The Unforgettable Tribute: MLK, U2, and the Making of “Pride (In the Name of Love)”

January 20, 2013 by  

MLK, among so many other things, was music.

With his voice alone, Martin Luther King, Jr. made music.

The rhythm and melody that permeated Martin Luther King, Jr. was evident not only in the way that he moved and spoke, but in the way that he inspired musicality in others. One of the greatest orators of our time – or any other – King’s mastery of language made his speeches lyrical as well as life-affirming.

In his non-violent pursuit of civil rights equality, an a cappella delivery of MLK’s words were sufficient to stir deep passions – he didn’t sound like bagpipes or a cavalry bugle, but hearing his voice makes you immediately electrified, and once more strong for the fight.

It was an instrument that rightly won him the Nobel Peace Prize, and helped solidify his legacy as an intellectual leader for the ages via landmark speeches like “I Have a Dream”, and so many more.

“Pride” – An Emotional Ride

It’s no surprise, then, that his influence is imprinted within what people traditionally refer to as music – songs with singers, guitars, beats, bass, and keyboards. On the sampling front from Michael Jackson to Paul McCartney and Common, the Orb to Linkin Park and scores of others, MLK has served as a powerful sound source.

Arguably, one of the greatest-ever musical tributes to MLK stands out in the form of “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, U2’s masterpiece from the 1984 album The Unforgettable Fire. Riveting from Moment One, “Pride” is one of those cosmic confluences that defines a classic: the beautifully rhythmic  guitar work of the Edge, drummer Larry Mullen, Jr.’s big beat is simultaneously complex and simply satisfying, Adam Clayton’s musing bass foundation. And then Bono’s incomparable voice comes, starting off in the verse’s quiet awe before soaring to the hair-raising heights of the chorus.

“Pride” is a structurally simple song, and this upward spiraling cycle gets broken only by the bridge. At the 1:40 mark appears what is certainly the most uncomplicated guitar solo arrangement ever recorded in the history of rock: eight consecutive repetitions of the same single note, exquisitely energized by the Edge’s unique battery of delay pedals and other effects.

If “Pride” is up your alley, then your experience of the song is 3:49 of perfection. Anywhere your ears land at any moment – vocals, guitar, bass drums – what you hear is deeply moving, and builds momentum as the song surges forward. The gang vocals that appear in the third chorus are the perfectly imperfect element that somehow takes “Pride” even higher, connecting band and listeners to the song’s history-changing hero – a campfire singalong where 1,000,000 people can easily join hands.

As did MLK himself, the song accomplishes so much in such a short span of time. And in yet another parallel, rather than diminishing, the power of “Pride” only grows with repeated exposure.

View from the Studio

Engineer/mixer Kevin Killen was there — and then some — for the recording of “Pride”.

One person with a unique perspective on U2’s musical monument to MLK is the New York City-based engineer/mixer Kevin Killen. Working alongside The Unforgettable Fire co-producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois in his native Ireland, Killen was present for the numerous recording sessions that brought the song together.

As part of the engineering team that had recorded U2’s War record and Under a Blood Red Sky mini-LP live album, Killen had already been treated to a front-row seat of the band’s considerable capabilities. As is well-documented, The Unforgettable Fire’s first set of sessions took place at County Meath’s picturesque Slane Castle, enabled by a portable 24-track recording system supplied by Randy Ezratty’s mobile recording company Effanel Music. After a month of work at Slane, U2 and the rest of their crew relocated to the more controlled conditions of Dublin’s Windmill Lane Studios to finish the record.

Before it could reach the pristine state we hear today, Killen reminds that “Pride” had to overcome some serious struggles before its completion at Windmill Lane. “There were two issues,” Killen recalls, taking a break from a mix session at Ezratty’s studio in NYC’s Chelsea neighborhood. “Bono hadn’t settled on finished lyrics for the song, and so we were constantly looking at the arrangement to see if there was something about it that was preventing him from getting the words finalized. And Larry’s drum part was proving to be tricky, especially getting the roll right going into the chorus.

“But then Bono was finally able to get the lyrics the way he wanted, and execute the track. It wasn’t one particular word that was a problem, so much as he was just trying to get the exact sentiment to express. He knew what he was trying to say, but he was challenged just trying to get the right thing.”

The gestalt moment – when Bono found what he was looking for – was instantly apparent to everyone at Windmill Lane. “The first time he sang the finished lyrics everyone in the control room looked at each other and said, ‘That was definitely it,’” says Killen. “It was so obvious that he felt comfortable singing that lyric.”

The poetic final lines had arrived. They were written about the great Martin Luther King, Jr., but they could have been said by him just as easily (and indeed three of them were), in one of his unforgettable speeches: “Early morning, April 4/Shot rings out in the Memphis sky/Free at last, they took your life/They could not take your pride.”

Much of “Pride” had already been recorded to that point – suddenly the moment had arrived to launch it to the next level. An AKG C12 mic was waiting for Bono, connected to the preamp of an SSL E Series console with an LA-2A compressor inserted across the buss output.

As the singer was approaching the mic in the live room, Killen stepped up to the proverbial plate in the control room, one hand at the ready on the remote for the Otari MTR 90 tape machine – the young engineer was poised to pop a punch-in that he’d never forget.

“He sang it in one take,” Killen says. “I remember punching it in on the tape machine: Every hair on my body stood up. It was such a spine-tingling moment. He said something so concisely, so perfectly, about MLK’s life.”

Lasting Impact

Killen had the extreme privilege that only an engineer, producer, and an artist’s bandmates can experience: to be there for the magic moments of a classic song’s studio recording, getting the very first listen of a sound that will reach millions of ears for years upon years.

And, of course, Killen wasn’t the only one whose spine tingled at the sound of “Pride (In the name of Love)”. Released as the lead single for The Unforgettable Fire in September 1984, it was the biggest hit yet for U2, breaking the top 5 in the U.K. and the Top 40 in the U.S. While its peak position on the Billboard Hot 100 was only #33, “Pride” was inexorably connected to turning U2 in what it is now – a very, very, very big rock group.

“Pride (In the Name of Love” was released in September, 1984.

“When the band got here in 1984,” says Killen, “there was a very positive reaction to that track. And that was a very special period, stemming from the fact that the band were trying to do something different from their previous three releases.

“On that tour, they went from playing small 2,500-seat theaters to 4,000-seat theaters. Six months after that, they were playing arenas, so U2 saw their own career take off from that album release, up to a different level. And when you see them play ‘Pride’ live, you realize that it’s bass, drums, guitars, vocals, and no embellishments. It just works very well — very powerful, and very emotional.”

Being There

When great leaders emerge, their power to inspire action and art is a gift uniquely theirs to give the world. Growing up in Ireland, it’s reasonable to expect that Kevin Killen had no inkling that the life of Martin Luther King would help fulfill the aspiration held by so many in the music industry – to have a role in the making of a timeless song.

“At the time that we work on them, most engineers hope for songs to become classics,” says Killen, whose GRAMMY-winning career continues on, with hit records for clients including Peter Gabriel, Elvis Costello, Kate Bush, Jewel, Bon Jovi, Shawn Colvin, Shakira, Sugarland, Bryan Ferry, and Duncan Sheik. “When you get to be a part of one of them, or a number of them, it becomes pivotal in your career. You’re forever associated with the project, and that can never be taken away from you. Whether your participation was large or small, you’re always connected to it.

“When I sit and listen to ‘Pride’,” he continues, “I can remember that pivotal sequence of events that occurred when the song went from being difficult to record, to being realized. You look around the room, and realize you’ve captured a very special moment. That moment stays with you forever.”

Engineers and producers who crave that sensation need no small amount of luck to be in that right place, at the right time. But Kevin Killen knows that audio pros who are focused on the music can also turn their quest for a classic into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“Obviously, we all want to work with an artist that has something to say,” he points out. “Our job is to somehow set the stage so they can truly express themselves in that environment, without judgment, and convey what they’re trying to get out there. If you can be a part of that process, it can be incredibly rewarding not just for yourself, but for the artist.”

Sound Out

In a magic case of things coming full circle, one light that made MLK shine so brightly was that he enabled many millions to express who they truly were, as well.

Equipped with his voice and views – and often aided by a microphone – Martin Luther King, Jr. engineered a movement that unequivocally impacted the world. U2 were among the many who have heard his call. They went on to reflect that spirit forever in a song.

No matter what your walk of life, the chance to somehow have a hand in a timeless work — or even an Earth-changing attitude — may be closer than you think. You too may create something that qualifies. All of us should certainly try.

– David Weiss

The Kevin Killen Interview

July 18, 2012 by  

Kevin Killen is a Grammy-winning engineer and producer best-known for his work on classic albums by U2, Peter Gabriel, Elvis Costello, Kate Bush, and Tori Amos – not to mention a long list of well-known contemporary singers, songwriters and bands.

Kevin Killen at Frisbie Studios, NYC

On this episode of Input\Output, hosts Geoff Sanoff and Eli Janney sit down with Kevin to talk about the two albums he worked on that most influenced them as engineers: U2’s Unforgettable Fire and Peter Gabriel’s So.

The stories behind both of these records are fascinating. For Unforgettable Fire (1984), Killen worked in an 18th-century castle his native Ireland with producers Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno. On So (1985), Killen unexpectedly found himself in the middle of a ten-month “mixing” session in a converted farmhouse on the English countryside.

Since relocating to the United States in the late 80s, Killen has been living and, largely, working in NYC. A longtime proponent of in-the-box mixing, he’s been outspoken about his all-digital workflow – a topic which Geoff and Eli dig into here as well.

Listen to individual segments below, or (better yet) download this episode in its entirety to listen wherever you go!

Input\Output is produced by Justin Colletti for SonicScoop.com. This episode was recorded at Frisbie Studios in NYC.

Icons: Tony Visconti Captures Live Magic with The Kin

June 3, 2012 by  

NOHO, MANHATTAN: Riddle us this: When is your first album not your debut album? The answer is…When you’re The Kin, and you’re in the studio recording your emotionally moving pop-rock creations with none other than Tony Visconti producing.

Producing The Kin, Tony Visconti is right where he wants to be (all photos in article: David Weiss)

Founded in 2005 by the Australia-to-NYC transplants Isaac and Thorald Koren, The Kin became more than two guitarist/singer brothers with a huge gift for songwriting, when they recruited famed subway hand drummer Shakerleg to join them. So even though The Kin had released two independent studio albums — 2007’s Rise and Fall and 2009’s The Upside – only now do they see the band in its complete form.

“We’re calling this our first album, based on the fact that’s our first record together as a trio,” Thorald explains. “After all these years, we’ve found our distinction.”

As a result, the self-titled collection that’s currently in the works and due for release on Interscope Records this year is serving as a retrograde studio premiere for The Kin, a band that long ago made its mark as an elite live act. As evidence of their on-stage prowess, consider a marathon seven-month residency at NYC’s Rockwood Music Hall, a live CD/DVD documenting a show there, and the fact that Interscope pursued the band heavily after seeing their hypnotic hold on an audience at the Venice, CA venue The Stronghold.

A visit with The Kin during a recent session at Germano Studios in NoHo showed that they were already in a highly productive groove with the legendary Visconti. A Brooklyn born, Britain-bred bassist, composer and arranger, Visconti started working as a producer in 1967 and never stopped, making his name producing 12 David Bowie albums (including Space Oddity, The Man Who Sold the World, Young Americans, Low, Heroes, Lodger, Scary Monsters, and Heathen), and 13 albums for Marc Bolan’s T. Rex. Thin Lizzy, the Moody Blues, the Alarm, and many more are all entries in Visconti’s classics-packed discography.

Visconti had liked what he heard of The Kin’s demos, but it was his experience of one of their live gigs that sold him on being a producer for their record.

“My manager told me beforehand, ‘It’s a band like no other – the drummer doesn’t play with drumsticks, and there’s no bass!’” Visconti recalls, seated at the SSL Duality console in Germano’s Studio 1. “I thought, ‘This is a Zen parable: How do you make a rock record with no drumsticks or bass?’”

Soon Visconti found himself as one member of a 300+ audience “jammed like sardines” to see The Kin at Rockwood Music Hall. No slouch at evaluating talent on the stage – his first experience of Tyrannosauras Rex was an electrifying set at London’s UFO Club – Visconti was excited by what he saw.

“Vocals came easy to them – two singers in harmony,” he recalls. “Isaac was pumping out bass on a microKorg, and the drummer plays with no sticks, yet I’m hearing this huge drum sound like Bonham. All of the elements of a rock band are there, just not the way you would do it normally. But when you put a band like that under the microscope of the studio, there are challenges.”

Visconti has his work cut out for him when it comes to translating The Kin’s mesmerizing live show into recorded format (more on that in a minute), yet he’s diving all the way into a project that perfectly fits him as a producer in 2012. “They have all the right ingredients: They’re great singers, great musicians, and they write great songs,” he explains. “I live to work with a group like this, and once they let me in I’m trying to bring the best out of them. I can’t do that with a fluff artist.

Don't miss Visconti's account of producing 1977's "Low", and many other classic records on his Website, TonyVisconti.com.

“There’s a link to the past that The Kin have,” Visconti continues. “They write on the same level as Bowie, great lyrics. People are buying stuff that’s 40 years old now, and this is a group with the creative ethics that bands had in the ‘70’s. If you listen to Cat Stevens’ songs, there’s a connection there: fantastic lyrics, melodies and production values.”

Raising Their Game

The Kin have been waiting a long time to make this record, and they also know that their patient global fan base has high expectations. Whether it’s the songs produced by Visconti or Nic Hard, an additional producer on this eponymous record (Hard also produced Rise and Fall), the band is ready to step up to the pressure.

“Expect everything we’ve got — we’re putting everything into this record,” Isaac says. “It’s literally the best songwriting we’ve done yet. We’re excited to have put all of these elements into the pot, and we can’t wait to put it out to people.”

Inside the accommodating live room of Germano’s Studio 1, the culmination of Visconti’s engineering experience – nearly five decades worth – are on full display to capture The Kin’s vision. Meticulously crafted mic and DI combinations, set up with the help of assistant engineer Kenta, cover the amps, Shakerleg’s drums, the Bechstein A2 upright piano, the acoustic guitar position, and more. A similar scene was doubtless played out during multiple sessions at NYC’s Magic Shop, where no less than elite mixer/producer/engineer Kevin Killen was on engineering duty for Visconti and The Kin.

Visconti will talk about how he achieves his sounds – but only up to a point. “It’s a long chain: signal processing, gates, compressors, EQ, and especially mic placement,” he says. “I could tell you exactly how I do it, but I think that’s futile because you wouldn’t get my results. You’d need me and The Kin!

“That’s why I prefer not to say, ‘I used a Sennheiser 412 and put it next to the drummer’s armpit.’ I’d rather people use their ears, walk around the room, think about the best mic to use, and figure out where to put it.”

How to Make it Translate from Stage to Studio

A listen to 2011’s Live At Rockwood Music Hall quickly makes it clear why The Kin work so well live. In between tunes, there’s no shortage of the spontaneous interplay that only siblings are capable of. When the songs kick in, there are artfully harmonic structures that only The Kin are capable of — massively moving shifts from light to dark; deftly interweaving voices, guitars, and rhythms expressing solitary stories and universal themes.

Visconti, whose steady clients like David Bowie and Marc Bolan knew how to deliver masterpieces both onstage and on record, has proved an ideal match for The Kin at this stage in their career. As they laid down a musical idea in Studio 1, for example, Visconti deftly combined a creative atmosphere with attention to detail, applying an efficient workflow.

“I feel very encouraged as an artist — and also challenged — by the way Tony works,” Isaac says. “We’ve found it’s a completely different approach to studio and live. Live, you’re just doing it and not even aware of it. In the studio, you do what you do live and it doesn’t necessarily come out the same.”

Thorald adds, “Over all these years we’ve honed in our live shows what it means to have one moment, one shot, one experience. The vocals you’re singing at that moment are where you are — if you’ve been laughing, you’re tired, you’re cold – and you’ve been trained to be ready to give everything you have. In the studio, it’s a different experience.

“So getting to the place where we feel comfortable is something I’ve learned with Tony on this record: how to not be slick and not have that safety net, and instead to have that urgency, that one-time feeling.”

Thorald Koren of The Kin likes working the Visconti way (click on photo for enlarged view of mic setup).

Notes Visconti, “Live, the adrenaline makes you play faster. The band has it, the audience does too, so everyone accepts 5 BPM’s higher. And its sheer volume: Most bands just sound amazing live because it’s loud – like 110 dB.

“There are studio tricks to make it sound live at a low level, working with things like compression and distortion. In the studio you’re hearing microphones, but in the live setting you hear the PA. So sometimes in the past I’ve experimented with bringing a live PA into the studio, although you need a soundstage. Or I’ve put a kick drum through a bass amp to shake the room.

“Distortion is your best friend, really. Overloading a preamp or tape gives the impression that it’s more than you can bear, just on the verge of pain. Those are audio techniques to create that feeling at a low volume.

“But The Kin do play great in the studio. Sometimes they’ll have a click track, sometimes not, and it’s amazing how solid they are – tempo shifts might be one BPM slower. Keeping their live feel intact in the studio is what I’m trying to go for.”

One of Visconti’s earliest producing projects was recording with 20-year old David Bowie in 1967. For years afterward, the producer was making landmark albums in the analog domain — a realm where he observed a fundamental recording technique.

“We didn’t have Pro Tools in those days, so the selection of the musicians was very important,” he says. “The people who got to go into the studio were great musicians. These days, a lot of young bands – and I’m not talking about The Kin – go into studios prematurely, but they know the safety net [digital editing] exists. They know every beat will get fixed.

“With T. Rex we did five or six takes, but usually one or two would be enough. It’s the same with The Kin: We do two or three takes. We don’t have to belabor anything. You have to kind of trick yourself that you can’t fix it — although we do if we have to. We used to do it with a razor blade and tape, but it was harder and trickier to razor-cut Take Five and Eleven together. I did it then, and I’m doing it now. This time it’s with a few mouse clicks, but my ethic hasn’t changed.”

A Band of Brothers

When The Kin’s self-titled record arrives later this year, Tony Visconti will have respectfully preserved the genuine core that sets the group apart. “This is one of the few bands that talks about the emotion they’re going for in a song,” he says. “And since they’re brothers, they don’t bullshit each other. If they have a problem, they stop the session and we all discuss it.

“A lot of my notes aren’t technical notes – they’re notes about how the song should be portrayed. I really appreciate that: They think at a deep level. That’s why the record evokes strong feelings.”

Inside Germano's Studio 1 live room: Miking the bass amp.

The "bass" that shakes it: Isaac's microKorg.

Isaac Koren at the Bechstein A2 upright piano -- note the stereo mic setup.

An electric guitar and pedal station.

Another view of the pedal board.

An accompanying Fender amp and Radial Engineering DI.

Meticulous miking on the Winfield amp.

A close view of the Winfield amp settings.

Clean power!

Lyrics and music

Shakerleg and his hand drumming setup.

Another look at the three-mic overhead/rear configuration.

Miking the djembe "bass" and the rest of the kit's nether regions.

Closeup on the djembe/snare -- notice the tiny mic on the left.

One more angle on these mics, from Shakerleg's perspective.

On the tom.

...and finally the tambourine.

Looking at the rest of the live room to the control room, from the acoustic guitar/vocal seat.

Let's visit the control room, shall we?

Kinductor

Assistant engineer Kenta at the ready

Choice outboard in the producer's desk.

Fairchild on hand.

All together now!

David Weiss

 

 

 

 

 

Avatar Action: Sugarland, the Michel Legrand Orchestra, State Farm Was There

October 3, 2011 by  

Avatar Studios session action recently was fast and furious, as reported by the studio. Superstars returned, and multiple major label and indie artists tracked along with TV, film and Broadway cast recordings.

Prepping for the 52-piece 52-piece Michel Legrand Orchestra at Avatar's Studio A.

Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush AKA Sugarland recorded in Studio C on the Neve VRP 72-input console with producer Byron Gallamore. Engineer Tom Tapley was assisted by Bob Mallory.

Tony Bennett returned to Studio A and the Neve 8088, with Lady Gaga and producer Phil Ramone. Engineer Dae Bennett was assisted by Fernando Lodeiro and Tim Marchiafava.

State Farm made a choral recording in Studio A for a 9/11 Spike Lee-directed commercial with producer Eric David Johnson. Engineer Jonathan Duckett was assisted by Charlie Kramsky.

Joe Jackson recorded in Studio C. Engineer Elliot Scheiner was assisted by Aki Nishimura.

Bassist/singer Esperanza Spalding recorded in Studio G with engineers Fernando Lodeiro and Brian Montgomery assisted by Tim Marchiafava.  The sessions are being produced by Esperanza Spalding and Q-Tip.

Studio B and the SSL 9000 J were on duty for Dar Williams, recording with producer/engineer Kevin Killen assisted by Fernando Lodeiro.

Horn specialist Mark Rivera recorded in Studio B with producer Jimmy Bralower, and engineer Roy Hendrickson assisted by Charlie Kramsky.

Rock singer/songwriter Danielia Cotton recorded in Studio A with engineer Dave Swanson assisted by Bob Mallory.

Producer John Oddo was on point for Broadway singer/actress Christine Ebersole, recording in Studio B with engineer Roy Hendrickson assisted by Tim Marchiafava.

Legendary jazz drummer Jack DeJohnette recorded in Studio A with producer Bob Sadin, engineer Dave Darlington assisted by Bob Mallory.

Continuing on the jazzzzzzzz tip, artists Claire Martin and Kenny Barron recorded in Studio B with producer Philip Hobbs, engineer Calum Malcolm assisted by Charlie Kramsky.

Also in Studio A, the 52-piece Michel Legrand Orchestra tracked with producer Sylvain Taillet. Engineer Lawrence Manchester was assisted by Bob Mallory and Tim Marchiafava.

Another ensemble, the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra was in Studio A with producer Howard Cass, while engineer Paul Zinman was assisted by Tim Marchiafava.

Tommy Igoe led the Birdland Big Band into Avatar's Studio C.

The Birdland Big Band dug into their first studio album in Studio C. The team of producer Tommy Igoe, engineer Phil Magnotti, and assistant engineer Aki Nishimura oversaw the recording.

On the music-for-media front, score for the film Friends with Kids was recorded in Studio C with producer/composer Marcelo Zarvos, engineer Erlin Velberg assisted by Fernando Lodeiro.  The film stars Kristen Wiig, Megan Fox and Jon Hamm.

The cast album for Stage Door Canteen was recorded in Studio A with producer Hugh Fordin, and engineer Cynthia Daniels was assisted by Aki Nishimura. Meanwhile, a benefit project for Broadway Cares was recorded in Studio B with producer Lynn Pinto, engineer Andros Rodriguez assisted by Tim Marchiafava.

In Studio A, the cast album for Death Takes a Holiday tracked with producer Tommy Krasker. Engineer Bart Migal assisted by Bob Mallory and Charlie Kramsky.

Joe D’Ambrosio Management (NY) Opens European Office

August 2, 2011 by  

Joe D’Ambrosio, founder and CEO of Mamaroneck, NY-based producer/mixer management firm Joe D’Ambrosio Management, Inc. (JDMI)  has announced the opening of a European office based in Paris, France: Joe D’Ambrosio Management/Europe.

Joe D'Ambrosio has expanded to Europe.

Former EMI Continental Europe and Capitol France executive Emily Gonneau will be running the European office as liaison between the JDMI roster and their European clientele. Ms. Gonneau is a graduate of the Sorbonne and speaks English, French, Spanish and German.

Now in its 10th year of operation, Joe D’Ambrosio Management represents such talent as Tony Visconti, Hugh Padgham, Elliot Scheiner, Kevin Killen, Joe Zook, Larry Gold, Rob Mounsey and Thom Monahan among others.

JDMI’s clientele have worked with U2, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Katy Perry, Rihanna, David Bowie, Beyonce, OneRepublic, Foo Fighters, Paul McCartney, Sting, Shakira, Pink, Kaiser Chiefs, Peter Gabriel, Morrissey, Ayo, Raphael, Norah Jones, Modest Mouse, Beck, Justin Nozuka, The Roots, Fujiya & Miyagi, Little Joy, Angelique Kidjo and hundreds of others.

Session Buzz: Who’s Recording In & Around NYC — A Monthly Report

April 21, 2011 by  

GREATER NYC AREA: Both through the grapevine and straight from the source(s), we’ve been hearing about a number of different recording projects going on in studios throughout the NYC area. The following is but a sampling of recent sessions, and works in progress…a snapshot of what’s going on around town:

Germano Studios has been going non-stop in 2011, between multiple months of lock-out sessions with Lady Gaga, and sessions with a host of other major artists.

Lady Gaga has been recording/mixing for "Born This Way" at Germano Studios, NYC

Gaga and crew have been working out of both Germano Studio 1 and Studio 2, recording and mixing her upcoming album, Born This Way – due out May 23 – and the title track lead single, released in February.

Also – as previously reported – T-Pain was also at Germano Studios, recording vocals in Studio 2 with Levar “LV” Coppin producing and Javier Valverde engineering. And producer Steve Jordan and engineer Dave O’Donnell were in tracking basics with Kelly Clarkson and writing/recording with Keith Richards.

Meanwhile in the Brill Building, KMA Music has been going strong, with Beyoncé locked out Studios A and B for writing, recording and mixing sessions for her new album with an array of producers – The-Dream, Switch, Robert “Shea” Taylor, Jeff Bhasker – and engineers, including Swivel, Pat Thrall, Serge Nudel. Mya also booked out KMA for tracking and mixing sessions with producer Chuck Harmony and engineer Ben Chang. And Joe Jonas tracked and mixed material for his new solo project with Danja producing and Marcella Araica engineering. Lil Wayne was at KMA for a late-night vocal session as well.

In Brooklyn, producer/engineer Tim O’Heir has been holed up in his “Golden Ear” studio in the Music Garage in Williamsburg mixing the upcoming Austin TV double album epic. Austin TV, according to O’Heir, is “an instrumental group from Mexico City who compare themselves to Mogwai but with more ‘theatre.’

Austin TV: self-described Mogwai with more "theatre"

“The tracks were produced by Meme from Cafe Tacuba in Mexico and they FTP’d the Pro Tools sessions to me here in NY. It’s been a trip as these pieces are 100% math rock. The trick for them, and myself, was to get them as musical sounding as possible. (I think that was accomplished.)

The tracks were mixed in the box, summed through a Dangerous D-Box. Waves and Sound Toys as well as a few Digi plug-ins brought the whole thing to life.”

Nearby at The Bunker in East Williamsburg, Aaron Nevezie tracked and mixed the debut album by the Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra. This is an 11-piece traditional salsa band tracked live, playing fresh arrangements of indie-rock songs by LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire, Spoon and more. Nevezie also produced new releases for local Brooklyn bands Des Roar, and Crinkles, and mixed Peoples Champs.

The Bunker is also excited to have added a 1969 Steinway M grand piano and a new pair of vintage RCA ribbon mics to the studio.

And down in the financial district, Engine Room Audio has been popping with projects up in its SSL 4064G+ equipped penthouse tracking/mixing room, including G-Unit’s Tony Yayo and Waka Flocka tracking a new single with engineer Drew Fisher. Sean Kingston and Trav also mixed a new single at Engine Room, with engineer Sam Jacquet. Indie rock band Lowry just wrapped mixing on their new full-length album for Engine Room Recordings, with Mark Christensen producing and Fisher engineering. And “indie-pop-on-Mozart quintet” Wakey! Wakey! has been in recording for an upcoming Engine Room Recordings compilation.

Down in his mastering suite, Christensen’s been working on a new OK Go! live album, mixed by Dave Fridmann, as well as a new album by The Color Bars. Christensen also recently mastered the new Ryan Leslie single, “Glory,” and a new record by Cheryl Englehard.

Stream Tune-Yards’ sonically expansive “Whokill” – mastered By Joe LaPorta at The Lodge – here

Inside another popular NYC mastering haunt, The Lodge, mastering engineers Emily Lazar, Joe LaPorta, Sarah Register, and Heba Kadry have been busy with releases by Serg Tankian and Shirley Manson, Against Me!, The Naked and Famous, and Chris Taylor’s newest production work on Blood Orange’s upcoming 7″. (Lazar and LaPorta also mastered Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light!)

Other albums recently mastered by The Lodge crew: Tune-yards’ w h o k i l l, Fucked Up’s  David Comes To Life, Ford & Lopatin’s Channel Pressure, Cold Cave’s Cherish The Light Years, EMA’s Past Life Martyred Saints, Liturgy, Xray Eyeballs, Eternal Tapestry/Sun Araw, White Hills and more.

Back uptown at Area 51 NYC… singer Vita Chambers was working on a new release for Universal Motown with producers CJ, Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers, and Henry “Skem” Kaprali engineering, assisted by John Lurie. Also for Universal Motown, Gail Scott was in session working with producer Kenneth “Soundz” Coby and Michelle Figueroa engineering. French house DJ/producer David Guetta was at Area 51 co-producing new material with CJ, and engineer Dan Smith, for Guetta’s own Gum Productions.

Area 51 also installed new Augspurger mains in the North Room. Says Area 51 co-owner/manager Tony Drootin: “We purchased the dual 15” cabinets and subs that used to reside in Studio D at Sony Studios. We replaced all the components, added a new crossover, and tweaked the system to our room.” He also reports that Area 51 is now configured for drum tracking out of the South Room, and has added some new mics and outboard gear to its arsenal.

Nearby at Avatar Studios, the city’s most famous “Studio A” hosted… a duet by Tony Bennett and Sheryl Crow, produced by Phil Ramone, and engineered by Dae Bennett; Elvis Costello recording a song for an upcoming film with engineer Kevin Killen; and James McCartney recording new material with David Kahne producing and Roy Hendrickson engineering. Meanwhile in Studio C, Steve Reich / So Percussion recorded with producer Judith Sherman and engineer John Kilgore.

The Static Jacks with Chris Shaw and assistant engineer Mike Nesci in Stratosphere Studio A.

At Threshold Recording Studios NYCsinger/songwriter Alana Kessler worked on her new single “The Best Thing” with producer/engineer and multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Sklarsky; composer / PBS producer Tim Janis prepared for his upcoming annual Christmas show at Carnegie Hall with Alexa Ray Joel; and Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke was back as part of the Road Recovery Performance Workshops Program.

And finally, Stratosphere Sound hosted New Jersey indie rockers The Static Jacks for a month, recording their debut full-length in Studio A with producer/engineer Chris Shaw. R&B legend Aaron Neville also recorded vocals at Stratosphere recently with Geoff Sanoff in Studio A.

And Amanda Ghost, producer Dave McCracken and engineer Andros Rodriguez – long-term clients in Studio B – have been working with female rapper KFlay, singers Sky Ferreira and Murray James, as well as John Legend.

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 submissions@sonicscoop.com.

Avatar Studios Hosts James McCartney, Travis Barker, Regis Philbin, Roberta Flack

April 14, 2011 by  

The rooms at Avatar Studios have been crowded this past month, with projects for everyone from global artists to talk show royalty. Top producers and engineers have been in on many of the sessions as well.

(l-r): Rebecca Arons, Regis Philbin, Ben Arons in Avatar's Studio C. (Photo credit: Ben Arons)

Studio A, with its legendary 2,496 sq. ft. live room, accommodated a duet by Tony Bennett and Sheryl Crow, produced by Phil Ramone, engineered by Dae Bennett, and assisted by Fernando Lodeiro. Elvis Costello was also in A, recording a song for an upcoming film with engineer Kevin Killen, assisted by Fernando Lodeiro.

Staying in Studio A, James McCartney recorded in Studio A with producer David Kahne, engineer Roy Hendrickson assisted by Fernando Lodeiro. Mark Ronson recorded music there for Warner Pictures’ Arthur, with engineer Vaughan Merrick, and assisted by Bob Mallory. On the drumming tip, Travis Barker recorded drums for an ad with producer James Covill, engineer James Ingram, and assisted by Bob Mallory.

Roberta Flack recorded in Studio A as well as well as the SSL 9000J-equipped Studio B with co-producer Sherrod Barnes, engineer Roy Hendrickson, and assisted by Bob Mallory.

In Studio C with its Neve VRP 72, Constantine Maroulis recorded with producers Phil Galdston and Marc Copely — engineer Lawrence Manchester was on hand, assisted by Bob Mallory. In addition Rebecca Arons recorded with Regis Philbin in Studio C with engineer Anthony Ruotolo, assisted by Bob Mallory. Also in C, Steve Reich / So Percussion recorded with producer Judith Sherman, engineer John Kilgore, and assisted by Charlie Kramsky.

On the multimedia front, Cirque de Soleil recorded in Studio C with producer Phil Ramone and engineer Roy Hendrickson, assisted by Fernando Lodeiro. Music for HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” was recorded in Studio B with producers Stewart Lerman, Jim Dunbar, engineer Stewart Lerman, and assisted by Bob Mallory. Last but not least, music for Fox’s “Glee” was recorded in Studio G with producer Tommy Faragher and engineer Bryan Smith, assisted by Fernando Lodeiro.

Universal Audio Announces Lexicon 224 Digital Reverb For UAD-2 Plug-Ins Platform

April 8, 2011 by  

At MusikMesse this week, Universal Audio (UA) announced the impending release of the Lexicon 224 Digital Reverb plug-in for the UAD-2 platform.

The legendary Lexicon 224 Digital Reverb - coming soon to the UAD-2 plug-ins platform.

The original Lexicon 224 Digital Reverb – with its tactile, slider-based controller and famously lush reverb tail – came out in 1978 and has remained one of the most popular digital reverb units of all time. “The 224 was really the product that launched the Lexicon brand,” noted Michael MacDonald, of Lexicon parent company, Harman Professional.

According to UA’s press announcement: The Lexicon 224 plug-in for UAD-2 precisely captures all eight reverb programs available in original 224 firmware version 4.4, including every tunable parameter, with unique fader-style controls – inviting easy experimentation and sonic exploration.

In UA’s exhaustive modelling tradition, the Lexicon 224 emulation also incorporates the original unit’s input transformers and early AD/DA converters – nailing the entire signal path right down to the last detail.

Additionally, the Lexicon 224 emulation for UAD-2 features direct input and presets from notable Lexicon 224 users, including Chuck Zwicky (Prince, Jeff Beck), Eli Janney (Jet, Ryan Adams), David Isaac (Eric Clapton, Luther Vandross), E.T. Thorngren (Talking Heads, Bob Marley), and Kevin Killen (U2, Peter Gabriel).

Available for purchase via UA’s Online Store in Q2 2011, the Lexicon 224 Digital Reverb plug-in will sell for $349.

The Lexicon 224 Digital Reverb plug-in will be available as part of the new UAD Software v5.9.0 release, slated for Q2 2011. In addition to the Lexicon 224 Digital Reverb plug-in, v5.9.0 includes UA’s first-ever Direct Developer plug-ins from Brainworx and SPL, as well as improvements for UAD-2 Satellite users.

For more information on Universal Audio, visit www.uaudio.com, and learn more about the acclaimed UAD-2 Powered Plug-Ins platform here. Oh, and click to enter our current contest to WIN a UAD-2 Satellite Quad!

“Mildred Pierce” Score, Jazz, Big Band, Pop & Soul Sessions at Avatar

December 21, 2010 by  

Music for HBO’s upcoming five-part miniseries Mildred Pierce has been recorded at NYC’s Avatar Studios.

Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks supplied the period music for the show, recording in Studio A with producer and music supervisor Randy Poster and engineer Stewart Lerman, assisted by Charlie Kramsky.  And NYC-based film composer Carter Burwell (True Grit, Twilight, The Kids Are Alright) recorded the score in Studio C with engineer Todd Whitelock, assisted by Rick Kwan.

NYC's Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds recorded their latest at Avatar Studios.

Recording sessions with Ricky Martin continued in Avatar’s Studio B, with Desmond Child producing and Kevin Killen engineering. The Linda Eder Big Band also recorded at Avatar with producers Frank Wildhorn and Jeremy Roberts, engineered by Todd Whitelock.

And in other recent Avatar sessions: jazz artist Charnett Moffett recorded with engineer Anthony Ruotolo, Fox’s Glee was back recording and mixing with producer Tommy Faragher and engineer Robert Smith, and Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds recorded with producers Patrick Ermlich and Eshy Gazit for Modern Vintage Recordings, with engineering by Anthony Ruotolo.

Clara Lofaro also recorded at Avatar with engineer Robert Smith. And Erin Barra worked in Studio W with engineer Ari Raskin. The Young People’s Chorus recorded in Studio C with producer Nancy Bloom and engineer Bryan Smith, assisted by Aki Nishimura. Jessye Norman and Lynn Harrell recorded in Studio C with producer Allan Abrams, engineer Fred Vogler. And Grammy Awards nominee Chandrika Tandon was recording in Studio B and G with producer/engineer Jeffrey Lesser.

For more on Avatar Studios, visit http://www.avatarstudios.net

Avatar Hosts Sessions For Every Media: Lenny Kravitz, The Dirty Pearls Records, Glee and Rubicon, Tyler Perry film and Vampire Weekend for iTunes

October 20, 2010 by  

As reflected in a recent string of sessions, there’s a whole lotta music being recorded at Avatar Studios of late, with a diverse clientele of producers, writers and composers creating music for multiple medias.

Avatar's legendary Studio A live room

First, the album projects — this last month saw Elaine Paige in Studio A with Phil Ramone and Frank Filipetti, Lenny Kravitz in Studio C with Tom Edmunds engineering, Ricky Martin in with producer Desmond Child and engineer Enrique Larreal and NYC rockers The Dirty Pearls recording with producer David Kahne and engineer Joe Barresi.

Additionally, Jim Hall recorded at Avatar with engineer James Farber, Keiko Matsui recorded with producer Richard Bona and engineer Anthony Ruotolo and the Harmonie Ensemble / New York recorded in Studio A with conductor/music director Steven Richman and engineer Adam Abeshouse.

A Celtic Woman project was recorded in Studio B while connected to a studio in Dublin through Source-Connect. David Downes produced the session with engineer Kevin Killen. Additionally, Avatar’s new writing room was booked out for a writing session for Justin Bieber with producer Priscilla Renae, working with engineer Fernando Lodeiro.

And then the film and television work…Music performed by Joshua Bell for Tyler Perry’s film For Colored Girls was recorded in Studio C with composer/producer Aaron Zigman and engineer Todd Whitelock. Music for Glee was recorded in Studio G with actor Darren Criss, producer Tommy Faragher and engineer Robert Smith. The score for AMC’s Rubicon was recorded in Studio C with producer Peter Nashel and engineer Roy Hendrickson; and an episode of CBS’ The Good Wife with Miranda Cosgrove was shot in Studio A.

Also in Avatar’s Studio A, Young People’s Chorus of New York City was in for a TV pre-record for the 9/11 Commemoration with producer Irwin Fisch and engineer Artie Friedman.

And webVampire Weekend recorded in Studio A for iTunes with producer Suzanne Varney and engineer Jason Marcucci. And, radio interviews via ISDN were held in Studio G with LCD Soundsystem assisted by Fernando Lodeiro.

Avatar’s also long been a home for Broadway musicians, and recently hosted recording sessions for promos for Elf The Musical, with producer Brandon Mikolaski and engineer Ed Rak, Jersey Boys, with engineer Peter Karam and Rock of Ages, with engineer Peter Hylenski.

And music for Loris Greaud’s project, “ The Snorks, A Concert for Creatures” was recently recorded in Studio A, performed by Antipop Consortium. Avatar’s Rick Kwan engineered the session.  The audio will be used for an installation at the Pace Art Gallery.

For more information on Avatar Studios, visit www.avatarstudios.net.

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