The Ramones Reissue ‘Rocket to Russia’ — Meet Their Engineer

The Ramones Reissue ‘Rocket to Russia’ — Meet Their Engineer

The Ramones’ Rocket to Russia turns 40 this year, which means a fresh, new reissue is hitting streaming services today (November 24).

With liner notes by Sire Records founder Seymour Stein, Creem magazine co-founder Jaan Uhelszki and Rocket to Russia engineer/mixer Ed Stasium, the reissue spans three CDs and features two mixes of the album, scads of previously unreleased recordings and a live concert recorded at the Apollo Centre in Glasgow, Scotland on December 19, 1977.

TIDAL spoke with Stasium before the reissue’s release to find out more about working with the Ramones and what to expect from the new package.

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On recording the original… We recorded the tracks in a studio called Media Sound in New York City, which was a Baptist Church. It was a huge room. … I had the privilege to work with the producer Roy Thomas Baker in 1975. He started informing [me] about using room microphones and room sounds and getting the ambiance, not just the direct sound of an amplifier or the direct sound of drums.

[So] when we went in to do the tracking for Rocket to Russia, I picked up a few room microphones as well as [set up] the close microphones on the instruments. I didn’t really use those room microphones on the original mixes to a great extent. I had them in there a little bit.

On new additions… [When we unearthed the] multi-tracks [for the new box set], I was so startled by the sound of [the room microphones] that I decided to make what is called a tracking mix, which is basically the band playing. We did all those takes live [back then] — no click track.

So, I basically made this new mix… with no overdubs, with no extra guitars, no background vocals, no percussion. Just the Ramones in the room. Pretty much Ramones all the time. It just sounded fantastic.

Fortunately, there were usually about two or three tracks of Joey’s vocal. … So I was able to make vocal comps. I compiled those different tracks to make a new vocal. So we have the guys — Tommy, Johnny and Dee Dee — rocking out the room with one track of Joey doing vocals and it’s just really exciting. I think the fans are going to love it.

We also have a live [performance recording] in Glasgow that’s never been released. That was the first show that we recorded for what was to be an album called It’s Alive, which never had its proper release in the United States. It’s rocking. They’re at peak performance. Tommy sounds amazing on it and the band just sounds great on it. It’s just the Ramones raw. It’s fantastic.

There’s also an acoustic version of ‘Here Today, Gone Tomorrow’ with John on acoustic guitar and Joey singing. You can hear Johnny whispering the count and the stops in the song. It’s really touching, gave me chills when I listened to it.

Just a lot of good, fun stuff. I actually found in my archives a Rocket to Russia radio spot promo that Joey and I did in the Sire Records basement. Sire Records had a brownstone on 73rd Street in Manhattan for years. I built a little studio in the basement. So we have a radio spot with Joey saying: ‘This is our new record, Rocket to Russia.’ It’s really cool.

On losing the Ramones…  The core is not with us anymore and that’s really unfortunate. Spiritually, I felt them with me when I was doing this. I wish the guys were around to work with me on these projects, but unfortunately they’re not and I did have them definitely in spirit behind my back. I remember all their voices distinctively and while I was working on this, I could literally hear them talking to me.

[I heard Johnny say]: ‘No extra guitars. I don’t want any of those extra guitars on there.’ But yeah, I kept them all in mind while I was doing this and I think they would especially enjoy the 40th anniversary tracking mix that I did. It’s just really powerful. It sounds great.

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