w. How did you first get 'into' Mike's music?
MB: I was about 14 or 15. Older brother and me repaired old turntables that played 78 rpm records. We borrowed or bought some new and second hand records. I remember we got McCartney 1, Lennon's Imagine, Jethro Tull Benefit and Wakeman No Earthly Connection... Yeah and Blue Double Album from Beatles. I convinced my sisters (they were 13 years old), that we really needed stereo equipment, so we started to save money for reel to reel tape recorder. When we bought the recorder, my brother brought two records I never heard before: Yes - Close to the Edge and Oldfield - Tubular Bells. My cousin bought at the time a brand new turntable with MM pickup and stroboscope and automatic lifting... so that was the way everything started.
w: What was the process that led you to re-master and 'weed' Hergest Ridge? Has the album always been special to you, or were you responding more to the demand for the original mix on CD?
MB: I heard HR for first time at university. I bought the second hand SQ version of Boxed. So you know, I was aware that that is not original, but I didn't care too much about different versions. Oldfield had lost me at the time, partly because of the song format and partly because I was hunting for different stuff. I have to admit that I returned back to my roots with TB2 and decided to complete my collection of MO CDs after TBr was released.
That was the time I subscribed to Amarok for the first time. I tried to acquire 'Airborn' somewhere. I have got it once on vinyl and I love the live rendition of TB and Incantations medley. Rainer Muenz is the kind man who send me Airborn tracks plus bonus disc full of rarities. I have started to collect audio cleanup software from my w#a#r#e#z friend, and try to mess around with acquired waves. I remastered Vinyl Rarities, Airborn, Pekka Pohjola MAD, Wakeman's NEC, White Rock, Gole, Burning before I had started to work on OrigHR, so I was quite experienced ;-)
I knew that there is strong demand for OrigHR, regardless that the part 1 is included on OrchHR. I analyzed the track on OrchHR, and the result was that if I could get the unplayed vinyl, I would be able to achieve better results than Marcus Junglas did with OrchHR. Have to say I bought HR on LP, but it was awful quality - I needed better source for remastering. I bought the sealed LP on eBay (btw, there were two bidders for the item - me and "carmay", does that ring a bell? :))))
Hell, I almost had a heart attack when I unsealed the LP and it was red/green label - fortunately it turned out to be original mix.
w: Do YOU think Mikey made a mistake by re-mixing Hergest Ridge the way he has on all the CD pressings? What do you think his intention was? Do you think he would mind what you've done?
MB: I don't think that it is a mistake that he re-mixed the original - the mistake is that he (maybe) scrapped the original. I see the original mix as integral transition from TB to O. The remixed TB, HR and O belong, in an evolutionary sense, after Ommadawn. Simply Boxed HR is too different for me to integrate it between TB and O. I hope that Mike takes this challenge to try to stick together the old tape and allow Simon Heyworth to remaster it ;-)
w: You seem a pretty technically aware guy. Is audio part of your working life? Or are you a keen hobbyist?
MB: I am hobbyist. I actually work in a finance department, responsible for balancing the company's budget. On the other hand I have got technical education - I am a graduated chemical engineer. I think it quite helps when you know what Fourier transformation is, what time frame you have to get to be able filter at a given frequency. But as I once said to my friend Pablo Aylon, the thing you need most is patience.
w: What do you listen to your music on, these days. Old tin boxes, or do you have a good hi-fi? Do you have a favourite Mikey CD? What other non-Mikey music do you enjoy?
MB: I have quite a lot of equipment by my country's standards, but most of mine are pretty commonplace machines. I have 6 main speakers, one centre, and two rears, 3 stereo amps and two class A mono amps, phono MM preamp (NAD PP01) and pretty simple turntable (Orig HR was recorded on it) that I bought before CD player was invented.
I really like TB1, HR, O, INC, A, TB2 and TSODE, but if I have to choose one it would be most probably Amarok.
Of other stuff, I enjoy obvious selection of Pink Floyd, Yes, Jethro Tull, Renaissance, Genesis... just when I thought everybody had given up "prog" music, I've found out (of course via Internet) that they haven't :> So the stuff I am discovering recently is Porcupine Tree, Spock's Beard, Flower Kings to mention maybe most known bands.
w: Were any parts of the re-master more difficult than others? The choir plus bells at the end seems to me to really stretch the vinyl (even the good vinyl!) to the limit. Was it an automatic or a "hands on" approach that you took to the re-master?
MB: Good question! I tell you there was time I thought that whole project is lost because of two small bumps at the start of part one. Everytime the needle crosses the bump there was this anoying 'plop'. Imagine low frequency click - it sounded like the very end of vinyl where the leedout groove join the final circle. That is not the click that spans 10, 20 or even 50 samples (i.e. 4400 Hz, 2200 Hz, 880 Hz). This was something about 100-200 Hz i.e. 200 to 400 samples long. Fortunately at the start of part one are no bass instruments. To be concise here is the short list what I have done to remove those "plops":
- cutting out damaged part (about 40 secs if I recall correctly)
- removing signals above 250 Hz via low pass filter
- inverting the result after the filtration
- fading out end of file (to not generate another plop because of sharp connection of filtered and unfiltered signals)
- mixing the inverted low-frequency signal with the original signal
Yup! Success!! The plops are removed. It takes about two weeks of experimenting.
To answer to last part of question let me explain the process of LP2CD transfer (courtesy of MB ;)
Recording RAW wave file - I record from very start to very end of vinyl, i.e. there needs to be recorded as much sound of grooves as possible. Sample rate is 48 kHz. Maybe it looks unnecessary but it decreases calculation errors in time/frequency domain. Great care is taken to avoid clipping.
First stage of remastering - removing DC offset, frequency analysis to determine possibility of removing subsonic frequencies, subsonic filtration. This is faqing important thing, it can give you another 20dB N/S gain (even more on the LPs produced at 80s, unfortunately that is not case of HR)
Second stage - DECLICKING - this is "manual" process, i.e. the clicks have to be located then removed. I locate the clicks visualy via spectral view (haha, you may be completely deaf and still you can remove the clicks - if the musicians dont hit the bell).
I have "bad" experience with automatic declicking, some natural sharp sounds are removed or "modified" at least (bells, glockenspiel, percussions). Although the vinyl was sealed there were parts containing 1000 clicks per minute. Of course you you firstly can hear maybe ten clicks, but when you have removed those most audible, you will start to hear next ten. Even last one is important (OK maybe not but you can't tell important from unimportant) As you can see this is the part that takes most patience and most of time (from weeks to months, I was able to remove some 400 clicks per hour, on average). I dont make a mistake if I say that there was about 600 clicks per minute that means about 30 hours of hard decliking - assuming I needed about 10 hours for locating of clicks.
Third stage - DENOISING - I am using for it great software called Sound Laundry, i.e. this process is completely automated, just few trial/error experiments to set the right parameters. Of course very important part of succesful denoising is to have representative "noiseprint". But I have recorded almost whole lead in/out grooves, havent I ;>
Stage left, Exit - mastering waves for CD, writing cue sheet, and so on.
w: Martin, you seem a modest kinda guy. How do you feel about the title: Amaroker of the Millennium?
MB: Haha, I feel kinda dizzy. I tell you something stupid: I think I don't deserve the title, but I like it.
w: It must be very satisfying to have had the idea, got it made, and then to so successfully weed it. Are you the digital 'Robin Hood' of the Mike Oldfield community?! :)
MB: Yes it is great to become known from New Zealand, across Europe to Canada. Although I do not consider myself as Robin Hood, I decided to give my work out for free and get my work into the hands of as many Oldfield fans as possible (and become famous the way you make me famous, by the way how much is the title Amaroker of Millenium worth in Aus$ ;)
w: about $4.50 ;>
w. What would you like to see Mike do next? Are you hopeful about SVR, or would you rather he made a 'real' record.
MB: I would like to hear from Mike some realy challenging music again, you know something like Amarok or TSODE at least (hi Robert :)
w: What would you most like to do in your life that you haven't yet done?
MB: see Down Under, definitely.
ahhhh - well said, Martin ;> There's such a lot of it to see, but you will always be welcome. Thanks mate, for your time and patience.
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