- The album I produced with The Ericksons, The Wild, is out now. Here's an interview with Jenny and Bethany about the album, the studio we worked at, and our creative process:
- I mixed the Elsinore album I recorded during the fall of 2012 at my studio in Portland. Really excited about this one. More details coming soon...
JUNE, JULY, AUGUST, SEPTEMBER, OCTOBER, NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER 2012:
The second half of 2012 went really fast, and I worked almost non-stop. Here are the highlights from the second half of the year:
“[Silver Age] hearkens back to the ferociously loud yet brightly melodic punkish pop-rock of prime Sugar, with a fiercely aggressive sound combining loud, buzzing guitars, energetic rhythms, snarling vocals and anthemic pop hooks.” - Don Yates, KEXP
“[Silver Age is] acerbic, anthemic and fiesty, as if Mould were tapping his countless disciples, from Foo Fighters to No Age, on the shoulder before throwing a knockout punch.” - Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune
I'll try to be a little better (and more in-depth) on this page in the future. 2012 was a wonderful year, full of excellent music, travel, amazing studios and friends. Very thankful for all of it, looking forward to 2013.
MAY After five months of travel, I returned to Portland.
My first project upon returning home: mixing the album by The Ericksons that I recorded in March. It felt good to be back in a familiar monitoring environment: my Studer console, my favorite outboard equipment, and the room I know best. It was also a pleasure to open up material I had recorded months before, in a different place and different state of mind.
The tracks we recorded in Wisconsin translated quite well, and I found myself only making slight corrections and enhancements to very strong performances. The resulting album is a progression from their previous while preserving the strong harmonies and songwriting their songs are built on.
I've added a lot of equipment over the last six months: Lexicon PCM 41, 42, and 80 delays & reverbs, a new Focal subwoofer, a Wendel Jr. drum trigger, an Elektron Octatrack, a pair of Aphex gates, a Z-sys digital router, an Orange County CLX-FM compressor (ADR Compex clone), an Ursa Major SST-206 Space Station, a FreQUE ring modulator / frequency shifter, and a pair of Timeline Lynx synchronizers.
I spent most of April mixing Silver Age, Bob Mould's upcoming album on Merge. Plans for mixing started to take shape while we were tracking guitars at Tiny Telephone. Bob and I felt it was important that we mix the album on an SSL console, and we found a perfect solution in San Francisco's Different Fur Studios. Started in 1968 by musician and synthesizer enthusiast Patrick Gleeson, Different Fur is the home of Herbie Hancock's Headhunters and Brian Eno and David Byrne's My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts. Best of all, they have an E Series SSL in immaculate condition.
After tracking on a Neve, mixing on an SSL was an excellent change in workflow and tone. The abundance of routing and procession options allowed us to build dense, controlled mixes. I brought my SST-206 along for reverberation, and we also made use of the studio's AMS-RMX16 and EMT250. Mixing took a little over three weeks, and we wrapped by listening to the completed, sequenced album in entirety. I'm very excited for this record, and so incredibly proud to have been a part of it.
Back in March, I sent several 200e modules in for CPU and firmware upgrades. When I had a day off in San Francisco, I took the BART to Berkeley and picked them up in person. It was truly an honor to meet Don Buchla - a personal hero of mine, and the man behind one of my favorite instruments: the Buchla Electronic Music Box.
Guitar tracking for Bob Mould's album continued at Tiny Telephone in San Francisco. The last time I was at Tiny was to record strings with Magik*Magik Orchesta for the Death Cab for Cutie album Codes and Keys. Since then, studio owner John Vanderslice expanded Tiny Telephone by adding a B room next door, Bob and I thought it would be a good choice for guitar overdubs. The room immediately felt very familiar: a Neotek console I made several albums on in Portland, Focal monitors (with subwoofer), and a rack of vintage Eventide and Lexicon outboard.
Bob and I set to recording guitars for the album, and got excellent results almost immediately: the room felt really solid and tight, was responsive to Bob's playing, and we were able to capture his rather specific guitar sound quite well. After a week of tracking, we had all of the guitars for the album recorded.
After Tiny Telephone, I went straight to SXSW, saw a number of friends I've worked with (Yellow Ostrich, Field Report, Minor Characters, Mr. Gnome) and caught some excellent shows - Bear In Heaven, Sharon van Etten and Cloud Nothings were all highlights.
Post-SXSW, I took a week off in Los Angeles before returning home to Portland. During my stay, I managed to tour two classic Los Angeles studios: Sunset Sound / Sound Factory and Eastwest (formerly Cello / Oceanway / Western Recorders). Both have legendary histories, and it was thrilling to see the home of many of my favorite albums. While at Eastwest, I had the chance to meet and chat with the legendary Eddie Kramer - a highlight of my trip.
Upon returning to Portland, I mixed an album by Chicago singer/songwriter Leslie Hunt, reorganized and rebuilt my studio, integrated some new equipment, and continued work on some of my own music.
I also added an excellent reverb unit to my collection: an Ursa Major SST-206 Space Station. The SST-206 is the modern recreation of the classic rackmount unit (one of my favorites from Smart Studios), and I had first encountered the new one at Soma EMS in Chicago. The SST-206 has an amazing knack for fitting into a mix and becoming invisible: it allows me to add space and depth to mixes without sounding like reverb has been added. Plus, it's very small and portable, which means I can bring it with me when I travel for projects.
FEBRUARY One of my favorite releases of 2011 was All Tiny Creatures' Harbors: a magnificent double-LP of modern instrumental music - minimalist, electronic post-rock. To help them prepare for their upcoming album on (again on Hometapes), I traveled to Milwaukee and helped them record drums. We worked at The Tannery, a recording studio build into the third floor of a 100-year old industrial building in South Milwaukee. The band had already recorded bass, guitar, and vocal stems - we spent an additional two weeks recording drums, guitars, and the Serge modular synthesizer on top of them. By the time we were done, the record was close to complete. Very excited for this one.
After Milwaukee, I returned to Studio A at Hyde Street: more tracking for Bob Mould's new record. After several weeks in January, I now felt very comfortable walking in and setting up. I was able to get our previous setup recalled quickly and easily, the studio felt familiar, and we had developed a very productive method of working. We recorded four new songs in three days, after which the band had time to run their set (Copper Blue in entirety) on the live room floor. Being able to watch and listen from the control room as they blew through the album was a treat.
From San Francisco, I headed back to Wisconsin: this time to Fall Creek. The last project I completed at Smart Studios was don't be scared, don't be alarmed, the second full-length by The Ericksons. Shortly thereafter, Smart closed, I moved to Portland and started working as a freelance producer / engineer.
When discussing potential studios for the new album, I mentioned April Base, having recently tracked the Field Report album there. We felt the isolation (coupled with a Wisconsin winter) would match the feel of the album we planned on making, and wanted to try something a little outside of a traditional studio environment. April Base was a perfect match.
We wanted this record to be different from the last in a number of ways: all of the songs would feature electric bass and traditional drums (instead of the partial kit and percussion we used on the last album), most of the guitars would be electric, and we planned on recording most of it live. Joining us on pedal steel was Ben Lester, whom I first worked with on the Field Report album. I loved how Ben's understated playing enhanced Chris' songs, and it fit within the scope of the Erickson's vision extremely well. Being able to live and work in the same space was very productive, and within a week's time, we finished tracking an album's worth of material.
JANUARY Hyde Street is one of San Francisco's classic recording studios. From 1969 to 1978, it was Wally Heider Studios, home of classic albums by Neil Young, Jefferson Airplane, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Grateful Dead, Wings, and Harry Nilsson. In 1980, it became Hyde Street, and continued to produce albums by The Jesus Lizard, Dead Kennedys, Green Day, American Music Club and P.J. Harvey. A truly legendary rock studio with a classic Neve 8038 console.
I came to Hyde Street to begin tracking an album with Bob Mould - his first on Merge Records. For this record, Bob's band consisted of Jon Wurster (Superchunk / The Mountain Goats) and Jason Narducy (Telekinesis / Verbow). I was told the aesthetic of the new album was 'loud, fast, uncompromising rock and roll', and the touchstone was to be Sugar's classic Copper Blue.
The band was great, and we worked very fast once everything was setup. While Bob's demos were very complete, the band's first take was the first time I heard any of the songs, and it was exciting to watch them take shape over the course of several takes. Working with such incredible players in a legendary room was euphoric. In two weeks' time, we had an album's worth of basic tracks. An amazing way to begin 2012.
I was interviewed by Andy Brawner for TapeOp, the esteemed magazine about creative recording. I talk about my days at Smart Studios, mixing with synthesizers, working on a wide range of projects, and why I love weird, broken stuff. Read the interview here.
Collected a number of remixes I've done for a cassette release on Crash Symbols. I love the work the Dwight and Jheri do, and I'm honored to be part of the Crash Symbols family.
I added a new instrument to my studio: the Elektron Octatrack. I've been a fan of Elektron gear since the beginning (still have my original SidStation!), and was looking for a portable sampler / drum machine / looping device to bring with me while on the road. I love my MPC2000xl, but it's simply too big to carry - especially when I'm bringing more critical equipment for projects. The Octatrack will replace my Electro-Harmonix 2880, and allows me to do a lot of what I used the MPC for (plus a great deal more). Very excited to dig into this inspired machine.
DECEMBER I spent the end of 2011 working with a band called Field Report. I first heard Christopher Porterfield's music when I was still working at Smart, and had been hoping I could make a record with him ever since. As luck would have it, I found myself returning to Wisconsin in early December to record Field Report's debut LP, ninety minutes from the dirt road I grew up on.
Instead of working in Madison or Milwaukee, we instead chose to work in Fall Creek, at Justin Vernon's April Base studio. In a former life, April Base was a split-level ranch with attached vetrinary clinic. Now it houses a lovely professional studio, with a generous live room (floored with lovely repurposed basketball court) and comfortable control room. I spent many years dreaming of 'destination' recording, living in a studio with the band and being able to work without interruption - April Base offered all of that and more. I'd like to thank all of Team April Base for being so wonderful and welcoming. Hope to make more records there in the future.
We recorded a few overdubs shy of an album's worth of material, and Chris traveled to Portland for a few days of cleanup in my studio a few weeks later, adding additional vocals, guitars, and couple synthesizer pads. I'm excited to hear where the mixes of this record end up, and can't wait for the world to start hearing Chris' songs.
NOVEMBER The Exurbs album is now available digitally via Bandcamp. Cassettes are on Zod Records. Exurbs is a studio project I am part of with dear friends Andrew Fitzpatrick and Jeff Sauer, and I'm thrilled to share this first release with the world.
API did a small story on me as part of their 'Word On The Street' feature. Having been a fan of API for years, I was more than happy to describe my love for the 525, the 550b, and the Lunchbox. I use API products on almost every project I work on, and they have never let me down.
New equipment, repairs, recapping. Working on original music and remixes. Exciting projects in coming months.
OCTOBER After mixing the Bailiff record last year, I felt that Chicago's Soma Studios was my favorite recording studio in the Midwest. Incredibly well-appointed and immaculately maintained, Soma's fantastic listening environment and impressive synthesizer collection make it very conducive to my style of working. On top of that, they have a completely restored Trident A-Range console - the same console I learned to make records on at Smart Studios.
Taking this into account, you can imagine how excited I was to return to Soma in October to start work on new Clive Tanaka material. While Mr. Tanaka wasn't in attendance (we worked with session musicians, based on outlines provided by his manager), the sessions were incredibly productive and a lot of fun. The live room at Soma is very 'discrete' and quite flexible, allowing for both tight, small, sounds or big, bombastic, over-compressed drums. Soma's microphone collection gave me many colorful options to choose from, and being able to work on an A-Range once again was a true joy. Overdubbing for Mr. Tanaka will continue throughout 2012.
Mr. Gnome's third LP, Madness in Minature, has been released!
Mr Gnome Madness In Minature
PRESS | Mr. Gnome:
I've also released another Beaunoise album:
SEPTEMBER After a busy August away from home, I spent September working in Portland at Mix Foundry- the 'B' room of Type Foundry. Smaller in size and scope than Type Foundry, it is designed primarily as a mix / overdub room, and is furnished with a Neotek console and small collection of outboard gear. When I needed a place to mix the Yellow Ostrich record, the band and I came upon Mix Foundry as an ideal solution: small, efficient, affordable, and close to (my) home. I was able to bring some of my favorite outboard equipment to the session (including the trusty BX-10), and the band got to experience two weeks of Portland life. While the record we mixed isn't slated for release for a while (their debut was released while we were tracking), the results were fantastic, and the entire Yellow Ostrich album was one of the most efficient projects I've worked on. Many thanks to the band and everyone that helped us in one way or another. I am proud to have been part of such a great record.
The debut LP from Chants was one of the first projects I mixed after moving to Portland. While finishing up songs for the new Chants EP, Jordan again asked me to lend a hand, though in a different capacity. While fairly happy with his mixes already (and planning on mastering once again with Carl Saff), Jordan was still looking for additional character and tone. To accomplish this, I did some 'creative pre-mastering': processing and summing stems of finished mixes using analog equipment and a console. While the results were subtle, the improvements were noticeable, and added additional life and depth to Jordan's already-excellent mixes. I've been working perfecting this 'creative pre-mastering' process, and plan on offering it as a service to clients starting in 2012.
AUGUST Last year, Yellow Ostrich released The Mistress, one of my favorite albums of 2010. When the band decided to re-record several of the songs for the Barsuk re-release of The Mistress, I had the pleasure of mixing and mastering them. At the time, they were planning their next LP, and asked if I would interested in working on it. Being a tremendous fan of the band, I of course told them 'yes', and in early August, I headed to upstate NY to track the follow-up to The Mistress.
Initial tracking took place at The Isokon, a remote house-turned-studio owned by D. James Godwin. Tucked away in beautiful Woodstock, NY, the Isokon was the ideal 'live-in' studio arrangement: MCI console and tape machine, lovely vintage Russian microphone collection, and lodging for four people. Having plenty of space and time (and silence), we set about recording basics for all songs on the record, hoping to get all of the drums recorded before leaving Woodstock. Living in close quarters in the woods felt very reminiscent of the Bailiff record I made outside of Chicago last year - at night, we would sit on the porch and listen to cicadas or go for short walks in the dark.
After a week in Woodstock, we decamped for nearby nearby Kingston, and continued with overdubs in the converted-attic studio of a 3-story Victorian. Having completed all of the drums at The Isokon, we focused mainly on Jon Natchez' horn overdubs and Alex's remaining vocals. Though we worked diligently, the flexibility and comfort of recording in a non-studio environment made the entire process very relaxed and peaceful, and we were able to focus our efforts without becoming fatigued. We finished tracking a day ahead of schedule and spent the remaining time shooting a music video:
Yellow Ostrich: Whale
Upon returning to Portland, I mixed the debut EP for my friend Adam Schneider's band, Minor Characters. Adam and I met on the Bailiff album last year, and stayed in touch after he left the band to pursue other opportunities. It felt good to be mixing again after so much tracking, and the tracks the band presented me with already sounded very good. Because of time and scheduling concerns, we mixed very quickly, which made for very decisive, exciting mixes.
JULY My second cassette, Beeptunes, is now available: physical is here, digital can be purchased at beaunoise.bandcamp.com. Unlike the ambient tapes, this release is focused on rhythmic, sequencer-based electronic compositions. Made with analog and early digital sequencers driving Serge, Buchla, Korg, Roland and ARP synthesizers, without the use of MIDI or a DAW. Special thanks to the Roland MC-4b.
I spent two days tracking guitar, bass, and assorted overdubs with Jonah Crowley at Type Foundry Studios – a staple of the Portland recording scene and home to some incredible records. The studio is spacious yet comfortable, the people are super-friendly, and it offers a great selection of microphones, outboard, and instruments. Plus, it's close to home! The material we tracked turned out great, and I look forward to doing more work here in the future.
Remixed the lead track off Bending Brass, the debut cassette from Irish electronic musician The Cyclist. It’s a great tape that conjures up thoughts of Boards of Canada, tape wow and flutter, and broken keyboards. To be released on a remix tape by Crash Symbols later this summer.
JUNE Filmmaker Jenni Nelson contacted me about writing original music for her short film, Love Hacking. Based on the true story of a robot inventor that falls in love with a girl from Nepal, it is a charming film about finding love in the modern age. I composed original electronic music for use in the film using Logic Pro and the instruments in my home studio. The results were great, and I had a lot of fun - I’m hoping to do more work like this in the future.
Elsinore is a band from Champaign, Illinois that released an excellent album called Yes Yes Yes last year. To fill the space between releases, they’ve decided to release an EP of new songs, entitled Life Inside An Elephant . I was lucky enough to mix the title track for them, and they also asked to do a remix of it. EP due out in a couple months.
Get In Control, the second album from Omaha / Chicago band Go Motion is out now – you can buy it here. Recorded with love and mixed on a console at Smart Studios. Here is my favorite picture from tracking Get In Control.
Red Balloon, the debut
album from Chicago band Bailiff is out
now. I have nothing but the
fondest memories of the month we spent in the woods tracking this
record, and mixing it at Soma
(one of my favorite studios) was a great way to finish.
I mixed three
interludes (actually more like ‘mini-songs’) for
dear friends Mr
Gnome. Though we’d
finished mixing the album proper a few months ago, the band decided
they’d like to write some bridging pieces for between some of
the songs. Madness in Miniature is
now complete, and
will be out before too long is out now on El Marko Records.
I felt the need for more accurate metering in my home studio, and decided to invest in a pair of Dorrough 40-A Loudness Meters. The Studer 169 has both VU and PPM meters, but I wanted something a little faster and more accurate. Also, I’ve found myself doing more and more mastering work, and being able to both see and hear peak and average information vs. a reference was becoming critical.
MAY Codes and Keys is out now on Atlantic Records. I am so proud to have been a part of it – my congratulations and sincere thanks to the band and everyone involved.
Ostrich is Brooklyn-based band
of fellow Wisconsinite Alex Schaaf. His self-recorded, self-released
album The Mistress
was one of my favorite records of 2010, and I was beyond thrilled when
he asked me to mix four re-imagined songs for the Barsuk re-release of The Mistress
(August 16). I'll be spending more time with Yellow Ostrich later this
I also had the pleasure of mixing four songs for Chris Vos, an old friend who writes songs as The Goodnight Noises. Chris and I worked on a project together years ago (at Smart Studios), and it was it was great to reconnect with him and work on music together once again.
APRIL Though the Death Cab for Cutie album is mixed and mastered, I ended up doing a little more work on it: preparing samples for use in live performance. This involved combing through multitracks for sounds that are difficult to recreate live, and building a custom sample-based instrument out of them for guitarist Chris Walla to play on stage. Using NI Kontakt withing a Muse Research Receptor, we crafted custom instruments that would trigger sounds, recreate keyboard patches, and provide some of the ambience and aesthetic of the album. For footswitch triggering, we enlisted the Moog MP-201 foot pedal controller: a MIDI-capable expression pedal. The MP-201 is really quite incredible: you can use it to control / trigger almost any kind of analog or digital synth, it has built in LFO's, and can save all of your settings as presets. Plus, it's built like a tank. Once again, the folks at Moog have really done well.
MARCH Because I’ve been doing a lot of mixing at home, I made a few significant upgrades to my studio. The most exciting change has been the addition of a vintage Studer 169 console.
The 169 is a Swiss-made, late 70’s recording and mixing console, manufactured by the same company famous for their tape machines. I have the 10x2 configuration: ten mono mic pre / EQ channels feed a stereo master (with limiters!), plus an additional stereo input, two sends, full talkback and 2-track monitoring. The quality, care, and thought that went into this console is immediately apparent upon using it – every detail has been accounted for, and the options provided in such a small package are quite astonishing.
The console is completely modular, and every channel is configurable via a series of internal jumpers. This means I can quickly and easily convert any number of channels to pre/post fader sends (for ‘dub’ style mixing and effect throws). A direct out can be tapped from any point in the signal chain, which means I can use the 169 as portable sidecar for tracking drums or for location recording. At home, I use it as either a submixer (in conjunction with the Metric Halo interfaces) or as a ‘stems’ mixer for analog summing. The monitoring capabilities are remarkably flexible and robust for such a small package, and I’ve even done some basic mastering with it, as well.
Most of the console has already been recapped, making it very quiet and consistent from channel to channel. I’ll probably continue with some slight modifications / upgrades over the next year, but I’m already blown away by the way it has improved both my workflow and the sound of my mixes. It feels great to be working with a console again.
FEBRUARY The first installment in my series of four ambient cassettes is now available! Physical can be purchased here (sorry, sold out) and digital is available at beaunoise.bandcamp.com. I'm really excited about how these cassettes sound, as many of these pieces were composed specifically for the inadequacies of the medium and the wide scope of playback systems. Each release in the series is dedicated to specific tone and theme. Collected together, they represent the scope of ambient, electronic, and electroacoustic pieces I write. When the series is complete, all four tapes will be packaged together with other ephemera.
JANUARY When I left Seattle in November, I assumed my work on the Death Cab for Cutie album was complete, as mixing duties were being handled by Alan Moulder and Chris Walla in London. However, I returned to Avast! Studio A in January to spend several days mixing the title track, 'Codes And Keys' with Chris. It was a thrill to mix on yet another A-Range console, this one being in impeccable condition. Codes and Keys is out May 31 on Atlantic Records.~
DECEMBER Finished mixing the third Mr. Gnome LP, with mastering to be handled by Troy Glessner at Spectre. Completed work on two ambient cassettes, the first of which will be out in early 2011. Prepared old compositions for pyhsical and digital release. Mastered a remix for Clive Tanaka, who used one of my ambient pieces in a year-end mixtape. Studio upgrades, new equipment purchases, old equipment repairs, Buchla upgrades. Saw Low on their Christmas tour.
NOVEMBER Mixed Corey Hart's Winter Bones EP at Smart Studios in Madison, WI. Finished tracking (fingers crossed!) the Death Cab for Cutie album (entitled 'Codes and Keys') at Avast! Studios in Seattle. Started mixing the Mr. Gnome album in Portland.
OCTOBER Returned to Sound City for more work on the Death Cab for Cutie album. Began mixing the Mr. Gnome album at my studio in Portland. Mixed the Bailiff record at Soma Studios in Chicago. Three incredible bands, three great cities, three of my favorite studios.
Traveled to Ohio to
record guitars and
vocals for the third Mr.
Gnome album in a hundred-year-old
town hall. More
tracking for the Death
Cutie album: a week at Two
in Seattle and a week at Tiny
Telephone in San Francisco
with Magik Magik
AUGUST Recorded Bailiff in the woods outside Chicago: three weeks in living and working with the band in a remote, monastic environment. Continued work with Death Cab for Cutie at London Bridge Studios in Seattle. Remixed a song for Clive Tanaka while in Chicago for a day. Mr. Tanaka also used one of my songs to close a mixtape for International Tapes.
JULY Mixed the Chants album Onlooker at my studio in Portland - mastering was handled by Carl Saff. Tracking for the Death Cab for Cutie album continued with two weeks at The Warehouse, Vancouver, BC.
MAY Recorded a song with The Lonely Forest for their upcoming EP. Tracked good friends Testa Rosa in Milwaukee. Mixed two songs for Sky Road Fly at Smart Studios in Madison, WI. Moved to Portland, OR and started putting a mix room together.
MARCH The highlight of March was working with The Ericksons: two sisters from Minneapolis, via Brooklyn. Jenny and Bethany have been writing songs and touring for the past five years, and already have a very strong album behind them. However, they wanted to expand on their sound (primarily acoustic guitar, some banjo) a bit, and they came to me with the idea of tracking a record somewhere between a stripped-down 'singer-songwriter' album and a dense 'full band' album.
To accomplish this, I enlisted the services of drummer Jeff Sauer (of Czarbles and Exurbs) and bassist Josh Franke. We made an incredible effort to keep additional elements (bells, drums, percussion, electric guitar, organ) as subtle and tasteful as possible. Our biggest fear was making an overproduced record: it was very important that nothing distract from the strength of the Erickson's writing and performing. It was an exercise in extreme restraint, and the entire project was focused very precisely on making sure our parts and playing were appropriate, tasteful, and subtle.
Because Jenny and Bethany are such strong performers, I felt it was important to maintain this element on the album. Most of our basic tracks were done live, with very little or no isolation. For two of the songs, we tracked them using a pair of microphones, live to two-track tape, no headphones. I was lucky enough to borrow a vintage AKG C12 for the project (thank you, Tim Curtis), and this paired with Smart's vintage U47 very nicely. Some of the best vocal sounds I've recorded.
After three very long days, we had an album's worth of material tracked. This was the last session I will track at Smart, and I cannot imagine a better way to close my time there: working with close friends (both new and old) to bring an incredibly organic creative work to life. Thank you to everyone involved for making this a recording experience I will never forget. I will be mixing the songs in my new home studio over the next two months, and I cannot wait to hear the completed album.
FEBRUARY A large part of the month was spent mixing the Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin record. After overdubbing in Portland and back home in Springfield, the band sent nine of the songs to me for mixing (the others went to the project's producer, Chris Walla). It was exciting to hear where the songs had evolved to since they left me back in September, and I was thrilled to finish them in the same room I started them. In an effort to get away from staring at glowing rectangle all day, I mixed them through the A-Range, using Flying Faders, and relied only on analog outboard for processing. The album will be mastered by Roger Siebel at SAE, and is due out on Polyvinyl in several months.
JANUARY The New Year brought big news and some big changes. On January 1st I was notifiied that Smart Studios would be closing in several months. Smart has been my musical home for the better part of a decade, and I'm completely devasted to see it go. However, I still plan on making music and recording, and I'm both excited and optimistic for the freedoms and opportunities this change will provide me. Over the next few months, I plan on relocating (to the West Coast), improving both my home studio and my mobile recording setup, and changing the way I make records. If you're interested in working together, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Time Since Western returned to Smart to mix another song we tracked in Portland last summer, and both Andrew and I were even happier with the way this one turned out. Mastering was handled again by John Golden, and his work sounds fantastic. I hope to work with both Time Since Western and John in the near future.
DECEMBER I spent a day working with Charlemagne. The Charlemagne debut was one of the records I completely fell in love with when I started working at Smart, and I had always hoped I would have the opportunity to work with Carl and Emily. We spent the day tracking their Bowie + Eno influenced-song '4-ever', and I continued mixing it while they went to play a show that night. Great music, wonderful people to work with.
Mixed three more songs for Mr. Gnome. To fill the gaps between records, Mr. Gnome decided to relase an EP for their upcoming tour. My only instruction was to 'go completely crazy', and I was left alone with that concept in mind. Lots of BX-10, Space Echo, distortion pedals, and even some Serge modular synthisizer ended up adding to the madness. If you'd like to hear these songs (on the 'Tastes Like Magic' B-sides EP) or any of the other Mr. Gnome work, it can be found at mrgnome.bigcartel.com.
NOVEMBER Chris Walla returned for more electronic music composition. Our approach was more sophisticated this time, and we managed to setup and maintain multiple layers of synchronization (audio level, between Logic and the Studer 827; MIDI level, between Logic and various drum machines; and 'prehistoric clock' level, between MIDI and pulse-based clocks). Our approach at songwriting was a bit more refined as well, and we finished with solid groundwork for several songs this time around. This session was also the first opportunity I had to bring the 200e out for a test-drive, and it performed very well: musical, tasteful, and reliable - but also experimental, bizzarre, and exotic. I look forward to using it on upcoming sessions, and I'm excited to continue working on these songs.
OCTOBER Began mixing the first four songs of the upcoming Testa Rosa album - more mixing to take place in November.
four awesome guys from Springfield, Missouri. Will, Phil, John and
Jonathan came to Smart to make their next record with producer Chris
Walla. Together, we laid the groundwork for the album - drums, bass,
guitars, and a few keyboards - over 22 days. From there, the band
traveled to Portland (after a short break) to finish overdubs with
Chris. A wonderful group of guys writing great songs. It was a great
Mr Gnome is a two-piece from Cleveland, comprised of Nicole Barille (on guitars and vocals) and Sam Meister (drums, keyboards, and the occasional ominous vocal). I had the pleasure of mixing their previous album Deliver This Creature, and they returned to mix their new album Heave Yer Skeleton with me at Smart Studios. Mr. Gnome and I share a lot of musical loves (including using too much delay), and they trusted my insticts enough to turn me loose with their new record. Tracked in Los Angeles at Josh Homme's Pink Duck Studios with Justin Smith and at Ante Up Audio with Adam Korbesmeyer, Heave Yer Skeleton extends and experiments with elements Deliver This Creature only touched on. Look for it in November.
AUGUST In August, I recieved a 200e modular synthesizer from Buchla and Associates.
The 200e Series is the modern incarnation of Don's legendary 200 Series, and in many ways is a logical extension of that system. Designed in the 'West Coast' style of synthesizers, it is more of an open system than the subtractive Moog design. Control voltages travel on stackable banana cables, audio on mini phono jacks. Most of the modules offer a incredibly concentrated amount of functionality, and have rather esoteric names (i.e. 'Source of Uncertainty'). The advantages of the 200e system are many, including patch memory, full MIDI implementation, and the fact that it is currently in production. And, just like the orginals, they are hand-built in Berkely by Don and his Associates. I look forward to learning and using the 200e on future sessions.
Testa Rosa began tracking songs for their next release. One of the joys of returning projects is hearing how the band, the writing, and and the music has grown and evolved. Testa Rosa is no different. This round of tracks includes a 'classic' Testa Rosa tune, an edgier rocker, and a sprawling epic. I'm excited to see where these lead.
Time Since Western
and I mixed one of
the songs we recorded in Portland. While the tracks we returned with
already sounded pretty good, being back at Smart helped me make sense
of a few issues with the mix. Add a little BX-20 and Super Prime Time,
and a moody, spacious song got even deeper. Listen to 'Dizzy' here.
I spent a day tracking drums with Lake Delton - the new project from Awesome Car Funmaker frontman Ryan Corcoran. Shifting gears from high-energy rock to a more introspective sound, Ryan has developed a talent for recording himself over the past five years. However, he still wanted to capture high-quality drum sounds and performances, and I was happy to help him with some big rock drum sounds.
Nora Germain, her brother Carl, and session bassist Matt Rogers spent a day tracking and mixing some standards, including a great Django tune. All live, all on tape, no computers, no editing, fast and dirty, it was a welcome breath from the largely electronic works I've been doing lately.
studios, two states, and many, many hours later: the Gardening,
Not Architecture album is
officially complete. It might be the most
fractured record I've made. Some songs are completely
some are completely organic, but most have elements of each. Parts of
it were completed several years ago, and parts of it are brand new.
Tracked on RADAR, ProTools, and Logic, and mixed at Hall of Justice,
Smart, and my home studio. Also, the two members involved in the
project live 2000 miles apart. Whew.
In the end, Sarah Saturday's voice and lyrics act as a thread to tie all of the songs together, giving the album a familiar, human continuity. It's a great record, and Sarah is currently touring in support of it. Mastering was once again handled by Roger Seibel at SAE. Many humble thanks.
Nathaniel Bartlett is a marimbist that recently returned to the Madison area. Mike Zirkel and I worked with him a few years back, recording an album comprised of his own compositions, Steve Reich pieces, and Phillip Glass pieces. He's also very in touch with multi-dimensional sound, incorporating it both into his recordings and his performances. In his own words:
My performances seamlessly meld my five-octave acoustic marimba with electronics, a powerful custom computer named Atlas, and an eight-channel cube of loudspeakers.
Nathaniel returned to Smart to record a library of esoteric percussion samples to use on his next album. Because he often pitches them down several octaves, they needed to be very high-quality, high-resolution samples. He brought a ridiculous amount of strange percussion objects I had neither seen nor heard of, and left with 25GB of audio to sort through.
mix, I returned to Portland, OR for more work at Hall
Justice. Several days getting
settled prepared me for my first
Not Architecture. Starting with
outlines of songs prepared months before, we tracked in an 'open'
format: whatever we felt the song needed was added. Anything we felt
got in the way was left out. After weeks of very specific
working, it was liberating to record music this way: letting the music
go where it wanted. The songs we tracked will be completed and mixed
once I return home, but they already show promise in their unmixed
APRIL Over a year ago, I
started a casual
recording project with two dear friends: Jeff Sauer (Czarbles)
and Andrew Fitzpatrick (All
Tiny Creatures, Yoinkles
Gibraltar). When we started, it
was to be
an experiment - simply three people in a studio, recording whatever
they wanted to record at the moment. We gave ourselves the limitation
of working on 2" tape to prevent any second-guessing, editing, or other
distractions. Six songs came out of the session, and we left it at
However, after some listening, it became apparent that the material we had tracked had merit, and we decided to complete it. We had several additional sessions - a few overdubs, and some mixing, and by March, we all felt like all of the songs had been completely actualized. The result is an interesting mix of 70's German experimentalism and "My Life In The Bush of Ghosts" playfulness.
FEBRUARY After a few months off, Go Motion returned to Smart to continue work on their next full-length release. Eight long days of work brought us to the point of having all drum, bass, guitar, and most keyboard tracking taken care of. Once again the SPL Transient Designers were a big help in getting the drum sounds I wanted, and we chose to supplement the live kick and snare tracks with samples triggered from a LinnDrum. Guitars were all tracked using the Trident A-Range's preamps, and direct bass was tracked using the A-Designs REDDI. I simply cannot say enough good things about this DI box.
The songs have all been precisely adjusted to fit the optimum tempo, and care has been taken to leave space in the mixes for vocal tracks. It's shaping up to be a fantastic dance record, and I'm really excited to hear the vocals we record next month. It has been a long record to make, but the best part (mixing) is on the horizon.
Cougar signs with Ninja Tune. Ninja Tune (home of Kid Koala, Coldcut, DJ Food) has long been one of my favorite labels, and I'm honored to have my work be associated with them in any way, shape or form.
JANUARY Chris Walla returned for another week of synthesizer and sequencer work. While our first excursions were a bit aimless and meandering, it appears as though we've developed a method for writing and recording electronic music that is both spontaneous and organized. Dedicating ourselves to the Studer A827 is a very helpful 'limitation' that also lends a very pleasant sonic fingerprint to the music. Our setup has grown more complicated each time (I counted 12 sequencers, all locked together in time during this session), and the music has started to refine into something quite listenable and enjoyable.
Cougar was back in the studio again, this time mixing a track not featured on the album. The song is a collaboration between the band and Paul Smith (of Maximo Park), and the only Cougar song to feature vocals. Aggressive synthesizers, lots of Valley People kick and snare sounds.As other work has slowed a bit, I've had more time to work on the various side-projects I've accrued - including the Krautrock-inspired recordings I made with dear friends Jeff Sauer and Andrew Fitzpatrick. Revisiting these tape-tracked experiments a year later has been an exciting rediscovery of inspired sonics. A few guitar, synthesizer and percussion overdub sessions (plus liberal use of the Eventide H3000) has brought us even closer to completing these six tracks.
The focus of most of my projects
has become very electronic lately. Perhaps I had some sort of
premonition back in August. I spent a cluster of days with Chris
Walla of Death
Cab for Cutie
and Tim Curtis, generating sounds and working on methods for electronic
music production. We had a pretty large collection of vintage and
modern synthesizers (including an EMS VCS3) at our fingertips, and they
were utilized to the fullest. Plans have been made for more sessions in
I also spent a long weekend working with Clive Tanaka (and numerous friends) on the holiday-themed dance track 'Gift of the Magi'. Thanks to Clive, Kilroy, Awesome Car Funmaker and others for holiday memories that will last a lifetime.
NOVEMBER Mixed five songs with We The Living at Smart Studios. While most rock projects I've worked on recently have happened at a pretty fast clip, We The Living took the time to make sure everything sounded proper. We ended up recalling the first song we mixed, and made some slight improvements to it - an incredibly luxury for me. It was thrilling to work on songs until they felt properly executed, with nothing lacking. I also managed to make good use of the Serge modular system for one of the tracks that needed some extra atmosphere.
I also tracked and mixed several songs with Magnetars - a dense, atmospheric rock band from Chicago. This was the best possible case of home/commercial studio convergence via ProTools: having brought scratch tracks from home, they recorded new tracks over them. I had a blueprint for all of the songs, and it made for very fast, very efficient work. Our mixes came close to being finished, but we left them knowing there would be subtle changes yet. Again, advantage goes to computer-based recording.
OCTOBER Brad Loving is an electronic artist from Chicago, making music under the name Lobisomem. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to mix Brad's newest record at Smart Studios, using the Trident A-Range console. It was exciting to mix an 'in-the-box' record through an analog console, using analog outboard and summing, then print the mixes to the ATR-102. As much as I love pure, raw electronic tones, being able to put some air/transformers/oxide between sound and my ears is usually a pleasant thing. Mixing Lobisomem was no different, and the result was a complex juxtaposition of tones and colors. Out on vinyl in 2009.
Rediscovered how much I enjoy working
with analog electronics.
I often use synthesizers as processing tools while mixing records -
their experimental nature is something I find extremely rewarding. I
sometimes forget that synthesizers and electronic music is what drew me
to recording in the first place.
Heard mastered versions of the Cougar record, the Freshwater Collins record, and the Pale Young Gentlemen record for the first time this week. Roger Siebel at SAE mastered all of them, and once again, he has done fantastic work. I'm excited to hear them on vinyl.
Bancroft and I
worked together, tracking vocals over instrumental tracks. Molly is an
incredibly talented vocalist and songwriter who has written songs with
a number of DJs and producers (The Orb,
& Dresden, John Shelvin,
Page). Molly approached
me with a simple task: record high-quality vocals and harmonies,
leaving enough options for the song to be arranged, mixed, and remixed
at a later date. Not having a specific mix goal was a very liberating
way to work, and we managed to be very productive - usually completing
a song per day.
Go Motion has made a conscious effort to make their next record closer to dance music. Tempos have slowed down, parts are simplified, and basslines have become more important. After several recent sessions, we're nearing the end of tracking - only some keyboards and vocals left to record. Every time I work on this record, I'm reminded of how incredible the REDDI sounds on bass guitar.
The Hotel Lights record Firecracker People is out now, on Bar None Records. I had a very small hand in this record - the incredibly talented Al Weatherhead is the reason this record sounds so incredible.
came to Smart
Studios and myself with
the intent of creating a custom drum sample library for the newest
version of their drum-replacment software. Having a high-quality
library of drum samples (from a room I know and love) is the sort of
mixing tool I've dreamed of for a while now, and I was excited to have
a hand in creating sounds for the library.
The mic setup for this project was very thorough. Because the option of adjusting ambience and spatial information afterwards was very important, I used more mics than I would on a normal drum tracking session. Kicks and snares each had three microphones, toms each had two, and overheads were recorded both in stereo and mono.
Adding to the close mics were several different room mic combinations: a single U47 for mono, a C24 for stereo, an MS pair for additional stereo, and a compressed mono kit mic.
The sampling process was also very thorough. We used four different kits (two modern, two vintage) and a number of snares and cymbal combinations. Each drum was multisampled at eight different velocity levels, and we recorded sixteen variations for each of the eight velocity levels. It took a very long time, and was a bit mind-numbing at points. Thankfully, Drumagog will spend all of the time editing, sorting, and arranging all of the samples.
two records: Pale
Young Gentlemen and
The Pale Young Gentlemen record is strikingly more mature than their first release - more space, better pacing, and more sophisticated writing. The lack of piano and the addition of strings is perhaps the most tangible difference, but it's also very different sonically.
Our goal was to make a modern pop record that didn't feel modern. Make it sound 'old' without resorting to the t elephone filter trick. We tried to be delicate (but not too delicate) during the recording and mixing process. We were subtle with compression, tried to make sure it didn't get too bright or too loud, and left some parts rough around the edges.
The Cougar record couldn't be any more different. Discrete and modern sounding, it utilizes both acoustic instruments and electronic treatments to create vast, sprawling soundscapes. We used large amounts of destructive compression to transform drum sounds. Some of the songs clocked in at over 90 tracks, with multiple sections or 'movements', each movement using different drum treatments, spaces, etc. It was a much more complicated record to mix, but the end result is very listenable, very dramatic.
Started to dig into Max/MSP a bit more. Continued developing ambient soundscapes. I've used the Denshi Block electronic system I got as a birthday gift last year for a lot of these tracks. I've had good luck building different types of radio receivers, then sabotaging certain parts of them and recording the results.
Spent a fair amount of time recording mundane sounds around my house (faucets, typewriters, bird, tea kettles, toilets....) with the eventual goal of writing some 'found object' music.
The majority of May
will be spent either tracking the new Pale Young Gentlemen record or
mixing the new Cougar record. Interspersed with these projects will be
days with Silent Sirens, Testa Rosa, Letter 8.
Pale Young Gentlemen continued with four days of strings overdubs and five days of assorted overdubs. Instruments recorded thus far: cello, violin, viola, harp, French horn, xylophone, bell set, lead vocals, backing vocals, ceramic bowl, triangle, and incredibly over-compressed snare drum. Mixing begins at the end of the month, and will be finished by mid June. The album is sounding excellent already, and is undoubtedly a step above their previous, excellent release.
for the upcoming Pale Young Gentlemen release has commenced.
We spent three days on basics (drums/bass/acoustic), and will record
strings next month. Spent two long days with Clive Tanaka tracking and
mixing his vocoder-heavy dance song 'All Night, All Right'. Watching
Clive work is amazing and inpsiring. Recorded guitars for the upcoming
Go Motion record - great drums sounds are now paired with great
Devised a method for 'tape-stopping' sound effects using a digital delay and the Korg MS-50. It's easily repeatable, and works somewhat reliably.