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The Gearspace.com Community 1st February 2022 02:21 PM

Interview with Tchad Blake
 
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Multiple Grammy®-winning Texan Tchad Blake needs almost no introduction. He joined us back in 2007 for a very popular Q+A, answering any and all questions about his body of work (quite frankly, vast) - his transition to all-digital workflows, binaural production, his more unorthodox techniques and more. With a discography that includes all sorts of A-listers including Peter Gabriel, U2, Johnny Cash, Sheryl Crow, Suzanne Vega, Pearl Jam, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello and waaaay too many more to list here, it was a cracker of a couple weeks and we were very privileged to have him around. Read on for some insider tips and a peek inside the mind of one of the best in the business.




I was wondering if you could give us a brief run through your life in audio? You know...how did you get into music, get to be an engineer, what studios have you been connected to, any great influences etc. - Tho_dk


Sorry if I ramble, I'm gettin up in years and...I'll just start:

Always loved sounds. I used to record on cassette, getting up in the morning, going to school, walking around, football games, walking in and ordering at a burger joint, anything, and then listen back to it all in the evening. I liked taking those sounds out of their natural context and hearing them in another, being, my room late at night.

I was a mediocre guitar player and knew it so I sold some gear and became a runner for Dick Clark Productions. I met and worked for Brett Webster, a location recordist who told me about engineering and pointed me to an upcoming AES show which I went to and was blown away.

I started making rounds at local Hollywood studios but had a small connection from the DCP days at Wally Heider Recording. I must have knocked on their door asking for a job thirty times in a three month period. They finally said, yes!, we need someone and you start today!

I was on reception and phones in one of their buildings for a month with The Rolling Stones in studio B doing what I believe became 'Tattoo You' (not sure which album really).

Equipment room officer, janitor, reception, runner. That was the gig. But there was a special thing going on there and that was a maintenance engineer we called OhmLad, aka Sherman Keene. He was writing an engineering book and wanted to test it out on whoever wanted to show up for after work classes. He was amazing. Inspirational. Got me thinking crazy thoughts.

Was there for three years, '79-83.

Went on to work at Mad Dog Studios for a year then the Sound Factory where an old Heider's mate Phil McConnell was manager.

There I worked for David Leonard, the first engineer I'd come across that was really creative in his approach. Alot rubbed off.

Met Mitchell Froom there and got on well enough to collaborate for 15 years learning a lot about music in the meantime.

Bloody fun 15 years...



How hot do you mix? do you deliver stems or whole mixes? - George Necola


Before I had access to all these new limiter plug-ins I was much the same. Just compressing before mastering. Now there are people sending me things to mix with their reference being crushed through an L3. When they hear my mix they're disappointed. Louder sounds better, even to me. Recently I've been using the McDSP ML4000 to compete and I think it sounds great, but my mastering engineer is not laughing. It really doesn't leave room for him so I'm trying to find that middle ground. Almost there I think. I rarely mix in stems except for film.

Did you use that limiter on Peter Gabriel’s 'UP' album? - lucey


No, that's SSL G quad.



I like the sound on the Sheryl Crow's Globe Sessions album. What sound am I hearing. Is it Neve or API or ? What did you do on that album? - Mikey


That album was recorded by Trina Shoemaker on an old Neve, my mixes were done on an old API.



Any tips you can provide for getting the lead vocal to "sit" at a good level in the mix - not too hot, not too soft??? Anything you do to check yourself on this? - Toddro


I just listen over and over and adjust. Nothing more.



I have a couple simple questions that hopefully won't be too painful:

1. At what sample rate do you record?

2. When you are finalizing a mix, do you print the stereo mix through outboard gear or bounce?? If outboard, what are your favorites? - Skybluerental


1- I usually go 24/48 now, but for years mixed to 24/44.1. I've done a couple of projects at 96k and found it cumbersome. Sluggish computer and long back ups. I want to go home and see my family at dinner time. To be honest I can't hear much difference anyway.

2- I've got four vintage Neve 1084's, six APIs + 550A EQ, and a fantastic Little Labs pre I love, and now I've got 32 Toft/Trident ATB pre's as well. Gotta stop somewhere.



I am curious how much time you spend mixing stuff like Neil Finn or Peter Gabriel - where there might be a lot of elements flying around etc…1 song a day? I am sure it varies but some insight would be appreciated. - joninc


Anywhere from 2 per day or 1 in two days.

I mixed 2 State radio songs yesterday. Neil averaged 1 per day. With Peter there was recording and arranging involved so that was 2- 5 days per song.

Let's get something straight, I'm not humble. I like what I do the way I do it, and I'm not afraid to say it. I'm aware that what I do is not for everyone and surprised that anyone wants to know about it, but after this experience in the forum I'm happy they do and it's made me feel good to think I can help. Purely selfish endeavor. I feel I'm the one coming away with more.



Just wondering what you do to de-esse in the box? - DC2Light


I find it easier, although more time consuming ITB. The Digidesign and the Waves de-essers are good but most of the time I do it by hand dipping the volume on the channel.



When you were still mixing OTB, what hardware de-esser did you use? One of your old dbx 90xs rack modules? - recky


Yes. Depending on the voice, I'd take a bit of 5-7K (API 550a) out first then run through a 902, then through a Pultec EQP1-A boosting 16K, then a compressor.



Years ago, Danny Kopelson put LOS LOBOS Colossal Head on the "mains" in the studio, and that is STILL my favorite of yours!

I have to know WHAT / HOW you did the intro to "MARICELA". It sounds like good ol reversed reverb, but in MONO, it becomes this lush FLANGE! I must have "rewound" this one a thousand times, and it can still stop me in my tracks when it comes up in "shuffle" on my iPod.

Also, I am guilty of listening to the INTRO to "EVERYBODY LOVES A TRAIN" in MONO w/ the Speakers OUT OF PHASE. Really amazing insight into what the panning and SansAmp leaves as "remnants" (the NEVE Capricorn is one of the only "consoles" that makes this a 2 button move: MONO/Monitor Phase)

And my last question for this record (for now) is the DELAY on the SNR / HAT for "CAN'T STOP THE RAIN". Not only is the tone killer, but the delay time is much longer than I would have thought. It fools me everytime! Howdja do it?

Lisa Germano's SLIDE is a SNARE fest (for me!). How are you getting that sound on "CRASH", "BETTY", etc...(this shows up on some SOUL COUGHING too...). It sounds like much compression on a bottom head being hit with Blasticks, and possibly some Slap Echo!

Your Kick, Snare, Hat, and Bass tones / balances are generally the best I know, but this album in particular seems to stand out for the Snare Drum tones and variety! Anything especially special about those sessions?

And finally, THOMAS MAPFUMO's Chimurenga: African Spirit Music is supposedly a BINAURAL RECORDING, but I can't help but grab the limited liner notes every time I hear this CD! It just sounds TOO good (!?), that my brain is tricked into thinking it is Multi-Tracked, Mixed, etc...

Please set me straight on this one! - Mu-tron-kid


1- Yes, stereo backwards reverb through the Hughes SRS crossfade to mono percussion on the left.

2-Don't know what's going on there but I'm glad you like it.

3-Delay is a DOD (powder blue) analog delay EQ'd to **** but not that long really. 200 ms???? or something.

Slide: Jerry Marotta used some crazy Taos drums on this record and that's what you hear, with some more of the DOD delay. No bottom mic. The wild card here is Jerry. Nobody sounds like him.

Maphumo: I'll have to check on the binaural thing. I don't remember it being binaural. Does it say that it is?

Kanwal Dulay: AMF, he's a crazy guy who made that pedal. I have a few things he's made.



You worked with lots of people but is there someone you would like to work with and why? - rainy-taxi


I'd love to try my hand mixing some hip hop. Something I've never been asked to do. It's so wide open sonically.



Are you aware of your influence? Do you ever hear the impact of the innovations that you brought to pop music echoed in the work of others? You've mentioned Missy Elliott and Beck's "Guero" as records you like. I love them too but to me they almost sound like records you could have made.

And there are aspects of, say, Nigel Godrich and Jon Brion and Dave Fridmann's work that I feel have strong parallels to the signature Froom/Blake aesthetic. Whether or not there was a direct influence, it seems that you paved the way for more creative sonics in popular records.

These days, nobody blinks when an engineer adds distortion to non-guitar elements. No one looks at you funny or thinks you're weird. I credit you for making some formerly unorthodo practices more orthodox. So thank you for that. - Silver Sonya


THX for the accolades.

From my perspective I've just tried to mimic the records I grew up liking. All kinds of records.

I don't think I've created much that's new here, maybe just helped to revive some good ideas and even make some of those my own. That's cool if I've done that.

I've never thought of myself as very influential but if I've been able to garner enough interest for this forum I'm over the moon about it.



You engineered and mixed American Music Club's Mercury album. That is an amazing recording; at this moment I'd say the best album I've ever heard in every respect - songwriting, performance, sonics, mixing.

In Sean Body's book about Mark Eitzel and the band, Wish the World Away, he brought up that fact that the album did not sell well and that Mitchell Froom "got too close" to the recording process, somehow changing the album for the worse (personally, I disagree with that line of thinking).

How did you (and Froom if you know) handle that? Mercury was expected to be a huge commercial breakthrough. You guys helped the group create an amazing piece of art - did it floor you that it was rejected by the record buying public or did you anticipate that might have been the case?

Also, I'd LOVE to know your signal chain (mic, preamp) for Mark Eitzel's vocals - he has an unusual voice; I imagine difficult to record more than most.

Also anything else you'd like to add about the experience mixing/engeneering/working with AMC on a daily basis. I love those guys. Thanks for doing such a beautiful job on Mercury. - nuemes


You know, I don't recall any artist or label who said, 'it's time for us to make the jump to multi-platinum, let's get the Froom/Blake team'.

If you hired us you knew generally speaking, where we all were going.

Never heard of that author or book but I can tell you if that's what he wrote about the making of Mercury then the rest is probably rubbish as well.

Mitchell got close to all his productions. You have to as a producer.

The making of Mercury was a wonderfully creative experience for all. Mark is intensely emotional at all times and Mitchell and I thrived on that.

The band also, were very creative and wanted something different from their previous outings (as did all the artists who came to us). I'm pretty sure they liked their record at the finish. I loved it. One of our best.

GEAR???? don't remember specifics but I would lay odds it's a 251 thru a Neve 1084 to an LA3A on the vocals. THX for your note on the album.



Hey there, I saw you mention King Crimson as an influence. If you were working with a band who wanted to get that sound, what approach would you take? - thechrisl


I used to put records up against my tracks in the studio to learn where I was in the sonic world. Still do on occasion. Do that, try to copy it but don't get hung up on making it exactly the same. The point is to find your own sound.



Regarding binaural recording. How did you start out with it? What gear are you using? When do you use it? - Uptheoctav


I saw a photo in a catalog of the Sennheiser version that interested me. I made my own using two Sony ECM 50's taped onto Headphones but quickly changed to putting the mics in my ears, capsule facing inwards. The mic's frequency response is crap like this but the imagery seemed good to me. A little post EQ and they sound great.

Eventually I was able to buy the Neumann KU100. Always my drum OH. Piano, strings, various room sounds. Still use my ECM50's in the field and to do panning effects for a mix.

Set up a speaker, send an instrument to the speaker, sit in front of or behind the speaker with bino mic kit on head and shake your noggin. Wild stuff ensues. You can leave the original signal in the mix for crazy phase cancellations.



Re: Peter Gabriel. How does that work? 3 guys mixing one song!? Are you all working at the same time, or are each working on a section like drums and bass, gtr and keys and vocals...or did you all make a mix and compare strengths in each mix? - MortenDK


Those tunes were mixed over a period of years with all the listed mixers and we all just picked up where the other left off. We weren't all in the studio at the same time although Richard was there when I was doing the final stage.

I suppose it works because we all like each other, and love Peter.



So this friend of mine said that the percussion -type loop on the front of "rest of the day off" by Neil Finn was made with a Roland groovebox...It sounds really heavily filtered (env follower??) though and cool. It also pops up on some other stuff you'd done (stina) and I was wondering if indeed it is a groovebox (303) and how do you get the warbly filter sound thing going on? - Justynfromnz


I think the drum machine used was a Godwin, bought in NZ at Buffalo Bill's in Auckland. I still have it and it's a wonderful chord and drum box. It was sent to a DOD (blue) pedal analog delay which I then ran through a pedal called the 'Talkbox'. Don't remember the brand. Digitech?? Any old analog drum machine will do with that type of delay and auto-wah FX.



My question(s) pertain to your philosophy of recording drums in a small room. I have been told that you like to use "the smallest possible room". Is there no limit (besides the size of the kit i suppose!)? Do you use just standard rectangular rooms, standing waves and all? or do you like to dampen, or diffuse, the sound in the room? What about bass trapping?

Do you use a typical pair of cardioid condensers for OHs? and are they positioned unusually close to the cymbals to minimize room sound or? - narco


Yes I like small, dead rooms. If it's small and live you may have to put some absorbers in there. Never had a problem with bass trapping.

I use a Neumann KU100 binaural head for the OHs. In the dead rooms I've used there is no room sound to speak of but I do close mic everything.

The Sound Factory studio B vocal booth I used for years was just big enough for a medium size kit but the player needed to be quite agile to get out.



Care to elaborate on this Ahuja PA? What is it? A full range 3-way system? Or more like a midrangey horn? What do you use it for? - Local 47


The Ahuja is a small, inexpensive P.A. system from new Delhi, India. The model I bought has an 18" 50 watt horn driven by a three mic input amp head (watts??) with a built-in cassette deck. I also got their analog delay and three Ahuja 58 style mics. All for about $150.00 new, fifteen years ago.

I've used it a lot. Suzanne Vega 99.9-vocal in the bridges, Waits carnival barking on Bone Machine (or was it Black Rider?) and lots more with Tom, Peter Gabriel UP/strings on Signal To Noise, and more recently Paul Simon vocal/verse 2/'Sure Don't Feel like Love'/on Surprise. Just a sampling. Any Radio Shack will do, it's just Ahuja conjures up more exotic imagery.



What are your other top 4 gear investments???? - toomanyorgans


Investments on the gear front that paid off with usage in no particular order:

Spectrasonics 610, $75.00ea.
Sans Amp (Classic), $225.00
Casio SK-1 keyboard, $50.00
DOD analog delay stomp box, $50.00
Ahuja PA, $150.00



Wondering if you might talk a little about the making of the 2nd Sheryl Crow record. I always liked the attitude/vibe of that record. Was there much pressure to deliver a commercial follow up to TNMC? - OKden


Great record. One of my favs.

No pressure came from Sheryl. She was in a great frame of mind and had written these amazing songs, 'Home', 'Change', 'Everyday...'.

She sent a DAT of three roughs and asked if I was interested to mix it.

'Happy', 'Change' and 'Maybe Angels' (I think). I listened to them all night, over and over. Couldn't wait to call her management the next morning and say 'yes'.



In another post on Gearspace.com you said you like to have all your gear present for a mix. I'm curious what you might identify not as your bare minimum, I know I could make an album of a 4-track cassette, just some specifics on what things are important for capturing the emotion rather than creating it. - Mike Caffrey


The only thing that's necessary to capture an emotion in recorded music is anything that will record audio.
I have cassettes, cracked and very worn 78s, perfectly recorded studio- pristine-vinyl records and CDs with a range of emotion that I don't believe was limited by the medium.

I don't think ultimately it matters all that much to most people. (The rub comes when you determine who you're recording for, your market. Many more things come into play at that point.)

Personally, I like to have all my toys around because it means I'm ready for any idea the artist and I might have. I like my stuff. Conversely, I'd come up with other ideas if I had nothing. I'm not bound.

Back to the first line - anything that will record audio.

For me, I like contrast. High contrast, contradistinction. So I need gear that will allow me to capture and create that environment.

B&W example: A beautiful soft voice/song/performance contrasted with a tough/lo fi recording of it, or vice versa. Sometimes within the song, other times within the album as a whole (example. song1=crunchy, song2=clean, song 3= mixed bag etc...)

If everything sounds absolutely pristine I lose interest as I do if it all sounds crunchy or lo fi. I like these disparate sounds to cohabitate as they sometimes do out in the world, pulling my emotions every which way.

I used to record construction sites because of this. Brutal loud clangs mixed with soft hums of diggers and hissing of water jets, mixed with beautiful echoey squeals of rubbing steel all bouncing around a mud pit. Live and dead at the same time. Incredible.

That's what I require for a recorded emotional landscape.



Your relationship with mastering.

1. You often seem to have a lot of bottom end in your records. How much do you a) rely on mastering to rein it in or b) do you have a way in which you like to push it harder than you think it needs to be there to trigger the mastering comp, or c) does it pretty much sound like that at an unmastered level?

2. How do you feel about the so-called “loudness wars”? Do you feel the great majority of records are over-loud, or do you just find it exciting... or something else?

3. How often have you lost control of a project at mastering when the label/artist/producer gets involved, and wants to make it something other than what you intended it to be?

4. Considering your use of buss compression, do you ever have mastering engineers complain about not “letting them do their job”?

None of these questions are intended to imply any kind of dislike for the mastering on any of your records. Quite the contrary, I love them. Just curious, as a mixer, how much to consider the impact mastering will/may have on what you're doing, and what the nature of your relationships with other people in the process looks like. - kansascitydon


1. My goal in mixing is to have as little mastering as possible. I don't usually get there but the low end isn't the problem, my mixes often need top added.

2. As long as it sounds good I have no problem with volume. Depends on how you do it. I heard some of my mixes through a Finalizer and couldn't get anything close to a decent sound out of it. I've tried it several times but to no avail. I just don't like it. Now, some of the plug in limiters are sounding very good to me. McDSP, Massey, L3's on occasion. I love them. Pump it up.

3. Never.

4. Bob (Ludwig) asked me to tone it down. I'm always quite heavy handed with new gear and all these plugs are still quite new to me.

So now I'm trying to tone it down, but louder sounds better to me too.



Hello Tchad, I'm not trying to figure out what comps you use where and on what. Rather I'd love to know when you use additive compression, and why? I suppose vocals get regular in-line compression (channel insert). What about the rest: do you use compression, like with the SansAmp, also in an additive way? - Local 47


Distortion is almost always additive. Compression for effect is almost always additive, especially OHs and mono kit because I love the way it interacts with the original signal, plus it retains the 'air'. I do all the regular in line stuff everyone does as well.



not to beat a dead horse here, but what happens to the non-distorted/comp'd track? you said you use normal in-line compression on non-multed sounds, but in these multed sounds, how often does the “clean” track go uncompressed during the mix when it's coupled with a “distorted” version of itself? - kansascitydon


OHs = orig. track, no comp; mult, heavy compression; both of these might then get compressed in the drum bus comp. with all the other drum tracks. Distortion = often, in line compression/noise reduction on the additive dist. channel. If it sounds good, you did the right thing.



These Bad Plus recordings blow me away. The upright and drums sound clear and present yet dense and surprisingly deep compared to most jazz records. I was wondering about the use of Sans-amp on this stuff or what all went into these sessions... - Frog


Separate Sans Amps (what they now sell as the 'Classic' model) were used on the bass DI, kick drum, and snare drum. Shure Level Loc on a single Sennheiser 441 stuck in the middle of the kit. SpectraSonic 610's mixed into the OH Neumann KU100 clean signal. Mechanical filters, used on some tracks, consisting of a Sure 57 jammed into a didgeridoo or suitable pipe, pointed at the SN from two feet in front of the kit. Also had an Ahuja vocal mic (East Indian 58) over the kit being sent to an old Teisco 360 guitar amp, in the room behind Dave, sometimes with the tremolo on. Piano was recorded with a Neumann KU100 + 3 AKG 451's, a bit of EQ, no other treatment. Mostly Neve1073 pre's on drums, bass=SSL G, Piano=vint. API pre w/550a eq +SSL G's on the 451's. Mixed on SSL G with an Al Smart C1 across the stereo buss.



A followup to this: you mention using 3 X 451's on Ethan's piano (plus the KU100) - is this tracking to ProTools? With stock CK-1 capsules? Where do you position them? Spaced across the soundboard or closer to the hammers? - PlugHead


For The Bad Plus, they were close to the hammers, stock CK1. Ethan likes Steinway concert grands. They're not traditionally bright and yes, to overcome the distorted bass and hard drums that piano needed help. Left-center-right, 3 inches above.



OK ... Just trying to straighten the last bits out to be ready to totally copy you and never try to do anything original myself

...so additive compression on OH's and Sans Amp on kick and snare and no drum bus-compressor...

But how about compression on kick and snare (and toms if they get dedicated mics)? From what I've read in different threads here you dont mention any compression on them... Does that mean NO compression at all or does it mean that you generally speaking just compress them a bit for taming dynamics? If so any favourite comps or just whatever is available?

Thanx again for doing this - not only your sounds but also your attitude is so very inspiring... - tho_dk


Snare most often gets the compressor treatment. Kick and toms, if it's convenient (SSL) or there's a problem. Distressor, DBX160X, Omnipressor...whatever. It's always this or that. I use drum bus comp when needed. More now than in the past. Changing taste I guess.



Any consistent tricks for breaking that boundary? - mitgong


Hughs SRS AK-100. $75.00 on eBay nowadays. I bought mine the day they went on sale in the early '90's, $225 retail, but within a year they stopped marketing them. Just didn't catch on.

A consumer stereo enhancer that works great for reverbs and delays, single tracks...experiment.

There is no plug-in I know of which competes. Prosonique Ambisone comes close and is good, but it doesn't take the place of the Hughes.



What about stuff like overheads? Knowing you often record them binaurally, do you just simply pan them hard left and right? Or do you often sum them to mono? What about the OH compressed mults? Would you pan these the same way then?

And last, how do you deal with all these (pseudo) stereo synth tracks? Do you generally get rid of one of the sides? - Local 47


Depends on the tune and direction of the mix. Changes, but often hard pan. Same with the compressed. I've done some mixes (please don't ask which ones/can't remember) where the original OH were panned left and the compressed were panned right.

If the pseudo stereo sounds cool I use it but often people don't check sampler tracks or synth tracks to see if it's a mono patch, and I get lots of 'stereo' tracks that aren't stereo. Then I do get rid of a side.



I have a question for you about the choir treatment on Wartime Prayer on Paul Simon's Surprise album. If you would elaborate on what you used, if you recall, to me it sounds like some heavy chorus with some phase or something. When I first heard it I thought it was recorded that way, but it sound so cool and like nothing I've ever heard before on a choir. How did you come up with that!? - MortenDK


That is an Eno effect. A played, kaos pad manipulation. I just ran it through the Hughes SRS in the mix. I love the treatment as well.



The Surprise Album is one of my favorites! Did you get any directions from Paul Simon on how he wanted it to sound or did you just "do you thing" and mixed it like you wanted!? - MortenDK


Mixing is always a collaboration. Paul was extremely open minded about treatments and I was looking for ways to do my thing without it sounding like a bulldozer. Main thing for me was that mix treatments had to compliment the vocals/lyrics. It was a very fun process with him. Yes, the Ahuja and Sans Amp are in there.



How did you approach the mixing from the vocal/lyric point? - MortenDK


Mixed on SSL J series with sub-mixing odds and ends ITB. I really don't know how to write about what I do in detail but I can tell you this much...

When I do get a 'vision' 99.9% of the time it's radically changed within the first half hour of working because it was just plain wrong.

And my secret to mixing...?

I bring everything up and start whittling & twiddling until it makes sense to me. That's it.



I wanted to know which of the SansAmp line you use or which you use the most and prefer? - Alex Wyler


Sans Amp Classic. Sans Amp Classic. Plug in is good too. Kick, snare, toms, always on bass (haven't recorded a bass amp for 15(?) years), sax, wurly, B3, samplers, etc...

On a send, add in. Play with phase and LP/HP filters for even more phasey fun. I often run it through a Rocktron Hush to control noise.



Do you record bass directly through the Sansamp Classic? Do you use an D.I. box, too? Do you use any other tools between bass and the console? What about the drum things you mentioned? Snare, BD etc. Do you record them through SansAmp and why? What about all the keyboard stuff? SansAmp plus DI box? - D'Andrew


Always the Classic in those days. Now, sometimes, the plug.

Mic channel=DI>desk>DBX160X???>tape...+pre/send>SA>

Line In channel= DBX160X????>Hush>tape. Separately.

Bass, drums, the same. Always additive. Rarely on it's own.

??????='I don't remember' or 'whatever'



In the Bomb Factory manual for the PSA-1 plug-in you state that putting a kick drum thru a Sans Amp pedal while flipping the phase will drop the sound down an octave. I never really understood how this works. Could you explain it a bit more? - doorknocker


Get yourself a good honkin kick sound with the SA added in, flip the SA phase and play with HiLoPass filters. Sometimes you can manipulate it so it sounds like the kick drops an octave. All your doing is changing phase relationships just like EQ does, only more so. Good example is 'Wicked rain" on the album Kiko by Los Lobos and probably a few other tunes on that and the album "Colossal Head".



I was doing some tests trying to mimic your approach to distortion with the SansAmp PSA-1 plug in but I'm hearing phase problems even though delay compensation is activated. Have you experienced similar problems before? And if you had, how do you deal with that? What do you recommend me to do? - Oroz


In the box I usually copy the track to be processed with SA and mix it in. I don't usually have problems or maybe they just don't bother me. But if I did have an undesirable phase effect, I'd probably start shifting the SA track backward or forwards with single samples until I got what I wanted. Also, play with HiLo pass filtering before you start moving things. That can alter your phase relationships drastically.

EQ = selective phase shift.



Do you have any vocal effects or treatment to the voice you like to start a mix with? i.e., reverbs, distortion effects, certain compressors/settings, etc? - 84K


I used to always run the vocal through a Neve channel, no EQ, to start, then an API 550A> Distressor or ADL>Pultec EQP 1A for top. Sometimes a de-esser between the 550 and the compressor.

I most often use digital delays on vocals, guitar stomp box types, DOD, MXR, Moog.



You mean analog delays on vocals I suppose? Like the ones you mentioned? What about your classic digital studio delays like PCM 42, AMS DMX, SDE 3000, 2290? Or do you use those more for instruments?

And second, running stuff through the Neves when you mix: are you after distorting the vocals by running them through the mic input again? - Local 47


I also use the digi delays but rarely on vocals.

Neves - no, I'm using the line amp (and sometimes EQ) when mixing just because I like the sound.

When needed, the old Neve mic pres have no rival for distortion on vocals and GTRs and...



When mixing, do (and did) you take the time to start from scratch every time? Setup-wise I mean. Like, one session is soft pop, then roots rock, then jazz. A 25-track session followed by a 125-track session. My question is, do you have a basic blueprint you try to apply to all incoming sessions?

Reason why I'm asking is, I remember a thread on this forum some time ago, (with lotsa heated discussions) where some folks were criticizing the fact that the Lord-Alge brothers apply the same blueprints (fixed sets of gear per channel, even fixed settings of the outboard) all the time. (don't have a problem with that though). - Local 47


I don't have a problem with that either. Whatever works for you, and it bloody works for them, if that's what they really do!

I don't have a blueprint per se but I often end up with similar gear on 'like' tracks. I almost always use compression and Sans Amps. Is that the same thing as a blueprint? Maybe.

The wild card is the music and production. That's what really makes it different.



Thank you. How much did you end up using the Neumann KM-105's for vocals or did you end up overdubbing vocals in the more "proper" way? Did you ever have any issues or problems with the console and monitors all being in the same room or did it just add to the ease of communication? I love the look and vibe of that room. It would be a dream room to have. - MJGreene Audio


No 105's on that one that I remember. We used 57's live but didn't use any live vocals in the final mix. A Tele 251 re-issue was used for the OD's.

It's not all that comfortable all in the same room for me.

I've done a fair amount of control room recording at Real World but find the sounds suffer a bit and need more work in the mix.

The Barn, my dream as well.



Re Martinis and Bikinis. There is an obvious slant towards Beatles mids and compression. How much of this was you in the mix? Did you do anything to the small string ensemble for that Elenor Rigby vibe or was this in the tracking? Colin Moulding's bass work is so cool and you really managed to get that whole kit and bass guitar to pop like some of the Bealtles stuff... care to elaborate on what the tracks were like before the mix and just how much of that cool compression etc. was done at mixtime? - Lee Knight


T Bone let me go on Sam's Records. So I tended to go wild on those mixes. In fact he came in on the first day and asked me to mix what would be the first single of the album and then left. I never, ever got to mix singles, so I worked on that song doing everything I thought would make it a single mix. When T Bone returned three hours later he had a listen, for about 45 seconds, then stopped the tape machine and said,"This isn't what I hired you for, I hired you to be YOU. Give me mixes like that and I'll fire your ass." Out came the Spectrasonics 610's. I wrote somewhere else in this forum about the 'Black Sky' bino mix in response to 'what was the longest time on a mix'. Can you find it? I don't feel like writing it again. THX!



I luckily found a Hughes AK-100 in storage at my parents place and I'm going to give it a whirl. I searched for a manual but was not successful. Can you give a quick rundown of typical button (in/out) / knob positions you have your unit set with. It would be a real help. Also, I wired the in/outs to the "Unit" not the "Loop" on the back panel, is this correct?

A second question I had was with mono-compatibility using this effect. Is it pretty much not possible, or can it be depending on settings. - joey raia


In and full on. 'Center' 7-10 o'clock. 'Unit' is correct. Yours is the second question about mono compatibility this week and I'm trying to figure out why it's important. I haven't checked in years.

SRS is not mono compatible. If you put your FX (reverbs, room, delays) through it they will diminish in the mono fold down. I always liked that effect and wanted to utilize it so mixes sounded really different depending on how they were played. How cool would that be.



What do you use on guitar amps? I know it is an overly simple question, but I love the focus and immediacy of electric guitars on your recordings. Do you use more than one mic? I have been using a 57 and a Royer, with fair results, but I am yearning for that "sitting on your shoulder" sound I hear, especially on albums like "Dose."

And I was just at Coachella, and this chick dressed up as a wolf came up and handed me a cd called "Wild Animus." I wasn't going to give it much thought until I saw that it was mixed by you and Chuck Ainlay! WTF? I listened to it, and it was...interesting. It sounds awesome, and the mixes are great, but I don't know what to make of it. Did you work with Chuck, or was it just separate mixes? And who is the singer? What the heck is it? Thanks for any feedback... - Bobby McKnobby


I generally use a 57 or a Km84 mic'd close. Very rarely together. All (mostly) small gtr amps, 10-20 watts, 8" speakers kinda deals.

Yes, Wild Animus is a very strange project which is one reason I took it on plus many of the players are very old friends of mine.

The writer, Rich Shepero, is an author of books and a very interesting and successful businessman. The music is related to the books as chants throughout the story.
Separate mixes, mine done at Real World.



You mentioned that you are starting to mix a lot more in the box…What plugins and techniques have you discovered to help achieve the sound you're after? - Prickstein


Lots of great stuff out there. URS API EQ is my fav. Massey MT4 compressor for light level control. Compressors are the weak link for me just now. They're great at doing a job and being transparent but I usually want a bit of character in a compressor which I still only get in the analog world. Tape simulators give the most character compress I've heard so far such as Massey and McDSP.

Eventide Omnipressor comes very close to real fun. DD Smack is good. URS, Massey, McDSP, Soundtoys, Phoenix, Prosonique, SSL, iZotope, Ohmboyz. All great. Audioease stuff blows me away. Can't wait for Speakerphone.

I set PT up like a normal desk. API EQ and MT4 on every channel before I start. Many of them won't get used but I have an ICON which works well like this. Sometimes it feels like I haven't changed things so much from being at an analog desk. It's taken me six solid months of recording and mixing this way to START feeling comfortable but I'm lovin it now.



So if I may, what is your home studio setup? A Digidesign Icon? A bunch of outboard? - Jules


I've got a collection of gear that's too much to list here but I'm still using all my mainstays you've already heard of.

New stuff = the Toft ATB 32 desk(wicked), PT Accel HD 5, DD ICON (fantastic), Linn 328As (love'm), Studio Projects T3 & B1 mics (great AND cheap), iMac for running stand alone virtual instruments (MOTU/native stuff. Can't get M-tron working and can't get a response from the company???), James Trussart guitars (the best ever.)




Do you ever use The Phoenix plug-in on individual tracks as well as the 2-buss? What setting do you like on the 2-buss? - seawell


Oh yeh, I mix Phoenix and Tape Head on different things individually. I use them as compressors. They have character.

2b=Dark Essence, Saphire.



1.) Do you listen loudly or quietly when you are mixing? or a mixture?

2.) Do you do a lot of volume rides on individual tracks, to bring out different things at different times? or do you often get a static balance that feels good and print it? or does that depend on the feel you are going for on a particular project?

3.) What kind of funky flanging-type sound do you use on SV's nine objects? An example might be the chorus of "headshots". Is that just compression releasing or is it something modulating? - bryancook


1. All levels, but mostly moderate, 75-85 db.

2. I start with a static mix then move on to rides.

3. Most likely my grey 1970s (?) MXR flanger stomp box. Softly sung, mucho compression.



Stina Nordenstam's latest are a masterpiece. Have you tried the THC distortion from Steven Massey? - Svein


Yes I have the plug. I'm using it on my current mix. Good one.



Foy Vance, care to share some details about the work you did with him? Did you produce or just mix? - MR4791


Different approach on Foy's record. Foy mixed it himself then brought it to me for final tweaking. In two days, we ended up mixing eight songs starting at Foy's 'end point' so to speak, then I 'pre-mastered' the rest, compressing + EQ to match up to our new mixes.



Concerning the album by Suzanne Vega - 99.9

1. What was Susan's vocal chain for this album?
2. What type of deck and tape did you use to track?
3. What board was used for tracking and mix down?
4. What studio and room was used for tracking?
5. This is more of a broad question but how did you approach recording this album and what was your recording philosophy at the time?

I really love this album, I had no idea you engineered it till I read it in one of the posts on here. ANY stories that you could tell or things you remember about recording this album etc. would be greatly appreciated. This has been one of my favorite albums for a long time.

I think I got it on Christmas 1992 on tape and I remember playing it on a little Sony tape deck. My favorite song at the time was London. I love how in the song "Fat Man and Dancing Girl" the sonic landscape just explodes with those strings, awesome stuff. I personally think this is some of your best work, one of the better albums of the 90's IMHO, classic!!! - bcgood


1.Vocal=251>most likely an LA3A

2.Deck=Studer of some sort, tape??????

3&4. Tracked on API @ Dreamland, NY. Mixed on API @ The Sound Factory, Studio B.

I like this one too. Mitchell and Suzanne connected on that record. I had been in India for two months before we started, just soaking up the atmos with my first wife.

I must have heard 100 of those systems in all different environments, mostly outdoors, and loved every one of them. I had to have it, so just before I was to leave India for Dreamland Studios I bought a system + an analog delay and three 58 style mic's. To ship they sowed it up form fitting with cotton cloth, horn and all in separate packages. Looked fantastic when I walked into the studio.

I've used it so much I couldn't begin to catalog here but it did shine with Suzanne. Her voice through it was another world. Jerry on his full kit of Taos drums and other sundries...How could I go wrong?



I hear some reverb on vocals, as well as throughout the rest of the sonic landscape. I know that in the time since you have generally moved away from reverbs, developing your use of distortion (Sans Amp) instead. Would you say the evolution began sometime after 99.9? During? - bdmctear


I don't remember any reverb, just delays through the Ahuja on 99. Doesn't mean there wasn't any though. I do use reverb, just not all that often but I've always preferred dryer sounds, almost as if they were recorded outdoors in a field.



How much do you rely on VU meters, peak meters, phase scopes, spectrographs etc.? - Local 47


I use meters very generally to watch levels. Peak, VU, I don't really care. If I'm in a studio that has fancy stuff I'll take a look. But I never make a decision based on meters.



Are you comfortable working on a single pair of monitors? Or do you still work on an array of sets (NS10, Audix?) beside your 'work horse' pair.

What about Headphones? Do you mix on Headphones sometimes when working binaurally? - Local 47


I check on a few systems when I have doubts.

I have a cheap micro system set up in the studio and a little iPod player but I'm fairly comfortable now with my Linns.

I rarely listen on headphones but certainly would when doing bino stuff.



Hi Tchad... thanks and welcome. I'm thinking about upgrading my monitors. The linns are too steep. Got any cheaper recommendations? Also do you keep track of the level you work at? - Notable


Before I got the Linns I was mixing on NS10's (w/o the felt ring tweeter) and a pair of Audix Nile Vs, powered by a Macintosh MC 2105 solid state amp, my favorite amp for near fields to this day. I'm not familiar with many new types so I can't really offer you more specific advice. Speakers are so personal anyway, almost every speaker I was told to try by someone I respect, I didn't like (except for the Audix which jp turned me on to). You have to find your own way, but I can tell you that when possible, try them out for at least one or two weeks before you commit to purchase. If you still like them after that, you're probably on to something.



I have to wonder if you miss tape. I once read an article that said you and Froom used BASF/Emtec 900 and that got me hooked on it. Now I learn that you have embraced the DAW world. I have as well, but I still use tape sometimes for its ability to absorb and tame sharp transient sounds. Do you feel that tape played a substantial role in the textures of recordings like Lisa Germano "Slide" (brilliant!), "Brilliant Youth," "Kiko," "99.9F" "El Oso"? To my ears, it would be difficult to arrive at such elegantly saturated results without tape. I'm not saying impossible, just difficult. But maybe I've overestimated it or over-romanticized it? - Silver Sonya


I like tape OK but it's been a love hate thing. Mixes always come back a little different and sometimes that's good, but more often than not, it wasn't.

Yes, those records would sound very different. PT's back then didn't sound as it does now so I'm glad tape was there.

But I doubt it would make a significant difference emotionally which is what I'm most concerned with.
If tape is a magic ingredient of great mixes then we're all screwed because it's dodgy now and won't be around later.

Move on. Learn how to get great new sounds in the great new world.



This is what I hear when using tape...I hear the taming of sharp transient sounds, or a roundness to the sound. I hear a natural kind of compression. I hear depth, texture, and warmness. And to be honest, I like all these qualities! - Joemamma


I hear that roundness as well. And sometimes it works. But if I'm already as round as I want to be, do I need to be rounder? I don't want to rely on it. I never felt I could anyway.

Please understand I'm not dissing tape, tape is wonderful. Sometimes it floats my boat, it's just not a requirement for me.



What sort of project do you find more challenging and or fun - a stripped-down three piece with a few extras like Low or a crazy complicated job like PG? - terminal3


I like it all as long as the artist is up for experimentation which I find is diminishing these days in pop. More and more projects come in with less margin for the wild card. I find it easier to experiment with sounds in simpler environments, like a trio or just very pared down arrangements. More of a challenge with denser music.



Re ADL1000 compressor on vocals. I was wondering how exactly you use it during recording (vox and otherwise). Do you push it fairly hard and go for the "final product" or do you merely use it for tone and some taming and then compress more in the mix (additive or in-line)? What compressor would you use for this? Do you find that the ADL can cause pretty bad sibilance on some singers?

I would also love to know what your (tone-shaping) compressor of choice is on acoustic guitar? . Is the Sans-Amp treatment a major contributor to your acoustic guitar sound, in varying degrees? - Recky


I use it lightly for tracking. If I record with the ADL, I mix with the Distressor and vice versa. Depends on the vocalist. All compressors exaggerate sibilance at some point in my experience. Mic selection, distance and 'working' the mic can help cut it down but there's always some with many vocalists you have to deal with in post. AcGtr, generally I like LA3As, Distressor, 1176, DBX160X.
Sans Amp+AcGtr, not always.



I have a dilemma but it's probably a dilemma I asked for. I have the opportunity to have an internship at a big recording studio in Chicago. Obviously it isn't paid, and the guy I met with told me that I probably won't be getting hands on training in the studio, etc...

I knew that much going into it and I am ok with most of it. A Lot of what I have heard about other producers/mix engineers is that these internships are the best way in the door. And the guy even told me that is where most of them had their start. But I curious about one thing. IN this day and age where we got our own home studios and are essentially doing/being a producer or mix engineer, does it make sense to go do the intern deal and hopefully get a chance to do something that you can already do in your home studio? I'm not trying to be pessimistic or anything its just that I'm just wondering if I wouldn't be taking a step backwards trying to get into a big studio by doing the long road intern thing? Not looking for you to make my decision just wondering if there is any validity to my thinking or truth to it. Looking for your thoughts. - rabtwins


It really depends who you might work for. Are there creative clients coming in who can teach you things that you're interested in?

The great thing about established studios is meeting lots of people. If you have a good attitude about the whole process of making music I guarantee you'll get noticed by someone who needs a vibey, enthusiastic workmate. They are in short supply. But if you're already happily working in your own studio, why bother. What do you want out of the deal?



You mentioned no plugin seemed to successfully emulate the hardware solutions you use for this effect. Does this mean you insert a Hughes box or H3000 when you mix ITB? - LateRiser


THX for all that.

I always have those bits of OB for mixing. Here at Mongrel they're set up on a 192 interface I/O so I can easily record them when needed.

Give this a go....send anything: H3000 preset = Buenos Notches, mix = 100%, FB = 30-80%, rate =.01-4, mode = sweep. Send to SRS, no center, all else up full.



I saw that you use linn speakers. tried to get info (and pricing) on them but could not find much on the web. the linn website does not even mention them. Could you give some info and thoughts about these monitors?! - NoisyNarrowBand


Highly recommended even at the high price. Linn never actively advertised the 328As as it was their entry into the pro market which they have since, due to downsizing, put on hold. Still producing for the high end consumer market though. I've heard the Artikulat 350A (active/floor standing) model are very similar to the 328s. Don't know anything about that myself. The best thing about the 328s is they hardly change timbre when listening at elevated or reduced levels(great sensitivity). The low end , which extends way below any speaker I've ever heard, does not diminish when listening at conversation levels, (almost sounds like you have a sub woofer).

Prohibitive price, yes. I saved and sold to get them. Never regretted it. I think the older you get the more you pamper yourself in some ways. I'm getting to be an old dog and those things pamper me everyday. Bring it on.



I realize you probably have more DI boxes than blades of grass in your yard but I would still like to know what you would use as a versatile all around DI. I basically want something that doesn't color the sound much (if at all), just levels the signal. I recently ordered some very nice (for me anyway) Presonus pres and want to be able to run my guitar and bass directly into them and keep the sound pristine. I have some Amp modelers in ProTools that will give the guitar and bass the realism so I think all I really need is something where all frequencies come through without any coloration. - Jbuehler


I'm the wrong guy to ask about 'pristine'. For the most part, if it doesn't color the sound, I don't want it.

What do I use most?...an Aguilar DB 900 tube DI and a Distressor DI (don't tell Dave D. about this as he loaned it to me years ago and I never gave it back).



Wondering if you did a lot of live mixing in the past? If not, is that a deliberate decision? - Local 47


I did one tour in the early '80s with the band 'The Knack' where I was the front house mixer. I felt I was so bad at it I'd never do it again.

To do live you need way more technical knowledge than I have. It's a very intense world that kicked my ass right out.



I would like to hear your thoughts about making the artist feel comfortable at a session. I think you've managed to capture that "creative" atmosphere several times. How do you approach a situation, where an artist "wants" to make some bad decisions that are making the record sound worse? Are you ok with that and let the artist decide what they want or do you secretly steer your client towards a new idea that could help the session run smoothly. - JariNi


I'm up front with how I feel or what I think in the studio but I try to pick my moment. Let the artist follow their nose first, then put my two cents in. I don't have to like every detail or every song on a record, but the artist does. I'm there to help with that. The big picture. People are comfortable, usually, when they know they're in an environment that's honest.



RE: Peter Gabriel - UP Could you share some of the recording/mixing process? I'm particularly interested in how you got that huge bass. What was the record/mix chain on Tony Levin's bass? Any automation on the bass in the mix? - DirkB


Bass had Sans Amp added, EQ and compression would have been SSL G series in line. Lots of automation. Sony Oxford used for tracking and ODs. Mixed on SSL G. Remember this album was created over a ten year period. Richard Chappell, Peter Gabriel's longtime engineer and collaborator is the only person who knows how it was recorded.

The strings on S-Noise were run through my Ahuja PA and re recorded with the Neuman Head then added back into the originals.



What led you to do the "tape scratching" on (I think it was) Growing Up? Were you overdubbing it live to the track or did you fly them around a lot? - Twisted Tones


I just thought the track needed a wild card. It was done live to the track with punch-ins for added effect.



“Mixing is over rated” (something you said in an earlier post...). How much are you committing to tape during tracking? i.e.: Do you print your parallel drum processing such as the sansamp and ss 610 tracks? And do you print it separately or go ahead and combine it with the original sounds? Are you doing most of your tweaking (eq and comp) on individual instruments in the tracking stage? - blackbox


Did I say that?? Hmmmm. I think what I meant is that when a song is tastefully recorded there's a wide margin in mixing that will work and not destroy the song. I always print my FX except on the vocal. Depends on the project whether the tracks are combined. Now with PT's FX are printed separately most of the time. I'm always tweaking individual tracks, just like everybody else.



Your work on Lisa Germano's "Slide" was astonishing. It held true to form for both style and feel for the label 4AD but yet offered a place sonically that even they had never been too. OK, so how did you get those pitched down guitar tones? What was the wined-up binor piece segue-way and how was it done? What was your basic setup at that time? Marotta's drum sound was so natural but yet bigger than life. (very tasty) Does Lisa really suffer for her art to the extent that it comes across in her voice? (how did you mic her violin?) - DC2Light


So much of what you hear on Lisa's records is someone who has no emotional barriers. None of the normal filters that most people have to protect and/or isolate themselves from the world around them. It's an incredibly wonderful gift she carries.

I love her contrast. Very dark lyrics of life gone wrong, where many fear to go, next to some of the most beautiful music that tells the listener how things could and should be in the world.

I've often said she should write american classical music. Her music structure often reminds me of composers like Arron Copeland, George Gershwin and Charles Ives.

-The low gtrs are baritones.

-I think the wind up sound you mentioned is two whistling tops I've had for years that once wound up and spinning they play a descending interval as they run down. Recorded with my sony homemade headset.

-Nothing special about my setup but Jerry used his Taos drums a lot on that record. Basically a slice of tree with skins stretched over them. When the kick sounded too soft we'd tape a k drum head to the pedal side of the drum so when hit, we'd get a snap.

-Don't remember the violin, most likely a 57.



Do you use LA2A's a lot? - mikey


I almost never use LA2A's. They don't do it for me. I prefer ADL with the fast opto. 1176 is a masterwork of compressor. That said, I don't own one and if I had the extra money I'd probably get myself another Distressor instead.



Hello Tchad! Do you use any other model of Sansamp's besides the Classic? - Andy W.


Just the Classic and the plugin.



What are your favorite mic pres for vocals and other applications? Do you generally use the pres on the console or outboard? - jdjustice


Three consoles I generally use all have good pre's. API, Neve, SSL. The only OB pre I own is a Little Labs which is also top notch and the Toft ATB has great pre's. API and Neve are good with any instrument and vocal. SSL is also great for most instruments but I have trouble with them for vocals. Maybe they're too clean for my taste. If I had to choose one brand of pre to do everything for the rest of my life it would be Neve, with just a slim margin over API because of my preference for the vocal sound. But I've gotten great vocals with an API as well. This isn't to say there aren't other great pre's out there. I'm just happy with what I have and not interested in searching for more until I have a specific application.



What music, mixes, producers, etc were most influential on you in your early days? Does anyone's work directly relate to the style you have developed? - bdmctear


I can tell you that the first two records I ever bought were Jimi Hendrix/Band of Gypsys (how do you top a performance like 'Machine Gun'?) and King Crimson/ In the Court of the Crimson King.

There's so much I like out there in all genres and decades I can't possibly list it.

As far as early sounds are concerned maybe the most influence has come from Hendrix/Electricladyland, King Crimson/Islands (check out 'Ladies Of The Road'). Also KC 'Larks Tongues....' and 'Starless....', Van der Graff Generator, Pink Floyd before 'Dark Side', lot's of Motown, early Peter Hammill and Todd Rundgren. Beatles and Stones of course, Syd Barrett, Lol Coxill and Ron Geeson had quite an effect on me atmos wise. Any, I'll say again, any Nino Rota recording, and the 'Barbarella' soundtrack is crazy good.

Mixes I remember getting me once I started working in a studio: Clearmountain, too many to mention but Willie Deville-'Gun Control' and 'Assassin of Love' come to mind, Peter Gabriel/4 'Security' (amazing album), Neville Bros. album-'Yellow Moon', Bowie 'Lodger' and 'Scary Monsters' ('Ashes To Ashes' is perfect pop to me), I could go on with jazz, classical, 'world' music but won't.

Recent records: Dre, Timbaland, Eminem, 50 cent ('In Da Club' kills me), Missey E, Audioslave, Queens of the Stoneage, don't really like Britteny but 'Toxic' sounded wild. Goldfrapp, Kings Of Leon...



Do you feel as if at some point, music in general is going to explode again some day and be full of creativity? - ScottAltiz


Here's me...rambling...

Some people like art and some like entertainment and then there's plenty in between with room for all. All the bands you mentioned are great bands but remember there were hundreds of popular bands in their time that few remember now.

Bands like Zeppelin, The Doors and Hendrix were very competitive and experimental and that's now diminished in that genre. But pop music has moved on. As an example, Rap is a new frontier in experimentation. It's the '60s all over again. Lyric, sounds and rhythm are up for grabs and it's fantastic. What it may lack in melody, it makes up in content. There's great stuff happening, but there's also lots of stuff that won't be remembered one year from now, just like the old days.

So what's changed?

Nothing, except in quantity. There's a whole lot more of everything.

I like all sorts. Stina Nordenstam, Tupac, Tom Waits on the 'art' side to Madonna, TLC and Michael Jackson for entertainment, and then a whole world of music that straddles the two. Different music for various reasons and/or moods.

From what I can see, it's the business of music which became stagnant, not music itself, and that's now changing. The '70s through the '90s saw bloated signings and budgets that were just outrageous. Many including moi benefitted. Now we're all complaining about shrinking budgets, but I'm wondering why they ever got so high in the first place, so...what happens? Market adjustments, and they usually adjust downward. Very painful, especially for the art side...well, maybe that's unfair but...there you go...

Buuuuuut !!!awhen all the munney stuff gets figgeredd out on the intraanet, I thaank the busyness of moosic will rise up again!!! and expellode!!! upon the worryeld ..and be as bigger then ever in ever!!!??$#%@#%^&*!!!Ayemen.

Just look at the markets the net has access to...the whole planet and...!!!

It's all about property rights and when people are secure with that, things move forward.

Music is a strange and wonderful beast. It bypasses our process of identification and seemingly goes right into being an emotion, a direct injection to your very core. You don't have to put any effort into it (though it's good when you do) and you cannot keep it out. Even if you can't 'hear' it gets into your bones and makes you jiggle and wiggle.

That kind of power gets chemical and when you're young, learning new stuff like music, sex and love, those sounds you hear seem to merge with your chromosomes and no other sounds later in life will do quite what the sounds (and probably smells) from your youth did. You can love new music, but I venture to say that it's rarely as emotional as the 'old stuff' you used to listen to, and that's OK. Same for every generation. Know it.

So, there's stuff you like and stuff you don't. Stuff that's good and stuff that's bad. That's my spiel and I'm sticking to it.

Where do we go from here? Music doesn't need saving. Like the planet and everything else, it's always changing.



I was wondering if you could share a little information on how you deal with your stereo bus when mixing in the box. Do you use a compressor across the bus? Digital/analog? And do you print to digital or analog or both? - stung


All ITB, and I change up quite often, but just now I've settled on Cranesong Phoenix>McDSP ML4000. Recording into PT's and sometimes Sadie if I need to make sequenced CD's w/PQ.

I have the little Digidelivery system to send out mixes for approval and mastering.



Re: mix bus compression. What are you favorite units? How hard do you like to hit them? Do you use bus EQ as well? - SUPADUPA


Analog world = Al Smart (SSL) early job. No EQ.

Digital = Phoenix+ML4000 no expander or gate. Occasional minor EQ.

I don't hit my bus compressors very hard. Most of what you hear is channel processing.



what settings do you start with the ML4000 on the 2buss? - american


Flat. I only use the compressor and limiter. Gate and expander are usually off. Settings are too complex to list with crossovers and all. Please experiment.



In your reply to a question about recording acoustic guitar with vocals, you mentioned using a lavalier mic inside the guitar. Could you recommend a particular make & model of lavalier for this purpose please? - DCW


Yes, Countryman Iso Max cardioid or hypercardioid. Both will require heavy HP filtering. Experiment!



Anthem - Phantom Planet "The Guest". I'm a big fan of that whole record. I'd love to hear any notes you can give on the recording and mixing process. The guitars and drums sound so great, imo. - MikeK


Done at the Sound Factory with my usual set up, drums in the small room, guitars in the bathroom, bass DI+Sans Amp, vocal 251 or 57.

I don't remember anything special set up wise. Just a really fun session.



I am curious how much of the time you provide key instruments used on your records? Do you bring along a lot of instruments when you are tracking? - bdmctear


I have lots of instruments. More important than lots of recording gear. Perc, keys, gtrs, drums, bass, everything and they get used all the time, even when I'm just mixing.



Re: additional production during mix time. how far do you go w/ that? (assuming that you were just hired to mix..not produce) - it's a Pleasure


I only do it with artist permission. Mainly percussion stuff but I have been known to do the odd gtr, bass, kb or drum augment. Just icing on the cake stuff.



Latin Players Lagoon: I've always been intrigued by the vocal delays on this track. I can never tell where the delay is going to be on the vox, sometimes the delayed vocal comes in before the dry and then it flips back to regular delay. I've been trying to figure this out for ages. I was thinking maybe you flipped the tape over or something OR maybe you used the SK1 to sample Louie's vox and triggered the phrases back in?

I read the TapeOp interview and you say that you sometimes wonder why you do what you do, and that at times you really don't want to be in the studio but you have an almost chemical reaction to being there. - recall


It's actually a combination of two separate vocals sung out of time, with some analog delay if memory serves.

I like my work, I generally like how I do it but I put myself through a lot to get there. And for me, it's not only about people hearing something that I don't, which is a learning experience for me, it's also about finding people that hear what I hear, and hope that it all works together



I know that you own some Neve 10 series channels and most likely use these for tracking and overdubs. I'm not sure what the exact points are on the 1084 HPF but Tchad, do you apply these while recording? If not, do you apply them during the mix? If not, how do you clear the bottom end of your mixes? - Alex Wyler


It's different all the time with different instruments. I tend not to filter bass or kick when recording but will sometimes in the mix.

Shelf/peak???? What sounds good at the moment?

I do believe in carving space so there aren't so many 'like' frequencies among the instruments. Do it any way you can but it seems to work better for me using mostly subtractive EQ as opposed to additive EQ. (This doesn't mean I don't use additive EQ).

That sounds so moronic, I need to add a little to this.
I'm trying to write down what I do. I find myself trying to sound like I know what I'm doing because, well, it's in black and white here.

What I really do, almost every day, is twiddle knobs until it sounds good to me, period.

I go down many stupid, awful sounding roads, every day.

I formulate a theory for myself about how it all works one day, but it doesn't work the next. What is that?
Just now is a moment when I'm asking, 'why do you guys (familiar, meaning both male and female) care what I do in detail?'. Find your own thing.

When you hit a brick wall, twiddle lightly or extremely, on all knobs available.

Experiment with spontaneous abandon.



A lot of people have bought into (literally) the idea that working in the box sucks and plugins suck. Personally, I don't buy into it. What are your thoughts on these debates? In addition, there are constant questions and opinions on converters on this board. What emphasis do you place on converters when working on a project? - CorkyTart


When light from candles got replaced by electicitrickery and bulbs, some said it sucked, when recording music went from mono to stereo some said it sucked, when it went from 4trk to 8 to 16 to 24, what did they say? I just say it's different. It is. No doubt about it.

Better...worse???? I can't tell you but it sounds bloody great to me now and it's only going to get better.
Convenience and economy are also extremely valid factors and two more reasons I don't agree with the sucking hypothesis.

Converters: I have an Apogee Trak 2 that I think sounds great. It's been at the front end of Sadie for several years now. I love it. When using PT's I use the 192 converters. They sound really good to me. If it's not broke...




I've read that the Sans Amp is a big part of your drum processing, but it also seems there's minimal bleed between drums in the kit. Do you eschew room mikes? Are you gating the overheads a lot? And also gating individual drums a lot?

Partly, I ask this since often I find that distortion and overdrive add a certain "sustain" to drums, but your drums have a crispness and spaciousness to them. - DanGo


I don't use gates on the drums but sometimes on the Sans Amp or heavy mono mic compress. The length from distortion is what I like and what's replaced room or reverb for me, just to be different. I almost always record drums in a very small room of some sort mic'd very closely. Typically 1-2". I use an old set of hi hats that aren't crazy loud which cuts back on that age old leakage problem. Rarely use a bottom snare mic so I need to be able to boost the hi's on the top mic.



How do you sell your very creative approach to engineering and mixing to clients? - DanGo


I don't have a pitch except making sure they know what I have to offer and if that will be an asset to the music. Most know what I do and come to me for that. I prefer the artist to attend mixes. It frees me up to try and discard very quickly and just to vibe on another person in the room. Seems more creative that way.



I was wondering what techniques you use as a producer to pull the best performance out of an artist. Could you name some common techniques? Maybe also a few off the wall ones. - taxi driver


I'm not a whip cracker to a fault. I think sitting in the studio and talking about everything is as important as recording, but when recording I give 100% and expect that from the band and assistants without me having to say anything. I like lot's of funky instruments and things cluttering the studio for inspiration and atmosphere. I like it all to be fun. When it's not, we go to the movies, and/or drink scotch.



What kind of processing do you use on the main vocal track in order to cut through a dense mix? - Delcosmos


Sonically dense maybe but musical arrangements are usually sparse...which helps. I can tell you basic gear if that helps.

RECORD:
Main mics= Elam 251 or Shure 57> Neve 1073 or 1084 pre(no EQ).> ADL comp.

MIX:
API 550aEQ> DBX902>Distressor>Pultec EQP 1A.
Don't be afraid to use 'em.



Your dums really pop and have a silky quality to them. Do you have any tricks to get that punch and clarity? - cush


I've always used additive compression which I think is what you're hearing. Additive meaning I split the original signal off, compress it...lots, and add it back in. A little goes a long way. OH's, SN, mono kit mic...etc. Sometimes phase is a problem. Usually not but if it is...swing with it.



Thanks for doing this, Tchad. Do you often use buss compression on the drums and bass? - especht


In the old days I rarely had a separate bus for drums. Recently I've started doing it though as my tastes change and I learn more. Attack/release times vary depending on the track. Twiddle those knobs until it sounds good.



Thanks a lot sir. But MULT? What is that about? Sry for these dumb questions. - Jako Bee


I just mean if you have the OH's on 2 channels, create another two channels with the same audio. Identical stereo pairs (four channels). Compress one pair leaving the original alone, add to taste.



As far as mic'ing the kit goes, you mentioned that the binaural head is always your overhead. Where do you place it? - The Red Door


The binaural head goes just above the rack toms facing the player.

I listed my standard set up elsewhere in the Q&A. Yes, recording music always varies.

I haven't experimented with many other stereo techniques but have checked them out on record and wasn't impressed enough to pursue them.

Binaural does everything I want it to.

There's no problem phase wise with multiple bino's if it's all different stuff.

Adding a lot to a bino track, especially from non bino sources destroys the bino field. You can't hear my OH's as bino, but it just has a cool sound I enjoy.



How do I avoid the cymbals turning into horrible white noise? Also if you bus the drums do you insert a comp on the bus? - gurubuzz


Cymbals always need to be riden in the mix. You have to work those faders just like a vocal. They shouldn't sound like noise, maybe it's the instrument. Change cymbals.

Only recently, ITB, have I started having a kit bus with compressor. Usually a C4 and an SSL 2 buss comp. Sometimes the ML4000.



Re: 'This is Stina Nordenstam'...

1 You mentioned that on the album 'The world is saved' Stina Nordenstam recorded some of her vocals on cassettes, dictaphones etc.. Was this also done on 'This is Stina Nordenstam'? If yes, how did you go about it? Can you remember any exact songs it was done on?

2 You have a way of getting the choruses to sound more breathy/roomy without using (obvious) reverb. For example on 'Circus'. Part of this seems to me to be the use of double tracked vocals (and sometimes harmonies) on the chorus as opposed to just one single voice in the verses... Any other things that might contribute to that sound? A different mic on the chorus? Something else? Or is it just Stina singing differently :-)

3 The musical arrangements on the album ... How much was planned in advance by Stina and the band / how much of it was all of you playing around in the studio? And do the sounds you come up with shape the arrangements or is it mostly the other way round? - tho_dk


1- Yes, using decks that have an OP of some sort. She would hold in her hands and sing, very close, to the mic. I can't find the record but it's pretty apparent which tracks, it's quite noisey.

2- Most of the time it's performance. Sometimes C's need help and anything goes, dbl track, perc, KB's....etc.

3- I fit sounds to the initial arrangement but I find that when you get characterful sounds, less ODing is needed which is a way of influencing arrangements. It's all a dynamic process.

I love that record.



When producing albums, how much time do you spend on pre production? Do you generally 'live' with the band for a while, or do you prefer subtle guidance of the band? How much do you want to be involved in (checking) lyrics, musical arrangements, vocal coaching etc., tempos, song keys etc? - Local 47


I'm an aural producer. I'm not an arranger or a lyricist, although I have opinions. I don't do pre production. When I tried, it all changed once we got into the studio. There's arguments that say if it changes in the studio you wouldn't have got there if it weren't for the PP. OK. The studio is where I have my ideas. That's just me and it's not for everybody.



You mentioned in an earlier thread that you like to monitor through some buss compression while tracking. I have seen some other people do this as well, and was wondering if you would expound a bit on the reason why you prefer to do this. - Panhandler


I just want to hear the music as I think it will be mixed, right from the start. I'm open to things changing but I know I'll compress/limit in the mix ,so I want to hear it now.



How do you start a mix? Is automation part of the whole mix process or rather the last step in the mixing process? - Local 47


I put the vocal up then immediately push ALL other faders up to see how the music fits together. Solos are for troubleshooting only. Always get EQ with as much instrumentation and vocal IN as possible. What good is a solo'd sound that will never be heard solo'd except by you?

I usually get all tracks up, EQ'd/compressed and effects in, trying to make everything work together, without any moves. Then I start automating with cuts and levels.



Re "loudness wars” thread. As someone who mixes a lot of records and frequently deals with big records how do you feel about the red lining and limiting of your mixes? Do you do anything special when delivering mixes such as bass up/down, vox up/down versions, stems? - recall


It is a battle. I'm often competing with bedroom demo/ruffs that have an L3 slapped on max and the artist wants to know why my mix doesn't pump like the ruff. I've tried to say "turn it up, that's what the volume knob is for", to no avail. I've lost a gig because I didn't triple compress the drums and 2 buss. I thought I was a compression freak.

I'm now trying to find a way to give the artist his balls, me my tones, and Bob (mastering) something he can comfortably work with. I'm close, I think, but more experimentation is needed.

I don't do alternates when mixing in the box unless someone asks for them. With today's budgets I just don't have the time.



Bonnie Raitt's "Souls Alike" album sounds amazing to me. Very Vintage and Vibey I would say. I read that she produced the album alongside yourself. How was it working with her? Also were the songs crafted in the studio or were they the result of her touring and trying new things? - Johnwayne


They toured those songs and rehearsed a fair amount before coming into the studio. Bonnie is extremely professional and expects a lot in the studio when working. She can be very hard on herself and everyone else but is always, always, appreciative. Great musicians. What could happen?



Would you mind sharing your philosophies and methodologies concerning stereo compression? ie, what you're going for, what you like for it to do to the mix, etc. - blackbox


Besides level taming and volume to compete in today's LOUD market, I like how it can add punch while seeming to glue things together a bit. I don't rely on it but it's nice to have.

I listen through a mix bus compressor from tracking (light compression) to final mixdown (comp/limit). That way there are few surprises.

Settings=dependent on the track, sometimes fast sometimes slow.



I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you look at your role as a mixer. - by joninc


I'm not incredibly versatile as a mixer. I do what I do. People come to me for that.

I rarely think about it + I listen and let the music take hold as fast as it can + emotion is the most important thing ÷ not any one particular sound = spontaneous abandon.

20 years on and still trying to get it.



I want to experiment on some upcoming sessions with the mono inside the kit mic and i don't have a level lock to use but do have a Distressor and a 1176. - joninc


1176 will work fine, buttons down, fast A/R, lots of compression.

Distressor too, 4:1, dist3, crank it, go to nuke if you like.



'Woodface' by Crowded House is one of my favorite albums of all time, 'Fall At Your Feet' being a particularly wonderful track. Can you tell anything about how you and Mitchell Froom recorded this song? I'm interested in what you think makes the track special. - Ivo


It's a great song. I don't remember much about the recording except it was at Platinum Studios in Melbourne. Same set up as the rest of the album.
I do remember it was, to begin with, a song that wasn't working and Mitchell and Neil hashed it out for a good while.

Great song and vocals + great arrangement can't be beat, especially when Bob Clearmountain mixes.



Could you elaborate on the setup for Woodface? - Ivo


My tracking set up isn't very interesting. Really standard.

K = D112
Sn = 57
Hat = Shure 57, Neumann km84 or AKG 451
Toms = Sennheiser 421
Mono kit = 441>level loc or????1176/610/...etc
OH=Neuman KU100...OK maybe not so standard, but should be.

Gtrs = 57/coles/ Km84...whatever.

Bass = DI>desk, aux send to Sans Amp>line in. Just cables, no interfaces.

Voc = 251 or 57 or D112>ADL or Distressor.

Any good mic pre will do but I prefer old Neve for Vocal.



No mic on snare btm? is your top mic over the ring or more on the shell? Do you put the D112 inside the kick? Do you ever do the outside kick mic for more low end? - joninc


Depends on the snare. Sometimes I mic the rim.

Kick, usually halfway inside the shell, but sometimes out. There is no one way.



In what situation would you use a D112 on vox? What sort of character does the mic impart to the track? - The Red Door


Check out 'The Bunny' on Mitchell Froom's solo album "Dopamine". Doughty from Soul Coughing on vocal w/D112.



RE: Toft ATB. Very keen to hear your thoughts on this new piece of gear and how you have integrated it into your setup? Also how would you find the EQ and mix buss headroom and what sonic flavor can you liken it too? - Wiggy Neve Slut


I'm using the ATB as front end only. Direct outs, drums, KB, GTR, etc., OD's at my studio. I love it. Pre's are great as is the EQ. Sounds like a Trident I guess, which is what I worked on for Wait's 'Bone Machine' and 'Black Rider'.



I remember reading a few years ago that you liked to make pieces of art from old bits of metal and trash and that this past time has parallels with the way you approach your engineering. Are you still making pieces and are you still taking photographs? - Recall


The parallel is 'found objects'. I don't think I'm good at starting from zero, in metal or music. If I see a rusty old piece of steel out in the desert and it hints at a face, a hand, a car, anything, I'll weld and pound it letting the shape guide me. Show me a clean, square bit of industrial steel and I'm lost.

I'm the same with music. I don't compose and I'm not good with an artist that doesn't have a strong character or sense of themselves and what they want. I can help with an existing idea, not create one from scratch. I do still take lots of photos but the welding has taken a backseat to studio ownership. I hope to get back to it next year.

Holgas are great, I use them with polaroid backs. I've got two pinholes also with polaroid backs, that are amazing.

I understand the relationship that people see with the two different mediums, recording music and photography (recording visuals). Both capture existents, a requirement for them to work. They don't start by creating but become something new once created.



Was the quick-composition / quick-recording ethic of "Colossal Head" a response to "Kiko's" more meticulous, careful deliberate process? - Silver Sonya


I agree, with Colossal Head having a slight edge for me as a fav.

They wrote party songs for CH and that's what we recorded.

Kiko has a lot of Mitchell in it. His arrangements and KB atmos looms large on that record. This was very deliberate and inspiring for everyone.

Plus the band were ready to make some big changes, as Mitchell and I were. The business had got us all depressed at that time and it was a way of cheering ourselves up.



I'm pretty sure it is just a guitar pedal delay, put on during mixing - that DOD powder blue box with the 4 knobs on it. I would not be surprised if the whole band track was cut live, including the solo stuff - yes, David Hidalgo is that good all the time! Pre's would have mostly been the API console in Studio B at Sound Factory, the vocal was probably a Neve 1084 through an ADL 1000 compressor, with a 251 as the mic. I remember David cracking up after he did those screams at the end of the 2nd and 3rd verses. You can almost hear him laughing at the end of one of them. Guitar info is a little more sketchy -- David was really into this Les Paul with P-90's and I remember him using that one a lot. The amp was probably some kind of one speaker combo, although I don't remember what exactly -- maybe a White. Mics would have been a KM 84 and/or a 57.

Lunch would have been from Angeli Cafe, Lucy's El Adobe, or Victor's deli. I'm serious. - paterno


THX jp!

The Fender White>KM84>LA3A+DOD is what I remember.



Recording and mixing electric guitars: Are you starting out with a single mic on a guitar amp? or rather 2 mics (like a 57 and a condenser?) How much do you work on isolation: putting amps in blankets, iso boxes, etc.? Do you compress and eq guitars on the way in? Then, for mixing, where do you start: some HPF and LPF? additive compression? - Local 47


Usually a 57>LA3A(insert). Sometimes a Neuman Km84 or both bussed together to one track. I like to mic the outside rim of the cone, quite close on small amps. Big, fat sound. Move further away if it's too much, .25" at a time.

Bathrooms, and closets, booths if available.

I start with what I recorded. It should the right sound without further treatment unless the song changed with lots of OD's.



What kind of method did you use to get the kick sound on Yuval Gabay's kit for Soul Coughing's first record? There's a lot of sustain to the kick, almost like an 808 kick. Good job. - Old_skul


I don't remember specifically but it would have had Sans Amp. Could have been a little red Remo kick drum, student model, 18" or 20" that often sounds like an 808. Mono kit mic as well. Compressed.



I want to know what's the standard level in digital recording. And how to solve the volume problem?? I found the volume of my song is smaller than the songs in CDs, but the level is nearly about 0db. - SUPKKZ


That's limiting, an art in itself.

I've said it before...experiment. Satisfy your taste.



How do you feel about other people mixing your stuff? Do you often disagree with the finished results? Do mixers sometimes impress you? - Frequency


That used to be the case but for many years now I mix what I record. When it did happen it usually wasn't a problem. I mean, I wanted to be able to mix but if it was sent to Clearmountain what would you do? He's awesome, the worst that could happen is that I'd learn something. There have been times I disagree with other mixers results but ultimately it's the artist's decision. Right or wrong.

Plenty of mixers impress me. I've never thought of myself as very good, still trying to learn how to make records every day. I figured out some sounds for myself because I'm a contrary cus, and that's cool, but it's not for everybody.



How do you approach the low end when mixing? It may be intuitive to you, but since you do it so well, I'm wondering whether there's any thinking process behind it; like, do you allocate certain frequencies to only one instrument? - Local 47


I do try to make room for different ranges by EQ and filtering. Whatever is called for in the track. Minimize like frequencies in all areas. Experiment with it.



Additive compression seems to be a great part of your sound...I have just a couple more questions on the subject:

1 On records that you both record and mix, is there any system to whether you apply the additive compression during tracking or during mixing?

2 Are there any instruments that you normally wouldn't use additive compress ? If yes, why? - tho_dk


With tape I would monitor the OH compression but not print it if I knew we needed tracks. In that case I'd recall it in the mix. With Pro Tools I can print all from the start.

Mainly drums, I compress gtrs and vocal normally because they don't seem to suffer the same loss of air, dynamics and width drums do when you smash them.



What do you deliver to your clients? Now that you're in the box, do they get the full session back, or just a stereo master. Stems? - mitgong


Mostly just a two track Master via Digidelivery. When they need TV prod. mixes and instrumentals I deliver those via DVD. I don't usually send out my sessions but if they need sounds for live samples I'll oblige. Rarely do stems except for the odd film mix.



Re Stina Nordenstam, I wanted to ask a couple of things regarding the album...

I think the sound of the album fits perfectly with the songs, subject matter and Stinas voice. Was it recorded pretty cleanly by Stina and manipulated by yourself while mixing? - Hwr


That record was pretty much done when it got to me. She records her vocals into cassette decks and dictaphones so she's on the same page. I just toughened it all up a little.



Do you remember how you got that incredibly intimate vocal sound on Joseph Arthur's song "Invisible Hands" on the Come to Where I'm From record? - bryancook


Joe is singing very softly on that one so no matter what I did I don't think there would be ugly artifacts. Wait, did I mix that song? If I did it's probably a Distressor set fast, 4:1, Dist.3, Attack 1, Release 1. That's my starting point for Distressor settings.



I'm a huge Beatles fan and every time I listen back to "Abbey Road", I'm thinking you (or your dad?) must have mixed the record. Uh, well maybe this is a question after all: was the sound of (the later) Beatles albums something you liked enough to let it sip through in your own mixes? Like drums sound? guitar placement? Panning? - Local 47


I am flattered. Thank you.

Sure I'm influenced. "Come Together", f&*% me. That's a S O U N D. And The White Album?....... great fodder for production/mix ideas.

Also Hendrix, mid King Crimson, Van der Graaf Generator, Peter Hammill solo, Kevin Ayers, Fred Frith, Cafe Jacque, Betty Davis, early Robert Palmer, early Rod Stewart, Robert Wyatt, Miles Davis, Kanda Bongo Man (w/ Diblo Dibala), Todd Rundgren, the Bhundu Boys, Orchestra Baobab,...... ah... to much to mention. And that's JUST the old stuff.



Could you elaborate on how you place your mono kit mic? In between K and Sn...as in underneath the snare, or to the side of the sn...? What are you looking for sound-wise? You mentioned using a 441. Why that mic in particular? How did you discover this methodology? (I know there's a good story here..) - blackbox


Originally I was unhappy with extreme compression on the standard kit mics but I loved the direction it was going and thought if I could just add a bit in from a separate source that might do it. 441 has a good proximity effect with decent directionality in close quarters.

I go in from the front, over the top of the Kick and point the mic loosely towards the bottom of the throne, i.e down to the ground, and move it closer to the Sn or K depending on what's required for that track.



Most of the albums I have (that you mixed) don't sound like there's a lot of verb going on: are you ever using classic reverb boxes like a 480, TC verbs? - Local 47


Probably off the amps. I don't remember adding any but maybe John Paterno will remember. I don't often use verb. Not that I don't like it, but it's a way of being a little different and I've found other things that create that same sense of space.

Distortion, compression, delay.

I do occasionally use Altiverb though. Amazing.



When juggling 5 mixes (ITB), how much is "in the Box"? Have you printed most of your outboard processing for faster recallability? Or are you restoring settings for each mix? - Timsplace


Anything outboard is recorded into the box so there's no set up time when recalling.



I was curious about your involvement in UP; was it mostly mixing? And how much was Logic Pro really used in that album? - scking


Really just mixing. Peter uses Logic for all the sample based instrumentation I believe. I don't really know anything about Logic.



I was wondering if you could share a little information on how you deal with your stereo bus when mixing in the box. Do you use a compressor accross the bus? Digital/analog? And do you print to digital or analog or both? - stung


All ITB, and I change up quite often, but just now I've settled on Cranesong Phoenix>McDSP ML4000. Recording into PT's and sometimes Sadie if I need to make sequenced CD's w/PQ.



On Joseph Arthur's "Junkyard Hearts" EPs (set of 4), you've got some mix credits, but there's also the unusual credit of "Compiled and edited by Tchad Blake". Could you talk about what that process was? Were you sorting through unfinished recordings and finding ways to pull the songs together? How raw of a state were any of the songs in when you got them? - leigh


Joe writes a lot and over the years I had heard many songs and instrumentals that were never used for various reasons. During 'Redemption' we talked about it and one day he came in with a box of old DAT tapes and CD's and said to have a listen. What I found was astounding. Real World thought so as well and decided to do four EP's. I went through all the tapes and CD's, put some things up through the desk to EQ/compress the stereo as many were roughs done over several years, bloody good ones I might add (thanks to Ben Findley), remixed a couple and compiled it. My favorite Joe Arthur records to this day.



I’m curious about the mixing of Brendan's album "The alternative to love"...where was that done...did you mix off brendan's original tapes, or was anything in a digital format. and...what reverb did you use on "the pledge" you nailed that phil spector sound !! - mixman499


Thank you very much.

I can't remember there being tapes so I'm figuring Pro Tools sessions. Mixed in the Big Room at Real World to Sadie at 24/44.1. The ambience you hear is the room sound they recorded with the kit. Probably ran it through the Spectrasonics 610's. I remember all their sounds were really cool already so it was a breeze to mix.



I've been reading a lot over the various threads about your embrace of the digital medium in the way of Pro Tools and learning 'HOW' to use it to work for you. Was it a decision you made over time or was there a particular moment you said 'Ok, time to move on'? - matta


In the last couple of years plugins seemed to really come on along with the HD rig + delay comp. That and tape getting unreliable and most stuff coming to me on PT's anyway was a signal that I had some catching up to do. I figured analog was not going to be here forever and I needed to start learning how to make this new box sound good to me.

I waited a long time then jumped into the fire. No looking back. I've had a good run with analog but this is new and fresh for me. Forces me to do things differently.

For all the good/bad things with either medium, I like it because it's new.



I was hoping you cold shed some light on working with Mitchell Froom in the studio. - Toomanyorgans


A very good partnership, Mitchell and the bands he chose to work with. He's an extremely good listener in all ways. He played in the control room and out in the live room. Live, OD's, whatever made sense at that time. Mitchell's about arranging sounds and it's what made all those records work. Many sounds I got on records with Mitchell won't work on other records because they don't have the same arrangement sense.



How does it feel living and working in England now, as compared to LA? - bryancook


I live in the country here in blighty and it's relatively slow and quiet and I like the change. I'm sure it did make the transition easier having a body of work out there.

When I started with Mitchell Froom, he had strict studio hours which we pretty much kept to for 15 years. 11am-9pm with one hour meal breaks. We found we got more done that didn't need to be re-done down the line which ultimately saved time and money. Most of the artists got into it.

Sometimes you just can't do that and you have to weather it, but you need to have a life, music is a great thing we do, but it's not a life.



I wonder what you make of music that is recorded and mixed totally clean? Do you have distortion philosophies? - Jules


I've made plenty of clean records. Check out the Real World/Womad/Document catalog. 'World' music stuff. I like doing that too but what I really like is contrast. Clean next to distortion. If the voice and guitar are beautiful, mess up the drums or vice versa. If the K and SN are ringy, put tea towels on the toms and gaffer tape the cymbals. When the first two songs on an album are pristine make the third sounds like it's coming through a radio. All kinds of contrast. I find that coexistence more interesting than all clean or all distorted.



I wonder if you can tell where something is recorded and mixed well and has no distortion. - Mike Caffrey


Lots of people make 'professional' sounding records without 'intentional' distortion. Classical, jazz, folk, world music...but I like my world more with distortion.



Do you you have any wishes or ideas about gear that you would like to own or have someone build for you ? Do you own some boxes, that were specially made for you ? - Kosi


I wish I had a Telefunken 251 reissue. They sound amazing.

Wish I had a cherry Hammond B3.

Wish someone would build a box that sounds like an analog delay when you randomly, in very small movements, change the delay time triggering pitch modulation. Rando-matic was close but went out of business.

Wish someone would copy the Level Loc.

Yes I have a few boxes that have been made. Mainly weird delays and filters.




Do you favor Neve for drums or API? The Phantom Planet album comes to mind for me. I love the sound of that!! - indie


A long answer: For drums, I don't have a favorite. I'll use whatever is quick for the sound to get a performance, and by the time I've plastered some Sans Amp on the drums plus compression with cheap compressors it wouldn't really matter what pre I used. I like API, NEVE, TOFT ATB, SSL...lots of different pre's. I'm sure there are lots of inexpensive ones out there I'd like as well. Phantom Planet would have been Neve1083 on Kick,Snare, OH. API on the rest.



Tchad, could you shed a little light on the Jimmy Scott sessions you and Mitchell participated in? I thought it was such a cool departure for both of you, doing a straight ahead jazz date. a wonderful record. - Pgk


Live session done in NYC. One of the least processed recordings for me. Great band and lovely man.



​​Neil's Finn’s 2 solo records and ron sexsmith's whereabouts are 2 of my all time favorite records/productions and I had a few questions about them.

1. Neil's one nil has a really nice wooly vocal sound and retains its presence in the mix without having a lot of top end. I love that - how the heck do you do it and maintain its place with such a sophisticated and eventful track (ie: there is often a lot going on around it but it never seems to compete). Obviously the man is a great singer and writer but i am curious as to what things you do to the sound as well. (compression/eq?) AMAZING mixes on this record - any stories?

2. The records I mention have the loveliest gooey vocal echo - sounds very dark and one repeat. Are you a tape echo user or more analog delay? I would love to know more about that sound. it seems like there aren't really obvious reverbs on much or even ambience in the tracking so how you achieve the space in your mixes is really a marvel and mystery to me.

3. Your snare drum sounds on these records are so chunky and satisfying. Is that coming in large part from your middle kit mic/level lock or is it mainly the snare mics themselves and the way they are tuned and processed?

4. What role does analog tape play in the making of these records? Is it possible for you to get such organic and pleasing landscapes in a solely digital environment?

5. when you are squashing a drum kit mic (room mic?) Do you find yourself doing heavy filtering on the top and/or bottom and then subtly blending it in? - joninc


It's late so I'll be short. Apologies.

-Vocals= Neil, 251>Neve1073>ADL or Distressor. Neil in very close proximity.

-Echo= DOD analog stomp box delay. (MXR's are good but brighter and now the Mooger analog delay is nice.)
-Drums=A lot of Level Loc. Often just the one mic with the head added in.

-Tape/Dig=I don't know, don't really care so much to compare. I think I'm getting big organic sounds now in the box.

-Filtering= I do filter sometimes or band pass some freqs. neg/pos??? depends.



Being a huge Pearl Jam fan, would you please share your experiences with this band? What was unique about the recording process? - Rev. Robb


I have mixed feelings about that record. I think it's a good record but in hindsight I don't think I was a great choice for the band. We didn't see eye to eye on many things sonically and we all got a bit frustrated in the making of the music but we persevered and managed to make it work. Brendon O'brien came on board to mix and helped make sense of it all.



Do you have a guideline in your head as to where you like each instrument to sit frequency wise when mixing? - Prickstein


I don't know exactly. I do try to cut down on 'like' frequencies. If the hat has a lot of 5K, back it off on the guitars....etc. I have no template. I wing it every time.
There are no secrets, it's all right there in the music you're listening to.

Try to figure it out and you'll come up with your own thing you may like better.

When I used to play guitar, I'd try to learn songs and solos from records. I didn't buy magazines with the notation of every recorded song out. I'd spend hours failing but I'd finally get something I thought sounded just like the record. I could play it.

Years later I'd find out that it was three different guitar parts put together on a multitrack, but I had learned to play it solo. I don't think I'd have tried to learn it if I had known that from the git.

Jeez, that's a bloody long winded way of saying wing it.



Could you please give some insights in the production and recording of Soul Coughing's Ruby Room?

What console you've been working on, what was the room alike, any specific outboard?

How did you record the drums, how did you treat them during mixtime?

I never heart a better recorded double-bass before so what did you do, what microphones or pick-ups did you use, what kind of compression and if you remember: what bass was it Mark De Gli Antoni used during the recordings?

And not forget to mention the absolute cool sounding vocals, exceptional sample treatment. - vandertone


I'm glad you all like that record. It was a fun record to make. Recorded and mixed in 29 days at The Sunset Sound Factory Studio B, still my favorite tracking room.

DRUMS:
B's (very small) vocal booth was used for drums (a big part of my drum sounds on all albums made from 1986-1998).

1970's API desk.

Would have used San Amp on the K&SN + Spectrasonic 610's on the OH's(mixed into clean OH from separate channels).

I usually ran a 441>Level Loc as a mono K&SN air mix to add into the overall (the mic was placed deep in the kit between the K&SN). Sometimes this was sent to an MXR pedal flanger just to randomize the tone a little.

Standard mics: D112, 57's, 421's, Neumann head as OH.

BASS: Seby plays with that growl. I just needed to bring it out a bit more which is something Sans Amp does very well. DI>SA+U47 tube>DBX160's.(help JP)

KB's: Thats' Mark. What more can I say. Maybe a little SRS AK100.

VOCAL: Maybe a 57+ADL. Can't remember. But it just woudn't have mattered all that much. Doughty is such a characterful vocalist. He projects on any mic. The album was, for the most part, recorded live with some KB's, Voc & GTR ODd later.



I'm very curious about your approach to Mercury by American Music Club and its "spacious mercurial claustrophobia", in general. It's a mind boggling (and magical) sound to me, and I'm guessing it wasn't Mark Eitzel's idea. Any info on the overall atmosphere, influence, or specifics on these sessions would be forever appreciated...even if it's just "I wanted the album to sound like mercury". - Alex Niedt


I like that record very much.

I used my binaural headgear (2Xecm50 place in ear) for some things and had also just got the Hughes SRS AK100, so I probably overused it.

I remember taking two Eventide instant phasors set for painfully slow modulation, sending them(one left, one right) through the SRS set wide, piping the drums to the phasors and mixing it all in just a little so the sounds changed timbre very slowly, an almost imperceptible twirl around your head.

I use that same idea quite a bit since, only I do it with the 'buenos notches' patch in an old H3000. Something no plug I've found can do yet.



Are you a firm believer in the tried and true method of Large Studio's Intern to 2nd Assist to 1st Assist to Recording engineer then possibly to Mix engineer. Also, what do you think the definitive Records to study for: Production? Engineering? Drum Sound? Guitar Sound? Vocal Sound? Against the Grain methodology? - donsolo


Good attitude = good engineer, good assistant.

(Good attitude, meaning, willingness to learn everything.)

I'll refer you to all other threads for the technique stuff.
Definitive records? categories? I don't know. Here are some albums I just like a lot:

Hendrix-Electric Ladyland, Axis
King Crimson-Islands, Lark Tongues, Starless and Bible Black
Tupac-any
Kings Of Leon-Aha Shake Heartbreak
Beck-Guero
Eminem-Slim Shady LP,+
50 Cent- Get Rich....
Nigel Kennedy & Kroke-East Meets East
Betty Davis-any
Audioslave- the first one
Crowded House- Together Alone
Peter Gabriel- 4/Security

All great sonically for different reasons.

Too many to go on.



I was wondering about the Kiko and Latin Playboys albums. They sound like the same sessions: they're very similar in tone/performances, though the Playboys' album is a bit weirder, and goes to some very strange zones. Was the Playboys' album more outtakes of Kiko, and was it more of an engineer/AE's decision to go "out there"? I could have a load of very specific Q's but am more wanting you to share a bit of your knowledge on how you got some of the sounds on these records,. esp. the debut Playboys. - PlugHead


Most of the LP album was recorded by Dave Hidalgo on four track cassette. After we finished the Kiko album David was fired up with ideas and started recording on a very badly out of alignment four track. He recorded late nights in his kitchen using utensils for percussion and in his attic. A few months later he gave Mitchell (Froom) a cassette of rough mixes. All instrumental. We listened at the studio (Sound Factory) and just about wept. Thought it was beautiful, had a talk with Dave and Louie and decided to make it an album.

The first job was to transfer the four track audio to 24 track but the original four track machine was broken and we couldn't re-align the new deck to the old tape. There was so much crosstalk of tracks, out of phase what-not and noise we clearly needed to camouflage.

Adding outdoor binaural ambience and re-recording stuff through pipes and adding distortion were all ways of covering up those serious problems but ultimately helped bring on the final sound.

First album 70% done on a four track. 'Dose' was a step up to 8 track cassette.



How do you approach your 2buss compression? - Blackbox


Again, it depends on the song but there is one thing I always do. I'm always listening through a 2bus compressor. From tracking to final mix.

I fiddle a lot with individual channels and at the same time experiment with different 2bus settings and units. I want an idea of what's going to happen at mixdown. No pun intended, but it's a dynamic process where, in my studio, there are few rules.



How in the hell do you get so much low-end on your mixes?!?!!? I love the low-end on your records! - blackbox


One Al Smart C1 Compressor on the 2bus with no side chain, no EQ. I do like low end and take my time carving room for it with panning and EQ. If the drums and bass are big, roll some of the lows off the guitars, etc, maybe the oppisite, back and forth until you get what you want.

On some of those records I used a DAK subsonic synth. $75.00 mailorder stereo sub box ment for home system use. Just a little 30-50Hz on the kick.

No sub-woofers in the studio, just NS10's for the older records, later I added a pair of Audix Nile V's (???) that Paterno turned me on to. Now it's the Linn 328A's which extend to 30Hz , audible at very moderate listening levels.




hi Tchad, you're in my opinion, the most creative engineer/mixer in the business. Every time I read something by you, it's so unique that i have to read it a few times before I get a visual of what the hell you're doing. You're rule when i hear your records is that there are no rules and you like to shake it all up every chance you get...god bless ya. Anyway, enough of the ass kissing. I own a shure level lock because of something you wrote about it. I have yet to make it sound good. is it broken or can you enlighten me on what you do with it that works so well for you and why I keep shaking my head when i try it? Keep up the great work and I'm very excited that you're here for the month...gonna be keeping my ear to the ground this month. Michael Brauer - MHB850


Hi Michael, I kiss your ass right back.

Level Locs are strange beasts. I own 5 and only one works now. Every now and then you find someone who knows the way of the Loc and can coax them back to life. When working they give you masses of slow, undulating, distorted compression.

They were made for low spl, i.e. talking humans, so when placed after a mic that's close to a drum kit they go wild.

Remember, it's a mic level unit and sends need to be padded way down when using at line level, which doesn't work as well in my opinion.

If it's been hooked up to a full line level signal, it's blown.

All the best Michael!



Re: Phish - Undermine Probably one of the most memorable things about that album for me was the sound of the drums on Undermine the song. I was wondering if you could explain what processing, mics, and/or drum selection was used to obtain those tones. - ThrillHo


Lots of compression and distortion but also it's a composite drum mix. Two kits recorded at different times. One was the demo kit the other was one I recorded. Cut together by hand in PT's. Also a DOD analog delay for fun in places.



Do you like to record all the band live or one by one? Also as an engineer/producer do you have the final say as to how the instruments should sound? I mean the drums' tuning,the amps' settings etc. - haryy


Live is the most fun but do whatever it takes. Final say is with the artist. It's not my record. There are some things I'll fight for, which I may think will make or break the record, but the artist can nix my ideas anytime. It's my job to come up with more ideas the artist may like. If I disagree very strongly on lots of issues, then I'm not the right guy for that session. I can usually remember where the door is. It has happened, but not very often.



What's your method for recording acoustic guitars? and how do you deal with recording vocals and acoustic guitars at once? - tranter


Many different ways.

Elam/Telefunken 251 two feet away. Vocal and GTR together forever.

For isolation, put a lavalier mic in the GTR, EQ to taste.
I have recorded with two Neuman 105s before. They have great side rejection but you need to EQ the vocal alot to get an acceptable sound. Too bright. I did that for the Tracy Chapman record 'Where You live' and it worked great.



I wanted to ask you about some records and people that you have had musical relationships with.

1. The Peter Gabriel UP album is a huge innovation in sonics. What can you tell us about your involvement in it and any information about the instruments/gear/tricks/ideas that were instrumental in achieving it's amazing sound?
2. You have worked on projects and been associated with Daniel Lanois. What lessons have you learned from him?
3. Adam Samuels, now Lanois' right hand man used to be your assistant. Tell us about Adam and what kind of skills he had that made him so good that Lanois had to have him? - Jacklynn


The biggest difference for me on Up was the amount of material available for each song. 100 plus tracks of many instruments which hadn't been decided on, and Peter and Dickie (Peter's engineer) were happy for me to come in and trim some fat. Tons of good stuff. In this instance fast decisions were made and I tried to never look back. Mixing was much like all my projects using the tools you can read about elsewhere here.

-I don't know Daniel all that well but have great respect for him. Neville Brothers 'Yellow Moon' made my head spin.

-Adam Samuels, great attitude. That's all you need.



Crowded House are one of those bands that never fail to astound me. What were they like to work with in the studio? Were they very involved in the techy stuff or were they very jokey like they were on stage? - Juicylime


Very serious, very funny, never techie. I love'em. I'm sorry, but I just don't have time for studio anecdotes here. I'd be typing for years. Hope you understand.



I saw in another forum how you like to mix at 80-85dB. Do you tend to stay at that volume or do you only do certain tasks (EQing, balancing, etc) at that level? Also, do you mix very much in mono, after deciding on pans, to get levels and the EQing done? - Jarbar


As I understand, 85db is the level where frequency response in air/ear is flattest. I check loud and soft. I change my listening levels but try to stay in the 85db area most of the time.

Too loud or too soft monitoring while mixing can ruin a mix.

I occasionally check mono just to see what happens to my effects. Curiosity.



I was wondering about the unique drum sound sound on Phish's "Song I Heard the Ocean Sing" - chadly


Just a bit of Level Loc (heavily compressed mono kit mic close to the K&SN) + Sans Amp on the kick, Spectrasonics 610's added to OH's.



Do you remember any specific techniques on the drum sound for The Bad Plus album These Are the Vistas..The drums just seem to go completely across the mix but never hides the rest of the music.. Any special panning or mic techniques used? I'd love to know... - Willylumplumps


Being a trio makes it easy. Piano left, drums spread L&R, bass right.

I'll refer to the answer I gave in an earlier thread for the rest:

Separate Sans Amps (what they now sell as the 'Classic' model) were used on the bass DI, kick drum, and snare drum. Shure Level Loc on a single Senn.441 stuck in the middle of the kit. SpectraSonic 610's mixed into the OH Neumann KU100 clean signal. Mechanical filters, used on some tracks, consisting of a Sure 57 jammed into a Didgeridoo or suitable pipe, pointed at the SN from two feet in front of the kit. Also had an Ahuja vocal mic (East Indian 58) over the kit being sent to an old Teisco 360 guitar amp, in the room behind Dave, sometimes with the tremolo on. Piano was recorded with a Neumann KU100 + 3 AKG 451's, a bit of EQ, no other treatment.

Mostly Neve1073 pre's on drums, bass=SSL G, Piano=vint API pre w/550a eq +SSL G's on the 451's.

Mixed on SSL G with an Al Smart C1 across the stereo buss.



I'm really impressed with the vocal and acoustic guitar tones on Bernard Fanning's "Tea & Sympathy" album. Would you mind shedding some light on the recording/mixing chains? - recky


Hi, I think mostly we used Neumann KMS105's on vocal and acoustic guitar. Side rejection is incredible on those and was much needed as we did the vocals and acoustic guitar live. There's a hi frequency component I don't much like but it wasn't enough to worry about. We also used a 'Telefunken 251' reissue (Neve 1073 (EQ bypassed) > Distressor (distortion always 'on' in my house) > PT) on a couple of songs. Just the one mic on 'Watch Over Me'. Great, great mic that re-issue. Mixed on an SSL G.



I've heard that the SM57 is one of your favorite mics.What is it about a sound source that makes you feel that a 57 would be the perfect mic with which to capture it? - jarbar


I often go for convenience and what's more convenient than a 57? I'm just not interested in spending two hours looking for the perfect mic, losing a performance in the meantime. 57's have always worked well for me. I know them. Great proximity effect. You can also use them as a hammer.