An interview with
Steve Hoffman (2015)
By Beppe Colli
May 29, 2015
of the blue, I got news about a soon-to-appear re-release by US
"audiophile label" Audio Fidelity of a "Best Of" album by
The Doors I had never heard about. Titled - no surprise here - The Best Of The
Doors, the album was originally released in 1973, but in so differently from 13
- the first "Best Of" by the group released in 1970, when Jim
Morrison, the group's charismatic singer, was still alive - the album appeared
in the at the time pioneering format called CD-4 QuadraDisc (of course, the tag
CD is not related to the CD format as it's nowadays understood, the Compact
Disc being just a glimpse in the future).
new SACD edition released by Audio Fidelity features a two-channel version
mastered by ace (re)master engineer Steve Hoffman, and the original
Quadraphonic version done at the time by Doors producer Paul Rothchild. Opening
with the live track Who Do You Love?, by Bo Diddley, the "Best Of"
features both great hits and album tracks such as Soul Kitchen, Hello, I Love
You, People Are Strange, Riders On The Storm, Touch Me, Love Her Madly, Love Me
Two Times, Take It As It Comes, Moonlight Drive, and Light My Fire.
appeared as the right moment to have a relaxed chat with Steve Hoffman, who
kindly answered the questions I sent him via e-mail at the start of the week.
If you don't mind, I'd like to start this conversation
asking you to go back in time: Would you mind talking about how, and when, you
first became familiar with the music of The Doors, and what was your first
heard Light My Fire (short version) on the radio in 1967 and really liked it.
My mother would take us to the beach and everyone had their little transistor
radios set to the same station and when Light My Fire came on, we would all
hold our breath wondering if the station would play the edit or the long version.
When they played the long one everyone cheered, believe it or not. My dad
bought me their first album and I've loved them ever since.
At the time, it was definitely not uncommon for the music of
many rock groups to undergo fast, abrupt changes, in terms of both the music
being played and their recorded sound, and The Doors were certainly no
exception. How did you see the group's trajectory, at the time?
you mean what did I think of how their music evolved? I enjoyed everything up
until The Soft Parade and then they lost me. I came back to them with L.A.
Woman and now I love The Soft Parade mainly because I'm not tired of listening
It was thanks to this new Audio Fidelity release of The Best
Of The Doors that I first got to know about this album. At the time of its
original release (1973), I already owned all their albums, so I was not
interested in a "Best Of", the only one I knew being 13 (1970), which
a friend of mine had. I've read that The Best Of The Doors was originally
released in Quadraphonic Sound, but of course you created this new,
multi-channel layer that's featured in the new SACD. Would you mind talking
about your goal in creating this new multi-channel version?
didn't create a multi-channel version, this is the ORIGINAL quadraphonic four
channel mix done by Paul Rothchild in 1973 that we are reissuing (for the first
time anywhere). Audio Fidelity thought it was a great album to do for SACD and
we are very excited about it. The original LP was actually quad only for many
years until they issued a stereo version of it.
I assume that when it comes to the featured songs, when
possible, you had access to the original tapes. Would you mind talking about
this? (Is it true that in order to get the tapes you had to wear two jackets
and a coat?)
mastered all songs from the original elements, yes. The Doors Vault in
Hollywood is nicely organized but very cold inside. Not a big fan of hanging
around in there.
Of course, this is not the first time you've remastered the
music of The Doors. If I'm not mistaken, you remastered a few titles (their
first two?) for DCC, The Soft Parade and Morrison Hotel for Audio Fidelity, and
now The Best Of The Doors. Has your attitude when it comes to mastering their
music changed in time? (I mean, you chose two different paths when remastering
Joni Mitchell's Blue, for DCC and - later - Rhino, when it came to tonality.)
remastered all of the Doors issued albums for DCC/Audio Fidelity. Most (if not
all) other reissues both digital and LP seem to go for a hard, thin sound. I
enjoy the true sound of the master tapes which are warm and full so that is the
way I choose to master their music. That hasn't changed at all for me, my
mastering style is the same as it was back in the 1990s...
the Doors "Best Of" (the two-track part) I didn't tamper with much,
the songs sound like Bruce Botnick wanted them to sound for the most part. I
did NOT thin out the bass like other versions though. They will all sound a bit
mellower than most people are used to. This is the actual sonic signature of
Would you mind talking about a few of the songs that appear
on this Best Of? As a listener, I always found it strange that the first album
was talked about as sounding "live in the studio", when I could hear
the (quite elaborate-sounding) engineering work on Light My Fire, particularly
the drums, or what to me sounded like a drums overdub in Soul Kitchen. The more
spare-sounding People Are Strange has always been one of my favourite songs.
And I have a soft spot for Hello, I Love You, my first Doors single, which to
me sounds quite dramatic and well-conceived (the "whooooooosh" after
the line "When she moves my brain screams out this song"), despite
the usual accusations of "commerciality". Your take on your favourite
songs on the album?
I find the track listing of this Quad “Best Of” strange all the way around, but
that is what Elektra chose at the time so that is what we are going with as
well. All of the songs (with the exception of the opening live track) are well
known to me as I've heard them all of my life. As I discovered during mastering
of this disk, I never get tired of hearing them again (and again). They are
part of my life...
Talking about Bruce Botnick: Is there a side of his studio
work when it comes to the music of The Doors that you regard as being
especially noteworthy? (For me, one of the best sounds ever is the timbre of
the guitar solo on When The Music's Over.)
was (is) an amazing engineer. His work with the Doors is always spot on, I
admire his ability to get it right. The first Doors album, recorded on
four-track with tubes (valves) has a unique sound that I enjoy, but by the time
of Strange Days, Sunset Sound went to the eight track tape machine and a new
console which changed the sound in the room, not better or worse, just
different. I am fond of their first album and I think Strange Days and the
third (Waiting For The Sun) are my favorites as well, having spent my childhood
enjoying them. These days I play Strange Days the most.
I'm especially curious about your opinion of Morrison Hotel
(which, though is often regarded as being "a return to the simplicity of
their first two albums", is quite layered and "punchy", and
timbrally almost congested - hope this makes sense).
Hotel is my least favorite Doors album (I know it is a favorite of many people)
but it never did anything for me back then. I enjoy it now but when I'm in a
Doors mood I reach for 1, 2 or 3 and top them off with L.A. Woman...
It appears to me that people have greeted and adopted a lot
of technical advances when it comes to images (large screens, 3D), less so when
it comes to sound, when practicality and portability seem to prevail. Do you
see a future for "hi-fi sound", or have people become so accustomed
to reduced dynamic range that all "advances in sound" will remain
future for Hi-Fi sound? Not really, just a fringe element like always, about
½% of music lovers care about how the music sounds, sad to say. But, as
we old guys are dying off, the kids really don't care about holding an LP in
their hand, reading the notes, etc. A few do, yes, the ones that are
photographed in record stores buying up the latest vinyl but that's just a fad,
I believe. I hope I'm wrong.
A more general question. It's been said that nowadays music
appreciation as it was once common - i.e., sitting still in the sweet spot,
with undivided attention, for a long time - is no more, in the age of
multitasking. Do you think this to be mostly true - and what does it foresee
for the future of appreciation of music, both old and new?
what I wrote above, only older people can even sit still any more, music or not
so, I'm pretty sure that music for the masses will be even more on the downward
slide, sad to say.
Beppe Colli 2015
| May 29, 2015