Directed by Nick Palmer, Mr. Christmas is a new independent documentary film about Concord, California’s Bruce Mertz, a man who both figuratively and literally brightens his community each December with the 50,000-plus lights decorating his house.
Already sweeping up awards at film festivals in Aspen, Philadelphia, Palm Springs and Providence, the short 15-minute documentary features a score composed by Jim Briggs, who tracked all of the instrumentation through a collection of A-Designs Audio processors.
Recorded earlier this year in Studio A of Burbank’s Speakeasy Sound Recording Studios, the score was engineered by studio co-founder Andrew Maltese, who most notably used Briggs’ A-Designs Ventura mic pre/EQ, REDDI tube direct inject box and Pete’s Place BAC-500 compressor to record electric bass, Ventura for French horn and banjo, and BAC-500 for electric guitar.
“I had just purchased the Ventura about a week before the sessions and couldn’t wait to use it,” Briggs recalls. “The parametric EQ on the Ventura was a total lifesaver, especially on the banjo. Don’t get me wrong; I love the banjo, but it can sound a little bit… well… like a banjo. With the Ventura, we were able to get it to sit perfectly with the guitar and bass without ever-so-tenderly pounding an ice pick into your ear.”
Although Briggs had acquired the Ventura just prior to the Mr. Christmas sessions, he has been enjoying other A-Designs products for much longer. “I’ve had my REDDI for about two years now and mostly use it live for acoustic guitar as I spend more time on stage than in the studio,” he says. “I’ve also leant it to many a bass player, several of whom have ended up buying one.”
“I also really like the BAC-500, which I first heard about from Joshua Aaron at AudioLot Studios in Hollywood. He was using it on a Fender Jazz Bass and I loved how it colored his sound. Since then I have discovered that I like what it does on everything, literally all the time. It can do things to a snare drum that will keep you up at night.”
Briggs and Maltese spent the first day of the Mr. Christmas sessions tracking all of the film’s original music, which was performed by nine musicians playing clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone, French horn, electric guitars, electric bass, piano, drums, bells, sleigh bells, tambourine and several MIDI parts (strings, organ, tympani). Day two was devoted to tracking Christmas music instrumentation on banjo, mandolin, and acoustic guitar and bass.
“Although I’m certainly more of a musician than an engineer, whenever I go into studios to record, I always take my A-Designs gear with me. I’ll plunk them down in the control room – if they’re not already there – and say, ‘Here, we’re using these.’ Not surprisingly, I’ve never had any objections.”