the Beatnik Preachers...

2019 will see the launch, inaugural performances and recordings of my newly formed quartet, the Beatnik Preachers. A twist on Jazz and Beat Poetry combining my love for improvisation and the spoken word. The project is not an attempt to re-invent ‘the wheel’ but it is indeed fitting some White-Wall Tyres to the Jazz-mobile.

The project will be launched at a private event (invitation only) in late February 2019. The quartet features: Tony King (double bass), Robbie Mercer (drums), Joel Smithard (piano) and yours truly on Trumpet and Spoken Pictures (poetry).

the Beatnik Preachers - musically evocative, lyrically provocative… Stay tuned

It's All in the Timing...

This week and next I am completing the debut release for Erin Downie and Rebellious Bird. 
This EP has been over two years in the making during which we have endured: Moving homes (twice), Full Time Study, Floods, Single Parenting and Broken Hearts.

But we persevered.

I am incredibly proud of this upcoming release and consider it some of my best work. Erin sings beautifully on these tracks and the band is wonderful. Horn section will be dropped in next week. 
Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard and at times sacrificed part of themselves to complete this project.

This EP is testament to the gift of love and the privilege of sharing music. Not an opportunity to be taken for granted.

I will deliver the masters to Erin before the end of September and sincerely hope something is done with this recording, for a debut release of this quality is a very rare gift indeed.


Trumpet through a Ribbon...

My 1976 OLDS Recording is a beautiful sounding Horn; not too bright or shrill. Recording for a Sydney artist's upcoming release and have opted for the OPR Ultra-Mod Rocket Ribbon as the microphone. Running through one of my AVALON 737SP modified valve units (on High Gain of course!) the tone is thick and moody but still with an upper presence. A little boost at 1.2k and another at 10k and the sound was there. A touch of compression. DONE!

Trumpet Ribbon.jpg

1 Singer: 3 Mic's: Rebellious Bird

When tracking vocals for both a lead and accompanying backing parts it is great to utilise different mic's so the resulting lead and BV's have a contrasting timbre. This assists in providing a separation between the two final sounds within the mix. Additionally different vocal approaches between songs benefit from this to exploit different characteristics in a lead vocal - especially when working with a very accomplished singer - such as Erin Downie.

Thus far we've opted for my OPR Ultra-Mod Ribbon and P12 valve condenser by Peluso. Sitting in waiting is the CM7 FET condenser by Wunder but as yet has not got a guernsey. I've set up three input channels with HPF, EQ and soft-knee compression: OPR Ribbon required several dB cut around 350Hz and a subtle boost at 12kHz; the P12 is actually coming in flat - this mic' has been modified 4 times from stock and is quite sublime. The Ribbon is providing a wonderful thickness in the mids for a female lead vocal whilst the P12 has a very similar body but as one would expect from a condenser has more subtle high end making it wonderful for the more breathy takes. These then matrix out into a single master record buss, which allows Erin to simply move between mic's and audition each characteristic.

,,, and a reminder of the January 19th show to open the Skylark Room for 2018. Link for Bookings here:

STV: Stereo Volvo Album 2018

Spent today and will do so tomorrow with Pete Warren-Smith and Scott Bennett laying down grooves on the upcoming 2nd album for Stereo Volvo. So a bit of A-P for those who might be interested:

From this...through this...into this...

By these...

A couple of points for the engineers out there: my favourite secondary Kick (and cool Snare) mic' configuration "a la derriere" using my new Open Plan Ultra-Mod Rocket Ribbon; and the Overheads may look strange but this variation on ORTF ensures the Kick and Snare fall in the centre of the stereo image. Only 7 mic's on the Kit and it was massive; all condensers bar the Ribbon at "the rear": Wunder CM7 FET on the Kick, AKG 214 on the Snare, Josephson E22's on Rack and Floor, with a pair of AKG C451's on Overheads.

Ribbon Comparative

Tomorrow during student practical exercises in our NEVE studio @ RMIT Sound Production we are setting up a comparative recording of Drums with various Ribbon microphones. Results from this will be analysed back at ToKwerX and I'll post the findings and outcomes very soon. Thanx to Mark from OPR for providing "the Grill U-Mod" for this session. The session will include the following "Velocity Transducers:"

Ribbon Comparative 2017.jpg

ROYER R121 | AudioTechnica AT4080 | SE Voodoo | OPR Rocket U-Mod | OPR the Grill U-Mod

40 Years of Recording

Not long after my 15th birthday I ventured into a professional recording studio for the first time. It was the old ABC Studios in Waverley Road, Malvern, which was then also the home of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO). This year now becomes my 40th year of making records... and I still love it. Not sure if I'm likely to register 40 more but I'm not seeing any signs of stopping yet!

Thank you to everyone I've ever been blessed to record, or record with, or be recorded by.

Blue Eyes Cry: Lead Vocals

Ise Hingano and Blue Eyes Cry have had an excellent few days in the studio, culminating in the completion of all lead vocals. I thought I'd share the complete signal path and techniques incorporated to capture this talented vocalist.

Microphone was an EB version of the classic AKG 414; hyper-cardioid, -10dB Pad and HPF @ 75Hz. Pop-shield is the one I usually slip over my Peluso P12, which presented with an earth-loop no matter what power source I tried - will have Ross Giles look at this. Still the 414 has a similar timbre given that earlier models actually had the C12 capsule. Hence my choice.

Pre-amp was the sublime AWA console, with a couple of small EQ tweaks. Again the all important HPF engaged (70Hz). I took a little while to get the gain structure just right, allowing the vocalist to hit some fairly serious SPL yet remaining clean and defined with no distortion. The AWA pre's remind me of Neve 1073 in their thick mid tones; especially good for female vocalists in accentuating the body of their sound.

• The vocals were the only aspect of the tracking printed with dynamics, essentially due to the patch-bay's current configuration at Coloursound - this will be half-normalled shortly to allow full inserts across all channels. The work around was to send the vocal channel to a group, group out to compressor/limiter then into a line input of another channel, which feeds direct out into ProTools. For this task I chose my absolute favourite of Mat Robin's outboard dynamics, the Quad Eight CL22. This solid-state heavy weight from the classic 1970's consoles has been racked up by Rob Squire at Proharmonic in Adelaide (who also prepped my Harrison 3232 channel strips) and is just perfect for vocals. Fast, warm and invisible. They sort of remind me of a cleaner 1176 or EL Distressor with less distortion characteristics. The CL22 ensures the vocal remains clean and present even during gain reduction; I love it. Try finding one; they're like the proverbial hen's teeth. (PS. I'll buy it off you if you do find one!)

• The final point I want to make is the positioning of the microphone. Far too often I hear an accentuated "nasal" tone, especially in female voices. This is generally caused by avoiding the upper chest resonance, which provides us with "body" but also the "power." Note I have the top of the AKG in line with the nose of the vocalist, slightly angled upwards. This captures more of the rich body tones, not just the nasal resonance. I prefer this richer tone for vocals and also allows for the slight boosting of their "formant" frequency (Ise's is at approx 1.4kHz).

So, now on to editing, a few Backing Vocals, rhythm guitar adds then mixing. Stay tuned ...

Blue Eyes Cry: Day 4

Vocals, Vocals, Vocals ...

No fewer than eight lead vocals completed today, along with a couple of alternative guitar solos. Female vocalist Ise Hingano is the recipient of Female Artist of the Year (Victorian & Tasmanian Blues Music Awards) for 2014 and no wonder - a mighty talent. She also understands that magical results come from hard work and dedication, focus and concentration; and these were tested today. I am very impressed with this young woman's abilities as a vocalist and musician but her diligence is equally impressive. So, details on the vocal chain in my next post; for today - eight out of ten songs is more than enough. A couple of hours tomorrow late afternoon will see all the lead vocals completed for this album. Stay tuned ...

Blue Eyes Cry: Day 3

Today saw the completion of another four band tracks, a Wildcard track as an extra and finally the Re-Amping of Bass. I'll provide the complete process for Bass in this post. Tomorrow will be a few alternative Guitar Solo takes then on to Lead Vocals.

Re-Amping Bass: We begin with the Bass recorded through a D.I. (direct input device), which essentially brings the instrument in at Mic level through a pre-amp. So depending upon the D.I. itself and the pre-amp there are unique opportunities to apply colour and character to the signal. The instrument is a classic Fender Precision (P Bass) and features the iconic subtle pick-up distortion around 160Hz, responsible for the wonderful 'growl' it produces. To accentuate this I chose a Valve D.I. by legendary local designer Ross Giles (Giles Audio). Pre-amp was the gorgeous AWA console, importantly with a HPF at 70Hz. This ensures a tighter low frequency response by rolling off the subsonic rumble and noise. Most miss this point by thinking a Bass needs subs, but we're talking attenuation of frequencies (HPF: 70Hz @ 12dB per Octave) which do nothing to improve the Bass tone or definition, and they devour the headroom.

After tracking we then send the recorded Bass D.I. back out of the interface, into a Bass Amp. We want to capture the 'air' that is shifted by lower frequencies, providing the Bass with warmth and a solid foundation; a bit of BOOM. Most importantly here is the gain structure of this signal, sent from ProTools in this case. The interface will hike the signal up to essentially Line level; way too hot for a Bass Amp input. This would only serve to overdrive the input of the amp resulting in immense distortion and likely damage the amp input pre-amp. I lower the level of the Bass D.I. send to -20dBFS out of the interface to better match the impedance the Bass amp usually receives.

However, we are now also sending a Balanced signal out of the interface; the Bass amp requires an Unbalanced signal such as that from a Bass or Guitar. My method to alter this is very simple, but perhaps a bit quirky: I use a Passive D.I. box in Reverse. So the XLR balanced Output becomes my input from the interface, whilst the Input now serves as the output into the Bass amp input.

Now the bass player (Stuart) pulls the sound he wants for each track from the Amp, which I record with a Microphone; a Beyer M88TG in this case (placed approx. 20cm from the 'best sounding part of the speaker cabinet' - just put your face down there and listen!). Perfect for adding the air and boom that will enhance the Valve D.I. signal. The Bass player then gets to relax whilst I re-record the parts previously performed. I brought the M88 back in through another AWA pre-amp, this time with a HPF at 45Hz. Otherwise essentially FLAT.

Final stage is then completed within ProTools, where I align the two Bass signals to ensure Phase cancellation of the lower frequency bands is avoided. Depending upon your signal path this is generally within the realm of 5-6 m/s . Calculate this by measuring the 'time' between the attack of a note on the D.I. track to that of the same note on the AMP track. The two Bass sounds will then be blended accordingly to provide both 'front' and 'definition' from the D.I. but with the all important 'body' and 'boom' from the Amp.

Blue Eyes Cry: Day 2

Well, this is a great band. Accomplished players, disciplined and focused. Able to adapt to my suggestions as Producer and respond to changes in arrangement that improve the composition. I am very impressed with Blue Eyes Cry.

The band have requested a live-feeling, not overly produced-sounding record and today we achieved band tracks for six songs; none using a click. Solos are recorded as part of the band track and although there are opportunities for overdubs the overall vibe is essentially "as the band plays it." Four songs to complete tomorrow, then re-amping the Bass (which I'll go into details about in tomorrow's post), a few guitar overdubs then on to Lead Vocals. Again details will be posted on the microphone and signal path for this when completed. So, all in all - an excellent day. Oh, and I'm lovin' the tone this AWA console achieves; truly unique. Thanx Mat Robins (owner and manager of Coloursound Studios).

Blue Eyes Cry: Day 1

Setup for tracking at Coloursound Studios in Altona, Victoria AU.

Under Snare technique: Idea from Jack Puig (Oceanway) then developed. I've tried a few different mic's and configurations but finally got to put these miniature Audix condensers in a sort of ORTF. Panned <70|70> with the Snare top mic up the middle (Beyer m201). Bought these Audix quite a while ago with this application envisaged - they don't break up at all - very impressed. This one is a keeper with these little fellas.

Guitar Amp: Blended methods from Mark Opitz (AU) and Michael Letho (AU). Close is a Heil PR30 dynamic in XY with an AKG 414 in hyper-cardiod, -20dB pad and HPF. Far mic is my beloved Peluso P12, this time in almost full Fig.8 shape (variable with this mic) but tending a little towards Omni. Approximated a 3:1 rule for the placement of the P12 then tweaked this using noise generated by guitar pedals, inverting the polarity of the far mic and adjusting to present with the smallest tone - flipped phase back for tracking.

Drums: A collection of ribbons for rooms (OPR Mic's - Williamstown) and the AWA (AU) for my "A La Derriere" config. I use this in place of a far kick mic in front; love the bottom end and the 808-ish snare tone this presents. Overheads are the old SONY's C-series from Coloursound; warm and rich - not too bright. Audix D6 on Kick front, Sennheiser 441's (M mode) on Toms, AKG 300B (Padded) on Hats. 12 mic's across the Kit in total.

AWA Console: Australian built, Rupert NEVE designed topology. Ex-Sydney Opera House. EQ is a little more open in the top end then Neve, HPF on every channel recorded (Kick somewhat lower Hz). No Dynamics on the console but the signals come in as if they'd been smoothly rounded with a soft-knee compressor at 3:1. I have therefore decided to apply some post dynamics, prior to editing and mixing, resulting in an identical gain structure to the older NEVE console at Coloursound. For this I'll use the UAD NEVE 88R channel strip dynamics. Consequently I've recorded with conservative head-room across the board, using 24bit @ 88.2kHz into ProTools v11.

Blue Eyes Cry: 2nd Album

Tomorrow will see the setup for recording a 2nd album for award-winning Blues ensemble "Blue Eyes Cry." The remainder of this week will be spent capturing the band live, with vocals and a few guitar treats to be the only overdubs. The intention is to ensure the magic that has drawn crowds to the band's live shows will be embedded in this record. The entire album will be completed in house at ToKwerX and Coloursound studios. I will be posting a series of production techniques and photos showing specific approaches throughout this week - stay tuned. 

Tracking Chris Magira

A wonderful day tracking of the upcoming EP release for Chris Magira. A Melbourne based country/blues solo artist, who was recently Unearthed by JJJ with his previous release. (Mastered @ ToKwerX)

The AWA console @ Coloursound is divine for tracking, with the Rupert Neve designed topology the tones are thick and warm. Although there's no Dynamics processing on board the recorded signal results with a dynamic range similar to that usually achieved with subtle soft-knee compression. A unique character from this last intact console of its kind. Mat Robins at Coloursound studios has provided a truly special sound for engineers seeking depth and warmth in their recordings. 

A sonically wonderful start to the new year. Thanx to Chris Magira also of course!