Jocke Skog is a Swedish born producer and musician with a fantastic career of accomplishments at the helm for some of the best bands out there.
#1 – Let’s start with your extensive career behind the recording desk. You have an impressive portfolio consisting of everything from After The Burial, Constructdead, Die Krupps and Entombed to Scar Symmetry, The Haunted, Feared and many other albums. What drew you to recording, producing and engineering heavy music?
It all started back in the 80’s when I had two tape decks that had some sort of overdub function. You’d record one sound, playback that while recording another sound on top to the other deck, and continue until it was a noisy mess.😊
Later I had 2 synths, a drum machine and a 4-track so I just continued to do so. The very first Clawfinger album (deaf dumb blind) in 1993 had 4-track tape demos. 1994 I bought an Atari 1040st with a version of Cubase 2.0 and from there on it became more technical. We upgraded to Macintosh in 1996 with Cubase Audio and an Audiomedia card for a whopping 8 channels i/o.
Then there’s always the “It doesn’t sound like I want, even though we are in this huge expensive studio. WTF?”-factor that led me into the more professional ways of recording. Meeting Fredrik Thordendal also helped a lot, since he had a lot of knowledge that I didn’t have, and vice versa, so when Clawfinger and Meshuggah joined forces in Fear And Loathing Studios (2000), it was a great geeky environment we all learned a lot from. Just the fact that I was testing microphone positions while Tomas Haake was rehearsing… Win-win situation!
#2 – You produced After The Burial’s “In Dreams” which in my opinion has the best guitar tone of any of their albums. Djent tones have become so mid focused, how did you maintain so much low end without the bass guitar to maintain the low octave?
Thank you! It’s a fine line between “Awesome” and “too much”. The guitars had to have the string brightness, the wide frequency spectra and room for the other instruments including vocals, while being huge and fat and… Fine line. As a keyboard player from the beginning I have a slightly different way of thinking when it comes to mix. The individual parts always have to adjust to the final product. When it feels right, it’s done.
#3 – Take us through your usual plan and the techniques you use for tracking and mixing heavy guitar in general.
If there’s a full recording session, I’ll focus on the drums first. When the drums sounds good I rig the guitar sound to be so fat and big and powerful that you feel like one chord is enough to listen to for days. Then it’s about getting the takes properly. My philosophy is that about 75% of all metal dudes have some sort of letter syndrome, so I’d rather do small edits before do another ten takes. A happy recording atmosphere is a must to get the best out of people. IMHO of course.
When I re-amp I listen to the
song and playing style to get the perfect combination of amps, pedals and cabs.
Then it’s all about the puzzle of getting the correct pieces in place. All different pieces have their own character and it’s my job to get it right.
#4 – What tips for tracking and mixing guitar can you lend to the hobbyist at-home producer?
Get a good DI box and watch out
for the interference that the computer generates! That noise is terrible.
Practice to play to a beat and play a lot of rhythm guitar! If you have the groove, then you have the secret foundation of a great guitarist. Also, practice do makes perfect. It’s crazy how much you can train your ears to hear nuances you couldn’t hear a year before. I’m still learning new stuff and I’m still evolving and it’s fantastic!
#5 – Drum programming and samplers have been an large area of interest and expertise for you in your career, what are your thoughts on using samplers vs. real drums as well as the evolution and increase in the quality of drum samplers?
I’ve been programming drums since the late 80’s and with the sample libraries we have today it’s basically up to the individuals to set the limit. I’ve programmed stuff on productions that the drummer couldn’t hear and I’ve mixed drums so it sounded like programmed drums, so… If it sounds good, it’s good!
Me personally, I love to record live drums, and sneak in some enhancements that can’t be heard, but the drummer sounds awesome!
#6 – Having been so into drum programming and the various software used for years, do you also have a lot of experience with amp sim software? If so, which plugins have you enjoyed the most for guitar and/or bass?
Yes I do! We started with the first SansAmp and a Boss ME-5 back in 1993. We tried to record the Clawfinger album with tube amps, but there was something in the process that made it… boring. Today I know exactly what we did wrong, but during those days, I had no clue what was going on, so we decided to go direct into the desk with a DI box.
Later we bought all types of preamps that money could buy to evolve the sound, via Boss GX-700 to Digitech GSP2112 to the first Line 6 bean, to the AxeFX and then software based amp sims, like Ignite Amps, Softube, LePou, Kazrog, Amplitube and TSE X50. At the same time (2004-2010) I dived into the wonderful world of Impulse Responses. First as room simulations, then as speakers. It’s awesome!
#7 – Having spent time in the studio with some incredible guitarists, you would have experience with some of the best amps on earth. Do you have any favorite guitar amps to track and mix?
This might sound boring, but different players have different approaches to their tone, and when I manage to get THAT look on their face, I know we have a winner. Then if we used a Fortin Natas or a Blackstar HT5-M it doesn’t really matter.
I own five different tube amps that all have their own different characters, and with a bunch of overdrive/preamp pedals I can make any sound I can think of. It’s all in the knowledge of the behavior of the different components of a sound. Guitar – pedal – preamp – power amp – cab and post processing. They all are pieces of the puzzle and when they’re combined right, the magic happens.
Oh yeah, the amps are: Krank Rev+, ENGL savage 120, Hiwatt Super-Hi 50, Blackstar HT5-M and a Koch Supernova 6060.
#8 – How exactly did you end up playing bass in Ola Englund’s band Feared?
We hung way back on the Andy Sneap forum and I helped him to make some of his first videos, so later he asked me to mix a Feared album and help recording the bass and I felt that it seemed like great fun. And it was!
#9 – Similar question to #4 but on the topic of bass, can you share a few tracking and mixing tips for bass with the weekend warrior home studio enthusiasts such as myself?
While guitar sounds are super heavily processed, the bass sounds great with just an EQ. As always, a DI box is great to have, but hardware isn’t really necessary anymore. Even the DAW “stock” amp sims works great on bass. Expander – TSE BOD – CAB IR – EQ and a compressor will make any bass sound good.
#10 – You have remained consistently busy and active both in the studio and onstage, what do 2019 and 2020 have in store for you?
I’m doing productions and reamps in the studio (Sunmountain Facilities, my own space), Clawfinger are playing festivals and clubs, and I’m working on several projects that still is under NDA agreements, but it’ll all be revealed soon enough!
It’s awesome to pick the brains of the guys that have been on the other side of the recording desk as well as on stage. We can all learn from the experience of others and Jocke has extensive experience with all things “heavy”. He’s been at the helm of many fantastic sounding albums and has always brought the best out of the artists he works with. He provides so many different services at a professional level, be sure to check out his website to see how Jocke can help you in the future!