“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…..

The (New ) Soul of A Machine

Everything is running smoothy on your Mac (or PC)…you’ve put off updating for fear that programs and/or plug ins for your DAW won’t be supported and/or recognized, let alone your hardware. But those dazzling new features keep tempting you..and some of your older less glamorous programs like Pages (Mac’s Version of Word) won’t open documents that were created on a newer version.

So I was posed for a triple disaster:

Going from Mac Yosemite to High Sierra (cue up images of an old Western movie), Logic 10.3 to 10.4 and ProTools 11 to PT 2018. Add in the confusion of establishing a new iLok account for a new iLok (long story..iLok IS the DEVIL) and I was ready for “a world of pain”. The ProTools registration went first and had me running in circles with 17 Tabs open. Next came High Sierra..which I tried to down load and install 5 times, having it quit at the last step. It turns out that ProTools intalls a background app that you have to disable by rewriting the code in the “Launch Agent” that is buried deep in the hard drive. Thanks to You Tube, I was on my way and Logic was next.

The Logic Update went off without a hitch except…all sorts of new sounds and effects are looking for a happy home on my local SSD drive..to the tune of almost 100 gig. So this was a time to face the dreaded “disk clean up” and High Sierra has some great “manage storage” features that make it less painful.

So what’s the good, bad and ugly?

Some plugins got left behind, both Software Instruments and Audio Plug Ins. Nothing too tragic, although strangely, the Izotope Suite works still in PT but not in Logic.

New features in ProTools include Freeze, Track and Channel Presets and Midi Record Capture..all of which have been in Logic for ages. There is also some kind of “Playlist” enhancement that looks pretty underwhelming but I’ll take it for a spin.

Logic is sporting new Drummers and String/Horn Instruments as well as new EQ  and modulation plugins that are taken from Camel Space and Camel Phat…pretty great. Logic has finally implemented “Playlists” (they call it “Alternatives) that have been in ProTools forever; this is huge for me. Add in a new Reverb, new Drum Kits and more Loop Content (not something that I use often but nice to know it’s there) and it looks like a great update. My only gripes now?? EXS Sampler needs an update as Logic needs to implement a fast and better “Drag and Drop and Warp” sampler function in order to compete with Abelton “Live”…AND you STILL can’t move channel strips in the mixer window…but this must be some kind of huge rewrite issue, as people have been requesting this for years,

And High Sierra seems solid too. All in all, a positive update for two great DAWS that I lean on heavily every day.

Hip to the Hop…and you don’t stop..

Toontrack is one of my favorite plug in companies. High quality, fairly low CPU footprint, ease of use, commitment to development. They have a huge library of Genre Specific Drum and Percussion Kits that also come with style appropriate Midi Loops in song construction sections. This particular kit would have usually   been a hard sell to me as I have so many great sounds in this genre and really, how many 808 Kicks do you really need? The fantastic GUI lets you know that this plug in is as much about the esoteric percussion and real Drums as it is Machine Drums. Combine that with about 20 prebuilt kits to get you started and the ability to swap out individual kit pieces. My only gripe? I wish the mixer had more individual channels.

Simply Fab….

Fab Filter has just introduced a major upgrade to what was already one of the “Gold Standard” Limiters for Bus Limiting and Mastering.  It is one of the few that can truly live up to the term “Transparent”. They’ve added lots of new and useful metering options, True Peak Limiting, new algorithms and a “1:1” feature that let’s you hear what the limiter is doing without adding the hype of increased volume. This is not a new concept…Both the L1 and The Slate Mastering Limiter implement it. But I found that the feature in those plug ins revealed just how much damage they were doing to the audio. The Pro-L2 doesn’t flinch, even when pushed hard…essential and the one to beat.

Stressin’

 

 

This is the software piece that I’ve been waiting for….FG Stress.

It’s part of the Slate Digital family of plug ins that has a happy home in their Virtual Mix Rack (along with the usual suspects..EQs, compressors,etc). With every new release/update, the hordes of on line audio pros (and not so pros) hotly debate whether or not the software emulations of their favorite time honored gear have been done EXACTLY. I haven’t had enough “hands on” time with the Emprical Lab’s “Distressor” hardware unit to make that kind of judgement but I will say that it does something unique…and that I like a lot.

Extra punch on that kick? Tame a wild bass? Put that vocal up front?.. even..dare I say it..”glue ” a mix together on the stereo bus?

Yes.

The original hardware manual is on line and explains how to get the best results from this unit.

Highly recommended.