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