Cerwin Vega P-Series Portable Powered Loudspeakers Unveiled in NYC, LA

December 20, 2012 by  

The right way to roll out a new live sound speaker is with a real live event, right?

Manufacturer Cerwin-Vega!, long known for its home audio systems, held parties on both coasts recently to show off their new P-Series Professional PA System. The P-Series offers two different active speakers, the P1500X (MSRP: $1199) and the P1800SX subwoofer (MSRP: $1499).

DJ Premier is flanked by the Dirty Pearls at the Gibson Guitar Showroom in NYC.

In NYC, no less than DJ Premier and rockers The Dirty Pearls were on hand at the Gibson Guitar Showroom to ring in the new system, while in LA, DJ Serafin and DJ Young1 were the featured entertainment. Both parties gave a great indication of the versatility, range, and musicality of these powered speakers.

See more info below from Cerwin Vega on the P-Series, and check out the scene!

“Cerwin-Vega! introduces its new P-Series professional PA system, which delivers a new standard in power and bass punch, suited for any sound reinforcement application, from live performances to public speeches. The P-Series family includes two active speaker products: the P1500X and the P1800SX.

The heart of the P-Series is the P1500X, a two-way, bi-amped, full-range bass-reflex speaker. It employs a 15-inch woofer and high-frequency compression driver, powered by a custom Class-D amp. With a rating of 1500W, the P1500X is the most powerful PA product in its price class. A proprietary hemi-conical horn provides enhanced sound clarity over an even and wide coverage area. A built-in mixer with I/O connections allows for simple and fast setup, while enhanced EQ, VEGA BASS boost and high-pass filters enable exact tuning and exceptional performance for any event. The P1500X is a versatile product that can be used as a single speaker for a small venue, set in pairs for a larger venue needing more coverage and SPL, or side mounted as a floor monitor for a band.

The P1500X’s lightweight, robust polymer enclosure includes a two position pole cup with an adjustable mounting point, as well as comfortable ergonomic handles. These features provide users with versatility and comfort. Built-in rigging points and remote volume port make the P1500X ideal for suspended installation.

The muscle of the P-Series is the P1800SX, a powered subwoofer, employing an 18-inch woofer with a custom 2000W Class-D amp. The large woofer and amplifier are enclosed in a hardwood cabinet, the combination of which provides a high level of bass punch and extreme low end response, both Cerwin-Vega! trademarks. Like the P1500X, the P1800SX has frequency-shaping controls, a VEGA BASS boost, and a high-pass filter switch (as a built-in crossover). This ensures that the user has the right amount of bass for a particular venue. While designed for use with the P1500X, the P1800SX can be used for bottom-end extension with competitive products. Additionally, the THRU and MIX output options allow for system expandability and fast daisy-chain connections between components.”

The Dirty Pearls: Loud and sounding lovely.

DJ Serafin manned the decks in LA…

…along with the spins of DJ Young1.



Music Producer Profile: David Kahne Leads On

May 10, 2011 by  

HELL’S KITCHEN, MANHATTAN: Modern music can get shaped by the most unassuming of influencers. David Kahne is one such source: often unseen, but always very well heard.

A talk with David Kahne awaits.

Spend some time with him, and it’s clear that he always puts sound first. If you’re lucky, you’ll be there when Kahne hears a song that he loves – wholly absorbed, the music literally moves him.

After being an artist on Capitol Records a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, Kahne stayed interested in the studio. He became a producer/engineer for the legendary 415 Records new wave label in San Francisco, then a VP of A&R for Columbia Records and Warner Bros.

Along the way, Kahne’s scientific instincts established him in some circles as an indispensable producer. In addition to a GRAMMY win for producing Tony Bennett’s 1995 MTV: Unplugged album, Kahne’s production credits range from Fishbone, Sublime, Sir Paul McCartney, The Strokes, Sean Lennon, and Linkin Park, to current collaborators such as Ingrid Michaelson, Regina Spektor, James McCartney, Jay Brannan, and The Dirty Pearls. If that’s not enough, Kahne is beginning a production of a ballet version of Peter Pan that he wrote, and he’s just wrapped scores on three films.

One way he does it is by working out of a personal audio wonderland he’s established at Avatar Studios. A resident of New York City since 1990, and bi-coastal until 4 years ago, Kahne was led from the Golden State by his muses to become a full-time NYC dweller. Now Kahne is feeding off of the Big Apple’s energy as he moves music forward.

Why is NYC your home base now? And how did you settle on Avatar as your HQ?
I liked the vibe and the creative feeling of it here. I’ll give you a great example; I write ballet music — I recently wrote a ballet of Peter Pan in MIDI – and I found a choreographer in Brooklyn. 90 dance companies use her space, and it’s part of a thing that makes that sense of DIY seem stronger here.

I sometimes feel like the LA scene is more about chasing the industry – although there are so many talented musicians there – and I like the environment of NYC. Walking, biking, the way the clubs are…It’s more saturated here in the city.

How does that translate with the artists you’re working with here in NYC?

Turning to the keys.

When I was head of A&R at Columbia, there were 212 artists on the roster. I asked somebody over there recently how many artists they currently have signed onto the roster, and they said it was in the fifties. So that’s a hundred-something records not being made, artists not being supported. Those artists are still making music, but now they’re trying to turn their own thing.

People I work with like Regina Spektor, Ingrid Michaelson, Jay Brannan, these are amazing artists — Jay books himself, he manages himself, and he saves money for his album budget. It’s hard. You’re spending more and more time promoting yourself, and less time making music. But I think that that’s the way it’s going to be for more and more artists.

Back in the day, there was a general feeling that a song could change the world. And that created an environment for big rosters and lots of sales, and more artists being able to have careers spanning decades. I think that bubble has burst.

I feel like we’re all entrepreneurs now, more than ever. The means of distribution and collection change almost faster than we can adapt to them, and there’s not a settled system for monetizing the music. So it’s harder to build a business.

I also think it’s interesting that we’re back to the way it was in the ‘50’s, a singles market. The publishers started record companies then, and they have a lead on the power now, especially when you talk about the synch fees. Synch seems like the new radio for lots of new artists.

It’s very difficult for a major label to build up an artist around touring. It takes a long time to do that, and for the most part, I don’t think the numbers work. Gotta get radio.

A self-contained artist would most often have a very hard time with all the test marketing that goes on, and all the changes that are made to the music to meet the market expectation. If the market were “people who are looking for something new, different, etc…” it would be a different music world. But that market is very individualized, and spread out and you have to reach it in a different way. That’s my opinion, anyway.

Shifting gears, how do you see yourself today? As a producer? Mixer? Engineer? Composer? All of the above? How do you balance all those roles?
Yes, all of the above. Because of the economics of things now, I’m mixing. I think my favorite parts of the process — arranging and programming — are sort of blended together, and that’s one reason I like working on the ballet so much. It’s all orchestral, and when you’re scoring something you’re actually mixing something while you’re writing the arrangement.

With my MADI system in my room here at Avatar, I mix as I go. I have all this outboard gear and it’s all accessible through real time via the MADI. When I call Cubase up to continue a session or do an overdub, I call all my hardware up at the same moment.

I have the entire Vienna library on one dedicated computer. It runs through Ethernet with zero latency – it’s mind-blowing. I used to be able to load four complex instruments on Cubase, now with this 64-bit computer running Windows 7 I can load 31! Another computer runs only Hollywood Strings, which is a fantastic library, but it’s all solid state drives. Some of these Hollywood Strings loads are 18,000 samples and streaming. Without solid state drives, you can’t even load the complex instruments. It’s worth getting the drives.

Listening in.

It’s crazy, but it’s fascinating technology. Again, with the DIY thing, you’re getting to the place where you’re going to have the ability to create whole orchestrations, to the point where nobody’s going to be able to tell it’s not a real symphony orchestra playing.

Looking at your setup and how many up-to-date components you have – hardware and virtual – it’s clear that you’re constantly introducing new software and hardware into your system. How do you keep up such a breakneck pace?
Every time I see a new plugin, I buy it! I bought buy plug-ins like Geist or Trigger the first day they come out. I’m quite the early adopter. I went full 64bit and Windows 7 the moment it was possible. I’m spending probably 15% of my time keeping my gear running and checking out new software.

I don’t need any new hardware. Sometimes I think about having a console, and then I tell myself I’m insane, what am I talking about? I have friends that are still on consoles, and they sometimes feel behind the curve, because it takes time to get up to speed on the computer, and trust your software.

Hardware compressors are my favorite thing. I’ve got a Fairchild, and two Federals over there. Someone told me about the Elysia Mpressor when it came out, and I freaked when I got it. It’s so powerful – with the gain control, you can get tremendous compression without harshness. You can get it to pump and suck, and now the software version is identical to the hardware unit, as far as I can tell.

But Brainworx and all the UAD stuff, and some of the SPL stuff is important stuff to have because it’s like having another instrument. It’s like the difference between two different kinds of saxophones. You’d use one for one thing, and a different one for another.

How does your particular studio setup allow you to get around the console?
I have four Dangerous 2-Bus summing boxes, totaling 64-channels, with my analog outboard gear hard-wired between the interface D/A outputs and the inputs to the 2-Busses. This allows me to select what track or stem I want to send to a particular piece of outboard via the output assignment in MADI, so I have in effect a virtual analog patch bay.

You can also set up parallel processing chains with this system. For example, I have an output from the computer going to my Fairchild on a dedicated line, so I can send a dry stem directly to the Dangerous 2-Bus and also send the same stem to the Fairchild; the Fairchild is patched into its own 2-Bus input, so I get foldback compression as part of the stream in the 2-Bus summed mix. If I want insert compression only, I just turn off the dry stem feed. All the audio splits out in the MADI mixer, 64 tracks.

I save the MADI mixer doc for the song I’m working on, and when I call the song back up in the DAW, I load the MADI mixer and my mix is back exactly as I left it. I have about 20 pieces of gear, or chains of gear, that I can access from my computer in this way.

You get the call for some pretty high-profile clients to work on their projects – Sir Paul McCartney picking you to co-produce James McCartney’s excellent 2010 EP Available Light comes to mind. Why do you think they chose you?

I’ve been working with Paul for a while, on two studio albums and three live albums. I’d met James earlier, and we all knew each other, and Paul asked me if I would work on James’ album with him. Paul knows me and I think he thought I’d be a good person to get the album done. And we’re still working on it. We just did two new songs – it’s a work in progress.

You seem to really get the most out of a band’s sound, whether you’re working with James McCartney, Fishbone, The Strokes, Regina Spektor. What’s your approach to tracking and mixing?
Mostly it’s the preparatory work, I have to say, that I really like. I spend a lot of time in rehearsal and pre pro, so that as much as I can know about not only the amplifier, but how the people play.  That’s if it’s a band. If it’s a solo artist, I like to build models and get the vocals done as soon as possible, and then do the arrangements: and record the live instruments last. Takes the mystery out of it, saves money, and there’s still plenty of room for surprises to happen with great players.

The mad rack o' fun

You know, I was in Vegas once. I was backstage, there were these tall girls walking by with massive eyelashes — they looked like freaks. I thought, “It’s so weird looking.” But later on, seeing them out in the theater they looked really pretty. It’s about scale. Environment. Arranging and mixing for stereo is the same thing – you’re trying to create depth and power using musical tools of counterpoint, voice-leading.  Then software after. At least, that’s what I try to do.

My main focus for arranging is vocals. For example, there’s a band I was going to work with, where this girl is an amazing singer. There was all this great stuff I heard from them live, but the demos of the new songs had big holes. In a lot of the songwriting, they’d have a verse that worked great. You could feel this stuff going on between the quiet and loud in her voice, and you knew that was going to work. But in the pre-choruses, she would start vamping because there wasn’t enough information there, and as a singer she instinctively knew there wasn’t enough going on in the song — she was trying to make it happen physically in the performance, rather than in the composition.

So she was giving away the nut that was supposed to be in the chorus. I heard her go there in a less musical way. She was solving the problem by singing it out. She felt like she made the arc to the chorus, but I was talking to her about working on this one part of the song so that she could sing across the bar line and get into the chorus.

That would have solved the problem, but the leader of the band didn’t like that. I didn’t end up working on the project. I like to find that out early on – if I can’t develop an approach to the music overall with the artist, it’s best that we don’t work together. There’s only been a few times when I’ve started working and the method we’d agreed on didn’t work.

An emerging NYC band you’re working on now is the Dirty Pearls. How did you get involved with them?
I heard their song “New York City Is a Drug”, and I really liked that. So we worked together on the album. I really liked the style of that record – they wanted to play guitars loud and be a band. I saw these guys live at a music festival. There were 20 bands on before them that were completely interchangeable. Then these guys came on – they have a show, they look different.

Now you see him....

We’re trying to see if we can get something going with them. We’re getting airplay, but again as we were talking about earlier, it’s some guys starting a business. They’re building their brand, so to speak – that term is used so much now.

We’ve talked about you being a mentor and inspiration to many. Who out there is inspiring you now?
Bartok. I listen to Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra to go (in awe) “FUUUUCK!”. To feel tiny. There’s a bust of him on 57th because he used to live over there. I go by there to look at his head.

Regina Spektor was a big influence on me. She’s one of the reasons I moved back here, because she’s completely her own person. That’s how Brad in Sublime was, and he was a big influence on me as I was working with him, not before. I end up being very heavily influenced by the people I work with if they’re really good: Paul, Regina, Brad, James Brown… Fishbone was a huge influence on me. I go back and listen to that stuff, and think about all the different places they were coming from.

When I was in college, I was listening to Count Basie and I decided I would try to do that. So I got theory books, studied them like a music slave, and wrote with my first big band chart. It’s all about that organization of instruments and tones in time. What do you play and where does it go? You look at a score, and you have a master plan for the musicians. Then they play it, you listen, and then say (awed), “Oh FUCK. I suck,” or  “I’m doing OK.”

That’s why the masters were so influential to me – I learned by reading their scores. It’s just some guys doing great stuff, and it’s fascinating to see how they approached it – and did it a hundred years before it became popular. Debussy, they must have thought he was out of his fucking mind, like the Dead Kennedys.

That kind of thinking about music is sort of what I assume you could keep yourself sane with. Because you’re in awe of something, it gives you perspective. Rather than thinking that brushing your teeth with Jack is the coolest thing you could possibly do.

David Weiss

The SonicScoop Year in Review: Top NYC Music Business News and Trends of 2010

December 29, 2010 by  

THE FIVE BOROUGHS: 2010 has been busy all right. For anyone involved in New York City’s expansive business of music – producer, publisher, entrepreneur, engineer, artist, and many more – the environment remains fast-paced, ultra-competitive and constantly changing.

Northern Lights’ WSDG-designed 5.1 audio mix suite

With 2011 looming, SonicScoop looked for the news, trends and topics that stood out to us over the past 365 days.

In audio post, it was grow or die in the uppermost echelon. The biggest facilities, including hsr|ny, Nutmeg, and Sound Lounge made serious expansions into audio and/or video:


Sound Lounge opened an ADR Stage and multiple studios.

Nutmeg Post added a strong team and facility when it soaked up Soundhound.

The big post house Mega Playground built out audio capabilities.

Northern Lights added a 5.1 audio mixing suite.

Video house Click3X reversed the trend and added their own audio suite.

Celebrating 35 years in business, hsr|ny continued to expand as a full-service video and audio post facility.

Large and mid-sized recording/tracking/mixing studios kept making capital improvements and expanding:

Premier Studios took over the 8th floor at 723 7th Avenue.

Engine Room opened up its penthouse studio.

Stadium Red expanded with a new studio for Just Blaze and a mastering suite.

The remarkable Electric Lady celebrated turning 40.

Platinum Studios added Augspurgers to Studio K.

Sear Sound set up the Moog-centric Studio D.

Tainted Blue swapped out its SSL for a Euphonix (nee Avid) System 5.

And props to Electric Lady for marking its 40th Anniversary.

Converse (yes, the shoe company) has an interesting business plan for the Rubber Tracks studio it’s going to open in Williamsburg in 2011: no-cost recording.

Advanced smaller studios – independent and within larger facilities — and producer rooms also opened up at a peppy pace:

Chris Theberge’s Music Works arrived on the Upper West Side.

The former One Point Six in Williamsburg was reborn as Three Egg Studios.

Manhattan Center Studios launched The Fuse Box with Public Enemy’s Brian Hardgroove.

Brian Hardgroove is building up the Fuse Box.

Avatar opened up its Studio W writing room.

Sisko’s Min-Max Studios opened up in midtown.

Marc Alan Goodman announced an ambitious new expansion for Brooklyn’s Strange Weather, then blogged about the buildout – step by step – for SonicScoop.

Guitarist Justin King moved his Vinegar Hill Sound from Portland, OR to DUMBO, Brooklyn.

Avid capped off a furious year of reinvention and new products with the release of Pro Tools 9.

Music houses and composers still had a ton of TV, film and video game work to go after and win:

Joel Beckerman of Man Made Music continued to make NYC a TV music powerhouse.

Composer Peter Nashel turned ears everywhere with his work for shows like Rubicon.

The Rubicon ensemble tracking in Avatar Studio C

Outfits like Expansion Team scored for networks such as the Biography Channel.

Tom Salta understands how to get chosen to score for games like Prince of Persia and Red Steel 2.

Production music and synch licensing remained a solid business, especially for those who got in at the right time or had a smart approach.

NYC’s Kingsize Music was acquired by 615 Music.

And later on Warner-Chappell (NYC) bought up 615 Music.

NYC’s Videohelper released the “Scenarios” music search tool.

Jingle Punks continued to grow.

Mechanical licensing experts RightsFlow kept progressing.

One of NYC’s most controversial music business plays, peer-to-peer file sharing network Limewire, appeared to be finally finished.

Tracking, mixing and mastering at NYC’s established facilities did a relatively healthy volume of A-level and independent work throughout the year:


The Black Eyed Peas, Rivers Cuomo and Kanye West were at Germano Studios.

Neon Indian, Beach House, Matt and Kim, Bear Hands and more were mastered at The Lodge.

MSR Studios handled Kid Cudi, Evanescence and Broadway Cast recordings.

Lenny Kravitz, The Dirty Pearls, “Glee”, and Vampire Weekend were all at Avatar.

Joe Lambert Mastering worked with Moby and Ninjasonik.

New software and hardware happiness abounded:

We elected many items “Buzzworthy” at AES, from Universal Audio, Focal, SSL, Burl, Shadow Hills, Izotope, Sound Toys, Lavry Engineering, Telefunken and more.

Propellerhead released Reason 5.

NYC suffered losses when beloved people and places left us:

Recording icon Walter Sear passed away.

Walter Sear’s spirit continues to thrive at Sear Sound.

The great hip hop/jazz experimentalist Guru was gone before his time.

Clinton Recording Studios hosted its last session.

Brick and mortar music retail took another hit when Fat Beats shuttered its last stores.

Baseline Studios, home of Just Blaze and countless Jay-Z hits, closed.

Chung King Studios started off 2010 with a bang by suddenly vacating Varick Street.

NYC-based producers, mixers, engineers and artists became businesses in their own right:


Producer Chris Coady worked on some hugely acclaimed records this year, including Beach House Teen Dream and Delorean Subiza, as well as records with Hooray for Earth, Zola Jesus, Smith Westerns, Cold Cave.

People like Allen Farmelo developed their distinctive sound.

Shane Stoneback is in the right place, right time.

Choice songwriter Claude Kelly made a business of hits.

Shane Stoneback’s career took off via work with Sleigh Bells and Vampire Weekend.

Mixer Mark Saunders embraced multiple aspects of the biz from his studio at Beat 360.

Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess took his iPad/iPhone app MorphWiz all the way to #1.

Joel Hamilton continued down an immersive production path, working on records with Blakroc, Dub Trio, The Parkington Sisters and Blakroc.

And John Agnello brought his classic production and engineering technique to new records for Kurt Vile, J Mascis, Shayna Zaid And The Catch and Dead Confederate (among others).

The studio scene got a lot more socialicious and FUN:

Flux Studios was always hosting something in the East Village, like Alto and Dangerous converging for a schooling from Fab.

Two fiesta types plus (r) introspective Stadiumred artist Jeremy Carr. SonicScoop says: HAVE FUN AND PROSPER IN 2011!

Digital Music NY was one of many popular business-based meetups.

Stadium Red partied down post-CMJ.

20dot20 mixed advertising and music.

And the Connectors connected a LOT of people.

What big stories would you include? And what do you see next in 2011? Don’t be shy – leave a comment and let us know!

– Janice Brown and David Weiss

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.

James McCartney Releasing “Available Light”: 5 Questions for David Kahne, Co-Producer & Mixer

September 19, 2010 by  

HELL’S KITCHEN, MANHATTAN: With conviction like his, James McCartney doesn’t have to convince anybody of anything. Just a few seconds into “Angel”, the opening cut of his new EP, Available Light, it’s clear to all with ears that his hooks are heroic. And they’re his.

James McCartney's "Available Light" was released via Engine Company Records on 9/21/10.

Of course, with his bloodline, James has to convince a whole ton of people that he really can play guitar and sing, much less write a song. On the one side of his heritage is Sir Paul McCartney, the Beatle who transformed Western music along with his bandmates John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. James’ DNA springs equally from Lady Linda McCartney, a primary sonic force as Paul’s muse and partner in Wings.

That kind of family tree will trigger high expectations – probably why James McCartney has kept quiet about himself for most of his 33 years. But with the kind of natural talent he possesses on guitar and vocals, it was only a matter of time before a record would arrive.

Now, the moment is right. Available Light, co-produced by Paul McCartney and David Kahne, debuts Tuesday, September 21 on NYC’s Engine Company Records, and the sounds it holds just might shock and awe. After the instant rush of “Angel” is the driving tension of “Glisten”, the bittersweet uplift of “My Friend”, and the Cobain-dark drama of “Denial”. The capper is his band’s masterful cover of Neil Young’s “Old Man”, with the power to raise neck hairs after repeated listenings.

The New York City-based Kahne, a longtime collaborator of Paul and a wide spread of artists including Tony Bennett, Fishbone, Sublime, The Strokes, Sugar Ray, The Bangles, Sean Lennon, Stevie Nicks, Regina Spektor, Linkin Park and Mike Doughty was on hand for it all. He oversaw the recording sessions at Paul’s Hog Hill Mill Studios in Sussex, Abbey Road Studios in London, and SeeSquared Studios and Avatar Studios back here in NYC, and mixed the record.

Typically occupied with a diverse palette of projects – scoring two films, working with the NYC rock band the Dirty Pearls, developing eight other artists, and finishing an orchestral ballet of Peter Pan – Kahne granted SonicScoop a rare interview about co-producing this rarest of records.

What made you the right teammate for James McCartney and Co-Producer Paul McCartney on Available Light?
I’ve worked with Paul for 10 years, and I’ve known James for about eight years, although James and I had never worked on any music. So when Paul decided that he wanted James to get a record made, he called me up and asked if I was interested in producing James’ music with him… It was really that simple. And I immediately said yes.

Knowing James from before helped, and I’ve worked with Paul a lot so he must have felt I might be a good person to collaborate with. Paul hoped we could work together well in a triangle. So we all agreed and started working. I think he was right.

There were two recording stages for “Available Light”. The first phase saw James playing most of the instruments,  and Sean Pelton on drums. Towards the end of those sessions James also formed a band with members of the Dead 60s, toured with them and re-recorded several of those tracks plus six new ones. Why was this two-phase process undertaken?

We recorded quite a bit of the first recordings in Paul’s studio (Hog Hill Mill Studios) in the south of England, in Sussex. James, Paul, and me – Paul not playing by the way, except to come up with parts, a few of which stayed as Paul’s performances. We had a great drummer from New York, Shawn Pelton, come in, but James played bass, guitar and keyboards. We got an album’s worth of songs, actually more than that, done.  But we were still looking for more to choose from.

Sir Paul McCartney Co-Produced "Available Light"

Then we talked about having a band, to see what that was like, and so that James could start playing gigs. James had played some in bands, but not that much. I had produced a band called the Dead 60s from Liverpool. I called up the drummer Bryan Johnson and the bass player Charlie Turner, connected them with James, and they started rehearsing with him.  Then we brought in their friend Steve Bayley, who played guitar and keyboards.

We decided “This sounds really good, too.” We recorded a bunch of new songs, and re-recorded some of the previously recorded songs to compare them to what we already had.   On Available Light the new band recorded “Old Man”.  All of the other songs, “Angel,” “Glisten”, “My Friend” and “Denial” were from the older sessions, but a couple of those songs have overdubs from the new band. It’s definitely worth noting that Gil Goldstein plays accordion on “Old Man”.  And Steven Isserlis plays cello on “Glisten”.

James brought in 50 cover songs to choose from, and we chose two: “Old Man” was one of the songs we decided on. We were going through the list, and when we got to “Old Man” I heard him sing the first line and I got a chill. It was a great moment.

It’s an absolutely dynamite cover of one of Neil Young’s signature creations. In the studio, how would you describe James’ approach to recording – what sound/feel was he going for with Available Light, and how did you facilitate that?

I wouldn’t say James goes for a particular sound and feel. It’s not like a directed, “This is what I want.” He kind of plays the way he plays. He’s a gifted musician who can play bass and guitar right-handed and left-handed — he can play his Dad’s bass with either hand. And he has a massive vocal range, at least three-and-a-half octaves. His guitar playing is world-class, as his hands are so sure and effortless.  And his piano playing is graceful and strong.  He held a note the other day for 52 seconds.

He writes the song, he feels something when he writes the song, and when he plays it, it’s done the way he felt it. So in production, the point was to make sure that was as wholly fleshed out as possible, without squashing or stepping on the original sense and feel of what he’d played.  It’s very easy in the studio to run roughshod over original intentions.

The song “Denial” is very, very dark, and “Angel” is another great example, just based on what he’s feeling when he writes it. When he performs, the songs come off the way that he felt.  He has a very direct connection to what he feels and what he sounds like, and actually doesn’t talk much about what the songs mean. He’s a very feeling person.

I didn’t know any of the songs when we started, and Paul hadn’t heard a lot of them. James would play them, Paul and I would sit and listen, and there were many times when we looked at each other and said, “WOW.”

On one song we were listening to for the EP, James was singing quietly and then got so loud so quickly that he hurt my ears, just singing and playing acoustically. Paul and I jumped and James said, “Was that too loud?”  He can go from 0-to-60 in a second. As I understand, he’s always been like that, since he was little. He could play “The Wind Cries Mary” when he was 12. He would listen to songs and quickly be able to play them, no matter how difficult.

Moving on to the mixing. How would you describe your philosophy overall as a mixer, and then how did that guide your approach to mixing this record?

David Kahne as seen at Scream Studios

Well, I’m usually mixing while I produce, so the way I work is that by the time I get to mixing, I’m already close to my final goal, since I mixed as I went along. Which is interesting, now that I think about it, because it’s kind of Beatley – they had sub-mixes which they had made by bouncing back and forth on four tracks. Their mix parts were committed to early on.

I use a lot of analog outboard gear, but I’ve set my computers up through a MADI system so that I have access to that gear outside the computers while I’m working on the project. So I can instantly get to or recall that gear if I recall the session. If I get a vocal sound I like, using my Federal Limiter or my Fairchild, I can keep it and continue with it through the overdubs.

We started the second phase at Abbey Road, and then finished recording at Paul’s studio in Sussex, mixed the whole record, and then I came back to NYC, to my studio, and I remixed about 2/3rds of it in recall.  I’m very much vocal-first: I put the vocal up first and go around that. That was a really good thing to do in James’ case – it keeps anything from getting mixed in a way that pulls away from the voice.  And of course, getting the arrangement right in the first place helps.

We would redo the guitars with different voicings to draw the voice out, for example. I call that mixing, too. It’s just fixing it another way. If there’s a vocal in there, I figure that takes precedence and has to be served.

There was some serious rock royalty all over Available Light – what did you learn personally from this project, both about songwriting and recording?
It was fascinating working with Paul and James, not only as producer and artist, but as father and son. Musically, I’m always learning about the artist and his/her point of view. If they’re good, there’s something unique and distinctive there. And these recordings were no exception. I learned so much from working with James and Paul.

James’ ability as a guitar player was astounding to me. He did things I had never experienced before. He would play a really complicated guitar part, and then I’d ask him to double it on acoustic. He would do that, and it would be as if I had made a copy of the first one. He knows where every note is, and that makes for a certain kind of power in a recording – the level of precision that comes out.

It was also different working with Paul as Co-Producer, because he wasn’t playing. It was Paul and me talking about things, then the two of us talking to James. Or Paul or myself singley working with James at times.  I got to work with Paul in a different way on this album. I think it worked out really well. And James shines through.

– David Weiss