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A Blog of the new Backyard Tire Fire record plus FREE EP!!
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drumsound
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 12:42 am    Post subject: A Blog of the new Backyard Tire Fire record plus FREE EP!! Reply with quote

So I've decided to do a daily blog about the record I started Monday September 17 2007. I'm going to keep the blog locked, but if someone would like to comment or ask questions they can start a thread. I promise this will not turn into the Mixerman thing where everything that could go wrong does (though today day 2 started great and ended sucky!)

I'll start with a little background.

The band is called Backyard Tire Fire and this will be the fourth full-length LP we have done together. I was not scheduled to do this record initially, but then the band came to their senses (kidding). The band plays about 200 dates a year and is out of town more often that not. For the first time they have scheduled several weeks home to concentrate on recording. In the past we worked catch as catch can based on their schedules and mine. This time we have a lockout and will work most days except for a couple things already on my books (My band Wiplot has a gig with Mitch Easter on the 21st -and Garges will be on drums--). I assume we'll take one or sometimes two days a week off.

We have made a few pre-production plans that include working on one song at a time. Doing all of its overdubs, vocals and whatnot before moving on to the next song. In the past we've spent a few days getting drums and bass, and then working on layers from there. A day or two of vocals, a day of guitars, a day of keys etc. With this style we're planing on having different set-ups and concepts. We have also decided that this record will be a bit more stylistically focused than the last,

I believe you are now up to speed for…

Day One

The band loaded in around noon. We had made some extra room by removing a couch from the live room. Besides all of my gear, we also borrowed a 26" bass drum belonging to my good friend Jeff Greeneberg of 100 Year Picnic, plus the band's gear. So the room has 2 and a half drum-sets, 4 cases of cymbals, 9-10 snare drums, 10 or so guitars, 3 basses, 2 bass rigs, 6 guitar amps, Wurlie, Hammond M3, Leslie, upright piano, and a plate reverb (oh and my small practice PA--that needs to go to the basement soon). There's so much stuff packed into the room that it's hard to find the floor.

While Tim the drummer and I were getting a pillow into the 26" BD and figuring out what drums to use for the first song, Matt the bass player was comparing his SWR 4x10 with my Aguliar 4x10 with his Ampeg SVT head. He decided he preferred mine so at the moment his is sitting in front of the Hammond, later to become the seat.

The drum-set ended up being a mish-mosh of things. The 26" Ludwig BD, Tim's 3x15 Tama 'black beauty,' and my Gretsch 12" and 14" toms . All the cymbals were mine and were Zildjian and included 15" hats from the 70s, a 19" K from Istanbul and a 20 K 'ride' that has a bit of tape on the bottom.

Drum mic choices were pretty basic. Octava MC012s in stereo ORTF for overheads, AT-ATM23he on Snare, Beyer M88 inside the bass drum. It was put in while we were putting the pillow in because there's no hole in the head. I fed the cable through the hole in the shell where the tom mount used to be. Toms saw Sennheiser 421s and the room got stereo AT 4050 in omni and set on desktop stands so they were only about 2-3 inches from the floor. While getting sounds I decided I wasn't happy with the BD sound so I tuned the front head a bit, tried to move the mic without taking the head off, and finally decided to add and outside mic. After trying a couple of things I settled on a speaker into a DI. The inside mic may have seen a bit of EQ from a Chameleon 7602. I know I plugged it in, but I don't remember if it stayed in the chain. These two mics were mixed to one track of the tape machine. I also set up a TOMB ribbon mic to the drummers right kind of pointing to the BD/ride cymbal area. That mic went through a Shure Level Loc that was loaned to me by out own Chris Garges. To gain it up I sent it through the Drawmer 1969 mic pre and used the make-up gain from the compressor section even though I was using no compression from the '69. All other mic went through my Neotek Elan II console.

Bass was a much simpler affair. We set the cabinet and the head in the vocal booth and dialed in a tone Matt liked. It was basically his live sound without as much volume. His tone favors the low end and doesn't have a lot of upper mid bite, It's warm as hell though. His bass is a 5-string G&L L2000 I opened the mic closet and looked around for a sec and decided to try an AT ATM25 for bass mic. I put it about 6-8 inches off one of the speakers and went into the control room listen. I really liked how it was capturing the sound, though a few notes were sticking out. A little compression from a Mindprint T-comp and I was quite happy. I listened to bass and drums for a bit, made a few adjustments (mostly to the compressor to work with the tempo) and decided I didn't even need a DI.

Ed the guitarist's Fender Twin was put into the bathroom and I put an AKG d12E and got a lot of what I expect electric guitar to sound like. Ed was using his Les Paul with P-90 pickups. It's pretty hard to screw up that combo! Because of a great home demo with a lot of cool room tone I decided to add a room mic in the hallway and keep the bathroom door slightly ajar. The mic was an AT Pro37r about 7 feet in the air pointed at a 60-degree angle to the wall. Bass and both guitar mics also went through the Neotek.

The first song, "How in the Hell'd you get back here?" is the song they just opened about 35 shows with while on tour with Clutch so they felt no need for a scratch vocal. Ed (guitar, singer, songwriter) and I had a brief talk about 30 ips vs. 15 ips. In the past we've always tracked at 15ips on the 2" 24-track and then mixed to 30 ips on the 1/4" 2-track (or mixed 24- bit digital). We decided to do a bit of both speeds in tracking for this record. The first tune being done at 30 ips.

After finding the right tempo for the click, off we went to get the headphone mix (more guitar---more---more). Then we were off and running. The first take found a slight hiccup in a syncopation that goes with the vocal. On playback it was figured out. The sounds were nice and full and everybody seemed happy. The band was sent back to the live room to tune and try another take. We all really liked the feel of that one and, after a few listens, decided it would be a keeper. There was one small guitar goober that we went back and punched in the right notes. It was around 5:30 by now and we were all getting hungry.

Off to La Bamba we went. While there we formulated a game plan for doubling the guitar and cutting vocals and a bit of Hammond organ. Upon getting back to the studio and having one more listen, Tim the drummer and Matt the bassist were cut loose for the night.

The guitar double was done with the same set-up to two more tracks. He didn't go for a tight double. It's got some nice movement and contrast rhythmically to the one cut with the band. Ed decided that he'd like to do another guitar track emphasizing the "guitar hook." We set up my Mesa SC2 combo and dialed in a sound. I honestly can't remember what mic we used, but it may have been the TOMB ribbon as it was on a stand close to where the amp was put in the live room. I decided it was time to go outboard and plugged it into the Aurora Audio GTQ2 and used a bit of hi-shelf EQ.

It was time to cut the vocal. I had already put up the Pearlman TM1 (which I think used to belong to Ozzy!) in the booth. I turned it on when we got back from dinner so I'm sure the tube was nice and warm. As I was just making sure I had signal Ed spoke to me kind of softly. When he sang a loud "Hey" I heard some distortion from the Aurora (now patched into the Mindprint compressor). I decided to track with the distortion because the song is a rocker with attitude and I though it might fit. When Ed heard the playback he loved it. He also decided a re-take was in order. He went back to the booth and nailed the lead vocal. Yep two takes!

We then moved the Leslie into the vocal booth and got her cooking. The Hammond M3 was driving her just right… We came up with a very simple organ part for the chorus. Simple long chord tones to add a bit of color. The last chorus is doubled (it is a rock song!) and I though we should add some low-end weight. Ed moved down to the lower keyboard and we futzed with the drawbars to get a meaty sound. I asked him about playing the bass pedals, but it was not the easiest thing for someone who does not play Hammond on a daily basis to nail. So we did what every good rock band does. We cheated and added the bass pedals as a separate pass on another track.

After the first listen Ed asked to hear a bit of delay on the vocal. He called the rest of the band while I patched in the TC M3000 and dialed in my favorite tap delay. I found a good setting (around 60ms--6% feedback) and placed it in the mix. Tim came by but Matt was "otherwise engaged." After a couple listens a cement mix (rougher that a rough mix) went down to the RADAR and Ed and I both took CDs home.
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Last edited by drumsound on Thu Feb 21, 2008 1:38 am; edited 22 times in total
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2007 2:11 pm    Post subject: Re: A Blog of the new Backyard Tire Fire record plus FREE EP!! Reply with quote

Day two

Though we started on Monday, Day two was actually on Wednesday due to prior commitments including rehearsal for Friday's anniversary gig for my band Wiplot.

This turned out to be a really interesting then frustrating day. The worst part being that it was so promising and fun during the day and so disheartening during the evening.

We were doing a song called "Legal Crime." It's probably the oldest song on the record. It's not been played out much, and the home demo is from when the band lived in Georgia and had a different bass player. I really glommed onto the demo because it reminded me of a Tchad Blake/Mitchell Froom/Los Lobos vibe. It’s a loose triplet feel tune with a lot of space and texture. Tons of sonic potential, a producer's dream!

We started thinking about drums and all of our options. The first piece swapped out was the BD. The 26" from the previous day just wasn't going to do it. Tim said he wanted to play his 22" DW. We also removed his 15"SD and put up my wood hooped Premier. Tim thought a dry sound would work and I handed him a packet of Moongel. My studio is tight as it is but with all the extra gear it really requires tight choreography to make things happen. While Tim was deadening up the snare I pulled the front head off the 26" so I could get my M88 out of it, and I took out the pillow too. I replaced the head and directed my intern Chris to open the case, which was housing my 22" Yamaha. He handed that off so I could put it on the one bit of floor space big enough for it. Then the 26" went in and the case slid tightly into the gear and case pile in front of the control room window. Tim's BD case was unearthed and his drum removed and my Yamaha put in.

Tim's BD has a large hole and an Evans pad inside. I decided to keep the M88 speaker combo. I did also grab a packing blanked to drape over the edge to keep the rest of the drum-set out of the BD mics. Tim debated my new (just bough from a fellow TOMB member) 16" floor tom, but decided to stay with the 14". We kept the 421s in place on it and the 12" tom. The SD mic (ATM23he) also remained. I decided on a mono overhead and went with a 70s Neumann U87 placed over his right shoulder. I took the ATM25 and put it right over the bass drum pointed towards the snare. This mic went to the Level Loc and will be a big part of the sound! Again sans the extra gain from the Drawmer all of the drum mics went to the Neotek Elan II.

On to bass. This meant first moving the Leslie out of the vocal booth. We just put it into the hall as we figured we'd use it soon enough. I thought a cool distorted tone might work. When I mentioned this Matt the bassist said "Really?" with a gleam in his eye. I went in the booth and cranked the gain and lowered the master on his SVT. It sounded good but needed something extra. So I cranked the midrange and swept the frequency knob. There it was! I pulled out a Beyer TGX50 and put it about 4 inches from the speaker. I figured with the distortion on the amp I might want a cleaner signal too so I added in a DI right off the instrument. Again the Neotek pres, but I don't think I added any compression (distortion is just another form of compression right?).

We didn't fuss over guitar tone, because Ed was not sure what he wanted, so we just kept his Twin in place with the d12e and thought of his part as a scratch. The band all though a scratch vocal was also in order. I always use an M88 for scratch vocal because it has such great rejection. I can actually listen to the scratch vocal without it sounding like the drum room mic, try that with an SM57!

After all the sounds were dialed in and a click tempo was established it was time for take one. The take went fine but it didn't feel as loose and greasy as I wanted. I asked the band if I could mess with the click, which was just a clave "gank gank gank gank." They took that as smoke break time and I programmed an odd pattern into the HR16. They came back and tried again but the active drum machine was causing more harm than good. We switched it over to a "Boom Bap Boom Bap" and they were much happier. I think it took 2 tries like that to get out keeper.

During playback Ed and Tim started discussing filling in some of the gaps in the sparse loose triplet groove. Drum machine noises, and other electronic percussion were discussed but a more fun method was decided upon. We had switched tapes and went to 15ips for the bigger bottom and grungier tone. So the percussion, a loose HiHat on 2 and double toms on 4 and Ah would be played with the tape running at 30 ips. When played back at 15 ips the sounds would be an octave lower and have really cool long sustain. I moved the U87 over by the hats and set a level. I decided also to record the hats and the tome separately so I could place them wherever I wanted, with no bleed in the sounds. It's much harder that you realize to play a song twice as fast as usual. Add to that that everything is pitched up and octave so it's sounds like the Chipmunks on coke. The HiHat was first. Tim decided right after the take that he wanted another try, because now he was comfortable with the tempo. The second was much tighter. Next came the toms. Upon playback at regular speed any slightly late or early notes are really obvious because they are now twice as late or early. We went through and found any problem spots at 15 ips and then would fix them at 30 ips as we found them, switching the machine back and forth as needed. We also tried adding tapping on the side of an acoustic guitar, also at 30 ips. Matt the bassist was doing this because at first we were going to cut it while Tim cut the drums, but decided to separate the tracks. A syncopated part was really tough at double speed and upon hearing the results we all decided it wasn't really adding to the song.

By this time we were all hungry and decided to take dinner. Ed and I would return in the evening to build the rest of the tune. The first thing I did when I got back to the studio was rewind the tape and re-clean the heads and tape path. This seems insignificant but it may be where the problem came from.

"Problem you say?" Yes after setting up the Leslie in the Hallway and micing it up with the ATM25 that had been over the BD, we recorded a pass of guitar hitting the turnaround licks at the end of the verses and choruses. I thought I heard something weird during tracking this part. When Ed came in to the CR to listen we both heard a drop out during a really important band unison triplet figure. I spooled back the tape and again heard the problem. I went through and listened to a few individual tracks and they all had the problem. We looked at each other and asked how we could have missed that during the day's session. Upon close inspection of the tape I found a crinkled spot, right at the moment of the drop out. FUCK!!

What to do? I immediately got on the phone to Doug Weeks, my tech at Studiotech1 in Georgia. He told me to try to get a paintbrush and hold in on the tape over the head and see if I can smooth it out. Off to Lowes I went while Ed went to get a beer and check the Cubs score at a near by tavern. When I got back I tried several passes be the tape wasn't getting any smoother. There was a bit of the ending of another take left on the tape. I decided I would try an old school razorblade edit. I rocked the reels and marked up the tape with a grease pencil, double and triple checked my spots, grabbed a new razor and hacked out the bad spot. Then I did the same with the spot on the aborted take. As I was taping the sections together I realized that one side had the wrong overlap, so I needed to correct this. I was having a hard time getting the splicing tape loose so I cut it out, also with a thin section of tape that I thought wouldn't make a difference. Well, I guess it did because there was a tempo hiccup and the tail of the edit. SHIT BALLS! We were both pretty frustrated by then and Ed decided he was going home. I opted to try a smaller splice from the bad section to tag onto the newly spliced in section. Long story short, it didn’t work either. I called Ed and gave him the bad news. We were both dejected, and neither of us slept well.

The next day it was decided that I would fly the song into the RADAR digital recorder and do a 2 beat copy/paste edit and then put the song onto a new piece of tape for overdubs. Ed and I both looked at each other and said "why didn't we even think of that last night?" I know for me it was the challenge of the old school method (which I have done in the past though not a ton of times like Geoff Emerick or anything). I'm not sure why Ed didn't think of it. We've done it in the past to re-arrange a song after the fact. I'm sure he was just in guitar player mode and just wasn't thinking on a technical level.

Oh well, live and learn, and always have a back-up plan!
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Tony
Oxide Lounge Recording
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Last edited by drumsound on Sun Sep 30, 2007 1:25 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 1:12 am    Post subject: Re: A Blog of the new Backyard Tire Fire record plus FREE EP!! Reply with quote

Day Three

When I got to the studio Matt was already there. We went in and I told him about the last night's tape fiasco. He and I discussed going back and re-recording the song or just moving on to another song. Tim showed next and then Ed. We discussed Legal Crime a bit more and decided that I would do a digital edit later and we'd move on to a new song. "The Places we once lived" was going to be our song du jour. It a really great little 2-beat number with a waltz-y chorus and great lyrics just about anyone alive can relate to . Tim thinks of and plays the chorus more as a 6/8 but I'm really hearing it as a 3/4 waltz. I also had the idea that for the verse Tim shouldn't play any cymbals. I also wanted to swap out the DW for a Yamaha BD with a full front head--no hole. I think we added a little more Moongel to the Premier snare. The Gretsch toms stayed in place and I wasn't even going to record them but I realized Tim was using them a bit in the chorus so they were recorded too. I kept the U87 as a mono overhead, but I wasn't happy with it over his shoulder. I moved it to right over the center of the drums, pointing straight down towards the floor. Tim put up his Zildjian 22" or maybe 24" ride. My 15" hats were still in place from the double speed HiHat overdub from the day before. My 20" Zildjian crash got some beads put on it to make a sizzle effect and Tim's 18" A Custom was on the HiHat side of the drum-set. I can't remember if I changed out the M88 n the BD or not, but I'm sure the packing blanket and the speaker were still in place.

When it became time to think about bass I brought up a little hollow violin shaped bass that I borrowed from James the bass player in my band Wiplot. It's got Teflon coated strings and a very different sound from the G&L Matt plays. We kept with his SVT and I believe the Beyer TGX50, along with the DI. I believe I used some compression, possible from the ART VLA or maybe something else, or maybe none at all. It's only a few days ago and I'm already foggy… Either way the sound was pretty cool and really works great for this song.

The guitar and vocal were going to be scratches so not a lot of thought was put in, except to turn the guitar down from what we last had.

We spent a little time discussing the chorus feel and decided that a more waltz-y feel will come with some percussion overdubs. Tim wanted to do what he normally does in the chorus. We had set the tempo while working on sounds so that the guys wouldn't get into playing at one tempo and then needing to adjust once we brought in the click.

It was time to try a take. The first pass felt a little timid and I think the band was just getting warm. There was also a slight tuning issue with the bass. Be the second or third full take we had what we all felt was a really strong take. We had worked out a transition to be a little tighter and everybody seemed to really feel the tempo well. The guys even mentioned not really noticing the click during tracking. Matt, a normally pretty mellow guy was bopping around the live room during the take and the energy was really felt on the tape. It was decided that Matt and Tim could be cut loose so Ed and I could get down to overdubs. We wanted to start with Wurlitzer electric Piano. The tune is in A major and thusly C# is an important note. Well, on my Wurlie there is a broken C# reed, I had ordered a new reed for the C# one octave above middle C, but actually accidentally order the C# directly above middle C. Ed asked "now what?" I said "Let's it out you your Wurlie, it's already kinda fucked up right?" So that was the plan. We went to his house and grabbed the reed we needed and then grabbed lunch. When we installed the reed we were delighted to find out that we didn't need to tune it at all. Tuning a Wurlie involves using a file to remove lead from the reed if it is flat or adding solder if it's sharp. I had a couple of files on hand as the new reeds show up flat and need to be tuned to pitch.

I decided to use a DI on the Wurlie to keep a dry thing going on that we established with the muffled snare, lack of room mics and hollow body bass. The nice thick midrange of the Wurlie added a great weight to the tune, though the part is not heavy and does not bog it down. It really plays on the bouncy aspect in the verse and goes to a more open and arpeggiated figure in the chorus. It adds such a great character to the track! I think Ed got the part in two passes with maybe one stop and punch-in spot.

It was time to move to guitar. The intro of the song has a nice moving figure played in octaves and then goes into the 2-beat bouncy thing for the verse, and then opens up in the chorus and gets more articulated chord tones. In my mind I was hearing the chorus being more driven by acoustic guitar so I had Ed lay out on the electric guitar during the chorus. I really didn't want a typical guitar sound. We both though my Epiphone Sorrento hollow body with P-90s and my Heathkit guitar amp would be really cool. I kind of though getting a bit of a roomy sound might be really cool to contrast all the dry elements of the track thus far. I grabbed the AT 4050s from the closet and set one of the to figure 8. I placed it about 18 inches higher than the cabinet and pointed the diaphragm down at a 45-degree angle towards the speakers. I've been really on a kick of using figure 8 on guitar speakers lately. You get some really great room sound, but don't get the timing issues that can plague distance micing, and none of the phase issues of multiple mics. With Ed standing in the room, playing a hollow guitar through an amp that isn't very loud the recorded sound is really unique and IMNSHO very cool. There's room tone and the sound of the instrument itself as well as what's coming from the speaker cabinet. In a very rare occurrence Ed got a bit hung up playing the intro of the tune. As mentioned it is played in octaves. Ed is usually the type of guy that can nail a part on the first or second try, do it over because it's decided that the tone isn't right, nail another and then play in again with a different guitar for color. Then he can go back and play variations, a straighter one, a thicker etc. In the past we've done multiple parts on multiple songs in just a couple of hours. Once we both laughed it off, he turned back to the guitarist we both know he is and nailed the part.

As mentioned above I wanted the chorus to open up sonically by leaning heavily on acoustic guitar. Ed's acoustic (a really sweet handmade job) was being set-up and tweaked. So we pulled out my Wife's Hohner, which is a really lovely guitar. We have used it in the past a great bit, but Ed had received the custom model just before we made the last Backyard Tire Fire record so the Hohner had not been in his hands for a while. I wanted to record the acoustic and stereo and I decided to try ORTF, a spaced pair. I used AT Pro37R mics and my Great River MP2H mic pre. I love this combo for acoustic string instruments. The GR is super fast and detailed and the Pro 37R just seems to deal with transients in cool way. Ed decided he wanted to play the whole song, not just the chorus as I had envisioned it. Great, texture is a good thing. Plus the option of mixing the acoustic front and back, or in and out will be there as desired. As he played the first pass I though things were a bit mushy. When we were listening back Ed said "I want to do it again with a pick instead of my fingers." I was glad he was hearing that because I figured the pick would clear up the part, and it did. We also discussed the strumming on the chorus to imply a bit of a counter melody by bringing out different chord tones. He was doing this already, but I was looking for a little more consistency and clarity. I also decided to put the mics a little closer together. The nice wide thing I though the ORTF technique would add was a bit distracting. The image achieved is still spread nicely and open, but a bit more focused.

It was time for percussion. I got up on a ladder and got my 10"x24" Leedy&Ludwig Bass drum down from above the entryway. It's a big open drum that goes boooooommmm. Thinking of the chorus in 3, I planned to play the drum on the 1 of each measure. I used the U87 about 2 feel off the drum on the same side I was striking. I had Ed play it while I got a level. I played the part as we both felt it would go quicker that way. I then added sleigh bells on the 2 and 3 of the measures. There was the waltz feel I was looking for. The sleigh bells were also done with the U87. I played them like an orchestral percussionist (which I was in a younger life…). For those of you who don't know this technique, instead of shaking them, which make them very hard to control you hold the handle with the bells going down towards the floor. With you other hand either in a fist or flat you strike the bottom of the handle. The bells vibrate in a much more predictable fashion this way.

Ed was not convinced the bells were the right thing for the song. He trusts that I have my reasons for things, and is willing to live with the part for a while. By the end of the night with a bit of placement he was starting to see their place in the tune.

Next we moved on to vocals. Off to the booth for Ed. The Pearlman was already in place and I had flipped on the power earlier so the tube was cooking good. He stood pretty close and I taped a pencil to the mic to work as a mechanical de-esser. There was also a pop screen. I again used the Aurora Audio GTQ2 opting to use the EQ to take a bit of high shelf off of the mic. The mids are great but the top on the mic is really strong! I may have cut the vocal with no compression. The vocal arrangement includes a high harmony in the chorus. There's also some "AAHs." During the first pass Ed sang the AAHs. One of the things he said when he came in to the control room was that he wanted to not sing them next time, and do them on their own. He must have been reading my mind, as I had special plan for the AAHs. After the first pass Ed was starting to feel properly warmed up and wanted to do another try. I believe that next pass was our keeper. We may have punched in a phrase or two. Then came the high harmony. It took a couple runs for Ed to get his voice up to the place where he wrote the part, but once it got there the chorus really came alive.

All that was left was the AAHs that Ed left out after the first pass. Like the other vocals there's a low and a high. They are meant to be background color. I thought it would be really cool to cut them in the small bathroom. I grabbed one of the Pro37rs and put it on a stand and faced it at the wall near the corner, behind the toilet. I ran some headphones and told Ed to go sing in the bathroom. He loved the idea. I don't even know what direction he faced, he knew we were going for an ambient tone. We cut the parts quickly and started to mess around a bit with mix ideas.

Ed's good friend Willie Love had come by the studio right before we started tracking the vocals. He had brought some vocal lubricant in the form of microbrew. He was also lubricated himself. I took great pleasure in telling Ed that Willie loved the sleigh bells. By the time we were "mixing" Willie had decided to pantomime the song during each playback. It's damn amusing (especially after working 9 hours or so on a song) to see a graying longhaired bearded dude act out such an innocent and picturesque tune.

Ed was having fun working the faders and messing around with some mute arrangements while I just sat and laughed. Once he had it down he asked me to set up so he could do a mix. How did I become the Tape Op in my own room!?! I mentioned a synth idea that I had, Ed liked it, but wanted to print this mix and deal with the synths tomorrow…
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Tony
Oxide Lounge Recording
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SARA QUAH PLEDGE PAGE
WWRTBD?


Last edited by drumsound on Sun Sep 30, 2007 1:16 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 1:06 pm    Post subject: Re: A Blog of the new Backyard Tire Fire record plus FREE EP!! Reply with quote

Day Four

A Moogtastic and Korgarific day!

We knew going in that we'd do a half-day because both Ed and I had gigs that evening. We had decided the night before that adding some colorful synths to "The Places…" would be our plan of attack. When we arrived I found the one keyboard stand I have and set it in the control room. I then went behind the console where I was storing my good friend John Ganser's (of Von Frickle) Moog Prodigy. While I was patching it in through the Aurora, Ed was getting my MicroKorg out of the box and setting it on a chair. It also went through the Aurora and both came up on the console so we could hear either at any time.

After cleaning the heads on the tape machine and locating the song we started messing around with sounds and ideas for the song. Ed had a concept of something more textural, something that was more of an underlying sonic current. I on the other hand was thinking of a countermelody for the waltz-y choruses. We started with Ed playing around with different tones on the MicroKorg. For those not in the know, the MicroKorg is a small "analog modeling" synth with real-time controls. It is supposed to make the sounds of many keyboards of old. Whether it sounds like the classic models is irrelevant to me as it makes a lot of cool sounds that have been useful from time to time. At first Ed was thinking of sounds under the guitar intro, but it evolved into playing through the whole song, knowing it would not necessarily remain there once we got to the mix. He bounced back and forth between the Korg and the Moog, but the Korg was more to his liking for multi-timbral texture. We actually recorded a few different things, each time listening back with one of us saying "It's not quite there." The second to the last recorded one had Ed holding keys with one hand and messing with the tone controls as the song went along. He later decided that was too busy and came up with a sound that had some sweeping motion on its own that would be more random to the song. We both felt that it was a part worth keeping and moved on to my melodic ideas on the Moog.

The Moog Prodigy was one of Moog's less expensive models with two oscillators and less features than the Mini Moog. They are still super cool and a blast to play with. I tried a few sounds and kind of settled into a fairly pure triangle wave (I think) sound. I had the tape cued to the chorus and started finding the melody. Often when I do something like this I have and idea of shape and motion but not actual lines or notes. I play a bit and see what I can come up with, stumbling on phrases that I lake that I refine until I have an actual part. I was missing a couple of the chords so I had Ed grab an acoustic so he could show me what he played. I had two chords inverted the way I was playing, once I figured that out and got it into my fingers it made more sense to me. I had an opening and a closing but needed to work out the middle. Ed said "make it simple and less busy than the first part." That was the perfect advice. I worked it out and had a part we both liked quite a bit. Tracking it on the other hand was not so simple. I never claimed to be a keyboard player, so my technique and accuracy can be questionable at best. The first chorus went pretty smoothly with it taking 3 or 4 times to get through. The last note of the phrase sustains until the first not of the phrase starting over. This meant no punching in and that I had to play the whole chorus at once. The second time through the chorus goes long as we have planned a fade out for this tune. Instead of 4 times through the chord pattern, I think the end goes about 12 giving us the option the make the fade longer or shorter. Well for the unpracticed keyboardist, getting the part right that many times in a row turned out to be a bit of a "challenge." Luckily I'm pretty patient so I had no problem doing it over and over until we were both satisfied. After putting the synths away we messed around with some mix ideas, though I don't think we even printed them to RADAR for outside listening.

I did set the RADAR up so I could try to salvage "Legal Crime" after Wednesday night's tape incident. Ed decided that he didn't need to stick around for that and went home to eat and rest before his gig. I found and marked the problem spot and found a good replacement spot. The first edit I did plagued me with the same problem I had on tape, the end or the unison triplet riff was not coming back into the main groove smoothly. I decided to try making the copied part one beat longer, lasting through beat one of the following measure instead of going up to that spot. That was the ticket and "Legal Crime" was saved. I let out a sigh of relief.

I had time to get my stuff ready for the gig and get home and change and clean up a bit.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2007 12:37 pm    Post subject: Re: A Blog of the new Backyard Tire Fire record plus FREE EP!! Reply with quote

Day Five

This was another short day. We had a busy week and a busy weekend with gigs and friends and family from out of town coming to the shows.

We decided to finish "Legal Crime." After the edit performed on the RADAR, I decided that I wanted to go back to tape for overdubs, especially for the vocal sound. I put it on a whole new reel, just in case…

We had added a 12 string Rickenbacker played through the Leslie before things went wrong. We started with rhythm guitar. I was looking for a bit of a darker, less driven guitar, but with more chunking in the performance that the basic track guitar. The Epiphone Sorrento and the Heathkit amp came into play. I don’t' really remember what mic I used. We did cut 2 rhythm guitars, opting to replace the part played during the basics with the drums and bass. We made some slight changes in mic position and guitar so they didn't sound exactly the same though the parts are pretty close. There's a repeating triplet figure that comes around at the end of the each chorus and ends the song. I wanted to emphasize it with a strong nasty distortion sound. My good buddy Chris lent me a bunch of guitar pedals including a custom fuzz/octave. With a bit of messing around, we got a really gnarly tone. I thought it would also be cool for the solo. Ed decided he wanted to do the triplet riffs first and then do the solo on another track. While he was laying the riffs, he decided to play the solo too. It's really off the cuff and wonderful. It's as mean as the sound. It ends with the lick that's doubled with the Leslie guitar, so we punched that in to make it a bit cleaner.

Ed wanted to get some Wurlitzer color happening. Generally Ed likes to play in the lower register to add weight. This already had plenty of weight with distorted bass, multiple guitars, a drum mix relying heavily on the craziness of the Level Loc and the half speed thickness of the HiHat and tom overdubs. We instead added a part that is higher on the keyboard. He's chunking the chords in the verses and chorus and tripling the riff already doubled by the Leslie'd 12-string.

Now we needed some vocals. We started with the Pearlman, but it just wasn't doing it for me this night. I switched over to the U87 and was much happier. Ed was singing pretty loudly and the Neumann seems to take that in better stride. I think I used a good bit of compression from the Mindprint T-comp as the Drawmer also wasn't floating my boat that night. The lead vocal went down in just a couple takes. The song is really interesting because it's about an entertainment attorney trying to bamboozle the band. It's pretty biting, but the chorus if very hook-y, very easy to sing along. The vocal character changes, though not the idea. The chorus also has a high harmony that really sells the hook. Ed sang it once to get his voice up to that register and then we had a keeper, he then doubled the part for strength.

I did a slightly involved ruff mix that included a short delay on the lead vocal and the lexicon PCM41 doing all kinds of crazy stuff to the guitar solo. It's a delay with modulation. I used a long delay with a lot of feedback and square wave modulation. It's pretty over the top. I had been taking out the half speed percussion during the chorus to add impact to the vocals. Just for shits and giggles I took out all of the drums and it was pretty cool. I did a mix with drums in the chorus and one without. I think the final mix will have a variation, the drums might be out for part, but not the entire chorus, and maybe not every time it comes around.

A quick word about these mixes. I usually refuse to do ruff mixes because people often obsess over them and never think any other mix is as good as the one they have heard a million times. The mixes I've been doing I refer to as cement mixes---rougher than rough. Because of the fast way of working, doing a whole song at a time I think mixes sent home with Ed are useful. As we haven't listened to a song over a series of days or even weeks he can spend a little time making sure he doesn't want to redo or fix anything. He's come in the next day and re-sung a line or two based on the cement mix. I also know he'll keep his perspective when it comes to final mixing.
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 1:19 pm    Post subject: Re: A Blog of the new Backyard Tire Fire record plus FREE EP!! Reply with quote

Day Six

We started the week ready to go. Everyone was in a good mood when we got to the studio Monday. We started by playing the cement mixes of "Legal Crime" for Matt and Tim. They were both into the crunchy guitar and the idea of the drum mix possibly exiting for part of the chorus. They were also happy that I was able to save the take from last week.

Today I decided we'd work on "Shoulda Shut It" which is probably my favorite song on the demo CD I got from the band. It's a really great pop song with another universal theme: realizing you could have kept you mouth shut, even in you didn't.

I should tell you a little bit about the demos Ed makes, mostly in his basement. He uses a Roland VS 840, with a broken Zip drive. Thus he can't back things up. He borrows my Phillips CD burner when the drive is full. He mixes the tunes and wipes the drive and starts a new. Most of the demos start when the song is brand new, featuring the instrument he wrote it on (guitar or piano). There's usually all of the vocals, lead and background because the VS is also his sketchpad. Sometimes there's bass, and if there's any percussion it's whatever is handy, pillow cushions, beer bottles hit with a lighter, his hands on his legs, whatever. He works quickly and there is usually a ton of charm. A demo box-set in years to come will be quite cool! Sometimes the whole band is on the demos. Usually then it s couple mics in the room, and the maybe an overdub or two. Simple yet effective.

The demo for this song had the whole band and is the most produced they've done. It has drums played with brushes, 2 acoustic guitars, piano, bass and 3 vocal parts. They've never played the song live to the best of my knowledge. We discussed the brushes and feel of the demo. Being such a straight up pop song we though we'd try with sticks and electric guitars. The super hook-y piano line would still be on acoustic piano (when we got there). Matt thought about the violin bass, but couldn't remember if he used his low B or not.

We started configuring the drum-set. Tim's DW BD was brought back out and I suggested my vintage Leedy&Ludwig 5.5x14" snare. No matter what I do to that drum it always sounds great on recordings. The Gretsch toms stayed in place because Tim told me of one tom fill in the chorus. He grabbed an 18" 60s Zildjian out of my bag and put it on his right, I think kept his 18" A Custom on left. I had put up a new (to me--another TOMB purchase) set of Bliss Dream 14" HiHats on the stand while I did a little practicing Sunday afternoon before Ed showed up for the session.

I took the AKG d12e from the guitar amp and put it pretty deep into the BD and set the speaker mic on the outside and draped the packing blanket. The snare and tom mics remained. I wanted to so something different for the overhead. I though I might do something more in front of the drums, though not too far out. I decided on an M/S pair using an Octava MC012 with cardioid capsule as the Mid mic and a TOMB ribbon for the Sides. When thinking about the stereo image of a drum-set I've recently started thinking of a line that goes diagonally through the bass and snare drums. This has been giving me a nice center image with both the BD and SD, not with one center and one pulling to the side. I put the M/S pair about chest high in front of the BD in this diagonal line about a foot and a half from it.

I do not have an M/S encoder/decoder. I instead split the signal from the side mic to two channels on the console and flip the phase on what will be the left (or is it the right,,,?) and print all three to tape. Then when mixing I adjust to two side mics in relationship to the mid mic to adjust my stereo spread. This particular set-up sounds nicely focused from the mid and pretty roomy from the side mics. Enough so, in fact that I decided I didn't need room mics. As I was blending the in and outside BD mics Tim was playing to the click at the tempo we established for the song. I decided a little EQ on the inside mic and some compression on the combined output to tape would help. The EQ cut a bit of the ugly from the inside mic and the compressor was being used to shape the envelope of the BD within the tempo and groove.

Matt seemed pretty comfortable on his G&L bass so I went in and listened to the sound of his amp. I felt no need to change anything, it just sounded great. The amp was in the vocal booth and the U87 was still there from the night before. I put it in front of one of the 10" speakers, 4-6 inches back and went to listen in the CR. NOPE! That was a sound that was not working. I grabbed the 421II from the closet and went back to the booth. I decided to put it pretty close to the grill. When I returned to the CR a smile came across my face. Man I love 421s! I also took a direct right from the bass.

I had Matt and Tim play together and made a fit of a level tweak to even out the bass mic and DI. I dialed in the BD compressor a bit too. Matt was using a pick on the bass (something he doesn't often do) and it was really perfect for the song. It was also pretty even, so I decided I'd compress during the mix if it needed it, but I didn't feel I needed it now.

The guitar amp (silverface Fender Twin) was devoid of a mic because I pilfered it for the BD. I though an M88 would be cool for detail and tone, though this part may be a scratch. I also backed off the volume of the amp. This is a softer simpler song and I wasn't looking for a lit of drive. Ed played his Les Paul with P90s and we had a workable tone in no time. I also had an M88 for scratch vocal.

We were off and running. The first take was a little timid. I found out that they learned the song to record it about 2-3 months ago and hadn't touched it since. Ed wanted it to grow in the studio not on the road. They needed a little time to reacquaint themselves with the song. I mentioned to Tim that the one drum fill was obscuring the vocal. His answer was "OK I won't play it." I also asked him t make sure he was hitting the HiHat with the tip of the stick, not the shank (or shoulder as he prefers to call it). We tried a couple more takes. The first didn't make it all the way. The next one was close but not quite there. Then came a sold and relaxed version that I really liked. I felt the drums were really right, laying a solid foundation for the song. I felt on the other hand that the bass was not really locked in to the groove. Matt listened again and thought of his part. There were a couple mistakes that may have thrown his whole groove off. I suggested that he re-cut his entire part to the take. He went out and got it on the first try. I often think having the players being able to see each other while they play is beneficial. In this case I think the lack of sight and playing together forced Matt to really focus on what was already on tape and he locked perfectly.

We took a short lunch/dinner break and then I had Ed come to my house with his van to pick up my vibraphone, as I had a part in my mind upon hearing the demo of the song. We didn't start with the vibes though, we went to the piano. The antique upright piano (see Junkshop's avatar) sits next to the drums so I had to move most of the drums and decided to put the mics away and coil the cables. Ed said he wanted a close sounding piano, and not real bright. Often I take the front panels off the piano when I track, but I decided to leave them in place and open the top a couple inches and put it on it's short stand. I also decided to try the M88, which I have never done with this piano. I put it around middle C pointing at the slightly open space at the top of the piano. I wanted to try the Great River MP2H mic pre. It's really fast and clean and often sounds great with dynamic mics (the only way I'll even consider dealing with a 57 is if it's plugged into this pre). The sound was perfect, great attack, good sustain but not a lot of "ring." I think Ed got the piano in one take. He also really liked the sound.

We moved on to vocals. Ed told me he wanted to double each of the three parts. I enjoyed the U87 the night before so I put it up again. I had some kind of weird gremlin in the patchbay because the sound kept going from thin and screwy to normal (and much louder). I don't have a cleaning tool, so I just used a cable to try to get what might be the problem out of the way. I was using the Aurora GTQ2 pre and the Joe Meek SC2.2 compressor. I had patched in the Drawmer '69 at first but it just wasn't hitting me tonight. The meek wasn't doing a lot, I'll probably need a bit more compression at the mix, but I really liked the tone. It took a few takes to get the vocal. Once it was solid though, the double came easy. Ed needed to reference the demo to makes sure he had the backgrounds in his head. We did the higher first and then followed with the lower, again doubling both parts.

I was now time to set up the vibes. I put them in the middle of the open area in the live room and put an MC012 not quite 6 feet up pointing at an angle towards the bars. As I was patching the mic to the GR Ed started goofing around on the vibes. I used that as an opportunity to set a basic level and hear the sound. We quickly ran through the tune so I knew what a couple of the chords were. I knew the line I wanted in the chorus already. As I did takes I started adding more little colors and the part shaped up nicely. The funny thing was that I kept nailing the newer ideas and blowing the main line I wanted to play. The line is simple enough, but I was playing in octaves, which can be tough. I decided that I would punch in the choruses so I could use just two mallets instead of four that I was using to voice chords. That went smoother, though it still took a few tries. Ed was handling the punching and we did need to go back and fix one of the chords because he punched me out late.

As we were doing these overdubs the "scratch" guitar part was really starting to grow on me. Both because of it's tone and more importantly its understated performance. I mentioned this to Ed after I finished the vibes and he said he too was thinking we should keep it. There was one guitar part to add, an ascending line in the intro, outro and interludes. Ed though to use the Rickenbacker 12-string and I suggested the Heathkit amp. I moved the MC012 from the vibes to about 18 inches from the speaker. We didn't even move the amp from next to the piano, we just ran power and went to work. The sound was fairly bright and we used a little of the amp's spring reverb. Ed debated using a pick or his fingers and ultimately chose the pick. The articulation the pick gave was needed and I'm glad he played it that way. We also added some nice ringing chords from the 12-string and eventually decided the ascending line would only be in the intro and outro, but not the interludes. We'll accomplish that with the mute automation in the mix.

That was a really fun day in the studio and I think will be one of the stand out tracks on the record.
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 1:28 pm    Post subject: Re: A Blog of the new Backyard Tire Fire record plus FREE EP!! Reply with quote

Day Seven

This was an interesting day. Instead of the whole band we started out with just Ed and myself. We were going to work on a song based around the piano where we would add the rhythm section (and whatever else) after the piano and lead vocal. The song is called "Home Today" and is really lovely. There is at least one really great song for and about Ed wife on each record, and they are heartfelt and true.

We wanted to keep the piano intimate, but as the song's feature I though a nice stereo recording would be nice. I put the Octava MC012s in an XY on a stereo bar and centered them around where Ed was playing, mostly just below middle C. Again I had the mics just inside the top, propped open about 3 inches. I used the cardioid capsules and ran through the Great River MP2H.

While I was listening in the control room I noticed a little bit of mechanical noise from the sustain pedal. I took the bottom panel off to see if I could use a little WD-40 or do something else to remedy the situation. The noise though was mostly wood squeak from where the linkage is screwed into the bottom of the piano. The linkages have been noticeably re-mounted I assume due to the screws pulling out over yeas of use. I estimate the piano is 80-100 years old. There is also a crack in the bottom, but I haven't had the replacement done because it involves a lot of work and space (and cash). The noise was not horrendous and we had no choice but to move on.

Ed tried to be cautious of the pedal, treating it with less force and using it less frequently. This was not helping his playing, and as a matter of fact was hurting it. He told me that he was having a hard time, because he so used to relying on the pedal. I told him to play like normal, the noise isn't that band, and I was much more worried about a good performance. There are piano recordings all through recorded history that have pedal noise. Guys like Glen Gould and Keith Garrett moan and groan while they play. I think we did 2 takes after that, recording over the first and using the second.

Ed then went to the booth to sing the lead vocal. The U87 was still set up. We had tightened the room up a bit the night before by placing the mic deeper between blankets draped over mic stands and I put an Auralex "gobo" right behind where he was standing. Before that the blankets were there, but the mic was more on the side of them and the gobo farther back. The room, though in need of some real treatment, sounds good with these methods. I like the variation, though I'm sure its subtler than I make myself believe it is.

For this track I decided to use the Drawmer 1969 for both its mic pre and compressor.
Partially because of a certain mid-range presence of the pre and partially to get the tube output stage. I've also bemoaned that I rarely use the pres and that I should trade it off for a 1968. Instead I decided I should just use the pres more. Ed was singing softly and pretty close to the mic. The sound was very intimate and worked perfectly in the track. We got the vocal in one take. I was really happy about this because I believe songs like this are best when not over thought. Because he had been playing the song on piano, probably hadn't been awake that long, combined with whatever happened before he got to the studio, I think he was in the perfect state of mind to deliver a great performance. There's some great breath sounds as he goes to the upper register of the song and a couple really nice softly sung words.

It was now time for the mad scientist in me to take over. Since listening to the demo of this song I've had the idea to make an eBow "Mellotron" to use as and underlying pad. What I wanted to do is fill up 24-tracks on the RADAR with notes played with an eBow on the guitar, and then make the chords with the faders. If you're not familiar with the eBow, it's a little handheld electromagnet that is held over guitar strings to make them vibrate infinitely. In the process, it's mostly upper end harmonics that are produces.

To do this I needed to spend a little time learning the song, so I'd know what chords we needed and thus what notes to record. The song is not wholly diatonic. It's based around and Fmajor7 chord and mostly uses the white keys. I guess technically it in F lydian mode. But, there's an E major and a C7 so I was gonna need G# and Bb. Once I devised my scale I told Ed he would need to play six minutes of each note needed. He said "SIX MINUTES!?!" As I though about it I realized I could do two minutes and punch in each chord instead of the method of having an automated version of the song. Poor Ed was going crazy in the live room with his Les Paul playing one note for 2 minutes at a time through my little Mesa SC2, miced with a Beyer M88. Besides for the sadistic insanity, both of his hands were starting to cramp. About 8-10 notes in he realized he could lay the guitar on a speaker cabinet and prop the eBow on the string and use a capo to provide the pitch. Then he could sit in the CR with me while each note recorded. As crazy as Ed though I was, as we had a bunch of notes, I could start "playing" chords for him as we were tracking notes. Then he was convinced that this could in fact be a cool idea.

After all the notes were recorded I sent Ed home. He knew I had plenty of work ahead of me and decided that he's like to spend some time with his wife. I told him I'd finish and he could hear it the next day and I told him to enjoy his night.

Next I mapped out all of the chords, copying only the notes I needed and pasted each one to its own locate point on the RADAR. So for instance when I needed Fmajor7 I went to Locate 1 and only the notes of that chord would play. With the groundwork laid I took dinner.

When I got back I painstakingly went through the song, chord by chord punching in to a stereo pair on the 2" machine. I mixed each chord as it came along so that it did not sound the same every time it was played. I'd run the tape and make a blend with the faders, then roll back the tape and punch in. Again this is a subtle thing but I believe it make the recording more alive. On some of the longer chords I'd even move the faders a bit while tracking the chord. I had to run back and forth to the live room a couple times to figure out which chord was happening at certain time. It was pretty fun though not a job for the easily distracted!

After I got the whole song done, I took a few really detailed listens. I found a couple late punches and at least on wrong chord. I fixed each mistake as I found it. Being the obsessive type I can be in the studio, (especially when working alone) I wanted to hear some effects with the new eBow choir. I tried a bunch of thing in the Eventide H3000, and ended up liking a reverb with flanger program the best, though it was not over the top enough. Then I switched over to the Kurzweil Mangler and found some cool tones, settling in on a sweeping filter that I tweaked quite a bit to work with the track. I then though, "what if I send the sweep filter to the 'verb/flange sound in the Eventide?" Well I gotta say that was the ticket. I decided to print it to a pair of tracks, as I'd never have the balance the same again.

When I left I was mentally exhausted but very satisfied and proud of what was done that day.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 1:44 pm    Post subject: Re: A Blog of the new Backyard Tire Fire record plus FREE EP!! Reply with quote

Day Eight

We started with just Matt, Tim and myself. We were to put drum and bass on "Home Today" the piano based song that Ed and I had worked on the day before. This is the song with the eBow madness. Ed figured that we'd get this bass and drums and about two takes…

The song is slow and open. Tim wanted to pull out the big 26" bass drum, and use the b new 16" floor tom and my 15 hats. I agreed and put up a 60's 20" Zildjian crash to be used as the ride cymbal. It's probably the most amazing cymbal I own. 20" crash cymbals are often too big and thick to be useful because they speak to slowly, are loud and hard to control. This one is the opposite of that. It speaks quickly like a 16-17" cymbal, is thin enough to be controlled and played softly if desired and just sounds beautiful! Played lightly as a ride cymbal and it spreads just enough to fill the space, or it can be bashed on for a Dave Grohl type thing. And it's perfect for crashes and the end of big fills. Its something I'll have until my death. When Tim asked about snares I suggested my 6.5" '50s Slingerland mahogany drum. We tuned it down a bit and made sure the snares were speaking.

I decided I wanted to use the Glyn Johns 3 drum mic technique. I'm sure most of you are familiar with it. Two LDCs equidistant from the snare, one above it and one peeking over the rim of the floor tom. A third mic a bit of a ways out from the BD. I used AT 4047s for the matched pair of overheads and a Neumann U87 for the front/BD. I measured the distance by have Tim hold one end of a mic cable in the center of the SD and made sure all three mic were the same distance. This helps insure good phase relationships and well as balance, so long as the drummer plays with balance. The sound was great from the get go, but I did go out and do a little tuning of the bass drum and the floor tom. I lowered both in pitch. We also put a piece of Moongel on the snare, using only half of it with the other half on the rim of the drum. I wanted a bit of ring but not an over abundance. I was having Tim play with Pro Mark Broomsticks. These are similar to Hot Rods, but instead of wood dowels they have corn bristles like you find on some brooms. The have rubber O-rings that can move up and down for more or less spread. Because they are softer and have some give the make cymbal crash sound really "woooshy" and drums have a bit more spread in their attack. There was a bit of debate on the Broomsticks (and again when Ed arrived) but I at least wanted to hear a take with them.

Ed showed up as we were finishing with drum sounds and moving on to bass. I again use the Beyer M88 and a direct signal. I think I backed off the mic to about 5-6 inches from the speaker grill. I often jam the mic right up to the cabinet especially with bass. I like the proximity effect, plus I think when you get too far from a source there are timing issues. The player might be playing in the pocket but the time it takes the sound to get to the microphone creates s natural delay that isn't always helpful. This seems to be more noticeable to me after about 6-8 inches. As always I clicked the polarity button of the DI to hear the phase relationship of it and the mic. It sounded much bigger with the DI's polarity reversed. There was no compression used for the bass.

It was time to start cutting tracks. Tim had played along to Ed's piano, vocal and eBow parts while we were getting sounds. We've been trying to establish tempos before we start checking sounds so that Tim doesn't get used to playing the song faster or slower than it is to be recorded. It also gives him time to get used to the tempo before the red light goes on. This was Matt's first pass with the recorded tracks. First off they asked for the eBow and effects to be removed, they both though they'd be better able to play to the piano and voice plus the click.

They came in to listen after the first full take. Neither was happy with their performance. Even though the piano was laid to a click it had its moments of push and pull. This is not a huge issue, but the players coming after the fact do need to adjust. The way I deal with a click is that I don't monitor it in the control room when I'm tracking the band. If I can hear tempo variances without the click reference I know that a take has gotten too far out of hand. If tempo variances are not obvious to me then it is my belief that the take can work. I think of the click like lines on the highway. You have some leeway to your left and right but you need to stay within those parameters.

Drummers and bass players are usually part of the basic tracks laid down at the beginning of a recording. They are involved in those minor pushes and pulls of the tempo. They often have less overdubbing experience than other musicians do. Tim and Matt knew they'd need a few tries to get really comfortable with this track. They were both bound and determined to get it right.

While they were in the control room listening I started to discuss their parts. I first asked Matt to simplify his part. I was looking for long sustained notes to anchor the song. It did not need as many notes as he was playing. Ed agreed, as did Matt. We talked about a couple specific sections and Matt understood what we were looking for. I also had Tim play straight through a section he was syncopating. Again simplicity was the key to the song. I also had a long talk with Tim about balancing the sound of the drum-set as an instrument. He was playing the HiHat really loud but not giving the snare enough power. Some of the crashes were also a bit over the top. He asked if I could just turn the snare mic up. I reminded him there wasn't one. Plus ,I told him no matter what the micing, it was his job to balance the drums whenever he played. He and I have had this talk numerous times in the past. When he really concentrates he can back off the HiHat and make the snare speak. It is really easy for him to go back to his automatic mode where his right hand dominates and the cymbals become the loudest things in the room.

They went back to the live room to try again. We had a couple takes that didn't make it to the end. One or the other player was not happy with their performance and stopped the take. Each time Ed or myself made a suggestion or answered a question to help the players get their parts. Each pass was getting closer and closer as Tim and Matt focused, determined to give great performances. We did not listen to each pass, if any of us though a better take was possible we would rewind the tape and go again. At the end of about the fourth full pass of the day I felt we had a solid take. I told Tim if he played every song like that, with that kind of balance I would bow at his feet. I invited them in to listen. Besides a small, fixable bass mistake at the end it sounded and felt quite. Tim was unsure of one section so we tried one more take. We listened back to it and it sounded great. Tim was still a little uneasy, but Matt, Ed and I all thought it was a keeper. We listened a few more times and decided that yes it was the take of the day.

We decided to move on to a song called "Welcome to the Factory" a mid tempo rocker about what the title implies. When I heard the demo I decided I wanted to make a loop of industrial type sounds. Ed and I had established a tempo the day before because if the eBow madness had gone faster I was going to start creating the loop. Well that didn't happen so we had to make it today. I don't have a computer, but I do have A RADAR digital recorder and editor. I decided I'd record 6 minutes of the drum machine with quarter note clave and eight note HiHats. This way I'd have a visual and aural reference on top of which to create the loop. The plan was to record a bunch of sounds and then place them in tempo to make the loop.

I gathered a bunch of things to use as sounds for the loop. These items included a piece of train rail, a brake drum, a ribbon crasher (with 3 'pitches') a couple of circular saw blades, and empty tape reel, a fresh 2 liter bottle of pop, a ratchet, a metal table leg and a couple other thing I can't remember. The plan was to record each thing a couple of times each and also use a couple techniques. Some things were hit and others were scraped, the ratchet was spun short and long. Scraped things were done short and long. I asked the band who wanted to play these found sounds and Matt volunteered. In about tem minutes we were done. I also patched in the Lexicon PCM 41 delay to the talkback mic and clicked the button to create a rhythmic effect.

I now started picking the sounds from the multiple recordings and placed them to the click. The only problematic one was the sound of the opening of the pop bottle. As it had more of a bell shaped envelope instead of a transient and decay it was hard to get it in time. It was to start the loop so it needed to be right. It would also pose a problem for cutting and pasting the loop because the copied section would not start on the one as the apex of the sound needed to be on the one. The band helped to create the loop by suggesting what sound might come next and deciding the ratchet with it's more organic sound was better that the electronic sound of the Lexicon delay. Once one bar was established copying and pasting was simple, except for the pop bottle. After dinner I dropped it in over one hundred times. It was still not perfect each and every time so I would go back and replace it. When I played it for the band (slightly in progress) They finally understood why it was kicking my ass so hard. We ultimately decided to leave that sound out of the loop. I did a quick stereo mix of the loop to two tracks of the RADAR and mixed the click to a third. I did the click as part of the mix to compensate for latency as it would not be in time with the mixed loop after passing through the DA and then AD conversion. I did the mix this way so the band could have the loop, the click or both for tracking.

We swapped out the snare for Tim's 15" Tama and the bass drum for his DW. He also put up his DW 12'"tom in place of my Gretsch but kept the 16" floor tom which plays an integral part to the song. I kept up the Glyn Johns overheads, but added snare (ATM23he) and tom(421) mics. I put a Beyer TGX50 inside the BD and the U87 out. I also took the Octava MC012s (cardioid caps) and put them on a stereo bar and put the mic stand over the entryway about 13 feet in the air pointing away from the drums at the angled ceiling. Upon listening I almost immediately swapped the U87 for the speaker mic. I ended up EQing both mics, taking out some low-mid on the Beyer and adding low shelf to both. The sound was really great, but I was not happy with the floor tom. I decided to start over with its tuning. I loosened both heads and re-tuned, standing on both heads along the way to seat them to the drum. I was able to get the drum to sound really good, but as Tim would be riding on it I wanted a little something more. I added an ATM25 under the floor tome and now it sounds massive. I did need to flip the phase of the bottom mic.

I kept the M88 DI combo on the bass, but when I heard Tim and Matt playing to the loop I started patching in compressors. I think I ended up with the ART VLA doing about 6-8 dB of compression on the loudest notes. The Fender Twin had an M88 on it from what ever was done last. I decided to patch in the Chameleon Labs 7602 that I'm reviewing, I didn't use EQ but I liked what the pre gave me. Without another M88 I was forced to rethink my scratch vocal. I chose a 421II and it also has pretty good rejection (though not as hood as the M88).

It was pretty late by this time nearing 10PM. We had started at 1:00, which meant I was there slightly before that, with just a short dinner break with Ed. The boys were ready to play. I decided to use one the 15ips tapes for this. After I cleaned the heads and found the end of the one song on it I advanced he tape about 10 seconds and the counter started counting way too fast. Weird! And it started to have trouble stopping at established locate points. We did a take any and it seemed like the tape was running at the right speed, which playback confirmed. I decided I'd to an Analog Toru Board adjustment the next day when I could get my MCI tech from KC to remind me of a couple things that I couldn't make out on my chicken scratch notes I had from when he taught me how to do the adjustment the last time he was in town.

I felt the take was solid to the loop. The band was not as convinced. We were all a bit "toasty" at this point. Ed as the voice of reason said we should keep this take and try another the next day. We all though that was the best plan
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 30, 2007 1:39 am    Post subject: Re: A Blog of the new Backyard Tire Fire record plus FREE EP!! Reply with quote

Hey everyone. I just went through all of the entries and fixed all the little crap like missing letters and whatnot.

I'd also like to tell you of two errors on my part. The first being that Matt's G&L bass is an L2500 not an L2000 and that Ed uses a VS880 at home, not an 840.

Thanks for reading!
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 30, 2007 3:05 pm    Post subject: Re: A Blog of the new Backyard Tire Fire record plus FREE EP!! Reply with quote

Day Nine

We started a little late this day because I had to have a short phone consultation with Mike Miller my MCI tech in Kansas City. As I mentioned in the last entry the tape machine was acting a little weird the previous night. Mike quickly walked me through an analog torque board adjustment. Ed sat and read a Mojo magazine about Sgt. Pepper while I took notes while sticking my head into the machine to find the test points Mike was saying went with each part of the adjustment. Without getting too techie I adjusted a couple of voltages and then ran some 30ips tape to adjust running tension of each reel. Now the machine is running great. Matt and Tim arrived as I was finishing the adjustment.


We all knew we'd be working on "Welcome to the Factory." I don't remember if everyone listened to the previous night's version or just me. I still though it was pretty good, but since we were gonna track I wanted to check a couple things with the drums. I had Tm play to the loop and re-checked my phase relationships on the drum mics. Between the Glyn Johns style overheads, close mics, 2 BD mics and 2 floor tom micsand 2 room mics there is all kinds of potential for wackiness. On both the BD and floor tom I flipped one mic source to get the best sound. Then I was flipping those together in relationship to the rest of the drums. So if I was checking the floor tom to the rest of the set I flipped both phase switches, because I already determined that they needed to be flipped in relationship to each other. I needed their relationship to remain the same but listen to the instrument's relationship to the set as a whole. I think I ended up with the rack tom and snare flipped and the OH in the normal position. I think the room was fine in the normal position as well. While I was at it I again checked the bass phase relationship. It remained with the DI flipped. The difference is subtle, but I think this made the drums sound better.

It was time to start getting takes. As can be typical, the first take of the day was really about warming up and getting back into focus. I don't think the first pass made it to the end. No big deal. We listened to the first full pass and it was pretty good, but not spectacular. Everyone though another take was a good idea. I think they may have played 2 before the band came back in to listen, the second try recorded over the first. While listening everybody felt pretty good about the take. When I asked about playing to the loop Ed said he didn't really even notice it, he was just playing to Tim and Matt. Matt agreed saying the loop was just there, but he barely paid attention to it.

We decided that this take was the one to use. Ed wanted to jump into singing. Tim and Matt left us to our own devices. Ed mentioned days before that he wanted a big, aggressive vocal with a short delay for the song. He mentioned Roger Waters on the Wall specifically. He wanted the delay in his headphones and mentioned that when he does demos he sometimes sings with effects. He asked about printing with the effect, but immediately worried about wanting to change it for different sections or whatever. I said I could record the delay to another track so we'd have a dry vocal and separate track with delay. That is what we eventually did. The delay came from the TC M3000, a simple mono delay at 95 milliseconds. I have that patch set up on a quick key so it's quite easy to retrieve. Ed also wanted to sing in the live room instead of the booth. I pulled out the Pearlman TM1 and put it in the middle of the open area in front of the drums. Ed said he wanted to sing up into the room, and I knew he'd sing this song pretty loud. I ended up with the mic above his head at a slight angle. I think I used the Aurora, but I may have used the Neotek pre for this one. This song is a little different because the chorus actually gets softer instead of louder. We've even talked about removing the drums, bass and guitars and totally changing the character for it. [foreshadowing wink wink] After one complete run through Ed came in to listen. He liked the sound of the room and the delay. I felt I still needed to tweak the compressor (and RNC maybe?) and he wanted to sing it again anyway. I twisted the knobs a bit while Ed sang to the tape, then we went for a proper take. I think in the end we kind of went in sections because the character was so different. It didn't take us long to get our keeper vocal.

We moved on to guitars. First Ed did a double of his rhythm track, using the bathroom set-up with his Twin and Les Paul. That was a one-take affair. I wanted another guitar with longer chords to work underneath like a pad. We used the Mesa SC2 with an M88 about 3-4 inches from the grill. It was in the live room with Ed. The TM1 was still up and I lowered it just a bit and pointed it towards the amp. I checked the phase, which I think was fine. As Ed played I mixed the 2 mics to one track. Ed wanted to play the solo on this track as well. We knew we could punch in the solo if needed. His first pass through the song was a lot closer to the main rhythm guitar parts than I was looking for. I asked Ed to just hit big chords on the one of each chord change and let the guitar ring. If a little feedback happened, that would be fine too (it didn't). The solo is pre-written and Ed had no problem nailing it yet again. It's a pretty cool solo, without a lot of notes. You can tell he's really strangling the neck of the guitar, making it scream. It's really aggressive and perfect for the song.

We were both hungry by this point and off to dinner we went. We heard out favorite hot dog joint, Boo Boo's Dawg House, had opened back up. This was great news because it's in walking distance from the studio and we like the food. On day one of the record I expressed my concern about not being able to make a record without Boo Boo's. They are indeed open again, but we were too late. So we had burritos at LaBamba.

As we were walking back to the studio we started talking about the chorus of the song and its character change. The demo has a Wurlie part that works nicely and I wanted some kind of pad sound as well. We started with the MicroKorg but couldn’t come up with a pad sound that didn't cheese up the song. Ed mentioned the eBow choir from "Home Today." I though something higher in pitch, maybe still with the eBow would be better. He really wanted me to use the stuff we had though. I had to create an E minor chord because Home Today used E major. I already had the notes needed and the other chords needed for "Factory." The process was much like Home Today, with me setting up the chords from the RADAR, mixing the voicings and then punching in to the tape. I did this in mono, because there were still things to add. After this was done for both choruses we moved on to the Wurlie. We decided to run it through the Mesa amp , still using the M88. The amp however, was set to a cleaner tone. My Wurlie is getting pretty noisy and I think it needs to be re-capped. In context it was not so bad. I had Ed play the part up an octave from where he started. I was looking for an almost music-box idea. He was a little trepidatious but did it anyway. I decided some compression was needed to even out the sound a bit. I tried a few things and ended up with the ART VLA doing a fair amount of gain reduction whenever Ed really laid into the keyboard. He was playing open fifths with his left hand on each beat. I asked him to only play the top note and just to hit them at the beginning of each chord. The right hand was playing a melodic arpeggio that worked quite well. It was a little hard for him to change but once he was comfortable we had a great take on each chorus.

Ed still though the chorus needed more bottom end. He suggested the bass pedals of the Hammond. I first tried to mic the M3's built in speaker. It just doesn't have enough juice for that though. So we plugged in the Leslie, set it the slow speed and put a 421 near the bottom rotor. It sounded a little odd to me. That's when I remembered I had used some bass roll-off while using that 421 for scratch vocals. When I went back to the M setting (no roll off) it sounded great. As the part was only 3 notes Ed nailed it each time through the chorus.

We listened to the chorus with only these new elements and the vocal. The total change idea was really cool. We wanted to print a cement mix to listen as a whole. I had not stripped the tape with SMPTE time code, and didn't want to get into automation at the late point in the evening. I decided I'd do a "splice mix" where I'd mix in sections and print to the RADAR as I went along. Then after each section I'd splice it to the previous section. This is how mixes were often done in the days before automation, except the splicing was done with a razor. The edits are a little rough, but this mix gave us the idea of how the song will sound when we go to mix. With automation I can make the transitions smoother and we may even add cymbal crashes to tie the sections together if fades are not working.

This may have been the most fun we've had yet on this record
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2007 2:09 am    Post subject: Re: A Blog of the new Backyard Tire Fire record plus FREE EP!! Reply with quote

Day Ten/Eleven

I'm going to combine day 10 and 11 as they were short and based around the same song.

Today we were going to work on a song called "Rainy Day." It a nice little Tom Waits style waltz. It's another piano song and there most likely won't be any guitar at all. After having to cut drums and bass to piano as we did with "Home Today" Matt and Tim both wanted to cut their parts with Ed playing. I had already thought we'd use the Wurlie if needed and then Ed would replay his part on the acoustic piano. For this song though being soft and kinda slow I thought we could cut the piano and just use a snare with brushes. Tim had been thinking the same thing on his own.

As we would have limited tracks during the basics I thought I'd use only outboard mic preamps. I don't have many (6 channels--* if you count the ART tube guy I just use for distortion) and I'm not totally sold on the "I need 70m, flavors of mic pres" philosophy. I also have a Chameleon Labs mic 7602 pre/EQ that I am working on a review of, So I need to, you know use it!

We started by getting the drums out of the way (a relative term in my over-packed studio!). The piano was still open and I again decided on the Octava MC012 in an XY stereo set-up. The range on this song goes a little higher that "Home Today" so I placed the stereo bar further up the piano. I again used the Great River MP2H and no compression or EQ was used. Just a side note on the MP2H. This is the older GR that isn't make any longer. It's just a wonderful sounding, fast, hi-fi pre. There was also a 4-channel version. Both of them pop up used from time to time. If you're ever looking for a great pre and one of these is for sale, grab it!


We decided on my 1950s Slingerland 6.5"x14" snare. I had a couple fresh, coated Remo Ambassador heads on hand for the session. A songs being done with just snared drum with brushes deserved a nice fresh head. I put Tim by the door away from the piano. I use a single AT Pro 37r mic about 4 inches from the head. It was routed thought the Chameleon. There was virtually no piano bleed into the SD mic, but there was a tiny bit of drum bleed into the piano mics. I decided to drape a packing blanket over a large boom stand to isolate it a bit. It helped some, though it did mess with Ed and Tim's visual contact. The ending of the song slows down, but we though it might be good to have the SD drop out for that anyway.

Matt grabbed the little violin bass for this one. I though that would be a great choice. I still had a direct box set up and I miced the 4x10 cabinet with an M88 backed off about 8 inches. Both signals went through the Aurora Audio GTQ2 with no EQ The sound was really great, almost like an upright.

After a couple of run throughs to find the tempo, we were cutting takes. Take one sounded really relaxed and almost perfect. There was a problem with the bass intonation though. I believe it was a combination of the violin bass that has a violin type wooden bridge and the general tuning of the piano. I spent a good deal of time trying to adjust the bridge and set the intonation, but I'm honestly not well versed on how it's done with a one piece bridge. I got it as close as I could. I also asked Matt if he went very high up the neck on this song. Luckily he said he didn't pass the fifth fret. We also thought to check to see how close to standard pitch the piano was. As anyone with a piano knows they can drift daily. [My tuner doesn't even own a piano because when he sits down to play he gets distracted and spends what little time he has tuning instead of playing. He plays a digital piano at home] The piano was a little sharp in the lower register and pretty close in the mid-range. We decided to tune the bass to the piano.

Matt replayed his part to the first take that we all liked so much. As I recall we had one try that didn't make it to the end and then he got it on the next pass.

It was now time for Ed to sing. His demo has a bullhorn effect that he's pretty fond of. I though I'd set up 2 mics, the Pearlman TM1 and a little cheapo that supafuzz sent me right after TapeOpCon. Ed had stated earlier that he wanted to have a smoke before singing this one. While Ed had his ritualistic cigarette I set the mics up side by side in the booth. They were so close that put a small piece of tissue between them so they wouldn't touch. Both mics were sent to Aurora. I EQ'd the cheapo mic cranking the high shelf and boosting the mid at the 1.6K setting. The low-cut was also engaged. While I was at it I cranked the gain as well. For some reason I wanted to track this without compression. I wish I hadn't because the levels are pretty "wide." I'm sure I'll add compression when it gets mixed.

Technical issues of wide levels and things being a bit hot at the start of the tune aside, the take was great. I was quite proud that Ed stepped out of his comfort zone to deliver a great vocal with great character that was different than his typical delivery. The song is all about the character and the setting. We'll be using the first take for the record.

Even though I tracked the cheapo mic Ed wanted me to mess with it some more. I looked through the Eventide H3000 manual and thought I found the perfect preset, "Megaphone." The only problem is that the stupid manual has a preset list for all of the different H3000 and H3500 models and this preset doesn't exist in my D/SE version. Instead I decided to mult both channels, and set up a compressor to bus all four channels through. I patched everything to the CBS Volumax and started tweaking. I was able to get a few different blends and that made Ed happy that we might getting something nasty enough later.

We called it a day as the boys all wanted to go watch the Cubs clinch their division.

On Saturday Ed and I went in during the evening. I had the idea to take this tune out and add some synth textures and possibly double the piano melody with a pure sinewave type sound. As we were listening Ed said "I'd love violin on that melody, doesn't you intern play violin?" So Chris the intern was called at around 9 o'clock Saturday evening. Luckily he was home and didn't have plans until later that evening . College students are not even thinking about going out until at lest 10 PM. He came over and spent a little time with Ed playing the song on piano. He had no trouble picking out the melody. It took a few passes to get the changing forum of the song and then we set up to track the violin. I used the Pearlman, which has a really strong top end. As we were getting the first take I kinda hoped we'd need another because I wanted to swap mics for something that wouldn't bring out as much bow sound. The last phrase of the tune wasn't right, but we brought Chris in to the CR to get an idea of what it was like. While listening Ed suggested playing long notes in the chorus as well. While they worked that out I was able to change out the Pearlman for a TOMB ribbon mic. I moved it a bit closer than the Pearlman was and went to listen. Ed and I were both very happy with the sound of the ribbon going through the GR mic pre. Ribbons have a pretty low output (most of them anyway). After the first phrase I stopped Chris so I could patch the totally cranked mic pre's output to the Drawmer '69 for some additional tube gain. I didn't use any compression, just about 6-8 dB of output so that I wouldn't have signal to noise/tape hiss issues later, even though the song was recorded at 30 ips which is twice as quiet as 15 ips.

The take was great, just loose enough but in tune and with great feel. When Chris had asked how we wanted it played stylistically I said "just this side of schmaltzy." He looked at me kind of funny, but in the end that's just what he delivered.

Chris' friends were calling on his cell phone and he had to go. Ed and I listened a few more times and then discussed the song we'd be working on Monday and then went our separate ways.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2007 2:13 am    Post subject: Re: A Blog of the new Backyard Tire Fire record plus FREE EP!! Reply with quote

Here are some pictures from the sessions.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 03, 2007 1:35 pm    Post subject: Re: A Blog of the new Backyard Tire Fire record plus FREE EP!! Reply with quote

Day Twelve

I'm pretty sure we did the record's opener today. The song is called (at least right now) "Spend Some Time." I'm totally juiced about the song and the way it came together in the studio. It was written right after the band got home from tour, just before we started recording. It's never been played out, or by anyone in the band except for Ed. He told me about it right after he demoed it out at home, he was really excited about the song and it's possibilities. It's probably his best straight up pop song yet!

We've discussed the song a bit over the last couple weeks and I've heard Ed play it on acoustic guitar. On Saturday he brought his VS880 over to the studio so I could hear his demo. It's just acoustic guitar, voice, Wurlie and percussion, mostly Ed slapping his own legs. The song starts with the voice joined by guitar a beat and a half later. We both like the idea of the voice being the first thing heard when someone hits play. I was really digging the Wurlie line and told Ed I'd like more than just the Wurlie to play it on the record. He suggested it could be part of the bass line, an idea I really liked. I also thought about the Moog sitting safely behind the console. I was also formulating drums in my head. I softly [neither of us was in the mood for loud drums Saturday night] played the idea I had, based on the guitar rhythm and the leg percussion. Riding the floor tom with accents on the rack tom, then floor and the snare on beat four, maintaining four on the floor BD as Ed mentioned the first time he played the song for me on acoustic. He liked the idea and we now felt like we had a starting point for Monday's session.

Matt and Tim arrived together on Monday and I had already set the VS up to play the demo as needed. I played it for them and explained what Ed and I discussed Saturday, including how Tim and Matt would enter at the beginning of the second verse. I played the proposed drum pattern on my legs. We listened again so they could keep familiarizing themselves with the song. Ed showed up while we were listening and I brought him up to speed.

We started discussing the drum-set and went out and put together today's version. I wanted to use my Yamaha 22" BD with the full front head and my Bison5"x14" maple snare. It's another great drum that can handle any type of tuning or playing and always sounds great. It was already tuned for a good "pop" and I just touched up a couple lugs with the drum key. If you can't tell from this blog, or my posts on the boards I'm snare drum obsessed. I've got 7 or 8 plus will have any number of loaners at any given moment. I think you can change the whole character of a drum-set by swapping out the snare.

I also wanted to go back to the 14" floor tom. Tim though the 16" would be better being he'd be riding it like a cymbal. I said that we had done that with "Factory" and with the faster tempo of this tune the 14" might be better. He played the 16" for a moment and then the 14" and agreed with my thought.

Tim mentioned possibly only hitting a crash cymbal once or twice in the whole song. My reaction to that was "do you need any?" Ed seemed to like the idea of no cymbals so they were all taken down. The hihats were left in place to possibly be played along with the BD with the left foot. It eventually went away too.

I decided to experiment a bit with mic placement and usage. As we were going for a tom driven song I wanted to mic the bottoms as well as the top of the toms. Using a BD with no hole I thought I mic both sides of it too. The toms (Tim's 8"x12" DW and my 14"x14" Gretsch) got 421s on top and EV 408s on the bottoms. The BD got an ATM25 near the beater and the speaker on the outside of the front. Snare got the trusty ATM23he, though the BD beater mic was grabbing a little bottom snare as well. I decided to try another front of drums pair instead of overheads, this time opting for the TOMB ribbons in Blumlein stereo. I again used the line through the SD and BD for placement, putting them about waist high. All of the mic went through the Neotek. The bottom tom and speaker mic all needed their polarity switched. The toms and BD went to one track each, committing the balance of the two mics per source to tape.

I decided instead of checking the drums I'd let the band continuing rehearsing the tune while I got the bass and guitar mics happening. They were all playing softly with the iso room's doors open and Tim using brushes. I put an MC012 on the bass cab about 8 inches out, using the hyper-cardioid capsule and 10dB pad, and kept the DI in place. The guitar got an AT 4050 set in figure eight about 2-3 inches from the grill. While I was placing the 4050 I noticed the abundant low end on the guitar and engaged the low cut on the mic. Ed was playing my G&L ASAT Special instead of his usual Les Paul Pro. The Neotek handling all preamp duties. Once I got around to checking, something was not right about the MC012. This signal was low so I removed the pad and it was still low. I'm not sure what was wrong, but the easiest thing to do was switch mics. Up went the M88 and it sounded great. Once Tim and Matt were playing together I added a pretty hefty amount of compression to the bass via the Drawmer 1969. I also tried some compression on the bass drum trying both the RNC and the Mindprint T-comp. I think the RNC won that shootout. After a few takes I tried the Ashley SC50 compressor on the snare. A couple takes later I removed it, as the un compressed seemed to speak better. The bass drum beater mic got moved around a bit as we went along as well.

The fun thing about doing a brand new song is that you get to see it take life. It goes from the writer slowly playing while trying to sing and call out the chord and section changes to becoming a tangible thing. In the course of our each part was made more complicated and then sometimes more simple. Dynamic ranges as well as note ranges were inverted, transposed and flipped upside down. All this in pursuit of the magic take.

Besides just the comfort factor of knowing the forum and changes, Tim and Matt had a few specific things to deal with. On Ed's demo he does a little 2 against 3 pattern on his legs the he wanted to come through in the finished version. As we discussed it during a playback Tim started to feel where it happened. On the next take he did the pattern keeping his right hand on the floor tom and his left on the snare. As we did takes and Ed evaluated the rhythm it went on to be played with the right hand moving to the snare for part of it to going to the snare for all of the rhythm. He though when Tim played the whole rhythm on the snare the desired accent was good, but the drive of the tune suffered. I then said "Then let's deal with it as a percussion overdub of some sort and keep the drum with the established driving beat."

Speaking of drums, at some point during tracking I decided I wanted a room mic as well as the close mics and front of drum stereo pair. I grabbed my other 4050, set it to cardioid and put it on a straight stand. I put the stand on Matt's 4x10 SWR cabinet that had become the Wurlie and Hammond seat. It was right next to the control room door in front of the Wurlie at the time. I don't remember, but I may have pointed it away from the drums. I did a quick level set and phase check and assigned it to the next open track.

Now that the drums were figured out, we tackled some specifics of the bass part. Matt was playing mostly straight eighth notes except for the line that the Wurlie played on the demo (and would later be added to our final take). I asked him to play more on top of the beat and to think forward. I wanted a lot of drive from the rhythm section. I even suggested using only his right index finger instead of both the index and middle fingers. He was digging in now and adding to the drive of the song. All that was left to deal with was the bridge. It's just one chord with a syncopated accent pattern that Tim and Ed were playing in unison. Matt admitted to not playing it the same way twice. He was doing a two-note thing with open fifths. I tried to get him to play the high note with the accents and the low on the 'rest' of the eighths. He wasn't quite picking that up, so I suggested to just play the accents to get familiar with Ed and Tim's pattern. Then we could add the other's in after he knew the accent pattern better. In that process he came up with a 3-note pattern mimicking the accents that I thought was pretty cool. They ran the bridge a few times and we decided to try a take. When we got to the bridge Matt still faltered. Matt said it probably wasn't going to be the same. I said he came up with a cool part and now he should be able to play it consistently. We tried again but it was still hard to get in context. Ed wasn't convinced it was the right part anyway…. After the next playback I had an idea. I said to Matt that I noticed he was playing kind of up the neck for most of the song. Why not hit the root of the bridge chord in a lower register and continue the driving eighth notes. He was playing his 5-string G&L and the chord is a D major 7. There's a nice low D just waiting on the 3rd fret of the low B string. On the next take everybody was much happier with the bridge (especially Matt)!

Another take or two and we had out keeper.

After out dinner break Ed and I went about building the song. We started with an electric guitar. Ed felt he could play a more solid rhythm track without having to sing a scratch and 'direct' the song. He wanted to stand near his amp and suggested bringing it out into the live room. I liked the sound we were getting with the figure 8 mic in the small bathroom. I asked if he had enough room to play in there and if he'd mind. He had no problem with that so I ran some headphones and he stood there cutting the guitar right next to the toilet. He didn't feel like he was really nailing the part, saying that he wasn't used to not singing this one because it was so new. I told him to sign along on the next pass, the guitar was loud enough that I wasn't going to get bleed from a soft vocal. That did it and the take sat right in the pocket. Next Ed switched to his Les Paul and I believe the first appearance of the Marshall mkII, which was run through a Mesa 2x12 3/4 back cabinet, this time in the live room. The sound was sill pretty clean. Spanky guitars are really what this tune called for. I think I grabbed one of the TOMB ribbon mics that was near by from the drum set-up. I ended up putting it on a lower stand because it just sounded better at the same level as the speaker, not slightly above it as it had been. This part was a double of the other part and I recorded over the scratch guitar in the process.

Now we tackled the 2 against 3 rhythm accent from the chorus of the demo. We discussed and tried a few things including maracas (not articulate enough) and the Broomsticks played on some random surfaces. I then though to try acoustic guitar just playing the rhythm. I planned to use a lot of compression to really articulate the pick sound and accents. Ed was not sure how this was going to accomplish a percussion accent with an acoustic guitar. I told him I was not totally sure myself, but that acoustics can be one step from percussion and with some really fast compression I thought I'd get it pretty close. Ed played my wife's Hohner guitar and miced it with the other TOMB ribbon using the Great River pre and an RNC compressor in regular mode. Those things are super fast in regular mode and I was able to mess with the attack and release times along with the ratio and threshold to get the sound I heard in my head. Ed started to get it but said he also wanted to do the rhythm by slapping his legs like he did on the demo. He did that right there before coming in to hear the results of the acoustic. The combination of the two sources was really adding a cool punch to the chorus.

I was time to get a vocal down. Ed wanted to do this one in the booth. I grabbed the U87 because I thought he might sing pretty loud. He didn't, but it still sounded good. I used the Aurora GTQ2 and 6-8 dB of compression from the Drawmer 1969. ED had used flanger on the vocal in the demo and wanted to do the same here. I dialed up I nice slow flange from the Kurzweil Mangler and fed it to his headphones and to another track. As he did the first pass (which was sounding really good) I noticed a little bit of unwanted distortion. I backed off the flanger input as he sang. It crept back a bit later. On playback I realized Ed was clipping the mic pre, not he effect. He said it was no problem to sing it again as he felt good. I backed off the gain and Ed delivered another great take. We both really liked it. I asked about background vocals. Ed said he tried some things but nothing was coming to him.

Ed then said he wanted to add a straight acoustic guitar part to the song. It would have less syncopation than the electric, especially in the intro. I again used the TOMB ribbon and the Hohner guitar, but I pulled the RNC out of the chain. I'm pretty sure this went down in one take. When Ed came in to listen he asked if I'd mute the electric guitars in the intro. The acoustic was perfect and added to the idea of the second verse exploding out of the speakers be not only the bass and drums entering, but also now electric guitars on top of the acoustic.

We moved on to Wurlitzer. On Ed demo he miced the speaker of his and used the bullhorn effect he loves so much. The speakers on mine are not working [I gotta have that thing worked on]. We put it through the Mesa SC2 and I tweaked the knobs to get an aggressive attack. There was a lot of noise, but the note was cool and there is a lot going on in the song. With some creative muting and fader riding I'm sure it'll be fine. I did patch in a compressor with a gate (to use the gate) during playback so I didn't have to mute ever time. Ed played some random things during the bridge and ending that I though were quite cool. They are a great contrast to a pretty straight up pop song.

I told Ed I really thought we needed some backing vocals. I said they didn’t' need to e much, just some simple harmony in the chorus, maybe a high and a low. He sat on the couch and sang the melody and then got some basic harmony into his head singing softly right there. That was just what I was looking for. He said he'd need to mess with it a bit, but he was happy to go try. Once he go to the booth I made sure he had some vocal in the phones and then hit record. He started singing a low harmony on the second line of the verse and ended up singing most of the song, stopping of he got off track. We went back and to get the first line of the song and what was to be a simple chorus harmony turned into a whole song harmony. He did the same thing with a high part, again going back immediately if something wasn't right and fixing it on the spot. I was so excited by these vocals! The song is now both huge and lush!

I still wanted to add Moog to play the line being doubled by the Wurlie and bass. Ed thought some cool Moog noises in the bridge and ending would also add to the song. I decided we should first get the "straight" part on one track and then do the Mood FX on another. It didn't take us much time to dial in a cool tone, using both oscillators to create a harmony on the monophonic synthesizer. Ed played the same line from the Wurlie in one pass. We then went back to the bridge I wanted to take the notes used in the main synth part and play a syncopated rhythm that would add a bit to the chaos. I tied to explain it to Ed and he said "just play it that'll be easier." So I did. I took me two passes. Then we dropped the octaves of the keyboard and started messing around with all the real time knobs to get an idea for the end of the song. Ed came up with a nice gurgly sweeping thing that worked great.

It was really fun watching and participating in the evolution of "Spend Some Time!"
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2007 2:33 pm    Post subject: Re: A Blog of the new Backyard Tire Fire record plus FREE EP!! Reply with quote

Day Thirteen

Today was bound to be interesting. We were working on a song called "Everybody's Depressed." The song has been kicking around for a while but Ed wanted to put a new face on it. One of the main pre-production ideals for this record was to eliminate the country and blues aspects and stick to the rock and pop. This is easier said than done. All three members of the band (and myself) are pretty well versed in a lot of different music and generally have no problem with the style stew that we tend to cook up over at the Oxide Lounge. But a conscientious decision had been made.

I knew the song from the demo and seeing the band play it live. Normally we'd cut it with the loose half-time triplet feel, get the vocals happening and then call our buddy Jerry Erickson. Jerry is a completely wonderful pedal-steel (and 6-string) guitarist who's made an appearance on the last two Backyard Tire Fire records. But this was not how we were doing the song.

Ed and I had kicked around a bunch of different ideas for the song. Ed though of a sampled/sequenced thing. We talked about some type of loop, changing up the tempo and feel, making it chunkier, thinning it out. After finishing "Spend Some Time" and getting ready to leave I asked what song for tomorrow and Ed said "Everybody, how are we doing it?" I played a simple beak on my leg while stomping my foot on the floor as a BD part. It had lots of space and could imply the sampled loop idea. "Yea, lets start there, remember that" was Ed's reaction. I made a quick note and we both left.

When Matt and Tim got to the studio I told them we were changing the song. I believe they knew Ed wanted it different than they had been playing it, but no one knew how it would go down. Ed had walked in while we were talking. He suggested he and I play the idea to Matt and Tim. I hobbled a BD, SD and hihats into playing position while Ed sat and the piano. The beat is kind of a simplified "When the Levee Breaks" thing. The piano is chunking chords right on the beat. Matt and Tim both seemed pretty into the idea.

For the drums I wanted my Yamaha 22" BD with the full front head and my Bison snare. Tim and I both love my 15" Zildjian hats, and I think the one other cymbal used was my 20" Zildjian. Tim said he planned to ride on the floor tom for the bridge and we both thought the 16" Gretsch would kill. I moved the ATM25 from the beater side to the front of the BD and also used the speaker mic. The 421/408 combo from yesterday were moved into place on the swapped out floor tom. The bottom mic had it's polarity reversed and the blend to tape was 55% top mic and 45% bottom. The rack tom was removed all together, but the 421 from the top was moved over Tim's shoulder and put through the Level Loc. The ATM23he remained on the snare. I put a TOMB ribbon about 4 feet from the BD at about shell height. An MC012 with a hyper-cardioid capsule was put facing the corner near the Hammond.

We set up the click and got Tim playing along. The BD sounded great with both mics on the front. It had a KikBrik inside it and I think there's a felt strip on the clear Ambassador batter head. I did tune the drum a bit, lowering it's pitch a tad. The close room ribbon sounded good, and then I patched in the Joe Meek SC2.2 and then it sounded massive. I was squashing the thing pretty good and Matt and Ed loved it instantly. After a little tweaking on the Level Loc we had a pretty killer sound happening.

For bass I used the AKG d12e up pretty close to the 4x10 cab. I really liked what it was doing with the midrange of the bass. Both it and the DI went through the ART VLA compressor for about 6 dB of compression. I adjusted the compressor while Tim and Matt played together because I wanted to make sure the compressors and the tones in general were working together. I believe I also adjusted Matt's amp, though I don't remember at what point I did that.

As this was a piano based song Ed sat at the Wurlie, which was going through a DI to the Neotek. I EQ'd it a bit as we went a long, to give clarity in the headphones. I was thought to be a scratch and was going to be redone on the acoustic piano. I have to admit I really liked the Wurlie on the song though and I'm pretty sure it will be used along with the acoustic piano once the mix hits. Ed sang into an M88.

As stated we were trying to reinvent the song. The tempo and feel were different so all three of the players need some time to figure in just how their old parts and ideas did and didn't work in the new context. Ed had a great idea for the bass. On the A section the notes would be long and sustained. On the B section the note were short and punched with the BD pattern. This was helping the song move as the drums were pretty much not changing except very slightly on a turn around section. We were listening to a lot of the takes to hear the evolution. Both Matt and ED continued to simplify their parts. The piano having less and less grace notes and fills, opting for block chords locking to the drums. Tim's floor tom ride in the bridge was switched to the same beat on the hats as the rest of the song. We did keep his break at the end of the bridge and he re-entry was simplified to quarter notes on both the snare and floor tom. By this point we had our arrangement, we just needed to find the right take.
We needed to take a break though as Ed had booked all four of us on the Steve Fast radio show. Steve wanted to talk to the band about the upcoming Lynyrd Skynyrd Simpleman Cruise. (Win a free trip here and be sure to say Backyard Tire Fire sent you!) We also took the time to talk a bit about the record and some gigs the band has coming up.

When we got back to the studio it took us a little bit of time to get back into the groove. A couple little things needed to be brought back up. Once it was there though we go a great take (including the scratch Wurlie…) It was worth the extra takes. The song is only about 2 minutes long, a fact that is freaking Matt out just a bit. Ed and I on the other hand think that's great!

After dinner we set out to build this thing up. We started with stereo piano using AT Pro37r in ORTF stereo. Since the 421 and Level Loc were still near the piano I swung it into place too. It's not overly obvious like when using the Level Loc on drums, but it adds a really cool motion to the piano parts. As a long chord is played it's decaying on the normal mics but opening up due to the heavy compression that is a Level Loc. I gotta buy one of these things! After a couple passes and a punch or too was had a piano part really in the pocket. I was still playing around with listening to the Wurlie that was recorded in the basics. It was adding a nice thickness to the tune (as Wurlies often do!).

Next Ed went in to record the vocals. I again used the U87/Aurora/Drawmer combo. I was hitting the compressor pretty hard and I had asked Ed to sing with a bit of aggression. I did have to once mention the "no vocal twang" rule we had talked about in pre-production. This was really the first time it came up but Ed was glad to know I was conscience of it. The next take was really great and Ed came in to listen. He liked it but wanted to fix a part near the end. We did the punch and then went right on to background vocals. It took a couple phrases for Ed to find the part he wanted. Once he did we worked a bit in sections, as it not something he was used to singing. During the last section he sang something different. After the tape stopped he said that was actually the part on the demo. We decided to punch that part to match the rest of the take and then also add the part he'd just rediscovered. Again we fixed mistakes as they happened. The song was really shaping up nicely. We had 2 pianos (electric and acoustic) drums, bass and 3 vocals.

Ed wanted to do a simple guitar part. It was a short answer to the staccato bass part in the B section. I though we might go for an odd sound by recording direct distorted guitar. We simply plugged his Les Paul Pro into the Aurora GTQ2 and cranked the gain. Kinda ugly and gnarly, but totally great for the song. We punched one missed chord and that was that.

Our good friend and Wiplot guitarist Fish had come by to hang out and hear some of what we were up to. He loved the song and loved Ed's next idea. Ed wanted a sweeping, whooshing sound underneath the song. We set up the Moog and MicroKorg in the control room. At first the sounds were though of as too tonal. I though we might try the 2112 trick. If you know that Rush album you know the 'wind' noise at the opening. Well that noise is just a Small Stone phaser plugged into an amp with no music being played. We put the small stone through the Marshall mkII and got it making noise. At one point we also hooked up an Ibanez phaser, and even tried both together. Ed sat at the piano and liked the sound better for a song in its infancy more that for this one. We went back to the control room and kept messing with the synths. Ed came across a sound in the MicroKorg that he could play the real time controls and achieve what he wanted. That went down in stereo as opening and expanding the track was Ed's concept.

We listened to the mix as it stood and also tried a few different things with arrangement and placements. We took some time to give Fish a little preview, letting him hear the cement mixes and a song or two right from the multitrack.

When we played the track for Tim and Matt the next day they both really liked it. I did feel the direct guitar could be a bit tighter to the rhythm section and Ed agreed. We re did it and moved on.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2007 10:20 pm    Post subject: Re: A Blog of the new Backyard Tire Fire record plus FREE EP!! Reply with quote

Day Fourteen

Well if yesterday's reinvention was going to be to be a challenge I'm not sure what euphemism today's was going to be. The songs is called "One Wrong Turn" and it is the tale of one fatal mistake changing the main character's life. As I've talked about, we were conscientiously trying to stay away from the blues on the record. Well, this song is a shuffle with a lyric that says, "Now I sing the blues." So we've got a blues feel and blues lyrics and blues subject matter. A couple of different times Ed said "Like when the Beatles do a blues tune, it still doesn't really sound like blues." All right that's something to latch on to.

I had all ready planned to do this song at 15ips.

My first thought was to put something on the drums. The Leedy&Ludwig snare got a pillowcase (from the pillow put inside the BD) and the floor tom got a swag T-shirt recently sent to the studio. The front head was taken off the Yamaha BD. I put the D12e in front of the BD and an MC012 with the hyper-cardioid capsule about Tim's chest high, pointing down at the spot where the BD and SD interact. I took the 421/Level Loc mic from the piano and put it low and pointed it in the direction of the snare from behind the floor tom. It ended up getting some of the ring from the floor tom's bottom head and some really good snare rattle. There was one 20" crash and the 15" hats. As the session progressed, the crash changed a few different times. The keeper has my 1960s Zildjian 18".

I suggested that Matt mute the bass strings with a paper towel. We’ve done this in the past so he knew when I meant. You weave a folded up paper towel through the bass strings near the bridge to work like the old felt mutes some basses had. It gives a really great staccato thud to the instrument. He started with his G&L but soon changed over to the violin bass, moving the paper towel too. I think an M88 went on the bass cabinet, but there was no compression in tracking, the paper towel was doing that for us. Since the DI was in place I recorded it s well.

Ed sat at the Wurlie and sang through the other M88. His parts were scratch and I doubt any of us would want the Wurlie to end up in the mix. As we did takes Ed sang less and less. This was at Matt's request. He found he could focus on Tim's drumming more with less information being fed to him.

We tried a number of different beats and feels in the rhythm section. The one thing I really wanted to avoid was a full shuffle feel--DUM-TA--DUM-TA--DUM-TA--DUM-TA. Tim implied it at various beats or even section of the tune. Matt was working on a walking bass line, sometimes right on the beat and other's also implying the shuffle. I felt that Matt and Tim weren't placing the beat at the same spots. I thought Matt was on top of the beat and Tim was right on it, or maybe a bit behind it. I really needed Matt to lock with Tim. He had decided on a steadier walk, that I think was the ticket. Matt and I had a talk in the control room about counting the space between the notes he was playing. I explained that he was playing on top of the beat most likely because he wasn't aware of the space between the beats. I also suggested that he try playing with his thumb instead of his fingers.

Tim and Matt talked about their interaction and Tim thought he'd play even simpler, playing BOOM-BAP for most (if not all) of the song. It took a few bars to find it , but it started making sense for he and Matt. We didn't make it all the way to the end on that take, but as the next one was going down I noticed that I was no longer focusing on small details, and/or how to coach the next take. I was just listening, bopping my head and singing along to the chorus. I told the band that I really liked that one so they came back in to listen. Everybody agreed that this was our take.

As we were organizing the live room and getting cables wrapped with the take played from the control room Matt said to me. "I tired to play with my thumb on that one and it worked." I told him part of the reason I suggested using his thumb was it's not his natural motion on the bass, and he'd have to concentrate a little more, plus it would likely pull his tempo back just a touch for the same reason. He looked at me and nodded.

We decided since we had done a lot of takes and been there a while that we'd just be done for the day. The band a big baseball fans and they all wanted to watch the first game of the playoffs.
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