Canadian producer Jay Ruston has worked on a number of rock, pop, and metal albums over the past 15 years.
Most recently he has produced the new Uriah Heep studio album, set for release in mid September.
For more on Jay’s work check out – http://www.jayruston.com
You are Canadian – what bands / artists did you grow up on?
Rush, Triumph, Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Black Sabbath
What are some of your favorite LPs from your younger years?
Rush-2112, Iron Maiden-Live After Death, Led Zeppelin-Physical Graffitti, Billy Squier-Don’t Say No
How did you wind up in Calilfornia and as a mixer , producer on so many great projects? [How did you get into that end of the music business?]
I was living in Ottawa working for Canadian producer Leslie Howe (Alanis Morrisette). Leslie built a studio in Los Angeles and hired me to come down in 2003 to run it. After about 2-3 years I decide to build my own studio in LA. One of the first records I worked on was by Wilson Philips, produced by Peter Asher. They also introduced me to Desmond Child. I made a bunch of records with both producers until about 2007, then I produced the first Steel Panther album.
You produced all the Steel Panther albums!? These guys come up with good stuff musically and hilarious [x rated] — HOW do you keep a straight face in the studio with this band?
We definitely have a good time making those records, but they are very serious about their craft. They’re all amazing musicians and work very quickly in the studio.
Any Steel Panther stories and/or favorite tracks?
I think my favorite song to work on was “Eyes Of A Panther”. During the first album we had a lot of great guest appearances, including Corey Taylor and Scott Ian.
You produced the Ronnie James Dio tribute albums years back. How did you get involved in that project can you recall a bit of how that all came together ? [with the various ‘name’ players guesting]
A few years before I met Wendy Dio and became friends with her. When she told me about the tribute album, she already had Metallica and Halestorm lined up, and a few others. I told her i’d get Anthrax as well as Corey Taylor. Amazingly, my two favorite Dio performed songs were available, Neon Knights and Rainbow In The Dark, so I produced both of those. I also mixed the Oni Logan track, and a couple others as well.
You’ve also worked on the Black Star Riders albums. [Today being Phil Lynott’s birthday] – Any favorite Thin Lizzy albums or songs?
BSR are one of my favorite clients. I think my favorite Thin Lizzy song is Cowboy Song
You are credited as Mixer on BSRs albums. How much input do you have as a mixer? And any fave tracks of theirs?
I don’t have a lot of input if there’s a great producer at the helm, which they had for the last two albums. Soldiers Town and Testify!
What have been a few of your biggest and/or most successful projects you’ve worked on?
Probably both Stone Sour albums, Meatloaf, The “Big 4” live DVD and the first Steel Panther album. Anthrax’s Worship Music has sold really well also.
How did you come about to produce the new Uriah Heep album?
Their manager is a good friend of mine. The band was interested in working with me, so it worked out perfectly.
How familiar were you with Heep – their past and the band today?
Pretty familiar. Growing up near Detroit, I heard a lot of Heep on the radio! I had heard their last couple records and was hoping we could circle back to their classic sound with a modern edge.
What was the approach or direction that you and the band were going for? (LTD is a much more “Heep” album – with ballads, epics, different guitar and keyboard sounds [to past few UH albums])
My goal is often the same, make a classic record that can’t be dated by production. The demos they sent were pretty much ready to go.
[In promo videos] the band states that you worked on 1 song per day for the album. Is that the way you normally work? and if so – why [?] – as opposed to put down each instrument day after day, then vocals, overdubs, etc..?
This is the most efficient way to make a record. If you do drums for a week, then bass for a week, then you get to guitars and decide an arrangement change should be made, it’s impossible! This way, everyone is focussed on the same song for the whole day, or sometimes 2 days, and by the end, you have an entire song almost finished, except for maybe guitar solos etc. I always finish records ahead of schedule when I record this way. Not every band can do it, especially if they live in different cities or countries, which is often the case.
The band seems to stretch out more on LTD with lengthier solos [guitar, Hammond organ] – How much was kinda done right there on the spot or were things a bit more pre-rehearsed to what we hear on the album?
I think it was all pretty well rehearsed. They did a lengthy pre production week and sent me the recordings. The band really edited themselves and made the songs work great before I was even involved. Makes my job much easier when they have the experience like that.
What tracks and moments on LTD stand out for you? any comments on some of the songs?
Water’s Flowin’ and Rocks In The Road are my two favorites. Both songs have totally different feel and vibe, but were equally fun to work on. Rocks is a really long epic piece of music with great riffs. We recorded it live in 2 sections, then added overdubs after wards. Water’s Flowin’ is just a magical song with an amazing vibe and spirit. We were trying to get a great acoustic guitar sound, and Mick mentioned he had an electric 12 string, I immediately thought that would be a great intro sound, and it worked amazing. I also love the vocal production we did, Bernie really knocked it out of the park.
After hearing the Heep album – Take Away My Soul really stands out. Any recall on this one?
Take Away My Soul is great. Andy Sneap (Judas Priest producer) came and hung out with us this day, and Mick was blazing through takes of the outro guitar solo that’s like 3 minutes long. It was a super fun day, and that’s a great song.
Were you happy with the final product? [as a Heep fan I think it is amazing]. any hiccups?
No hiccups whatsoever! I’m really happy with the record. I think the songs are amazing and the band performed top notch in the studio. There is no weak link in Heep!! Each of them are total pro’s with great attention to detail and the desire to make great art.
What other projects do you have on the go ?
I recently mixed the new Coheed and Cambria record. I’ve also been traveling a little bit this summer, doing some work in Sweden. That project will remain un-named for now. I’m also gearing up to start another Steel Panther record later this year.
What music do you listen to on your own time?
I still listen to a lot of Led Zeppelin, David Gray, Eagles, 80’s new wave and some metal. I love Ghost, Opeth, and a pop band called St.Lucia.
More reading on Jay: