Procedure for recording Third Option “Cult Of Nice” CD

Basic Setup:

  • Initial Recording Format: 24 Track ADAT
  • Mix Destination Format: DAT/CD
  • Final Format: CD Master and Duplicated CD’s
  • Mixer: Mackie 32×8
  • Outboard Processing: Lexicon Reverbs, Art SGE Mach II Efx, 1178 compressor, Furman compressors, DBX Compressors, Alesis Quadraverbs, Zoom vocal efx
  • Synths: Alesis S4, Yamaha TG100, Boss DR660, Ensoniq Mirage, ASR-10, Casio CT770, somebody’s toy 20 key Casio
  • Mics: AKG Tube 414, Groove Tubes, AKG 414s, , Shure 55SH (50’s style mic), SM57s, SM58s, 757s, AKG D1000E
  • Mastering: TC Electronics Finalizer, Alesis Masterlink
  • Tracking: This project was way more straight forward than previous projects. Songs were written and arranged using Cakewalk in my NQuit studio, and synth tracks were tracked to Darwin through the Art Tube Preamp, sync’d to the sequencer with MIDI Time Code. Then, we’d take the Darwin to Rock Romano’s Red Shack and sync the Darwin to the ADAT chain there, and track live grand piano, live drums and vocals.The piano in Woman’s Poem was tracked in Albuquerque, at Washburn Piano. I called the NM Symphony and asked if they had a way to record pianos, and a guy came out with a couple of pretty good mics and we recorded it straight to Darwin. I had a mix set up on two tracks to listen to in headphones and voila.Some pianos were recorded at the Red Shack straight to Darwin as well. These were some of the ones where I was engineering and playing and was by myself, and didn’t have time to run back and forth between the control room and the piano (although I did do some of that). The intro piano on track 1, “Cult Of Nice”, was strange, because it plays for about a minute or two wild (no sync or click track or anything) and then links up with the beat when the beat comes in. I kind of just practiced a couple times, working out an arrangement that would be the right length (unless played at some WILDLY different speed than usual), and had to just sort of feel the beat come in and lock to it on the fly. Everyone in the session was very excited when, on take 1 of actual recording, it happened, it worked, and I did it! I got punched in the arm in excitement. It was great.

    On The People United, the vocal snippets “go on go on” and “the people united will never be defeated” were samples from Possibility. I used ASR-10 to sample and then loop them, playing them back at a slightly higher pitch than original.

    Bodies, which is the “hidden” track (actually it just hides because it has no liner notes mentioning it) was tracked all at the NQuit studio to Darwin, whilst drunk. All the vocals are improvised straight to tape.

    On Possibility, the crowd chanting “the people united can never be defeated” is about 30 of me, voice varied and submixed, and about 10 versions of Tamara and a friend Rebecca doing the chant along with mine. Eventually they were all submixed into a stereo pair (or actually, maybe even one track – wow) for mixdown. Everyone kept saying we needed to bring more people in, but it wasn’t necessary. The drums in the intro section are live drums. This was the first ever time I’d even attempted to play live drums on a track, and only the 2nd or 3rd time I’d even touched a kit. I didn’t come out virtuoso, but I pretty much got what I wanted. The track has a 3/4 section, then in the build up is 4/4 and speeds up, which I used tempo changes in cakewalk for, and had to follow along with the drums. Later I ran those drums through a pitch shifter, making them lower and fatter and weirder.

    Also on Possibility, a lot of the sounds that sound like maybe techno sounds are actually real piano. For example, when the beat comes in the last time (which incidentally adds two live drum tracks that I played, and then cut up and added a delay to complicate the rhythm), and there’s a “boop (boop boop boop)”, that’s piano. For this song I did some playing with taking a Shure 57 and putting down deep in the middle sound hole of the piano, then running it straight through three guitar pedals, out to a guitar amp, micing the amp. The pedals were Boss pedals; a stereo delay, a distortion, another overdrive of some kind, if I remember correctly, and a wah-wah pedal. I had the pedals next to the regular piano pedals so I could use them and the sustain pedal and what not. It was really cool, the only big problem was that even sticking the amp in the closet across the room and closing the door, I was always tetering on the brink of extreme feedback. I could barely use the overdrive or it would go nuts.

    Another thing fun about Possibility was the eery sort of synth stuff in the beginning, plus the “vroom” synth build up, much of that was done with this tiny little toy Casio which for some reason had pitch and mod wheels, but was a toy and a HALF. It was one of these things with like 20 keys that’s about a foot and a half long, that you give to a kid. But it had this cool thing it would do, so we used it.

  • Mixing: Mixdown happened via ADAT, sometimes with Darwin in the chain, and the Mackie 32×8. Straight forward, multitrack mixing, using inserts for compression, efx, etc. On Ash, I first took a bunch of vocal tracks of the poem, all recorded at different times, from DAT and put them on an ADAT tape, and submixed them to a stereo pair, fading them in and out manually while it recorded, to get the effect of one poem starting, then fading away, then another version coming in but not in the expected place in the poem, sometimes even going backwards in the poem. I think eventually, you get the whole poem. Fades and little EQ or efx changes were done on the fly manually. In some cases it would take a bit of rehearsal, and I even got Tamara to help with a couple that I didn’t have enough hands for 🙂
  • Mastering/Editing: Mastering was straight forward. Finalizer out to DAT and CDR. Most tracks I did a sort of mastering/mix version where I ran through the Finalizer and tweaked the sound right at mixdown, but then also did a version with no Finalizer. Whether I ended up using the mix/master version or remastering the “raw” version varied from track to track. I edited using an Alesis Masterlink, which burned the Red Book CD master.
  • Notes:

    Tamara was very hard to record. She was relatively new to the studio and her voice would just POP up for one word and give these incredible spikes. Also, the AKG Tube mic, while great for most people’s vocals, was WAY to tinny and sibilant for her. We used various other mics, like the regular 414 or the SH55 50’s style mic that we would use live, or even the groove tubes. At that time, there was a broken Neumann U47 in the studio – how sad! Also, oh dumb of dumb, it took me awhile to realize there was were Urei 1176 and 1178 compressors in the studio, so most vocal compression was done with the DBX compressors, which I liked, but not like the 1176. Oh well.

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