A good mix only comes from good tracks. In Hank’s words, “I have that saying, we’ll fix it later’. You can’t fix it later. You can touch up, but the basic stuff you have to get up front, or it’s never going to sound right.
“I never like to do things that really lock me in. If I compress, limit, or whatever, I’m always careful about doing it to a degree.
“You have to be open to new ideas. Some engineers aren’t, and that’s a hassle. Some guys have got one set up and they’re not going to change it. They’ve got to be insecure.
“For instance, we don’t have many leakage problems so we don’t need a Kepex for that, but we do use it for effects. You can get a tremolo sound off of it by keying it with an oscillator. Have the oscillator at five cycles, which is inaudible. By putting an organ though it, and beating the music against it, you get a very unusual tremolo effect.”
In making those good tracks, the choice of mikes is up to Hank. Limiting and compressing usually happens without even a request from Lou.
All of these things give testimony to an easy rapport which exists during these sessions.
FIRST COMES THE ARTIST, THEN THE PRODUCER, THEN THE ENGINEER. IT’S GOT TO BE A MARRIAGE OF ALL THESE PEOPLE.”
This triangle is more than just Hank’s words. It is working.
There are a lot of pros in this business, and a lot of perfectionists. Carole King, Lou Adler, and Hank Cicalo are certainly among them. But they have the added beauty of not only being good, but being easy about it as well.
A sign on the console reads, “Anything that is not quite right, is wrong.”
The philosophy is not wholly unique. What is more unique is the lack of anxiety and tension that normally accompanies so absolute an approach. If something is not quite right, nobody gets upset. They just change it and make it better.
Maybe they’ve got something there.
Editor’s Note: This is a series of articles from Recording Engineer/Producer (RE/P) magazine, which began publishing in 1970 under the direction of Publisher/Editor Martin Gallay. After a great run, RE/P ceased publishing in the early 1990s, yet its content is still much revered in the professional audio community. RE/P also published the first issues of Live Sound International magazine as a quarterly supplement, beginning in the late 1980s, and LSI has grown to a monthly publication that continues to thrive to this day.
Take the PSW Photo Gallery Tour of audio equipment ads appearing in RE/P magazine, circa 1970
Our sincere thanks to Mark Gander of JBL Professional for his considerable support on this archive project.