The IGF Entertainment Barn Music Series recordings have continued through the fall season with performances by Lauren Hoffman, Nell Bryden and Robin O'Herin. I have continued doing these recordings with a stereo pair of Shure SM81s, mounted in an X-Y pattern just below the "hay loft". Though the results of this placement yield a pleasing "recorded live" ambience, I am exploring options for alternate mic placements. I'd like to get the microphones closer to the performance without being obtrusive to the artist and audience. Plans are underway to rig a mounting system, which will be suspended from the vaulted ceiling. Pictured here is Lauren Hoffman, as seen from just above where the mics were placed.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Monday, October 24, 2005
This weekend past I recorded CHAOS at The Barn in Cold Spring, NY. CHAOS a brilliantly brutal four-piece metal band, tracked two original songs, “Betrayed” and “Lost” and also recorded their own version of the classic Black Sabbath tune “Sweet Leaf”. In the day and a half we had to work with at The Barn we completed all the basic tracking, overdubbed solos and we also squeezed in a quick photo shoot at The Stone House on Dennytown Road.
To do the job of multi-tracking I brought my “semi-portable” ProTools rig; Mac G3 “blue & white” Digidesign 001 interface, Behringer ADA8000 “Ultra-gain” 8-Channel Digital Mic Preamp (that I borrowed from Alto Music…thanks Alto!) and my RP-220 Tube Mic Preamp. This gave me a total of 12 channels of microphone inputs to ProTools at once. Made a make-shift control room in the hayloft upstairs, monitoring mostly through headphones, though I also brought my pair of Yamaha NS-10s and a small Crown amp.
The band set up everything in The Barn's main room and tracked all their rhythm parts live. I used just 5 mics on the drum kit: two Sennheiser 421s on the kick drums, a Shure SM57 on the snare, and a pair of Shure BG-4.1s as overheads. On the bass amp I used an AKG D-112 through the Tube Pre and also ran a DI. Each of the two guitar amps got a single SM57. Singer Chris Chaos also had an SM57 for scratch vocals. In addition I used two room mics: a pair of vintage AKG D-12s. A trimmed-down set-up for sure but it got the whole band’s live basic tracking down with just 12 channels.
Saturday, October 8, 2005
In the October 2005 issue of MIX MAGAZINE photographer and writer Bobby Bank pays tribute to MEDIASOUND, the world class New York recording studio of the 70’s and 80’s and the training-ground where I learned from some of the top names in the recording industry. You can download a pdf file of the article HERE. Pictured left is the live room of studio A, and founders Joe Jorgensen and Harry Hirsch with chief engineer Fred Christie. Photo by Howard Sherman.
Saturday, October 1, 2005
Spent a couple of weekends in September doing the final mix tweaks for the upcoming ORSUS full-length debut release "The Pulse of Shadows and Machines". Our last night of mix tweakage ended with me burning last minute CDRs in the car on my laptop as I drove Orsus members Tommy and Gary from Stone Ridge to New Paltz to catch the last midnight bus back to NYC. With the final assembly completed we will soon be toasting a fantastic album. First it's off to mastering, which will no doubt add that critical finishing touch. I've contacted several of my top-choice mastering houses for rates and availability. No point in skimping now! As soon as pressing is under way we'll announce the final release date, and of course the CD release party!
Monday, August 15, 2005
Jimmy Goodman of LEOPARD STUDIO called me in to tweak some mixes and then master a project he recorded there in ProTools. The band, SWAMP MUD is a New York City based blues-rock band, and the 13 songs I worked on will comprise their debut release. Singer-songwriter Eddie Lee Priest has penned some poignant and catchy songs, and his voice reminds me of a well-pitched Joe Strummer. Lead guitarist Seth Goldart has great tones and licks, and adds a jam-band like feeling to many of the middle-eight solo sections. The rhythym section (Eli Wagner on bass and Roy Luchesse on drums) holds down a really solid foundation of driving rock beats, funky grooves, Texas swing, and mournful ballads. All the basic tracking was recorded live by Jimmy Goodman, with only vocals and solos being overdubbed, all during a four day tracking and mixing session. I made a few small alterations to the bass and drum tones and some of the vocal levels, and added some over-all EQ and compressor-limiter plug-ins to the mixes to get them more crisp and punchy. As a final step we added the Vintage Warmer plug-in, which is really a fantastic tool. The band left with duplication masters, which will soon go out for pressing. Check their site www.swampmud.com for release and concert dates.
Monday, August 8, 2005
25 years ago my buddies and I began a tradition of live recorded jams, which we called "Splurge". Essentially these are unplanned, un-rehearsed spontaneous performances recorded live. Over the years we have taken liberties with the process, occasionally overdubbing a few tracks, but the spirit of spontaneity remains intact by limiting overdubs to "one per person" and "you only get one take".
So this past weekend we celebrated our 25th anniversary by booking 2 days at Leopard Studio.
Joining me in the studio were Bill, Bob, Emory and his brothers Fred and Sean, and Kane. We spent most of the first day laying down literally hours of percussion jams. Fred and Sean are both trained and experienced Jazz musicians and this was a powerful influence on the direction of these live performances.
We also did some completely live recordings of the "full band" with Fred on drums, Sean on sax and clarinet, Emory on bongos, Bob on violin, myself on guitar and bass, and Bill and Kane on vocals. Here are some images. Recordings to be made available soon!
Umour Ritual Splurge Recording at Leopard available here:
Tuesday, August 2, 2005
OK. People have been asking me "what's up with the ass-scratching picture?!?!?" I guess the story deserves to be told. ORSUS has been doing some tracking at home on their own...some backing vocal parts, digital guitar effects, some keyboards and such. During a mix session they brought in a percussion track, this rhythmical scratching sound; not like DJ style record scratching, more like a cabasa part except it sounded like ass. I mean it literally sounded like fingernails on denim. I pointed this out, acted it out, and they caught it on camera. When I saw that they had posted the footage on their site I had to snatch it. So there it is.
Friday, July 15, 2005
Mixing with ORSUS has commenced and thus far we have completed four of the twelve songs in the project. Three of these mixes will be pre-released as a promotional disc. As always, Leopard Studio has proved to be a great place to work. We expect to complete the project there in August.
Mixing in ProTools is a bit slow without a control surface, but the mixes sound great once they're done. We are still considering the possibillity of running them through a large format console once they are all completed in ProTools, time and dollars permitting.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
Spent a couple of days with my folks, transferring some of their reel tapes. They had a company that produced corporate communications events for large corporations. These shows were big multi-media extravaganzas featuring original music, sometimes with a live orchestra, a live cast of actors and sometimes dancers, slide and film projection and of course the requisite corporate talking heads. Their productions won many industry awards and they were a leader in the "industrial shows" industry for decades. It was a wonderful walk down memory lane for us, and we "digitized" a good overview of the best of the company's original songs.
I had not worked with analog tape in quite some time, but I guess it's like riding a bicycle... I was quick to repair the broken splices, and was still adept at cleaning the heads and transport mechanisms, which needed to be done frequently as some of the tapes were so old that they were shedding their oxide. Alas, a few tapes were so badly deteriorated that they couldn't be played, and one which was stored as a "pancake" (sans the reel flanges) had fallen off the hub and was a jumble inside the box. In the end we were able to transfer almost everything that my parents were hoping to save, thanks to well-logged and documented reels and proper climate controlled storage for all these years. Now that we have the music in ProTools I will process and tweak the audio, and burn CDs. As an interesting side note, a local college radio station recently spun a track from one of their productions, which had been pressed to vinyl. The show was for Coca-Cola and the song was called "That Big Bottling Plant Up In The Sky". Look for it in the WFMU archives at this link:
Saturday, April 30, 2005
I've been doing some live stereo recording at The Barn in Cold Spring NY for IGF ENTERTAINMENT. So far I've recorded sets by MELODROME, a rock trio from the Boston area, and KATHLEEN PEMBLE, a folk-pop singer-songwriter from the Mid Hudson Valley. Both performed excellent sets. For both recordings I used my iBook/Mbox rig and a stereo pair of Oktava MK-012 (s) in an "X-Y" pattern from the "hay loft" above the audience. I set ProTools to record in AIFF format at 16 bit, 44.1khz so that the resulting audio files could be burned strait to CDs for the artists to take home. Kathleen Pemble later asked me to edit and master her recording.
The Barn is a fabulous acoustic enviroment, and I'm planning on bringing the mobile rig for more live stereo recordings of the acts IGF brings in. The space is very comfortable and there is an office area in the "hay loft" that can serve as a makeshift control room. When appropriate I could also bring a larger ProTools rig for multi-tracking. In addition to the audio recordings, I made some animations with my friends "Loudmouth Bill" and Kane. You can see this and other films and photography on our new multi-media art site at UMOUR.ORG The animation is titled "Where Are The People".
Friday, March 11, 2005
Brought the Mbox and iBook rig to work on Cisco's vocals over at Tommy's house. Also brought a RP-220 Tube Mic Pre-amp, and DBX 160A compressor, and the Rode NTZ tube mic. We set up a makeshift control room in Tommy's spare bedroom, and hung some moving blankets in his living room to create a vocal booth. Cisco did excellent takes of two songs. Except for occasional noise of neighbors coming from the hallway the recording setup seems to work fine. We will be continuing this way until the vocals are completed.
Monday, February 28, 2005
Joe Kelly (of Provan) brought in a drum recording session for a commercial music project he is working on with friend Dan McKay. This was truly a drum tracking marathon, as they had 12 songs to record, and there were 3 versions of each song, a full length version, a 30 second version, a 15 second version and a 10 second version. Amazingly we got it all done in just 2 and half days, thanks in large part to the awesome talent of the drummer they brought in. We used several of Joe's mics, and many of the studio's as well, along with both house Mic Pre's and some that Joe likes to bring.
In addition to the close mics on the drums we also set up 2 sets of room mics. The first set were AKG 414s set up in an "X/Y" placement in cardioid pattern (pictured in foreground). The second set of room mics were Joe's Cad Equitec mics, which we placed near the corners of the room and set in omni pattern. The 414s gave a very "true" room sound, sounding much like what you hear standing in the room, and the Cads gave a more distant and ambient sound. For all the takes we tracked both sets of room mics so that we could decide later which one to use in each song.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
With the time I had at Leopard Studio between bookings I did some recording of my own. Ever a fan of 60's psychedelic music I endeavored to re-create some of my favorite tunes and tones. Keeping in mind the nature of the technology of the time I limited myself to using a minimum number of tracks and I kept the mic'ing very simple. I used only the available instruments and amps, which Jimmy has at his studio. No EQ either, just amp tone controls.
I used just 2 mics for the drums. One Oktava MK-52 ribbon mic for the kick drum and another for an overhead. I ran these through API Mic Pre-amps. Getting just the right placement of the overhead took quite a bit of trial and error, as I had to record myself playing each time until I got all the drums sounding balanced.
For the bass sound I played Jimmy's very nice Fender Precision bass, which sounded great through Jimmy's Ampeg M-15 (re-issue) bass amp. I used a Sennheiser MD-421 microphone and API Mic Pre-amp. I set the tone controls on the amp so that it sounded very round and fat. Not much high-end at all. I isolated the amp with a single "gobo" in an attempt to simulate what might be done if there was a full complement of musicians playing live in the room. As with all the tracks the signal path was as simple and direct as possible; from source to mic to pre-amp to recorder.
Jimmy has several wonderful guitars and amps. For most of the tracks I played his Dan Electro through the Vox AC-15. The Vox amp does have a pre-amp gain stage for overdrive but for some tracks I opted to use his MXR distortion pedal to get a more "fuzz" tone. The Vox Wah pedal also came in quite handy. So did the "reverse" plug-in in ProTools. OK, some would say that's cheating but I had to reverse some guitar tracks to be true to the psychedelic form and since there were no reels to flip...
In all I recorded basic tracks for 3 songs. The first was "Corporal Clegg" by Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd. Then, using much the same setup, I recorded a song called "Lulu Arfin Nanny" by Kaleidoscope, and finally an original composition based loosely on another Sid Barrett track called "Madcap's Embrace". The experiment was a great success. My tracks really sounded vintage. Many thanks to Jimmy for letting me stay and play!
Sunday, February 20, 2005
Spent these past 2 weekends working with Cisco and Tommy on vocal tracks. Gary came up too and shot lots of video, which he is posting on their site www.orsusband.com. Cisco sat at the piano and did warm-up exercises before each vocal session. Between takes, to give him a rest, Tommy and Gary also tracked some acoustic guitar and solos. For the vocal tracks I used Leopard’s RODE NTK tube microphone through the Avalon 737 pre-amp. I needed to use quite a bit of compression, as Cisco is a very dynamic singer. Between the 2 weekends we got excellent takes of about half the songs. For the guitar tracks I mic'd the acoustic guitar with an AKG 414 and used my Rolls RP220 tube pre-amp. For some of the solos we used Leopard's Vox AC-15 and Fender Bronco mic'd with a Sennheiser MD-421 through API pre's. All in all it was a very productive block of work. All the music tracks are completely done, and about half the vocals are finished. Some of the songs still need some lyrical tweaks, which the band will be working on over the next week or so. Then we can finish the vocals and move on to the mixing process. I'm excited about how this project is turning out. It's sounding really impressive. All the time and attention to detail is really paying off. Here are some stills. Don't forget to check out the videos.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Just completed the 9-song project with PYTHON. We mixed and mastered digitally in ProTools at Leopard Studio, monitoring through my Yamaha NS10Ms and of course giving several of the mixes the all important car stereo and walkman tests. This project went very smoothly from start to finish and was completed in just 5 days. PYTHON was a pleasure to work with and will no doubt be a force to be reconded with on the metal scene. Look for some of the tracks for free download at: www.pythonband.com
Monday, January 17, 2005
Boys And Their Toys!
This weekend I’m at Leopard Studio with PROVAN. As our previous guitar tracking sessions have been less than fruitful for a variety of reasons, from failing guitar amps to poor monitoring conditions, we finally decided to come back to Leopard where we have gotten proven results before. In search of the ultimate guitar tones we have pulled out all the toys and borrowed even more. For amps, Joe and Bill brought their usual fare, the Roland Bolt and Fender Prosonic. They also borrowed a vintage Vox AC-15 and a Little Lanilei. In addition, I borrowed 2 amps; a small Supro, and a Marshall JCM-800 with 4x12 Peavy cab.
They brought 8 different guitars, and I brought along my own Fender Strat just for good measure (six amps, nine guitars). As if that won’t provide enough variables, they also borrowed several very eclectic pedal effects, from hand made fuzz boxes to a Korg multi-effect pedal. In all we counted 29 pedals.
We brought several of our own mics too; The famous Oktava ML-52 ribbon, a pair of Oktava MK-012 condensers, the Blue Dragonfly, and my dad’s Altec 639-B “Birdcage”.
While they were setting all this up I was freaking out over a problem with their hard disc drive, which stubbornly would not mount to the computer’s desk top. I called my favorite computer tech (woke him up) and explained the problem. Eventually, after much plugging, unplugging and disc utilities, the drive mounted, though the cause of the problem, and the solution still remains a mystery. Needless to say we backed everything up to another drive immediately.
By sometime after noon we were ready to start getting sounds and do some tracking. At least we thought so. We got a good tone with the Bolt for the first track but after a couple of takes it became clear that the bass we recorded weeks ago was somewhat suspect for tuning issues. Undaunted, we went online and downloaded a demo version of the Antares Autotune plug-in and bounced the bass tracks through it.
Finally we got the bass track’s pitch issues under control (thank God for the internet). We began tracking guitars (that is, after all, what we came to do!) and as is the case with most guitar tracking sessions it’s 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration (or something like that…Joe said “the inspiration happened so long ago I don’t know what the ratio is”). Thankfully Bill and Joe both had the intonation set ups done on all their guitars. Still it’s a constant battle to keep an axe in tune, even good solid Fenders like the ones they play.
Whoever said “good enough for Rock N Roll” never actually recorded a Rock N Roll record. Granted, Provan’s music isn’t your garden variety Big Dumb Rock sound. In fact the music they write is deceptively complicated and the guitars interweave in unusual ways making it quite challenging (both to play and to record). Observing the process an outsider or non-musician might wonder how we ever get anything done at all. But to be sure the end result is always something we’re all very proud of, so we persevere.