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01-27-16

On my last trip back to London I threw an old guitar in my suitcase, a 1976 Gibson Marauder that I bought in 1998 from a Loot ad in Wales. Over the years it’s been in various states of playability, and on JesseJames tours, Rich gave it the nickname The Melingerer, due to its crappy tone and disheveled state. This might have had a lot to do with the cheap mini humbuckers I fitted it with, so I decided to revive it with a Seymour Duncan SM-3b. As you can hear below, not only does it have a higher and brighter output, but generally, it’s clearer and more aggressive. I’m still convinced the original pick ups are in my parents’ attic somewhere.
Rather than add a bunch more variables by recording it through an amp, I just DI-ed straight into my Apollo Twin and ‘reamped’ using the UA Marshall Plexi plug-in.

01-08-16

Pete wrote a theme tune for the Game Friends podcast, and made me mix/master it for him, another reluctant foray into Logic X. It’s pretty ridiculous, but not as ridiculous as the podcast itself, which for the IT Crowd fans among us, isn’t far off Moss’ Board Games. If you’re into video games, you can listen to the whole thing and hear all the extra stings and beds. The only game I play is Battlefront, so it’s not really for me.

12-18-15



Beat The Smart Kids’ full length is now in the can (save some gang shouts) after about 50 hours of tracking spread over the last couple months. All the drums went down in one day (thanks Anthony) with enough time spare to track the rest of this song before the submission deadline for this NOFX tribute. Download it for free and expect the LP (featuring blistering overdrive and glassy cleans from an Orange Rockerverb 50, punchy horns, and lyrics about transformers) some time in the new year.

12-10-15

Even though we went to Iceland over a year ago, and the record came out months ago, I’m still working on it. As part of the kickstarter that funded the Down I Go album we offered a package that included the writing demos that we recorded in a hut, in a lava field in Iceland. I’m just now getting round to remixing them, and was just finishing up when I realised that the kick drum on the opening track, Kidhouse, was overbearingly clicky. As well as the usual variables in kick drum sounds: mic choice, placement, thickness of head, type of beater etc, performance has a huge effect on the attack. I guess I was stamping particularly hard for this particular song and so the initial transients are correspondingly loud.
I was hoping to go back in and just EQ and compress that song differently, but the Logic project for day one’s recordings became corrupted and refused to open, so all I had was my initial mix to work with.
Izotope’s RX4 to the rescue, using the sensitivity control to reduce the kick clicks, while not dulling the snare. Have a listen.

11-19-15

Chas made a video for the closing track on his album, American Smile, British Teeth, featuring probably ALL of the remaining payphones in Brighton. It gets emotional. I mixed this back in the spring, and now I’m wondering why I panned all the brass to one side. To make room for the slide guitar I guess.

11-03-15

Last month, I recorded a taiko show at Athenaeum theatre. Ho Etsu Taiko were collaborating with OnEnsemble from L.A. (Shoji from OnEnsemble had given me a few recording/mix tips for my first session with Ho Etsu) for a spectacular and very diverse show. This song, Little Man, was my favourite, having a great groove, an ear-worm melody played on dueling flutes, and the loudest moments of the concert.
My main concern about recording the show was not to get in the way. Taiko is a very visual art, and having the stage littered with mic stands would kill the vibe, so I set up a stereo pair in the pit, and four close mics, on short stands to grab the attack of the first row of drums.
I scoped out the venue in advance and was relieved to see that they had an Allen & Heath MixWizard, so I was safe on the preamp front, and conveniently presented with Direct Outs on every channel. But on the day, once we’d loaded in (one of the drums was so big it wouldn’t fit through any of the doors) and set up all the mics, I discovered that the Direct Outs were configured POST fader, making them pretty useless. We pulled up the manual pdf, and opened up the board to see if we could switch them back to the presumably factory default of PRE fader, but couldn’t even find the tiny jumper. So I came out on the channel inserts instead, essentially adding my interface to the signal chain/gain staging. I was using two MOTU firewire units (an 828 for 8 ins, and an 896HD for the next 8 as ADAT optical) and since the thru is a digital connection, and CueMix can’t control the ADAT unit’s outputs, I couldn’t return the signal on the second eight channels, and had to rely on the mixer’s direct outs – at the mercy of Karl, the live sound guy, and whatever sounded good out front.
But by carefully selecting which channels I was stealing on the inserts, and which I was getting post fader (which meant repatching in between numbers), I managed to get enough usable audio to mix a half decent live recording with. It meant me and Karl were busier on the night (and the matinee) than we would have liked, but the show must go on…

10-07-15

As well as the ten tracks we wrote for the Down I Go album, the kickstarter that funded it also commissioned three cover songs, which we did with varying amounts of enthusiasm. They’re all up on our bandcamp, and now available on a matching grey vinyl 12″ to go with the album. The drums and guitars were all recorded at the same time as the album, but when it came to mixing, I used a bunch of UA plug-ins with my Apollo Twin, namely the SSL 4k channel strip on all the close mics, and the Maag EQ4 on guitar and vocal busses. The Lexicon reverb also got a look in, but is a little processor hungry for my Duo Core. What I like most about these hardware emulations is the interface – you can’t see what’s going on without the usual graphics, so you just have to use your ears.

The B-side, our ill fated side project Sammy Davis Jnr. Jnr. was recorded about four years ago, and languished on a hard disc until we found people to sing on it. The drums are sample free (wish I could remember which snare drum I used) and the guitars were double amped (a slightly dirty and a clean stack, back to back), and hard panned. The second guitar went down the same way, but the pans reversed. This pseudo stereo image meant that even if only one guitar was playing, it still sounded full and less lop sided, but had the live feel of a single tracked guitar.

The opening track of the record is a song that didn’t make it onto the album, because it was deemed ‘too silly’ by the rest of the band. Silly or not, it show cases my 5-string Musicman, a purchase inspired by borrowing Jeremy’s back in April (see below). You gotta love the tension in that low B.

08-16-15



Today is Derek’s birthday, and we hear he misses his old band mates since he moved to Seattle, so we spent last Bprax learning a 50 second rendition of NOFX’s ‘Thank God it’s Monday’, changing all the words to be about Derek. Even though we were at the studio, I decided it’d be a good time to ‘field test’ my new Zoom H6, using the stereo capsule on wide 120ยบ mode, and the other four inputs for Kick, Snare, Guitar and an aux send off the PA mixer (in hindsight, some vocal separation would’ve been nice). Then we added another channel of guitar in Logic. Although the H6 has a mixdown function, you can’t then record on top of that stereo file because the Zoom won’t recognize it. Big oversight IMHO. Happy Birthday Derek!

08-04-15

It has almost been a year since we went to Iceland to write another Down I Go album, but now it’s finished and is due to be released (eventually on white vinyl) by Holy Roar on August 28th. When I pull up our back catalogue on Spotify and bounce between the records, it’s clear that our production has evolved since its lofi beginnings (SM57s and C1000s into a Delta 1010), and now that we sound relatively polished, I’m worried that we’ve lost some of our ‘almost unlistenable noise’ charm. Have a listen to some clips below.

06-16-15

Derek’s in town for a one off Whipped show at the Empty Bottle on wednesday, so we recorded this cover as ‘content’ so people might remember we were a band, and come to the show. Our new friend Paurl recorded Derek’s vocals in Seattle, and we did the rest here at Multitrack Chicago which recently got its Allen & Heath desk back. Dave made a video, using all the extra footage from our FML promo videos, but cut it to my rough mix, which has some serious multi-band release time issues, so listen to the ‘official’ version below.