A MEETING WITH THE MIXMASTER, PART 2: An Interview With Tom Moulton

The second part of Schlockmania’s exclusive Tom Moulton interview continues with Tom discussing some of his recent projects as well as his thoughts on other forms of media.  Fans will definitely want to read this as there’s some very interesting info to be gleaned from it…

You’ve continued to do plenty of mixing projects since the disco era, like the recent Brand New Heavies album remix.  Out of stuff you’ve done in the last decade or so, what have been your favorite mix projects?

Probably Cool Million and Philly Regrooved.  I am working on so many things, it’s difficult to pick one or two.  When I finally get a CD of the albums then I get to enjoy the project as a completed one.

How has the rise of computer-driven musical technology influenced/altered your approach to mixing?

I have always been a stereo nut and I have always been a believer in it.  There is some new software that is pretty remarkable and there are a number of different ways to do it.  They all take a lot of work to achieve results which proves out the saying “You Only Get Out Of It What You Put Into It.”

Continuing on the subject of recent projects, I’d love to hear about your forthcoming Philly Re-Grooved remix album.  How did this project come to be and what influenced your choices of material for it?  And do you have any favorites from this project that you think might become breakout hits with the modern disco crowd?

The two songs on the project that have a more modern Philly Sound are one that I pushed for – “Don’t Put Me Down” by Finishing Touch (unreleased) – and the track that Ian Dewhurst insisted I do (I’m glad he did), “Whatcha Gonna Do?’ by Heaven N’ Hell.  I am really fond of both of those and they have a down-tempo feel that drives me crazy – so soulful.  The reason this project happened was  because of Reid Whitelaw.  I had mixed a couple favorites of mine on Philly Groove and made extended versions.  Reid asked me if I wanted to do some more, which I did, and then he got the idea to do an another volume of Philadelphia Classics (he along with so many others kept asking me when there is going to  be a volume two). This one fits the bill.   I am very proud of this project and I feel like I spent a lot  of time with some friends that I haven’t been with for a long time.  Makes me feel very melancholy because so many of them aren’t with us anymore.

Another recent project of note is the remasters of the first two Bionic Boogie albums you’ve done for the FunkyTown Grooves label.  What are the challenges of remastering vintage music like this for compact disc?  And what are your thoughts on the albums themselves?

When I was asked to get involved with the two albums, I listened to the tapes and saw they were mixed knowing what the vinyl limitations were.  It was a challenge and a thrill at the same time because I liked both of these albums and I wanted to capture the feel and sound that they had on me when I first heard them.

Continuing on the subject of compact discs, it has become a trend to cut CDs with very “hot” sound levels.  What are your feelings on this trend and are there any examples of this approach that you consider particularly egregious?

I didn’t maximize the Bionic Boogie albums because you lose all the dynamics.  You lose they beauty of the music and all you get is this runaway train coming at you.  Maximizing music is really an attitude.  It’s like the music is in your face and it’s aggressive.  Why would you want to destroy the mood of a love song or the beauty of a great arrangement just so your CD can be as loud as everyone else’s?  LIke I always say: “Not everyone follows the flute player.”

I’m sure fans would like to hear what you like to listen to from the current music scene.  Are there any albums/groups/singles from the last few years that you think are outstanding?

Again, there isn’t that much that really gets me of the new stuff.  People always seem to follow each other.  When someone is really good at a sound and has success at it, everyone seems to copy.  Why would you want to be a bad carbon copy of someone when you can create your own thing and have it mainly to yourself?  I always tell people why would you want to be like me?  I am the best at being me.  Go beyond me take my style to another level.  There are so many things you can do.  Just go for it!

And now, the b-side to the previous question: Are there any examples of current music that aggravate you?  If so, please explain why.

As soon as I hear anything that I would put into the MUSIC category today, I will let you know.  When the gimmicks and production far succeed the so-called copyright, you got problems.

I’ll move on to a few non-musically oriented questions about your other interests.  I hear you are big wrestling fan – any stories to tell about Ric Flair or Dusty Rhoads?  I also hear there is a story about you taking on the Grand Wizard Of Wrestling with your car!  Care to elaborate for us?

When Ric Flair in his humble opinion of himself says ” I Am The Baddest Piece Of Business This Side Of The Mississippi,” he is just telling you that he knows his shit.  I like people like that.  As for the Grand Wizard Of Wrestling, I  was coming back from Philadelphia about 4:30 in the morning and I was passing by Madison Square Garden.  The Grand wizard was crossing the street.  I disliked him so much I would have run him over if there were no other people around me.  His voice and attitude was so aggravating and I believed at the time I WOULD BE DOING THE WORLD A FAVOR.  Message: Don’t get too involved with watching wrestling.

I also hear you are a “cat person.”  Has this always been the case?  Any stories to share about your feline friends?

I have always been a cat person. I like their independence and they seem to always do what they want (sounds very familiar).  They really bring a lot of joy into my life, along with the music.

I was also advised that I should ask about your thoughts on the Two And A Half Men and Mel Gibson.  Please give us your thought on these subjects (inquiring schlock fiends want to know!).

Two and a Half Men is one of my favorite TV shows and I don’t care what Charlie has done. NO CHARLIE?  NO SHOW!  As for Mel Gibson, he needs a good spanking and someone should rub a bar of soap in his mouth!  He sounds like he is from the  mid-1950’s.

I’ll bring things full circle with one more disco-oriented question.  If someone who wanted to learn about disco approached you and requested five album recommendations, what would you choose and why?

Well, you would have to select 5 albums that they could compare to the originals to at least understand my approach.

Philadelphia Classics
Disco Gold volumes 1 & 2
The Disco Champs
WestBound Sizzlers

I’ll close by showing my gratitude for your participation in this interview.  If there are any upcoming projects you wish to mention or anything at all you’d like to convey to Schlockmania’s readers, please feel free to have the last say…

If you are the mixer and you want to do something, go by what you feel and don’t be afraid to take a chance that you might fail.  I always trust my feelings and it’s never let me down.  Remember when people say to you MUSIC ISN”T HAPPENING ANYMORE tells them it’s time to bring it back!!!!

3 Replies to “A MEETING WITH THE MIXMASTER, PART 2: An Interview With Tom Moulton”

  1. I love his comments on mastering, but I only wish Harmless had let him master the upcoming Philly Regrooved collection himself…cause I’ve now heard an advance and it is SLAMMED BEYOND ALL RECOGNITION.

    I knew in my gut Moulton didn’t master this himself, and now that I’ve read his quote above, I’m sure of it.

    His mixes are exquisite…and the mastering damn near ruins the whole set. “Armed And Extremely Dangerous” is the worst offender, a piercing ear bleeder if I ever heard one.


  2. You are correct. Tom didnt master the finished CD. He did the indivudual remixes, yes- but not the final mastering.

    That’s a distinction that seems to go over the head of a lot of people- but you nailed it.

    For the uninitiated- you know how one of your Marvin Gaye “Whats Going On” cds sounds different than the other? Or James Brown “Payback” sounds ONE way on one CD and different on ANOTHER? That’s because of the mastering. Not because of Marvin or James (lol).

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