Procedure for recording Third Option “Frosted Mini Wheats” CD

Basic Setup:
  • Initial Recording Format: 8 Track Darwin Harddisk
  • Mix Destination Format: DAT
  • Final Format: CD Master and Duplicated CD’s
  • Mixer: Mackie 12 Channel VLZ
  • Outboard Processing: Art SGE Mach II Efx Processor
  • Synths: Alesis S4, Yamaha TG100, Boss DR660, Ensoniq Mirage
  • Mics: AKG D1000E
  • Mastering: TC Electronics Finalizer
  • Tracking: Most instrument tracks were tracked to Darwin through an Art tube-preamp. Mirage and Darwin provided sampling capabilities. Samples were taken from movies, original poetry, PlayStation games (Overblood) and even a cassette of a play version of The Crucible. 
  • Mixing: If seperated, most of the songs would’ve been something like a 24 or 32 track mixdown. But I only had the 8 tracks of Darwin to work with. So I ping-ponged, trying to stay very careful along the way. The singing vocals were double and tripled up (there were four of Tamara and two of Aaron), and then a stereo mix was created of those tracks. The drums were made another stereo pair, and basses and synths made up other pairs, etc. Sometimes I would deviate, but this was the general rule of thumb.Kick/snare/hats etc. were usually seperated, mixed on the Mackie, and run through the Art tube. The Art tube has only one channel so they would be transferred in sync one channel at a time. Interestingly, when you do this, it spreads the stereo spectrum out a bit. It’s a great effect, but sometimes it’s not good for things that you might rather feel very dead center (like kicks or bass or even vocals). I could listen to synth tracks “live” (played back by the sequencer) while mixing a couple of basses, for example, to make sure that in the context of the whole, things were coming out ok. Some pairs were mixed digitally inside Darwin to make room for this method.I sort of reinvented the trance wheel on this. For some reason at that point I had never really heard a trance record, or I guess any dance club music on CD, because after beatboxing for about an hour one day, I had the “revelation” of progressive trance, which is pretty stupid considering it had been around for years! Nevertheless, the whole project was about writing techno instead of rap songs for a change (even the concept of “writing” techno is a little odd, I guess), and doing this “revolutionary” thing where all the songs just morph into one another. *sigh* Still, even though it didn’t take long to realize I wasn’t even remotely inventing anything, it turned out a bit different, because my process was inevitably odd. I didn’t have the normal techno tools, which seem to usually involve progressive style looping and generation and tweaking of parameters over time, and I didn’t even really know how people did it (I suppose I still don’t, really, now that I think about it), so what I did was write a song on the sequencer, using some drum patterns and such like I always did, then improvising some piano over time, and mixing it down. Then I started a whole new sequence, and started it off using themes from the other song, more like a composer might do, and then morphing the riffs. I used similar synth patches (sounds) in some cases and different ones in others, but totally wrote, tracked and mixed the song seperately. I did this for all the songs, all the while strategizing in the sequences how the BPMs would be matched up and how many measures they would overlap (usually six). I would offset each song so that tracking to the Darwin, it was already at the right place in time and would overlap with the previous song. I used one project in Darwin, using virtual reels to create new songs. When I eventually had a mix down of a song, I would just copy it to the clipboard, and paste it in place into the “main” reel. The first song was on tracks 1 and 2, the second song on 3 and 4, and so on, looping around and around the tracks. Meanwhile, I had another master “volume” sequence on Cakewalk which would just be used to do the crossfades (Darwin’s internal mixer responds to MIDI volume and pan messages). I would carefully map the tempo changes that might happen within songs onto the master sequence to keep the SMPTE time and measures lined up, and create the fade ins and outs using the very powerful event editor in Cakewalk. Over time I kept adding to this master sequence as I mixed new songs. Interestingly enough, when the sequence was about 30 minutes long, it wouldn’t sync to tape if started after about 30 minutes. I had to take it out of sync mode and put the transport at the same spot as the Darwin transport and play them manually at the same time to get an approximate audition of the crossfades. This worked fine, because they didn’t need to be sample accurate in time. Eventually, I would sync the sequencer to the main project, and it would follow along for an hour, creating crossfades while a master CD and DAT was being dubbed off the SPDIF output of the Darwin (which outputs the result of the internal digital mixer). This worked fine, and I went back onto the DAT to create new track markers, then dubbed another CD for the master to be sent to the plant (so that there would me more than one track 🙂 ).


  • Mastering/Editing: I explained the bulk of the final edit down above, but mastering was a little tricky because of lack of space on Darwin (it has 1 gig, which is pretty much full at 70 minutes of stereo audio plus a couple other multitrack projects). I also hadn’t really forseen wanting to remaster the mixes before I had alreay set up a whole crossfade sequence, etc. This is because I didn’t expect to get an opportunity to borrow the Finalizer. I thought I might get a short time in the studio where the Finalizer lived, so I planned to run the whole project through a setting on the Finalizer that would hopefully do them all some good (this would be a lot quicker). As it turns out, I got to take the Finalizer home, and given this opportunity, I couldn’t stand to take such a short cut. So, using virtual reels in Darwin, I ran mixes through the Finalizer and back to Darwin. Since Darwin of course is in sync with itself, I could just paste the new mastered mix over the old in the main reel, and voila. Where it got tricky was I could only do one at a time, and I had to delete the old one. This doesn’t sound that tricky right now, but it really wasn’t easy to deal with for some reason. The crossfades didn’t need that much tweaking, but I was glad I did each song seperately, because the settings on the Finalizer were vastly different from song to song.
  • Notes:

    Ultimately, FMW has never been duplicated en masse. The artwork and masters were at the plant, and I got a call saying they couldn’t do it because of all the samples. Funny thing is, I don’t think they listened to it. They mentioned the liner notes, and I think if I hadn’t given credit on the liner notes, they never would’ve known. Funny thing is, only a couple years before, they had pressed Artistic Apocalypse, where I used the same technique of using movie samples and giving it credit on the notes. But in those couple of years, the industry landscape changed dramatically, and it was no longer alright to use samples of that nature simply by giving credit. In the days of Martyrs And Heroes and No Apocalypse (my first CD’s), you could use a sample from a movie or something, as long as you gave it credit. At least that was the word on the street. Apparently the law was unclear about it. Now it’s a bit clearer, and the answer is, no damn samples ever any time, which sucks, because the only people who get to do that kind of art are either major labels who have access to the people, or people who never get to actually reproduce the work. So now, we will dub a copy of Frosted Mini Wheats if it gets ordered, but no duplicated CDs. I spent awhile trying to track down sample clearance, but no one even responded. Finding the people, in most cases, was impossible. Later on, with Cult Of Nice, I had one sample, and was by some miracle able to contact the people, pay them a fee, and actually obtain clearance. There have been several times when songs from Cult Of Nice were rejected from liscensing organizations because of samples, only to have me write back to them saying “THAT’S NOT A SAMPLE, that’s original poetry, performed by us!!” Even if something SOUNDS like a sample (which was the whole point of Cult Of Nice – poetry that sounds like samples, but is original), people go berserk. That’s how much the landscape changed in those 2 years.

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