Strip Search

There are so many ways to mix but I have always been partial to the “channel strip” approach, where most of what you need is in one plug in. There are lots of great ones out there and some offer more bells and whistles than others. Most offer EQ, Compression,Filters and a Gate. The Eventide Ultra Channel adds a Stereo Delay and a Harmonizer as well as a recreation of their famous “Omnipressor”. The Scheps offers 2 (!) DeEssers as well as Saturation and the ability to move the modules around in any order. Slate takes the “500” Series Approach for up to 8 Modules. My “go to” is Metric Halo’s Channel Strip and I love how they update and add features (like a Real Time Analyzer).

But…I was intrigued when I first read about this one from Brainworx.

Back in the day, my friend Al Hemberger at The Loft Studios was looking for a high end Single Channel Mic Preamp and wound up with a rack of these:

Neve Prism Rack

So when I read that Brainworx had modeled an ENTIRE CONSOLE, CHANNEL BY CHANNEL, I had to try it out. The layout is easy to navigate in the plug in and it sounds..yes…I’m going to say it…”musical”. I haven’t had a chance to run it in full console mode but it’s great on individual channels and the gate is surprisingly effective and “unfiddly”.

Department of Corrections

It was time…end of year plus the need for some small home monitors. I had been thinking about the small Yamaha and JBL speakers but they still seemed too large for my desk area. These little guys from IK had been getting some great press and endorsements (both Lord Alges!!) and they featured a slimmed down version of their ARC technology.

What does that mean?…well.. the Holy Grail of ANY speaker is Truth and Translatability. No one likes that feeling of playing your recording/mix outside of your listening environment and being horrified at how it sounds on another system..lost vocals!! Screechy guitars!!No BASS!!too much BASS!!…let’s face it..it’s your worst nightmare.

The general culprit (assuming that it’s not you) is the combination of a bad set of monitors and a bad sounding room. IK has built a technology (ARC) into these speakers that allows you to plug a microphone (included) into the back of these speakers and press a button that runs an audio sweep and calibrates the speakers to your listening environment. The listening area (or “sweet spot”) is pretty narrow but seems to be pretty accurate.

I haven’t done enough listening/mixing on these to see how they stack up yet….more to come

Murphy’s Law

I got the alert…new music from Elliott Murphy!

I was a fan of Elliott’s from his first album and we covered his classic “Last Of The Rock Stars” in my band. So when I got the call from my publisher asking if I wanted to co write with him, I jumped at the chance. We met up at my studio on West 19th street and wrote and recoded 2 songs. Elliott sang and played acoustic guitar and harmonica while I played electric guitar, keyboards ,machine drums and sang backing vocals. Ernie Brooks, who had played with Elliott as well as the Modern Lovers, swung by the studio and added some great bass work. One song , “Hardcore” wound up (the demo version) on his “Beauregard” CD and was the title of Charles Pitter’s insightful Elliott bio.

The other song “Forgiveness” sat on the sidelines…until a few weeks ago when, much to my surprise, it showed up on his new collection “Ricochet”.

A.E.S

It’s that time of the year again…AES descended upon the west side of NYC at the mammoth Javits Center. The newly renovated “7” Subway line now stretches from Grand Central to Hudson Yards, just one block from Javits..no more freezing crosstown walks.

Despite my early registration for tickets on line, I was given a Kafka-esque run around by the staff who were in charge of admission…I just about gave up.

Inside, it felt a high tech craft fair, with booths and demos and gear that could make your head spin. Sadly, I was there on the final day and it seemed like many of the exhibitors were tired and just wanted to pack up and go home. Wandering around, several analog consoles by Neve, SSL and Trident caught my eye and Avid had a large presence with a multi part area of their own.

Lots of great boutique companies and I discovered an amazing software company called Accusonus. Their noise reduction and sonic restoration tools are sure to give iZotope a run for their money.

Next time, I’m going on day one…still, a great show.

Summer Of Love 2019

It’s been a great summer to play with some new audio toys and beef up the arsenal.

Slate dropped some cool new offerings through their subscription service…a Gate for VMR, a TH-U Guitar Amp/Cabinet/FX plug in from Overloud, the Ana-2 Synth and a whole host of Modular FX from Kilohearts (their Transient Shaper is amazing). I love that they’re partnering with third party plug ins but it always makes me a little nervous that they might discontinue their relationship and I could be left with some old sessions that won’t open correctly. Many felt burned when this happened with the 224 and I’m still not thrilled that they’re parting ways with Scuffham (my fave guitar amp sim).

PSP Audio has been tempting me with deals so I finally broke down and added their E-27 EQ to my collection. It’s a broadband EQ with a great Drive control and sounds extremely musical.

The UAD Plug Ins that I bought earlier this year have been getting quite a work out, especially the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor and the API-2500 Compressor. Nothing sounds like either one of these beasts.

I’m looking forward to catching up with Paul Wolff (Inventor of the 2500) at AES in October. He is making some amazing custom consoles and he’s always up to something new and interesting.

“In My Head”

A new release is always a thrill and this one has been a long time coming. I had the pleasure of working with Keith on this collection, co- writing and producing 2 of the songs here.

“Trial Of The Century” features one of my favorite singer songwriters, Chris Merola. Chris has been active in the NY Americana scene since the beginning and he continues to record and perform with his band Tumbleweed Mile.

Jeff Young sings “Bank Of Worry” with the soulfulness that he is well known for and, like Chris, is great to hang out with in the studio.

I also had the opportunity to mix some of the songs with Keith and was completely blown away by the vocals of Maya Saxell.

The eclectic nature of this album is an anomaly in today’s musical landscape…which I like.

Dune Surfing

It’s great to have choices..but sometimes you find yourself in what Stravinsky called “the abyss of freedom”. I decided that I would go deep on one synth for a while and this is the one:Dune 3.

It is a truly rich and glorious sounding machine, with none of the “graininess” of some of the even “high end” synths. It is actually an 8 layer synth where each layer can be an independent synth. Each layer has 4 possible oscillator types (Virtual Analog/Wavetable/FM/Noise Generator) that can be mixed, panned, modulated, filtered and sent to one of two incredibly comprehensive Effect Outputs. Add in two Arpeggiators/Step Sequencers and there is never an excuse for a “static” sound.

The FM section looks fairly basic but it is very musical…and one of the things I like best about this synth is that it encourages “knob twiddling” instead of just using presets. It’s intuitive enough that you can build a sound from scratch with a specific intention (ie. “My Ultimate Super Thick Fuzz Bass”) or you can experiment with the settings and be surprised (in a good way).

Geography IS Destiny..

So back in the day, when I was an aspiring musician/songwriter, I looked for the closest recording studio to where I lived..and it was almost walking distance..Willowmill Recording.

It was in a converted garage of Gilbert Jullien’s house and it was outfitted the remnants of the Track Recording’s studio (API/Ampex) . I was so green at the time that I had no idea of even what those names meant. The asking price there for 8 track 1 Inch recording at the time was $ 25 an hour so I booked the session and brought my brother Rob and our drummer in to record a song. When I inquired whether Gilbert might have some better mics (like a Teac or Tascam..not these WWII looking mics)..he said that all he had were these 5 Neumann U 47 Tube Mics for Vocals.

(Some Recent Prices)

When I asked Gil for his opinion on our performance, he responded with a chuckle “Compared to what..?”. I was naturally incensed and I vowed two things then and there..

1. I am learning how to do this, it can’t be that hard..

2. I am NEVER paying for this again.

Two months later, Gilbert wound up turning the studio over to me to run and wound up being a great mentor and friend…and one of the people that I can truly call a Genius…as well as introducing me to Franco Falsini.

2019

Time To Get Busy ..er.

It was a pretty amazing 2018…Audiation Podcast Production on shows with Sir Paul, Madeline Albright and Andre Bocelli..Number One Smooth Jazz Mastering with Ragan Whiteside, recording artists such as Elena and ATOK as well as lots of projects that will come to light this year.

It looks like I may need to do some composing at home so I put in a call to my Tech Guru at Sweetwater David Hess and he pointed me in the right direction. The UAD Apollo MK II Quad Interface hit all the right marks and opened up the world of their fantastic sounding plug ins. The WA 47 Mic was chosen for capturing acoustic sounds and my first impression of it is extremely favorable. Add in a basic Midi Controller and away we go!

It’s strictly headphones for now but who knows…..