Hugh Pool is about to connect you to the ROCK.
Yes, one of Brooklyn’s foremost recordists has announced the Spring 2014 “Rock Facilitator” for April 5-6. Held at the always inspirational Excello Recording in Williamsburg, Pool flies his informational weekends under the banner “Technical Know-How • Studio Production • Applied Imagination”.
Even more funner, there will be an Excello Garage Sale at 1 PM, where all are invited to nab gear on the outs with Hugh and his team – some of which might be quite tasty indeed.
Don’t miss this chance to learn from a passionate guitarist and audio engineer, in one of Brooklyn’s most distinctive studios. But hurry if you’re interested! Classes are limited to 7 students. Each course is $100 — to attend both, the cost is $175. Visit here for more information and to register. Here’s how the weekend breaks down:
April 5th, 2pm – 5pm: “Bottleneck Classic” Slide Guitar Workshop
April 6th, 1pm: Excello Garage Sale featuring studio cast-off gear, sonic crayons, and you just never know.
GREATER NYC AREA: This month in NYC recording found Skrillex producing Wale, Nicki Minaj working with Big Sean, The Kin recording with The Rondo Brothers, and a ton of bands recording in Brooklyn. There’s no way to report on everything, but here we run down some of the highlights from February to now…
Starting in Brooklyn This Time!
At Headgear Recording, Jersey rock band The Everymen mixed their upcoming album with producer/engineer John Agnello. And NYC-based Japanese rock band The Ricecookers tracked and mixed two EPs with engineer Ted Young.
Brooklyn bliss-pop band Cave Days has been recording a new LP at The Fort Brooklyn. James “General Crapshoot” Bentley is recording, mixing and producing with the band. In other news, The Fort has just re-capped the master section of their Neotek Elan console and – according to Bentley – “it sounds unreal!”
At Vacation Island Recording in Williamsburg, producer/engineer Matt Boynton recently finished mixing the new Suckers album, Candy Salad for Frenchkiss Records. Boynton also mixed more songs from Free Blood and finished Zachary Cale‘s new “Hangman Letters” EP. Brooklyn rock band Linfinity, Manican Party and El Dorado all recently mixed records with Boynton. And (pictured) Vacation Island’s tracking room (the “dead” room) got a facelift!
Berner also recently recorded, mixed, and played guitar on Psychic TV‘s limited vinyl-only 12″s – “Thank You Pts 1& 2″ and “Mother Sky/Alien Sky” (for Vanity Case Records) with additional engineering from Chris Cubeta – produced/engineered/played on Tatiana Kochkareva‘s “Infinity”, recorded and mixed Dead Stars‘ “I Get By” EP, and The Courtesy Tier‘s “Holy Hot Fire.” Also out of Galuminum Foil, Berner is currently recording and mixing records for Monuments, Man The Change, Jumpers, The Glorious Veins and Chris Abad.
Nearby at Excello Recording in Williamsburg, Grammy-winning Irish folksinger Susan McKeown tracked acoustic music for an upcoming release with engineer Hugh Pool. And Brooklyn-based rock band Alberta Cross tracked new material at Excello with producer/engineer Claudius Mittendorfer (Interpol, Muse), and assistant Oliver Palomares.
Trombonist/guitarist/composer Curtis Hasselbring brought in a large acoustic tracking session to Excello – which Pool also engineered. And The Veda Rays tracked drums for their upcoming release with producer Jason Marcucci, and Pool engineering, assisted by Charles Dechants. Tokyo/Brooklyn rock duo Ken South Rock also recorded for their upcoming release at Excello with Pool, and Charlie Gramidia producing.
DIVE, a new four-piece led by Beach Fossils’ Z. Cole Smith and recently signed to Captured Tracks, have been recording and mixing a 7” single and full-length LP at Strange Weather Brooklyn with engineer/producer Daniel Schlett.
Also out of Strange Weather, Schlett has recorded and mixed Royal Baths’ new LP for Kanine Records, recorded and mixed for Zulus’ new release with producer Ben Greenberg, and recorded and mixed tracks for Woodsman’s full-length, due out on Mexican Summer later this year.
Katherine Whalen and Her Fascinators (Squirrel Nut Zippers) were up from North Carolina to track a few songs with producer/engineer Colby Devereux at his studio Copperfish Sound in Brooklyn. Devereux also recently tracked a few songs with The Library is on Fire. Check out these and other recording sessions at “Live from Copperfish Sound” on Vimeo.
We also dropped by Mason Jar Music out in Borough Park this week, where Afro-Beat ensemble EMEFE was recording a new album with Mason Jar founders Dan Knobler and Jon Seale. Both producer/engineer/musicians, Knobler and Seale also just finished mixing a new album by indie-folk band Town Hall. Look out for our upcoming feature on this exciting collective of musicians, producers and filmmakers…
Meanwhile in Manhattan…
Pat Metheny took over Avatar Studio A for four days of tracking with his full “Orchestrion“. The session was produced by Methany and Steve Rodby, with James Farber engineering, assisted by Bob Mallory. Lyle Lovett tracked in Studio C with his band while in town with producer/engineer Nathaniel Kunkel assisted by Tim Marchiafava. And Lenny Kravitz recorded in Studio B with engineer Tom “T-Bone” Edmunds assisted by Charlie Kramsky.
Australia four-piece band The Rubens recorded with producer David Kahne, and engineer Roy Hendrickson. And the film score to Yaron Zilberman’s A Late Quartet (Catherine Keener, Philip Seymour Hoffman) – composed by Brooklyn native Angelo Badalamenti – was recorded in Studio A, produced by Badalamenti and Jim Bruening and engineered by Todd Whitelock. And Chris Lord-Alge held a mixing event for the students of NYU Steinhardt School sponsored by SSL. Chris demonstrated his mixing techniques in Studio G on the same console he mixes on at his Mix LA Studio, the SSL 4000 G series.
Downtown at Germano Studios, Chris Shaw has been mixing a Paul Simon Graceland live concert from San Sebastian, Spain with producer Steve Berkowitz, The Kin recorded basic tracks with The Rondo Brothers (Foster the People) producing and engineering, John Legend recorded with Dave Tozer producing and Jason Agel engineering, and Chris Rene (X-Factor) was in for mixing sessions with Claude Kelly producing and Ben Chang engineering.
Joan Jett & The Blackhearts continued recording in Germano Studio 1 with Thom Panunzio engineering and Kenny Laguna producing, Brazilian singer Michel Teló worked on a new release with Kenta Yonesaka engineering and John Doelp (A&R at Sony/Columbia Records) producing, hit songwriter Sandy Vee was in recording with Butch Walker and Dreamlab, and “The Last Unicorn” recorded with DJ/producer Alexander Dexter-Jones and Sean Parker producing, and Kenta Yonesaka engineering.
At Premier Studios in Times Square, Nicki Minaj and Big Sean were working on a project together, with engineer Chad Jolley, assisted by Kevin Geigel; Young Jeezy came in to work with artist/producer Ryan Leslie on a new track in sessions engineered by Stickabus; Rapper Wale worked in Studio F with Grammy-winning artist/producer Skrillex, and engineer Derek Pacuk, assisted by Kelby Craig; and Yo Gotti recorded some new original material for his upcoming album, with engineer Angelo Payne and assistant Colin Rivers.
Also at Premier, the casts of Broadway’s Anything Goes and Mamma Mia! recorded respective projects in Studio A with Matt Polk producing, and Kevin Geigel (Anything Goes) and Sam Giannelli (Mamma Mia!) engineering.
Right in the same building at Quad Studios, indie-to-Epic pop band Oh Land worked on music for a new album with Brandon Boyd and Andros Rodriguez, MBK artist Gabi Wilson worked on songs for a new project, Interscope artist J. Randall tracked songs for a debut album, and Remo the Hitmaker was camped out in Studio Q1 producing and writing with various artists.
And we know there’s so much more going on out there! If you’d like to be featured in “Session Buzz,” please submit your studio news to firstname.lastname@example.org.
GREATER NYC AREA: Tons of sessions happening around the city this Fall. Among the many, we find Black Star back at it out in Greenpoint, Department of Eagles recording in Astoria, Jukebox The Ghost in Park Slope, Oberhofer and Steve Lillywhite in Williamsburg, Spacehog in Gowanus, and OneRepublic making a new record in Manhattan. Read on and get up with what’s happening in studios all around town.
Starting smack in the middle of Times Square, producer Salaam Remi has been working with Jennifer Hudson on music for a new commercial out of Quad Studios. Meanwhile, Sean Paul has been working on new songs at Quad for an upcoming album, as has Atlanta MC Future, who recently signed with Epic Records. Producer Rico Beats has been working out of Quad as well, with various writers. Quad’s Q1 and the Q Lounge has been a listening session hotspot, hosting recent events for Young Jeezy and Mac Miller, and serving as the location for MTV’s Sucker Free Countdown with DJ Envy.
In Chelsea, BMI and composer Rick Baitz held a string arranging workshop with the string quartet Ethel and several string arrangers at Shelter Island Sound. Nona Hendryx and band were tracking at Shelter Island, with Richard Barone producing for a new album for Tracy Stark – featuring drummer Trevor Gale and guitarist Ronnie Drayton. Steve Addabbo tracked and mixed. James Farber mixed jazz singer Alma Micic’s new album, and Ian McDonald of King Crimson fame was in tracking with Steve Holley on drums.
Addabbo also recently finished a 5.1 mix for the Robby Romero long-form music video “Who’s Gonna Save You” (a song co-written by Addabbo), which premiered at the American Indian Film Festival. The film will be featured and officially released November 28 at The UNEP Conference in Durban, South Africa.
Downtown, OneRepublic has been recording their new album in Germano Studios, with singer/songwriter Ryan Tedder producing and Kevin Porter engineering. In other recent sessions at Germano: Fabian Marasciullo has been mixing T-Pain‘s new album; Isabella Summers aka Isa Machine (from Florence & the Machine) has been producing NYC-based artist/songwriter L.P., and working on her own solo project, with Kenta Yonesaka engineering; Asher Roth recorded vocals, with Oren Yoel producing, and Porter engineering; CJ Holland has been writing/recording with Swizz Beatz, and Kenny Lloyd engineering; Alicia Keys has been recording with Ann Mincieli engineering; and Sandy Vee returned for more writing sessions, and recording and mixing sessions with Jesse McCartney.
Just up the block, The Lodge’s Emily Lazar, Joe LaPorta, Sarah Register and Heba Kadry have been super busy this last month, mastering Garbage’s cover of U2′s “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” for Q Magazine’s AHK-toong BAY-bi Covered, the new Shiny Toy Guns album mixed by Tony Maserati, Arcade Fire’s “Sprawl II” Remix by Damian Taylor, Delta Spirit’s new album produced by Chris Coady and mixed by Tchad Blake, Daniel Bedingfield’s latest, Maya Postepski’s (of Austra) side project TRST – mixed by Damian Taylor – and an album by Tender Mercies, a 20-year-project by David Bryson and Dan Vickery of The Counting Crows.
The Lodge has also mastered recent releases by Brand New (Your Favorite Weapon reissue), Dion DiMucci, Harts, Future Islands, Frankie Rose and Porcelain Raft.
Further downtown, at Engine Room Audio in the Financial District, Soulja Boy and Waka Flocka recorded in the Penthouse Studio (equipped with an SSL 4064G+) with Ben Lindell engineering, and Chris Albers assisting.
And Mark Christensen mastered two new mixtapes for Trey Songz (Atlantic Records) – LemmeHoldDatBeat 2 and Anticipation 2 – and his Inevitable EP – as well as albums for Brooklyn band The Color Bars and UK indie rockers Tiger Shadow, Lloyd Banks‘ Cold Corner – also mixed by Albers at Engine Room – and War Music by Dr. Dre protégé Slim The Mobster.
Over in Queens, Department of Eagles’ Fred Nicolaus and Christopher Bear (Grizzly Bear) recently recorded drums and piano for an upcoming release with Kieran Kelly at The Buddy Project. Pianos for singer/songwriter Kyle Patrick’s new EP were also recently recorded at The Buddy Project, with producers Ben Romans and Jarrad Scharff, and Kelly engineering.
And in Gowanus, Brooklyn – Lady Lamb the Beekeeper has been recording at Let Em In Music with Nadim Issa. Aly Paltro aka Lady Lamb recorded this cover of Bob Dylan’s “All I Really Want to Do” for Brooklyn Based. According to Issa, Paltro liked Cher’s cover of the song, recorded in the 60s with Sonny Bono producing and “as such, we went for a really roomy sound with the whole band playing live in a room. A huge part of the mix is actually my two room mics, which were set up in MS.” Next up, Issa will work on the Lady Lamb full-length.
Nearby at Bryce Goggins’ Trout Recording, sessions for the new Martha Wainright were underway. Goggin, assisted by Adam Sachs, recorded drums for three songs as well as some vocals and electric guitar, with Wainwright, Yuka Honda and drummer Yuko Akari. Goggin also recently mixed a song for Marco Benevento. And Adam Sachs recently engineered a recording session with Space Hog at Trout. The band recorded three basic tracks live while being filmed for an upcoming video release. There were no overdubs, and Sachs also mixed one of the songs in the following week.
Out in Park Slope, Dan Romer has been recording, producing and mixing Jukebox The Ghost’s next record at his studios. And fellow-Rocket Music producer Mark Saunders has been writing/producing and mixing Amalie Bruuns’ next EP at BEAT360 Studios in Manhattan.
In Williamsburg, Brooklyn-based duo Little Silver recently tracked songs for a new EP at Fluxivity Recording, using the studio’s Neumann tube mics (U67, U47, M49) in the recording sessions, engineered by Gary Maurer. Also at Fluxivity, composer Gordon Minette and engineer Matt Shane mixed an album of Christmas songs – Under The Holiday Star – for Stella Artois via Human Worldwide. And music educator, songwriter and professional bassist Mariana Iranzi visited New York from Boston to record a 12-song children’s record, Hola Hello. A four-piece band recorded the songs live at Fluxivity, with producer Billy Herron and engineer Jeremy Loucas, assisted by Ed Mcentee.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn band Oberhofer has been recording their new full-length album for Glassnote out of Mission Sound in Williamsburg, with Steve Lillywhite producing. Also at Mission, NYC-based blues guitarist Dave Fields is in with producer David Z cutting tracks for his upcoming release, and the Cassette Kids are back to cut tracks with engineer Oliver Straus.
Nearby at 3 Egg Studios in Williamsburg, engineer Brian Penny has been working with I’ve started working with drummer Charlie Zeleny on some upcoming projects. To kick things, Penny reports, Zeleny decided “to play a drum solo in one take up all 6 stories of the 3 Egg building, involving more then 80 drums, 100 cymbals, 90 microphones, and four Pro Tools rigs. Video to come!
Meanwhile, Suckers have been recording their latest album at Vacation Island in Williamsburg, with Matt Boynton producing. And going back over the past month or so, Vacation Island has been destination to a number of cool sessions, including Marnie Stern and Justin Pizzoferrato tracking some new music, Christina Files mixing Talk Normal, Free Blood finishing up tracking and beginning to mix their upcoming release with Boynton, as well as mixing sessions with Lucy Michelle.
Also out of Brooklyn, Joe Lambert Mastering in DUMBO has been the final location of production on a couple anticipated new records. First, Lambert recently mastered Sharon Van Etten‘s new album – for CD and vinyl – produced by Aaron Dessner of The National for Jagjaguwar Records. According to Pitchfork, the album was recorded in Dessner’s own studio and features performances by Beirut’s Zach Condon, Julianna Barwick, Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner, the Walkmen’s Matt Barrick, and Thomas Bartlett of Doveman.
And Lambert has also mastered the new School of Seven Bells full-length, Ghostory, produced by Ben Curtis for Vagrant Records. Other albums mastered out of JLM include Peter Salett‘s new EP and the Don Byron New Gospel Quintet‘s Love, Peace, and Soul, produced by Hanz Wendl for Nottuskegeelike Music
And recently out of Rough Magic Studios in Greenpoint…Blacksmith artist Idle Warship (Talib Kweli and Res) released Habits of the Heart – largely recorded by Rough Magic chief engineer Alby Cohen. Kweli came back to Rough Magic recently to record two new tracks with Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), for their Black Star project. The first new, Madlib-produced single “Look Sharp” debuted on The Colbert Report. Cohen engineered those sessions, assisted by Chris Pummill and Aaron Mason.
Up in Yonkers…at Oktaven Audio, engineer Ryan Streber has been recording, editing and mixing new works by flutist Claire Chase, and composer Reiko Fueting – both for New Focus Recordings – the debut album by new music ensemble, counter)induction, for New Dynamic Records, and pianist Max Barros‘ recording of the complete piano music of composer M.Camargo Guarnieri for Concert Artists Guild.
Oktaven and Streber also hosted recording sessions for new works by composers Vivian Fung, Ryan Francis, and Jakub Ciupinski, pianist/composer Michael Brown, and a film score by composer Gil Talmi and Konsonant Music for a documentary feature. Streber also engineered tracking sessions on location at the Academy of Arts and Letters on 155th Street, with the Talea Ensemble for an upcoming CD of music by composer Anthony Cheung.
Down from there to Avatar Studios…the legendary Studio A has been hosting some big sessions, including the cast album for Follies – featuring the largest orchestra on Broadway with Bernadette Peters and Elaine Page – recorded with producer Tommy Krasker, and engineer Bart Migal assisted by Bob Mallory and Tim Marchiafava. The Morehouse College Glee Club was also recorded in Studio A – for Spike Lee’s upcoming film Red Hook Summer – by Jonathan Duckett, assisted by Charlie Kramsky. And America’s Got Talent star Jackie Evancho recorded with an orchestra for her holiday release Heavenly Christmas, with producer Rob Mounsey and engineer Lawrence Manchester.
The orchestral film score for So Undercover was also tracked in Studio A with composer / producer Stephen Trask and engineer Greg Hayes. Additional recordings were done in Studio B and the 5.1 mix was done in Studio G with engineer Tim O’Hare.
And on the album recording front, Ingrid Michaelson recorded in Studio A with producer David Kahne and engineer Robert Smith; Billy Ocean recorded with producer Barry Eastmond and engineer Anthony Ruotolo; Joe Jackson mixed an upcoming release with engineer Elliot Scheiner, assisted by Aki Nishimura; and Adam Lambert recorded with producer Nile Rodgers, and engineer Rich Hilton.
Also in Midtown, Area 51 NYC Studios has been abuzz of late, with Talib Kweli also logging time on numerous projects, with engineer Michelle Figueroa and John Lurie. Jive/RCA artist Jacob Latimore has been tracking at Area 51 with producer Chris Jackson and engineer Alberto Vaccarino. And R&B artist Deborah Cox was also recently in to work with producer Devo Springfield, and Figeuroa engineering. Interscope artists Far East Movement were also in working with engineer Jay Stevenson.
In the Brill Building at KMA Music, EMI writer/producers Twice as Nice have been holed up in sessions with Pete Wentz and Bebe Rexha of Black Cards, August Rigo, Neon Hitch, Andrea Martin, Elle King and James Bourne in Studio B, with Serge Nudel engineering. KMA also hosted CNN interviews with both Peter Gabriel, and R.E.M.
In other KMA sessions…Neyo recorded vocals for the upcoming T-Pain album, with Ben Chang engineering, Unique has been recording and mixing his new album, with production by Chuck Harmony and Claude Kelly, and Chang engineering. That same team — Chuck, Claude and Ben — also worked with Jade Alston on an upcoming release, and with Sony artist, Karmen, and Universal artist, CJ Holland. A$AP Rocky finished up his album at KMA, with Pat Viala, and Roc Nation’s J. Cole recorded and mixed his most recent album at KMA, with Juro “Mez” Davis engineering.
Across the Hudson in Hoboken, Caligula – a hard rock band featuring Erik Paparozzi of Cat Power and Bambi Kino – have been working on a record out of Nuthouse Recording, with Tom Beaujour mixing. Beaujour has also been finishing up a new track with Doug Gillard of Guided by Voices.
And new to “Session Buzz” is a private facility we recently came across called Newkirk Studios – home base to producer/engineer Ben Rice, in one of those awesome landmark houses in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. There, Rice has recently held sessions with the band Blackbells, who tracked and mixed a song for Surfrider, and The Wicked Tomorrow whose EP Rice is mixing. He also tracked and mixed a full-length “pop rock” album for Nocera (“Summertime, Summertime”) out of Newkirk, with bassist/producer Antar Goodwin, Reni Lane and Gian Stone.
Finally, and as previously reported…the members of Vampire Weekend were at Excello Recording in Williamsburg writing and recording material for their next release, tracking to tape with Ethan Donaldson and Nathan Rosborough. Engineer/producer Chris Shaw was also Excello working with the group Nick Casey – which is Nicholas Webber and Casey Spindler with the rhythm section of Dan Rieser and Tim Luntzel. This crew tracked between 20-30 songs over just two days. Also at Excello, engineer/producer Scott Solter recorded cellist Erik Friedlander‘s latest solo project, and mixer/engineer Hector Castillo recorded with singer Sophie Auster and singer/songwriter Clarence Bucaro, and recorded the soundtrack for the film, La Camioneta, with composer Todd Griffin.
And we know there’s so much more going on out there! If you’d like to be featured in “Session Buzz,” please submit your studio news to email@example.com.
Vampire Weekend, John Popper and Jamie McClean, and Erik Friedlander were all through (separately, of course) to record in Excello’s large tracking room (1,000-sq.ft. w/ 17′ ceilings).
Engineer/producer Chris Shaw was at Excello working with the group Nick Casey – which is Nicholas Webber and Casey Spindler with the rhythm section of Dan Rieser and Tim Luntzel. This crew tracked between 20-30 songs over just two days at Excello.
And mixer/engineer Hector Castillo has brought various projects to Excello, working on albums with singer Sophie Auster and singer/songwriter Clarence Bucaro, and recording the soundtrack for the film, La Camioneta, with composer Todd Griffin.
Meanwhile, Excello owner Hugh Pool has mixed records with Lase Salgado, The Compulsions, and his own band, Mulebone.
Additionally, Excello does analog-to-digital transfers for clients – recently handling projects by Richard Dev Green and the band Dead Leaf Echo – and audio restoration – through which they recently consulted on a Supreme Court criminal case.
Check ‘em out at www.excellorecording.com.
WILLIAMSBURG, BROOKLYN: You don’t have to know all the heartache that went into the making of the album Gamma Rays Galaxy Rays Veda Rays to appreciate it. But there’s something about understanding the bitter joy that pulses through one of 2011’s most intoxicating rock albums that makes it all the sweeter.
The debut full-length from Brooklyn four-piece The Veda Rays, Gamma Rays is the artful application of music as a saving source. For the band — guitarist/vocalist/keys James Stark; bassist Tyson Reed Frawley; guitar/keys/vox Jimmy Jenkins; and drummer Jason Gates (aka Jason Marcucci) – the intense production events of the album were just one more reflection of the urgent songs that it comprises.
You can hear it in the frantic guitars and time-shifting howl of “Our Ford”, the delicious tension and release of “Long May She Roll”, and the haunting psychedelia of “This Time Tomorrow”. Sweeping six strings, emotional vocals, and driving drums are everywhere, courtesy of a band determined to deliver on the promise of its dense melodies.
With everything from immediate family suicide and South Florida black magick practitioners fueling their dark sides, The Veda Rays went to equally painful lengths to complete Gamma Rays. With a highly accomplished producer/mixer in residence via drummer Gates/Marcucci (White Stripes, Dean & Britta), the band raced to complete guerilla tracking and mixing sessions, frantically completed as Marcucci’s studio moved amidst the massive blizzards of late winter, 2010.
Released last week, Gamma Rays Galaxy Rays Veda Rays is arresting from the first millimoment. Here, Stark and Gates went deep – truly deep – in their recounting of the record that brought them all back from the brink.
Q: Your bio says: “The Veda Rays began in late 2008 when Stark and Gates, who had been hatching plans, playing gigs and making 4-track recordings since grade school, resumed their collaboration via long-distance after a several year span of inactivity.” What was the creative spark and mutual inspiration that was rediscovered when you guys got back together?
James: It was not really so much rediscovered as it was re-enlivened — from a cryogenically frozen dormancy. But with us I think it has always been something very natural and complementary, this most likely being the case due to us having grown up playing together, making 4-track demos and collaborating on this whole vision for so long and through such formative phases.
The period of inactivity was simply due to a case of “life happening”, as they say. And the way we came back ‘round to working together was largely due to the same. There is a lot of back-story here… Suffice to say, the gist of it involved heavy drug use, obsession, suicide, accidental death and the westernmost point of the Bermuda Triangle. Seriously.
For me, I feel like I had finally whittled out an authentic voice. My own particular brand of “distilled spirits”. What I mean to say is that the “me” in my personal hodge podge of influences finally asserted itself and I started recognizing something that went beyond mere pastiche.
I guess some people are gifted — or maybe seriously deluded — but for me it took a long time to feel like what I was doing was legitimate. So, just recognizing and being comfortable with a bona fide identity was a great boon. That is the plainest way I can explain how I feel I had evolved as an artist/singer/songwriter during our hiatus.
Jason: I’m not sure either of us were ever inactive. I’m a real busy body, crazy energy kind of person when it comes to working on music — we both are really. We were just separate for a bit, after playing pretty much daily, growing up and into musicians together. When we were unable to work together, we both kept going. I know Jim was working his craft as a songwriter and he put together some great bands. I kept busy playing and wound up doing a great deal of engineering and mixing here in NYC.
In 2009 there was a period that I was very busy. I had just finished mixing a few tracks for Dean & Britta, which would later appear on their Warhol record. I was also producing two records at the same time, both completely opposite ends of the spectrum in every musical and vibe type sense. One was Bloody Panda’s Summon and the other Scott Hardkiss’s Technicolor Dreamer. At that time it hit me, “Fuck, I really need to start doing my own thing!”
I reached out to Jim. It didn’t take long for us to discuss how we could work on a project together. That was probably the first seed of The Veda Rays.
Hear the single “Our Ford” from Gamma Rays Galaxy Rays Veda Rays right here:
Q: Jason, what got you into production and the NYC studio scene?”
We had been living down in South Florida working on music, we had our own little 4-track studio and we were constantly recording. Jim had some troubles and all hell really started breaking loose down there.
I took off to NYC to have a little break. That was supposed to be a three-day trip, but a cousin of mine convinced me to stay a few extra days and see some family. I spent most of my time bumming around the village, and after a week I met up with Judah Bauer (Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Cat Power). We became friendly, started jamming together, and I wound up making a record with him in his apartment which was absolutely crammed with gear. At first he had an Otari MX 5050, moved on to a Tascam 1” 16-track, and eventually we had a Studer A80 16-track 2-inch, all in this tiny studio apartment.
I played drums on a few tracks and did most of the engineering. He had a bunch of people coming through to play on tracks — the late Robert Quine (legendary guitarist of Richard Hell & The Voidoids), Matt Verta-Ray, and many others.
From there I worked at a bunch of studios working my way up the ranks. I got to briefly work at and witness Greene Street just before they shut down. I worked at Excello in Williamsburg for years, and really made a home at Dubway. I started doing live sound a bit around the city and got very into remote recording. I think I’ve recorded/mixed over 300 bands for MTV and all the while working on sessions in the studio. Anyway I think I just really got lucky and fell into it. I also just went nuts, I mean, there were a few years straight that I was in a control room probably 350-360 days a year!
Q: Are the Veda Rays part of something new, something old, or something in between? Where does the music of this band sit in the time continuum?
James: Something in between would probably be most accurate. We are endeavoring to help evolve a particular current, and to do this well I believe it must be done in an attitude of reasonable reverence for and acknowledgement of what has come before. I would most optimistically state that we, in fact, aspire toward sitting at the “zero point” of the space-time continuum!
In plainer language, we are first and foremost about the songs. And the songs are set in the context of modern rock and roll music which is strongly informed by post-punk, shoegaze, dark psych, electro and many other micro-genres past and present. We try to have it never be boring, trite, redundant or otherwise sucky in any way. We want to be one of the ones trying to push the collective envelope. As in, how experimental can a pop song be and how “pop” can modern experimental rock get? And note: when I say “pop” I most definitely, in no uncertain terms, do NOT mean anything resembling modern mainstream drivel!
Jason:The music is rather cinematic. I would feel good if this was perceived as being here and now, traveling future-forward with some connections to the past.
Q: The new album is a real journey. To you, what is the sound and feeling of this trip?
James: For me, the intention of this record was to sort of provide a context and framework for future output. I feel like it is an attempt to claim certain lands, cultivating the fields for what will grow, showing some of the soil, the roots and seeds.
What I mean more specifically is that it unabashedly references many influences, in its own way, sitting them as the bricks that make up the road upon which the rest of the journey will take place. It starts off pretty densely layered but progressively strips things back eventually arriving at the last track which is an acoustic version of the opener.
I’d say lyrically and emotionally it is a bit of a roller coaster ride, in that a lot of it accurately reflects the personal circumstances from which it was borne out of. One of my best friends — and bass player — died of an accidental overdose, another was forced out of the band by his family and sent half-way across the country to a rehab — I am talking about Slo Club, the band I began in South Florida in 2007. Jason’s (Gates) sister committed suicide after many years of battling psychological problems and substance abuse, a five year relationship I had been in fell apart in the worst and most dramatic sort of ways, I had legal issues…things seemed really fucking grim, to say the very least. I literally lost everything during that time. Slo Club House, my former band’s HQ was over after my mate Jason Vargo passed.
Next I shared a place in Palm Beach with a Guyanese pothead who suffered from PTSD and a former skinhead whom I met through my loose association with an errant quasi-masonic black magick sect. I believe the place was under the influence of a malevolent entity. Lucky for me the bottom fell out when it did.
My long-time friend Matthew Ian ( brother of famed hip hop producer Scott Storch) took me in and I stayed with him in Bal Harbor (Miami Beach) for awhile. We were both slumming as he was basically waiting to be evicted. His world was going south at that time, as well. Those were troubled times.
I started writing a lot of what ended up on this album there. We were contemplating the end of the decade, the ends of a lot of people we knew, the ends of many naive and misguided ideas we had about things having grown up in the insulated, drug-drenched suburbs of South Florida, the ends of a many great and varied things…
These songs really came out of a weird sort of twilight world of so many things ending and dying, and such uncertainty as to what the inevitable “new beginnings” would actually turn out to be. In the end The Veda Rays still turn it into a party though, for sure.
Q: Amazing, but true. What’s unique about the way these songs were recorded?
James: Damn, some of the bits on a few of these tracks started off as entirely different pieces, some from years ago. There’d be musical bits that Jason remembered and wanted to bring out, but I’d say, “No way, that song was shite!” but then I’d think, “Well, actually the guitar figure or drumbeat or whatever is quite good, it just needs to live in a new song…”
Jason: The technical stuff will bore most people, but for the folks that like that kind of thing, lets just say we weren’t afraid to run a signal through any piece of gear we could get our hands on and there was a fair deal of experimenting.
One thing I can say that might be unique, though the bulk of it will have to do with our next release(s), is that as we were mixing, the studio where I worked was moving. It is a huge ordeal to move a four-room recording studio. It’s terrifying really.
Anyway, everyone who works there was getting fried and it was holiday season so people were taking a break. We spent a few days during Thanksgiving, and then again during Christmas when no one was around, basically living in the studio. Occasionally trekking back and forth through the crazy snow storms and blizzards. We tracked drums to something like an additional 23 songs. We even had Julee Cruise stop by and sing on one! I guess that’s all talk for the future, but it comes to mind because during this same time we were finishing mixes on Gamma Rays.
See the video for The Veda Rays’ “All Your Pretty Fates”.
Q: If you slogged through that December 26th blizzard, that was true dedication! Jason, what was your philosophy/approach for mixing this record?”
Jason: The only philosophy for me would be to try to make a great-sounding record. Try to keep it in check and have it sound unique. The approach was to do it in a way that we could recall quickly and easily: We had to be ready in case we got kicked out of the studio and had to return later. We would print back any analog effects and we summed with a Dangerous 2-Bus rather than use a big console.
Q: How would you say all your mix experience informed your work on Gamma Rays Galaxy Rays Veda Rays? What are some good habits you picked up, and conversely what are some of the ‘rules’ you decided to ignore when mixing this album?
Jason: Well I’ve made enough mistakes that I don’t want to repeat so experience probably helped us avoid a few pitfalls.
A lot of the projects I’m on, I have to finish within a certain budget and deadline. I am often kinda keeping everybody feeling good about things and I’m ready to solve problems. There was some of that for sure, but it is hard to do that when it’s your band.
Q: Understandable. In the tracking and mixing, what are a couple of examples of creative engineering that you did?
James: I’ll chime in here being that I did a lot of processing on the fly, which I printed during tracking at mine and Tyson’s home studio in Atlanta. We were using a Digi 003 with a Black Lion Sparrow ADC as a front end.
On the song “Just Dust” I had two vocal passes for the lead verses which were both good takes. I piped one out to my ‘71 Fender Deluxe and re-amped it with a little of the amp’s spring reverb, as well as a bit of nice tube amp scuz for good measure. I used the other, un-re-amped take as the main vocal for the lead verses but took the re-amped track and nudged it slightly behind which created a really nice, resonant, almost tape-like doubler effect but cooler, since the “double” or echo is actually derived from a different take. I think I nudged it to the relative milliseconds of a dotted 64th note value. That is the vocal effect that is heard on the verses of that track.
I did a lot of experimenting throughout the whole tracking process…before, during and after. We tried it: whether it was trying multiple stereo mic configurations to achieve the perfect dimension for that ultimate atmospheric guitar tone, or using MIDI thru to write MIDI on a track, trigger patches from synth modules like a Roland JV-1080 or Novation A-Station AND trigger soft synths like Reaktor or Arturia Moog in order to create the ultimate, layered sounds I was after.
Another part of my treatment process for electro elements included sending stuff through stuff like the Lexicon LXP-15 for a certain ethereal, “cascading octaves” delay effect I’m fond of, or through my old PC rig where I have a few secret weapons like Kantos and tons of other older, now obscure VST effects that I don’t have in Pro Tools.
BTW, the huge, wall of sound guitar tones heard on the second half of the track “Deleted” were played by guest Juan Montoya (formerly of Floor and TORCHE, now of Monstro). We came out of his pedalboard stereo into two old tube amps, ‘71 Deluxe and ‘50-something Gibson Explorer. I mic’d both cabs close to cones but slightly off-axis (with a Shure SM57 and a Sennheiser 421), I set up a pair of Rode NT1-A’s in an ORTF configuration, and I used two other room mics: an AKG 414about six feet back from the amps and another about 12 feet back, both set to omni-directional.
Jason: We also did some nice things running effects returns into effects returns into other effects returns. We have a Roland Dimension D and sending the plate and a couple delays back into that really made things start swaying.
As for tracking, there’s a track named “Ellipsis” that I really love what we got with drums. I have some old cassette decks that have lo-fi omni mics and insane compressors built in them. We had them setup out on the floor in front of the kit — thanks to Michael Judeh from Dubway who helped me record a lot of the drum tracks. The tempo of that track really locked in perfectly with the release time, and the attack clamps down like an alligator! At the mix I panned them opposite to the rest of the kit and rooms, and it has this effect of subtly moving side to side throughout.
Q: That is a PLETHORA of recording and mixing tips – were you listening boys and girls? You seem like thoughtful guys, so switching gears from the technical to the philosophical…Why is music important?
James: For me, it is important because it has the capacity to convey otherwise indefinable subtleties…to affix moments in time…nuances of impression. It provides a means to render something tangible from ones’ own unique experience, in a way that others can interact with and proliferate creatively…a way for these vagaries to take on a lives of their own.
Q: Heavy! And why is it important to you to be the ones making the music?
James: My life just doesn’t work at all without it. I tried to stop for a while…thought maybe I’d just write. I walked around in a daze for a few years with a leather-bound journal and a pen…thought I was Rimbaud. Ended up insane and thoroughly depressed. For me, there is only the hoosegow, the madhouse or death…unless I am walking this road.
Jason: Not to sound silly, because I’ve heard others say this and I’ve kinda rolled my eyes, but honestly I have to fucking do this. I’ve been obsessed with music-making and production my whole life. It’s probably just completely selfish and a bit of a safety mechanism, because if I’m not working on music, I start to go crazy. I know what kind of trouble I’m capable of getting into and this keeps me preoccupied. I have a very addictive personality and I’m very hyper. Literally I bounce around like a top, so this is good for me: Our hellbent path.
– David Weiss
Gamma Rays Galaxy Rays Veda Rays is available now on iTunes and all digital outlets, or at www.thevedarays.com.