Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Life's moving quickly


It's been a bit too long since my last post. Sorry to you loyal followers.. all 3 of you. haha.

Before I get cookin with updates:

Very recently, I saw I was nominated for "Producer of the Year" by the Boston Music Awards. This is something I didn't expect for two reasons: I don't live in Boston and at no point in my career did I ever concern myself with the possibility of being awarded for the job I do. Ask anyone else in the music business: staying "in it" is tough, making a living doing it is very difficult, and being recognized for your hard work is beyond comprehension.. So yea.. It's cool. Ha! I'm psyched for the ceremony and catch up with old friends and see them all get awards! You can check everyone else out at !

The studio has been absolutely bustling. It's hard to keep up and I'm considering booking a few days off for "office work" meaning catching up on gear maintenance, patchbay upkeep, cleaning the studio, and of course the never-ending task of mix revisions.

California X has a new record. It's complete, mastered, delivered, and absolutely excellent! Look forward to this release in 2015.

Tonequest begins.
Lemmy is happy. Tonequest is over.
We used big drums, because we wanted them to sound big. And they did!

Caitlin Canty came in to mix an EP and cut a bunch of duo songs with Jeffrey Foucault. The EP tracks came from what we recorded in late 2013. Really amazing stuff.. and the sound is cool. Pretty old school vibe. We mixed to the Ampex 440. Her new record is due to come out in earl 2015 and it's truly beautiful.

It sounds a lot like it looks: cozy.
Phase was a concern but not an issue.

Krill, a fantastic Boston band came in to cut their new LP, too. It's mastered and ready to be released. It's really amazing. Goes from sparse to dense with very elegant flow. Each song tells a story that I've never heard before. I can't wait for this to be heard!

This is Krill.

Rabbit Rabbit came in and cut a record in a day. We mixed it in 5 hours. 95% live. Killer Northampton band. Jeremy Dubs on drum is always a treat. Also mastered and waiting on an early 2015 release.

Jeremy Dub's kit at Sonelab. Love those old ceilings!

Elder, a great heavy rock/"stoner rock" trio from Boston/Eastern Mass came in for a killer session in August/September. We had fun and made their best record yet. I can't wait for this to be released ! We went for BIG and we got it!! It's 100% done. I am listening to it right now.

This what an Elder session looks like. Not a pretty picture! ha ha
Not sure if this is bass or guitar setup.
I think we used everything here, except the Traynor.

The Glazzies are in working on some more songs. They've got Murph playing some drums and it's sounding HUGE. I used some cheap-ass mics (sent through really nice gear) to get a killer bass sound on this! check 'em out. 

Murph kit for Glazzies session.
Previously mentioned "cheap mics" on a bass cab. Sounded RIPPING!
Left and Right has a new tape out on Infinity Cat Records. I recorded it in early 2014 and I love it. I listened to it on the way home from a session tonight.. really loudly.. and I think it's 100% worth buying. Especially for the note you may get w/ your tape. Thanks guys !

Now it's October and I've got another pile of amazing projects coming up. I've got Sweet John Bloom mixing this month, Potty Mouth, Boston's Sun Lions, Bedroom Rehab Corporation, and much much more awesomeness to get us into 2015.


I purchased another Anamod 660 to make a pair. It's been incredible to have the pair. I submixed the drums on the Elder record through them and the mastering engineer even said "dude the drums sound ridiculous". I also mixed a record through them for the first time and I completely loved it. They're very different than the Compex and although they're also "Vari-Mu" style (quotes because Vari-Mu implies there's a tube responsible for compression but the Anamod 660s don't have any tubes) they respond VERY differently than the Manley Vari-Mu. I usually let the Manley compress at around -2db most of the time while the 660s really love to swing around the transients in a very smooth way. It's been a pleasure to have them for mixing but I've also gotten some amazing drum sounds with them. Overheads and cymbals can be very explosive in a mellow way, if that makes any sense. I recorded acoustic guitar through them recently and absolutely fell in love with the compression. I have a lot of great compressors at my disposal: Neve 2254, Distressors, Compex, a pile of old Altecs, and more. They're all great on acoustic guitar but the Anamod 660 reminded me of a VERY special compressor: Universal Audio 175b. This is also a Variable Mu compressor that is sort of known to be like a tube version of the 1176, though I think it's much bubblier sounding. It pumps and breathes in a really musical way like nothing else. The 660 does this in a very convincing way!!  

It's weird to mix through 500 series stuff.. but these Anamod 660s are really awesome!

I also got a new guitar amp: Hovercraft Dwarvenaut 20 MK2. It's a take on a Matamp or Orange OR120 type amp but it's much lower wattage and is made out of recycled amp parts. I'm not sure what they're recycling (components, chassis, etc) but it doesn't matter. This amp is insane. I got it on a Monday, tested it out on Tuesday, and then 20 minutes later, California X walked in the door and decided to use it on their remaining guitar overdubs. I ran it through our 60s Marshall 4x12, put the u67/421 on it and let it rip. It sounded great with a Ram's Head Big Muff, too !!!

Hovercraft fits in.

Sonelab purchased a pile of old Morely pedals. I haven't plugged any of them in yet.. but they look cool!

That is a pile of Morley pedals.

We also got a Divoli electric piano. This is somewhere between a Wurlitzer 200a and a Rhodes. Also.. I have not had time to plug it in but Mark tested it out and said it sounds cool so I'm psyched for this thing. If you know anything about it, please write me! There is little info on it but we do know that Hawkwind may have used it for something at some point in their career.

A few months back, our friend Travis Atkinson (Engineer, tech, mic seller, awesome bro) sent us a pair of AEA N22 microphones to demo. We held onto them for about a month and they found their way into our workflow so we grabbed a pair. These are active ribbon microphones, not unlike the Royer R-122. The sound is much more present than the 122, so there's not really any need for a second mic. They're amazing on toms, bass drum, and hi hat. They have a nice strong null (like more bi directional mics) so when placed correctly, you have a very clean picture of the instrument in question without a lot of junk from other instruments. I've been putting it on the beater side of the kick drum lately so the null is pointed at the snare drum and the sound is SO natural and solid without affecting the sound of the snare drum via bleed. Tons of output (often need an inline pad) and plenty of SPL room so mashing it up against a 4x12 or tom is totally legit!

Alright that's all I got at the moment. Booking for 2014 is neatly cooked. I've got a couple of stray days in December but other than that, see you in 2015!!

Friday, June 6, 2014

keep on keepin on

It's May and it's almost June. It just don't stop!

I've been doing so many awesome projects that it's almost overwhelming! Almost hard to keep track of.

Let's talk about some gear, huh?

I got a sweet new compressor. It's called an Anamod 660. It's a Fairchild 660 compressor squeezed into a 500 series unit. It sounds stupid to be honest.. but somehow, I was intrigued.. so I began listening to sound clips that people were posting on gearslutz. They were comparing their real 660s and 670s to the Anamod 660 and the difference was shocking: there was none. I mean.. yes there was a very subtle difference and I'm sure you could argue that a real 670 is worth every penny versus the Anamod.. BUT I'm not dropping $60k on a compressor anytime soon and I use my 670 type plug in A LOT.. So much so that I thought it'd behoove me to purchase the Anamod 660 and actually start tracking with one in the chain.

So I got the compressor and plugged it into one of my Lunchbox racks and boom it ROCKS! The first session I used it on was with Graham Clise, Dave Sweetapple, and one of their friends on drums. I used my old Shineybox ribbon mic behind the drummer's right shoulder, pointing at his floor tom and smashed it to pieces with the 660. I sneaked it into the mix just a little bit to give the floor tom a little extra kick. Worked like a charm! The 660 also did interesting things to the ambient sound of the kit, the cymbals (yes!!) and the bass and snare drum.

Three days later And The Kids came in to start tracking their forthcoming full length with producer Ian Hearsy. He asked if I'd put a mono overhead up to glue the mics together. I used the Shineybox on a VERY tall stand and put it up about 10' above the kit. I CRUSHED it with the 660 and WOW the room really came into the picture nicely.

When I began mixing the And The Kids record and decided to use the Anamod 660 where'd I'd normally use my plug in and now I'm completely impressed and REALLY need to get myself a second unit.

Needless to say, I'll need a new Lunchbox for this, which means I'll have a new Lunchbox to fill. On my list if definitely another Anamod 660, and a pair of API 560b EQs (if I can find them!). If I buy another 6-space, I'll still have two spaces to fill so I guess I'll either build two more CAPI preamps or buy something fun.

The Anaod 660. Hard to believe it does the 660 thing so well.

Moving along..

Recently a band came in with two 100 watt Marshall Plexis c. 1968. I shuttered when I saw them, thinking "why?? and how the F am I gonna record amps this loud???" Well.. I stopped thinking and started mic'ing. I put my favorite: U67 and 421 on the guitar cab. I backed them off a few inches more than normal and hot damn it sounded AMAZING. I bussed them together, added a bit of EQ from my Troisi modules on the MCI, then sent them to one Pro Tools track. Simple and wonderful-sounding.

For bass, I used a Bock Audio 151 with the bright switch set to "on" blended with an Audix D6, my newest microphone purchase. I bought the D6 specifically for this purpose and the two mics together were simply beautiful. The D6 had really punchy lows and highs while the 151 added nice complex midrange to the mix. Each mic was compressed through a Neve 2254a compressor and got its own dedicated track in Pro Tools. I printed a Di and it really tied the whole thing together nicely. Quite like a fine wine, really. NOT! It sounded f'ing brutal. The bass player used a Rickenback 4001 and a kick-ass custon Tym Guitars pedal.

BOOM! 28" of rawk

The Audix D6 is a mic specifically designed for bass drum recording. I'm not a huge fan of that type of microphone on the bass drum but generally "that type" of microphone (Audix D6, AKG D112, Shure Beta52) really does it for me on bass cabs.. so that's why I bought the mic and it's lived on the cab since!

Here's a gear grievance:

The Roland RE-201 Space Echo. These machines are absolutely beautiful sounding. They modulate like nothing else, distort like nothing else, and find their way into mixes quite nicely. With that said, they're extremely unpredictable (part of the charm but not always practical), have almost no headroom and almost unusable output, and they cost a lot of buy and to maintain them is complicated and also expensive. Most owners have little knowledge of analog recording tape so I often see/hear these units sounding a fraction as good as they should.

Someone brought one in recently and while it ended up being a big part of the sound of the record, it was a royal pain to deal with. The owner of the box got an ok deal on it but ended up having to have the motor rebuilt. It's still pretty f'd up, too! The echo is cool but the part that really won me over was the spring reverb.

I'm sure this rant will be considered unpopular but we spent too many minutes (which added up to about an hour) wrestling with this thing, reprinting, cleaning, greasing the motor, etc for me to love it unabashedly.

During the mix, we broke out the EHX Memory Man (c. 80s). Mine has the hard-wired AC plug and it's the Deluxe version. This is probably the most sought-after version, and for good reason. It is a completely different sound than the RE-201 but it worked like a charm, on command, as needed, when needed.

Two beauties. I'll go with the one that always works, though.

If you're really dying to get a tape echo with some character, I'd have to recommend the Fulltone Tube Tape echo. This unit dive-bombs, and distorts as well as a vintage Echoplex but you probably won't need to put much into it as far as maintenance goes. It costs about $1k, but considering Echoplex and Space Echos sell for just under that and will require maintenance at some point, to me, it's a no-brainer.

The final gear-related thing I'll say is this: My old console is for sale. It has been for about a year but I haven't pushed it very hard. If you need a decent analog board that's reliable and capable, this would be a fantastic deal for you. It's an Amek TAC Scorpion. 32 channels, Semi para EQ on each, 8 buss, 4 Aux.. a total workhorse. I've done MANY projects on this board: Thurston Moore solo, Chelsea Light Moving, Speedy Ortiz, Body/Head, California X, and many many more. I've run full-analog tracking AND mixing session on this board so I've actually used the console and not just monitors on two faders. F that. The only known issue when it went into storage is that it has some scratchy faders. You'll get a good deal on it for please write and make an offer. I'm open to trades, too..

Here are some current and upcoming releases I've worked on that are ready for your ears:

Blessed State: Head Space LP
This record rocks. It's nice and tight. Catcy, heavy Dino-damaged rawk.

Sneeze: Wilt LP
This was a fun one. Heavy as shit, catchy as hell. We cut the album in three days. No BS here.

Sweet Apple: The Golden Age of Glitter
This album picks up where the last one left off and provides ample catchy springtime roadtrip vibes.

Dredd Foole/Ben Chasney Duo: Drunk with Insignificance
We tracked and mixed this burner in one day. It's confrontational and beautiful. One of my personal favs.

Magik Markers: Surrender to the Fantasy
This was recorded a long time ago at Mascis's Bisquiteen. It lived in the state we left it for a while, then made it's way to Aaron Mullan. It rocks! This record hosts "Bonfire", the song in which they made a video that Julia, in utero-Luca, and I starred in!

Last thing. this summer's calender is nearly full. I'm excited for all of the amazing sessions forthcoming. It's kind of blowing my mind, in fact. A lot of your favorite bands and piers are coming into Sonelab and other studio this summer. I want to scream from the hills about it.. but I won't. haa.

We're nearly done booking this summer, but if you'd like to get in, feel free to write. You never know..

On a semi-related note, Sonelab's rate is going to make a small increase come September. We've been hauling ass at our current rate for over two years. The cost of doing business has gone up (wow.. the rate for electricity just jumped up nearly 50%!!). Just an FYI to anyone thinking about starting a new project this fall. We don't typically advertise our rates so if you're wondering about them, please write.

xo jp

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

April 2014

It's been just about four months since my last post. Longer than I'd like it to go but I've had some very good reasons to leave this blog as-is for a bit.

The first thing I want to mention is that my work week has changed slightly in that I only work 4 days per week now. Because of this, my calendar is getting very full very quick. If anyone reading this is interested in booking time with me June-September, please reach out now.

My first session of 2014 was Body/Head. Not a bad way to kick off the new year! We spent a day recording and mixing and came out with a 7" to be released on Marador Records on May 20th. 

The next day, the Pixies arrived for 5 days of rehearsal at Sonelab. Since I was booked in another studio, Mark and Anand prepped to record them, should the need arise. And it did! I was sad to pass the gig up but I was committed elsewhere.

Here's the Pixies' backline at Sonelab. Pretty cool.

After getting the Pixies settled into Sonelab, I packed up my car and headed up to Verdant Studio to engineer a record for a Colorado singer/songwriter named John Statz. Jeffery Foucalt was producing, Billy Conway (Morphine) on drums, Jeremy Moses Curris (Booker T) on the bass, and Mark Spencer (Son Volt) on lead guitar and pedal steel. We had fun and cut a killer record.

Verdant Studio. My office for the John Statz recording session.
Here's a Sony C37fet microphone. This was once owned by Les Paul and that is his handwriting on the mic!

One of the engineering "feats of strength" I displayed was the ability to record a singer/acoustic guitarist live, in one room with a full electric rock band, and have little to no bleed!! I've done this a lot in the past, with varying degrees of success, but something here clicked. I think a combination of things were at play, here:

First off, it's paramount that the band plays well together and keeps their dynamics in line. With a band like this, I had nothing to worry about.

Secondly, the room needs to set up properly. Baffles help but they're almost never a part of my plan when setting up a session that's "live in one room". Positioning microphones correctly, considering polar patterns and nulls when selecting mics, and of course, making sure musicians can hear each other well. Everyone was close together so it kept the room volume low. John (singer, acoustic guitar) was placed further from everyone and behind a large baffle with plexiglass in the middle so he could maintain good visual contact.

If all of these items are in place and the room sounds good, it should sound fantastic through the microphones! This session was definitely a landmark for me, as the room sounded great, and I was equipped with the right tools (musicians and microphones!) for the job!

A shot of our live setup at Verdant.

We had a blast, ate well, drank well, and rocked well! We also froze, as it was during the first polar vortex of 2014. I came home, had two days off, and jumped back into Sonelab with a band from Virginia called Left and Right.

I set up the four piece, grabbed basics, guitar and vocal overdubs, and spent the last two days mixing. We Successfully completed this recording in 5 ten hour days. We didn't need a single revision on the mixes so they went straight to mastering with Carl Saff, and the record is complete. 

The band kicked major ass. They came prepared, played it like they meant it, and had fantastic songs. I thought they were an ideal example of how a record in five days should be done. They demoed the songs ahead of time, kept their expectations realistic, and worked with me as a team to keep things moving forward at all times. 

They're on and off tour fairly regularly so they're worth keeping tabs on! Check them out!!

I had two days off and then jumped into a 3 week jaunt at Bisquiteen. It was a lot of fun working there after not being there for a while. I got really into using the Little Labs Phase Alignment Tool while recording one instrument with many different microphones. We had a great sound but I noticed some comb filtering due to phase alignment issues. I couldn't move the mics around to get phase right so I reached for the Little Labs box and dialed it in. Every studio should have one!

Some awesome gear, somewhere in Massachusetts.

Next, I began working with Jeph Jaques (Questionable Content) on another Deathmole record. Were taking the same approach to this one: BRUTAL. It's always awesome working with Jeph - plus I love heavy music and embrace every moment of heavy music I get to work on.

After that I mixed a record for a Serbian band called Ti. They use cool vintage drum pads instead of "real drums" and almost every overerdub is done through the preamp of a Binson Echorec! Listen to our work here. It was fun to mix and it was the first project I've mixed entirely to my Ampex 440 1/4" two track. We A/B'd digital verse analog and analog was the clear winner!!

Ignore the mess on and around the 440. This thing rawks!

Julia and I began the countdown to parenthood. Luca Ryan Pizzoferrato was born on March 7th and we're completely in love with him! 

Dad vibes
Here's Luca around one month old!

After my three weeks off, I stumbled back into the studio. Sleep deprived, sad to leave my new family behind, but looking forward to starting a new project with a good friend, I began work on Zak Trojano's forthcoming record. We spent four days recording acoustic guitar, electric guitar, vocals, and upright bass (thanks for Paul Kochanski). We dialed in a beautiful acoustic guitar sound, blending 2 Coles 4038s, 1 Charter Oak 900T, a feed from a silverface Fender Princeton, and a pair of room mics. There was a DI, too!! One I got everything in phase and with a proper level, I started playing with different presentations from song to song. I'd feature the amplifier on some playbacks, the Coles on others, and even the DI on one song. 

There's a TON of low end on the acoustic guitar. I'm guilty of exploiting that aspect of acoustic guitar. I really do not like a lot of high frequencies in acoustic guitar recordings, even in a dense mix. If I need clarity, I'll break out the AEA N22s (more on that later). Anyway, we'll have to EQ a little bit for the guitar to work wth the upright bass.

Zak Trojano's setup. Acoustic guitar: two Coles, a Charter Oak 900T in the middle, and a u67 for vocals.

The Glazzies came in the following week to finish up their next album. The Glazzies is one man: Peter Landi. He's a drummer that writes songs, plays a mean guitar, and sings, too! Oh! And he's really good! We tracked his songs in December 2013 and he came back in March to finish up tracking and start mixing. We're nearly done and things are sounding awesome. His C&C kit completely ruled and we were able to dial in a wicked drum sound for the mix. All of his guitar tracks were recorded through his Orange AD30 and they totally rip. We used some of my Big Muffs, Jax (FY-2 Companion) fuzz, and the Klon Centaur to sweeten the tone where needed. Lot's of rock on this one!

Another fun mix session was eastern Massachusetts band Last Builders of Empire. This was my second mix job with them and I think we really did some fantastic work. we upped the ante bigtime. We also had a lot of fun reamping things like bass drums and snare drums! I'd never really leaned on reamping drums for a mix session the way I did here. It was amazing and satisfying and the mixes really took shape because of it. Here are some pictures of the awesome things we did!

Fender Bassman pushing a 26" Leedy bass drum goes boom!

Reamping a snare adds great presence to the drums in a mix, but only if you use a u67! ;)

Bill Nace came in with Italy's Jooklo Duo for one day of tracking. It was amazing. We set the room up in a very cool, symmetrical way and got a massive sound while retaining good eye contact and isolation without the use of baffles. It was awesome. The drummer, David had a fairly straight jazz sound/set. He used one of my floor toms as a bass drum and tuned one of my rack toms down to be a floor tom. He made it work, and work it did! He played hard and furiously.. as did Virginia (sax) and Bill (guitar). They lit the room up nicely. 

One interesting thing I tried on this session was to use a new ribbon microphone made by AEA, called the N22. It's an active ribbon microphone with high SPL ratings and very healthy output. It's durable and has nice extended highs. Its lack of proximity effect is fantastic, too. I used the N22s on David's toms. They were perfect for jazz sounds because they were present but warm and the null in the figure eight pattern cancelled out the (raging) cymbals beautifully. Any cymbal bleed actually sounded quite nice! 

Note the placement of the AEA N22 mics on each orange sparkle tom (the orange wood tom was added to hold aux cymbals).

Most recently Connecticut's Death Black Birds came into Sonelab to record a 5 song EP. Over the course of the three days, we cut the basics, added lead guitar, spent a healthy amount of time on vocals (and we got some really sweet takes and background vocals!!), plus added Ryan Quinn (Salvation Alley String Band) on pedal streel on all 5 songs. We were able to get a start on mixing and will continue soon. This band spans the northeast from all parts of Connecticut to New Jersey. 

Death Black Birds' drum setup. More 26" bass drum love!

I was able to experiment with the AEA N22 some more during this session. I used it on a 4x12 Marsh cab, turned up quite loudly. I set up the mic, took a listen and ran back to make two changes. 1: the mic needed an in-line pad. I grabbed the closest one (-20 db) and put it on. 2: I needed to move the mic closer to the speaker. I wanted a bit more bottom and just a touch of proximity effect. Not often (err ever?) you have to do these things with a ribbon mic. It ended up sounding fantastic and working its way into the mix perfectly.

I needed to record some acoustic guitar so I figured I'd try the N22 for that application and it yeilded a fine result. I used my Purple Audio Biz Mk mic preamp, since it was available and I knew it'd do the job well. I figured I'd need some compression to help the acoustic guitar settle into the rock mix but also, I'm a compression junky when it comes to acoustic guitar. FET or Vari-Mu please! I have an oddball Canadian-made Vari-Mu compressor that simply says "Northern Electric" on it. It pumps and breaths in a very musicical way but it also holds things steady when pushed to a certain point. It was PERFECT! I also patched in an old Urei 509 passive EQ, "just in case" and I ended pulling out -2 db of muck. At times, the sound of this chain reminded me of Big Star acoustic recordings. The mics presence with the nice compression was simply beautiful! 

After using the new AEA mic on toms, acoustic guitar, and electric guitar cabinet, I'm impressed with its versitility, but also it's durability and sound. It steps slightly beyond the realm of a useful utilitarian ribbon mic.

That's my first quarter of 2014. It's been extremely busy but extremely rewarding. I'm constantly learning, meeting new people, trying new things, and having fun. Having Luca in my life is a total game changer. It's the ultimate challenge and it's also real love. Few people tell soon-to-be parents how amazing it is. It's hard work and worth every second of it. Julia and I are amazed with the little guy every second of the day.

And I have to say, I didn't think having a baby would change my work ethic at all but it has: I definitely feel a new sense of pride with every session I take part in. I'm thinking about him all the time and I want him to be proud of everything I do. It's cool and weird and awesome!

So that's 2014 so far. So far it's been amazing and it's going to just keep rockin more. This spring is gonna be rad in and out of the studio! Ok