An sE Electronics Voodoo VR1 passive ribbon microphone is an essential component in the recording signal chain at a private production studio owned by guitarist and songwriter Steve Stevens, best known for his collaborations with Billy Idol over the past three decades.
Stevens, a virtuoso guitarist who is equally skilled at hard rock, pop, blues, progressive rock, new wave, jazz fusion and flamenco, is currently writing new material for the next album release by Idol, with whom he recently toured the United States.
Stevens, who has also recorded with Michael Jackson, Ric Ocasek, Robert Palmer and many others over the years, reports that fellow guitarist Pete Thorn, a self-styled “guitar nerd,” initially recommended the VR1 microphone to him.
“Pete’s got impeccable ears, and if he says you should check something out, chances are it’s going to be really, really good,” he says. “sE were totally helpful in recommending the right microphone for my needs. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about the microphone and the company.”
Stevens often works alone in his Avid Pro Tools and Apple Logic Pro-based songwriting studio and consequently has to engineer all of his own recordings.
“I have other ribbon microphones, and they require—for me, at least—exact placement. Pete said a selling point of the VR1 was that you could put it anywhere on any speaker and it would sound really, really good. I thought, that sounds exactly like what I need!”
He continues, “I’m a songwriter, not an engineer, and whatever gets me there the quickest is what I’m going to use. That’s why I like this microphone—it’s a no-brainer.”
When recording in his project studio, Stevens typically uses a combination of two microphones on his guitar cabinet, an industry standard dynamic mic and the VR1, positioned in the center of the loudspeaker cone.
The VR1 is brighter in tone than another more expensive ribbon microphone with which he has recorded at other studios, reports Stevens, and as a result more of the track recorded using the Voodoo tends to end up in the mix.
The VR1 offers a wide-open frequency response of 20 Hz—20 kHz, due to the implementation of a patent pending mechanical device designed by Siwei Zou, the CEO of sE Electronics.
“That other ribbon mic is really dark. Usually you record it in combination with a 57 and only end up using about 25 percent of the ribbon to 75 percent of the 57. But with the Voodoo, sometimes I end up really favoring it in the mix,” he says. “It’s a bit more forgiving than that other mic.”
Stevens first came to the public’s attention with his guitar playing and songwriting on Billy Idol’s breakthrough hits of the early 1980s, which included “White Wedding,” “Hot in the City,” Rebel Yell” and “Eyes Without a Face.”
He later played on “Dirty Diana,” on Michael Jackson’s “Bad” album, also appearing in the music video; recorded several solo albums; played and co-wrote songs on the debut solo album by Vince Neil of Mötley Crüe, “Exposed;” and recorded two albums with super-group Bozzio Levin Stevens, alongside drummer Terry Bozzio and bass player Tony Levin.
Most recently, Stevens once again teamed up with producer and film soundtrack composer Harold Faltermeyer on an instrumental anthem for the Flying Bulls, Red Bull’s collection of vintage aircraft, aerial acrobatic pilots and skydivers.
Faltermeyer is best known for two iconic pieces of film music: “Axel F,” which he wrote and produced for the 1984 film “Beverly Hills Cop,” and 1986’s “Top Gun Anthem,” on which Stevens played, sharing the Grammy Award with Faltermeyer for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.
The pair premiered their new Flying Bulls anthem at the Scalaria Air Challenge in Austria in mid-July, performing on the wing of a moored Dornier seaplane.