Quick Questions for Steven Mandel - Producer/Engineer For Elvis Costello and the Roots

Note-Tation: Doug Plourd: 2nd January 2014.

When I was finishing up the Top 12 Records of 2013 series, I reached out to Steven Mandel(@stevenmandel) to get a few thoughts about MY #1 album of the year, Wise Up Ghost. Steven produced, engineered and mixed the album, as well as lending his song writing skills. He was gracious enough to take the time to respond to the quick email with some very insightful thoughts.

- Was there any particular track that was hard to have come together?

The track that was hard to come together was the first one we worked on and ended up as a bonus track. Can You HEAR Me. We almost had Crosby & Nash doing the backgrounds but in the end it was Elvis and Kirk. They never sat right so in the mix stage I really had to buckle down and move them around so they would feel right. This was the track I worked on the longest I believe, partly because it's over 6 minutes. With lots of vocal parts and horn parts.The climactic ending alone took me a virtual lifetime to be "satisfied" with.

- Do you have a favorite track? One that when completed, you knew you had something special?

My favorite track is Grenade. Felt I had helped create a Costello track that was both unique and also something his fans would understand. But the title track is something, when completed, I knew would be on Elvis Costello Compilations til the end of time.

- My favorite track is the title song. The callback to the North album is brilliant. (and made me audibly gasp when I heard the melody come up) How did this song come together?

Wise Up Ghost started when, after we began work on the album, I realized I should explore some of Elvis's albums I wasn't an expert on, like North. Heard the intro to Can You Be True while driving from NY to Philly. Upon arriving in Philly at 2am or so, went straight to the studio to loop it. Had to continue the next day and was able to find a good way to loop it a certain way that made sense for a new song. Added some fx and sent it to Elvis. He immediately wrote those lyrics and then we recorded the vocals in Vancouver shortly thereafter. Drums, horns, bass, guitars all came later in NY and Philly. Theres 2 passes of drums, one in the left channel and one in the right. Both are live passes, in other words, not looped. In fact, besides the North loop, all the instruments are live full passes.

- Is there a second record on the horizon?

There is no 2nd EC & Roots on the horizon. But I hope to continue pairing up EC and Quest. Perhaps for an album of some sort.