The ace guitarist/producer/wizard of all trades on remastering his band's Greatest Hits, the misnomer of "perfect" sound, and why analog rules.
By Mike MettlerSound & Vision
July/August 2008Why did you decide to remaster the Boston Greatest Hits CD (Epic/Legacy)?
For one thing, the other Greatest Hits
CD [from 1997] was horrible-sounding — not as bad as Third Stage
], but it was an older CD, back from the days when Pro Tools was still a fledgling thing, and a lot of that mastering was done in 16 bits. I knew it was substandard, and I really wanted to redo it and get it right. This gave me the opportunity to put the same kind of care into it that I put into the  remastering of the first two albums, Boston
and Don't Look Back
. We dug out the analog tapes, baked them, transferred them, and started from scratch. And I'm really ecstatic about the way it sounds now.What did you have to do to make Hits a better release?
We fixed things like drums that weren't right, or vocals that were too screechy. In terms of sequencing, depending on what comes before and after, we had to make minor EQ changes song to song so that the perception was consistent with the rest of the recordings. It's a very difficult line to walk. The hardest judgment to make is figuring out where something is wrong because it's rough, and where something is right
because it's rough. And I had to be careful not to eliminate what made something human and gave it feeling versus going for "perfection." Mathematically perfect music really sucks. [both laugh
] You have to know when to leave it alone.Did you initiate the project, or did you have to step in on something that was going to happen anyway?
No, I wanted to do it. I started working on this back in March 2006, or a little before that. I think I had sent Sony some proposals to do it, and they liked the idea. I was almost done with it right before [singer] Brad [Delp's] suicide [in March 2007], which, you know, stopped the project. And, basically, I wasn't able to pick it back up again until almost a year later.Did your song choices change at all during that time?
I had "I Had a Good Time" for the opening song, which was the last, lead-off single released from [2002's] Corporate America
. . .