Imagine for a moment that your arsenal of plug-ins was your spice rack in your kitchen, or if the idea of cooking sends you out in a cold sweat, then the spice rack of a restaurant. Now think about how much you apply to a mix and then think about eating a meal with that spice combo in it.
Plug-ins are not bad, but the over or under use of plug-ins can ruin a good song, just like the misuse of spices can ruin a good meal.
I once went to a restaurant owned by a top celebrity chef, I won’t say who he is, but he does spend his time telling both schools and Americans how to eat. I was so looking forward to the meal but when it arrived it was disappointing, it was bland and had no flavour. Conversely, there is a Indian restaurant in the North of England that serves the ‘Chicken Bastard’, it is supposed to be the hottest curry around and anyone who finishes it doesn’t have to pay.
Spices in the wrong hands are worse than not bothering to cook with them, plug-ins are the same. I actually have a spice bible that explains to me what each spice does and how it works with other spices. Fantastic food is made by those who know what to add and what to leave out.
Processing a mix can be just the same, using plug-ins with skill is what makes a great mix. Sometimes the track may be an amazingly fresh piece of steak or fish, then all it needs is a dash of salt and pepper. Another time a mix may need a complex blend of compression, reverb, eq, distortion, filters, just like creating an amazing and complex curry.
There may be times when your mix needs ten green chillies, but not all the time and you know what, some people could improve their mixes by turning all their plug-ins off!