a few weeks ago, one of our top LP fan sites, LP association, posted an old demo version of one step closer, back when it was still called “plaster.” they did a piece on the article which seemed to be searching for facts and trying to figure out the authenticity of the recording. i heard it, and i thought i’d try to help out.
the track found on their link is actually a rough of the song in its final stages, after we had finished all the recording, but before a final mix. we were trying to decide who should mix the album, and we had our hearts set on andy wallace. our A&R guy’s boss at WB was david kahne.
according to our A&R guy at the time: david was one of the people who wasn’t 100% impressed with our band and our sound, and wanted to take a crack at mixing this song in order to improve things (and obviously try to convince us to let him mix the record). this may or may not be true, but that’s what we were told. obviously, david did a good job (the lpassociation mp3 is his mix)…but we decided to stick with our gut and go with andy. we had a feeling that andy, who mixed nirvana’s “nevermind,” would be a better fit for us.
some of the differences you can hear between “plaster” and the final album mix (by andy wallace)…
the main things that i remember sticking out to me when i first heard it was that david’s mix made the verses sound thick (because of the low end) and therefore the choruses lost a little bit of their punch.
some samples also stood out. the camera shutter-ish samples you hear in david’s mix are actually in the final andy wallace mix as well, but they’re mixed quieter (and thinner, i think). we liked them quieter in andy’s mix because they put more emphasis on the groove of rob’s drums.
finally, a deciding factor for brad and i against david’s mix was the edit to the “shut up” stuff–putting it in the intro. it made it sound like a remix, and ruined the surprise of the “shut up” coming in during the bridge (our thought was: if you’ve already heard that vocal part, the bridge packs less of a punch. it ruined the climax). that made me feel like we didn’t really see eye-to-eye on this mix, so although the mix was good overall, we chose to have andy mix the song and album.
in david’s interview with lpassociaton, he is (understandably) fuzzy about the details of our relationship back then. maybe it’s because he was dealing with many bands, while we, on the other hand, were only dealing with one album, and one label. hopefully i can help out by putting some details out there. david wasn’t involved with us when mark was in the band–he may have heard of us, but he didn’t work on our stuff. he did, however, get involved a bit once we were in the studio, by hearding demos and giving feedback–the same thing many label people and A&R folks do.
as you’ve heard, though, much of the feedback we got from the label at that time didn’t line up with the album we wanted to make or the band we wanted to be, so we chose to follow our own path.
the good and bad news about “plaster” is that i can’t think of another, earlier demo of the song that would really exist. the only step before this one probably wouldn’t have included any lyrics, but all the instrumental tracks would essentially be the same. as we wrote the song, we immediately recorded it, so that is to say there is only one recording; the first notes of the demo were in the same protools file that the song was finished in. there are no “live” demos, nor “garage recordings” of the song. so this version of “plaster” might be the earliest version out there.