Van Halen Engineer Discusses Recording The Band's Debut Album

(hennemusic) Van Halen redefined hard rock with their 1978 self-titled debut, and engineer Donn Landee talks about recording the project in a new, and rare, interview.

Working alongside producer Ted Templeman, Landee describes the demo session for the album. "They cut 28 songs in about two hours," he tells Songwriter 101. "That's when we knew we had a band that could play."

On the first week of January 1978, Van Halen convened inside Sunset Sound's Studio 1. In order to capture the raw energy of the group's club work, Landee and Templeman decided on a no-overdubs approach.

"They'd barely had any studio experience," remembers Landee. "It was obvious that in time they would become proficient at making records, but at that point, we really wanted to get them before they really knew what they were doing - just have them come in and play and then get them out."

"So we spent very little time in pre-production; in fact, we treated the entire first album almost like it was a demo," Landee continues. "There are only a couple of spots where we added anything afterwards - on 'Runnin' With The Devil' and 'Jamie's Cryin' - and those were done in one take. And we didn't use very many tracks at all. Alex's drums were probably cut using only four mics total. Even when we moved over to Ed's 5150 studio, we still did the entire band on 16-track and had room left over at the end. You just don't need a lot of tracks to get a great sound." more on this story

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