Producer Profile: Alex Newport (At The Drive-In, Death Cab For Cutie, City and Colour)

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Newport at the MCI JH 2" 24-track tape machine during City and Colour sessions, Catherine North Studio. Photo by Haris Cehajic.

“The mic that I preferred most often on the acoustic was the Beyerdynamic M160. It’s not too expensive, so it’s within reach for many people, but it’s absolutely fantastic on almost anything. And the main vocal was the Shure SM7- another mic that’s not terrifically expensive. It’s very directional and will take EQ really well.

“On a few of the more rock-sounding things we did use an [AKG] C12. But on many songs the rhythm of the guitar and the rhythm of the vocal are symbiotic and I felt they really had to be done in one take. When I’m recording acoustic guitar and vocal together, it becomes important to choose mics that sound good and are very directional.  The SM7 is great for that. With a large-diaphragm condenser that’s not as possible – you get more bleed, and then phase becomes more of an issue.

“We also did quite a few songs where he wasn’t using headphones. We would play the tracks through the monitors and he would stand signing a few feet behind me. It was a pretty incredible experience for me. Dallas is one of the most incredible singers in the universe, and to have him singing that close to me was quite breathtaking.”

At first, Newport was wary of recording in Catherine North studio of Hamilton, Ontario. It’s an open-plan design where the control room and live room are one in the same. He’d avoided these kinds of studios in the past, relishing the sonic distance and perspective that working with a separate control room afforded him.

“Then Dallas told me that his friend Dan [Achen] who had produced the last City and Color record had owned the studio, and he wanted to pay homage to Dan in whatever way he could. As soon as I heard how much of a special place this was for Dallas, I didn’t care about the lack of control room or anything. If it was a place he felt good about and had a vibe, that was good enough for me.

“And it is a really cool studio. It’s built in a former church, so it has these 40-foot high ceilings and stained glass windows. The open plan makes things a little bit trickier, especially when it comes to recording drums, but the vibe of this space more than made up for any of that. In the end, the album was recorded and mixed entirely to tape. We didn’t turn on the computer once. [On this album] I just wanted the sound to be as real as his songs are.”

FADE OUT

A “European city” in the States

With clients in Japan, Europe, and Canada, Newport finds himself traveling more often than not, and rarely tracking near his Brooklyn home. So, with a whole world to settle in, much of it more affordable than his current digs, why choose New York City?

“I always wanted to live in New York,” says Newport. “It’s more like a European city with a city center you can walk to. I’d always been thinking of it. I eventually ended up with a New York-based manager, and when my lease came up in California, I said ‘maybe I’ll try New York after all’.

“On a personal level, it’s more my kind of vibe, and I just find it more inspiring. There are so many artists in close proximity; Photographers, painters, musicians, writers. That exists in California too, but it’s so spread out that you’re not quite in the middle of it, meeting people in quite the same way.

“In New York, you just can’t help but be involved.”

Justin Colletti is a Brooklyn-based producer/engineer who works with uncommon artists, and a journalist who writes about music and how we make it. Visit him at http://www.justincolletti.com.

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Pages: 1 2 3