Whiskey & Speed Tracking Reflection
A lot of planning and replanning went into this but when the day finally arrived, we were ready. We had organised with the college to set up the night before. So we all stayed back till midnight setting everything up. In the first live room, we had two mics set up for Dayne, an SM7B and a C414 we used these both with the foam on and kept him a slight distance back with a pop filter to prevent plosive, sibilance and peaking. In the second live room, we had Ben playing a Cort with EMG pickups into a Marshall 700V valve state amp. We had an MD441, an SM57 and a C414 all on access and fairly close, with the 2 dynamic mic's closer to the centre of the speaker and the condenser mic more towards the edge. We set the drums up in the control room, which went smoothly and was very well organised, we labelled both ends of every cable, ran them all in a row, neatly taped to the floor and plugged straight into the back of the desk.
The band were all on time, on the ball and ready to go, we were ahead of the 8-Ball, but we still had a lot of work ahead of us. So I went into the guitar room with Ben to dial in a nice chunky guitar tone, while Dayne, Tre and Pat tuned the drums. Once the boys had the drums tuned, we went through them one by one checking the tone and phase, moving the mic's appropriately until we were satisfied. Since the drums were in the control room we had to record drums and then check the playback, which took a little longer but was all good. Once this was done I went in and moved the mics on the guitar amp while Adam checked the tone and phase of the guitars in the control room. We flipped the phase on the desk and I moved the mic until it was completely out of phase then flipped the phase back for a nice clean, fat sound.
We had some drama with the bass, as the bass player had brought a fuzz peddle and wanted to run into a DI and take a split. This wasn't in our plan and we had to go grab a DI and while this took us a while to figure out, we couldn't get it to work, we tried a few different approaches with a few different lead combinations but we were wasting time and everyone was ready to go. So we got the bass sounding good and fuzzy through the Laney Compressor and started to record. This isn't the first time I've been in a group situation where a DI has left us stumped and I think in our profession being able to use a DI for any given situation is imperative so after this experience I've made a point to do more research and some practical practice using DI's for different purposes.
While this was all going on we had camera crew setting up all around us, so it was chaotic to say the least, but we had everything set up as tidy as possible. Once we were finally ready to start recording we all set up station in one of the rooms. I was in the vocal booth with Dayne and Adam was at the desk. We both monitored the session through headphones. The film crew set up cameras on tripods in each room and had 3 guys on hand-held cameras.
After we recorded one take of the first song, we all stopped for playback to make sure we were all happy with the overall sound. We were all happy, so we started tracking. The band were tight, well-rehearsed with songs they’d been playing live forever. They smashed out 6 songs in roughly 1-3 takes each with very minimal mistakes. In the raw nature of the whole project and the brief opportunity we had to do this, I think we all wanted to capture as much as we could with an energy over perfection approach, but still tight enough to be enjoyable to listen too.
During the recording process, one of the camera guys knocked the kick out mic and I got pretty upset about it. I didn’t get angry I just made a big deal about it and in retrospect, I should have kept it under wraps in front of clients and stayed professional. It did affect the sound of the kick but I’m still confident I can make it work in post. It was probably the one microphone that was in the way, being on the ground and a bit back from the kick and in a situation like this, a mic getting knocked was bound to happen. Everything still sounded pretty good and everyone was still happy.
I feel as though we captured everything the band was all about in an efficient manner and that’s what really matters. We will take this to the next level when we mix it there’s a bit to tidy up before we get creative but I can’t wait to get in there and fuck shit up.
Recording the guitar parts for Whiskey & Speed was a beautiful and smooth experience. I've been friends with Ben for a good few years and with him moving to Canada, it was nice to spend some time capturing a piece of Ben before he goes. We decided to use a different amp for the guitar overdubs so that we would have a contrast in colour between the centre channel and the sides. We used a Black Star Tube amp …. and got a warmer tone than the Marshall. We dialled in the tone set the mics up and recorded some guitar to compare with the guitar already in the track. We didn't like it and I went back in to move the mics which resulted in the close mics both being moved closer and the 57 aimed off axis. This made the tone sharper and it blended with the tone we already had better. Once we were all happy with the guitar tone, we had a quick smoke/coffee break and then got to work.
Ben was a solid guitarist to work with, he's not that confident in his abilities because he is not the sort of guy that can shred up the whole neck of the guitar, (I can’t either) but on the contrary Ben is a fantastic rhythm guitarist and he played his way through these songs layering his rhythm tracks with ease. He has his own style and the little frills he does throw in ooze character. We got 4 songs done on the first night because he knew exactly how he wanted it.
The last session with Ben went really well, we got all set up with care to get everything as close as possible to last time, through the same process, we got pretty close and if anything slightly better, so that can't be a bad thing. The first song we did “completely professional” was quite funky and had a bunch of different layers of wah-wah over the heavy guitar parts. That took a little while to get everything right and in place, but then the last song “fuck me over” was done quickly so we were finished early with time to listen to all the songs and make sure we were happy with them before telling Ben he was free to go to Canada.
I’m really happy with what we got from Ben, the guitar tones blend nicely, his playing is pretty tight and the guitars sit in the mix with the other elements really well. I’m thinking we will tweak the tone slightly in different songs or parts of songs for just a bit of variety, but overall, I’m very happy with the outcome of these sessions and wish Ben all the best on his adventures with wolves in Canada.
Dayne On Vocals
Dayne was an absolute pleasure to work with. He has a great sounding singing voice and he knew how to control and project his voice well. His performances were solid and he could consistently redo the same sorts of takes. His screaming takes were more unpredictable, but overall, they sounded pretty good it will just be a matter of comping the coolest sounding ones together.
The aim of this session was not to redo all the vocals from the live tracking but just to add to and enhance them. So, we would listen to the song first, mark the parts we needed to fix, drop in and fix them and then record doubles and overdubs. So, for this reason, we used the same mics in the same room an SM7B and a C414 both close, we also hired a copper phone and a Shure 520DX to attempt some lo-fi vocal overdubs. The copper phone didn’t sound that great for what we wanted, but man the 520DX sounded great, it really suited Dayne’s voice and the overall aesthetic of the band, so we used it for a whole bunch of little bits and pieces to just a add a different element to the mix.
Yours truely at the helm
Adam and I both paid close attention with each take, giving honest feedback and coaching Dayne's performance. I feel as though I was pickier about the takes than anyone else, but we would all agree in the end and move on. As the session went on I realised that for the style the imperfections worked really well and added character. We got the vocals all done in 1 session, it went really quickly and before we knew it, we were finished.