio/DVD video ac3 Dolby digital 5.1, however it will be able to be played on an sacd player that plays DVD video as well. Not confused enough yet? To do this it needs to be authored correctly when mastered, as DVD is 98 bit and DVD video is 48 bit.

There are mixes of Elvis number ones in 5.1 DVD/Audio/Video however, We are weighing our options on release, format, timing, and obviously do not want to steal any thunder from our upcoming Stereo release as you may well understand. I hope that answers some of your questions, this is all new to the industry and we are all just learning how to react.

KB...regarding formats to be used by BMG for the E1s I was shown this article (link) about a format that appears to possibly have some of the answers for compatibility without loss of quality?..... and I was wondering if BMG may even be considering this format or would licensing be an issue?

DB...Formats have been chosen for this release. They are cross-platform and entail DVD Audio/DVD Video and SACD video... I am not familiar with this new format, but I will read about it, thanks. When the surround war ends and the dust settles we will have a VHS machine!!!! The funny thing for me is that no one really knows where to sit in the room or where to place the speakers anyway. The learning curve on surround will be slow at best, hope that helps. DB

KB...could I just ask if in your own personal opinion do you feel the higher spec/resolution of dvda or sacd will give a noticeable sound improvement to the Elvis Presley catalogue...leaving multichannel to one side for the moment.

DB... I feel that the higher resolution sound has to be taken in context. The human ear can only identify so many frequencies. The biggest challenge with this sound difference is going to be personal stereo systems and room acoustics, if favorable you will hear a difference in higher resolution. Hopefully that is not vague, If not "hear it" you will "feel " it.

KB...there has also been a lot of talk regarding some new found tapes from iron mountain coming from moldy tape boxes etc...Could you please expand on this and could you say in particular what specific tapes were of most interest and why and were these master tapes or complete session tapes? Also could you say if the tapes were stored at Iron Mountain All Along or were only recently (in the last few years) moved there?

DB...Ah the moldy tapes, this has been a thorn in my side! Some of the boxes were tattered and a little moldy; they have been kept at Iron Mountain for quite a while...can't give you the exact date. I have used some different versions for E1 on purpose as I believe there were better undiscovered performances. That is my prerogative as a producer, I will let you as the expert be the judge. As far as the tapes themselves, some were session tapes some compiled, some incomplete, some with no oxide, some with bad leaders some as if new. I am not the keeper of the gate, however I did find some great outtakes, I am not sure that they were amazing technically, but certainly interesting from a historical standpoint. I did not pick the songs or the historical significance on this record, just the creative.

KB...most fans are very interested to hear the version of hound dog on the set as it is now well know that BMG did not use a good master tape for that release as it has been released a few times from a better generation master...such as on the rhino billboard 1956 CD release.

DB...Hound dog: we used the original master recorded in two track mono. We removed the "bad noisy side" and continued on our merry way. I think it is still harsh yet is better than what I have heard...all again is subjective

KB... also there has been some disappointed Elvis fans regarding the sound of the old BMG Elvis releases, as generally it is felt that they used too much hiss reduction and a very narrow stereo some tracks were mixed to near mono on the today tomorrow and forever set. Also there now seems to be a trend at BMG to hard limit the sound to boost the volume at the expense of the true dynamics...that I personally feel is unnecessary.

DB...We used none or hardly any noise reduction on anything at any time, there is NO narrow band stereo imaging, and the limiters and compressors were all "over easy" allowing the tracks to breathe and retain the integrity of the original dynamics. All songs were mixed to half inch ATR 30 ips analog tape machines using competitive curves and slopes, there is no trickery or sleight of hand!! far all those that have heard the promo discs from the E1 CD are very positive about the sound and I'm really looking forward to hearing it. So could I ask if your new team will now be in charge of all the Elvis Presley catalogue mixing and mastering and what will be the method of releasing the new Elvis Presley catalog.

DB...New sound: I really can't speak for what happened before and to be honest it is none of my business. I like to keep a positive approach with music. Mixing records is not a line of work you need to be in if you are sensitive at all. Myself, Ray Bardani, George Marino and Ted Jensen have hundreds of Records under our belt from John Lennon to Bob Marley, Prince to Luther Vandross, Mettalica to Guns and Roses, The Eagles to Bruce Hornsby. We all recognized our limitations early with what we were given and gave it our best. We hope you like it, If not please refer to old records... The Future: We tried something new, we think its great (obviously) We will now wait to see if this is as important as we think it is and see what the public thinks. I would love to do some more if it was the right situation and concept but until then, we remain unclear as to what the team will do next. There has been a lot of outside interest in our methods. It is not easy to work with a deceased artist; it becomes harder to guess what they would like. Now I knew from doing this before that I have not given you everything you need as info. I have given you the truth as I see it. I know the Elvis fans are very picky and I respect that, it is their right!! I come from a musicians background I am not a marketer or a promotions man, so please be patient.

KB...regarding the following comment... "I have used some different versions for E1 on purpose as I believe there were better undiscovered performances". Would this mean alternative takes as opposed to the original masters? And if so I would guess these also had a better lower generation source tape than possibly the master tapes any titles you could mention?

DB...I used alternate takes that are the masters, no generation loss, just a different day, different take. It just sounded better to me. They are all master alternate takes, there are three. As I said hopefully you tell me. This record should be for the public and the adventurous!

KB...if at all possible could you give any further details on the 1950s mono tapes that were found/used! and from a technical point regarding the mono tracks could I ask if any of the 1950s tracks were in two track stereo but had to be mixed to mono to give a better balance as most of the two track stuff from Elvis in the 1950s has Elvis in one channel and the band in the other? I love these basic two track stereo tapes but they are not often released (a great shame I personally feel) also regarding the track love me tender. this has been released in true stereo from a decent source on the BMG CD "jailhouse rock BMG 07863 67453 2" were you aware that this track was released in full stereo? or did you feel it would be more consistent to release all the 1950s tracks in mono?

As far as the 50's sessions I went through the lot meticulously, some had better vocals and worse tracks, great tracks and bad vocals. I picked the ones that made sense musically. I do not know if they were the "masters" They are now on E1. I am not a historian as I said. At some point I am sure we will bounce all to Digital and sort this out for once and all! 3. I was aware of the some of these "stereo" mono tracks and some of them sounded ...ok. I had a problem with continuity going in chronological order from mono to stereo. I tried going to stereo earlier and it all sounded out of context sonically. I passed even though I though some of these stereo tracks were good. I hope you understand. Ted Jensen at Sterling has done an amazing job on these mono tracks he worked on them for days and days. We experimented a lot and failed a lot. We finally nailed it to the my opinion. Comments: You have to trust me when I say we dissected these open heart surgery. There were many chains of compression, rides on the vocals and eq. Rides were made on the music only on the three tracks. I manipulated the horns on Suspicious Minds back into the track (THEY WERE GONE!) and the Piano on "Now or Never" (AGAIN NO PIANO on tape) we knew the previous pitfalls of these tapes and we learned from our past. We continually A/B tested to the original mixes of all these songs as well as Beatles 1's, The Stones and Buddy Holly. We know we have surpassed these records sonically with what we had to work with. I have no problem answering any questions you have, however my opinion is that there are some holy grails out there owned by private collectors and we probably have some great ones in the vault. Remember that Elvis never picked his final takes....Tom Parker and Joan Deary and RCA did, that is now under quality control. We will be revisiting what is considered the masters very soon and look forward to your criticism and comments. I love your passion and commitment to continue to discover. That is how we made this record.

Well that's the end of the questions (I promise!!) I'm sure you are very busy and again thank you so much for the interesting information you have shared and I'm really looking forward to the full release.

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