In 2007, Grammy®-winning producer/engineer/mixer extraordinaire Kevin Killen joined us for a few weeks for an exceptional Q&A. Kevin’s work needs almost no introduction - it’s a veritable who’s-who of pop and rock music, and includes albums for David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, U2, Elvis Costello, Tori Amos, Kate Bush, Jewel, Bon Jovi, Shakira, Shawn Colvin and many more. He’s worked on stuff that many pundits consider to be among the most important records in history, so we were absolutely thrilled for him to share his experiences and wisdom with the Gearspace community. Read on and absorb!

[top]What type of people are usually in the recording and mixing studios aside from the engineer and musicians? - Paul762

One may find the following during tracking/mixing:
  • Producer: usually independent contractor hired because of their past or recent success
  • Engineer: independent of studio employee.... he/ she gets the great sound.
  • Musical Director: aka MD or band leader. Musician on the studio floor who routines the musicians through the songs. (May have history with the producer or artist.)
  • A&R : Label person responsible for signing artist.
  • Artist management: need I say more..
  • Arrangers: usually hired for writing specific charts, say for a horn section or string section or a choral group. Will work closely with producer ( could be the same person , like a Burt Bacharach)
  • Copyist: person responsible for writing out and correcting all the music charts
  • Assistant Engineer: responsible for setting up the studio and control room as per engineers instructions. A good one is invaluable, a bad one a royal pain.

[top]Regarding the role of Assistant Engineer, you wrote "A good one is invaluable, a bad one a royal pain." What qualities/technical abilities/foresights do you feel make an assistant worth their salt? - VivaLaVinyl

To me an assistant should exhibit the following qualities: be curious, be respectful and be early. Ask questions of your clients, take notes, don't act like you know it all already. Anticipate the needs of the session early and often. Be on top of everything. Make us engineers look good. Ask questions at the appropriate time. Don't blow up the engineer's gear. Know how to cater to the clients needs. Don't be annoying. Be yourself.

For those who are assistants, You are the sole representative of the studio and your professionalism and demeanor will directly affect whether the client stays or returns to your studio. And yes, we engineers do take that into consideration when we book a session, the more angst, the less likely we are to return. Also producers and engineers often hire assistants to take over the role of engineer if their own careers allow for that !!!! So if you want to be remembered for the right reasons and have a wonderful learning experience, re-read Eric's comments 20 times.

One thing about working at a studio like Ocean Way was that all of the assistants were excellent recordists themselves. They were all very knowledgeable and had great personalities. Because I was an assistant myself I always tried to treat my team as an equal, never an underling. Most of those assistants have gone on to have very successful careers as independents. Lastly, we did play a lot of ping pong, a great stress reliever on top of all the laughing.

[top]My biggest problem in every mix is how much bass guitar to bring up. I don't know if there's an answer to this. It might just be one of those “feel things”, and some people have the right feel and some don't, but it's a constant mystery to me. I know you've touched on this in part (below), but maybe you have insights into this. - Mike Jasper

I think ultimately it is a taste issue. Some people like a dominant bass presence and some do not. I am not sure where you taste lies but I found it helpful to reference my favorite songs in the studio as I am mixing with respect to the bass level and then see if my particular project can support such a level.

The second concern would be your monitoring environment. If this is inaccurate then its almost impossible to get the proper bass balance. Assuming that is close will make it easier to get a handle on your own taste requirements

One way to check balances is to invest in a great sounding headphone amplifier such as the Grace 902 and a pair of high fidelity Headphones. I did that myself over the last few years and I have found it enormously beneficial. It's a little expensive but over the long haul, it is worth the investment.

[top]I'd be interested in your advice on a few tricks in balancing the bass and the kick drum so they work together to drive the song without pushing smaller speakers too hard. I'm a huge Peter Gabriel fan and have always admired Tony Levin's ability to get that perfect bass part and tone. - FFTT

One trick would be to remove everything below 40Hz, so that the little speakers are trying to reproduce all that low energy. If the bass and kick parts are really locked together, then you can also put both signals through a stereo compressor, making either of them the key to the compression, perhaps even using it as a limiter instead so that you derive a consistent output.

I have worked with Tony Levin on Peter Gabriel recordings, plus I have used him as a session player on some projects that I have produced and I mixed a solo record of his " Pieces of the Sun".

[top]I'd be interested to hear what you thought about the growing number of musicians who are attempting to engineer/produce themselves - are they trying to do a job which they couldn't possibly learn to a high standard without having gone through the training people like yourself have? Would their energy be better put to their musicianship/songwriting? - loaf

I have witnessed musicians who are excellent engineers for their own instrument, maybe less so for other instruments. In general I don't have a problem with it as long as they understand the fundamentals. In this day and age , there is enough written and visual documentation to help guide the fledgling engineers. I often counsel my friends to "do less", less EQ, compression etc etc until they really get what they are trying to do. It's a lot easier to add than take away.

[top]What are some of the factors you consider when choosing between compression vs. limiting for dynamics processing, particularly on lead vocals, drum OHs and bass? Do you find yourself reaching for one type over the other more often on certain sounds? And how often do you use them for more "radical" processing where you can hear the effect working, as opposed to going for more transparent signal-leveling? - HockeyMike

My first tendency would be to use compression as I want to just control the peaks. If I am looking to generate a more robust effect then I will gravitate towards brick wall limiting like that found in my Distressor units. It can be a wonderful effect on drums and in fact I used it a number of times whilst recording with Shakira in Vancouver at the Warehouse Studios.

If I have to mix really fast then I may also reach for the limiting device as time is my enemy but it can sometimes be a poor choice as it can make an element one dimensional. If I have a doubt I will err on the side of restraint and allow mastering be the final place to apply compression.

Empirical Labs Distressor EL8

[top]Do you use the Distressor for tracking vocals? - matt f

Yes I do, although lately I have been relying on my Manley Vari U. The Distressor at 2:1 or 3:1 medium attack and release is a good starting point for vocals.

[top]When you use Pro Tools systems, do you use an external clock? If so, what and why. - fasttraxx

Most professional studios tend to have an external clock source. I do think that it makes a difference to the quality of detail that you can hear in the project as a stable clock reduces the jitter. PT's 192 is also very stable and a worthy candidate.

[top]I love the work you did on Universal Cry with Nasio Fontaine. Care to comment on the sessions? I believe you did additional recording at Realworld? How was the mixing process and will we hear dub versions soon? - Lozion

I loved working on Nasio's album. Apart from the fact that both Nasio and his wife Helen are the sweetest people you could ever meet, the music is so inspiring. The record was beautifully produced by my friend Richard Evans (another ex Real World Alumni) and it was he who suggested me to Nasio. Understandably Nasio was a little unsure as I had ZERO reggae credits but Richard assured him that I was perfect, given the vocal stylings. I went up to Long View Farms in Connecticut to mix ( the majority of the album was cut there with some overdubs at Real World. I did not do any tracking on the album !) We met and immediately hit it off. When he heard me approach the first mix , Nasio was convinced so our bond just grew throughout the week.

Whats is wonderful about reggae music is the whole vernacular used to describe the instrumentation:
  • Biff Baff = Drums
  • Melody = Bass
  • Bubble and Squeak = Hammond Organ
  • Skank or Chink = Guitar
  • Voice = Vocals
  • BVees= Backing vocals
So Nasio, Helen and Richard gave me the crash course and off I went. Once you realize that the bass is the anchor element, it's a very visual genre of music to mix. The whole record was mixed in six days on a NEVE 8078 to half inch and we went straight to Bob Ludwig to master. Nasio really embraced me as a fellow spirit and I have a standing invitation to visit Dominica. I hope someday soon to take him up on his offer. Helen would cook two meals for us every day to nourish our souls and I really want to do another record.

I am not sure about a dub version, I am sure Nasio has somebody in mind for that! Keep the bass pumping!

[top]From what I've heard U2’s The Edge is big on layering guitars and trying new tones, what can you tell us about the recording of his guitars and how you went about mixing the different parts together? - pbell

It has been many years since I had the pleasure of working with Edge but during the time that I did his approach was very direct. Find a part, get the right guitar tone and play it until he is satisfied.

At that time he relied heavily on his 3 or 4 Vox AC 30's. There would be some processing in line, delays mostly but occasionally some other effect. The amps were set up in various spaces, live , dead or in between to achieve a particular ambience. Mics used were Shure 57, U87, Sony C500, AKG 414 or PZM. It really depended on what he was striving for and we just experimented a lot.

Each of the amps had a different character to it, one mellow, one nasty sounding and so on. During "War" it was the above mentioned approach. On the "Unforgettable Fire" both Brian and Dan set up a very intricate set of processing that was used to inspire Edge, delays, reverb, harmonizer. That record had a few more layers to it but in truth those records do not have a lot of guitar parts by today's standard.

When it came to the mix, it was more a balance issue and some slight tailoring of the sound to make it fit in.... some eq and perspective blend. However it was not uncommon for Edge to declare that he wanted to try "that" part again during the mix because he knew what the tone needed to be. And he was often right !

[top]My questions are as follows:

1. Was the MXR Pitch transposer used on U2’s album Unforgettable Fire? For what songs and how was it used?

2. Was the TC Electronics Integrated Preamp used at all? It appears on the floor in one scene during the documentary of the making of the unforgettable fire.

3. Daniel Lanois was quoted in an old interview that Edge used the Beyer m88 mic for most songs - can you confirm from your recollection that this mic was favoured more than any others?

4. I appreciate this is probably in the wrong thread but here goes anyway - Was the black stratocaster with maple fingerboard used in the recording of any of the songs? I have been dying to know for many years, is the black strat real heavy suggesting it may be made of Northern Ash instead of swamp ash or alder - any ideas about this guitar? What is the bridge pickup - stock standard?

5. Was the Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man used at all on the album, or was it simply Korg SDD3000 and/or Lexicon Prime Time?

I hope you can shed some light on these for me? Any thoughts or recollections will be greatly appreciated! - Kilmainham

Now you are really testing my powers of memory!

The pitch shifting was from the AMS 1580 delay. The MXR may have slipped in there from time to time. The AMS was a favorite of Brian Eno’s and Dan Lanois’.

The TC... not sure about this one. I thought TC's first product was the 2290 which came out in 1985/86. UF was recorded in the summer of 1984. Ed Simeone showed me the 2290 while I was working with Brian Ferry, I then showed it to Edge, the rest is history.

His memory may be better than mine but at Slane Castle I have a strong recollection of using the Sony C500 ( check the video with Edge's amp on the balcony !). But we also had M88's and 57's.

I have no idea..... on the strat question, sorry.
For the delays, probably all three depending on the application. The Prime time was mostly used by Brian and Dan to generate a sound for Edge, the other two by Edge himself. Would not surprise me if all three were combined.

[top]Is it possible to use the MXR Pitch Transposer and obtain similar results to the AMS, as was used on U2’s album Unforgettable Fire?

Can the MXR get even close to the AMS if used creatively with a good delay unit?

The TC integrated Preamp was a pedal ( a clean boost) which I suspect is similar to the rare Boss FA 1. I could have sworn this was around at this time and Edge may have used it at Slane Castle during those sessions.

Thank you very much for the answers thus far, you are helping to slowly unravel some of the mysteries behind what in my opinion, is the greatest album of all time. - Kilmainham

I guess it's POSSIBLE but I imagine that the AMS will have more detail and be less glitchy. That would depend on the input source, but in creative hands anything is possible.

You may be totally right about the TC pedal, I do remember seeing one of those around. Good thoughts if you are right!

Sony C-500

[top]I understand the Sony C500 to be a large diaphragm condenser mic. Seeing as this mic has long been discontinued, which equivalent microphone would you recommend can sound exactly like the Sony C500?

Also, wouldn't the high SPL's create a real problem for this type of mic? Was this a concern with the Sony C500 at Slane Castle when used to mic up an extremely loud VOX AC30?

In relation to the Beyer 88, is the vintage mic really better than the current version Beyer m88 TG, from your experience? What is a good alternative mic that achieves a similar sound to the original 88?

Finally, tonally, what characteristic advantages does the Sony C500 impart to a recorded guitar track over say a 57 or even 88?
- Kilmainham

Well no two mics sound exactly the same, even the same model number. However, of the newer models I think a M149 or Audio Technica 4060 might be the closest. In terms of the high SPL's I believe we used a pad on the mic and had its position further off the speaker and just let the volume dissipate somewhat before hitting the capsule. We also had the AC 30 set up on an outdoor balcony so that helped diffuse the sound.

In terms of preference , it was at the suggestion of Randy Ezratty who supplied the studio equipment. When we A/B tested the two. The Sony had a fuller sound. And we were specifically looking to create a new sound so I guess that was part of it.

I have not had a chance to actually listen to the difference side by side but the newer 88's do sound good to my ear.

[top]Re U2’s The Edge guitar tone. Did you use any compression on guitar tracks? - Fasttraxx

With Steve Lillywhite it was through UA 1176. With Danial Lanois it was through an LA2A.

[top]I was wondering how you mic drum overheads. - starkey

Cymbals and overheads....To me this is often the key to a great drum sound. I have tried numerous combinations and approaches but I seem to have settled on a fairly straight forward approach. Looking at the kit from the front, I place the overheads about 4-5 feet above the kit, about 3 and 9 o clock. I try to place them so that I am getting equal amounts of snare and kick ( which is hard). This involves some re-positioning until achieved.

After listening to the kit in the room ,the overhead mics are the first ones I open up in the control room. They should sound like the kit, if they are too thin, then either change position or change mics. Either way until you are happy with this pair, DON'T MOVE ON, otherwise you will always feel that the sound is lacking. It should have warmth, detail and spread.

Once you add in the closer mics, then you will get the more impactful sound. For overheads I have used 251's, U67's, Coles, Royer 121, B&K 4011's. You can also try a stereo mic or a binaural head if you really want to experiment.

[top]Do you normally use the cardioid or omni pattern for the overheads? - BenJah

I will start with cardioid but if that is not working then I will try another pattern or mic position. Failing that, a different set of overheads. If it still sucks, then maybe moving the drums altogether.

[top]When trying to get the balance of kick and snare in your overheads...are you just moving your mics on the horizontal axis (for lack of a better term), or do you move then up and down as well, so that you might end up with one overhead lower than the other? - C_F_H_13

I will experiment with their placement if the initial perspective seems out of balance. From experience my left to right balance is usually pretty accurate so it's more of the vertical plane that I would tend to adjust, particularly if the drummer is using brushes or rods as opposed to sticks or I am just trying to get a specific detail.

I have this on a number of threads in the forum this month about how much of a successful recording is due to the musician. I just had the absolute pleasure of recording Nir Z for a Darlene Love album over the last four days and his touch, feel and inventiveness allowed me to record the drums basically flat. Of course it did not hurt that I was recording him in studio A at Avatar studios in NYC through a wonderful Neve 8048, but it still reinforces that point home to me!

[top]If you could elaborate on what you meant by "3 and 9", the horizontal and vertical axis thing, and what pattern you tend to use, that would be amazing. Thanks for all your help. - briefcasemanx

Okay , so imagine you are standing in front of the drum kit, by the kick drum. Assuming the drummer plays right handed, the hi-hat is to your right, the floor tom to your left.

Now imagine for a moment you are hovering over the drum set, looking DOWN on the kit. The kit is arranged in positions that are superimposed on a 12 hour clock . The overheads are at 3 o'clock (for the position nearest the hi hat) and 9 o clock ( for the position nearest the floor tom). Now return to your earthbound position. Standing in front of the kick drum, your overhead mics are your head height about the width of your arms apart. The vertical axis will be moving those positions up and down relative to your head, the horizontal axis will be shortening or elongating the spread of your arms.

[top]I'm just wondering where you like to have the levels, -3, -6, etc... going into the mic pre and going to Pro Tools. I know some people love to slam everything, but where do you feel is the best place to go with it? - eight16

Generally I think it's okay to have your levels peak around -6 in ProTools, that gives you a little extra headroom should you need it.

[top]What about the other way around? what would you say is the lowest you should let it drop? Let's say someone's vocal performance goes from really quiet to loud. How low do you think it is okay to let it go? - buddha fingers

Well it would be relative to the peak of the performance but maybe around -25 to -30. If it seems like it's losing some clarity down there then raise up the record level.

[top]I pulled out Jude Cole's "I Don't Know Why I Act This Way" release, (1 million three listens now and counting) and I'll probably ask a couple more questions about it, if you don't mind. The bass on Believe in You is unbelievable (no pun intended) - the right amount of width - it fills up the bottom, etc. When you're going for "that" type of bass sound, what are things to try, like eq'ing specifics, effects, etc? - Cymbals

It's more like - can I get a sound that compliments and enhances the landscape I am trying to paint? Plus Paul Bushnell , bassist extraordinaire had a lot to do with that tone. We were looking for fullness but also something that could provide a nice cushion for the voice.

Waves Renaissance Equalizer

[top]I am slowly trying to move to ITB (in DAW) mixing. But it's really hard to get the same depth and feel without the outboard gear. The toughest part is the lead vocal. Would you be so kind as to share some of your go to plugin compressors or processing for lead vocals? - Jonnyclueless

Yes it can be a different transition. The typical problem that I encountered was that I expected the plugins to sound and react like a piece of hardware. I began just closing my eyes and just tweaking on the controls to find a sound I liked. Once satisfied I would look at the settings and I began to accumulate a base of knowledge on that piece of software.

For vocals I have had good success with any of the following plugins:
  • Sony Oxford EQ
  • Renaissance EQ
  • Pultec EQ
  • Waves C4
For Compression:
  • Sony Compressor
  • Renaissance Compressor
  • TC Master X
  • LA2A
  • L2
I find that with the EQ , the curve looks more extreme than a hardware piece and the converse is true for the compressors, definitely less is more. Sometimes it helps to have a number of each. Just experiment and find out what sounds good to your ear. Hope this helps!

[top]Regarding the LA2A and Pultec plug-ins: do you know if these are the UA TDM versions or the Digi/Bomb Factory versions? Thanks! - Dopamine

I believe they are the UA versions but I will need to double check that.

[top]Kevin, don't you find the forced asymmetry (especially on the low shelf) in the Renaissance EQ bothersome as it causes resonance. - Lagerfeldt

To be honest, I do not. But then again I use the low shelf judiciously.

[top]In an earlier answer you said, "I can spend a number of hours experimenting with this even pushing the width of the mix beyond the normal L R plane." Could you elaborate on this? - Especht

I may pick one or two elements and run it through my Howard Hughes SRS spatial box. It was designed for cockpit voice recognition and it totally ****s with the phase. Sometimes I would put a number of effects in series, ultimately ending in the SRS and adjust the "width" control so that it appeared outside the speakers, to the left and right of the outermost edge of the speakers. It's certainly fun ,not mono compatible and usually gives the artist a woody and the mastering engineers a feeling of nausea.

Don't try this if your project is going to vinyl...

In the DAW world, same principle, just try using the S1 image maker.

On Headphones, it's like someone is turning your brain inside out...

And put down that weed, when you do this, It may alter your life forever!

[top]Are you using the SRS Labs MegaWide box? I'm curious what box you're actually using to get "outside the speakers". - Shawn Simmons

I am not using it this week as my current project is in the box. For that I use the Waves S1 Image maker.

I will pull the SRS out of its box next week to get the exact model number.

Keep reading....

[top]Why is the SRS box not be used for tracks that will end up on vinyl? Can it not be used for vinyl? - Themish

Basically those boxes and software plugins do alter the phase coherency of the stereo track. Trying to cut an acetate with such a significant phase anomaly would cause the cutting head to lift up during the mastering. It would mean a remix at the very least.

CD's are much more forgiving in terms of duplication.

[top]It seems funny to use high end convertors and a million dollar console only to end up degrading the final signal with a 40$ unit. Whats the N:S ratio on that thing? - Tomer1

That is often the irony of mixing but you just have to use your ears to judge what is right for the mix. But probably no worse than the $35 foot pedal you use for the guitar or the $300 speakers you mix thru! No idea...sorry!

[top]I was wondering if the music industry's ongoing crisis (steadily declining cd sales, public disinterest, distraction, etc.) has directly impacted your work and life? I imagine that it has, but I'm curious how you feel about it. Your discography includes very tasteful, very refined, well-produced records. I know talent has a lot to do with that but I imagine the budget and process for works such as these was quite high by today's standards. So what's it like for someone like Kevin Killen to face the 21st century? - Silver Sonya

First I feel very fortunate to have made the records in the manner that I have with incredible artists , musicians and studios. It has informed my development from lowly assistant to now. The accumulated experience has made this current paradigm both frustrating and challenging and yet somewhat hopeful. I have always maintained that getting a deal at a major label does not make economic sense. Anybody can get much more favorable terms from a high street bank, however its the distribution chain that has always made labels attractive to artists. Added to that a labels clout in the radio and print markets and you begin to see the allure.

The one promising thing is that the current state of the business is opening up opportunities for artists, musicians and producers alike. Sure it will not be the old model and you will have to work leaner and more efficiently but does not necessarily mean a bad product. One has to be more selective these days in how you manage a budget and project. So if you wasted a week 20 years ago getting the kick drum sound from doom on a ballad, who cared. Now you will be expected to deliver the whole album in that week!

The discovery process of a song's development depends on time. That use to occur in studios. Now with very affordable, great sounding DAW hardware and software, that process can and is occurring outside of the traditional studio environment. From bedroom to project to privately held studios, more and more of today's productions are being overdubbed and mixed in a non-traditional room. Major rooms are still necessary of course and let's hope for all or our sakes that they continue to flourish. But everybody is getting squeezed and typical budgets for new artists are in the 40-70K range.

That is still a considerable amount of money, but in a city like NYC, with top players, you could go through half of your budget in one week!

It's hard to imagine nobody has been affected by this climate. For me there are certainly periods of time where there is no work , followed by periods where the budgets are so stringent that it is difficult to justify all the time necessary to bring the project up to the standards that I expect from my work.

In essence it's adapt, adapt, then adapt some more. I have embraced the DAW world not only because it's an industry standard but it helps facilitate a working process that maximizes my experience but also allows for sessions where the client is 5,000 miles away! More and more of my mixing sessions are non attended. I do miss the instant gratification of the interaction with the artist/client but the new reality does not allow for that so much.

Over two years ago my good friend Gina Fant Saez, who has been an artist, songwriter, studio owner and PT whiz called me about an idea- building a community based on talent and the web where clients could access the talent, audition projects, negotiate create their songs on a digital "reel of tape", create an electronic music chart, interact from your DAW regardless of platform with a plug in, and do live streaming from one computer to another regardless of geography! The company is called We have spent thousands of hours designing an intuitive workflow that hopefully people will delight in using and hire some of the world's premier talent (including myself heh) through the service.

All the members of the database have 15 major label credits or more to their name and I think that this is the way of the future. Significant portions of projects will be done this way, but the days of spending six months or more in a studio are long gone. will be fully live in April 2007. Now one has to think of projects weekly, and also expand your horizons to markets yet untapped. Peter Gabriel's Real World Records has certainly proved there is a market out there.

It really comes down to this: are you willing to modify all that you have learned over the years and adapt it to a new paradigm where you can still have an impact on an artist's career while still extracting substantial joy and pride in a job well done? You may not get rich anymore but it sure beats being unemployed !

And I am still blown away when some stranger approaches me and tells me how "such and such" a record had this huge impact on their lives. To me that is a legacy still worth embracing.

[top]What are some guidelines you tend to lean towards in fitting an orchestra within a contemporary arrangement? Is your placement with violins, viola, Cellos, Double Bass fairly traditional from left to right? Is your panning for a stereo mix for the orchestra generally panned hard left-right? Do you tend to compress the strings on a buss? And do you ever augment smaller orchestras with orchestral sample libraries to create the illusion of a much bigger orchestra than the budget allow and what Orchestral libraries do you prefer to work with?

Any insights on this subject would be wonderful! - Ron Florentine

My approach is respectful of the typical orchestral panning that one would find. I start there and if it's too dense then I will start moving the sections around. This can be tricky as good orchestral scoring and arranging relies so much on the interplay between the various sections and if the parts written hand off the melody to another instrument, you may want to be cognisant of that. I will use very little compression as good orchestras have their own dynamic balance and I want to integrate that into my mix.

In terms of libraries, I do not have any myself but I have heard both good and bad. I truly was not paying too much attention to that aspect because it was used for thickening but I do remember the Gigasampler has a wonderful selection. It all boils down to who is using it, if it's the arranger him or herself then I suspect it will be done tastefully.

[top]I have this friend who recently joined a signed band, and they get a lot of money from the label to record a cd. The label suggested a certain studio, despite the fact that my friend wanted to record at my studio facility. Of course, big bummer for me, but hey...that happens.

But then: the studio (engineer and producer) wants to have a piece of the pie in terms of production rights. So next to their salary they want to have something like a share/ stock in the future sales of that album. After a little research I found out that the producer is also affiliated with that label they signed to, so I was becoming a bit on guard about it. So the band almost canceled their studio time and was thinking about recording it at my place. Well...I said ALMOST...too bad the producer adjusted his demands.

My question: does this happen often or is it normal? (that the producer gets another share?) I am not known for this kind of stuff, but I am just a small producer so who knows? - DWINC

Typically a Producer gets an "advance" of money against potential future earnings that are a percentage based on either the retail price or some other pricing structure of the CD that is set by the label. The engineer would normally be paid a "fee for hire" for the time spent on engineering and or mixing a project. Both are part of the overall recording budget that the artist must recoup at their share ( 10-15% of margin) before the producer will see any additional earnings.

An artist can include the engineer in that deal but in doing so they reduce their own share, it never comes from the label side.

One way of looking at it is that the producer will take a smaller cash advance for a greater percentage of the royalty on the hunch that the album will be successful. It's always a crapshoot as to what sells or does not.

So what you described above is not atypical.

[top]What do you use your Distressors on? Do you use them when tracking or just for mixing? - CasadeBomba

Pretty much everything, especially if you keep the ratio low and get 3-5 db of gain reduction. For the more radical stuff, go to the Limit ratio and experiment. They really sound great even at 1:1.

[top]Do you use a Brit mod Distressor or the standard issue? How do you feel about the brit mod in general? - filthyrich

Actually I only have the standard issue because this was what was available when I purchased them. I do remember hearing the Brit mod and I liked it but I needed to save for preschool so the gear had to take a backseat.

[top]My question is about manually double tracked main vocals. Nowadays with plugins, lush reverb and delay effects, do you find artists/producers/engineers opting for manually double tracked main or backup vocals? - brendandwyer

To my ear, there is nothing quite like a real double tracked vocal. I have heard some excellent approximations using plug-ins and they are very believable. I guess it will come down to the artist's ability to execute a double, time, budget etc etc. When done well, it's a great effect.

[top]How do you do a double track? What is the goal? Is it to be an exact duplicate of the first performance or what please? - bringmewater

It can be done many ways. The easiest way is to listen to the original performance section by section and try to match inflection, tone and intent line by line. Another way is to do a bunch of additional passes and once you have a lead vocal that you are satisfied with see what lines of the other performances "double" the comp track. It's subjective as to what that standard is , but to my ear , it should thicken the original performance, add a slight chorusing and the timing and tone should be complimentary.

Some singers do not deviate very much from performance to performance and you will find that they create a natural double without any difficulty. Some singers really struggle with that, while some other singers are good at "shadowing or mimicking" another voice and therefore can sound like a double but in fact it's not the same two voices.

Hope this helps your understanding.

[top]How do you pan in the second vocal take? Will you pan them from a scale of 1-100 at about? Would you pan them at an equal distance from the center? Or, would you pan them in the center, at different levels. - Capsunica

Like most of these things, you can place them anywhere, but to get the most effective double track, they need to be as close to the original as possible. You can of course pan them but the further out they become the more you will hear the slight discrepancies of the performances.

I never use the double more that 50% level wise of the lead track. Second I may have the performer back off the mic a few inches or change the capsule position from cardioid to omni. I also do not necessarily have the performer try to generate the exact same tone but a complimentary tone when trying to execute a double as you describe. The way I described before was more of a "poor man's double" effectively culling a double from other unused performances. I may also eq the two slightly differently, scooping out some lower mids to correct a mid range build up. But just the fact of doing a double will generate some phase issues, that is part of the doubling effect after all. Hope this helps!

Neve 33609

[top]I was scrolling down your long list of work and achievements, and I saw Amos Lee. This was one of my favorite albums to come out in a long time!
Can you give us a little insight on your work with this one? - Ericdevine

I just mixed this album last summer at Avatar Studios in NYC. Amos, Barry McGuire the producer and Eli Wolf from Blue Note all specified that the record should sound organic and not hyped up. And they really wanted Amos front and center.

Given that is my natural inclination it was a fairly straight forward mix, the production was excellent and Amos is a great writer and performer. I tried to stay out of the way as much as I could but also help bring real focus to the songs. It was mixed in studio b at Avatar, on the J Series SSL to half inch. All the drums are essentially dry with one exception. I tried to bring out the natural ambience by using different kinds of compression, Neve 33609, Distressors, and C4 Multiband Compressor.

Amos has a distaste for overly bright sounding vocals and tracks so I used a Neve 1064 A for the resonance and the Millennia NSEQ2 for the air. A Manly VU compressor was utilized for controlling the peaks. Playback was from ProTools HD.

I love this record myself.

[top]How can I make a song sound BETTER on an ipod or computer speakers? Is this mostly in the mastering process? Or are there recording and mixing techniques I can use to specifically aim my sound towards these music devices. - bloodsuga

In general I think the best approach to take is to mix for the real world and allow the mixing and mastering process to yield the results you desire. Because there are so many different computer speakers out there, plus MP3 players and algorithms, it's virtually impossible to mix specifically for this medium. Plus most of the playbacks are so thin sounded I am not sure that the reverse translation would be ideal.

[top]Did you feel much pressure as a young engineer? - knightsy

As an engineer I draw on past experiences to help navigate today's issues. Clearly there are the straightforward technical issues , the slightly more difficult personality dysfunction issues and the lack of real budgets. Some are obvious and you need to have the confidence and humility to overcome them, but yes I still get a little nervous before the start of a session, particularly a new client. I want to do a good job and have them enjoy the experience of collaborating with me but sometimes clients will place unrealistic expectations on you and the project and managing those can be the biggest undertaking of a project.

The pressure is always there, whether it's self induced or otherwise. That can be used as a good motivator too. I take great Satisfaction from having a client delight in my contribution, as do many other creative people out there.

Today's pressures often revolve around budgets, having to accomplish so much in little time. I just finished tracking a record yesterday, 12 songs, drums , bass, guitars, keys and live vocals in three and a half days. I knew it was going to be tough and that everything had to work without a glitch. So I prepared for the gig by hiring great players, a great studio. I had a wonderful assistant and we planned out the layout of the room in advance and had numerous discussions with the players and artist in advance so that everyone was on the same page.

I drew from my experience and luckily everything went smoothly but I did feel the pressure of time and expectations. In today's climate it's hard not too.

[top]When it comes to mixing, how much emphasis do you place on certain pieces of gear to get you the sounds you're looking for. Do you find yourself looking to borrow or rent pieces or do you just work with the materials at hand? - CorkyTart

The gear is important in the sense that it provides a comfort level and familiarity. But it's no more important than your own "gear", your ears, your musicality, your sensitivity to the music.

A number of years ago I had the pleasure of working with Glyn Johns who began making records before I was even born! He exemplified the true gift of a mixer. He worked in good rooms with good players of course, but rarely did he use outboard gear and effects. He was extremely modest in those departments. He had however an uncanny knack of just throwing up a mix in a minute and it would sound jaw droppingly good. He then pulled it down and put up another balance, slightly different , but equally compelling.

It was all about balance and he was a master at it. So if you find yourself thinking about the gear all the time, then take a breath and listen to the music, if you listen closely, you will find your answer.

[top]That's the best response to the whole gear thing that I have ever heard. - sphereman

Thanks. It also reminded me of another Glyn story. At the AES show in San Francisco a number of years ago , a very eager music fan approached Glyn with intense Rapture. "Glyn, Glyn have you heard the new Roland XYZP!!!!!!?" To which Glyn responded (in an educated British accent): "My dear boy, if I turn a knob and a great sound comes out, then that is a great knob"!

[top]I was curious if you have had experiences recording Vocals in the control room with the main monitors at high volumes and a handheld microphone? If you have had experience with this, how do you deal with bleed into the mic and also feedback issues that can arise? I tried this once and the bleed from the monitors into the microphone was out of control and at times there were feedback issues. - Modulation

I have cut vocals in the control room with the main monitors blaring, it's akin to a live recording with the PA and foldback monitors squealing. The choice is simple, do you go for an inspired performance with a compromised sound or do you go for the opposite. If the genre of music allows you to place the vocal a little further back in the mix, then maybe that is a choice that is worth making.

However if the vocal needs to dominate the mix then the artist, producer , label , management need to understand that there is a tradeoff.

What I have done in the past is to have the small speakers on, flip the phase of one and place the microphone equidistant from the speakers (at the apex of a triangle) The singer has to stay on position (something impossible with a hand held!) and you can also encourage him to wear in-ears or phones so that he gets a more immediate sense of the mix. Then it's a question of balancing the volume of the speakers and Headphones. Once the performances are complete, run a pass down where the mic records the instrumental mix at the same volume settings, mic gain and when doing a comp , flip the phase of this track with the vocal track and balance to see if you can get cancellation. At best you will get a result that resembles loud headphone bleed.

On main monitors , it is just not practical or advisable to be reversing the phase of one side. The insistence of using a hand held mic will only negate any slight reduction in bleed or feedback. You may want to search around to see if there are some stage mics that have a super hypercardioid pattern to mitigate the bleed factor.

But at the end of the day, basic laws of physics are at work and that is the choice.

Good luck, the worst thing that can happen is that you get a great vocal take and lose some hearing at the same time!

[top] there a theoretical degradation of the sonic quality of the vocal take during all this phase mongering? - halcyo

In theory, I guess there could be some degradation, but certainly not much worse than howling feedback and squealing!

[top]How do you document your mix? I mean.... Is everything recallable? I heard the Surround mix of the album "So" and for me it seems quite like the original mix but in surround... I was wondering: "How did they recall this mix?" May you comment on this please? - Mazaga

In the analog world I usually have an assistant who is responsible for recalling the mixes. Most likely this is somebody that I am already familiar with and they are aware of the need to document everything. You never know when you will be using those notes again. It's laborious and you need a system to ensure that you have got everything but if you are mixing a whole album and are staying in the same room with the same equipment then its not that difficult, just more time consuming than anything else.

In the digital world , I stay in the box for many reasons but also because recalls are literally a click away.

On the surround mix of "So" I discussed with Peter in advance whether to pay particular attention to the original balances. We decided that it was important that the initial surround mix should resemble that whilst taking advantage of the new medium.

During the original recording Daniel Lanois, David Bottrill and I kept incredibly detailed notes regarding effects and processing.

Once I found the master tapes and mix notes, it was a question of piecing back the balance. A lot of effects were already printed to the original master but not for the vocals. It took me about two weeks , 12-14 hour days to recreate those mixes. Peter still had all the outboard gear used during the session, although the SSL had long since been replaced by a Sony Oxford.

The 2 inch and Mitsubishi masters were transferred into a ProTools HD rig and I set about editing the parts within the session. On the original mixes we did all of our mutes and fade outs using the console, now I had to listen bar by bar to mimic those moves in the PT session. Also some of the vocals were comped by switching from performance to performance on the console and this meant I had to re do the same vocal comps 18 years later! It certainly brought back some very compelling memories. (I had a copy of the original mix loaded into the session for comparison). The original mix data stored on the SSL disks were no longer accessible so I literally re did the mixes, which when dealing with a "classic" is somewhat intimidating and challenging.

I left Real World at the end of July and because of Peter's schedule we did not reconvene until December of 2003 where we spent 5 days tweaking the results. It's cool to listen to that record in surround as there are some many wonderful parts and performances that in stereo get sublimated.

[top]Where can I hear this fabled mix? I have the SACD of "SO" but not the not surround sound version. Is it available commercially? Love that record! - SnakeCained

You may be able to hear some of those mixes on "Push" a compilation album that PG released about 15 months ago.

I am not sure if he will ever release the full version I did, he has a number of surround mixes of various albums ready to go.

[top]You mentioned that with Tori Amos, you recorded the Piano and Vocal together. Do you do anything to try to isolate the two from one another, such as blankets over the piano, or do you just go for it and not worry about separation? Also, any particular mic choice and placement on piano for this application you care to share? - Mike Butler

Well as I said in another answer, I was not involved in those recordings. But Eric Rosse who produced those tracks did tell me that they used some blankets and created a foam or wooden barrier that was placed between the lid and the frame. I believe Tori used a custom 47 and their combination of the above and good vocal technique reduced the bleed to an acceptable amount.

I would tend to do the same and use blankets or maybe some small condensers in the piano like the Schoeps CMC 5's and a large diaphragm mic on hypercardioid . But bleed has to be part of the performance, it's just not reasonable to expect anything else.

The only way to avoid that is to have the piano have a midi interface that records the performance into a sequencer which can the be manipulated for time. When the midi transmission is reversed back to the piano, then you can re-record the performance without any bleed. You most likely will have some piano bleed on the vocal mic and you have to be careful in terms of a slight chorusing effect between the original and the modified piano part. Pat Leonard utilized this method a number of years ago to great effect with an artist named Casey Stratton and it really does work.

[top]Can you share any thoughts/info on the Bryan Ferry sessions you did - especially anything related to the recording of his vocals? - Meriphew

Although I worked on Bran's "Bette Noir" for almost five months I did not get to record many vocals with him. We mostly tracked and overdubbed a lot of different instrumentation. The few I did, Bryan definitely had a process. He would first vocalize various sounds over the backing track and keep only those that resonated with him. He would build up a library of those sounds and then start to write lyrics around them.

Sometimes that was a quick process and sometimes not. Whenever he felt comfortable with his first draft, then he would sing those down and changes might be made immediately or upon further rewrites. It was a long process , certainly one that I had seen before to some degree with Bono and Peter Gabriel. I never got to finish that record as I had committed to co-producing with Mr. Mister and had already pushed back the start of that by 6 weeks. When I left the project in January 1987 we joked that I would come back to mix the album when my production was finished. Unfortunately for me and that record, Bryan did not complete Bette Noir until the summer of 1988 !

As I said before, sometimes you have to wait for genius.

[top]I am a big fan of this album and especially think the engineering on it sounds incredible.
The mix of 'Space Dog' is one of my favorites on the record. could you tell us a little bit about mixing that album, what expectations Tori and the label had for the mix after the spectacular success of her debut, and what equipment was used? - jdjustice

It's a great album which was beautifully produced by Eric Rosse.

In terms of expectations I suppose everybody was hoping to eclipse the success of "Little Earthquakes' and to that end the production values employed by Eric and Tori played to her strengths while still making her accessible to a broader market.

The album was mixed at Olympic Studios in London and we had a Neve Broadcast console sidecar to put the Vocals and piano through and patch back into the monitor path. We made every attempt to keep the critical elements out of the VCA path. Playback was from a TDM ProTools rig ( I believe some of the tracking sessions went to 2 inch ) and we mixed down to both half inch and digital.

When I had met Tori and Eric in Westlake studios in LA a few months before the mix to hear the tracks, I was literally blown away by the sound of the record and my first impression was "you don't need me" but I am delighted that Eric followed his instinct and I was thrilled with the results. You should also know that Ross Cullum did some wonderful mixes on the album also.

[top]What is your take on channel compression / parallel compression today? I know some cats are using 15 or 20 db of compression on vocals etc. and then people like Bruce Swedien are against using any compression at all.

Obviously you use compression (based on reading your posts so far) but are you concerned about going over a threshold (pun intended ) where too much is too much. I know it is all about how it sounds but where do your ears start telling you that things have gone too far?

Put that another way... do you ever find yourself using 15 or 20 db of compression on a track? Do you do any parallel compression on drums or bass etc with massive compression? - not_so_new

Unless I am going for a particular effect , then I do not do that much compression on a single track. I have tried applying multiple compressors, each getting 2-4 dbs of gain reduction can make a particular instrument jump out of the speakers. But in an era where everyone expects music to be hyper-real, it certainly should be used judiciously.

Once it's on, you can never take it off. Anyway that's what mastering is for !

[top]As a fan of Shakira, especially her pre 2001 all-Spanish music, I am of the opinion that she writes and sings more musically and more lyrically in her native tongue than she does in English. After all, Spanish as a more sensual and musical language.

Your discography shows engineering credit on Fijacion Oral, Volumen Uno, an all-Spanish project (yay!) I greatly prefer the material on this CD to Volume 2, the english sequel, and the ensuing "Hip Don't Lie" mega-hit

What was your role on these releases, and did you work directly with Rick Rubin or Shakira? - GearHunter

I worked on tracks that were intended for both projects simultaneously up at the Warehouse studios in Vancouver. Shakira was there pretty much full time and is a very committed and driven artist. I never got to meet Rick Rubin as his role was that of executive producer. I was the tracking engineer along with a few other engineers.

[top]One of the sounds that has, and keeps, surprising me everytime I listen to Peter Gabriel’s So album is the very natural, realistic and crisp high hat sounds. I would be very grateful to read your thoughts on the subject for that album. - Ortrejos

I came into the So record a month after it started (Dave Bascombe who worked with Tears For Fears had done the initial tracking). Because I ended up being there for almost 10 months, songs changed dramatically as Peter's and Dan's production evolved. Decisions were made based on the instrumentation during the basic tracks. Then again some of that information was replaced by later sessions and overdubs.

To all of us, the high hats had some much fantastic movement and "sex" associated with them. As the tracks became more and more layered , I tried to get them to sit in a very specific place, almost dancing above the kit. I did in fact pan them to the left, maybe at a 9 o'clock position, sometimes wider. With Red Rain for instance, we panned the two performances on opposite sides to give a greater sense of motion.

With most of the tracks, careful attention was given to their position and then their eq.

There is also a significant amount of percussion and drum programming added so it was important to be able to separate and blend the parts. For drum tracking I used a Neumann KM 84 and or AKG 451. The overheads were U87's, sometimes AKG 414's.

The record path was very direct, through the SSL console with minimal eq. We spent more time trying different cymbal combinations and that in conjunction with the talent of Jerry, Manu and Stewart, it was hard to go wrong.

[top]What was your approach to recording the different kinds of bagpipes (Scottish, Irish different kinds of loudness/sound) and accordions. - Ortrejos

In general I will rely heavily on the musician's experience first, particularly if it's an instrument that I have no history with. Then I will spend a few minutes discussing the peculiarities and listening to the instrument in the room.

With Irish pipes I tend to gravitate to the larger diaphragm mics (U47, U87, U67 M49, sometimes Ribbon mics) With Uilleann pipes you have to mic the drone and the chanter separately. It can be a very dynamic instrument so some light compression can be useful. I will get the sound that best reflects what I heard in the room and quickly record a minute of it. I will then have the musician come in and verify if I am "getting it" before expending energy on a take.

I find having the drone mic on hypercardioid helps focus that sound while leaving the chanter in cardioid helps soften its sharp tone. A room mic in omni can also be useful.

[top]I'd really be interested in this too. I have an upcoming recording project that will feature traditional Irish players and instruments and so I'm currently trying to get a feel for these sounds.

Could you share any secrets about capturing great Bodhran, Uilleann pipes and Tin Whistle sounds?

When combining say Tin Whistle with 'modern' instruments, how do you deal with the differences in intonation from these more 'tempered' sounds of pianos and electric guitars against the 'natural' sounds of the pipes? Or isn't that an issue at all? - doorknocker

Check the above answer for the pipes, but if you place the mic about three feet from the chanter and drone, that will be a good start. From that point it's a question of listening in the room to find the sweet spot. They can be pretty cranky instruments but they can be so evocative when you get it right.

Beyerdynamic M88
With the Bodhran, try a Beyer M88 or M149. Some people use a pair of mics, one either side but I think with that instrument you can get a lot of phase issues as there is a lot of hand movement occurring with all the damping. Depending on the part, slightly off axis on the edge of the drum can yield great results but so much depends on the drum, the player and part. One trick to note is that by wetting the skin will cause the pitch to drop, which can be really warm sounding.

For Whistle, I found a B&K 4011, U87, M149, M49, M50 , Royer 121 0r 122 all good choices. I would raise the mic about 4-5 feet above the mouthpiece, allowing for more air on the instrument. Depending on the room, a cardioid or omni position might get the result you are looking for.

With respect to the more tempered instruments, I find that varispeeding the track to get the best average pitch is the only real solution. Sometimes it's not an issue but it can be a little tricky. Pitching the instrument after the fact will often yield some strange overtones. Good luck

[top]How does one contact you? - henoodle

You can contact me through

[top]My two all-time favorite recordings are "A Sort of Homecoming" and "Mercy Street." Any thoughts on how to recreate those monstrous drum reverb explosions you achieved on "Pride?" - Jambirn

In Pride I think we just equed both the send and return on the reverb to make it sizzle and I think that really adds to its sense of "explosiveness". It also appears that on the reissue of the CD it is more apparent.

[top]You´ve been working on some of my favorite albums ever (So, Bright Red, The Sensual world just to mention a few). I´m trying to learn how to mix stuff properly and the big problem is to make a mix evolve through a song. It may sound cool in the beginning, it may sound cool if I listen to the last 16 bars or the middle part, but in total all my mixes tend to get "narrowed in" as they develop and I keep turning it up until the end. - Søren Bendixen

You may want to try starting your mix from the top, imagining that you have no automation and get a balance that sounds like the record you are trying to make. Once achieved , then move to the verse. Now listen from the top through the verse, if you find yourself not engaged or distracted, figure out what is happening and correct it. Repeat the process until the end. It may help...

[top]I love the strings on the Duncan Sheik album White Limousine. Haunting stuff reminiscent of things like Nick Drake's River Man etc. At mix time, were all those string parts spread between a gazillion tracks, or were they pretty much already in stereo or similar? - thenoodle

I believe they were spread out , but Simon Hale, the arranger and his engineer organised them in such a way that there were no more than 10 tracks. So in the mix, I just balanced them, put them on a group fader and rode it.

Great parts though...

[top]I read with interest your thoughts on mixing drums and your experiences recording Matt Chamberlain. Do you have any favourite drums, like Ludwig Black Beauty or Supraphonic snares for example? Or are you just happy to work with whatever is thrown at you? - Chrisso

I am mostly willing to work with what is thrown at me. Having said that, if the kit in question sounds awful, then I have no problem with hauling in a new set. Ideally one that is setup correctly with good heads and tonality and of course a good inventive drummer. Not all drummers are good drum tuners so it helps to be able to do that yourself or have access to somebody who can. Remember you are going to live with that sound for a long time and any insecurities associated with the sound will only become magnified over time.

Good drummers can overcome adversity. I once did a session with Elvis Costello down in Eddie Grant's Blue Wave Studios in the Bahamas. It was for the "kojak variety" album. We shipped a bunch of gear down there with all of the appropriate paperwork and bonds necessary. The customs crew impounded it all anyway so Jim Keltener had a snare and a cymbal and stick bag with him. The house kit had tears in all of the drum heads, kick, snare, and toms but with some tape, some careful tuning and some brilliant playing by JK himself, you would never know.

It is all in the hands.

[top]Can you please talk a little about working with Peter Bradley Adams? I love the EP that you worked on and his style and voice are just fantastic. Did you just mix or did you track his project also? If so, can you give a little breakdown of the process? - MJGreene Audio

Peter recorded the tracks mostly by himself and some friends in LA. I was originally considered for producing the debut East Mountain South album that Mitchell Froome eventually did. Peter and I kept in touch , so he just sent me the tracks via DVD's and we would talk about a specific direction on the mix and I would post it up on a FTP server when I felt it was close.

There would be a round of revisions and sometimes Peter would get inspired to re sing or replay or add a part. Those were incorporated into the final EP. I enjoyed working with him very much, one day we will actually be in the same room!!!

[top]Hi Kevin, didn't know how to word this question.. but were you ever involved in a project you thought never had a chance to make it big and it did ? If you did go through something like this I would love to hear about it. - Jose Mrochek

I think I approach a lot of projects with the view that it could be huge and it is not. My first real experience of a project that "blew up" unexpectedly was Peter Gabriel's "So".

To that point his record sales were under the half a million mark worldwide. We all knew that this was a great record, but still it is surprising to see any record just take off. I believe in its initial year of release it sold 4 million copies , got nominated for all these awards and firmly established PG as a star.

In 1996 I got a call from Atlantic Records to work on a debut record for Donna Lewis. She had been working on the record with a very respected producer and close to the mix stage, people started getting cold feet about the process. So I was approached about starting over on a limited budget. Donna had done pretty extensive sequenced demo's that had the vibe but not the pop production sound aesthetic.

My idea was to start from the demo's and replace and build from there. It was a slow process partly because of the prior experience. (I heard that production and thought it was worthy of completion) Anyway , when the record was finished in September 96, the label decided to try releasing a single in the south east part of the country. It got picked up by a major station there after the initial audience response was overwhelming. In the space of 8 weeks this song, "I Love You Always Forever" just took off like gangbusters and headed to number 1. The album sold and neither the label or Donna were ready for such a quick ascent.

The success of the first single actually hindered the second release because some stations were reluctant to drop the first song. I thought the second single was even stronger. To go from making your demo in your bedroom, to getting signed and working with top talent in the business to having a number one single all in the space of 16 months is pretty dizzying and hard to follow for all involved. Even if it's your fantasy. It's still overwhelming when it happens.

[top]I was curious about how often (if ever) you augment or replace drums with samples, especially on material you did not track. - Kevin,

My initial thing is to try and work with the original recording. The theory being that the production team made an informed decision during the tracking and I should respect that. I will hold conversations with various members of the team prior to working on a project and if it comes up as a request, then naturally I am happy to try to satisfy.

In that event I will augment the original recording with a drum that has a similar timbre and character. I will endeavor to place it behind the original, carefully tracking subtleties and dynamics. The end result should be that nobody notices it but remarks how much they are enjoying the drum balance.

[top]You said on another thread that you also mix ITB. Could you name one or two projects you mixed ITB? Since you did so many great mixes OTB I would be really interested to hear what and how you do it ITB. I'm sure many of the ITB mixers here would be interested too since this topic has been debated so many times. - mOjO FET

Two album projects done in the box are:
  1. Duncan Sheik's "White Limousine" on Rounder Records
  2. Iarla leonard's "Invisible Sun" on Real World Records
In terms of my approach specifically ITB that is different from a regular console. One of The main issues is just the limitations of your systems processing so i try to maximize its efficiency by creating subgroups for: Drums & Percussion, Music, LVocals, BVocals.

I may create some smaller subsets. On these subgroups I will apply my EQ and compression plug-ins, almost a mastering approach to the elements. These are routed to a master aux and then to a master fader to a destination track within the session.

If any track needs specific attention, then apply the appropriate plug-ins. This way I initially minimise the amount of processing used (I always employ delay compensation) and I get to hear a more broad mix before delving into all the detail stuff.

Therefore my final master mixes with all of its variations will be printed back into the multi track version of the song. Once completed I save the session and then delete all the audio minus the printed mix tracks and remove the audio from the audio bin. I then do a "save as" version of the title..."title Mix Stems". This contains only the master mixes but it's a sample accurate image of the multi track and this can be useful later in mastering should a problem arise.

[top]I was wondering what reverb unit was used on Bono's vocals (or generally on the record as a whole)...or if this was ambient reverb from the room(s) in which the vocals were recorded. Or both, in a composite fashion. - Musicispower

Most of the vocals were finished at Windmill Lane although we did try a number in the ballroom at Slane Castle which had quite a reverberation to it. I cannot remember how many of those ended up as finished vocals.

In terms of what we had available at Windmill, there were two EMT Plates, a LEXICON 224XL and a Sony DRE 1000 (not sure this is the right model number) AMS RMX 16, AMS 1580 , tape delay and maybe a Yamaha Rev 5 and SPX 90. Most likely it was a combo of the 224 and plate.

[top]Of all those units you listed, is there a trooper that you'd recommend for an all around hardware reverb - or if you only had to choose one? - Musicispower

That's a toss between the EMT plate and the Lexicon 224. I may have to go with the EMT!

[top]Can you tell us which EMT plates you were using and a little about which ones you prefer? In other words, were they tube, solid state, stereo, etc. and do you know if they had been tweaked (electronics, springs, etc)? - MusicKat

I think there were EMT 140's , we had two there but I cannot remember whether they were tube or solid state. They were stereo and their electronics had been tweaked somewhat.

Sorry I don't know more than that.

[top]Can you talk a little bit about the making of Jude Cole’s “I Don’t Know Why I Act This Way” record? How much of the record was written before you went into the studio and was it a conscious effort on his part and your part to make it sound completely different from his first two records? The sound of that record is so in your face and intimate and really a big departure from the other records made during the same time. - MJGreene Audio

As far as I remember Jude had written most of the songs, although a couple had a few sections that were a little vague. The assembled band, Pat Mastellatto, Paul Bushnell, Mark Goldenberg and Jude really worked through the arrangements as we tried to track.

It was very much an explorative process, get a sound, run it down, take a listen, make alterations and go again. Sometimes a tangent would take us off in a different direction but ultimately we always got a great vibe on the tracking date.

We made a conscious decision to make the record as dry as possible without it being abrasive, so that perhaps accounts for its difference with other records of the time. I really wanted to showcase Jude's voice particularly the cracks in his voice which I think are so full of character.

The record was tracked at Ocean Way (studio 2) and then overdubs and mixed at Sunset Sound Factory. To my ear, the first six songs on that album are some of his best writing and I never understood why Island records could not get this record out to a wider audience.

One last note, the carnival section of "Madison" was an idea of ours that was BRILLIANTLY executed by the enigmatic Jon Brion. He heard the section twice, told me he needed 12 tracks and that he was going to record keys, guitars, drums. In a dizzying display of genius he played all of those parts flawlessly in 20 minutes. Jude and I just sat there gobsmacked.

Line it up and put it on repeat, it brings a smile to my face every time I hear it.

[top]Wow. Thanks. It is an amazing record that just somehow missed the audience it deserved. Great story about Jon Brion. He is amazing. Those rooms at Oceanway are truly magical. I am still trying to get the same kind of drum sound that I got in those rooms 15 years ago. - MJGreene Audio

Yes those rooms are legendary for a reason. Not too shabby a mic collection either.

[top]Care to discuss the, as you call it, "cracks" in Jude's voice? Did you use mic selection or EQ to emphasize or deemphasize them? I'd be curious if you remember anything about the chain...or special techniques used. I think he always sounds wonderful. I've always noticed that he seems to have "quiet" and low and "loud" and high ranges...he seems to write to avoid the middle passage. Did you record them or treat them differently? On different faders? - Popmann

Like a lot of artists, Jude became more aware of the range where his voice sounded the best and so he started writing for it. Part of the crack in his voice was attributable to the fact that at the time, he smoked a lot of cigarettes. In fact a lot of singers attribute the more "gravel" in the voice sound to this particular habit. Apparently heavy drinking also has an impact.

I do not remember treating them differently, in terms of faders. One of the things I will do is ride the mic pre gain to tape. For this I use the Hardy M1, which had a variable pot making it a cinch to execute. By the time we were cutting vocals I was very familiar with the dynamic range of the lyrics so I was mostly able to avoid any overshoots.

We did use a number of different mics on him, a 251, a 47 and a C12. Each had a unique response, we just tried to match its character with that of the song. Jude liked to hear a lot more compression on his voice when singing, I was trying to avoid it sounding limited, so we arrived at a compromise. I tracked with my settings and we used a second compressor off of playback to feed the Headphones. That way Jude could "lean into the vocal" without the dynamics cutting his head off. When we comped the vocal together, I bussed it through the second unit to tape to achieve the right balance.

I will say this, Jude really knows how to work his voice and his ability to come up with fantastic harmonies on the spot is nothing short of genius. And his guitar playing and writing ain't too shabby either.

That version of "Heavens Last Attempt" was version two of the record, the first was with a full band and not as interesting. We did think there was something cool about it but emotionally it was austere. We debated it for a while and the decision to recut was accelerated by the fact that the version got mangled somewhat in a glorious machine malfunction.

I guess the gods were guiding us.

[top]That's interesting that multiple mics were used for different songs. So much for finding the best mic for the singer and sticking with it. - Popmann

Mics can get up on the wrong side of the bed too!

They really can sound different from day to day, so heat, humidity, age call all impact its response. Not to mention how those "tubes" behave from day to day.

[top]Working in a home studio, I can tweak a project to death. How do you know when to say "enough!" - Antaren

That's a tough one because we can all over tweak.

In general, when the artist is bursting with pride, happiness, excitement and even tears. A big hug is also a good indicator or comments like "thats f.....g awesome".

To me when I can listen from the top of the song and be TOTALLY TRANSPORTED and not be distracted by anything in the music or outside, then I know.

[top]How did you get that amazing , tight and clear / in your face Paula Cole's drum sound? Any mic pres, chains combinations and mics? I realized that in Paula's records she tries to minimize crashes. Also, do you remember the Mic and vocal chain for Paula? - AMIEL

On the Harbinger album we recorded at Bearsville studios in Woodstock NY. Both in studio B ( smaller overdub and mix room) and studio A ( larger cavernous room). I used a very basic setup in each room
  • Kick RE20 / FET 47
  • Snare 57 top / 451 bottom
  • Toms 421's
  • Overheads U67's
  • Rooms M49's (Studio A only)

Ran them thru my Neve rack into the control room, with some compression to tape. The location in studio B was fairly tight and dead which mirrors the sound you described.

In the larger studio A, I employed the same path but I literally built a house around the drums with gobo's and an umbrella over the cymbals to quieten down the room. You can hear the room to great effect on "The Ladder'', but it was not appropriate for all the songs.

Her vocal chain was U47 > Hardy M1 mic pre> Manly Vu Compressor > tape.

For mixing, I used an API 550A for EQ, a little top and mids and a combination of EMT 250, Lexicon 480L and a tape delay for effects.

[top]Can you give some eq and compression advice on mixing drums and bass? I'm mainly thinking rock drums here.

In particular, can you talk about bussing strategies you might use (such as bass gtr + kick to one bus w/ heavy comp, etc)? You seem to have a magic touch of getting these to hit hard, but leaving that hole in the middle for the vocal to pop through. - Jaguar Dreams

I do not employ one particular trick as no sooner than I thought I had mastered it, it stopped working. I do find that either sidechaining (thru busses) an additive compression across the drum mix has a pleasing result. Unless called for , it's never that severe, so a Neve 33609 with 3:1 ratio , medium attack and quick release seems to always work. Depending on the program material (which lets face ALWAYS DEPENDS ON THE PROGRAM MATERIAL) I can try an additive compression on the bass , either a Distressor or Fairchild if available.

I have always thought that my work had less compression on it compared to some of my peers so I find it fascinating that you describe it as "hitting hard". I take that as a compliment by the way. May I send that to some A&R guys in the business who think I only do the "art projects?" In my humble opinion it has more to do with the fact that I mix from the top down rather than the bottom up, so by the time I am pushing up drums and bass, I know exactly the amount of space they can occupy.

Then again, it's all an illusion we are trying to create.

[top]Kevin, your expression mixing 'from the top down' has really captured the imagination of your readers! Please expand. - Jules

It would appear that I need to clarify this approach so I hope by combining all of the inquiries into this response it will satisfy everyone, here goes....

This may seem an obvious thing to say BUT not all the songs I mix follow the same instrumentation so that logically may allow me to do things that another composition might not. A track with strings and voice is a very different beast than a Loreena McKennit track that may have over 100 tracks.

By taking the "Top Down" approach, the Lead vocal gets first attention, then the main melodic instrument(s) then the foundation elements (drums/bass/perc), then backing vocals, any counterpoint elements and finally if present, the quirky or oddball instruments.

Whether I place an effect on it depends on what I perceive as being the emotional aspect of the lyric, how the basic recording sounds, artist preference etc etc. This is true of all the parts and in general the more parts the more "space" I have to create to make it all work in those two speakers. The only hard rule I have about panning is to try and keep the center position free for LVocal, Bass, Kick and Snare. The rest can be spread anywhere else but it still has to support the song. For instance, a very busy guitar part might sound wonderful in the hard right position but as soon as the vocal comes in it becomes distracting, pulling your ear rightward. However it may be ideally suited at 2 or 10 o clock. You just have to judge on a song by song basis.

I have on many occasions started a mix with one panning scheme and altered it as the song moves through the arrangement. I will also try and use some kind of image shifter to place a part of the effect outside of the L-R plane, the trade off is that it may disappear in mono!

Once all the levels, EQ's, effects are set and the balance is more or less right, I zero in on section by section, starting with the intro and working my way down until it all is a cohesive arrangement. Anything that gets in the way either gets removed or edited down or lowered. Final tweaks are made after listening down on phones and a number of playback systems, getting a cup of tea or having an ear break..... it's amazing how your perception of a mix changes after not hearing the song for 20 minutes or by having a friend show up.

My rules for mixing are: whatever works.

[top]Where do you start level-wise? What would the average level (in dbfs) of the vocal be before you moved on to the next part of the arrangement? What kind of headroom is left at the end of this process? - Chuck B

On a console probably around -10db on the VU's
In the box -12 to start with. In each case I am beginning the process with the vocal so I have to allow for additional processing over the mix buss of groups. Always better to give yourself some extra headroom. Nothing worse than pinning the mix before you are halfway through.

[top]Let's say you have two 12 inch, closed back, guitar speaker cabs and a couple of mics on the front. In general, is it best to feed those two mics to two separate tracks, so you have more freedom in mixing? I can see how this could lead to LOTs of tracks on a guitar heavy record, but I guess what I'm asking is, does feeding them to separate tracks and panning them slightly a better way to go in general than multi miking and going to one?

I have read a lot of articles on mic'ing amp cabs and while most engineers discuss multiple speaker cabs, or multiple mics, I never get a handle on whether all the mics are being fed to multiple tracks or not... - Oceantracks

Like so much of this stuff, it's SO SUBJECTIVE. I prefer to have two completely separate sounding cabs with different tonalities and effects. In that instance I would most likely record them to discreet and separate tracks.

As you may have read, I am all for combining sources when possible, so if the difference between the cabs is not sufficiently great then I would pick one and then maybe overdub with the second cab and a different guitar. So much of it depends on the genre of music but it can be a lot more fun to try multiple layers of sounds generated by the guitars, just make sure you leave room for the voice...

[top]I want to know if you use all the effects such as Reverbs, Delay, Choruses, etc always in stereo? - AMIEL

I may start out by opening up the effect return in stereo and then play around with its placement. Depending on the treatment it may end being more of a distraction that way and more much more musical say panned in mono wherever the source track is.

A good example would be a 125ms and 175ms delay on the Lead Vocal, hard L&R may pull your ear to the sides instead of staying focused on the center. Moving the returns closer to the center and rolling off some HF may be a cooler idea.

Another cool trick is to try keeping all your pans tight during the verses and wider for the choruses, this can be very dramatic.

[top]I noticed that you have a rack of Neve 1064's that you like to track through. That's wonderful!

I have a couple 1073's myself that I love to track through. I did my apprenticeship in a big studio where all the engineers would engage HP filtering during tracking on the Neve 80 series console that included 1081 and 1064 strips.

Just curious to see where you would roll off on these things if you were to commit to it during tracking. If you record everything flat with no HP filters then just let us know where you would likely roll things off later when mixing. - Alex Wyler

As a general rule I do not use the HP Filter as a default. On my Neve's I find the first position (35 Hz I believe ?) is often ideal.

I tend to go out in the room and see if I can determine where the source of the problem is and deal with it there but that's not always possible. My Pro Ac's are a really good barometer, if the woofer is flapping around uncontrollable then I know I have some serious low end.

The lower resonances can be wonderful in a track and I would perhaps veer on the side of caution before filtering it out, unless of course it sucks .

[top]Do you ever use gates on snare, kick, tom mics, etc? If so, is it mainly to get an effect and that's it...or is it a common practice you do all the time? - Tomwehrle

Unless it's for that particular "gated effect" I tend not to use gates on the drums. Now if the toms are just ringing all the time on each kick and snare hit and the overtones are occluding something in the mix, then I would consider doing that or just replacing them with like minded sounds to keep the integrity of the kit in place.

I really like the ring on drums particularly if they are tuned to the key of the song. That to my ear is what makes them sing in the track.

[top]How many versions of the final mix do you print? ie. +1, -1vocal, no vocals...

What mix formats do you use? 1/2"? Back to Pro Tools? Other? - clip6

I use:
  • Master Mix
  • Master Vocal Up .5db
  • Master Vocal Dn .5db
  • Master TV
  • Master Instrumental
  • LVocal Stem
  • Bvox Stem
  • Perhaps one other if requested.
In the DAW , I print back into the multitrack session and then remove all the other audio and do a "Save As" "Title" Mix Stems.

On tape I tend to print just the Master, vocal up and down, the rest get printed to a DAW for archival purposes.

[top]Thanks for sharing that. In the studios where I came up we used the term TV mix and Instrumental mix interchangeably, and I still do. What are the differences in those two mixes for you - RCM – Ronan

There is a distinction between the two. A TV mix is considered to be the full mix minus the lead vocal track, typically used on television broadcasts when the artist has to sing live but the rest of the band mimes.

An instrumental mix is all the music minus all the vocals, can be used in television/ film soundtracks as a bed track. Can be very useful at some stage in one's career. I would highly recommend that you print these versions, its a lot faster than having to recall at a later stage. Even with DAW technology which is moving fast, that 10 year old project may not be compatible anymore!

Printing the mix back into the original multi track session can save a lot of time later, if you find your mix is lacking a particular instrument. Just import it back into the stem session and as long as you mix internally, then the imported track should be sample accurate. If you used an external mix bus or processing be sure to adjust for the latency inherent in that A/D D/A process. One trick is to place a number of clicks before your mix starts and then line them up.

[top]Nice tips there (especially, about the clicks!)
When I first read this, I thought a TV mix is a mix (full mix) targeted for TV Broadcast.

I guess different places uses different terms. I believe we call these MMO here - Mix Minus One; there's also MMA - Mix Minus All, i.e. no vocals, no bg vocals, just instrumentals...what you call a Instrumental Mix.

But, for your music mixes, are there really not compensations or a version of the fullmix that is "TV friendly"? or you trust the Audio Post Engineers (like us!!) to EQ your mixes?

Now for the stems questions, I'm sure there were loads of discussions about ITB conversions and especially Dithers. But, anyway, how do you set your Ditherings in your DAW? - Charleslee

I guess that's true, same thing with a different name.

I have on occasion and budget permitting mastered the TV and Instrumental versions and given those to the label for the requisite use, but that is the exception to the rule.

For dithering I will use a program called Barbrabatch to create dithered mixes for reference use. In general I take my full resolution files to master and allow them to do the final dithering.

[top]For music mixes for TV, I heard that the engineers usually mix things "brighter", thus I was curious to know if you are doing it too. - Charleslee

No I do not. For my projects I try to record the multitrack sessions at 96K/24 bit so my mixes are at the same resolution. For broadcast I have not heard of that request...yet.

[top]Can you (or anyone else really) please explain what the purpose of printing a mix with the vocal up and down .5dB is. At what point would this become required? - x99

I know it sounds ridiculous to print a mix with such a small deviation. However in mastering I have found it very useful to have. At that moment with the processing that the mastering engineer is applying may pull up the music too much and being able to edit in a word/line/chorus/whole mix for clarity is really useful.

It should be noted that the basic mix must be fundamentally sound for this to be truly effective. A buried vocal will not benefit from this option. Mastering in all its subtlety can really alter the perception of a mix, so take your time to get it right, after that mastering is icing on the cake.

[top]If you don't mind, I'd like to add something I learned based on an experience assisting you several years ago. You were mixing the Jude Cole record talked about on another thread. You were a few hours into it, and for some reason I left the control room for a bit. When I came back in, I couldn't believe how focused the mix had become. I may have even inadvertently asked 'how did you do that ?!?!'. It seemed that it was balanced so well that any change would just tip the thing over!! What I have learned since then, is that when the mix is that balanced, a 0.5 dB change on the vocal can be huge. From that day on, it was something that I aspired to -- a mix so balanced that you would hear any small change in any aspect of the mix.

That's what I think of when I hear Kevin Killen mixes. Balance... - paterno

John, Many thanks. I think I have put many an assistant to sleep with my approach, it's kind of subtle but it gets me results.

[top]I know you've worked with Tori - just wondering if you've tracked Matt before, and if you have any observations as to how he works in the studio...I'm a huge fan (sitting here watching an amazing Tori live in Florida with Matt.) just wondering. - Cajonezzz

I have had the pleasure of recording Matt. He is a truly wonderfully talented drummer who brings so much musicality and dimension to his craft. Not only in terms of his ability to lay a groove down but a sonic ingredient that is unique to his style.

He is prepared both in terms of the arrangement and the sonic integrity of his part and he plays the ****out of his parts. He is wonderful to work with.

[top]The Unforgettable fire is my favourite U2 record. I have always thought that the guitars on that record sound fantastic! They just sound so...3D, and poetic(!) if possible. I watched "The making of The Unforgettable Fire" the other day, and it's such an inspirational video to watch, with Kevin, Eno, and Daniel L working together with the band.

Kevin, Would you say that the "collage" of guitar sounds happening in the background was a lot of trying out at Slane castle that you kept for the final mixes? - Midiman123

The experimentation at Slane was about trying to figure out how to incorporate the sonic architecture that Brian and Danny introduced into Edge's style. In the beginning it was hit or miss, we often loved the sound but I think that Edge needed to make it his own. Once he fully understood all the possibilities (not long) it was fascinating to watch him. And since he is such a sound maven , he really did embrace it and then applied his signature to it from that day forward.

In terms of how much from Slane or Windmill Lane, it was about 60-40.

When we arrived back at Windmill we still had a lot of vocal tracks to do plus some additional guitar work. At one point we ended up recutting "Pride" as the transitions were just not working.( You can see Larry working on that snare fill over and over in the video). Finding that right "surge" into the chorus was a tricky balance which we ultimately got.

Heading into August 1984, the band were scheduled to go to Australia in a few weeks to start the tour. The album was not finished, songs were incomplete. Bono considered putting off the record till after the tour. Their manager Paul McGuiness insisted otherwise. So for the last week, it was 24 hours a day. Brian took this first half of the day with me, Danny the second half. There was not a lot of sleep but we managed to finish it at 7am on the last day.

I slept afterwards...

[top]I'd like to know what instruments you play, and how (or if) that plays a role in your production? Do you find it difficult to approach a player about the part/style if you are unfamiliar with the instrument? Do you favour one/some instrument over another for certain parts or sonic moods, etc? - Supahee

I willingly admit that I was the worst drummer in the world. I had a royal blue "Pearl" set as a teenager and played with school friends but once I saw pro's in the studio I realized that my gifts lay elsewhere.

I love drums for that reason, but bass and guitar are also fav's. In truth anybody who can play an instrument expertly has my unending admiration.

I have seen guitar players create orchestra's and bass players, the wildest fuzz sounds. Or somebody like Jon Brion who can seemingly make a kazoo sound like the heaviest power chord. In the hands of true talent, anything is possible, only limited by time and imagination.

I hire the players I have the utmost respect for and provide both general and specific direction but ultimately I allow them to apply their craft in a manner that best exemplifies their voice.

One could say that my instrument is the console.

Lexicon 480L

[top]Do you find yourself using more plugin reverbs or hardware reverbs, plus, what are your ideas on convolution? - *CISKO*

In the analog domain I use mostly the real thing, plates , chambers and some hardware boxes, Eventide H4000 and H3500. The 480L is also a favorite.

In DAW world I use ReVibe and TL Space, even D-Verb sometimes. I like convolution verbs, some are really good at modeling the spaces...

[top]would you give us some ideas on what you use on vocals?. Of course every singer is different but I'm talking about starting points. - Pete

Presets are just a starting point. It's rare that I end up using that because I need to tailor it to the track.

I will try either a basic plate or room setting to begin with on TL or ReVibe and then experiment from there. Sometimes I will change it completely to a different patch for a new section of the song. But it's really about hearing the "potential"of the preset and modifying it to suit the song you are working on.

[top]Given that artists can fall in love with aspects of a rough mix ... Do you give roughs to clients? If so, with or without limiting? And do you reference roughs at mixing? - Lucey

Yes, it's pretty much expected that you do. I try and keep notes on my projects so that if a particular issue comes up I hope I can replicate it if I have not already printed it to tape/DAW.

I tend to not use L1 or any other compression at this juncture, leave that for mixing and mastering.

I have had instances where a rough mix ended up being preferred over a finished mix and used in the final sequence. In this day and age, there is no such thing as a rough mix, once the artist has emotionally fallen in love with that balance, all rational bets are off.

[top]So did you pick up anything from Daniel Lanois in how your mix process evolves from the roughs? Or do you have different influences come mix time?

I like the idea he's promoted...of keeping the best rough on hand, and always trying to better something that was mixed when the music was alive in the opposed to starting fresh on a mix day where it's too hard to connect with the same depth. If it keeps getting (almost objectively) better, from tracking to roughs, to mixes, to mastering...that's all we can do, right!? - Lucey

That was the system we employed on "So" to great effect. Always building on the last best rough. Since that advent of automation and total recall that is certainly possible although it can be a time hog. With a DAW, if you are totally in the box , then you are a mouse click away, as long as you saved the session.

I have learnt from different people over the years, Dan Lanois, Steve Lillywhite, Glynn Johns, Bob Clearmountain to name a few but even if I copy exactly what they do, I still have to reconcile it with my own subjective tastes. My own experiences are built on the 26 years of accumulated projects. Sometimes I pull from one experience , then another depending on the set of circumstances I encounter.

[top]Good to see you here on my friend, it's a pleasure to finally have you on here! Thanks for the great time up at Allaire last year, you know I'd climb that mountain with you again any time! It's so much fun to read all the posts in this Q&A, it's a great catch-up on a lot of the stories and tips you shared with us back then + some new ones of course. You are truly a great guy, so down to earth and always willing to share your knowledge.

I've looked through the posts here and there is a lot of great info on The Unforgettable Fire album. However there is one thing I remember you telling me about that I would love to get a reprise on, and I'm sure people here would dig the story. I'm thinking of the opening track A Sort of Homecoming and the reverse-the-tape-in-the-heat-of-the-moment "incident" (if I remember correctly).

Andreas Eide Wickmann - Eide


Nice to hear from you. (Andreas and I worked on a project up at Allaire in December 2005...he is a mean guitar player!)

The story for "A Sort Of Homecoming" was as follows. If you listen to the beginning of the song and even throughout there is a slight ghosting effect occurring here and there which belongs to another song. We were recording up at Slane Castle using all this cool gear belonging to Randy Ezratty of Effanel music. The 2 inch machine was a custom job, built by John Stephens in CA. It was a great sounding machine that was totally portable.

The one rule we had to abide by was not turning over the tape when it ran out and start recording the reverse way (always go heads to tails). U2 were cranking out take after take of this song and they were so close. I had a few open reels ready to go and as we neared the end of this reel, dan said just "turn it over". My reaction was , we can't, the machine will not erase all the material previously recorded. In fairness to Dan, he just did not want the band to cool off for a moment and he was right, the technology should not interfere with a performance.

As Murphy's law would have it , that next take was the one. When we listened to the first playback, you could hear all the unerazed stuff subliminally. We got a great performance with some "voodoo" on it.

Dan was right, it was a good lesson for a young engineer to learn.

[top]Up at Allaire I also remember you were using the Electrix MO-FX quite a bit when we were making some sounds. I didn't see that one in your What's in your racks question . Do you still use this FX unit? How do you think it compares to the more expensive stuff out there? I mean, one can get these for like $199 or something. - Eide

I think I forgot to add it into the rack question, well spotted. It actually is a floater piece of gear so I sometimes forget I have it. I still use it mostly for tracking these days, unfortunately I have not been doing too much of that since last summer, but starting next week it will get a good beating...

Dollar for dollar, this is a gem. Any chance to find one, you should snap it up.

[top]I was wondering what converters you prefer to use and what are the sonic characteristics that lead you to that decision. - CorkyTart

In truth most of the projects I do in the DAW world these days are with PT HD, so I end up using the Digi 192. I have not done a comparison with the newer Apogee's yet although I hear excellent things about them.

I think a more critical factor these days in terms of A/D D/A convertors is the master clock. That can have a much more dramatic outcome on your sounds. A good stable clock will provide less jitter and less noise thereby enhancing the recording. I think you will find that the top brands are all quite similar.

[top]Not to drag you into the samplerate wars but, what sample rate do you prefer to work with? - Barish

I like 88.2 and 96K @ 24 bit. To me it makes a difference in the amount of detail I can hear.

[top]Regarding the second disc of stems from "White Limousine", what do you think of this idea of releasing a supplementary disc of stems from the entire record? Afterall, it's not only Duncan Sheik's work for the masses to alter, but yours as well, being the mixer.

Also, have you done any remixes just for fun? And, for the people who own "White Limousine", are there any stems of songs to make note of listening to? i.e., inadvertently recorded background noises, errors, or even just instrumentations that you were really moved by and helped shape the mix? - Schmacko

It's totally fine with me, I think it's an enlightened artist who embraces that forum and it should be encouraged. We need more creativity, not less and this is just another way to accelerate that.

The results vary of course but when you hear some new twist on something that is so familiar and yet fresh, you just marvel at the reinvention.

I try not to do it for fun, mostly because I am already immersed in the project and so my perspective is colored. I leave that up to others.

With respect to the stems on "WL", I think they are all worthy of attention but it truly is a record of "the sum of the parts". But for pure sonics, check out the electric guitar stems.

[top]I have three basic questions:
1. Are there artists you would like to work with but haven't?
2. Are there records that you have envied? Albums you would have liked to be involved in?
3. Do you ever feel typecast? Are there areas of music you'd like to explore that would surprise the industry? - Silver Sonya

In answer to your questions.

1.Yes, to name a few, Zeppelin, Genesis, Queen, Beck, Bjork, KD Lang, Jeff Buckley, Sting, Bob Marley, Radiohead, The Blue Nile, Crowded House, etc etc etc...

2. Too many to mention.

3. I love to try other genres but unfortunately we are all typecast. I once lost out on a project because the A&R person thought that nothing in my discography had a "rock " element to it. At the time, "Unforgettable Fire" and "So" were considered rock classics but the industry is so genre obsessed that it's hard to imagine a talented mixer, given the right direction could not mix most kinds of music. It's balancing, period.

I have considered creating an alternative persona just to prove my point, but I also value what I have achieved.

[top]I have a question about riding faders. As I understand it, it is the art of adding some movement/feel/dynamics to a record by subtle (or drastically?) moving the faders of different instruments/subgroups what have you. My question has to do with how to better understand how to do it effectively. I guess my true ignorance is in the idea that you can ride the whole board at one time. Or is this an iterative process in which you ride the main element first and then relisten and go for the next sound to ride. Or is it all done at once. It just seems like you would go crazy trying to do this. Another thing I'm wondering is do you ride subgroups (like your drum mix)? - Crabtwins

The basic reason for riding faders is that you want to highlight or refocus a part or performance. You can do it individually or by sub groups. Either way is valid and just depends on how YOU want to operate. I think if you read the thread on "Mixing from the top down" you will understand this approach better.

It can be a time consuming process but most good mixes do take a day or slightly more depending on the complexity of the material. And if you are just picking up the project at the mixing stage, you will need to learn what all the parts do and how they interact.

Find an approach that best highlights your strengths and work to those.

[top]Brian Eno has been on record to say a lot of U2's "The Unforgettable Fire" was mixed by monitoring via a "boom box" (portable cassette / radio player with line inputs). Can you confirm this? - Jules

It certainly was used as a reference, but not to the exclusion of other systems. When mixing, one tries to find a balance that works the best of the majority of playback systems, which in and of itself is a conundrum. Who knows whether each system is optimized and what deficiencies are inherent. You mix in such a way that the tonal representations are modified equally. So if your studio monitors are inaccurate it will be revealed on other systems.

I once worked on a project where the producer kept wanting me to add high end to the mixes. It was not a case of diminished hearing I can assure you, but each time he listened at home off a cassette , the same request would come back. The artist and I were concerned because at this stage the mix could cut your hair off from 1000 feet, so a "home visit" was in order.

Auratone 5C Super Sound Cube
In that environment , the mixes did indeed sound dull and lifeless. I checked out the wiring and speakers, everything appeared normal. So I dug a little deeper. I brought a few supplies, cotton buds, isopropyl alcohol , swipes and performed a cleaning on the cassette player. The amount of oxide that I removed from those heads would have filled a small vial. When we played the cassette again it was like, "duck". Thankfully we were able to adjust the mix easily and move the project forward.

So I do use them, but because I am very comfortable using my own systems , I feel fairly confident that the mixes will translate. That just comes from experience.

In terms of "Unforgettable Fire", it was a combo of the studio monitors, NS 10's, Auratones, a boombox and Edge and Bono's car systems.

[top]I was privileged to sit in on a mix session for a large budget project in Nashville about ten years ago. The "artist" was inexperienced and expressing displeasure with the mixes which sounded very good in my judgment, especially the instrumental tracks. When confronted with the artist's displeasure and suggestions, the mix engineer commented that he thought they were mixing for the radio. There was no further elaboration. I assume he was referring to overall tonality, perceived volume, and the impact of the music after multi-band compression. Is this ever a concern for you and has it affected your approach to mixing. If so, could you share some of those concerns and approaches? - Don Rice

That is such a good question. I recently read Geoff Emerick's biography "Here There and Everywhere" and he talks about mixing for the radio quite a bit. It's a worthy read.

When I first started making records, you had to listen to a mono compatible mix through an Auratone speaker. It was not a flattering reference, but it was a real reference as to how the majority of AM stations sounded. Nowadays with FM, Satellite, public radio stations it's nigh on impossible to know the "broadcast curve" of each station. Add to it the amount of broadband compression and it's a minefield.

If a particular approach is requested, say "the mix should sound like Usher meets Kate Bush on steroids" then I will listen to those CD's. Then I mix the track to sound as good as I can achieve in the environment that I know best and TRUST. I will reference some additional systems to achieve conformity. When I master, I will alert Bob Ludwig to the fact that song title "X and Y" are the singles and he will do a separate mastering curve for that purpose, which is different and more radical than the album mastering.

I truly cannot let it affect my approach otherwise I am negating my own judgement and experience which is part of the reason I was hired in the first place.

A good example is listening to XM or Sirius Radio. It sounds like a tight delayed harmonized version of what I had done. I do not know how you factor that process into the mix environment. The only mitigating factor is that all the music sounds the same way .

[top]How did you approach recording the CP-70? Since it was such a big part of So, was there any special attention paid in tracking and mixing this fine instrument? - philosi

It was a CP70 and we recorded it thru this Gray Boss Chorus foot pedal. Used the console (SSL E Series) mic pre's with a tad of equalisation to tape.

I have mentioned in other threads that the CP70 was combined with guitars and other keys fairly often to make up a composite sound.

In the mix, it was mostly light sculpting of the eq and placement to achieve the desired effect.

[top]20 years of cherishing the Roland Dimension D and all along it was the grey Boss chorus pedal??? - philosi

Yes I hate to burst that bubble but it's true. But you can take comfort in the knowledge that the Dimension D made a significant impact in the making of this record ,including the piano. heh

And Peter Gabriel still has it at Real World, now that is devotion.

[top]I would be greatly honored if you could give your insight into how you handle the pre-production stage? What do you do in order to prepare you and the artist for production? Also how do you know you understand what the client wants? Lastly, how do you go about coming up with ideas, so that when you walk into the start of a session you have a strong feeling that everyone will be happy including yourself? - Jejune

In an ideal world you can assemble the "band" from pre preproduction, but in today's climate that is becoming harder and harder due to lack of budget. I will listen to the material first, have a few conversations with the artist about direction and sonic influences (ditto the label and management). Then I will suggest players that will be able to execute it. But they also have to have the emotional component that will lend itself wholeheartedly to the project and the process.

In pre-preduction, we pull the arrangements apart, work on keys and parts and hopefully find a cool direction for the song. Once in the studio and under the mics, you will quickly learn what works and what does not. You adjust and move forward. At each stage you are constantly wondering "Is this the right part or What can I do to make this better?"

Ideas are inspired by many different things, references, sounds, performances, accidents and just sheer experimentation and experience. It's a process but hopefully a fun one.

Sometimes the artist demo's are a good road map from which to apply your input and that can be a valid approach too.

[top]Elvis Costello's "Spike" - everyone has what they figure is Elvis' most underrated gem of a record, and this is it for me. A beautiful sounding CD full of standout tracks, beautiful sounds and great variety. But my favourite of'em all is 'Satellite'. It gets me every time. So....

What can you remember about the recording/mix? - Timtoonz

There is a funny story associated with "Satellite", Elvis Costello very much wanted the song to have a Burt Bacharach flavor and sound, hence all the orchestral percussion.

We laid the backing track down with electric drums and Piano and Chamberlin. Then Michael Blair added all of the orchestral parts. We were referencing some of Bacharach's most famous recordings, thinking of course we were getting his sound. While we were adding the sonic components to our song we were truly oblivious to how Burt really worked.

We added bass with TBone Wolk and Jim Keltner added the snares ( I believe it was a combination of a plate and a chamber ). Just before we completed the song we discovered that Burt was recording in studio 1 next door. Elvis plucked up the courage to introduce himself and asked Burt if he would lend an ear to the song.

Burt was incredibly gracious and said he liked the song. Ten years later after we worked together on "Painted from Memory" we realized the folly of our approach.

Burt is meticulous in terms of arrangement and parts. He manages to produce a really full sounding song with VERY LITTLE instrumentation. Meanwhile we had literally thrown the kitchen sink at our production and although it's a great song, EC and I both believe that had Burt Bacharach done it , the song would have been even better. We all had a great laugh about that moment during the making of "Painted". Burt said something to the effect, "I liked the song, but the production was a little confused sounding !"

For timpani drums, I found moving the mic back 4 or 5 feet, up around head height and pointing down toward the skin to be really effective. just open up that mic pre and let the sound of the instrument fill the room. Very little EQ and compression needed.

As for the Dirty Dozen, it was not a problem fitting them into the mix. After recording the three traditional songs in Dublin, we headed to New Orleans to work with the DD. Because they were the foundation for those songs, it was very much a question of making all the overdubs blend with them.

Glad you like the record, I need to listen to that one again. Also not a bad record for mixing without automation!

Old school...

[top]What's your fav mic pre's for vocals, drums, acst. gtr., guitars, piano, acoustical instruments of any kind? How does the 8110 rate? - Stlpck

My favorite mic pres are
  • Neve 1064A
  • Neve 1073
  • Hardy M1
  • Millenia
  • Grace 802 (?)
  • API.
I will try a few different combinations to find the best one for that instrument. There are just too many variables.

The John Hardy Company M-1 Mic Preamp

[top]Do you regard yourself as a Celt?

If so, do you feel your Celtic background is a strength you can draw on in this crazy business?

Does it provide some sort of bridge to US country music in any way. (or other musical genres, did it link you somehow to Daniel Lanois' Cajun thang)? Does music run in your family? Do you have a Celtic soul? - Jules

My Celtic Soul I guess is firmly entrenched. No ifs ands or butts.

How does it help me in the business? Well needless to say when somebody pisses me off, I get out the sword and longbow and go hunting...

Seriously though, as I was drinking my cup of Irish breakfast tea (Barry's) this morning I was reminiscing about my first day in the studio. The artist was a local, Mike Hanley being produced by Bill Whelan and Philip Begley engineering. The band was two acoustics, a mandolin, a bazouki, a bodhran (frame drum ) and a harmonium, It was a great introduction to the art of recording, especially from the perspective of the players who not only had to be adept at playing but being quiet.

The one thing about folk/traditional music anywhere in the world is that there are similarities. You can trace old airs that have travelled to Greece, or Spain or the south east of the US and hear how they have changed and modified to suit the local musical language.

I do believe that music is truly the ONLY universal language. It stands to reason that one's background has a direct influence on how you approach work and music. It helps provide the bridge between folks. You just have to look at an event like WOMAD to see how great it can be.

Those first few years where I got exposed to the art of recording real instruments have informed my approach for years.

[top]You mentioned mandolin and I've got an important (to me at least) mandolin overdub coming up. How do you like to record it (mics, position, etc)? - Kittyboy

Sure. Mandolin is usually a bright sounding instrument. If you have a ribbon mic, (Royer or Coles) try that first say 4 feet off the instrument pointing at the top of the neck. If that is not working you can try a U87/ or other large diameter mic ( AT 4030) and place it in the same position and put it in an omni pattern.

That might help diffuse the attack on the strings. Last thing to try is to have the player use a felt pick, especially if the strings / instrument is very bright .

The key to any good recording is taking the time to listen to the instrument you are trying to capture in the recording space itself. Sometimes it's as simple as placing the mic where it sounds good to your ear. Then go back into the control room and see if the sound is translating. If not, change the mic position. It can help to use a pair of Headphones to help locate that sweet spot.

Keep in mind that opening up the mic pre ( o a hotter position) and adjusting the fader level to tape / DAW can also yield a really full sound. Depending on the player / instrument you may have to fool around with the position.

[top]"Spike" is one of my favorite Elvis Costello albums. Please talk about recording the Celtic instruments for the gorgeous, vicious "Tramp the Dirt Down". I love the contrast between the beautiful track and some of the nastiest lyrics EC ever wrote. - PRobb

Yes I am sure glad that I was not the object of his scorn in that song !

Tramp The Dirty Down and Any Kings Shilling were the first two songs I recorded for Elvis. It was a tough first day for me because at 7AM on the first day I was still wrapping up my first co-production with the wonderfully talented David Rhodes. We had been producing an album for a band called "Cactus World News". It was a classic eighties moment, jumping into a taxi with tapes in hand, going to Heathrow airport, and boarding a flight to Dublin to begin tracking "Spike". Frazzled and no sleep!

My only saving grace that day was the fact that it was a setup day , plus I was returning to my old haunt "Windmill lane". I knew the studio very well plus all the players hired were old friends. I pulled my assistant aside and appraised him of the situation and he truly covered my back that day. I have tremendous respect for assistants, having come from that background myself. They are often the glue that holds a session together!

It was a very straightforward setup, players arranged in a wide semi circle , with some baffles in between. For most traditional Irish music, the proximity of the players is very important as they really do feed off each other's energy.

Donal Lunny was the musical director for the band and we did a couple of run throughs at the end of the first day. Fresh and invigorated after a night's sleep we listened to the run through and it had a kind of spontaneous magic to it. It had a real weave to it and somehow Donal was able to thread the eye of the needle with a new guitar part that pulled the whole track together.

We spent one day on Any Kings Shilling and then EC, T-Bone and myself headed off to New Orleans to record the "Dirty Dozen Brass band." It was quite the start to an incredibly diverse musical production.


Although the "Cactus" album was officially my first co-production, the album never saw the light of day until 2003! It's a long story…

[top]What do you think makes a good headphone mix? Do you think that the balances in a good headphone mix are much different from a good final mix? - Mike Caffrey

Well for the purpose of recording a Lead Vocal track, I think they are different. You are trying to inspire the singer, so mood, clarity, and headroom are all important. The artist needs to feel immersed in the track and that is a subjective thing depending on who is standing at the mic. If the balance is uninspiring, then you will get a performance that reflects that. The opposite could also be true.

So much of it depends on the moment ( arguing with your girlfriend right before a take is maybe not the right mood enhancer unless of course the opening line is "I hate my f...... girlfriend!"). I have seen all emotions regarding vocals. You have to be sensitive to the mood and there is a certain amount of psychology involved.

A finished mix is optimised for mastering, everything just perfectly placed. If the artist is trying out new lyrics then there may not be enough "space" in the track for them to be comfortable.

[top]How do you make a headphone mix when working with a singer who doesn't have a definitive request because they don't have enough experience to know or the ability to articulate it?

Do you have an opinion on which instrument provides the best pitch reference? I've been told by a top vocal coach to crank the bass, which I thought was a bad idea until he demoed a few things on a piano which made me reconsider.

Do you have particular instruments you like to keep high and do you make the vocal the loudest thing in the headphone mix? - Mike Caffrey

With an inexperienced artist I would bring them into the control room and work on a balance on the board that sounds fresh and exciting. Then I would simply patch that into the headphone cue. I would then put on a pair of phones to make sure it's the same. If at that point they cannot articulate the problem, then it's time for them to try a different career.

For me it is the main melodic instrument, this is where it helps to have had all the instruments tuned really well before tracking and even printing a reference pitch for everybody to tune up as they overdub.

Bass could work although if it's a muted sound then it may not be that helpful. Acoustics, piano or keyboards without a lot of modulation can also be used. I guess it all depends on what the instrumentation of the track is.

It's not always true that the artist wants the vocals to be the loudest thing. I have had some who wanted to be phased, flanged and placed at the bottom of the Grand Canyon before they could sing a note. Needless to say, it was not very good. There is a balance between providing inspiration or sublimating them in so many effects, that pitch really does become an issue.

Taking one headphone off slightly can allow the performer to hear the pitch more naturally or failing that you can always try sitting them at the console with speakers on, one out of phase and singing to the track. You sacrifice clarity but you may just get a killer performance. It can be offset slightly by recording a pass of the track sans vocal, at the same settings to another track, flipping the phase and blending it in with the vocal take to see if you can get some background cancellation. In truth this is hard to make work, and potentially time consuming. But you never know.

Neumann U 47

[top]Thanks for doing this Kevin, your replies are an interesting read.

Could you let us know what mics, preamps and so on were used to record Peter Gabriel's vocals on So? Best wishes - Stephen Bennett

It was a Neumann U47, through the console mic pre (SSL e series) with a modest amount of compression through a Decca tube compressor. On Kate Bush we used a U67, similar chain.

[top]I'm truly a big admirer of all your work, and think Elvis Costello’s "Painted From Memory" is one of the best sounding albums in years. The vocal sound... the side stick sound! The best. Do you recall the vocal chain and mix treatment on Elvis' lead vox? - Greg Wells

It was such an awesome experience to work with Burt Bacharach, I cannot tell you how much that experience has influenced my work since then.

The album was cut at Ocean Way Studio 2 on the Neve 8038.

Vocal chain was U47>Console>LA2A>API 550A eq, +2 @15K, [email protected]>to Ampex Tape machine running at 30ips, Dolby SR

Mixdown was through an 8078 at Ocean Way Studio 3. GML eq>manley compressor. Mostly a plate setting with variable pre delay.

Mixes to half inch ATR with custom heads.

Great record, very underrated album.

[top]This album is one of my all-time favorites - especially the drum sound!

Kevin, can you elaborate on how you recorded and mixed the drums? Also, Jim Keltner seems to have a signature sound. Are there any particular techniques/equipment that you like to use with him as opposed to other drummers? - Junior

With Jim Kelter it is very much about capturing his first performance. It will be the most inspired and you better be ready. We pretty much wanted the record to start out bone dry and get more "wet" as the songs progressed, the final track been "God Give Me Strength". That song was recorded a year earlier at Right Track in NYC.

We used studio 2 @ Ocean Way. I put Jim on a small riser with some baffling around the kit. Mics used were
  • Kick RE20 and FET 47
  • Snare Shure 57 and AKG 451 underneath
  • Toms 421's
  • Hats Km84
  • Overheads 251's
  • Room Mics were M49
Recorded through the Neve and moderate compression on the kick and snare.

It was recorded to 2 inch at 30 ips, Dolby SR.

I do not remember trying anything unusual on him, his uniqueness is what you have to capture so as i said already, make sure that first run through you are in RECORD.

In the mix I may have used more of the room mics as the songs were mixed. Interestingly enough we mixed the album in sequence, which is not typical. It's a great record and made in 5 weeks top to bottom. On top of which the World Cup was playing and EC and I had to watch those games. Even Burt got into it.

[top]For me, "toledo" was the track I could never get out of my must have been great to work with Bacharach - amazing arrangements - Themaidsroom

Burt Bacharach is truly one of the great producers and arrangers.

He and Elvis had worked on the songs for over a year before the band was assembled. He had written very detailed charts for all the players and routined them in the studio to the exact detail, nothing was overlooked, although he also encouraged their input. As takes were recorded he distilled the arrangement ever more. He provided a wonderful backdrop for Elvis to get his lead vocal on the backing track.

During overdubs he would do the same thing, always distilling his wonderful arrangements to their essence. When you thought it was not possible to improve on it he would, right through the mix process.

I learnt to listen in a different way and embrace a more sparse production style

[top]Steve Farris from Mr Mr (who's a good friend of mine) said he enjoyed working with you. Did you have a good time with those guys? - God

I did have a great time with all of them.They are all amazing players and people. It was those qualities that convinced me to work with them as I initially thought I was the wrong choice.

Tell Steve I said hi (and where is the ping pong table?)

[top]I think that record has some really great songs on it like The Power Over Me, and The Border. A Lot of the record the drums are electronic sounding, was there a lot of retriggering going on? - Musiclab

The drumming on the record was a combination but with a greater emphasis on the acoustic kit. We certainly recorded most of the basic tracks with the acoustic set. Afterwards Pat would dub in some electronic elements but I do not remember a lot of triggering going on.

Maybe I need to go back and listen to it again.

One of my favorite tracks is "Dust". That was the very first track we recorded as a "trial run" over two days and Richards vocal on that song is fantastic. But then again he has an unbelievable voice. The rest of the band ain't too shabby either.

[top]I am amazed that "Dust" was a trial run. It's a 6:35 epic, and a great one too! In a previous thread (that I can't find now), you had mentioned that you were initially surprised that Mr. Mister wanted to work with you. Who approached you initially for "go on..."? Was it the band or their record label (RCA)? Do you recall why they wanted to work with you initially?

I have a few questions about "The Tube". Whose idea was it to have sound bites of TV programs during the bridge? Was it Mr. Mister's idea or yours? How did you go about inserting those sound bites into the track? Did someone effectively foley a TV, changing the channel and just capturing whatever was on at that moment along with the channel-changing static, or were very specific bites pulled for that? Is the bass guitar track acoustic, a blend of acoustic and electronic, or all-electronic?

On "Control", there are a few vocal lines that are delayed ("my vision"). Is that accomplished with a delay line whose return level is low, or is there more to it? At the conclusion of the bridge, Pat Mastelotto's drum kit sounds as if it's off in the horizon and then its rushing at you as the bridge concludes. I really like how this comes across. Is that effect accomplished by raising the faders for the kit, or is there more to it?

On "The Border", how did you capture the piano? Did you use close microphones, or distant ones, or a combination?

As far as I know from Googling the Internet, the track "Bare My Soul" was only released on the CD pressings. Is this the case, and did you have any say in that?

My final question would be, did you have any involvement in the band's unreleased fourth album, which from Googling the Internet appears to have had the working title "Pull"? - Hociman

I will try to be concise but I may have to go back and listen to the album.

I was approached by the label and the band simultaneously. The main reason seemed to be the sound of Peter Gabriels "So" and although they were very happy with Paul DeVilliers' contributions , they wanted to try something new. My reluctance was based on the fact that I did not feel I was ready to produce. So we met over a meal, instantly liked one another and decided the best way to resolve our insecurities was to record one song over a weekend. And that song was "Dust". By the end of the first day we knew it would work because I realized how talented they were musically and they really enjoyed my approach and my demeanor.

There may have been some demo sketches on some of the songs but we ended up rehearsing for a while before going into the studio and the tracks evolved there naturally.

The Tube...cannot remember, I might have to ask Pat that one...stay tuned. I think we just sampled them off the TV in the lounge and placed them there. Found a sequence that worked. My memory is that the bass is a combination of acoustic and electric with keyboard support.

On Control the delays you are talking about were triggered from the lead vocal itself. The drums in the bridge may have been an overdub as I hear the perspectives change , from a more intimate sound sent to a reverb to the more explosive room sound which may have been a fader ride , then back to a tighter sound for the chorus. Pat really liked the idea of changing drum sounds between sections, sometimes by adding electronic elements or by literally recording a whole new kit. It certainly kept me on my toes.

The piano sound in "On the Border" was achieved with close mics although there is a shadow keyboard sound behind it which gives it some extra dimension.

"Bare My Soul" was originally song 6 on the album, it may have changed over the years for some unknown reason.

On the fourth album I ended up mixing the project, unfortunately it never got released. Some of the songs may have appeared in a "best of" but for all you Mr. Mister fans it was a great piece of work.

Hope that answers all your questions...

[top]If I read you correctly in the bass/d.i./amp post, you wrote that EQ moves to the bass guitar track are made with the key of the song as a variable. Why is that? - vodka gimli

All instruments have a "sweet range" and once out of that it may require the musician to approach the part differently, say on a different part of the neck. Well applying the same eq to all bass parts just does not take into account all of these variables. Just like how a singer's voice changes in timbre relative to a key.

Am I explaining myself?

[top]Do you ride the drum kit as a whole during the song? - vodka gimli

Depending on the material I may ride the kit, certainly I will look at fills and transitions in and out of sections to see if a little lift will help.

Sequential Prophet-5

[top]There has been another question about THAT song on this forum. But there is SO much to that ONE song. I have marveled at it for years, pondering, wondering. Now, FINALLY, I can ask someone that had something to do with the production of that song a THANKS!

What are the melodic 'clay pot' like sounds that sequence throughout the whole song? I know there is a triangle in there too.

Also, what is the solo instrument? It's got this nice triplet thing happening at the beginning of each note. - DCMIX

To the best of my knowledge they were recorded in Brazil when Peter was on a field trip prior to the record ever starting. They were intended for another song but got slowed down for this song, hence their unusual tone. But I think they were some form of Udu drum, which the player can alter the tonality by cupping his hand over a hole in the pot.

The solo instrument is the Prophet 5 with delays and effects.

The low octave voice was recorded early one morning to get that rich resonance on PG's voice. We climbed out of bed, met at the studio around 8am, and never spoke a word until it was done.

[top]Do you ever track just the drums, and then either use beat detective or edit them by hand before you go onto other parts? - drumkideric

Eric, I typically record drums as part of the tracking date, if it's an overdub to an existing track that has a lot of sequenced stuff or to a loop , then some editing will occur.

My friend Andy Snitzer will usually do that for me (sax player with a great feel) but I personally have never gotten beat detective to sound natural. I have heard a rumor that it can, but not in my clumsy hands!

[top]Could you describe the "Treatments" section of the console that you have referenced in other threads? What kind of effects were always up and how did you go about chaining things together? Was it on console sends or patching things to make them feed into each other? Was there any set formula or was it all spur of the moment, seat of the pants kind of experimenting? - MJGreene Audio

On those records it was the
  • AMS 1580
  • AMS RMX16
  • Lexicon Prime Time
  • Lexicon 224
  • SONY DRE 1000 (?)
  • PCM 42
  • Dimension D
  • QUANTEC Room Simulator
Usually sent from the aux sends. Spur off the moment. Occasionally an outboard compressor or eq across the whole thing and print to tape.

[top]Would be great if you can give us some insights for live-recording setups in the studio.

Do you avoid bleed (amps/players in different rooms) or maybe use it to your advantage?

What about monitoring for the musicians, do you only use cans or also speakers?

What amount of time do you need to prepare a session, like let's say Duncan Sheik, until everything is record ready? Is there a basic setup you always would start with to give you reliability to get good results?

And when it comes to singers, do you have any tricks if technical or emotional to make them feel comfortable? - Vandertone

A good setup can take 4-6 hours depending on the complexity of the project. Sometimes if I am doing an album project I will set aside the first day to get everything sorted out. In terms of bleed , it can be useful if that is what you are capturing- a live documentation of the session. It's problematic if you need to change things later, so it depends on the arc of the project.

The same is true for monitors, most sessions end up using cans. Using a monitor setup can be great fun for the band / artist but its a nightmare for the engineer, if that is the sound you want, record some shows live. They are different environments.

Setups change based on musicians and studios.

Trying to establish trust with a singer is truly the best way to get the best out of them. They are bearing their soul so if you have their respect, most likely they will be comfortable.

On the technical side, making sure the mic is on, a great headphone mix plus some nice treatment on the voice will no doubt calm any artist. The opposite is also true...

[top]Could you a bit about how you use delays in your mixes? Do you have a specific template you set up? On tempo, off etc. Mono, Stereo? How do you approach the panning, eqing, and automating the delays for the different tracks? - Absolute

I do not have a specific template although I tend to be attracted to darker and more filtered delays on most instruments. I find that gives a greater sense of depth and dimension. I usually will audition in stereo but often panning the returns closer to the instrument can have the greatest impact.

There is only so much space out there!

Automating any of the parameters is a subjective thing, driven by the space in the material and also straddling the line where it is not too gimmicky sounding.

[top]Could you talk about using the D-Command? - clip6

I have gotten to really like it. Of course it's like comparing apples and oranges but once I became comfortable with it, I have found it to be a very useful tool. Certainly the benefits of instant and total recall outweigh the non descript nature of its sonic character. Then again I have always thought that a character should come from the instrument itself and less so, the console.

But rather than be a purist, I have embraced the new frontier and have discovered a new way to work. In the old paradigm, I would mix a track until it was completed, sometimes sitting around waiting for the artist to show up or label a person to respond to the mix. With the D-Command, I take the mix as far as I want, then just start on the next song. if the artist shows up, it's a simple click to recall the previous song.

It keeps the process fresh and in some ways enhances my focus.

DBX 902

[top]Could you share some of the tricks you use on de-essing. The types of settings on plug-ins and hardware? - you knighted

De-Essing can be real tricky. In the analog world I will try either the DBX 902 deesser. This has a side chain listen which you can use to "tune " into the problem areas.

Another trick is to multi the vocal into a EQ, roll off the bottom, boost the mids or highs and take its output and patch into the key input (sidechain) of the vocal compressor. GML is good for this. Then adjust your threshold to taste.

In the DAW world, Renaissance and Waves make good plugins. The settings are TOTALLY dependent on how the vocal was recorded, male versus female. It's too broad to give a definitive answer. I veer toward a medium attack and release to try and make it sound natural.

The final way is to just do volume rides on the fader or volume automation. Time consuming but still effective

[top]Is there any gear that you wish existed but no one has come up with yet?

What do you hope future technology will bring to the table?

What existing gear have you had eye opening experiences with?

Gear that when used once you can never live without it again. - Gainreduction

Great question. I wish somebody would invent a piece of gear that analysed when the mix wasn't working and what was preventing the song from being a hit...that would be cool.

Something to remove reverb and distortion !

An automatic utility to do all the grunt work, copying, backing up, labels etc etc.

My Neve rack, my Millenia eq, my ProAc's and Cello amp.

[top]Re Elvis Costello. What tracking techniques were employed? Any unique instrumental or recording gear? - chrispick

It's fun to try and remember all this stuff so thanks for asking!

On Brutal Youth I was responsible for "Kinder Murder" and "20% Amnesia".

Elvis and I had just finished The Juliet Letters a few months earlier but it was unreleased when he called me over to London to try ideas for a new band record. We went into this eight track studio called Pathway and recorded in very tight quarters and the two best tracks from that session were the ones mentioned above. We relocated to The Church studios where JL was recorded and experimented some more. EC wanted to make a really abrasive sounding record and I questioned whether I was the right person to execute it. I sensed he was a tad insecure about the release of The Juliet Letters (which is a stunning piece of work by this remarkable talent), akin to Blood and Chocolate after King of America.

We both agreed that Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake were the right combo but the irony is that I have read many reviews that has cited "Murder and Amnesia" as the two most raucous tracks on the album.

I guess somehow I talked myself out of a gig...

[top]Well, I love the guitar sounds in "Kinder Murder" (one of my favorite EC lyrics, by the way). Abrasive is a good adjective. Care to comment on how those tones were achieved? And yeah, aside: "Juliet Letters" is one of my favorite albums of all time. Compositionally, lyrically, ambitiously, sonically. Top notch. - chrispick

Those tones were literally achieved by placing a Fender Deluxe in a concrete room and turning up the amp. I believe I used a 57 and a U87 straight to tape. The room was small so the reflections were intense! Oh one other thing, it was recorded on a funky 8 track.....don't ask

I have one funny story about "Might Like A Rose". The opening song on the album, "The Other side of Summer '' EC wanted it to have that Spector wall of sound. I think it is fairly well documented how Phil did that but it is hard to emulate. We tried a number of different approaches and we stumbled upon this one. We tracked drums , 2 basses, two guitars and 3 keyboard players all to multitrack at Ocean Way's studio 1. The console was a modified Neve 8078.

It was a pretty great sound and everyone seemed happy enough. The next morning during playback I could see that Elvis was not convinced, he really liked it but something was missing, it was almost two perfect. So somebody suggested we play along again with the track, double all the performances.

I was running out of tracks and I did not want to slow down the process by having another multitrack machine brought in and aligned. We quickly ran the board mix to a dat, set it up to play through the foldback and the studio playback speakers and recorded a whole new performance. It took a few moments to get the balance right but you should have seen the smile on EC's face when he heard THAT playback.

PURE that is a reason to make music.

Check it out and see if you can hear the band on band recording!

[top]You are featured quite a bit in this documentary and you look like you are having a great time as an engineer and as an actor in a supporting role. There is a famous scene where you (looking cool) and Danny Boy Lanois (looking very nerdy) are doing this little native american dance while Edge plays an acoustic/electric ibanez through the AMS pitch shifter and some reverb. You and Danny are sort of putting the palms of your hands in the air like patty cake patty cake baker's man...and then your arms in the air and folding them over your forearms. It's quite funny! Could you explain that dance around the studio and what you guys were doing? Did Brian and Danny really go hunting for shrubberies during breaks? - Alex Wyler

It's been about ten years since I have seen that video so in truth I cannot really remember the dance, although I suspect you are right. The vibe on the sessions was great. You have to remember that U2 were not a big group at that time and their deal was up for renewal so the album needed to make a significant statement.

Brian and Danny contributed enormously toward that goal, not only challenging the band but also providing them with a sonic architecture that they had not experienced to that point. That is taking nothing away from Steve Lillywhite who was so influential (and still is) to their development. (Not to mention what I learned from all these guys!)

Humor was used to break the natural tension on the record and they both have a wacky nature as well. The sessions were long and explorative and from what I remember the video is fairly indicative of the process as their cameras were rolling for most of the time , so we just ignored them after a while.

If the band said they did, then I tend to believe them.

[top]I would love to hear a little about your production process. I'd love to hear you talk about record making as a process separate from sound-getting!

Great sounds are kind of a given on your records. (The background vocals on Howard Jones' "Where are we going" still kill me..."Bound by the Beauty' is a favorite for sounds, too.) - TER

Obviously with an album production there are so many other criteria that you have to satisfy. For a debut artist, it is making the record be a significant introduction to the public at large but also they label to whom they have signed. Depending on how well one does that can determine the length of those relationships throughout an artist's career.

For an established artist it has been able to maintain the existing fan base and attract new listeners without repeating what the artist has produced in the past and that is a tricky balance. On top of that, there are the obvious "commercial" implications to record production. Can you make an album that not only the artist can believe in and love for years to come but also allow the label to market it in the manner that they think will bring the biggest margin of success. And what is success anyway?

As a producer, the debut album really affords me the greatest challenge. Especially if the artist is someone like Paula Cole who has an incredible gift but did not come with a readymade band. She had players that she was comfortable with but I also needed my own comfort zone, players that I knew would deliver in the studio and bring not only their musical abilities but, also a sound palette that was extensive.

In most instances, candid conversations are encouraged to determine the style direction, likes, influences etc etc. In pre production I concentrate on the arrangements and keys. A studio is chosen not only for the technical reasons and sound, but one that will provide everyone with the support mechanisms in place to maximize their contribution.

I try to instantly create a sonic character when laying the basic tracks, to me it's got to be inspiring to the whole crew and once established I try to add enough musical elements to bring the song to a 60-70% completion. But even at that moment it should sound like a record from the moment bar 1 starts. The same process is repeated for all the songs trying to avoid repeating oneself...which is hard. I try to let the songs dictate the sonic architecture and I do go in with a visual idea of what that is and try to execute.

Somewhere along the way, happy accidents occur and mishaps too but you have to just roll with it and be confident in the assembled team to get the job done. Because I mix from the top down, the common element of all the songs is the voice, front and center uncluttered by the production. I try to wrap it in a nice three dimensional blanket.

So in the final sequencing I try to make the whole record feel like it is telling a volume of stories, with each chapter having an identity that must exist on its own.

When you get the chance to work with artists like Paula, Jude, Elvis, Kate, Peter and so on, it just makes my job so much easier. I am never relying on the technology to make the song, it’s mostly well written in advance. My job is to extract the best elements out of it, get great performances and present it in a way that engages the listener.

[top]Are you drawn towards "quirky" artists generally, or is that just an extension of the Gabriel connection? Jane Siberry, Laurie Anderson, Paula, Kate, Tori, Teddy (just kidding-he's a friend)...all groundbreakers to some degree. Do you feel like the stable, orderly engineer's engineer in most cases, or are you actively pushing artists towards new sounds and ideas? - TER

It would appear that I am drawn to those artists. There was a period where I was the "art guy" but I think it boiled down to the fact that I focus on the vocals and they are all very vocal intensive artists, from Laurie who has a very wispy delivery to Jane who has enormous range. To be able to make all those styles work seems to be my cross to bear heh

I am orderly, my session's tend to be organized but I also love throwing in the random element. When you are raised in the discipline of having only 24 tracks it really helps you focus on how you engineer to avoid painting yourself into a box. Even when I use a DAW , I try to keep the session organized, because I want to be able to push it up on a board and be able to reach all of the faders easily. Sounds silly, but try mixing a song with 120 faders, it's physically annoying!

So make choices and commit, you really do not need 46 tracks of percussion. Trust me.

[top]When you're building a mix from the vocal down... are you eq-ing holes into other elements as you add them so the vocal can remain unchanged or are you working in arrangement mode and dumping things that would compete with the vocal? One relatively consistent thing (Kate's record seems to be the exception) in your mixes is that the vocals are not really loud, and not terribly dry, but terrifically intelligible... and your attention to the "air" space is also amazing. Even dense tracks (Tori's "god" or the busier parts of Lindsey's record or Spike) maintain tremendous clarity and a feeling of a tremendous amount of available dynamic range. Red Rain is a great example of this, too... Just when it seems like nothing else can fill up any space there's Peter's voice-- clear as day. How much of that effect is you manipulating the arrangement (muting, moving, etc.) vs. sonically tweaking the existing tracks? - TER

It's a basic rule of physics "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction". The human ear can only absorb so much information, so I try to perhaps introduce a new part with a certain amount of drama and then allow it to sublimate so that another element can have its moment. So much of what a mixer does is based on the content of the material and the considerations of the artist and producer. At the end of the mix, my own personal feelings have to be set aside , without giving up my integrity so that the artist is thrilled with the result.

In answer to your question, it's really a combination of both sculpting and removing if necessary. I believe in one of the other threads I detailed my mixing protocol so you may want to check that out for a longer explanation.

[top]How long did it take until you felt at home in your mixing environment. And is it easy for you to mix somewhere else? Especially in terms of knowing your monitors and making decisions when something sounds "good" in the real "one box behind the sofa and the other on the book shelf" world. Or do you leave the final decisions to mastering? - MatzeMillion

It took a little while to completely adjust, there was some tweaking in terms of speaker placement and damping the room. I used some CD's for reference and Bob Ludwig has been very kind over the years to listen to a mix in progress for me especially when I am in a new situation. That feedback has proven invaluable and I am very grateful to him.

In terms of other rooms, I do bring my own monitors, amp and cable. This at least gives me a comfortable reference point. If they do not sound right then it catches my attention. There may be a more fundamental problem that I was not aware of.

Nowadays I travel less for mixing so I have a stable of rooms that I know well and therefore it is less of an issue for me. I do try to leave as little to mastering in terms of overall balance. I want to be comfortable with the notion that the unmastered version could be released and everyone would be satisfied. However I will say that I am constantly amazed by the musical impact mastering can have on the end result, a little tweak can yield dramatic results...either your balance was good or awful.

[top]Do the names of room tuners mean anything to you? Have you been in enough control rooms tuned by different guys that you know to expect certain things and have preferences for different tuner's results? - Mike Caffrey

Room tuning is a black science. Most rooms have a sound deficiency, the question is whether it has an impact on your work or not. If the mix position is mostly reliable, then that's a great start.

Over the years I have found that the big monitors in the rooms were colored in a way to make them useless, except for blasting the labels ears off for fun. That is why I started to bring my own setup, at least it was consistent. There were a few rooms (Ocean Way and 6th floor of Skyline ) that had great monitoring, the others were...

[top]How do you approach a project as just a tracking engineer when you know that someone else will be mixing it?

Also, which do you prefer, mixing or tracking?

Flipping that around a bit, when you are just mixing, what do you expect (if anything) from the tracking sessions? Will you listen to the tracks before signing on to a project? - pr0gr4m

Luckily I get to mix the majority of the projects that I track, but if that is not the case I want the session to be organized, intuitively laid out with a track sheet and notes. If it's in a DAW, edit points cleaned up, and unwanted audio removed so as not to cause confusion. Labelling should be clear, not some esoteric explanation.

I do not have a preference as long as the music is good and the people are nice and respectful, even fun.

For mix considerations, I do listen to a CD of the songs to see if I think I am the right person.

I like the mix sessions to be delivered as organized, detailed so that I can mix and not have to clean up somebody else's sloppy work. I am hired to mix anything that saps my energy and creativity away from that task is annoying as hell. But I understand how it happens, I just care not to deal with it.

[top]I have always loved the way this track sounds. It's just a bass guitar and The Edge noodling around with a slide but the treatment that is created from Edge's guitar creates this shimmery rainbow of haunting crystalline ice and mirrors around the entire thing.

I have dabbled around myself to try and find this sound and now I wanted to ask you how it was created?

My guess is that it was sort of like this:

AMS DMX 15-80S set one side to delay about 150ms and for an octave up pitch shift with a bit of regeneration. Feed that into the Lexicon Prime Time set for a longer delay like 350ms with lots of regeneration, the top end rolled off using the onboard LPF and also with the VCO on to make the delay wobble/modulate. Then all that would feed into an AMS RMX-16 reverb or maybe an EMT 250 or Lexicon 224 with the reverb mix quite high on a Hall type setting. Then all that would feed back into the right channel of the AMS for some modulation delay on all that?

What gear was used? - Alex Wyler

You are basically on track. The delay and modulation was derived from the AMS 1580. On its fader return, some hi frequencies were rolled off, then it was fed into a 224 Hall setting, probably 5 seconds but with a rolloff in the top and bottom. This return may have been equalised also. We may have added a second delay but then the delays have to be timed to the track as the net effect is blurring the chord progression.

Our last tweak would be to play with the sends on all of the returns to the point that it's almost recirculating out of control, which in turn is creating a layer upon layer effect.

The backwards stuff was achieved by turning the tape over and using a long plate setting. Pretty straight forward.

In working with Brian and Dan, we did have one section of the console dedicated to "treatments ''. All of our processing was plugged in and ready to be manipulated at a moment's notice to achieve a cool sound.

[top]Wow Kevin! Awesome answer. Would it be safe to say that the majority of the treatments done on the Unforgettable Fire album were done using no more than three effects processing devices? Or was it a lot more elaborate than 3 devices on the console sends and returned on open console channels? The AMS 15-80s, Lexicon Prime Time M93 and the Lexicon 224 Reverb. Any other devices that were key in making the Unforgettable treatments? I have heard that Eno likes to work with these kinds of limitations to develop a very good rapport with the devices in order to make things with them that other people never discover. - Alex Wyler

It's true that Brian enjoyed the limitations.

Yes there were certainly other effects used, Edge had a host of stomp boxes which were readily employed but it was the combining of all of them that gave that record its shimmer and otherworldly sound.

The SSL was definitely used more like an effect in some instances, with all the gating and compression and keying abilities on each channel, it was easy to experiment.

We also had some good sounding plates which got utilized for reverse effects and of course our famous stone stairwell which got used as an echo chamber.

As they say, anything goes.

[top]My question regards getting a good bass sound in tracking to mix.

Can you define what you consider a good bass sound, and how you have achieved that. Can you comment on DI, versus Amp Micing, Versus Both, versus Reamp - this has been the one instrument that has haunted me for years. - DonM

I know what you mean, for me its upright bass. It just eludes me...

Without wishing to sound flip, a good bass sound is one that works in the track. The question is so broad that I find it difficult to be specific.

However it depends on what you want the bass to do.

Do you want it to provide the bottom, punch, melody, groove? Is so entirely subjective and it is more about what you want it to do in the track.

I will audition both an amp and DI and commit to a direction when I hear how it is supporting the song. I will say that a simpler approach is often the best policy. A good DI and bass cabinet (not to mention a good player ) can go a long way to realizing the sound in your head. If you find you are hitting the eq and the compressor and more eq and are still unhappy, then stop. Go listen in the room, see if you like that sound and then see if that sound is being translated into the control room. If not, check your signal path and try removing stuff.

If the bass player feels like you are capturing his/her sound accurately, perhaps then the issue lies somewhere else. If not , then experiment with a different DI box, mic pre.

These days most basses sound very good indeed, but if it sounds awful, try another bass.

I cannot discern from your question whether you have the problem in your own studio or every studio? If it's the former, then perhaps your monitoring is inaccurate.
Are you happy when you are recording, but disappointed when you take it outside?

So many parameters.

[top]When you direct record bass, are there any eq points you look at first to cut or boost. such as cutting an approximate number of db below say 100Hz or so? Also, what type of compression settings might you use? - trident fan

Not in particular because each bass instrument sounds so unique. A Hofner bass sounds different to a Fender Precision which sounds way different to a Music man. Then you add the choice of types of strings, major or minor keys, fingers versus pick, muted or not.

There are just too many parameters to blindly assume that one default position could satisfy all bass instruments. And that's before you even talk about 5 strings or double string basses.

[top]From your posts, it seems you have a great deal of control over who masters the records you work on, which is great, but do you ever experience pressure from labels to turn in "Louder" records? - Mike Butler

I am very fortunate to have a significant influence over who masters my work, it's something that I value very highly indeed.

There has been a constant ramping up of pressure not just from labels but artists themselves about the overall level of releases. With all the hardware and software devices out there it's astonishing to see how far an album can be pushed.

Some of it can be wonderfully compelling but after a while a lot of it begins to sound like white noise to my ear. My rule of thumb is "you can always add more level through compression, but you can never take it off". Therefore I apply an overall amount that is appropriate for the arc of the project and when the label complains I tell them to just lean over and turn up the volume ! Believe me , it sounds so much better.

[top]I am a big fan of your work, particularly an album that hasn't been mentioned much yet, which is Subcircus' album "Carousel".

I'd like to ask if you have any particular approaches to dealing with demanding artists? I can imagine that some of the artists you've worked with cannot have been the easiest people to deal with, perhaps because of their unique creative talents. - Aidyhal

Thanks for picking out one of my favorite albums, unfortunately the album suffered an ugly fate due to an inept label. But musically and performance wise, this band could have been huge...

In so many ways , society places these artists on a pedestal, sometimes deservedly, sometimes not. I deal with them, the way in which I like to be treated, as a human being, with dignity and respect, period. I am sympathetic to their craft, aspirations and process. They eat, breathe, cry and use the bathroom just like the rest of us. It's important to acknowledge the artful & societal contributions they have made.

Just because they are creative, does not give them the right to run roughshod over others. I deal with it in my own way, respectfully but with a presence.

[top]My question is what do you find yourself doing in the box differently than you would on an SSL? Is it just a matter of getting to work and shaping the sound the way that you hear in your head?

Do you find it easier working on Randy's Icon than an SSL or is it just another way of working for you?

Do you find yourself using a lot of plugin emulations to simulate what you would do on a big console? Any little things you have found to make the ITB mixing come closer to an analog console for you? How much are you using outboard gear when mixing ITB?

Also have you given thought to opening up your own room or are you just happy to work at Randy's place? - MJGreene Audio

This is a similar question to another posted but in essence I try to create a workflow that allows me to control the gear rather than the other way around. Moving to the "in the box" scenario" was a learning curve for me and now that I feel comfortable with it I do not have a preference either way. There are many benefits to both and I choose based on the criteria of the project.

Clearly a regular console is more tactile so you can be flailing about on its surface whereas most controllers allow for single manipulation of eq's at any moment.

I typically stay in the box once in that domain, its just easier and I think it maximises the DAW's potential, so outboard gear is out. When I am on a regular console there is ample outboard usage.

The two environments are so different that I have stopped trying to make them work or sound the same. I trust my instinct and my ability to make something sound pleasing (very subjective here!) and move forward.

Randy's room is ideal for me, I have total access and we are such great friends ( we met during the making of U2's "Unforgettable fire") that I do not feel compelled at this moment to build my own room. Perhaps that may change in the future, but I am very happy with the results I am getting there. And more to the point, so are my clients.

[top]I could listen to absolutely everything you could ever whisper about working on Unforgettable Fire, I'd love to hear about what you think of the world of self recording musicians meeting that of the pro recording studio. What would you regard as the main weaknesses of home recordings, is it gear/production and arrangement skills? Or engineering ability? - Juicylime

I think it's very common these days to have both involved in most projects. Especially given the fact that a lot of artists have their own studios and are quite proficient at using a DAW. One thing they excel at is recording their own instrument, which stands to reason. It always boils down to taste. I am constantly amazed by the quality of some of the recordings.

If there is a weakness, it tends to be in mic placement and the amount of processing (usually too much). Mixes tend to be squashed and distortion and lack of cross fades seem to be a common thread. Just general organisational skills make the home recordings a little unwieldy but I certainly have used them and find them to be useful.

It's all about the performance anyway, so if it's compelling, does it really matter where it was recorded?

I would say that about 50% of my projects these days incorporate some home recording. I expect that to increase over the next decade.

[top]I was wondering if you could provide any info about the record you worked on with the Philadelphia band Martin's Dam back in 1998. I was just coming up playing around town then, and did a bunch of work at Indre Studios where I believe you worked on the record. Where did you mix the record? What did you think of Indre's interesting live room? What format did you record to? Any insight you could give would mean a ton about the project. I have the CD and enjoy it. - Fash

Well this is one of those classic examples of how to stretch a budget to its limit. The band had lots of experience in recording themselves in their own ADAT room. Brian and Scott were very inventive in terms of getting real bang for the buck.

I liked the recording space at Indre, but the Neotek console I felt was a weak link. The studio had a good selection of mics and eq so I had a lot of my gear sent down and we put most of the mic pre's on the floor and recorded straight to the Otari MTR 90. We had 3 days to get 10 basic tracks, mostly drums and bass. Brian and Scott were going to do all of their parts afterwards. Set the band up just in case we got guitars and vocals. I did a bunch of two inch edits to consolidate the best drum parts and this took the pressure off the drummer to be perfect each time. We fixed the bass on a need to basis.

We made ADAT slaves of the bass and drums for Brian and Scott and they were left with strict instructions that whatever overdubs they did, they all had to fit back onto the two inch master for me to mix.

I left them to their own devices , checking in and offering suggestions about recording techniques. They were fantastic students and we reconvened in NY at Effanel studios to mix the album on the SSL. Granted I had to do some multing of tracks but it was worth it.

The record sounds much more expensive than it cost in reality.

[top]When you said you put the mic pres on the floor, do you mean in the tracking room and then ran the signals line level to the control room? Does this method ever cause crosstalk to be an issue, induced via the snake run? Do you remember what mic array/techniques you used for the drums?

Also, when you mixed, did you mix to 1/2" or DAT? The record definitely sounds much more expensive than it was and is a great example of DIY combined with working with a great outside producer like yourself. - Fash

Steve, yes the mic pre's were on the tracking floor, it was very good exercise running up and down those stairs (At Indre the control room was above overlooking the tracking space). Running the mics at line level does not seem to induce a lot of crosstalk, if it does I tend to be more suspicious of the quality of the power or a grounding issue within the studio. It's certainly easy enough to swap out a snake.

In terms of mic placement on the drums, I used some baffling around the kit both front and back and it was very much a "normal" setup. I may have used Coles on the overheads and I will often open up the overheads first when getting a sound. If that is not representative of what the drum set sounds like in the room then it is really worth taking the time to move or change mics and position. I find it helpful just spending a few minutes in the tracking room listening to the kit and walking around.

Try different mics for the room position, maybe even pointing them close to the ground !. By walking around you should be able to find "that spot". If you are using a lot of compression on the room mics, you will get a build up of cymbals and hi hats. Another trick is to use darker cymbals for tracking, or removing them altogether (a tad radical I guess , but it worked for Peter Gabriel on "Security") and overdubbing them.

For Martin's Dam , we mixed to DAT and maybe half inch.

[top]I've been investigating how to distort lead vocals but am interested to hear if you have an opinion as to what I should do to achieve a vague studio quality to distort vocals 'cleanly' (ie. so they are still intelligible).

Would you recommend studio gear in a live setting or is there an easier/better way to achieve similar results another way live? - Mrdeville

The best method may be using a couple of mic pre's strapped together. Increase the gain of the first mic pre until you begin to hear the first hint of distortion, then drop it back one or two clicks. Patch its output into another input and adjust its gain until you get the desired result.

As always with distortion its a trade off, distortion versus intelligibility. In a live context it's harder because of the backline volume, so you are also affecting the spill.

[top]What are your favorite albums and what kinds of music do you enjoy listening to outside of your work? - Doorknocker

In terms of my own pleasure, I try to keep up with stuff, although I find I am more drawn by some of the old classics, Zepp, Beatles, Van the man.

But in the current rotation James Blunt, Imogen Heap, any Bjork and Beck album, Tori Amos collection, The Blue Nile.

[top]Do some of your artists ever twist your arm and take you on the road with them to do live sound for them? - Jules

I have done live remotes on the road, never FOH. I think it's a very different discipline that requires a much broader knowledge of all the systems involved.

It's always wise to leave it to the experts

Neve 1064

[top]I was wondering how many Neve 1064A Mic Pre/EQ's you have?

Could you also tell us why you like sticking them out by the performers in the live area instead of having them in the control room with you?

How did you come to decide to do that?

Do you nip out, adjust eq on them then run back during your set ups? - Jules

I have 8 Class A Neve 1064A's. They are dual Mic Pre/EQ.
I started experimenting after watching my friend Randy Ezratty of Effanel Music ( arguably one of the best remote recording companies in the world !) employ that technique when doing live remotes. The theory being that you will get a better signal with greater rejection of noise and interference if you apply the gain at 20 feet instead of 500 to a thousand. And it really does. I find the drums are punchy and need less eq.

When I do need eq, I just pop on a pair of phones and adjust in the live room. I may even drive my second a little crazy by making them adjust it.

[top]Your mix and single mix credits include such a broad variety of artists: Talking Heads...Los Lobos...Roy Orbison...Elton John...Bon mention but a few. With such bankable names, including the Big O himself, it must be quite a daunting task to work on the tracked material when there is a public perception of each artist's sound. How do you handle this issue? - Reggie Love

That's a really interesting question. While most good mixers are aware of an "artists sound" they do not want to be pegged in by past accomplishments. Otherwise why would Paul Simon work with Tchad Blake, surely he did not want him to sound like Roger Nichols, or U2 hire Brian Eno and Dan Lanois to sound like Steve Lillywhite.

My honest belief is that the artist (consciously or subconsciously) chooses to work with a different mixer to force change. There may be some resistance but at the same time its like being in the candy store, its just so tempting to grab that bar of Lindt chocolate. Once the trust has been established it frees up the artist and engineer to work to their strengths. (There is nothing worse that being asked to sound like "so and so".) My answer to that would be, " If you want that, hire them!"

We all have our methodologies, I like to mix from the top down, others a different way. So when presented with that scenario I lock into the key elements and focus on those. Having a candid conversation about their expectations is also helpful. The fans expect change, artists demand it of themselves, at some point we all get brave enough to take the leap.

[top]Just wondering if you'd care to share any thoughts on working with Lindsey Buckingham. In addition to being an outstanding songwriter and producer, I've always thought he was one of the most underrated guitarists in popular music. - Mark Cattano

Lindsey is one of those rare gems, so talented , musical , driven and depending on who you talk too, obsessive !

I got brought in to mostly mix, Warners were very keen to get the album completed and the powers that be felt that a little nudge was needed. From my perspective, genius comes when the mood strikes and sometimes you have to wait.

The majority of the album was recorded at his home studio with Richard Dashut sharing the production and engineering (?) duties. So I cannot really speak to their setup as I never really saw it.

I chose Ocean Way studio 2 (Neve 8038) to mix and off we went. If my memory serves me correctly, it was recorded on a Sony 3348. The mixes tended to evolve over a number of days and Lindsey could seize on an idea and almost rewrite the whole track there and then. It was a fascinating, dynamic, way to work. His ability to conjure up amazing guitar lines was scary...‘poof!’ and there it was.

He did like to employ a lot of varispeed while recording , to achieve a particular tone and often his guitar was direct. One thing that occurred a number of times was a ground buzz on his guitar track. Lindsey would be so anxious to get the part recorded that he would not want to lean over and flip the ground lift on the DI box, annoying yes but then again, who could argue with the end result!

At the end of the day, both Chris Lord Alge and I mixed the record with the mixes split between us. I cannot remember who came first.

I really enjoyed the experience.

[top]I am curious to learn what direction you feel recording & mixing is headed in?

Are you seeing less & less tape? More artists self producing? Less clients present at the mix? More mix mp3s sent for approval?

What's happening more and more?

What's happening less and less?

And your overview of it? - Jules

The future of recording and mixing...not that is a question that may take a number of postings.

Clearly the majority of records will be made for smaller budgets. The top 1% will still have oversized budgets and maybe they will still have the impact that labels expect but even that trend appears to be diminishing.

I think you will see less and less tape but it will never disappear. At this juncture I believe its a price point issue. (the whole argument of which sounds better is a very different discussion). Artists will continue to self produce but I think once they have become exposed to the REAL value of a production team , then they will embrace that.

It takes a singular breed of artist to be able to self produce, plus music is about collaboration for god sake !

A lot of the process will be done via satellite, overdubbing and mixing mostly at this point. It will be a more centralized mechanism not like the current mish mash of FTP servers, iChat apps and FedEX. Eventually someone will figure out a way to do it seamlessly using the web.

I hope as technology and internet speeds get faster you will see more full bandwidth mixes being sent for approval. (MP3's are just not detailed enough to judge a final mix, period)

Indie and Boutique labels will be more influential, the majors less so as artists realize that "ownership" is the name of the game.

But let me think about it some more...

It's a real doozy...

[top]Where did you mix 'The Veltz Family' album? - Benjy King

It was mixed at Sevonay Sound in NYC. In the Box, PT HD and a D-Command. Mastered by Scott Hull.

[top]What are you going for when you start a session?

Do you like to inject your personal flavor in a sound, are you driven by the player or both? - Haryy

In the beginning I am going for a sound that inspires the artist and blows them away. I want to keep their excitement level up so that they begin to hear all the possibilities with the arrangement.

I am sure some of it is driven by personal taste but hopefully its modified by the content of the music and what the artist is trying to say.

I like to work with musicians who bring a strong sonic identity which is also part of the inspiration.

[top]When you say "Strong Sonic Identity" What do you mean by that? - AnAverageJoe

By that I mean players such as guitarist Gerry Leonard who brings a whole palette of sounds and inventiveness to the instrument. He has a very distinct take on guitar as do a lot of players. Same with drummer Jay Bellrose, unique sounding kit and technique.

The reality is that most good pro's have that in their arsenal, it's just a question of finding the right combinations for the project.

So I am not just looking for a guitar or drum sound, I am looking for THE sound for that song. Players who can interpret some subjective directions... "I want it to sound like clouds before a thunderstorm "!

Listen to the guitars on Duncan Sheiks "White Limousine" or Jay's drums on the New Orleans katrina benefit album, the Irma Jackson cut.

[top]James here from Cork in Ireland, in a small town in Inniscarra. I don't know if you get down to Cork a lot or not but it is the real capital - not dublin - so you must have been

I only found about 1 month ago now and I have a few questions about recording my band here in Ireland. Basically I'm looking for a set of overhead mics that I can use on my drum kit and also maybe use on a few other things in our band, like say upright piano, and then use one of them as the vocal mic. There are not a whole lot of large drum shops and studio's in the southern tip of Ireland. I was hoping you might be able to give me some of the better tips on how to get great drum sounds on say Larry Mullens kit on "unforgettable fire"? - Jamesosullivan1

Yes I have made it to Cork many times, mostly Kinsale, great place and excellent food and I am missing the old sod!

It sounds like you have a really nice setup, good drum kit, what is the recording space like? Lively or dead? Maybe remove that carpeting!

To get that Larry sound we actually moved his kit from the studio into the reception area of Windmill Lane after all the day staff went home. It had a low ceiling but 4 foot thick walls and ceramic tiles on the floor. We also placed some mics in the stairwell and compressed those mics through a pair of 1176's, very aggressively.

In your case I would start by always having fresh heads on when you record, coated ambassadors are my favorite. I would tune the drums to allow the drums to ring a little, especially the snare. I would avoid as much damping as possible.

In terms of mic choices, I would be careful with the beater side 57, just make sure that you are not getting any phase cancellation. For the under snare I would try another 57. Good choices for the toms. To get mic's that serve as overheads and vocals and Piano, the 414's are good but tend to be a little bright.

Also the AT 4040 , 4050 & 4060 are great all round mics. You may also check out the SE line of products. Also the Royer 122's are awesome.

I do not know those CLM preamps but your chain seems fairly clean. In terms of compression, in the virtual world you just have to experiment a lot between threshold and ratio but at least you can tailor it to the performance and modify throughout the song. Finally remember to use the delay compensation as it really does make a difference to overall sonic clarity.

Best of luck with it.

[top]I spent new years of this year down in Kinsale just round the corner from the old head of kinsale - nice spot alright. Plenty of Guinness that night

My room is about 15 feet by 17 feet with a 9 foot pointed ceiling. I usually don't dampen my drums too much at all so they sound full and natural. The chain is fairly clean alright as you say - just basically the CLM 8 channel pre into my 002 Rack. I have a bunch of waves plugins for compression and also have waves DVerb and the waves room plugins to help build more of a dimension to the drums. Will I buss the drums into a waves compression or stay very light on compression for the close mics? I don't really have the budget for the 1176 yet! I could get the plugins but I heard they are not up to much - maybe they are?

My room is between lively and dead I guess but I could move the drums to a room in my house. I have a hallway - tiled floor and thick walls. But it would only be about 10 feet long and about 10 feet wide. I guess I'll just have to experiment and enjoy it

Thanks also Kevin for the advice on the mics. I'm guessing you would go for the 414's over the AT4047's then?

I guess I cant blame the gear anymore whatever I end up getting! - jamesosullivan1

To me the hardware version of the 1176 is better, I would experiment with those overheads, so much depends on what and how you play and how that interacts with the room.

You could try bussing the drums into the compressor chain, that will give you a little more control over dry versus's a personal choice.

If you have a livelier space in the house try by placing a mic or two in there or a speaker that you can rebroadcast elements of the performance into that space to get a different vibe. You can then offset the waveform to compensate for any latency.

Good luck and have fun

[top]I really would find it helpful to know something about your take on gain staging in the digital domain.
It has been discussed a lot around here so it would be great to hear your opinion on that. For example, would you lower levels in your busses when your master is getting too hot or do you manage to always leave enough headroom from the very beginning?

Another thing is what would you do when you get not-so-great recordings to mix as a lot of us find it not-so-easy to get vibe into poorly recorded material, especially working digital.

...aaaand if I'm allowed just one more:

Since you started your work on big analog consoles, is your ProTools mixer configured similar to a real console like let's say (emulating with plug ins) an ssl or do you go different ways - Vandertone

When I am tracking in the digital world I really pay close attention to my levels. I tend to use additional outboard meters, VU and PPM to avoid clipping. I find that most responses in the DAW are too slow to accurately measure peaks. So I think a safe harbor would be -2 to 0 . Unlike analog, digital distortion is not attractive and cannot be undone, whereas analog is so forgiving in that regard. If you tend to push your levels, perhaps consider using the "soft limit" feature on the A/D converter if available.

In mix mode I create subgroups and a master fader associated with it. I select pre fader metering in my pref's and I check to see how much additional gain I am getting based on the processing I am using. Periodically checking for peaks allows me to adjust the overall gain down without affecting the internal balance. I do not like to see the plugins register "peak overs" to me; that just indicates that I need to pay more attention to a particular element in the mix. And like hardware, I believe that software has a threshold point where it no longer sounds good.

In general it is better to give yourself more headroom in the beginning, gain can always be made up later, particularly with great effect in mastering.

In terms of mixing on a console versus in the box:

Certainly a console has a more intuitive layout for me (I did spend over twenty years on them!) and it is certainly easier to do multiple things at once but I do use a surface controller when mixing ITB. At least that way I "feel " in a more familiar environment. The DAW's afford me the chance to work on mixes until I get stumped and move and revisit them so in terms of time, they can be a lifesaver

[top]I love the sound of the White Limousine record. The vocal sound in particular is awesome - can you share any tips or tricks you used on Duncan's vocals? Also the sound of the record is very clean and the "space" is extremely quiet - the instruments seem to come out of nothingness and into the very front of the speaker - there is no extraneous noise (esp. the first track, "Casanova") - any method to that madness, or just great studio and great technique? Did you record to ProTools? - Toddro

Thanks ever so much, I think it is a very fine album myself. Duncan is a very underrated artist in my opinion.

The album was recorded into ProTools HD up at Allaire Studios in NY. If you have not visited their site, it's a must see...

Most of the tracks were recorded as a live ensemble , drums, bass guitars over 8 days. Then a few months later Ducan started doing his vocals himself at his loft studio in NYC.

Because he has a really nice setup, I was comfortable with that and DS really wanted to produce his own performances whenever the mood struck.

Gerry added some additional guitars and some parts were replaced. The strings were recorded in London with Simon Hale (truly amazing parts).

I mixed it in the box at Sevonay Sound. In terms of getting that sound on DS I did spend a lot of time on its eq and effects. Duncan uses a custom U47 that often captures a lot of additional mouth noises, ticks , pops , lip smacks. I found that removing these really helped me place the voice front and center. I would like to think that it boiled down to great technique but we were all aware how dynamic the songs were , so everybody made the extra effort to eliminate the buzzes and hums.

The main vocal treatment was a combination of a tight room sound and a plate reverb.

[top]Laurie Anderson's Bright Red is among my favorite records. Such a vast, changing landscape of organic sounds and unsettling personal, and yet universal.

If there is anything you'd like to relate about your participation in this classic I'd love to hear about it. - Zarembo

Brian Eno originally invited me to participate in the recording of this record. It was supposed to be for a week but like most great projects it just evolved into a 5 month engagement.

Laurie is such a talented artist and very sweet person. The majority of the record was recorded at her loft studio here in NYC and it was very much a project that was conceived and written in that environment. As you can imagine that made for a lot of experimentation. We had a core group of players but Laurie, Greg Cohen, Joey Barron, Gerry Leonard, Ciro Batista and Brian Eno made significant contributions.

I had established a good working vibe with Laurie, Brian would come in and oversee our progress and that provided us with a wonderful safety net in case we went too far. He also had a wonderful knack of taking something we had recorded and creating all these new atmospheres out of our parts. That perspective was invaluable and one that I had seen him perform with U2.

Laurie's studio was well equipped and had a Soundcraft console for monitoring. I used most of my mic pres for tracking. We used one of the Manley Mics for her vocals. The mixes were down at Skyline Studios in N YC and Westside Studios in London.

[top]A while back Shaun Colvin supplanted Mr. Gabriel as my fave singer/songwriter and 'Steady On' is a big reason why...

Any more insights you can share about how her vocals get such an intimate, in your face sound? Reverbs, mics, room vs. booth... And as for the arrangements, it always seems to me that John Leventhal has an amazing number of guitar and percussion parts going on in his productions, and yet somehow magically they don't get in the way of the voice. Any tricks/tips/pointers you can share on that front? - Timtoonz

I believe in the mix I used a combination of Lexicon224 plus a tape slap. In terms of the intimacy achieved, that is down to the original performance to a certain degree which sadly I was not involved in. Also during the mix we ensured that we removed any element that was obscuring her voice.

One trick I use is to keep the center position for LVocal, Kick Drum,Snare drum and bass only. Everything else is panned to some other position and I remember John and I spending hours on different panning arrangements before we settled on the final version.

We also experimented with the level of the reverb return and send, perhaps using less in the opening verses. Equalising the send ( either brighter or darker) can also create the intimate sense.

I suggest you experiment with that panning idea. it can really be helpful in clearing out a mix.

[top]I was curious if you could talk a little about the business side of things relating to the production and recording/mixing gigs. Client management, session management, how long have you had a manager?, what did you do before having a manager?, any advice for up and comers? Any other tips and thoughts about the business not gear related? - djui5

Clearly the business is undergoing such fundamental changes right now, so it is hard to give very specific advice.

When I started out I was on staff at a number of studios, learning from the house & visiting engineers / producers. I did not have a manager until I was advised to do so by Peter Gabriel, after completing "So". ( I think he said,'' You are going to need a manager after this record comes out Kev") That was in 1986 and I have had only two managers in that time. Keryn Kaplan @ Mambo and now Paul Dalen @ Reverse Thread. Pre-management , most of my work was assigned to me by the studio manager or by just establishing a close relationship with an artist, writer, producer.

There is no question that it helps to have management, but in my experience having a manager does not necessarily get you work. They can certainly negotiate more effectively on your behalf and follow up when snags occur. Lets face it, it is very hard to ask for top dollar yourself and because most managers charge a 15-20% commission of your fee, then that should be incentive enough for them to be engaged.

In terms of finding a manager, it's hard. Most want to take on a person with a proven track record and when you are starting off that is not always the case. Look within your own circle of friends and associates and see if there is somebody who is willing and has the ethical and moral standing to act on your behalf. If they behave badly, then it reflects on you , so choose wisely.

When I first came to NY I interviewed with a number of high profile managers, they all turned me down. It's all about timing and personal connections.

Good luck with your search.

[top]What's a most current piece of gear you just can't get enough of? (Any new 'must have' gadgets? - clip6

That would be my Millennia NSEQ2 stereo equalizer in the hardware domain.

In the software world, it would be Stylus, Sony and TC bundles , Love the guitar rig for special effects and I am really looking forward to trying the Melodyne plug in. My dear friend, sax god Andy Snitzer, says it rocks...

Millennia NSEQ2

[top]Can you tell a little about how you got your start in engineering? Also, what advice would you give to the up and coming engineers out there - A.Y.

I got my start at Lombard Sound in Dublin.The studio manager liked my persistence and apparently the jacket my dad had lent me for the first interview. I guess it brought up certain memories for him.

Lombard was a workhorse studio, it never closed. Jingle sessions from 9am till noon, album projects from 1pm till 11pm and demo projects through the night. You had to be a quick study and somehow I passed the grade. Because we were understaffed I got my first taste of engineering within six months and I was hooked...truth be told I was hooked from the first day...seeing the Helios console.

From there I moved to Windmill Lane after chief engineer Brian Masterson heard my work on the demo reel of one of Dublin's premier jingle writers. Right place, right time.

[top]One of my favorite records of all time is Elvis Costello’s "The Juliet Letters." I wonder if you have any memories (technical or otherwise) from this session you can share. - Silver Sonya

Elvis and The Brodsky's had performed the piece once before in London and there was general agreement that a "live recording" was necessary to capture the mood of the songs. So we went into "The Church" studios in London (truly was once a church ) and I set up looking left to right.

Violin 1, Violin 2, EC, Viola, Cello in a small semi circle. The room was very ambient, great for strings and stuff but as soon as EC started singing he drowned out the Brodsky's. So I just built a vocal booth with a roof on top, windows at the side for sightlines and that give me the separation to control his voice and the visual and proximity to the others to perform live.

I used Neumann u67's on the Violins and Viola, a TLM 170 on the Cello, U47 On EC.

A number of stereo room mics were employed , plus some M49's and a BiNaural head placed in front of the performers about 20 feet. I used no compression on the quartet and a minimal amount on EC. We recorded different groups of songs every day for two weeks. Looking for that perfect take and there were absolutely no overdubs. The players had to balance themselves in the room and playbacks were always very revealing but we eventually figured out the right combinations and it went pretty smoothly.

It was a fantastic project to record, because we managed to really work the space, balances were committed straight to two track and a multitrack for backup. Some of the finished performances were those initial 2 track balances. The majority of the piece came after the first number of trial days. The ambience you hear on the quartet came from the recording space, EC had some reverb added to his performance.

[top]'So' is one of my favorite albums and I've been fascinated by some of the sounds and effects that are scattered through the mixes. On 'Mercy Street', in the quiet section just before the second or possibly third verse, there is a sound that is reminiscent of a muffled old telephone ringing. Perhaps a muffled percussive Hammond with a very fast delay, about 60 msec, and with lots of delay regeneration? It's a peculiar and unique effect and I've always wondered how it was achieved. - Dave Peck

This one had me stumped for a second so I had to go back and listen to the section in question. I believe you mean the little interlude before the "Pulling Out the papers '' verse. If that is the case then I think it's part of a percussive keyboard sound that PG has throughout the song with a tight delay. But I am not positive about that. I am not sure it was a conscious decision and may have resulted from a happy accident that was embedded in the original recording.

Some of the percussion tracks Peter had laid down in South America while visiting there prior to the record. I had the varispeed on one day doing some weird thing and the next song on the reel was MS. When it started playing we all were wondering what the hell that sound was, the song was now being played back slower than originally intended, but it had an AWESOME sound. So we just went with it and adjusted to the new reality.

Some of the sonic nature of that song is directly related to that moment.

[top]I see that you mixed Amos Lee's Supply & Demand. I gotta say, it sounds fantastic! One of the best sounding records of the past few years, imo. So organic and clear. Do you have any insights/secrets to share about the mixing of the vocals and/or drums, specifically? - Scrubs

I just mixed this album last summer at Avatar Studios in NYC. Amos, Barry McGuire the producer and Eli Wolf from Blue Note all specified that the record sound organic and not hyped up. And they really wanted Amos front and center.

Given that is my natural inclination it was a fairly straight forward mix, the production was excellent and Amos is a great writer and performer. I tried to stay out of the way as much as I could but also help bring real focus to the songs. It was mixed in studio b at Avatar, on the J Series SSL to half inch. All the drums are essentially dry with one exception. I tried to bring out the natural ambience by using different kinds of compression, Neve 33609, Distressors, and C4 Multiband Compressor.

Amos has a distaste for overly bright sounding vocals and tracks so I used a Neve 1064 A for the resonance and the Millennia NSEQ2 for the air. A Manly VU compressor was utilized for controlling the peaks. Playback was from ProTools HD.

I love this record myself.

[top]Re U2’s “Bad”. My question is about dynamics on the vox. It sounds like Bono is all over the place (in a good way) as far as dynamics goes, yet the vox does not sound squashed, ridden or backed off the mic at all. How did you capture that in such a natural sounding way and preserve the feel in the final mix? Also, were the "Hoo Hooooo"'s punched in or were you guys riding it? - thecount_x

Well I am not sure which version of Bad do you mean because there are at least three performances out there, the album, the live aid performance and the live recording that appears on the "Unforgettable Fire/Wide Awake In America EP".

In general, Bono has good technique on the mic and I would not be doing so much riding to tape. At that time we used a LA 2A as the compressor with about 5 db's of reduction and our peak level to tape was around +1

Also keep in mind that Bono will often sing with the band during studio tracking to establish the internal dynamic of a song and even if he ends up redoing the vocal, that imprint is there for him to reference.

In a live situation everything is different. You have to contend with all the volume on stage, the monitors for the band, the auditorium or stadium. So it is a much more fluid situation and if any one of the band loses a mic or cannot hear themselves , it's not possible for me to adjust quickly enough because I was located about 1000 feet from the stage.

During Live Aid the stage was divided into three, one performing, one loading up, one unloading. It was frantic and nobody got to sound check before going onstage, hence the chaotic nature of the first song both in Wembley itself and in that initial broadcast. All you got was a line check, which is basically somebody tapping the mic and saying "bass drum, vocal mic "etc. etc. Apparently all the mic inputs were color coded and as the day wore on, things got mixed up, not helped by the fact that some of the stage hands were color blind!

U2 went on at 5pm GMT, which meant they were the first band to appear on the US broadcast so there was a lot riding on their performance, especially given the expected audience. As the band was going onstage and the line check had been completed I could not find either Bono's vocal mic or Edge's guitar mic. Everybody was screaming for somebody to find them and I looked at the end of the SSL in the truck and pushed up the last 8 faders and just as Bono said "Hello" I heard his voice and the guitar. Nothing was supposed to be plugged into those inputs !!

[top]Were you involved in the development of the drumstick bass part in Big time (that turned into Levi's trademark technique). - Guglielmino

Tony and Jerry had tried it during an overdub on Big Time but it was a little difficult to control. Peter then pulled out a cassette of that performance and wanted Dan and I to try finding a number of bars to loop in.

So I found a section, sampled it into an Emulator keyboard and laid it in. At a later point Tony had the actual finger sticks developed so that he could use them onstage.

No idea where you can get them...sorry!

[top]I have a couple of questions for you regarding some of your work with Duncan Sheik (Gerry Leonard rocks too!).

First, "Hymn" from White Limo is one of my all-time favorite mixes. How did you go about mixing the swelling background vocal harmonies during the verses?

Second, the mix for "On A High '' has a lot of saturation and grit which is most noticeable in the VOX and drums during the verses. How did you go about achieving that effect and what compressors did you use? - Schmacko

Thanks, obviously I am biased and think it's a great album, one that has been overlooked by too many people. And Gerry is a genius on guitar.

That swelling effect was achieved during the tracking of the vocals, mostly by Duncan being his own volume controller and layering the parts. I do not remember exaggerating that element in the mix. Plus the way in which it hits the vocal reverb just gives it a lovely plume effect...glad you like it!

With respect to "On A High" from the Daylight album, the vocal effect was simply a tight delay feeding a reverb and some width enhancement. Part of the character you describe is just inherent in his voice at that range and we may have enhanced in some way. As for the drums I seem to remember putting the drums through some amps to make it more gritty sounding.

The compression used on the vocal during mixing was the Manley VU two channel compressor / limiter. On the overall buss I used a combination of the Millennia NSEQ 2 and Neve 33609 Compressor. That album was mixed on a Neve 8078 at Cello studios in Los Angeles whilst White Limousine was mixed in the box at Sevonay Sound in NYC.

[top]The Los Lobos album ‘Kiko’ is one of my favorite albums of all time. Do you have any fun facts about the making of this record? Perhaps some insight on how some of the psychedelic elements were achieved. - Especht

I believe most of the credit deserves to go to the brilliant Tchad Blake. he has such a unique grasp of sound that when Mitchell Froom called me in to record the last song ("Wake Up Delores") it was a daunting challenge to make it fit in with the rest of the material. We cut the track live and overdubbed and mixed it in a day and a half. It's a bit of a blur to be honest and I may have to go back and check out the track to be able to answer the question properly.

But really, it's kudos to TCHAD...He rocks!

[top]From the discography I noticed you did Kate Bush Sensual World. That is an amazing piece of work.

Can you tell us a little about how it came about, how it was recorded, and what it was like to work with Kate Bush ? - Firby

Well I had first met Kate when she travelled to Dublin to work with some local traditional Irish musicians in the early 1980's. My friend Bill Whelan helped arrange those sessions at Windmill Lane.

Then we met up again on the "So" album, her vocals on "Don't Give Up" still bring me to tears.

I had just finished working with Elvis Costello on "Spike" and Kate asked me to come to London to hear her new album. We sat and listened to all the mixes, which sounded fantastic to my ear. Kate asked my opinion of the mixes to which i replied.'' The mixes are wonderful, but it still sounds to me like the songs are unfinished". A big smile came across her face at that moment (not what you would normally expect from the artist at that moment ) and she told me she felt exactly the same way. Apparently her label thought it was finished !

So I was hired to help engineer the rest, provide some perspective and mix the songs. Over the next six months I would travel to her studio located outside London for a period of a number of weeks at a time and record, edit, rearrange new elements and vocals and generally get the mixes in place so that we could complete the project.

She is truly one the loveliest, thoughtful, sweet artists I have ever worked with. She is incredibly passionate about what she does. I got to record a sixty piece string section in Studio 1 at Abbey Road (talk about pressure) and the Trio Balkana , these wonderfully gifted Bulgarian singers who could produce two or three notes out of their mouths. Absolutely astonishing. At the end of three days of working with them, we sat around the main room in Angel Studios in North London, with them singing these acapella love songs that reduced Kate , her brother Paddy and myself to tears. Such a special moment.

The record was done all analog, mostly at Kate's private studio.

[top]First of all, thanks for spending some of your precious time with us!

1. Which is your "essential" equipment for recording drums? and Bass?
2. In your productions how much work is done in the digital world and how much is made in analog?
3. What is your workflow when you star a mix? "Bottom-Up" (meaning , Drums, then Bass, then Guit, etc), "Up-Bottom" or "all faders up in Chorus" and take it from there?
4. To which average/peak levels are you "aiming" your final mixes for? and for bass and drums?
5. Which is your favorite Mastering Engineer?
6. How much "energy" is on the bottom end of your mixes? I mean, do you somewhere at some point cut everything below a certain frequency? - G-Spot

Great questions.

Some of the answers are a tad more generic, each project is driven by that set of musicians and instruments.

For drums and bass I use my Neve rack of 1064A mic pre's and eq which I will place next to those instruments and run at line level into the control room, Depending on the requirements I may use compression or not but my Distressors often get a beating at this stage !

Digital 70%, Analog 30 %, but that can vary from project to project.

I work from the top down, starting with the vocals.

This one is a little fuzzy because not all tracks are created equal. Overall on an analog console peaking at +1 VU, in the digital world 3-5 db below Zero to allow the mastering engineer some room to apply his craft !

There are a lot of very talented folks out there but Bob Ludwig, Greg Calbi, Ted Jensen are always excellent. Truly there are so many great choices...

I may elect to remove frequencies below 30Hz just to keep the energy focused. I do tend to push the bass in my mixes because it feels right to me. The 250-750Hz range can be problematic but it all depends on the program material.

[top]What do you use as reference during the mixing process (or how do you select them)? Any preferences in monitors and what criteria do you follow in selection? - Barish

For reference I carry my own speakers.
  • Pro AC Studio 100's
  • Cello Encore Amp
  • Transparent Audio cable and interconnect's
  • Power conditioner
  • Grace 902 headphone amp with Sennheiser 580 phones
  • Adam S2A speakers
  • A cheap boombox !

[top]The mixes you did for Gina Fant-Saez, I really liked.
Favorite SSL console? Tell us your thoughts on the different models. Also you mixed on Gina's SE a bit. How did you use the extra cue send bus? Are you a motors on or off mixer? - clip6

Thanks for having me.

I have no real problem with SSL's. I have used them to great effect over the years ( see the thread on "So", considered by many to be a great sounding album and that was recorded and mixed on a E series !) But my favs are the E and the J series.

In terms of differences, to me the G just sounds a little harsh, the E was more musical than the G, the J has more openness in the top but it has a limit to how hard you can push the output, it closes down very fast above +2.

Extra cue send bus get used on a need to basis, but no real default position for me on that.

When it comes to automation I have the motors on, I think it sounds better !

[top]Re: Loreena McKennit's "Book of Secrets" at Real World. This LP is gorgeous in performance and production -- so dreamy, alluring, exotic and otherworldly. Really makes the spirit fly...

I see by your resume that you were the mix engineer, so a couple mixing questions:

1) Was there a "go-to" reverb for Loreena's voice? Whatever was used, it is resonant and beautiful, adding really nice depth and breadth.

2) I'm guessing being done in '96 it was an all analog project? Or maybe Sony 3348? Mixed to 1/2-inch - GearHunter

I will do my best.... here goes.

I actually shared mixing duties with the wonderfully talented Stuart Bruce.

The vocal reverb was mostly the Lexicon 480L, either Auto Park and or Fat Plate. I will quite often choose one verb for a verse and something different for another section. Stuart had a similar approach. We both ended up mixing the record separately and then Loreena choose her favorite versions. He was a hard act to follow...

I believe it was an analog multitrack (A827's) and we mixed to half inch and Nagra digital @ 96K. Bob Ludwig mastered from the Nagra.

[top]Do you ever work with unsigned acts? If so, how does that occur? - Walker_ATL

Yes there have been many instances where I have worked with unsigned artists. Esch situation is unique, sometimes it is just pre production advice to get them on their way, sometimes it's actually recording, or just mixing their demos and replacing inadequate performances so that they can present the project to a label for consideration.

You hope there is some budget there to cover your time and expenses and in the event that the artist gets signed you expect to get paid in full or get first right of refusal or participate in some form of profit sharing.

[top]One of my favourite song intros is that in Red Rain on Peter G's "So". After the initial 8 bars or so of drums/bass/piano, there's a brief keyboard part that heralds the upcoming vocal. This is a mesmerising sound that, I think, really entices the listener and brings attention to the upcoming vocal part. The best way I can describe the sound is that it kind of blooms or swells. Just wondering if you can recall how this was achieved? - Tubthumper

I think it was a combo of Prophet 5 and CP70 feeding into and recirculating some effects.

[top]Your work with Elvis Costello inspired me a lot! In another thread you mention you have 5 of your own racks, what's in it? What equipment do you have equipment? - Lowswing

My racks have the following:

Rack 1
  • Neve 1064A Mic Pre';s and Eq's
Rack 2
  • Hardy M1 Mic Pre's
  • Millenia MS2 EQ
  • Manley Compressors
  • Distressors
Rack 3
  • Eventide H3500
  • Eventide H4000
  • GML Compressor
  • TC 1210
  • TC 2290
  • BS 902
Rack 4
  • ProAc Studio 100's speakers
  • Cello Amp
  • Transparent audio Cables and interconnects
  • Power conditioner
  • replacement drivers
Rack 5
  • Pro Tools Rig
And many assorted pedals.

[top]Could you also please tell us about the bass and drums treatment in "Red Rain" from the same album? What fantastic sharp drums with delayed snares and big toms and crisp hi hats and bass combo in that song. Awesome.

And how did you create that huge space at the back? There's so much going on all over the place in there but it doesn't sound so crowded at all. So spacious.

If you could remember the key equipment and the attitudes that led to mixing decisions from those sessions that would be great. - Barish

One of the things that really drives the song is the fact that Tony Levin doubled his bass part, which is panned at 10 & 2 o clock. It was recorded straight through a DI but Tony used a pick to get that attack. We may have used some compression also. Jerry Marotta is such a powerful drummer and he produces so much volume off the kit that it provides a level of excitement and energy in a track. The processing on the drums is derived by feeding various tracks into a combination of the AMS RMX 16 reverb, the Lexicon 224 and a EMT Plate, whose returns were eq'd to create that space.

The additional space in the background is coming from various "pads" that were created by combining guitars, pianos and Prophet 5 keyboards to create a single part.

In general we wanted the mix to have a certain crispness without sounding harsh so we just experimented with making certain elements have that character

[top]When you are mixing:

-What do you think is the most difficult thing to get right? (What takes a lot of your time?).

-Do you have any (almost) "standard-inserts" for certain instruments/sounds? - Gie-Sound

Well over the years I have tried a number of strategies but I have settled on this approach. I will listen to the last ruff mix of the track to get familiar with the song. Then I start my own by pushing up the lead vocal. I will work on its sound and effects until I find that satisfying, then start adding in the other instrumentation. I try to work quickly at this point to establish the right tonal balance and create the spaces around the instruments. I will then do some rides and get the overall picture in place.

At this point I will have most elements in the mix ( unless something is truly awful) and I then play around with panning. To me this is a truly important step, getting the instruments to exist freely in their place without stepping on each other.I can spend a number of hours experimenting with this even pushing the width of the mix beyond the normal L R plane. Then I will deconstruct the arrangement to see how little is needed in each section.

With today's DAW's , most songs are overproduced, so it's amazing to me how much space can be created by removing elements or just editing them down into their most effective contribution. I will start at the intro until I am satisfied that it sounds like a record, then go to the next section and so on. Each time though I am listening to the mix evolve from the top to make sure the arc of the mix is correct. I will check the mix out on Headphones and a few smaller systems and then adjust.

My last observations will refocus on the vocal balance to make sure nothing is getting in its way, checking to see that the effects are not gimmicky and trying to add one last bit of magic to a mix that will thrill the artist.

In terms of default inserts, I tend to have my preferences just like anybody else but truthfully it is very much guided by the musical content itself.

For projects that I have tracked in a regular studio, I will take a snapshot of that tracking balance after we accepted a take because it informed that decision. I will go back and reference that as the project proceeds and adjust accordingly, sometimes your initial instinct WAS correct. In the DAW world, mixes are being built from day one but I still approach my final mix the same way.

[top]You gave me a great piece of advice when we worked together years ago, and I always credit you for it. It was -- 'Never take a gig just for the money'. The few times I have not heeded that advice, it's been horrible. Any other words of wisdom you'd like to share? - Paterno

Well that advice was very appropriate at the time, when work was plentiful and most people in the business understood that real quality had a certain cost associated with it.

Now in today's market, that is not the case. Most discussions start with: "We have no money, but we LOVE the way that "So" sounded". Well if you have half a million and can take 10 problem!

For today's climate it is even more important to take projects that you have some connection with. Be it either the artist or the music. Be prepared to set some guidelines as to what parameters you are willing to work under during these times. Firm but respectful. Be prepared to walk away if you have to, when it starts to smell funny, it is funny. And when you hear management or the label say that "so and so has agreed to do it for free", say goodbye . Oh and when you meet that a-hole congratulate him on reducing the value of all our worth.

Lastly, stop sending MP3's to the label and artist to evaluate your work. You have spent a long time crafting the mix, get them down to the studio if possible to hear it in your environment before sending it off to the world to criticize. Failing that, take the time to send a full resolution mix. Glad I got that off my chest, keep up the great work.

[top]Big Time really stands out to me as sounding innovative. I really like the sound of the bass and the layering of Peter's vocals and harmonies. How were his vocals recorded and what effects were used? I would love to hear more about other specifics of the recording of that track as well as any funny session stories and anecdotes etc. - Bcgood

Peters vocals were recorded using an old Neumann Tube 47. At first we did a Blindfold test on PG with a number of different mics, anything from a Shure 57, U87 to the 47. We all liked the U47.

It has this very unusual amount of air associated with it and lacked some of the lower resonances that you would typically find with that vintage. It turned out one of the wires in the connector had come off and when fixed the "air " was gone. So Neil Perry, our tech did some fiddling and concluded that the shield had been disconnected. To replicate that we patched the mic into a mult on the patch bay and returned the "normal" mic into a fader. Then we took a patch cord with the shield removed and put that into the mult and patched it into another fader. This "adjusted" 47 had all the air back so we just balanced the vocal performances with a combination of both. It was fun to do it that way and we avoided any of the console eq.

Peter also has a very rich tone with a lot of highs so the net effect was this truly wonderful sound. In terms of effects we used any combo of the AMS delay and Reverb, the QUANTEC Room Simulator, the Dimension D, tape slap and the 480l. Sometimes we used all of them but sparingly to create an unusual halo around the voice.

Still is one of my favorite vocal treatments.

[top]Anything you could share about Peter Gabriel's “So” album would be awesome... I'd be really interested to know about your experience in that specific recording mix. gear, approach, whatever you think is important. - Taturana

The album has a brightness to it, but I tend to think of it as a "sheen ". Because it was tracked mostly through a SSL E series , with the exception of the Power Station sessions which were through a Neve, it was easy to accumulate a bite to any sound. Peter and Dan wanted the record to sound soulful but joyous at the same time and we all tried to avoid over processing a particular sound. Whatever eq curve was employed during recording was not copied for the mix.

The basic tracks were laid to two STUDER A80's (one was heavily modified by a local boffin, Colin Broad). We tried to create character sounds during that portion (some drum verbs were printed etc etc). During overdubs, Peter , Dan and David Rhodes would often combine three instruments into one part. We had our effects constantly ready to print to tape and it was not uncommon to recirculate one effect into another almost to the point of uncontrollable feedback.

We also employed a lot of reamping, either through the PA set up in the studio or sometimes using the headphone output on the producers desk to drive a pair of small AIWA speakers. They definitely had a sound !!!

We monitored through Tannoy's, NS10's, Auratone's strapped to a pair of Radio Shack Minimus Sevens. All the sounds had to past muster with those systems. It was kind of Lo tech Hi Fi but it translated really well into the outside world.

Peter's lyrics evolved over a period of time so it was important to be able to pick back up where we had last left off. Total recall was used endlessly, as were copious handwritten detailed notes that were supported by polaroids.

As the project progressed we started running out of tracks, so we brought in a 32 track Mitsubishi and consolidated performances and arrangements for the final push. We were in a "mix mode" for the last 4-5 months , adding overdubs and vocals, editing parts. We finally mixed to half inch and Ian Cooper of the Townhouse mastered the album.

In terms of effects we relied heavily on the following
  • AMS 1580 Delay
  • AMS RMX 16 reverb
  • Delta Lab DL2 Delay
  • Dimension D
  • QUANTEC Room Simulator
  • Lexicon 224
  • tape Slap
  • EMT Plate
  • Decca Tube compressors
  • Lots of stomp boxes.
  • Great Musicians
  • Unbelievable songs and performances
  • Lots of fun
When I compare I do think the remastered versions are a tad brighter but whether that was a subjective choice of the mastering engineer or just the limitations of the original vinyl, is anybody's guess. The only way to truly know is to find those half inch masters !

[top]U2’s Unforgettable Fire album has some of the most interesting sound treatments, especially compared to other albums released at that time.

I think many people here would love to hear first hand about engineering, the approach to recording and mixing and especially the otherworldly treatments.

What gear was used to make the album and in specific those amazing treatments like on the instrumental song "4th of July"?

Some of the procedures of those treatments, how they were set up using the mixing console and where things were placed in the chain of events including feeding things back to themselves? - Alex Wyler

I believe most of the credit for that sound rests with Brian Eno and Dan Lanois. They were brought in by the band to radically alter their sound and it was amazing to be part of it. The initial recording took place at Slane Castle, about 40 miles north of Dublin. U2 had been rehearsing there and were enjoying the sound of Effanel Music (the worlds truly first portable studio) was shipped over from NYC. Randy Ezratty the owner of Effanel, had recorded the tracks for "Under A Blood Red Sky" at Red Rocks in Colorado the year before and was familiar with the band.

He had a Soundworkshop console and a Stevens tape machine, lots of great mics and outboard eq. The main chain of effects were a lexicon stereo delay, a harmonizer, and a long reverb all feeding each other, Once again they were set up to immediately print to tape should a soundproof inspiring. Brian and Dan really provided the band with the sonic tapestry and that coupled with the bands own signature made for a truly unique symphony.

We spent six weeks at Slane tracking, then relocated to Windmill lane to finish the album. Some of the tracks were recut (Pride and something else) and Bono finished writing and singing the vocals.The studio had just installed the SSL e series and I was the most familiar with it. For some reason Total recall was not installed. One day Brian and I were doing a rough mix of "A Sort of Homecoming" and we just went to town with all the gates, compressors and eq. Bono was still writing lyrics for the song so we just printed that mix to a quarter inch machine. I made a cassette of it for Bono and that is what he referenced when writing.

When he came to sing the lead we could not replicate that mix so we finally flew the rough mix to a new piece of multitrack. Then we flew the vocals off the multi to the quarter inch and back to the new multi and added Edge's backgrounds. The final mix of that song was five faders...old school.

In terms of the chain of effects, all were patched back into the console and at any point any effect could be sent to numerous others and combined to tape. Certain chains seemed to work better than others but it really depended on the source instrument.

[top]How you were able to get those incredible drum sounds on The Commitments soundtrack - specifically, the huge snare on Mustang Sally and the crack-snare on Take Me To The River. - GilWave

Cool question and I hope my answer does not disappoint. The way in which the film was orchestrated was as follows. Record the backing tracks first. Shoot the film with live vocal performances. Finish filming, edit and post.

Alan Parker the director of the film had a very definite opinion that he wanted these versions of the songs to be really spunky and live sounding. Plus we could not use ANY instrument that was not shown on camera. So it was a small band, drums, bass, guitar, piano. horns, and the singers. Paul Bushnell, my wonderfully talented co-producer and I made the decision that in order to really grab the audience's attention, we had to make this combination really mirror the real inner city Dublin spirit...aka full of attitude and balls.

So in tracking the drums I went for a real ring-y tone every time, just the right amount of eq and compression. Plus the drummer (Fran Breen) and I absolutely love those tones. Paul had arranged the tracks in such a way that if you listen to them you will notice that most are quite spare in terms of parts but everything counts. The compression on the drums just made them more ambient sounding than they really were. Fran was a monster when it came to just making the snare sing, his accuracy was unbelievable.

When it came to the film mix, I tried unsuccessfully to mix in a regular control room, but it just sounded too processed. Alan Parker arranged for Paul and I to mix it at the dubbing stage and sitting in that environment I was able to hear how it would translate through the screen and the Dolby processing.

There was never a chance that we could better the originals but I think that the attitude and performance by everybody involved, especially Andrew Strong (who was 16 at the time !!) just made for a compelling soundtrack.

For the actual album release we were allowed to add additional sweetening so that the music would stand up on its own without the visual portion.

[top]Do you have any projects that you mix (inside / In The Box - without a console) in Pro Tools? I'm curious about what you think of the results? Your approach to it, like do you use analog gear as well as plug ins, external summing? And what the label guys, as well as artists expect these days. - Starkey

Good question and one that occurs frequently. Yes I do many projects in the box. The decision to approach a mix in a particular way is driven by budget, label and producer concerns, artist involvement and whether the session is attended or done via satellite.

One the decision is made, I stay digitally, I see no benefit to going through another conversion. I will tend to make subgroups and apply overall eq and compression on the groups. I will also selectively tackle any issues with individual tracks on a need to basis.

This certainly helps with any CPU issues you might run into. In terms of overall sonics , I believe that most of the DAW's out in the marketplace are sonically superior to what they were when first introduced. Once you figure how to use them, they can be wonderful tools.

Not that I have anything against analog, but it has some of its own quirks...

Plug in favs are the Sony Oxford bundle, Waves bundles, Revibe, TL Space, Guitar rig, Echo farm.

[top]There are many 'urban myths' circulating about tracking Bono's vox...Would you care to share some of the techniques/tools used on the Unforgettable Fire? - Krs

If my memory serves me well most of his vocals were done using a C12 mic thru an LA 2A compressor with a hint of eq on the top end. Some of the performances were done in the control room with a handheld 57 and the main monitors blasting, basically to get a vibe going.

But at that moment it was certainly a more traditional studio approach. When Bono had settled on his lyrics and was in good form he really could sing through a keyhole, he has such an amazing voice and style.

[top]Re Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer”

Man, this is one of those tracks of iconic proportion! The drum space! The poppin synth bassline (is it layered w/ a real slap? 1176?) The vocal space! That ethnic synth flute trill...

Everything about that track seemed to go down right. Can you tell us a bit about those sessions?! - Blackwatch

[top]Also re: Sledgehammer, is the amazing bass Chapman Stick or is it a conventional bass? Bass is hard to keep audible sometimes. Were there any tricks to get this one so clear?

I suppose the tambourine is really important, it smashes its way through the track. Have got any top tips for tambourine mixing? - Jules

It's true that bass can be a tricky instrument to balance in any mix, but for me I tend to push it up just because I love what it does to a track, especially if it is melodic.

The true credit for that bass sound has to go to Tony. He has a unique style and always makes his parts really sing in the track. In this instance he used his Music man bass with an Octave pedal.

If memory serves me, then the recording path was:

Bass>Octave Pedal>Direct Box>SSL E series Mic Pre with a Decca Tube Compressor inserted across the buss output to the tape machine (A STUDER A80, that's 24 tracks to you DAW heads out there !).

In the mix Peter and Danile Lanois really wanted the part featured so we just turned it up until the bottom of our jeans started flapping. It was really a fun line and it just makes you want to move. We even had a dance associated with it, but it was really a visual thing.

Pretty much the philosophy for the entire record was to create an immediate vibe when tracks were being cut. So if we came up with an interesting effect (we called them treatments!) We committed it to tape. Sometimes in mono, sometimes stereo, depending on the song. We also have a blue folder that everything was documented in , which included all the outboard settings and effects supported by polaroids. Because Peter likes to write the lyrics last, we had to be able to re-create a sound should the song arrangement change, and so many did !

So for Sledgehammer, Dan was messing around with the AMS RMX16 and between that and some pretty vicious eq on the console the snare effect was born. Everyone loved it so it got committed to tape. Another trick we employed was placing effects in series, a reverb into a delay into a chorus into another delay into a final reverb and just listening to the final output. Effects were often spun back into each other to create those dimensions you hear on the tracks. It also made it fun for the band as they began to play off the effects, sometimes with truly interesting results. Enjoy listening to them again with that in mind.

To be honest I do not have one approach to tambourine. Mostly I ensure that the tone is complementary to the track during tracking. If anything I will try some brick wall limiting to create a "room space" around the instrument so that it will not require a lot of reverb in the mix. Plus, open up the mic pre and have the musician stand back 10 feet...kinda cool

[top]How do you organise the bottom end in a 5.1 mix? - [email protected]

From the 3 or 4 projects I have done, I settled upon this approach after a lot of conversations with Bob Ludwig. Find your L R LS RS balance first, then start discreetly adding in the C channel so that those elements anchor your mix. Almost to the point where it provides a slight focus to the mix, without it your track is still cool and vibey but not grounded. Finally add your sub elements, which I typically keep to a minimum to fill out the sound and give the mix some nice heft.

In terms of the LS RS, I use it as a playground to do whatever but I think its valid to have an experiment with the elements you place there. If it starts to sound gimmicky and distracting then you have probably gone too far !!

[top]What was the conscious reasoning behind your use of the centre channel that way?

Was it purely aesthetic (making it sound more defined) or to do with playback compatibility with the end-users listening system? - TRW

No, it was more of a way in which to make it more aesthetically pleasing. Trying to imagine the myriad of playback systems out there will only send you into a tailspin. Trust your judgement, go to mastering and leave the rest to the gods.