Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Spring springin


Since my last post, I've been cranking out a lot of jams at Sonelab. I also did a session at Verdant Studio, some stuff and Bisquiteen, and a couple of sessions at Converse Rubber Tracks.

It's been loads of fun.. every project to come through has been incredible and I consider myself fortunate to be able to work with bands I really dig. In addition to the bands I've been working with, I've picked up some new gear and starting a new thing: Pedal of the Month! Each month in 2017, so far, I've bought one new pedal.

January: Crowther Hotcake. I've been wanting one of these for a while now. I really wanted the two-knob version and finally found one online for a VERY good price so I grabbed it. It rules! I think they were originally designed to go between a Fender guitar with single coil pickups and a Vox amp. It helps push the amp while leaving the tone in tact. It can go from being a very natural boost, to having some great bright highs and nice smooth mids. It was worth the wait!

Toetag Electronics treble boost pedal. This was up on their Insta page as a blemished item. It was very affordable and the exchange rate happened to work in my favor. It's made of all NOS components and housed in an amp-top enclosure just like an original Rangemaster. It sounds fantastic and can operate as a treble boost of full-range boost. Everything they make seems really cool and I'm excited to check out more of their stuff.

hard-wired output cable for authentic Rangemaster vibe.

March: Walrus Audio Jupiter Fuzz V1. Walrus just came out with V2 so they marked down their V1 edition. I first heard one over at Bisquiteen. Mascis got one, plugged it in and fiddled with it. I noticed it has insane amounts of low and excessive amounts of fuzz. It's got a very versatile tone switch which provides three different sounding fuzz tones and additionally has a tone knob. Amazing for HEAVY tones! Great for leads, too.

April: Boss Xtortion. This is probably one of Boss's biggest failures to date. It's a terribly harsh and gross distortion that's only rivaled by the Metal Zone. I remember having a friend in high school with one and what I remember about it was its EQ. It has a really interesting sweep that kind of sounds like a fixed wah. It's been great for reamping a part that needs to fit in a dense mix without being too loud. It actually kind of rules!

If you've got any cool pedal suggestions, please lay them on me! May is comin' up!

In other gear news:

I grabbed a pair of Warm Audio WA87 microphones. I've always found u87s to be useful but not a huge fan of the new ones and could never consider affording them, let alone the vintage ones! These are marketed as a relatively faithful recreation of a particular u87 vintage. They're smooth on top and clean and detailed on the low frequencies. Low frequencies aren't super-extended, but rather tight, which I really like. I've been loving them on overheads and guitar cabs. They can handle a decent amount of velocity and are definitely NOT harsh like many other 87 clones. I've used them for overheads, guitar, bass, acoustic guitar, and background vocals. I'm sure they'll be fantastic on toms and piano and probably lead vocals, as well. They're definitely solid utility mics.

The most profound gear upgrade I went for was a SCAMP rack/PSU and a pair of S01 compressor/limiters. These are based off one of my favorite compressors of all time. Unfortunately those compressors are very expensive now.  I've been using them for guitar tracking (holy shit.. think big star Radio City without question) and drum buss. They're also great for vocals, piano, and room mics.

I picked up some other stuff but those are the ones I'm most excited about. Here are some projects I've been digging on lately:

Amherst's Young Tricksters have been working with me at Sonelab for a year and a half. We're just about done with their forthcoming full length. This record is incredibly ambitious and I know I've spoken about it before but this time it's actually nearly done and is something for all of us to be proud of. And something ya'll will surely enjoy as well.

Hadley's Wydyde has finally finished their amazing new LP. It has been mastered and is awaiting release in some form. It's dynamic, loud, beautiful, crushing, and intense on many levels. It was recorded all live with full bleed, no isolation and the sound reflects that in the best way possible.

Kris Delmhorst's forthcoming LP is finished and mastered. It's a beautiful record. Her and Jeffery Foucalt collaborated on it and really did a wonderful job. We spent three days at Verdant last fall and recorded a ton of tunes. We took them back to sonelab for some repairs, overdubs, and mixing. The results are wonderful and will be heard soon.

Goddard is a band I'd been into for a while. When they asked me about studio time for their next full length, I was eager to get dates in the cal. What a session! One of the members was really fucking sick throughout the entire session and I felt really bad for him, but he managed to pull it together somehow.. I mean.. this guy was illin'! Vocals are underway and hopefully mixing this summer :) It's pretty aggressive-sounding and hard-hitting. Get psyched!

Jason's rig for Goddard basics.

Giraffes? Giraffes! came in to record their forthcoming full length. It was quite a trip to record. They're such an impressive band and the way we recorded this record was unique. We started by recording guitar loops into Pro Tools to a click track. We'd stack the loops all in a grid and arrange them accordingly per song. Then Ken would go in and play drums live over the pre-recorded loops. It was really amazing to see Joe spend 2-3 hours recording loops, and then have Ken go in and play drums in 1-4 takes with the occasional punch-in. It was beyond belief. The team work and the workflow was amazing.

double Oranges!!
17 mics on this kit.

Bunnies and I are in the midst of their next full-length. This record is dizzying and has been a unique challenge to work on. Every song flows into one another but we've been working on it in small pieces. When it all comes together in mastering will be the first time I hear it in proper sequence, which I'm excited for! We've used some of the coolest gear on this record, too! Ampeg V22 for guitar, Orange amps, Arp 2600 synth, Sequential circuits Prophet 5, Korg MonoPoly, and more!

Arp 2600
Bunnies kit!

Bulgaria's Brond send me tracks for mixing. They're really heavy rock that has some heavy moments, some proggy moments.. altogether it just rocks! We had a lot of fun mixing it via email and came out with really killer results! It helped that it was a really good record and was really well-recorded!

There's been a lot more but those are some projects that I randomly pulled out of my hat.

Here are some records I've worked on that are out now or will be out soon!

Suitcase Junket - Pile Driver
Wild Pink - s/t
Elder - Reflections of a Floating World out in June.

I'm actively booking this summer so if you want to start a new project or mix an old one, please reach out. I've been really enjoying mixing via email so if you have something you like and want some fresh ears on it, please reach out and I'll run you through the process of how I do remote mixing.

Thanks. PEACE.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

HNY 2017

Long time, no post.
There's been so many awesome sessions happening, I simply haven't had time to post! So here we go...

Since I last posted, I started a record with Boston's Vundabar. They're awesome! And they're touring a lot so look 'em up and go see them when they're in town. They have great dynamics and raw energy. Their songs are fierce and fun and their sound has bite and grit. None of those words mean anything so just go check them out. They rule. They've got a pretty good following and for good reason. We cut the record in 2 days and mixed it on the 3rd day. Since then we've met a couple of times to refine mixes and we're in a REALLY good place with them. It's a good'n! For the first time in my life, I added EQ to the mix buss. I'd always thought about it but never really wanted to mess with it. It just seemed so radical and best left to the mastering engineer. Vundabar wanted more presence out of the mixes and rather than adjusting EQ to every source, I decided to use my Universal Audio 509 passive EQs to the mix. I added 2 db of 10k and it was MAGIC!

Here it is! It sounds so good!

Around this time, southern CT's Death Black Birds came out to record their new full length. It's rock with a nod to the "alt-country" thing. Some of their songs remind me of the sweetest moments on Neil's Ragged Glory.. others are a bit darker. The song writing and playing is tops but still maintains a great vibe. They're another very dynamic band and singer Greg Moran's vocals range from whisper-quiet to loud, melodic yells. Each Death Black Birds session begins with a visit from Wood and Weather Drum Shop. They're great for drum repairs, sales, rentals, sessions, etc. All around high quality.

New Hampshire's Scuzzy Yeti came down to make their new record. It's great, heavy, riffy, rock. It's got a bit of an old school vibe to it but still heavy as f*ck! They play through LOUD 2x12 open-back combos, which is a really rad contrast to a lot of bands in their genre, who tend to play through closed back 4x12s. Amazing the difference, especially once you start stacking up guitar tracks! They just released to EP and it's absolutely worth picking up.

Scuzzy Yeti Overdub rig. All rhythm tracks were done with open-back cabs, some, not all leads with 4x12.

Kris Delmhorst had me come up with Verdant Studio in Vermont to record her forthcoming full length. We spent three days cutting basics and working through a large batch of songs. Jeffery Foucault is the producer and lead guitar player. Alex McCullough on pedal steel, Jeremy Moses Curtis on bass, and Bill Conway on drums. We had a great time at Verdant and have been hunkered down at Sonelab finishing mixes, overdubs, and edits. We might have done the very last session for this beautiful record tonight. Kris requested an RCA 44 for lead vocals and luckily, there was one for us to use at Verdant. I really loved the sound and am pretty sold on using ribbon microphones (44 in particular) for certain singers. It was a first for me. Very cool!

In the days leading up to Christmas, I worked about 70 hours straight with Elder. If you're not familiar with Elder, they're an amazing band who play heavy music on the more progressive side of things. They're one of the best in their genre and a band I've worked with since their second record. We finished their 4th full length at the end of 2016 and I must say, it was an amazing experience. They feel like family to me at the point because we've made so much music together and ALWAYS have an amazing time. Check out their record Lore and get psyched for their forthcoming record. It truly rips. The Obelisk dropped into Sonelab to visit Elder and check in on the sessions. Here's the article. It's extensive and very cool! Great studio shots!

We all agreed that this record needed more bass than Lore, so we used more amps.
There have been many more sessions between all of these but these ones each had unique significance so I figured I'd write about them. In the works are new records from Wydyde, Bunnies, Young Tricksters, Rysev, Bill Nace and Samara Lubelski, and many many more! Here's some gear stuff I'm currently psyched about:

I tested and wrote a review for Tape Op for the Hilbish Design Beta Preamp. This is more or less an exact clone of the Sunn Beta Preamp, commonly associated with King Buzzo's guitar sound. Check it here.

Here's a pic of the Hilbish Beta Preamp!

I picked up a pair of AEA's redesigned RPQ500 mic preamp. It's amazing with ribbons, condensers, and dynamic mics. It's clean but can be driven a bit. What I've noticed about them is since they're designed to couple with ribbon mics, they have loads of clean gain and tend to not color the microphone you're using. In the case of a Coles 4038, for example, I think that's an invaluable tool.

I also got the Warm Audio EQP-WA, which is essentially a clone of a Pultec EQP-1A. I've used the original Pultecs a fair amount over the years and I've always found them to be very useful tools when trying to sculpt a sound. Too harsh? Attenuate the highs, too wimpy? Crank the lows! Too boomy? Cut the lows. It's kind of a problem-solver EQ, though I used it as a sweetener on ALL of the guitar tracks on the Elder record, and was VERY happy with the results! It's always been nice to use for blown out drum mics. Heavy compression sounds FUN on drums, but when the cymbals start to get loud, it can start to get gross. Sometimes I'll put this EQ in before the compressor and attenuate high frequencies to avoid this problem. It's pretty fun.

Here's the EQP-WA and RPQs above it. Note the killer Symetrix comp below it (not kidding. it's cool!)

About two years ago, someone gave me an old Allison Research rack with 6 KEPEX gates and one Gain Brain. The other day, I was emailing with another engineer and he inspired me to plug into the Gain Brain. I've read about them for years but never bothered to patch into mine because I have so many compressors that I love. Well, the hype is real. These things rock. So far I've used it on lead vocals and guitar overdubs with great results.

Gain Brain on far right

Two gear things on my radar are:

Matamp GT120 clone made by Hilbish Design. It's currently being assembled by Jim Metz (local amp tech). It will be the loudest amp I own by far. Coming soon to Sonelab

ADR SCAMP S01 compressor pair. I just ordered these beauties. I'm hoping they'll be in the rack by next week. They're basically Compex compressors without the Gate/Expander. Absolutely psyched for these!!