Friday, June 06, 2014

Prolific Nick Franglen Makes A Whole Lot Of Music With Metric Halo Plug-Ins

Favorites include classic ChannelStrip as well as Production Bundle

Nick Franglen, best known as founding member of the British electronica duo Lemon Jelly, makes regular use of Metric Halo’s classic ChannelStrip plug-in in the development of new material.

Franglen has also recorded three albums on XL Recordings that sold half a million albums worldwide and earned him and bandmate Fred Deakin nominations for the Mercury Music Prize and the Brit Awards. “Lemon Jelly’s style is electronic music that doesn’t sound particularly electronic,” explains Franglen. “We’d pull together sounds from a wide range of genres to see what would happen when we mixed them up. They could be sampled or played – it really didn’t matter where they came from – the more diverse the better.”

Although Lemon Jelly is currently on a happy hiatus, Franglen maintains an outrageously busy schedule – as he always has – that feeds his creative need to keep things fresh and interesting. “Creativity is all I’m interested in. I hate repeating myself (I get bored very quickly) so I’m constantly challenging myself into innovation. I like being out on a limb – that’s where the exciting things happen.”

Franglen’s talent, prolificacy, and affable nature have earned him a lot of friends and work in the music industry. He’s provided keyboard and beats programming for Björk, Hole, Primal Scream, Pulp, and Blur. In addition to all the Lemon Jelly records; has produced albums for John Cale and Badly Drawn Boy and remixed Mark Mothersbaugh (Devo), the Pet Shop Boys, and Coldcut; and has written and produced tracks with artists as diverse as William Shatner and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) and regularly plays live with John Cale.

Further, as musical director of the Nico tribute show, he’s worked with Mark Linkous, Mark Lanegan, Kim Gordon, Mercury Rev, Yeasayer, and many others. Reflecting thirst for the novel and creative, Franglen has also performed and recorded electronic gigs down mines, on submarines, and in abandoned government test facilities. And as a composer, he has worked on films with Ralph Fiennes, written music for BBC-TV series, and composed commercials for BMW, Cadillac, Ford, Coca-Cola, Caesar’s Palace, Nordstrom, and many others. “I like to keep busy,” he summarizes simply.

In addition to myriad other side projects and jobs, Franglen’s current passion is a solo album that will be released under his own name. “I’ve been developing this material over the past couple of years,” he says. “It’s quite complicated stuff, both conceptually and sonically, and I’m enjoying the challenge.”

As noted at the outset, he’s a user of ChannelStrip. “I was with ChannelStrip from the very beginning – I had the original version,” he notes. “It was the EQ that first got me. It could do things that no other EQ could do, and that remains the case today.”

Franglen continues with an example: “For a while I was really interested in mixing very different samples from very different sources, it could be jazz with punk with something orchestral, whatever. I had to capture the essence of a source and still preserve audio clarity when it was mixed with something else, and Metric Halo ChannelStrip let me do that without having the composition turn to mush.

“Basically, ChannelStrip’s Q is precise and perfect. I can nail a filter or EQ band to within a few Hertz, enhance the fundamentals and then cut out everything that doesn’t matter while preserving the sample’s character and life. That’s a critical part of what I do and it’s my secret for maintaining audio clarity even when I have a lot of different sources all playing at once. And shortly thereafter I learned the value of ChannelStrip’s dynamics section. It’s so versatile. I use it all the time in combination with the ChannelStrip gate to bring looped drums to life.”

For work on his solo album, Franglen is also using Metric Halo’s Production Bundle of plug-ins, which includes ChannelStrip 3, Character, HaloVerb, Multiband Dynamics, Precision DeEsser, Transient Control, and Multiband Expander.

“I’ve found that with Character and Transient Control, I can breathe life and soul into my studio recordings,” he explains. “The effect is subtle, but undeniable. The reverb is also fabulous. It has a huge range of sounds, and the smoothness of the tail is beautiful and transparent. It just disappears into the background. When I apply it to individual instruments, it gives them their own space and surrounds them with warmth without ever overpowering them.”



Metric Halo
Nick Franglen

Posted by Keith Clark on 06/06 at 01:24 PM
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The Freq Zone Studio In Jacksonville Adds API’s THE BOX

Owner Nathan Hamiel seeking a classic sound from an all-inclusive small-format package

The final steps are being taken in constructing The Freq Zone, a new recording studio in Jacksonville, FL. amd to fit the needs of his new recording and mixing space, studio owner Nathan Hamiel has commissioned THE BOX console from API to provide a classic sound from an all-inclusive small-format package.

“I love THE BOX. It provides the sonic character of a large format console in a smaller footprint,” says Hamiel, who was guided through the decision process by Craig Calistro of Calistro Music. “The sound is everything you’d expect from API – big and punchy. I also like the fact I can have it be the centerpiece and augment it with outboard gear of my choice, creating my own personal sound.”

The studio is undergoing final preparations, including a new mix/master/production room, as well as a custom desk, which will be completed in June.


Posted by Keith Clark on 06/06 at 11:54 AM
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DPA Microphones & Break of Reality Partner To Support Music Education Programs

Quartet hits the road with company’s d:vote 4099 instrument mics; chooses Oklahoma high school as mic recipient

DPA Microphones recently joined cello-rock group Break of Reality as advocates for the importance of music education in schools.

In conjunction with its tour schedule supporting its latest album, “TEN,” the group hosted a month-long Music Education Tour, making its way to at 10 school districts across the U.S. At these stops, students attended workshops and performances hosted by the quartet to learn about the art and appreciation of music.

In an effort to provide music programs with the opportunity to experience quality technology, DPA Microphones donated three d:vote 4099 instrument microphones to Edmond North High School (ENHS), in Edmond, OK, deemed by the band to be the school in greatest need for an audio solution.

“Next year, we will be kicking off our Strolling Strings program, the first of its kind at Edmond,” said Peter Markes, orchestra director at ENHS. “One of the tricky pieces I have been trying to figure out is the best way to amplify a few students for performance programs. These d:vote mics are a great solution. Thank you, DPA and Break of Reality for this generous gift.”

The members of Break of Reality are no strangers to performing for and/or conducting workshops at public schools and wanted to use their good fortune in the industry to afford aspiring musicians with the same opportunities they’ve encountered. That’s when the members decided to launch the Break of Reality Music Education Tour.

With the help of fan donations through a Kickstarter campaign to fund the group’s tour expenses, the band members set out on the road with a mission to raise money at each school concert. After the stops, 100 percent of the donations and ticket proceeds were given to the music programs for each school they visited.

“We learned to play our instruments through public school music classes,” says Ivan Trevino, co-founder and percussionist for the group, which has been performing for more than a decade. “If it weren’t for those programs, I don’t think Break of Reality would exist today.”

In addition to the donation, the band also teamed up with DPA to use the d:votes for its performances on the Music Education Tour. At all schools, especially ENHS, the microphones gave the next generation of musicians the chance to gain hands-on experience with some of today’s most advanced technology.

“We truly value the importance of music education programs,” states Eric Mayer, president of DPA Microphones. “By providing the d:vote 4099 Instrument Microphones, we hope the students at Edmond North High School can learn how to properly amplify their instruments and understand the importance of using a high-quality microphone to capture their sound.”

The d:vote 4099 Instrument mics were chosen for the school on recommendation from the quartet, which previously selected the d:vote 4099s after experimenting with a series of audio setups, including both pickups and microphones, that continuously fell short of finding an ideal audio solution.

In addition, the d:vote 4099 is designed for touring, so it can easily be unclipped and repositioned on the instrument, without any cable ties or other obstructions. This creates an effortless solution for both groups. The accurate natural sound, balanced EQs and functionality of the microphone will come in handy for Break of Reality and Strolling Strings tours.

“The students started using them in our orchestra room, just experimenting, the first day we received them,” continues Markes. “What I like most thus far is their ease of use.  While we haven’t had a chance yet to use them in a public venue, we’re already practicing with them in our orchestra room and we’ve found that they are basically plug-and-play to the setup that we have in place.  I look forward to using them in different halls as we kick off our Strolling Strings program.”

DPA Microphones

Posted by Keith Clark on 06/06 at 11:24 AM
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Butch Vig & Billy Bush Deploy Waves Abbey Road Collection On Garbage’s New Single (Video)

Provides a palette of "mythical bests" of original analog gear

Grammy winner Butch Vig (primary producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist for alt-rock hitmakers Garbage and also noted for his production work with such acts as Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and Foo Fighters), along with engineer Billy Bush (Jake Bugg, The Naked and Famous, Neon Trees), recently put the Waves Abbey Road Collection to use in recording the new Garbage single “Girls Talk.”

The single was released as a 10-inch record for Record Store Day 2014, followed by a worldwide digital release, and the project is the most recent example of Vig’s use of Waves plug-ins.

“Waves plug-ins have been an important part of the Garbage recording process since they first came out, and we are very pleased that they have become an integral part of our live performances as well,” Vig says.
The plug-ins included in Waves’ Abbey Road Collection provided Vig and Bush a number of solutions in the creation of the single. Vig reports: “We recorded an acoustic piano, an upright, at my house, and it’s not the greatest-sounding piano, but I put the Waves/Abbey Road REDD plug-in, the REDD 51, on it, along with a little bit of Waves Renaissance Compressor just to bring down the initial attack and bring up some sustain, and it really opened it up. All of a sudden it sounded like a real baby grand.

“I also recorded a couple of soft synth cello parts that interact with each other, and they sounded okay, but as soon as I put the REDD 51 on, it really put this delicious air on top of the mix. You can almost hear the bow going across the instruments. It made them sound real.”

Bush adds: “The original REDD desk is like a mythical beast. So to have the ability [with the Waves/Abbey Road REDD plug-in] to try not one, not two, but three versions is really fun: to hear how each one distorts differently, what the headrooms sounds like, how the EQ sounds and how it colors the sound of what you put it on is great. I like how it makes things recorded in the box sound real.” 

Regarding the Waves/Abbey Road J37 Tape, Bush states: “The J37 is another mythical beast which only a handful of people ever used. [The Waves plug-in] is really unique and does something different than all the other tape plugins out there. You can create sounds that you haven’t heard before. Not only is it an accurate representation of a great machine, it’s also a very cool, creative and useful tool.”

Vig adds: “There is something inherent about the sound of tape that really helps glue performances together. The J37 is so good because it emulates that sound from the ’60s. I’ve never been inside Abbey Road Studios, so to be able to use that now on mixes and individual tracks is really cool, since it really does sound amazing.” 



Posted by Keith Clark on 06/06 at 11:04 AM
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TransAudio Group Introduces Passive ATC SCM20PSL MkII Compact Studio Monitor

First professional product to incorporate the new ATC dual-suspension 25 mm tweeter

TransAudio Group, U.S. distributors for ATC UK, has introduced the ATC SCM20PSL MkII near-field reference monitor, which improves upon the previous ATC 6-inch, 2-way passive model and is the company’s smallest and least expensive monitor.

Built to the same standards as its active Pro Range siblings, the SCM20PSL MkII is ideal for those seeking a new level of resolution in a compact passive package, well-suited for critical near-field applications or smaller rooms.

“ATC is well-known for designing and building studio monitors that are unflinchingly truthful and that help engineers deliver mixes that translate everywhere,” says Brad Lunde, president of TransAudio Group. “ATC founder Billy Woodman and his team of R&D engineers never tire in the pursuit of perfection, and our request for a smaller monitor has led them to develop the SCM20PSL Pro MkII.”

The new SCM20PSL MkII is based around the ATC 6.5-inch “Super Linear” LF driver with integrated midrange, utilizing the same SL technology developed for the larger 9-, 12- and 15-inch based monitors. The SCM20PSL MkII is the first professional product to incorporate the new ATC dual-suspension 25 mm tweeter. Five years in development, the new tweeter offers lower distortion, higher output and greater reliability.

Further, a newly ATC designed/built passive crossover has also been incorporated, combining second and third order features to offer improved imaging and precision, comparing favorably to the company’s active designs. Neutral output extends across the audible spectrum, and within an all-new cabinet design, minimizing size and weight.

“Given the excellence of previous designs, these advantages lead to a substantive improvement in passive speaker technology,” Lunde concludes.

TransAudio Group

Posted by Keith Clark on 06/06 at 06:55 AM
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Thursday, June 05, 2014

AES 54th International Conference, Focusing On Audio Forensics, Coming Up In London

Techniques, technologies and practice of audio forensics

The upcoming AES 54th International Conferencem focusing on audio forensics, is set to take place June 12-14, 2014, at the Holiday Inn Bloomsbury in London.

Dedicated to exploring techniques, technologies and advancements in the field of audio forensics, the conference will provide a platform for sharing research related to the forensic application of speech/signal processing, acoustical analyses, audio authentication and the examination of methodologies and best practices. Chairpersons for this conference are Mark Huckvale and Jeff M. Smith. 

This marks the fifth AES event devoted to the technical developments and practical approaches developing in the field of audio forensics – will act as a hub for researchers and practitioners to exchange ideas and foster new approaches to address challenges that are evolving every day in the industry. Opening ceremonies will feature a special keynote speech entitled “Cognitive Bias in the Interpretation of Forensic Evidence” given by noted cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Itiel Dror. 
Three full days of sessions include tutorials and papers on a host of related subjects covering a variety of Audio Forensic topics. Tutorials will include “Automatic Speaker Recognition with Degraded and Enhanced Speech,” “Dereverberation Algorithms in a Nutshell - a signal processing introduction,” “Digital Audio Authenticity” and “Speech Intelligibility.”

Each day will also include multiple paper presentation sessions on topics including Forensic Speaker Comparison, Reverberation and Room Acoustics, Audio Authenticity, Speech Enhancement and Intelligibility, Forensic Musicology and Gunshot Analysis. 

AES executive director Bob Moses states, ”We are really pleased with the growth and development of our Audio Forensics-related programs and events over the past decade. For the audio engineering community, these forensic specialists continue to push the boundaries of our understanding of sound in our everyday lives.

“Some of the most important recordings are ones that were never intended to be captured or that take place under unimaginable circumstances. The AES and its sponsors are dedicated to promoting the science and technologies that make audio forensics work so valuable to us all.” 

Supporters of the AES 54th International Conference include Platinum Sponsor CEDAR Audio, along with Conference Sponsors AGNITiO, iZotope, Oxford Wave Research, Salient Sciences and Voxalys. 

Go here for complete program details and for registration information. 


Posted by Keith Clark on 06/05 at 01:37 PM
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RE/P Files: An Interview With Noted Engineer/Producer Val Garay

From the archives of the late, great Recording Engineer/Producer (RE/P) magazine, enjoy this in-depth discussion with engineer/ producer Val Garay, conducted by Robert Carr. This article dates back to the October 1983 issue.

As a natural extension to his career as a musician during the early Sixties, Val Garay’s love for music lead him to pursue the art and science of audio engineering. Starting in 1969, he apprenticed at the Sound Factory, Hollywood, under rock-recording legend Dave Hassinger (Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Seals and Crofts).

After turning independent, Garay formed an alliance with another ex-musician, Britisher Peter Asher. The association produced monster hits for Asher’s clients Linda Ronstadt (Heart Like a Wheel, Prisoner in Disguise, Hasten Down the Wind, Simple Dreams, Living in the USA, Mad Love) and James Taylor (J.T., Flag, Dad Loves His Work).

Garay eventually became dissatisfied at the Sound Factory, and the inconsistencies attendant with moving from one studio to another, at which point he decided the best course of action was to open his own facility, Record One, located in Sherman Oaks, just north of Los Angeles, and which now serves as his recording home.

The following interview took place among the dozens of Gold and Platinum albums lining the walls in Garay’s private office. After a few words on his recent accomplishments as producer/engineer with Kim Carnes (Mistaken Identity; 1981 “Record of the Year” Grammy Winner for “Bette Davis Eyes”), Randy Meisner (One More Song), Joan Armatrading (The Key), and the Motels (All Four One), a band that Garay also manages, the conversation turned to the opportunities and advantages to an engineer/producer owning one’s own personal-use studio.


Robert Carr: It must be particularly convenient to have your own studio, which enables you to take the time to perfect each project you work on?

Val Garay: It is and it isn’t. Sometimes it’s a pain in the ass, because you have to deal with the business end of owning a studio, which I’m not terribly fond of. I don’t like to sit there with calculators and figure out the plus and minus side of the operation. I like to make records, which is a lot more creative, and pretty soon I’ll start making a film. [A feature film based in part on Motels’ lead singer Martha Davis’ life currently is in its development stages.]

Owning your own facility is kind of a necessary evil in the sense that if you subject yourself to a commercially rented studio, you subject yourself to someone else’s tastes—not only in terms of equipment and design, but also maintenance and other things. I was fortunate to spend the first eight or nine years of my engineering career in one recording studio [Record Factory in Hollywood] and the rest of the time here [Record One]. I wasn’t subjected to going from one studio to another. It’s too unsettling for me.

RC: Is stability of that nature necessary for you to make a good product?

VG: I think you perform better when you have familiar surroundings and equipment that you’re used to working with. If you were a “body-and-fender” man, to put it on a mundane level, and you were wondering around the streets doing your work every day using tools in different areas, I’m sure you wouldn’t be as proficient as if you had your own body shop. It’s basically the same thing here.

The only problem is that this is a two-million-dollar operation, so it requires a lot of attention. And I’m not the only one who uses this studio. We rent the studio to a lot of clients, and I’m constantly having to book around other people. In all fairness, if I decided to work tomorrow, I couldn’t bump Toto out of the studio. I’m basically a customer here, too; that can be frustrating at times.

RC: Couldn’t you divest yourself of the day-to-day running of the studio, and put someone else in charge?

VG: No, I can’t. It’s the same way that I make records. I have to concern myself with every fragment, or something starts to dissipate or disintegrate. If you’re not in contact with what’s going on, you can’t catch it before it gets too bad.

RC: I assume that kind of philosophy is what motivated you to become involved with both engineering and producing the projects you take on?

VG: I’ve been working this way for 15 years. I just wasn’t successful as [only] a producer. But it’s very difficult to try and hire somebody to engineer records when, in my mind, and I don’t mean this egotistically, I’m one of the best engineers I know. How could I hire somebody else? All the really good up and coming engineers that I know are people I taught. And you know that you teach them everything they know, not everything you know.

Greg Ladanyi won a Grammy last year for the Toto IV record, and I taught him. I was just reading an article in Re/p on Gabe Veltri [April 1983 issue Ed.]. When I got perturbed at the Sound Factory at one time in my career and went over to Richard’s [Perry] studio for about a year and worked, Gabe was my go-fer. Now I see him in his sweater and tinted glasses behind the console.

It would be very difficult for me to hire someone as my engineer, unless I worked with someone in my peer group. I could work with [Bill] Schnee, because we came out of the same school in the same time frame. But when you have somebody else to deal with, you have another personality, another X-Factor in the formula. That tends to dilute the process sometimes. Whereas right now, I don’t have a whole lot of conversation with my engineer about how I want to do something, because he knows how I want to do it, since he is me.

RC: A lot of producers don’t like to handle both functions for the same project, because they feel they’ll be missing some production aspect while they’re working with the equipment, or vice versa.

VG: It can be hard. But here’s how I do it, which is actually pretty easy, because I’ve figured out a method that works. I spend an immense amount of time rehearsing, which is why I built a rehearsal studio in here [Record One]. That’s when I sort out the musical part of the record-making process—the instrumentation; the arrangements; the basic architecture of the song [see accompanying sidebar].

The ratio of rehearsal-to-recording time is about two-to-one. If we spent eight months making a record, two-thirds of that was rehearsing, and the other third recording. We figure everything out in absolute detail and make cassettes at each juncture as we go along. I could play you cassettes of the Motels’ album [All Four One] that shows one song passing through four stages of arrangement.

Sometimes we’ll get into the studio, cut the tracks, not get it, come back to rehearsal, and work on the arrangement even more. By the time we get to the studio, I’m thoroughly familiar with the song. There are so few changes made while we’re recording that I can become an engineer and get a sound that I like.

Once I’ve accomplished that, there’s really nothing more to laying it down than cutting a vocal, and I can do that without even thinking about it; my hands respond unconsciously to how my ear wants to hear the vocal track. I don’t even look at VU meters anymore. I’m totally conscious of the music when it’s going down, and I can tell a great take from a bad one instantly.

I also make notes. I keep a loose-leaf notebook for every group I work with. Here’s the Motels’; this book represents the last album we did. [Holds up a black binder and opens to a page about halfway into the book.] If you look at “Only the Lonely,” for example: this is the lyric sheet [flips page]; I have the date on the top of each sheet. These are the fixes we did on the vocal; the numbers of the takes with little one- and two-word descriptions after each one.

As the track is going down I make notes: “CT” equals complete take; “FS” equals false start, etc. [Sample comments: “bad sax”; “good take”; “the run-through was good in spots”; “still some mistakes”; “end is not tight”; “magnificent from solo on”; “the last hit was perfect.”] Here is my star system, actually stolen from Peter Asher: two or more stars means that the take was really good.

I keep pretty accurate notes of everything that I’ve done on every record. Sometimes the notes get more excessive or less depending on how hard it is to cut.

Here’s Kim’s album, Mistaken Identity. [Garay pulls out another binder from the pile, and opens to a page.] “Bette Davis Eyes”—that was the first complete take. Then in the back is usually the songs that didn’t make it. “The Lover” didn’t make it, obviously. Neither did “New Orleans Ladies,” “Here Comes the Bad One,” “Good Friend,” “Games,” “If You Don’t Want My Love”; these are songs that never made it as we were working on the album.

RC: Did you spend time pre-producing all these songs that didn’t make it?

VG: We rehearsed them. The ratio I’ve found in the past is usually three or four to one, meaning 30 to 40 songs to get 10 finished ones. For every three or four songs, you’ll get one that not only suits the artist, but is also strong enough to use on the album.

RC: Do you keep those rejected songs for use in the future?

VG: It’s a nice idea, but unfortunately it never works. If they are not good enough for this album, usually they won’t be strong enough for anyone.

RC: You’re really playing the numbers. You start with a lot of songs, and slowly weed them out until the good ones turn up?

VG: Not necessarily. When I started the new Motels’ album in January 1983, we had three songs. Three became one; one became none. Then we started over again. We have all 10 songs now [July 1983].

RC: If you do spend six to eight months or a year on an album, is it cost-effective to do everything yourself, assuming that your time is worth quite a bit of money?

VG: Hiring someone else to do those things would not change the time frame at all. We’d have to rehearse just as long, and it wouldn’t change the engineering. I originally did all the pre-production out of fear of not being prepared in the studio, and not being able to make things sound good. But, in reality, that kind of time is required to do a good job, regardless of whether you’re engineering or not. One sort of facilitates the other anyway.

I make most of my records live with very few overdubs. I think that records are better that way, especially if you’re working with great singers, which I have had the great fortune to do.

Yet certain singers thrive on the overdubbing process. I’ve never seen a great singer, who overdubs his vocal, sing a part from top to bottom, and use 98 percent of it. The minute they get into the overdub design of doing vocals, they’ll do eight takes and comp (compile or combine) eight to one track, and then do eight more and comp them. Basically what they do is use their ear as a singer to pick what they sing best, and sort of assemble the finished vocal track mechanically. In the end, it usually sounds like they sang it from top to bottom.

Don Henley does that very well—although I don’t know why he does it, because he’s a great singer. In fact, all the Eagles did it that way for years. Jackson Browne does it the same way. They go as far as comping syllables. “Well, the t-h-e of that word is a little flat.” So they’ll switch at that point to another vocal track that has that syllable a little more in tune. The layman can’t really hear all these comps. I did that with Randy Meisner’s album; there were a million switches in that.

With the Eagles, (Meisner) was used to singing in only one register, which was really high. But for a solo record, where you’re the lead singer, you have to cover all the areas. His lower ranges were a little more tentative, and he would sing out of tune more often. In order to get it in tune, we had to do the vocal tracks that way.

But when you have a singer like Martha (Davis, of the Motels), Kim Carnes, Linda Ronstadt, or James Taylor, those people are great singers. They have great intonation. The best vocal performances I ever recorded with Linda were the live ones with a few fixes—you fix one word here, and one word there. “Blue Bayou” was live; “Ooh, Baby Baby” was live. In fact, that whole record was. Also, “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim was totally live.

RC: I remember reading a couple of reviews about Linda Ronstadt’s album to the effect that, because the recording sounded so perfect, the critics thought it had been “produced to death.” How do you react to such comments.?

VG: The pre-production was really good. The interesting thing is that Linda never learned the songs until she got in the studio. She would sort of sluff her way through the rehearsals. The band would learn the songs, but she wouldn’t even know the lyrics most of the time—she’d be reading from a sheet! But she’s such a great singer that she can evoke emotions that sound like she’s torn. She’d usually learn the lyrics in a couple of run-downs in the studio.

Martha (Davis) is a great singer. When you have someone that sings as well as she does, and a band that’s got the tune down—and they’re interacting in a live-performance situation, even on a record—it’s much more real and emotional, and more moving, when it’s all going down at once, and one person is playing off the other. If you have a strong drummer that doesn’t move if the singer rushes or drags, then the track stays steady; the singer is singing and the band is following the singer, instead of a singer following a music track that’s [already] laid. It’s a whole different method. That’s why Elvis Presley records made in the Fifties still hold up; they were done Iive.

RC: You work with these artists for such a long time during pre-production and recording. It must be inevitable that you develop a close friendship with them after a while. In a way, doesn’t it become harder to be critical of their work?

VG: It becomes easier, the more familiar you get with them, because the barriers and defenses go down. It’s easier for me to be frank with Martha three years later, than it was the first month, because: A, I was afraid of hurting her feelings; and, B, afraid of what she was going to think of me. Is she going to think I’m a tyrant?

No, the more familiar you become, the more open the lines of communication. You’re more comfortable with the person, and there is less and less need for dialog. She knows what I want from her as a performer; I know, hopefully, what she wants, and we get to the point a lot quicker.

RC: I would also think that it provides you with an insight into knowing when to kick them forward, and when to dangle the carrot in front to get them going.

VG: Absolutely. I’ve known her so long that I know when to say it’s over; go home. Sometimes it’s five o’clock at night; sometimes it’s three o’clock in the morning. I know when the productivity level has peaked. That’s when I go, “Good night. See you tomorrow.”

RC: I noticed that you tend to rely on the same session players for most of your dates. Does that stem from the same sort of philosophy . . . that you know them so well there’s an extra efficiency?

VG: Sort of, but I think it has to do with more than that—a love affair with a great player. I’m sure that just as directors fall in love with actors and actresses, producers fall in love with musicians. I don’t mean in a sexual connotation, but on an emotional level. When I first heard Russ Kunkel play drums, I was in awe.

And he was a young man just starting out. But he had that thing that when you hear a great drummer, whether it’s in the early raw form, or the finished polished form, you just know when you hear it. At least I do. So I worked with basically the same 10 musicians for 10 years.

When it came time for me to make a break with [producer] Peter[Asher], and start producing on my own, I knew it was imperative that I build my own little group of musicians, as opposed to using his. His were used to his method of operation. Although I learned a lot from the man, I wasn’t going to do it the same way. That’s when I started looking for the guys I wanted to use.

It’s hard, too, because when you’ve dealt with the Waddy Wachtels, and the Leland Sklars and Russ Kunkels of rock and roll, you’ve set a standard that is pretty hard to duplicate. But I did, although I still go back and use Waddy from time to time.

RC: What do you look for when selecting musicians for a session?

VG: I guess my own taste in musicianship. I know very few musicians who are feverish readers—playing noted parts that are written out. They can read their way through a rough chart, because most of the stuff we write out is just chord charts to give the people a guide to follow. I look basically for the feel they have for playing.

RC: Many producers and engineers prefer not to work with the same people most of the time, because they feel that they reach a certain point in their careers where it’s difficult to remain creative.

VG: That happened with the old group of musicians I worked with when I was with Peter Asher all those years. But [deciding] when it happens is not that clear cut. It’s not that suddenly they don’t become creative anymore, because their wonderful talent doesn’t go away.

It’s just that you fall into a rut. It’s like Steve Garvey playing for the [LA] Dodgers all those years, and last year he wasn’t playing that well. Then he goes to San Diego, and he’s killing them.

The same thing happens with musicians—familiarity breeds contempt. The temptation is to start getting lackadaisical. I know I can get a good drum sound on Russ Kunkel without turning up the speakers. I could leave them shut off, EQ them, balance them on VU meters, and know it would sound great, because I’ve worked with him that long. When you get to that point, you lose the fear.

When I make records, I operate under a fear premise that this project won’t sound good enough, won’t feel good enough, won’t something good enough. It’s fear. If I sit there and kick back, knowing I can get a great sound on these guys, because they’re all going to play great, I’ve lost that hungry, street-level edge that got me here. That’s what becomes difficult in terms of creativity.

Here’s the difference; you’ve got the Phoenix Sun Devils and the New York Yankees. I’m sure there are days when the New York Yankees do not feel like playing baseball, but they do, because they’re professionals. The same thing holds true in this business. When you’re a professional, and you’re good, you’re respected, and you’ve reached a certain level of proficiency, you then have to figure out how to motivate yourself day after day. I have trouble with it.

I’ve been sitting in a control room for 15 years looking at a pair of speakers. It’s hard for me sometimes to go in there when I would rather be out in the sun sailing to Catalina, or playing gold at Riviera. I have other interests. But I have to get that fear of, “Is this going to be a hit record?” Well, it’s not going to be a hit record if I don’t work on it. And it’s not going to be a hit record if I don’t put into it what I put into the last one.

You have to motivate yourself. That’s how I do it—with fear. There’s that guy right behind me; he’s right on my heels. Until I decide to move into another area, I have to keep motivated. I have to keep up with the technology; keep my ears and eyes open all the time.

RC: Other than the fear, are there other little games that you play to persuade yourself to look at the project a little bit differently, and to uncover new avenues?

VG: Yes. There’s pressure…

RC: Under pressure, wouldn’t you fall back on the proven techniques and tricks you know work to get the job done?

VG: No. Well, there is a certain formula that is ingrained in all of that—what I call the basic foundation—that I live with. I never get rid of that. When my foundation was assembled in terms of making records, it was concrete—it was solid. I know what works. I also know the key to any record is a song. So if l do my homework in the song department, I can produce it in terms of the “production.”

Maybe not as well as the last record; I can sluff off in terms of the arrangement. But if it’s “Every Breath You Take,” I don’t care if you cut it on a cassette machine in a phone booth in Tahiti; it’s a hit. So most of the work I do is basically in the song line-up.

For the rest of the job, I’m fortunate. I learned from a great teacher how to make records; I know how to make them sound great. I can do R&B; I can do rock and roll; I can do country music ... pop music. I’ve done all of them successftdly. I’ve had a well-rounded career doing acts like that, so it’s just a matter of finding things that I’m comfortable with.

RC: Up until now, we’ve been discussing primarily rock projects. Do you feel you’ve become something of a rock specialist?

VG: I think that was done out of self-defense. By the time I was done with eight or nine years of Linda and James, I was stamped as the engineer for country-pop—the “California, surfboards, and tuna-fish” engineer. Oddly enough, my roots were always in rock and roll long before I ever did anything with Linda and James. So, out of self defense, I went after projects with more of a raw, rock and-roll edge to them, to prove to people that I could do that type of music. That’s sort of where I’ve been for a while.

RC: Do you really feel that you’ve gotten stuck there?

VG: No. Not at all. I like it. I like to take acts that are slightly off-center - not mainstream pop acts, but slightly off-center, rock-and-roll acts—and make them mass-appealable. All the acts I’ve worked with since I started as a producer had not turned the corner and become big, successful recording acts before I worked with them. They were all a little bit off in terms of their style, or their singing, or their sound, or whatever. I figured out a way to make them acceptable to the masses.

Kim Carnes had made six albums before I started working with her. She had gone from the beautiful, southern California singer/songwriter, to the woman with the raspy “Rod Stewart” voice doing a song called “Bette Davis Eyes,” which is about as off the wall as anything you can ever write.

Martha [Davis] had made two albums before I worked with her—neither were successful. Everybody knew she had the potential. She was sort of the “Los Angeles, New-Wave hope.” People had assigned her the slot of heir apparent to the throne of the female, LA, rock and roll star. It hadn’t happened. Again, I think I helped figure out a way to make it work.

RC: Of all the albums I listened to, Kim Carnes’ Mistaken Identity sounded the most commercial. It had a Top-40 sound to the album, whereas the others—the Motels, Joan Armatrading, and Randy Meisner—didn’t.

VG: Joan’s record is pretty avant garde. I only did two tracks on that [album], and those two were probably the most commercial. The Motels’ album sounds really commercial to me, and considering how well it did sales-wise ... “Only the Lonely” is, to me, the classic cheek-to-cheek tune. I don’t really know what you mean. “Mission of Mercy” was a great AOR rock tune.

RC: I can describe it more in terms of colors. Mistaken Identity had a very light color to it, in the sense that you might hear it on a middle-of-the-road station. The other material comprised darker shades of colors.

VG: Right. Martha is a very dark writer. Kim has a lighter side to her that is really pleasing. To me, her real strength as a singer lies in the fact that she has this wonderful sensitivity. A song like “Mistaken Identity,” or “Bette Davis Eyes,” is amazingly captivating, because she can evoke both of those emotions out of you. Whereas, you listen to a song like “Break the Rules Tonight,” which is her screaming her ass off, and the guitars going “gggrrrk, ggrrk, ggrrk,” that’s good, but it’s not as believable to me as the other side of her.

RC: So part of your job is to establish a direction and identity for the artist, and have them remain credible within that identity?

VG: Absolutely. The toughest part of the job is to have them not lose credibility in their minds and, at the same time, be accessible to the masses. You don’t want them to feel like you are selling them out. You have to show them you’re on their side and, at the same time, strike a happy medium between the absolute avant garde side and the mainstream, pop medium, which sometimes tends to be a little bland.

Critics talk about an artist selling out when they rthe artists] get successful. The reason that all the avant garde, hard-core people think you are selling out, is because you appeal to the masses.

RC: You’re no longer something that they discovered?

VG: Right. I watched Hoyt Axton completely berate and belittle Linda for selling out when she made “Heart Like a Wheel,” because he was this hard-core country singer. She worked her ass off thinking that she was making a sound, artistic endeavor. Because it sold 2 1/2 million records does not mean she sold out. But, to him it did, because she was no longer his discovery.

RC: Is there a process that you go through to define an artist’s personality, or is that a difficult concept to put into words?

VG: It’s not that nebulous; it’s pretty real. The quickest and most efficient way of doing it is through songs. If the artist is a writer, they write great songs, and not as great songs. But they are not always the best judge of which ones are the great ones! My job is to find the great ones.

It’s a funny kind of “push-and-pull” process where I’ll listen to five tunes and say, “This is a good song; these four aren’t.” They’ll go, “Well, I really love this one, too.” And I tell them it’s not really that good, but we’ll work on it. Then we work on it, and it’s still not good, and I say, “Forget it. Let’s off it.” And they come back with, “No I really love it. We have to keep working on it!”

So we keep working on it. Sometimes you keep going over and over and over and finally you have to say, “Forget it! It stinks! Next tune!” Or you may get it. Suddenly it all comes together. We had a tune like that on this album with Martha. We started cutting in February and finally got it in . . . [flips through notebook of Motels’ sessions].

That’s a good note, huh? [Garay points to a qualitative note about a take on one of the pages.]

RC: Horrible! [Laughter] Do you show the artists this book as you go along?

VG: It sits in the control room next to me. They always come in and look to see what I said. That’s the first thing they do to find out if they got a take or not. [Continues to flip through pages.] Here you go. We started it 4/14/83. This is the first time we cut the song, so we know they’ve been rehearsing it for a week or two weeks in front of this. And we cut it on the 15th [flips through pages]. That version sat around for a while, and then we realized that it wasn’t right.

Then, the 24th of May: a new version. That didn’t fly. We changed the arrangement and we cut it again on 6/6/83. Then 617/83; that’s when we got it. The eighth take. Figure that’s almost two months on that one song to get a recorded version we liked.

RC: Did the song change that much during those eight weeks?

VG: Drastically. Four completely different versions. I still have them on cassettes.

RC: Would you say that a lot of artists really don’t know who they are? Or don’t have a really clear picture of themselves?

VG: Always.

RC: So the whole idea during production is to cut through the illusion of who the artist thinks they are, and find the real self?

VG: I don’t tell them anything. I just help them find what they feel comfortable with, and what I think is an acceptable mode to the general masses, as opposed to a select few. The Motels were successful previously on an underground basis, because they made albums that were an avant garde kind of collector’s item. That’s about all they were. They had some great songs on there, but they just didn’t come out.

RC: There’s only a finite number of things you can do with a song…

VG: ... it’s endless. To give you an example: you have 10 songs on an album. When you go to sequence that album, what are the multiple number of ways that you can arrange those songs? Millions; about 3,856,000 and change. Yet if you gave me 10 songs and asked me to sequence them, after I became familiar enough with them I would say that every time I would get that sequence into four or five logical combinations.

RC: The songs tell you where they want to go?

VG: Kind of, but you also have an endless supply of options. And you never get to a point where you have exact figures. The technology changes so fast; the styles of music change so fast. Basically we’re looking at the parameters of tone and time. Time based on ... this year it’s more of a mechanical sound with mechanical drummers; synthesizers synchronized to the mechanical drummers with sequencers. Five years ago it was something else.

And song form has changed, too. It’s no longer verse-chorus-verse-chorus. That’s changed drastically, based on the boredom of familiarity. I can see Martha’s writing style change from the way John Phillips would write a song for the Mamas and Papas, which is classic Gershwin or Hammerstein kind of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-etc.

RC: What about putting the arrangement together? Let’s say on a chorus, where the harmony comes in for the first line, solo voice for the second line, harmony again on the third line…

VG: Well, that’s pretty much not going to change a lot, because that’s basic song architecture. You want the beginning to be intriguing, and draw you in, but you want it to get bigger as it goes down the road.

Now there are a lot of “no music solos,” which five years ago you didn’t hear. I think I produced the first big hit with the first no·music solo in “Bette Davis Eyes.” That had no noted music in the solo; it was just a riff rolling over and over. That’s happening a lot. The Police record [“Every Breath You Take”] has almost no solo in it. A couple of tunes on Martha’s new album have no solos.

RC: Obviously there’s a constant striving to throw at least one new thing in every song?

VG: I think that happens by itself. Every time I’ve ever said, “Okay, this time we’re going to come up with the great new sound,” it turns out to be junk. The Synare [drum machine] that I used on “Bette Davis Eyes” and everybody copies now, is a good example. It was a complete accident on my part.; these are songs that never made it as we were working on the album.

Nobody went, “Let’s come up with this great sound that everybody will copy.”

[Drummer] Craig Krampf went out and bought one of these little things that you hit and it goes [Garay does a Synare impression with his mouth]. He’s sitting there trying to put it in every song we rehearsed for two weeks. Finally I told him, “Will you throw that thing away?
It sounds like a garbage can lid.” Then we started working on “Bette Davis Eyes,” and he played it in that. I went, “Wait a minute! That works!” You’ve got to be ready to try things.

I worked on the Summer Breeze album with Seals and Crofts and [engineer] David [Hassinger] at the Sound Factory. About eight months later they did a live show where the actual live take of “Summer Breeze” wasn’t that good. Louis Shelton said, “Why don’t we cut to the down beat ofthe studio 24-track, and to the last beat of the live tape? That way we’ll be using the original 24-track for the song.” I said, “No way. It’ll never work in a million years. Forget it. You can’t do that.” “Try it,” he said. “No!” “Try it!” “Okay!” Cut. Perfect. Worked great.

Never say never—you have to try everything. I can say no after I’ve tried it. But all the time I’m in the studio I’ll say, “Why don’t you try this thing?” and I’ll get resistance. Working with an artist is the hardest thing to do. It’s like raising children. I don’t have any, but I’ve been around enough of them in my lifetime to know that when you’re a parent, the hardest thing to do is not to impart your values and your personal judgment on the child, who is very impressionable and wants to learn.

You want them to be themselves a little bit. You don’t want to keep saying, “No. You can’t put your pants on that way. No, don’t sit that way on the couch.” Pretty soon, they become a puppet to you, and your feelings and values. But when you let them be themselves, they are amazingly honest. That’s because they aren’t inhibited; they have their own method of thinking and operating.

It’s the same thing with an artist. They are lovable little children in a lot of ways—that’s what makes them so vulnerable. So the hardest thing is to try and help them out of the womb, but not smother them. You’ve got to let them grow on their own, and it’s hard; it’s painful a lot of times. I put a lot of work into an artist and a project and a career and, as they grow and become less and less dependent on me, it hurts. I’ve nurtured them, held their hand, put the band-aids on their knees ... all the things you go through as a parent.

When they become independent, it becomes difficult. But at the same time, there is the satisfaction of being the proud parent standing there at graduation when they’re accepting their cum laude award. It’s mixed emotion.

RC: If one of your artists came to you, expressing the wish to work with another producer, how would you react?

VG: Actually, that sort of happened with Kim. I made a really good record with her that sold [in] unbelieveable amounts, and she decided after we made the second record—which didn’t sell in unbelievable amounts—that she would rather work with someone else. I have absolutely no animosity whatsoever.

RC: We talked about Kim Carnes’ sensitivity before. She seems to have a delicate voice, because of the raspiness. Is that difficult to mike, and get it to cut through the track?

VG: No. If an artist’s voice doesn’t cut through the track, it’s the arrangement that’s crowded. That’s usually the case.

RC: Is there a procedure you go through for selecting a mike for a particular vocalist?

VG: No. I’ve used pretty much the same mike for the last 15 years: a Neumann U-67 tube.

RC: Does the U-67 have a special sound for you?

VG: Not really; they’re just a great microphone for singers, and I’ve gotten really good vocal sounds on all the vocalists I’ve ever worked with. You can get things that will sound different—have more edge to it or harshness, or whatever—but you won’t get anything that sounds better. In some cases I might want something that sounds different than that, and then I’ve used other microphones. But for the most part, I stick with the Neumann.

RC: So you’re going for the accurate representation of the source?

VG: Usually. I use hardly any EQ at all on the vocalist. I must be getting pretty close to the way they sound, because they’ve never complained that it didn’t sound like them when they heard the record!

RC: Which brings up an interesting point about Joan Armatrading. Her voice has a cutting edge to it. Is that the quality of her voice, or was the mike chosen to enhance that edge?

VG: I only did two songs. I used a U-67 for those two tracks. There was no attempt to tone down her voice, or make it more cutting. [Steve Lillywhite produced the remaining nine songs on The Key.]

RC: Why did you re-cut those two tracks?

VG: I didn’t re-cut them; they didn’t exist before I did them. It was like her sixth or seventh album, and A&M felt there wasn’t a single on it for the United States. They approached me and asked if I would be interested in cutting a couple of tracks with her for the purpose of making a more commercial release for America. I had enough time to do just a couple of tracks, so I said, “Sure.” She’s really a fabulously good artist.

RC: Did you pick those two songs, or were they already worked out?

VG: She played me three or four tunes, and we picked those two [“What Do Boys Dream,” and “(I Love It When You) Call Me Names”]. We worked on the arrangements a lot. She wasn’t used to that. The person she worked with before, Steve Lillywhite, was terribly
uninvolved in the musical aspect of her record. He didn’t discuss arrangement changes, key changes, or bar changes. I was a musician long before anything else, so I have to be involved in that.

I have opinions and feelings; you don’t have to use them, or listen to them. But to not allow me to say them is sort of cheating oneself, because I have good ideas. Obviously, that’s been proven. Peter [Asher] listened to my ideas for enough years, so I figure if he’s as smart as he is, somebody else should listen, too!

RC: Speaking of Peter Asher, he brought you Linda’s last album to mix, didn’t he?

VG: No. Not actually, I was contracted to do that album based on the kind of deals we made in years previous. I started recording that album about two years ago. We cut five or six tunes. Then I got in the middle of another album - I can’t remember who it was at the time—and Linda got into the Broadway play [Pirates of Penzance], then into the movie. Before we knew it, a year had gone by.

At that point, I was unavailable, and they needed to finish the album. So we all talked about it when they got back to LA. They came up with the idea of doing it with [engineer] George [Massenburg], who is a very close friend of mine, and a marvelous engineer.

RC: So you were familiar with the album when the time came for you to mix it?

VG: No. They spent another seven or eight months recording more material and, out of the five or six tracks that I recorded, I think they kept three. When it came time to mix the record, George, having worked with Earth, Wind and Fire for all those years, had his style of mixing with those people, and Peter and Linda had gotten very used to my style of mixing.

They started mixing with George, and weren’t happy with the results—I believe based mainly on the fact that Peter liked my style of mixing. Not because I’m a better mixer, because I think George is every bit as good as I am as a mixer. They then approached me on the basis of: “We’re old friends; would you do us a favor?” I was right in the middle of another project. “Just give us five days of your time, and try to mix some of this album for us.” So I said, “Sure.”

I mixed about five or six tracks, and they played them for George so he could get his bearings, because I mixed some of the things that he’d recorded. Now, when you’re a good engineer, you hear things—balance, levels, EQ, etc.—a certain way. And when somebody else changes that, it’s instantly apparent what they’ve changed.

So, when I mixed a couple of his tunes he became aware of what Peter and Linda were looking for, and remixed again the tracks that I had mixed. The tracks were even more to their [Peter and Linda’s] liking. George ended up mixing better than half the album, and I did the rest.

RC: Can you define what was different about your two mixing styles?

VG: Of his initial mixes that I heard, I used more vocal and drums than [George] did. The rest of it is all subtleties. But when you get somebody as good as George is, the subtleties are equally good either way. Do you like Chocolate or Vanilla ice cream? They’re both ice cream; it’s that sort of thing.

RC: Just one final fact that I was curious about. Capitol chose the Motels’ last album, All Four One, as the first cassette tape to release using its XDR system, which is supposed to improve the quality of pre-recorded cassettes. What do you think of the system?

VG: I think cassettes are virtually headed for the land of doom, and I’m glad. I think the next realistic avenue is the Compact Disc.

RC: But you can’t record on CD.

VG: That’s what is realistic about it. Piracy is the only problem we have, and it drives me crazy. I understand on one level, and I don’t on another. My 14- and 15-year-old nephews—my sister has eight children—were over at my house one day, and we’re talking about music.

They asked me if I like so and so, and I go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” And Kenny, the next to the oldest says, “Well, I always go over to my friend’s house and tape the albums.” And I said, “Don’t you know that’s piracy. You’re stealing from me, your Uncle, who you love dearly.”
Copy a tape, go to prison!

And they go, “Yeah, but the quality of the cassettes in the stores is terrible.” And they’re right. The cassettes are horrible. Because they are high-speed duplicated, the reproduction is [lousy)—the top·end disappears; the transparency disappears. But the tape duplicators have no choice; that’s the only way they can make them. If they made one-to-one copies at normal speed, they’d be there forever, and have to charge $20 to $40 a cassette. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true.

And we [the people who derive their living from records] are losing billions of dollars a year to illegal taping. The Compact Disc will eliminate that. The reproduction is phenomenal. It’s small, easy to use; you can drive over the disk with your car; punch a hole in it up to
1 mm and it still plays fine, because it’s a laser disk. It’s almost completely idiot proof.

Albums will eventually become Compact Discs, because the vinyl disk, as we know it, is an antiquated piece of junk. They were designed to operate at 78 RPM. You have to deal with warped records, groove noise, dust, needles. The Compact Disc is the answer. Good-bye to piracy! It will take years, but that’s where it will be.

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.

The Transition From Pre-Production To Studio Sessions

“Pre-production starts with the set-up.” Garay considers. “I let the band choose whatever makes them comfortable Their rehearsal arrangement doesn’t necessarily have to duplicate their normal stage or recording studio locations. As a rule of thumb, the drummer usually sets up in the center of the room, because everybody is listening to him. Then the bass player puts his amp near the drummer, so they can play easy, together. From there it’s pretty much up to the band members. A semi-circle seems to work, but the rehearsal room is small, so we could put anybody anywhere.

“As (ar as levels go, the band pretty much figures that out (or themselves too, because there’s an instant relationship among the members of a professional band. To hear each other in the room, there has to be a balance. If the guitar player is six times too loud, then all you hear is guitar and the other players tell him to turn down. But once you get the balance, you can stick one mike in there, open it up, and you’re ready to make a work tape.

“I like to make recordings of each arrangement as we go along. I use just one little cassette machine, with one little microphone. I could play you work cassettes of almost every song on every record I’ve made so far. You’d be amazed at how much you can hear on those tapes. It’s very close to the actual recordmg in the studio.

“The cassette tells you whether an arrangement works or not, because you can listen to it over and over. It tells you whether parts, rhythms, and everything else are the way they should be. The great test is how the song wears, and for that you have to keep listening to it over and over. The old adage is: ‘If it has legs, It will walk.’ What they mean by that is if everything about the song is comfortable, It will keep going If not, it starts to grate. And it’s either the arrangement or the song that grates on you. Once that happens, you have queries. And once you have queries, you start delving back into the song to find out why. I say that either the arrangement goes away immediately, or the song goes away in a period of time.

“When we go into the studio, I like to cut live—everything at once. I mike everything close for isolation, and also put very loud instruments, like distortion guitar parts, in separate rooms. (Record One features three acoustically treated recording areas—a main
studio, and two smaller adjacent rooms—as well as the control booth, and various live rooms throughout the complex that are pressed into service when needed.] To make the separate tracks blend back together, I run feeds to two PA speakers in the rehearsal studio, I have two Neumann U·67s that I can move anywhere in the room, or right next to the cabinets, for any desired effect. I just open the microphones up, and add them to the original sound at the board.

“I don’t really use a lot of effects other than the natural room ambiance, when I want to change something. I like to get nice, big, warm, fat, punchy sounds. If you want an effect, you can warp anything with outboard gear, but you can’t make anything sound big, fat, warm and punchy if it doesn’t start that way,

“I guess you could say I’m a purist, but don’t confuse that with traditionalism; a traditionalist I’m not. If there’s a sound out there in the studio, that’s the sound I want to get on tape. I would prefer to play with the guitar player’s amp and get the sound al his station, rather than attempt to manufacture what’s needed in the control room. All I try to do is capture what he’s got. In essence, the secret is that the studio and all the equipment must remain transparent to the overall process of recording.

“When we go into the studio, I like to cut live—everything at once. I mike everything close for isolation, and also put very loud instruments, like distortion guitar parts, in separate rooms. (Record One features three acoustically treated recording areas—a main studio, and two smaller adjacent rooms—as well as the control booth, and various live rooms throughout the complex that are pressed into service when needed.) To make the separate tracks blend back together, I run feeds to two PA speakers in the rehearsal studio, I have two Neumann U-67s that I can move anywhere in the room, or right next to the cabinets, for any desired effect. I just open the microphones up, and add them to the original sound at the board.



Posted by Keith Clark on 06/05 at 11:39 AM
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Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Studio Technologies Moving Toward Audio-Over-Ethernet Workflow With Audinate Dante Protocol

Forthcoming line of Dante-enabled products offers interoperable networking solutions

Studio Technologies recently became Audinate’s 100th Dante licensee and is embracing the audio-over-Ethernet movement by developing a line of Dante-enabled products.

“Studio Technologies prides itself on developing specialized solutions for its customers,” says Studio Technologies president Gordon Kapes. “Our users rely on us to deliver products that will enhance their workflow in both fixed and mobile broadcast applications. Dante has proven its technological excellence, and we are convinced that it is the correct, progressive solution for adding networking technology to our products.”

In the coming months, Studio Technologies will be releasing Dante-enabled products that will support AV installation, post-production, and on-air applications. These include announcer’s consoles, party-line intercom interfaces, headphone/line output interface and analog input interface units.

“Audio-over-Ethernet is not just for the future; it’s ready now for field deployment. It streamlines the setup and teardown process, ensures high-quality audio and provides the flexibility that IP networking offers,” Kapes adds. “These new Dante-enabled products will give our customers the high-quality audio to which they are accustomed to from Studio Technologies, along with the additional flexibility and advanced capabilities that network connectivity provides.

“We’re also going to ensure that these new products stay within our reasonable pricing philosophy and true to our company’s quality standards,” he continues. “Dante is rapidly becoming an integral part of the professional audio world, and we are thrilled to be a part of this revolution.”

Studio Technologies will showcase its soon-to-be-released Dante-enabled products at Audinate’s 2014 AV Networking World Conference as well as at InfoComm 2014 (booth C11929). The products will officially be released and available for purchase in the upcoming weeks.

Studio Technologies

Posted by Keith Clark on 06/04 at 12:32 PM
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Plugin Alliance Announces Availability Of Two New Native Brainworx Plug-Ins (Includes Video)

bx_saturator V2 is an update to popular bx_saturator, bx_refinement is a tool to remove harshness

Software company Plugin Alliance has announced the availability of bx_refinement and bx_saturator V2, two new native plug-ins from German software developer Brainworx.

bx_refinement is the brainchild of mastering engineer Gebre Waddell of Stonebridge Mastering, who designed the original prototype as a tool to remove harshness, a problem he was encountering more and more in his work due to the transition to digital and the prevalence of over-compressed mixes.

“Harsh recordings are one of the most common problems mixing and mastering engineers deal with,” Waddell notes. “The idea with bx_refinement was to create something that addressed harshness with little impact to the recording, and a great workflow. While it represents a genuine technical achievement, it’s the listening during development that was key. Working with Brainworx to make this amazing multi-platform release was truly rewarding.”

Brainworx founder and CEO Dirk Ulrich adds, “Brainworx grew out of my desire as a producer and mastering engineer to create tools to enhance my own work, and we always strive to maintain that practical approach in our product development. This is why we were so excited to work with a mastering engineer as experienced and talented as Gebre Waddell on bx_refinement. The end result is a plug-in which solves a key problem no other plug-in on the market directly addresses.”

bx_saturator V2 is an update to Brainworx’s popular bx_saturator. While retaining all of the key features of the original, including M/S processing, the ability to add saturation or distortion to targeted frequencies, and increase perceived volume without clipping, bx_saturator V2 adds significant improvements.

“bx_saturator has been a very popular plug-in,” notes Dirk Ulrich. “And with the totally rewritten algorithm in bx_saturator V2 we’ve improved the smoothness of the sound and the anti-aliasing, while reducing the CPU requirements significantly. This makes bx_saturator V2 not only a no-brainer upgrade for existing bx_saturator owners, but also a must-try for those users who haven’t yet worked with it.”

Brainworx bx_refinement can be purchased and downloaded directly from Plugin Alliance here, for $199 (USD).

Brainworx bx_saturator V2 can be purchased and downloaded directly from Plugin Alliance here, also for $199 (USD).

Note that owners of any Plugin Alliance bundle that includes the original bx_saturator plug-in have received a bx_saturator V2 license free of charge; anyone who purchased bx_saturator during 2014 has received a 50 percent discount coupon towards a bx_saturator V2 upgrade worth $24 USD; and anyone who purchased bx_saturator before 2014 can upgrade to bx_saturator V2 for $48 USD.

Gebre Waddell’s bx_refinement video walkthough:

Dirk Ulrich’s bx_saturator V2 video walkthough:



Plugin Alliance


Posted by Keith Clark on 06/04 at 12:09 PM
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Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Cool Pony Media In Dallas Steps Up To THE BOX From API

Team now uses THE BOX console on a daily basis for writing, tracking, creating stems, and mixing

Located outside Dallas, Cool Pony Media is a record label and artist development company that works with various music genres, as well as score-to-picture work. Brothers and co-founders, Mark and Mike Stitts, recently did an upgrade in part of their studio with help from API, and as a result, the team now uses THE BOX console on a daily basis for writing, tracking, creating stems, and mixing.

“We’re amazed,” says Mark Stitts. “We have quite a bit of other API outboard gear, EQs, compressors, channel strips, and summing. THE BOX integrates seamlessly. I often wonder—mustn’t there be elves inside creating some kind of magic here?”

The duo was looking to upgrade their composing room when they first heard about the new small-format console from API. “It was really a no-brainer. The sound and flexibility of a full-fledged API console, with that footprint? We must be dreaming, right? BOOM! This thing is a complete home run!”

The brothers have been creating and recording professionally since the 1980s, and say that not much has changed other than the technology. Their careers have included production work for labels, children’s albums, independent artists, and beyond. The experience they’ve had so far with THE BOX stacks up well with their previous experience with the brand. “We’ve always been API fans. The sound is just so fantastic and unique. I remember the first time we ran audio through anything API. It was so dramatic. The punch, depth, clarity, presence – it was almost like removing wool blankets from in front of the speakers. THE BOX is more of the same.”

Cool Pony purchased the gear earlier this year, and appreciated the support they received during commissioning. “The packaging was impeccable, and the support is off the chain. These guys really are the Apple of the recording console industry. We couldn’t recommend API or THE BOX more highly.”


Posted by Keith Clark on 06/03 at 04:01 PM
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In The Studio: Using A Filter Versus A Shelf

Article provided by Home Studio Corner.

If you’ve been mixing for any length of time, you know how valuable the high-pass filter (HPF) can be. It removes excess low end from your non-bass-heavy tracks, allowing you to clean up the low frequencies, making room for the kick and bass.

But then there’s this thing called a low frequency shelf. What’s that all about? In the picture below you can see both a high-pass filter and a low-frequency shelf.

A high-pass filter actually filters out the low frequencies entirely. The curve slopes downward at a specific “steepness.”

As you move further to the left in the frequency spectrum, the signal gets progressively lower and lower.

If you set the HPF at 150 Hz, for example, 120 Hz will still be audible, but will be turned down. 80 Hz will be much quieter than 120. 40 Hz will likely be completely unheard. The high-pass filter essentially removes those lower frequencies.

(click to enlarge)

But let’s say you don’t want to completely remove the low frequencies, but you’d like them to be turned down a bit. That’s where a low shelf can come in handy.

If you look at the graphic again, a low shelf looks just like it sounds. It’s a horizontal line. Any boost or cut applied to the shelf also applies evenly to every frequency below it.

This can be extremely helpful on a bass track that has just a little too much low end. You can turn everything below 150 Hz down by 3 dB. You’re not getting rid of the good stuff down at 80 Hz, you’re just turning it down.

Where I use this a lot is on a bass track, where I use a regular EQ curve to cut out some of the “muddyness” around 120 Hz, but then I’ll also use a low shelf to turn the bass frequencies down a bit…if needed.

This lets me shape the tone of the low end with the bell-curve, and then increase or decrease the loudness of the low end with the shelf. Here’s what that looks like:


As you might have guessed, the same can be applied on the other end of the spectrum, when dealing with the high frequencies. I tend to use this on the lows more than the highs, though.

Joe Gilder is a Nashville-based engineer, musician, and producer who also provides training and advice at the Home Studio Corner.Note that Joe also offers highly effective training courses, including Understanding Compression and Understanding EQ.


Posted by Keith Clark on 06/03 at 02:22 PM
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Radial Takes On Global Sales & Distribution Of Jensen Iso-Max Line

Upcoming InfoComm show in Las Vegas in June presents opportunity to debut new products and get things started

Radial Engineering has announced that it has taken on the global sales, marketing and distribution of the Jensen Iso-Max range of products.

Iso-Max is a range of isolators that provide ground isolation and noise abatement for audio and video in broadcast, home theater and commercial AV integration. 

Radial has a long history with Jensen. According to company president Peter Janis: “When Radial was founded in 1992, we started life as a distributor. One of our first product lines was Jensen. Back then, we sold raw transformers to sound companies and broadcasters who in turn built custom multi-channel snakes and splitters. As the market for snakes matured, sound companies moved away from custom snakes and home-built isolators to buying off-the-shelf solutions. 

“In 1996, we launched the Radial JDI (Jensen DI) which has become the most popular passive direct box in live concert touring and has been a cornerstone for Radial sales around the globe. Over the years, Radial has become Jensen’s largest customer and as we have grown, Radial and Jensen have become synonymous.”

Janis continues: “Anyone who knows Jensen knows that the company is engineering based. In other words, since their inception over 40 years ago, they have never hired a sales team or had a marketing department. The commitment to building the world’s finest transformers has created a huge following by those in the know.

“A few years ago, Jensen decided to take a similar route to ours by producing a range of plug and play solutions under the Iso-Max range. Jensen recently came to the conclusion that unless there are feet on the street telling dealers and contractors that the product exists, Jensen would miss out on a huge opportunity. This led to discussions which culminated in Radial taking over the sales and marketing side of the business.

“Over the coming months we will be setting up retail and contractor partners, independent reps in the United States and Canada, and formalizing exclusive agreements with distributors around the globe. The upcoming InfoComm show in Las Vegas in June presents a wonderful opportunity to debut the new products and get things started.”

The Jensen Iso-Max range includes ground isolators for baseband video, cable TV, balanced mic and line level signals, consumer devices such as laptops, and most recently, wall plates.

Dean Jensen changed the world when he discovered that audio transformers could be significantly improved by widening the bandwidth so that phase anomalies are eliminated and distortion reduced. By incorporating nickel laminations and applying advanced winding techniques, Jensen managed to widen the frequency response to extend between 5 Hz to 100 kHz while eliminating harsh-sounding group delay.

Further refinements included internal Faraday shields and external perm-alloy cans to reduce noise and more recently, improving the wire lead connections for greater durability. Today, Jensen transformers are made by hand in the United States and are supported with a 20-year factory warranty.

Jensen products can be seen at the upcoming InfoComm 2014 show at booth C8725, with Radial Engineering and Primacoustic at booth C11316.

Radial Engineering

Posted by Keith Clark on 06/03 at 01:15 PM
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DPA Microphones Appoints Direct Imports As New Zealand Distributor

Distributor’s focus on service and support makes it the great choice to represent microphone brand

DPA Microphones has announced the appointment of Direct Imports as its distributor in New Zealand, signaling the company’s continued commitment toward growth and customer service in the country.

From its headquarters in Hastings, Hawkes Bay, Direct Imports will carry a full stock of DPA products for live, recording and broadcast applications.

“We are delighted to have been appointed the New Zealand distributor for DPA Microphones and honored to have this outstanding brand join our portfolio and complement our current range of pro audio brands,” says Brett Dallas, managing director of Direct Imports. “DPA Microphones is a leader in its field and a natural fit to our existing offerings. We are extremely excited to be able to offer DPA mics to our existing customers and equally excited to welcome the new opportunities that this brand brings to our company in other sectors of the NZ market. We are focused on growing the DPA brand and providing outstanding sales and service support to existing and new DPA Microphones customers in New Zealand.”

Established in 1946, Direct Imports is a leading importer and distributor of consumer electronics, musical instruments and pro audio products. The company is focused on providing outstanding support and service to customers and to its dealer network,

“Direct Imports was the obvious choice due to its extensive distribution network in New Zealand and its employees’ professional approach to client service and support,” says Ken Kimura, DPA general manager for the APAC region. “Furthermore, our array of quality condenser mics for body worn, vocal and instrument applications, whether on stage or in the studio, is a great fit with the brands they already represent.”

DPA Microphones

Posted by Keith Clark on 06/03 at 09:08 AM
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South Korea’s Record Factory Gears Up With SSL AWS Hybrid Console/Controller

Console/controller assists in supporting instruction on comtemporary methods of music production

Record Factory Music Academy, a music production education facility in downtown Seoul, South Korea, delivers real-world recording experience to students, which is now aided with the addition of a Solid State Logic AWS 924 hybrid console/controller in its newly built studios.

More than 1,000 students have gained an education since Record Factory Music Academy was established. Through hands-on workshops covering everything from MIDI production to in-studio engineering and music video creation, the facility is gaining a reputation for its advanced programs and knowledgeable faculty.

The academy recently opened one of the largest private music production facilities in South Korea, near the renowned Seoul Arts Center. The new studio, says Jong Hee Park, Record Factory CEO, was assembled to provide contemporary methods of music production, coinciding with the caliber of the school’s courses.

“We considered a number of other consoles to equip Record Factory’s studios,” says Park. “But the AWS was the only one that could meet our expectations. Our mission is to give students real-world experience in a rapidly changing music scene, so we needed to build a very modern and innovative studio. The AWS is perfect for our studio because of its hybrid design that excels in both analogue and digital-based production. It’s like having both an analog console and a very well made DAW controller together. It allows our students to concentrate on the sound, rather than struggling with a mouse and keyboard.

“The console’s small footprint allowed two additional isolation booths to be added in the control room,” he continues. “Our instructors and students are amazed by its clever ergonomic design, flexibility and, of course, signature sound, which is absolutely amazing. We especially love the high-input headroom and pristine signal path. The AWS definitely has the warmth and musical harmonic character that we expect from a highly respected analog console.”

According to Park, the AWS’s sonic excellence was apparent to the engineers when they routed previously recorded audio through the console. “The difference was obvious,” he says. “We actually decided to remix some of our in-the-box mixes because we love the extra sparkle that we could only get from the AWS. The clarity was so great, it felt like we had removed curtains between the mix engineer and the speakers.”

Record Factory Music Academy
Solid State Logic

Posted by Keith Clark on 06/03 at 08:28 AM
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Monday, June 02, 2014

Point Source Audio Introducing Modular Intercom Headset At InfoComm 2014

Offers patent-pending slim-line design with three listening modes

Point Source Audio (PSA) is introducing the new CM-i3 intercom headset, offering a unique combination of in-ear performance, lightweight comfort and earphone modularity, at the upcoming InfoComm 2014 show in Las Vegas (booth C10913).

The feature set makes the headsets well-suited for concert venues, front-of-house operations, multimedia production, personal entertainment and other professional trades relying on convenient two-way communications.

The CM-i3 intercom headset uniquely offers binaural sound isolation. Whereas traditional head clamp style headsets can provide good sound isolation, their bulkiness and weight is not optimal for sustained wearing. At just 1.8 ounces, Point Source Audio’s proprietary approach reduces weight by as much as 90 percent compared to traditional headsets.

Further, users can easily switch between left, right, or left/right listening modes to create the desired audio mix.

The CM-i3 headset utilizes Point Source Audio’s EM-3 in-earphones, but users have the ability to switch out them out with earphones of their own choice.

The headset’s binaural capability also provides a more dynamic range of use than monaural designs, which are unable to filter environmental audio or interchange between left and right channels. Rather than requiring the user to remove the entire headset to check environmental sounds or interact with others, the user can simply remove one or both earphones to exit the listening mode or monitor a combination of feed audio and surrounding acoustics.

“Our new CM-i3 is a declaration to the audio industry that you don’t have to choose between size and comfort versus performance when selecting an intercom headset,” says James Lamb, president of Point Source Audio. “We aim to solve the nagging challenge currently in the intercom headset category. To that end, the CM-i3 leverages our company’s expertise in miniaturization to provide long-wearing comfort, dynamic operability and earphone customization—a first-to-market twist.”

On display InfoComm 2014 (again, booth C10913) in Las Vegas, the new the CM-i3 headset is expected to be available for purchase beginning in Q4, 2014.

Point Source Audio

Posted by Keith Clark on 06/02 at 02:18 PM
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