Is your career producing what you expected?
The “Off the Record” series continues with Scott Hull, mastering engineer and owner of Masterdisk, talking about top topics on the minds of audio professionals. This time, the spotlight is on producers and the current definition of what they do.
Once again, Hull and his invited guests, Travis Harrison and Jamie Siegel, will be at the Sonic Arts Center at City College. The talk will take place this Thursday, March 21st, and attendance is FREE (and the chance to win a nice prize from Alto Music, as well! See below).
Here’s more details, as provided by the event’s organizers:
Join our host, Scott Hull (mastering engineer and owner of Masterdisk), and his guests Travis Harrison (producer / recordist and owner of the Serious Business studio and record label) and Jamie Siegel (producer / engineer and owner of JRock Studios) at City College in NYC for a lively discussion about what it means to be a producer in today’s music business.
Sponsored by Masterdisk, The Sonic Arts Center at The City College of New York, City College and Alto Music.
Attendees can enter to win a $250 gift certificate to Alto Music, “The Most Complete Music Store In The World. Period.”
This event is FREE and open to the public!
GREATER NYC AREA: This month’s buzz finds a number of amazing singers recording around the city – from Diane Birch to Trixie Whitley, Dianna Krall to Glasser – as well as a wealth of new releases by acclaimed rappers like Kanye West, Theophilus London and Childish Gambino, new work by prolific producers such as DJ White Shadow, Phil Ramone, Chuck Harmony and Darrell Brown, and a wave of large-ensemble tracking sessions in Midtown. We also discover (another) new recording hive in Williamsburg, and check in on some big recent sessions at some of the newer studios in Brooklyn…
Let’s start at Avatar Studios…where the legendary Dionne Warwick has been recording her upcoming album with producer Phil Ramone and engineer Lawrence Manchester, assisted by Charlie Kramsky, and another R&B great, Billy Ocean, recorded his upcoming project with producer Barry Eastmond and engineer Phil Magnotti.
Also at Avatar…Diana Krall has been tracking for her new project – produced by T. Bone Burnett, and engineered by Mike Piersante, assisted by Bob Mallory. And rock band Carney – led by Reeve Carney of Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark – has been recording with engineer Chris Rondinella.
Finally, NYC-based producer/composer Paul Brill and engineer Robert Smith tracked portions of the score for Tribeca Film Festival documentary Knuckleball! (directed by Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern) in Avatar Studio G.
More “legends” were recording down at Germano Studios this month…between Mariah Carey recording with Brian Garten, and John Legend working on new material with Dave Tozer, Rick Nowels and Doc McKinney producing, and Jason Agel engineering.
Also at Germano, Rob Thomas was in to record vocals on a LeAnn Rimes project with Darrell Brown producing and Niko Bolas engineering. DJ White Shadow (Lady Gaga) was in working on a new project with Kenta Yonesaka engineering, Fat Joe recorded vocals with engineer Fabian Marasciullo, The Verbs continued recording with Steve Jordan producing, and Jamie Squire was in mixing with Jordan producing and Dave O’Donnell engineering.
Down in SoHo, based out of the former Sorceror Sound space, Singing Serpent has been hosting band recording sessions in addition to the original music composition work for which the company is known. Virginia rock band Over The Ocean was in to record their full-length album with Jeremy SH Griffith producing/engineering. And blues-rock trio The Dukes of Brooklyn recorded an album at Singing Serpent as well, with producer/engineer Joel Khouri – who recently joined the Singing Serpent team as a mixer/engineer and composer.
Nearby at Serious Business Studios, studio owner/head engineer Travis Harrison has been busy producing and drumming on the forthcoming debut full-length by Brooklyn rockers Miniboone. Harrison has also been working with a steady stream of local rock bands including Gold Streets, Clouder, Weird Children, Money/Paper/Hearts, and Apache Beat, and projects with Benji Cossa, and Secret Dakota Ring (featuring studio co-founder and OK Go guitarist Andy Ross).
Serious Business continues to host two BreakThru Radio shows: BTR Live Studio and Serious Business on BTR – welcoming bands such as She Keeps Bees, Crinkles, Beast Make Bomb, Snowmine, Housse de Racket into the studio of late. Serious Business continues to open its doors to outside engineers as well – Charles Newman has run several sessions for various projects, including The Magnetic Fields and Jon de Rosa; Shannon Ferguson has been continuing work with the band A Million Years; and Hansdale Hsu has been working with Vensaire.
MSR hosted some banner sessions last year, including Q-Tip mixing Kanye and Jay-Z’s Watch The Throne out of Studio C with engineer Blair Wells, recording/mixing sessions for Madonna’s MDNA, and a whole host of cast albums, film score mixes (Francis Ford Coppola’s Twixt, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and The Tower Heist.)
More recently, MSR hosted Southern rapper Waka Flocka Flame cutting vocals with engineer Finis White; Keyshia Cole cutting vocals with engineers Bojan Dugic and Lee Kalomiris, and producer Ray Angry; mixing for Jazz bassist Marc Johnson‘s upcoming album by Joe Ferla; Louis CK producing new music for his FX show Louie with engineer Adam Tilzer; Producer Steve Epstein and engineer Richard King mixing the cast album for Once; Dean Sharenow producing the cast album for Lysistrata Jones; Kurt Deutsch producing the Newsies cast album with Frank Filipetti engineering, and Derik Lee on Pro Tools; and Tommy Krasker producing the cast album of Porgy and Bess in Studios A and B for PS Classics with Bart Migal engineering.
Up at the Brill Building, KMA Music has been hopping with songwriting and production sessions for: J. Cole for Roc Nation, with Mez engineering vocals and Jay-Z coming through; Eve working with hit songwriter Claude Kelly, and engineer Ben Chang tracking/mixing for her upcoming album; Chris Rene in writing/recording/mixing sessions with Chuck Harmony and Jon Jon Traxx for Epic Records, Ben Chang engineering; and Fabolous recording and mixing with Lenny S producing and Serge Nudel engineering for Island Def Jam.
Also at KMA, Theophilus London came through to mix the track “I Wanna Kiss You” with engineer Ari Raskin; and Chrisette Michelle tracked a new song with Chuck Harmony producing and Ben Chang engineering.
And next, to Sear Sound where a number of large-scale sessions have been tracking lately, including: Pianist/composer/arranger David Matthews and the 20-piece ‘MJO’ (Manhattan Jazz Orchestra) ensemble tracking a new album with Bryan Pugh engineering; the cast album for a new multimedia show – 35MM The Musical – tracked (15 musicians/ 12 singers) with engineer Dean Sharenow, and producer John Johnson; and a video shoot and tracking session with rock group Halestorm, with six cameras shooting the group performing while Sear’s chief engineer Chris Allen engineered. Phil Botti and Michael Thelin produced.
Also at Sear, composer Paul Cantelon conducted a large string ensemble, piano and harp for an upcoming Hallmark feature, Firelight, with Gary Chester engineering, and Suzana Peric and Cantelon producing; HBO’s Boardwalk Empire returned to track some 1920′s dixieland jazz, with Stewart Lerman engineering, and Randall Poster producing; And a large ensemble gathered to track some of jazz musician/composer Eric Person‘s latest compositions in sessions produced by April Smith and Person, with James Farber engineering.
Rufus Wainwright also tracked music for a Starbucks commercial at Sear, with Allen engineering and Wainwright producing and playing the Steinway C in Studio A; and Diane Birch tracked for her upcoming S-Curve Records release, with Allen engineering and Homer Steinweiss (The Dap-Kings) producing.
Hull has also recently mastered the new Donald Fagen album (for CD, vinyl and iTunes) – produced by Michael Leonhart for Warner, the new Lettuce album (due out June 5), which was recorded at The Bunker in Williamsburg, and cast recordings of Calvin Berger and Lysistrata Jones for Sh-K-Boom Records.
Also at Masterdisk…Tony Dawsey mastered Machine Gun Kelly’s Half Naked and Almost Famous EP for Bad Boy; Mark Santangelo mastered Abby Bernstein‘s Talk In Tongues – co-produced by Bernstein, Chris Camilleri, Justin Goldner, Will Hensley, Adam Stoler, and mixed by Chris Camilleri; Matt Agoglia mastered Terry Syrek’s new album Machine Elves – mixed by Jeremy Krull; and Michael Tucci mastered The So So Glos new album, Blowout – produced by Adam Reich, and recorded and mixed by Kyle Johnson at Fancy Time Studios in Philadelphia.
Glassnote artist Childish Gambino was recording songs for his next mixtape up at Quad Studios in Times Square – in studio Q1. Also at Quad…Island Def Jam recording artist Jenna Andrews recorded material for her new album with Lady Gaga producer Brian Lee; Andrew Lloyd Webber was in Studio Q1 working on a special new project; and DJ Khaled, French Montana, Wale and Busta Rhymes were up in Q1 and Q2 working on various projects.
Meanwhile, rapper Trey Songz was working downstairs at Premier Studios, with engineer Anthony Daniel in Studio B. A number of other hip-hop stars were working out of Premier’s multiple writing/recording and mixing studios, including B.O.B. working with engineer Sam Giannelli, Yo Gotti recording material for his upcoming album with engineer Angelo Payne, Birdman recording with engineer Fareed Salamah, Wale working on his latest with engineer Anthony Daniel.
And NY-based production duo Espionage (Beyoncé, Chris Brown) has been working out of Premier’s Studio E, producing new tracks with engineer Francis Murray.
BROOKLYN, QUEENS & BEYOND
Blondie is back at it, and has been working on their latest with producer Barb Morrison (producer on Deborah Harry’s Necessary Evil) out of Casa Nova Studios and Morrison’s studio, The Superposition – both in Williamsburg. Tommy Mokas has been engineering on the sessions, which have involved instrumental and vocal recording and production/sound exploration.
A South Williamsburg studio complex we recently discovered…houses a new incarnation of Andy Baldwin’s Rola Pola Studio, the new Bufflebear Studio, Jean Grobler’s (of St Lucia) studio space, and The Dap-King’s Dunham Studio.
At Rola Pola, Baldwin has recently installed an SSL AWS900+ and the prized Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor. And Baldwin has been mixing some tracks from that aforementioned Diane Birch album, being produced by Homer Steinweiss of the Dap-Kings; tracking drums for St Lucia’s forthcoming album; mixing/mastering Celtic rock band The Mickey Finns‘ new album; mixing Stephanie Carlin‘s new album; and mixing the debut album for classical/freestyle/thrash band Huff This!
Meanwhile in the new Bunker Studio A, clarinetist/composer Ben Goldberg tracked some new music with Nels Cline, Ches Smith, Ellery Eskeline and Rob Suddath in sessions engineered by Aaron Nevezie; ?uestlove and Ivan Neville came in for a late-night tracking session for soul singer Nigel Hall‘s upcoming album on Royal Family Records – Nevezie recorded, and Soulive/Lettuce’s Eric Krasno produced; and Nevezie also tracked and mixed an album with New Zealand artist Tama Waipara out of the Bunker Studios A and B.
In DUMBO at the happening Saltlands recording collective, singer/songwriter Trixie Whitley has been tracking for her new album with producer Thomas Bartlett (Doveman), Steve Salett engineering and Nick Smeraski assisting; artist/engineer Dawn Landes engineered on a session with Kristin Andreasson for a children’s project; and producer/engineer Gary Maurer is working on a film project – tracking and mixing music with the band Little Silver.
Last month at Saltlands, the Yellowbirds tracked basics with Jim Smith – who also recently did some mixing for The Well-Informed. In other sessions: Saltmines resident producer/engineer Devin Greenwood tracked horn and piano overdubs for Yoni Gordon, and earlier in the year, with Sufjan Stevens; Jan Bell was in mixing a bunch of tracks with Jason Mercer; and Whale Belly tracked basics for their sophomore record with engineer/producer Nick Smeraski.
Up at The Isokon in Woodstock, D. James Goodwin has been mixing a “haunting and lush” new LP for rock band Georgiana Starlington, with Josh Kaufman (of the aforementioned Yellowbirds) producing. Goodwin’s also been tracking and mixing a full-length with Vuvuzela, “an amazing band, winding together harp, upright bass and piano in the form of progressive math rock.”
Just up the road from Saltlands, engineer/producers Daniel Lynas and Frans Mernick have been installing a new Neve V55 console at ishlab. Since being involved with ishlab, Lynas has recorded there with A$AP Rocky, Das Racist, and mixed I’m in the Forest by Das Racist affiliate Lakutis; and Mernick worked on the Hoodie Allen album All American.
Even more recently at ishlab, Cameron Mesirow aka Glasser stopped by to record some vocals on a track for Chad Valley – Lynas engineered; Empty Chairs frontman Peter Spear has been tracking drums, guitar, synth, trumpet, string quartet, and vox for their upcoming full-length; and Chaz Van Queen has been working on his second full-length – doing a lot of production and recording at home and bringing stuff in to ishlab to do additional recording, tweak arrangements, and mix.
Psychedelic dance-rock trio Dinowalrus has been back at Let ‘Em In Music in Gowanus recording the followup to their recently released album Best Behavior – also recorded and mixed at Let ‘Em In by owner/engineer Nadim Issa. The band recently recorded six new songs with Issa over five days in the studio.
Indie rock band Bridges and Powerlines have been recording their new EP with Kieran Kelly producing and engineering – tracking at both The Clubhouse in Rhinebeck, NY, and Kelly’s own The Buddy Project in Astoria.
Kelly’s also been producing/engineering the second album for Danish folk-rock duo Skipper. Tracking sessions for the album have been happening at STC Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark, and out of The Buddy Project.
Back in Williamsburg at Grand Street Recording…pop singer/songwriter Rachel Platten recorded and mixed an exclusive EP for her upcoming national tour with Martin Rivas on guitar and bass, Craig Meyer on percussion, and Tomek Miernowski engineering; the Stick Against Stone Orchestra recorded an album of music for an upcoming documentary about the late 80s band from Pittsburg, Stick Against Stone. The album – recorded and mixed by Ken Rich and produced by William Kreth – features Denny McDermott on drums, Jesse Krakow on bass, Dave Terhune on guitars and Joe McGinty on keyboards.
Also at Grand Street, multi-instrumentalist Jared Saltiel recorded and mixed an EP The Dogs at Nighttime with Tomek Miernowski and Ken Rich; Amy Lennard is recording and mixing a full length album with producer Andy Stack, and Rich engineering.
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.
I’m very attached to the Eventide H3000 that lives at my studio. Some of my favorite go-to effects originate in this classic double rack-space digital behemoth.
A great deal of the Eventide experience comes from tweaking and interacting with the hundreds of presets that come loaded in the box. They have funny names like “lush life” and “layered shift” and “my bloody valentine” and “canyon” and they cover a lot of ground from subtle, usable room verbs to ridiculous, head-up-your-arse fun-blasts that aren’t so much usable as spatial effects as they are ear-tickling time suckers that you learn to love.
Eventide’s Space is the company’s play to put a lot of that crazy sonic diversity into a stompbox small enough to stuff in a gig bag. The Space also works equally well as a piece of outboard gear.
This is a versatile piece for musicians and recordists looking to drastically expand their sonic palates in the control room and on stage.
HAUNTING, HEAVENLY SOUNDS
Firstly allow me to simply declare that this thing sounds good. That’s what counts, right? Space features 12 of Eventide’s signature reverb combination algorithms culled from the H8000FW and Eclipse V4. Most of the sounds I was able to coax from it were convincing, full range and unique, be they swirling vortexes of galactic-apeshit or far more reasonable plates and rooms.
But, secondly, I must acknowledge that – running a very busy recording studio – I don’t have time to twiddle aimlessly with mysteriously named presets like “the fluffer” or “demon call” even though they might eventually wind up blowing my mind. I’m interested in music and lyrics and performances and sounds, yes of course, sounds. In the world of effects, if I had to choose, I’d probably opt for a BX10 Spring or an Echoplex, two ancient uni-purpose monoliths, over something like the Eventide Space. But that’s just me. I’m certain many of the guitarists and songwriters I’ve worked with and many producer/engineers with more time and inclination to explore will be thrilled to the gills with this pedal.
Space, as with most of Eventide’s products, is not a one-trick pony. It is a complex and versatile unit that offers seemingly limitless options for tweaking, perfecting and obsessing over every sonic detail. If you have some time on your hands, this piece offers more than ample opportunity for discovery. And the great thing about Space is that no matter how weird and outlandish a particular preset may seem, there is always a way to rein it in, refine and tailor it to your very specific needs and tastes.
Some of my favorite patches in this sucker were the crazy ones. My friend Nate Martinez from Thieving Irons used the Space as a guitar pedal on a session at my studio and found a beautiful delay called “Nero’s Ascent” which seems to finish with a puff of pitched up reverb. It was a heavenly sound. I found myself going to the “Hey Honey” preset quite a bit for a haunting pitched reverb that added a real mysterious color to some mixes.
The “Spicy Spring” sounds like a spring-reverb on steroids which, to spring-reverb addicts like me, isn’t a bad thing. If you wanna take your mix on a one-way trip to the 1980s, the Space can take you there. “1985 Damage” is a wacky mid-80′s styled verb that when applied sparingly can induce a little Reagan-era spatial euphoria. And if you’re looking for a little bit of that Phil Collins gated reverb for your three and half bar tom-tom fill, try the “Phil McCavity” preset, designed by Alan Moulder and Flood, which really nails the “In the Air Tonight” sound.
UNLOCKING THE MYSTERIES OF SPACE
It takes some work to unlock all the mysteries that this thing has to offer. I found the interface challenging to master and wound up engaged in wrestling-matches with menus and lost down dark digital alleyways when I was looking for something specific like a simple slap-back or a nice transparent room. Luckily the manual is richly detailed.
And that being said, for the intrepid bedroom explorer who’s happy to search through menus and limitless tweakable options in search of an amazing signature guitar sound or vocal effect, the Space is place! Hey, sometimes the destination is the journey, right?
You might not only find your sound, but you could also stumble upon myriad other sounds that inspire a new part, a new composition, a whole new approach.
One other, minor gripe I have with the Space relates to something as simple as its power supply. I wish $500 pieces of gear could come equipped with standard AC power (like in an amplifier or most pro gear) rather than the clumsy wall wart power the Space comes with. Keep it simple. Keep it sturdy. Aside from that, the Space is decked out with anything you could possibly need from stereo ¼” ins and outs, to MIDI capability.
Travis Harrison is owner/operator/producer/engineer at Serious Business Studios in SoHo, where he recently engineered records for The Cosmos, Doug Gillard, and Miniboone, and hosts the BreakThru Radio Show, “Serious Business on BTR.”
And watch Annie Clark of St. Vincent exploring the sounds of Eventide Space…
GREATER NYC AREA: It’s midsummer…the middle of a traditionally “slow season” for recording with so many bands out on the road. But this is the city that never sleeps, and slow is a relative term. The following is but a sampling of recent sessions, and works in progress…a snapshot of what’s going on around town:
Starting at Germano Studios downtown…50 Cent has been writing and recording new material with Araab Muzik producing and Ky Miller engineering, Ne-Yo was in writing and recording with Swizz Beatz producing and Moses Gallart engineering, and Justin Nozuka recorded basic tracks with Steve Jordan producing and Dave O’Donnell engineering – all in Studio 1.
In Studio 2, will.i.am continues to record new material which he’s self-producing and engineering, and Oriane recently recorded vocals with Walter Afanasieff producing and Jason Agel engineering.
Nearby at The Lodge, Mastering Engineers Emily Lazar, Joe LaPorta and Heba Kadry have been busy working on Björk‘s epic multimedia release, Biophilia, due out this Fall. The music for Biophilia – featuring a 10-song album and 10 musical iPad apps themed after each song’s scientific subject matter – was mastered at the Lodge in March by Lazar and LaPorta alongside Björk and her longtime engineer/producer Damian Taylor.
Other recent releases mastered at The Lodge include Chris Taylor’s CANT LP, Morgan Page’s new album, In The Air, Ronnie Vannuci’s (of the Killers) solo debut Big Talk – produced by Joe Chiccarelli and mixed by Alan Moulder – the new Boy & Bear album – also produced by Chiccarelli – and Large Professor’s latest for Fat Beats Records.
The Lodge also mastered Ronnie Spector’s tribute cover of Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black – produced by Richard Gottehrer – Surfer Blood’s cover of Nirvana’s “Territorial Pissings” for SPIN’s Nevermind compilation, new releases by Zechs Marquise (band formed by Marcel Rodriguez Lopez from the Mars Volta), and Junior Mance, and the new Wooden Ships album – produced by Phil Manley of Trans Am.
Over in the East Village at Flux Studios, Todd Whitelock mixed an upcoming album by jazz saxophonist and flautist Kenny Garrett in the Revolution Room. Garrett – who was a member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, and Miles Davis’ band – will release his upcoming album via Mack Avenue Records.
And down in SoHo, The Magic Shop has been going steady…Shooter Jennings tracked for his upcoming album with engineer Brandon Mason, assisted by Brian Thorn, Burning Spear tracked and mixed for their upcoming album with Thorn engineering, assisted by Kabir Hermon, and Tom Schick was in mixing for She and Him’s upcoming Merge album.
Other recent sessions in the Magic Shop’s unique Studio A include: The American Secrets tracking and mixing songs for upcoming freecreditscore.com commercials with producer Neil McClellan (The Lodge Music creative director) and engineers Ted Young and Colin Thibadeau; The Gaslight Anthem tracking an iTunes exclusive live session with producer Jason Marcucci, and engineers Ted Young and Mike Judeh; and tracking sessions for new albums by Elliot Sharp (producer Joe Mardin/ engineer Ted Young), Lee Feldman (engineer Ted Young), Ben Carroll (producer Adam Levy / engineer Brian Thorn), The Virgins (engineer Emery Dobyns) and The Universal Thump (engineer Kabir Hermon).
Meanwhile in the Magic Shop’s Blue Room, Warren Russell-Smith has been doing restoration work for the second season of Boardwalk Empire. Recent mastering sessions at the Magic Shop include albums for Rockstar Games, Anna Volgelzang, Warpaint, Nightplane (mastered by Russel-Smith) and Nâ Hawa Doumbia, Vic Varney and Pretty Good Dance Moves (mastered by Jessica Thompson).
At another studio down in SoHo – Serious Business Music – producer/engineer Travis Harrison has had a steady stream of bands in to appear on his BreakThru Radio show. In the last month, “Serious Business on BTR” has featured performances and interviews (by Harrison) with A Million Years, Fort Lean, Les Sans Culottes, El Jezel and Quiet Loudly.
Harrison has also been working on a number of album projects, including an album with a new band called The Cosmos – formed by Dougy Payne and Andy Dunlop from Travis, and Cinjun Tate from Remy Zero – a solo 7” with Doug Gillard from Guided By Voices, and a record with Rocketship Park for Serious Business Records.
In Park Slope at Seaside Lounge Recording, engineer/producer/musician Josh Clark mixed a record by Nashville native Luke Roberts, The Iron Gates at Throop and Newport, to be released by Thrill Jockey Records in 2012. Initial tracking sessions for the record went down at The Beach House in Nashville and Atlantic Sound in Brooklyn (with “Seaside Lounge” rounding out the coastal recording theme.)
On the West Side at Stratosphere, Japanese electro-rock band The Telephones tracked their new album in Studio A with producer/engineer Alex Newport, recording everything to tape on the studio’s Studer 2″.
Also at Stratosphere…Ice T booked an afternoon of vocals and filming for upcoming documentary Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap. Stratosphere’s own Adam Tilzer engineered. Aaron Neville returned to record vocals with producer Matthew Ferraro and engineer Geoff Sanoff.
Daniel Merriweather was back for sessions with Dave McCracken, Amanda Ghost and engineer Chris Shaw, Florence + the Machine was in with engineer Andros Rodriguez, and Nathan Larson (A Camp, Shudder To Think) tracked and mixed music for an upcoming film, Tiger Eyes, with Geoff Sanoff engineering.
Up at Carriage House Recording in Stamford, cellist Dave Eggar (Evanescense, Coldplay) and his band Deoro finished mixes for their upcoming record in Studio A with engineer/mixer Brendan Muldowney, and art-pop songstress Rachael Sage tracked basics for her upcoming release with engineer John Shyloski.
Back in town, at Sear Sound, NYC denizen Donald Fagen tracked in Studio A on the 8038 Neve with Michael Leonhart producing and Charlie Martinez engineering for Warner Bros. Records. eONE Music was in Studio C, reportedly “classisizing” Frank Zappa songs for a new release. In this process, Zappa’s original songs were rescored for classical orchestral instruments and tracked on Sear Sound’s custom Avalon/Sear console in sessions produced by Susan Del Giorno with GRAMMY-winning engineer Silas Brown.
Producer/engineer Gary Maurer also checked into Sear to track an ensemble of 22 musicians for his upcoming HEM album in Studio C. He will reportedly return to Sear Sound shortly to mix a 24 song double album.
Further west at Masterdisk, Scott Hull mastered Sting’s three-CD box set, Sting 25 Years, featuring remixes and a previously unreleased live concert DVD with 10 tracks recorded live in NYC, produced by Rob Mathes. Also at Masterdisk, Vlado Meller mastered a Julio Iglesias two-disc “Greatest Hits” set, with songs re-recorded and re-mixed by Alberto Sanchez, the new Red Hot Chili Peppers album, I’m With You, and the Jane’s Addiction single “Irresistible Force,” and upcoming album, The Great Escape Artist.
Andy VanDette recently mastered the Spiderman Turn Off The Dark cast album and albums by Blessthefall, The Static Jacks and Barefoot Truth, and Ellen Fitton remastered Debbie Harry’s Koo Koo, and Jellybean’s Wotupski.
Premier Studios in Times Square hosted Demi Lovato working on a project for Disney Pictures – a song produced by Sandy Vee, with piano overdubs played by Mikkel Eriksen from Stargate. The session was engineered by Sam Giannelli. Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas produced tracks for Lil Wayne, working with engineer Mike Cadahia with Kevin Geigel assisting. DefJam artist Ace Hood, produced by DJ Khaled, was at Premier recording vocals and mixing an upcoming release with engineer Ben Diehl.
Atlantic artist Wiz Khalifa recorded vocals, with engineer Josiah Hendler, EMI Artist MoZella was in with producer Scyience, mixing with engineer Anthony Daniel, and Scyience was also in with Epic artist Alice Smith, mixing an upcoming release with an engineer by the name of Push Buttons.
Over at Avatar Studios, strings were recorded in Studio A for the upcoming Lou Reed/Metallica album with producer Hal Willner and engineer Greg Fidelman, assisted by Bob Mallory. NYC/Ireland rockers Suddyn recorded their single in Studio G on the SSL 4000G+ with producer David Kahne, engineer Roy Hendrickson and assistant Tyler Hartman. The Brooklyn Youth Chorus was in Studio A recording with producer Bryce Dessner, of The National and Clogs, and engineer Lawson White, assisted by Aki Nishimura.
Music for the upcoming film, A Late Quartet, was also recorded in Studio A with producer Alan Bise and engineer Bruce Egre. The cast albums for People in the Picture (producers Mike Stoller and Steven Epstein, engineer Todd Whitelock) and A Minister’s Wife (producer Tommy Krasker, engineer Bart Migal) were also recorded at Avatar.
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.
SoHo, Manhattan: Travis Harrison — record producer, engineer, founder of Serious Business Records & Studio and Guided By Voices super-fan — met late era GBV guitarist Doug Gillard when his band, The Unsacred Hearts, shared a bill with Gillard at Piano’s.
Harrison gushed about GBV, Gillard dug The Unsacred Hearts, and they stayed in touch. Later on, Harrison inquired about future prospects for Lifeguards, the Gillard and Robert Pollard GBV side-project whose one and only release, Mist King Urth, came out in ’02.
“I was a huge fan of the first Lifeguards album,” says Harrison, “I buy everything that Bob [Pollard] puts out. After I met Doug, Bob had been in touch to tell him if he wanted to produce the music and find a label, he’d be into doing another Lifeguards record. That’s when I swooped in and pitched Doug: I have a studio, a label, the [recording] skill-set and I’m a huge fan. Let’s do this! I expected to get no response.”
Of course, Gillard did respond and the new Lifeguards record, due out February 15 on Serious Business / Ernest Jenning Record Co., was engineered by none other than Harrison. Scroll down to stream “Product Head,” the album’s single released on 7″ in advance of the record. And read on for an interview about the recording and production of Lifeguard’s Waving At The Astronauts by this Guided By Voices super-fan…
Awesome that you got to engineer this record at Serious Business! So tell me about how it all came together.
The way they worked on this project is that Doug wrote the instrumentals and recorded them at home in Garage Band and then sent them to Bob who then created the melodies and lyrics on top of these instrumentals. It’s just one of the many ways that Bob works.
Doug’s GarageBand demos were pretty fully fleshed out — he recorded most of the guitars, and bass and other little sonic treatments. Then he brought it to me and at my studio, I salvaged any less than ideally recorded stuff, but we also tracked drums, bass, re-tracked any guitar that I could get him to re-track and then we recorded Bob’s vocals.
What were your first impressions of the material? Were you so psyched?!
First of all, I was just in awe. As far as Doug’s instrumentals go, the shit’s amazing. He’s a great guitar player, and has an amazing musical mind that always goes somewhere you don’t expect. He’s awesome. But I didn’t actually hear these tracks as songs beyond instrumentals until Bob was actually in the studio, at the microphone. He drove in from Dayton in May to do his vocals. And that was just amazing. The guy is a genius! Obviously I’m a huge fan, but just to see him work and see how completely natural and instinctual it is, I was blown away.
Wow, very cool! And I know you’re a drummer — did you by any chance get to play on the record?
Yes, I played on five songs and Doug played on the rest. He’s a great drummer, he basically plays everything, but it was obviously a crazy honor for me to play drums on this record. There were some parts that were really fast, that either exceeded his technical ability or that he thought I’d have a good groove for – that’s the stuff I got a shot at.
And what was your goal in the studio – what aspects were you re-recording or adding, and how did you approach the recording?
It was very important to me to make it sound as un-GarageBand-y as possible. We didn’t want it to sound homemade at all. And Bob’s vision for the record was like “ARENA ROCK.” He’s known for lo-fi, but we were consciously not going for that. Doug was the producer, so he really called all the shots. He called for a lot of really heavy compression on drums.
On one song in particular, “Nobody’s Milk,” Doug had done the original drum track on a drum machine and it was incredible but it wasn’t totally in time and he’d used the GarageBand compressor at 10 to really squash it. It was really clean but insanely compressed and I begged to redo them.
It took a ton of work to match his exact part because it was very intricate, but to achieve the compression, I used the API 2500 bus compressor as the first stage and then after that, the Fatso pretty much demolishing it in parallel. And I really favored the compressed side and went for this ultra squashed sound to simulate his Garage Band demo. That was my goal throughout the whole project, to please Doug and Bob as much as I could. I willingly and gladly checked my ego at the door!
In that process, do you feel like you learned from them? From following their instincts?
Of course, although this way of working — taking a fully fleshed out Garage Band demo and turning that into the record — is incredibly tedious. So it was a matter of enjoying the tedium of that. I spent an insane amount of time on my own editing, beat-by-beat, that ultra compressed drum track because I didn’t want Doug to hear really anything different from his version. I just wanted it to be real drums instead of these samples.
But do you feel you came up with something new and different in the process — something cool you wouldn’t have come up with otherwise?
Yes, but you know Doug was the producer and this is what he wanted to hear. And when he heard it, he (and Bob) loved it. But the way these guys work…and I should separate them, because Doug is more of a meticulous craftsman. But at the same time, he does kind of bang it out. He’s not going to do 30 takes of something. Where Bob does ONE take.
Tell me about that! What was it like recording Bob’s vocals on this?
I had a [Shure] SM7 set up in the studio. The SM7 is my favorite mic, especially for a singer like Bob. I was really excited. My thinking was to record Bob onto two tracks simultaneously. One track was just about capturing him with very little compression — an SM7 to a Great River mic pre to a distressor at 2:1 (but barely touching it) — and then on the other track, I hit him with an 1176 at 4:1 with the super-spitty setting (the fastest release and the slowest attack). And that’s the track I ended up using for most of the final mixes.
Also, for every track, I printed either Space Echo or Echoplex live. Bob would step up to the mic and say “Alright man, this one is arena rock!” or “This one’s Elvis!” or “psychedelic” and between the Echoplex and the Space Echo, I was able to get what I wanted. I would print that live so there were certain freak-outs in sections — wild, completely tasteless effects stuff.
Bob basically sang the record in sequence. He stepped up and sang the first song all the way through, he listened to it played back over headphones and then moved on. Couple tunes, he’d punch in a word here and there. He did Side A, then we took a break, had a couple tall, cold ones, and then move onto Side B. It was incredible. I’d always heard he was first-take-jake, and he really was. And he was in wonderful voice too. As good as I’ve ever heard him sound.
Awesome. And he was digging what he was hearing?
Yeah, I was giving him Space Echo on his headphones. Monitoring off my Soundcraft Ghost, I was recording the output of the Space Echo back into Pro Tools, and I knew he wanted to hear a lot of it, so I gave it to him and made it long, made it do stuff! I tried to provide him with something he was really feeling.
And that was the vocal chain throughout?
Yeah, this was a bang-it-out situation. He did the whole 10-song record in four hours, and two of the hours we were just screwing around. The thing about Bob is he doesn’t like to spend a lot of time in the studio, but he works really hard. He wakes up every morning and writes. He’d worked hard on these tunes and had practiced them a lot at home. He was on point.
And you mixed the record as well? What was the focus there?
Yes, Doug and I mixed the record together. And he’s into hearing stuff pretty bright. He doesn’t want to hear a ton of kick drum. He has a specific way that he hears records, coming from this late 70s, post-punk place, and the end result is awesome.
We worked very quickly. I mix in Pro Tools, but not in the box. I spread it out on the Ghost as much as I can and try to use as much outboard as I can, but I also keep it as recallable as possible. So I would sit at the desk and get the mix up for a few hours and then when it came time to mixdown, Doug sat at the desk and I would hit record, and he would do all kinds of cool shit!
He ended up using the console in very obviously un-Pro Tools-like ways. Like, panning sweeps on Bob’s lead vocal and on the guitar solos. Expressive moves that you wouldn’t do in Pro Tools.
And I really encouraged Doug to do this because there’s a character to all that GBV music that’s the exact opposite of Pro Tools. In the back of my mind through the whole project, I kept in mind the essential character of the GBV recordings that people love so much, and they’re on 4 track or on ADAT made in a garage somewhere.
How would you describe that “un-Pro Tools” quality? Just totally unpolished and lo-fi, or what?
Well the entire GBV and Robert Pollard’s solo oeuvre is about as varied as you can imagine. He’s obviously famous for being the king of lo-fi. You have certain records, like Vampire On Titus, which just sounds like the shittiest possible thing you can imagine. 4-track and whoa…you can barely hear the vocals! It takes like 8 listens to realize how amazing the songs are.
On the other hand, they made records with Ric Ocasek and Rob Schnapf for TVT, and those are glossy and way more hi-fi. The Rob Schnapf record sounds incredible. It’s a huge guitar record, lots of compression but modern sounding. So they run the gamut.
But the quality I’m talking about is… this thing we all get into when we make records with Pro Tools — even when you’re not trying to make polished sounding music, you polish your mixes because you can do anything you want. You have all these shades of subtlety…all these things you can do in Pro Tools, where when you’re working with this big beast of a board and you’re just trying to get something done, you make mistakes and the mistakes becomes the essential character of the music.
Do you feel you had to hold yourself back from the way you usually engineer records at all to capture that?
Yes, somewhat. But in this case, a lot of times there just wasn’t any time to do things that I should have done. Like getting the drum mics perfectly in phase, or creating musically perfect EQ relationships between all the overdubs — all the things we do as mix engineers. We just did it fast. And that speed is an essential part of the GBV aesthetic. Bob does not ponder the music.
Awesome, well congrats! Now, fill us in on Serious Business — it’s a studio and a record label — how long have you been around?
I started the Serious Business studio in Long Island City with my good buddy, Andy Ross, who’s now the guitar player in OK Go. We had a G4 with Pro Tools and the audacity to put an ad on Craigslist advertising as a studio, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
We moved from there to a big loft in Williamsburg and then partnered up in a collective-type fashion — an engineer friend of mine, Halsey Quemere, brought a tape machine (a Sony MCI, acquired from Jimmy Douglass) into the fold, and then I felt we needed a more proper studio space, so we found the SoHo location. Last year, I hooked up with [producer/engineer] Shannon Ferguson (of Longwave, etc.) and with him came this great influx of cool gear.
And the label? You guys are actually putting out the Lifeguards release, yes?
Yes, I started the label awhile back as an outlet for my own bands, and my friends’ bands, and though it tends to take a back seat to other (paying) gigs, it’s continued as a total labor of love. Artists like Benji Cossa, Higgins, Rocketship Park, etc. it is all music I love. The binding theme of the label is Class A songwriting.
For Lifeguards’ Waving At The Astronauts, Serious Business is partnering with Ernest Jenning to put it out. I did the A&R and recording and production and layout of the artwork, and Ernest Jenning is doing the promotion and distribution, etc.
And you’re also doing a podcast for BreakThru Radio — it’s cool! Tell us about that!
BreakThru Radio produces a ton of original content — including a few in-studio sessions with bands. The main property is a show called “Live Studio,” where the band comes in, plays a set, and talks to the host Maya MacDonald, a college radio-style interview. I started recording the lion’s share of those last year at Serious Business, and after awhile, I convinced them to give me my own show!
My show is the same kind of format, but way less formal — there’s drinking, silly craziness and lots of potty-mouth. My vision for that show is to create an atmosphere of what it’s really like when bands come into the studio to record with me. So far I haven’t gotten fired, which is a miracle!
Tune in every Monday morning for a new installment of Serious Business Music Live on BreakThru Radio Check out Serious Business, the studio, at www.seriousbusinessmusic.com and the label, at www.seriousbusinessrecords.com. And pick up the Lifeguards single “Product Head on iTunes.
SOHO, MANHATTAN: NYC rock band A Million Years is huddled around a pedal board at Serious Business Studios. It’s winter and the band is recording guitars for their debut album, Mischief Maker, available July 6.
As lead guitarist Nick Werber runs through sounds, A Million Years’ guitar-playing front-man Keith Madden and producer/engineer Shannon Ferguson — also the guitarist for NYC indie rock stalwarts Longwave — consider the options. Drummer Andrew Vanette and bassist Andrew Samaha chime in as well. This is a total group effort.
Vanette fills us in: “After we finished tracking basics, all the additional tracking has been done right here in the control room, with all of us sitting around together. The intimate feel of the studio really helps us a lot — no matter what’s going on, there’s always that group element to making this record together.” Madden interjects, “Yeah, nobody’s slinking away to go play Grand Theft Auto.”
Serious Business is a “musicians collective” recording studio and record label headquarters located on Spring Street in Soho. Ferguson, who’s been recording bands in NYC since before joining Longwave in 1999, moved his gear into Serious Business about a year and a half ago and splits time there with producer/engineer and Serious Business founder Travis Harrison (Apache Beat, The Rosewood Thieves). The studio is based around a Pro Tools HD2 system, Soundcraft mixing console, a ton of outboard equipment, instruments, amps, full-band-sized tracking room and iso booth.
“Shannon is a wealth of crazy vintage equipment and pedals,” says Madden, as Ferguson pulls out another guitar flavor.
“Our songs have an undercurrent of pop and going into the studio to make this record, I really didn’t want it to come out sounding too slick, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to work with Shannon. He’s coming from a place of making records with Dave Fridmann, which is like the least slick you can get! We all really like fucking sounds up intentionally, and Shannon fully understands that, and is really good about reigning us in if we go too far.”
A Million Years tapped Ferguson to produce their 3-song EP, Incandescent, last year. They met under unique circumstances when Madden took a job as touring guitar player in Longwave, replacing Ferguson whose wife was expecting a baby.
“It could have been an awkward situation, handing the reigns over to another guitar player,” notes Ferguson, “but from the get-go, it was like we were great friends. Also, almost immediately, Keith was inquiring about recording. After he’d toured with Longwave for a year, he told me that — having to learn all my guitar parts — he’d felt like he was sort of in my head and wanted to continue that relationship with me recording his band.”
And Ferguson felt drawn to A Million Years as well. “I really felt like I could help them,” he shares. “I felt like I could add a lot to what they were doing without stepping on it.”
MISCHIEF MAKING: BREAKTHROUGHS, BIG SOUNDS & SONIC SURPRISES
With Werber in the hot spot, switching between wiry, spaced-out and wailing guitar parts for “Poster Girl,” which — playing back in the studio — recalls early Radiohead, Vanette, Madden and bass player Andrew Samaha fill me in on the making of Mischief Maker.
“When we made the EP, we booked two weekends and did a song per day,” says Madden. “Working that way, you really immerse yourself in the song and by the end of the day have a good idea of what it’s going to sound like. The upside of that way of working is you make choices really fast and the downside is that you make choices really fast.”
The Incandescent sessions jump-started a great collaboration between the band and producer/engineer that flourished in the Mischief-making process. “While we were mixing the Incandescent EP, Keith started bringing in demos of these new songs and that’s when I started to really get excited about doing a whole record with them,” says Ferguson. “I think he had a breakthrough. He came back with a handful of really good songs; sort of all at once he had all these new ideas, new melodies. The songs, in a lot of ways, became much simpler too, which allowed them to breathe more. The sounds can be bigger if there are less parts.”
When the band went back into the studio to record basics for Mischief, they modified their approach. “This time around, we did all the basic tracking live and now we’re building on top of that,” Madden describes. “The songs are already sounding pretty different from the basic tracks, but you can really tell that it’s us playing this time. I’ve been surprised by the way every song has come out, in a really good way. It’s been great.”
Layers of guitars and effects, drum machines and synths build out the sonic space around these live rock performances, some sparse and acoustic, some big and bold.
In tracking sessions, Shannon cranked the AC30, miked with a Shure SM57 and a Royer R-121 going into a Chandler TG2 summed to one track. Bass went through an Avalon U5 into a Purple Audio MC77. Vocals usually went via SM7 to Great River ME-1NV into an LA-2A, and the standard miking on drums included a Beta 52 on kick, Audix i5 on snare and AEA R88s as overheads. Everything was recorded into Pro Tools HD2 with Aurora converters.
At one point, sitting around Serious Business, everyone’s holding a guitar, showing off their new favorites. “I’ve learned that I really like shitty vintage guitars,” notes Madden, wryly. “So that’s why this Silvertone is all over the record. By no standard is it a good guitar, but it’s like the best thing I’ve ever heard in my life!” Vanette, holding up another instrument of choice, adds, “We also found this Hagstrom guitar somebody left here; Keith’s played this all over everything too.”
With Ferguson as their guide, A Million Years approached every song with a sense of sonic adventure and considered the options on each and every part as well.
“In addition to getting cool guitar sounds, it’s really important to us throughout the whole record that the way every song sounds reflects the actual character of the song,” says Vanette. “So we treat every song differently, as far as drums, and every bass tone is different. We’re really conscious of not making a static record where you go one song into the next and they all sound the same, in both production and songwriting.
“On a couple songs, we sort of stepped out of ourselves,” Vanette continues. “One song is all programmed drums, and one has no drums at all — just organ and acoustic guitar and vocals. That entire song was done live with no click track, we just hit record and went for it — and it has a really organic feel to it which is exactly what that song needed.”
Some songs on Mischief combine live and electronic percussion. “On ‘Poster Girl,’ we tracked live drums for the entire song, but Keith also did some drum processing on his iPhone using BeatMaker,” says Vanette. “We want that in-between — not completely electronic and not completely live.”
In a recent interview, post Mischief mixing, Shannon describes, “They wanted Andrew to play drums on a song, but then have me make it sound like a drum machine. So we’d record the drums with that kind of sound in mind. I’d played them the David Bowie record, Low, the song ‘Sound and Vision,’ thinking we could base some of their drum sounds off of that.
“It’s a really strange drum sound, sort of distorted but also a little pitch-shifted in the snare drum. So if you listen to A Million Years’ ‘Holy Ghost Town’ or ‘Poster Girl,’ there’s an effect on the snare inspired by that idea of having the snare sound modulate. I feel like that’s not very common but it’s a cool thing to do.”
Listen to A Million Years’ “Poster Girl” here: here
Other effects incorporated throughout Mischief Maker add texture to the band’s sound. “The Eventide H3000 D/SX is all over the record, including on keyboards and acoustic guitars,” Ferguson reveals. “There are a couple presets that I start with and one is called ‘Breathing Canyon’ that John Leckie showed me on Longwave’s There’s a Fire. And then there’s another one in that same box called ‘Low And Behold’ and you can hear it all over the record just sort of mumbling in the background.”
Also, Ferguson shares, “I have this Line 6 M13 pedal board which is one of those all-in-one boards and not something that I would normally use, but it’s got all these backwards delay settings that we just kept going back to. And then I also used a DOD analog delay pedal that I basically use on every record that I do.”
After all the Mischief-making, the Incandescent tracks found a place on the album as well. “I thought I’d want to go back and work on them, but those mixes really held up,” says Ferguson. “The song ‘Incandescent’ really blends well with the sonic direction we took on the newer songs, and the two other songs have a more straight-forward rock sound which actually helps the album to not feel like a sonic experiment the whole time.”
Listen to A Million Years’ “By Yourself” here! here
A MILLION YEARS: LIVE & ON THE AIRWAVES
A few months back, we went to see A Million Years play the Studio at Webster Hall as part of Rich Russo’s (WRXP) “Anything Anything” Concert Series. It was an impressive performance with familiar flashes of early aughts indie rock, a la Modest Mouse, delivered with youthful, punchy rock-and-roll swagger. We were especially psyched to hear “Poster Girl,” Werber’s lead guitar parts forever etched into our memory, culminating with one of the band’s most raucous jams.
Back during recording sessions, we had asked A Million Years about their hopes and dreams for the record. “We don’t want to have to rely on a label or a publishing deal,” says Madden, “But finding someone or some company that wants to support what we’re doing would be great. Or we’ll invent something unique ourselves that works for us.”
Vanette adds, “Our manager is Lanny West, owner of Tipping Point Entertainment, so we have a whole team of people on our side. With their support, there’s also the thought that we’ve already invested all this time and money into the band, and maybe we can keep it going ourselves.”
Meanwhile, some big NYC tastemakers have already gotten behind A Million Years. “We’ve had a couple features on RXP 101.9. We did an in-studio with Matt Pinfield and a live performance on Rich Russo’s show,” says Vanette. “RXP is like the only legitimate radio station in NYC for rock music, so to have them on our side, it’s more than we could ever ask for in this city.”
A Million Years will be back at the Studio at Webster Hall for their record release show June 18, 2010 (Get tix HERE!) and will play McCarren Park in Williamsburg on June 21 with Ferguson’s band, Falcon.
SAADI is Boshra al Saadi, the former guitarist/vocalist for NYC female led, pop-punk band, Looker. Her upcoming 12” EP, Bad City, will be released on March 9 through NYC-based Serious Business Records.
The same label where Looker began, Serious Business provided SAADI a familiar recording platform for the newly cultivated, electro-pop sound that can be found on her debut EP. Boshra al Saadi and Travis Harrison, the founder and president of Serious Business, jointly produced the album.
With influences that range from Bob Dylan to Brian Eno and traditional Arabic and Nigerian music, SAADI is a rhythmically intricate and ultramodern hybrid of sounds. Listen to the title track off SAADI’s upcoming EP, “Bad City,” here: HERE
And see SAADI perform live at Pianos on Sunday, January 31, in the final performance of her January residency.