“I am sometimes overwhelmed, moved to tears or action, by the words and music and images of friends and heroes alike. In those feelings, in that flood, the power and potential to wash away the poison of our present moment are tangible, close. Your art – it is powerful and real.” – Chris Walla
Writer, musician and record producer Chris Walla is best known as a founding member of iconic indie band, Death Cab for Cutie. For 17 years, from 1997-2014, he was the guitarist, co-writer and producer on the band’s albums. His production work with the band laid the template for the “indie-rock” sound and continues to reverberate through popular music.
Though he came to prominence as the guitarist/producer in Death Cab for Cutie, Walla had always planned on a career as a record producer. In fact, Death Cab started with Walla recording high school friend Ben Gibbard on his 4-track recorder. As the band began to tour, Walla connected with like-minded musicians who wanted his help recording their music. Soon, his recordings started to get the industry’s attention (his production of Hot, Hot Heat for Subpop that sparked a bidding war and saw the band sign to Warner Brothers Records).
The turning point came with the release of Death Cab’s Transatlanticism album which went gold. The sonic signatures of those albums defined a generation. Death Cab signed to Atlantic and has gone on to have multiple platinum records and hit songs.
Meanwhile, Chris’ producer ear was in high demand but his limited time was dedicated to a handful of artists he felt had the potential to do something special. More often than not he was right. His work with The Decemberists, Tegan & Sara, Nada Surf, Youth Group and more proved hugely influential.
Walla has recorded and released two solo albums. The first, titled Field Manual, is a traditional pop-rock record on which he wrote, played, sang and recorded everything. The second, Tape Loops, an ambient exploration utilizing homemade loops of tape, brings to mind the ambient works of Brian Eno.
Since leaving the band, his production work includes collaborations with Lo Moon, Wild Child, Foxing, S, The Thermals, William Fitzsimmons, and Braids.
Asked to describe his style behind the console, Walla says he is fond of the adage “the first rule of record production is to do no harm.” He is quick to add that he doesn’t believe he always succeeds in adhering to this philosophy. “I think it’s really easy to miscalculate the route between where a band is and what a band wants. My style as a producer, inasmuch as I have one, is to try and find that path.” – Consequence of Sound