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How do you capture the essence of pure rock & roll? For Mike Fraser and AC/DC, the answer was simple: get the sound right at source, track to analogue tape, and don’t mess about with the results!
Mike Fraser at the Neve desk in Warehouse Studio Two, where Black Ice was recorded.
Black Ice, AD/DC’s first album in eight years, debuted at number one in an amazing 29 countries, and within 10 days of its release on October 20, had already outsold its predecessor Stiff Upper Lip (2000) by five to one. Black Ice was recorded and mixed by Mike Fraser. Known for his work with heavy rock acts such as Aerosmith, Metallica, Van Halen and Joe Satriani, but also with Elvis Costello, Kelly Rowland and Norah Jones, the Canadian engineer and producer has engineered and mixed all AC/DC’s studio albums since The Razor’s Edge, enjoyed a mix credit on Live (1992) and also clocked up an additional co-production credit for Ballbreaker (1995).
Canadian legend Bruce Fairbairn produced The Razor’s Edge and Live, Rick Rubin and Fraser co-produced Ballbreaker, Stiff Upper Lip was produced by George Young (the older brother of the band’s guitarists, Malcolm and Angus), and Black Ice is produced by Brendan O’Brien, well-known for his work with Bruce Springsteen. With different producers involved each time, one might expect the recording process for each of these albums to be rather different. However, according to Fraser, there was not much between them.
“Each producer had a slightly different working method,” explains Fraser, “but the band play the way they play, and they know what they’re doing, so there’s not a lot of coaching to be done. They have good instruments and the sounds come quickly, and because they pretty much do the whole record live, with only a few overdubs, the whole thing doesn’t take a lot of time. We recorded and mixed Black Ice in eight weeks!