Tell us about your studio setup.
A51 - ATC25A monitors w/ATC 12-1Sub, Avid HDX in 12 Core 2.66MHz SSD tower and Avid Thunderbolt Native HD 15" laptop SSD w/ (two fixed, three mobile) Avid 16x16 Analog HD I/O. Avid Artist Mix fader system. At AirShip Labs tracking room: 4ea. GENEX AUDIO GXA8 A/D converters, 1ea. GENEX AUDIO GXD8 D/A converters into 2ea. Avid HD 16x16 Digital I/O, Brainstorm DCD12 master-clock, 1ea. GML HRT 9100 10x4 Line Mixer, 8 personal monitor channels Aviom A16II w/ Aviom A16iV2 A/D and 2ea. A16D-Pro distributor boxes.
High-end signal path approach: short run Cello Strings & Gotham GAC3 NOS Brown microphone cables running directly to the preamps. 64 channels GML preamps scoring & vocals, 8 channels UTA MPDI-4, 16 channels Vintage Class A Neve 1084/31105/1272 racked, 4 channels API preamp, 10 channels, Millennia Media, Focusrite ISA 115HD pair, 1ea. Siemens V76 tube preamp, 2 channels EAR 834M tube preamp.
SSL stereo 384, Alan Smart C1 &C2 two channel limiter compressor, Vintage Urei 1176-D, Vintage LA2A, 2 Esoteric Audio Research EAR 660 tube compressor/limiters, 1 Fairman TMC stereo tube mastering compressor. 1 vintage RCA BA6A tube compressor, 1 RETRO176 tube compressor/limiter, Bricasti M7 stereo reverb, TC-M6000 w/Lark Mastering & Reverb software, AMS RMX16 Reverb, AMS DMX1580S Delay Processor, TC M3000 reverb processor, Quantec Room Simulator Yardstick w/Apogee 1000A/D & 1000D/A, GML 8200 stereo parametric EQ, GML8900 stereo Range Controller, 2ea. Neve/Focusrite ISA 110 LE pre/EQ, 3ea. Focusrite ISA131 Dynamics Modules, 1 set Stax007 EarSpeakers w/ SRM717 preamp.
Vintage Tube, Dynamic and Ribbon Microphones available by request.
A large number of plugins including Melodyne on both the HDX system and the Thunderbolt HD Native system.
Analog or digital and why?
I like to record analog, but my recording work is almost exclusively digital these days as most budgets don't have the ability to absorb the expense for the use of new tape stock. I'm not a fan of using used tape.
The technical aspects of Avid HD ProTools have recently gotten good enough to match the sound of the originally expensive Sonic Solutions digital mastering systems of ten years ago. Clients have a creative expectation of being able to fix aspects of sound or performances immediately. This is often most difficult for the singers. There are virtually no track limitations in digital recording other than common sense and budgetary management sanity to make creative calls on performances.
Audio today is held up to be close to perfect by so many as if it were a visual product. I want someone thinking about performance and not about being perfectly on pitch to make analog tracking performance acceptable. And A&R may continue to ask for updates for several weeks past the mixing sessions dates as there may be more than one decision maker who needs to sign off on the project's final mix acceptance. The reality is this. Recording studio's with analog mixing desks can't always remain tied up or subject to last minute recall set ups to cost-effectively allow the use of analog. If using analog desks for processing, it is not unusual for the faders to be set evenly across the desk with all automation moves being executed within Avid ProTools or some other digital software of the DAW being employed.
In truth, emotionally inspiring musical performances are not alway about having everything being musically perfect in timing or execution.
Can you share one music production tip?
Spend sufficient time in rehearsals before you go into the studio. When you do track the recording or overdub, get the sound and the performance the way you want it to sound when you do it. Commit to a production decision and set the resulting track into it's proper place within the balance of the mix. Don't hold onto the expectation to be necessarily fixing anything in the final mix. Build the mix of the recording as you go.
Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
To any film and classical recording clients, Mark Willsher is someone whom I have worked with on various music recording projects and supported as rental recording equipment vendor for more than twenty years. I'm still learning about SoundBetter and those other professionals who may be listed on this site. I have relationships with a number of very qualified mixers and studio facilities that I have worked with over the years. It is a bit about knowing how the creative chemistry will work with and among your mates.
What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
That I simply rent boxes. It is a fact. No matter how much any vendor or service provider may choose to discount their facility, services or equipment, the customer will always expect to receive 150+% professional treatment and full service support in any production crisis at all times.
What questions do you ask prospective clients?
What is the intent of our work? What is the budget of the project? What is the timeframe of the work to be done? When is the start date? Who will be playing on the basic tracks. To help me understand a creative perspective and expectation, provide me the names of five commercially released records that the artist likes the sound of and that may also be similar to the music to be recorded on the project.
What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
Bring your best work and so will I.
What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
I was the lead singer in two bands while in High School in the SF Bay Area. I began my professional recording and production career as a staff balance engineer working on 8 track 1" and 16 track 2" tape at Wally Heider Studios in San Francisco in 1971. I did the first 16 song recordings of the Golden Gate Rhythm Section /Journey including their New Year's Eve remote recording at Winterland in 1973. I did early demo and studio album work for Ronnie Montrose, Sammy Hagar, two albums Commander Cody, Sopwith Camel, two Clifton Chenier records. I was the backing engineer for Producer David Briggs for the Spindizzy releases of Kathy McDonald, Nils Lofgrin and Jerry Williams and some of David's work on Neil Young's "Tonights The Night". Boz Scaggs, Cold Blood, Y&T, Link Wray, Ed Michelle, WAR, Graham Central Station, Pharo Saunders, John Sebastian, Erik Jacobsen, Tommy TuTone, Turk Murphy Jazz, Ceasar's Latin Band, etc, among others. Some additional credits are listed under my name on the AllMusic.com site.
How would you describe your style?
A classic analog recording approach to tracking with competent musical players to achieve balanced artist performances captured in this digital recording world. Work to be fully prepared in advance of the sessions to not be in the way at the moment of artistic inspiration, to be able to capture the emotional intent of the song.
Which artist would you like to work with and why?
Professional entertainers and performing songwriters / bands as they have some perspective of how their music is being responded to by their audience. I appreciate great drummers who know how to swing as well as rock at all tempos.
What type of music do you usually work on?
Local music and early stage start-up performing musical acts at various stages of career development and recorded product releases.
Recent rental equipment & remote recording projects: Chickenfoot/Hagar, James Taylor, Joe Satriani, Machinehead, Billy Talbot Band, Thile & Meyer, Darlingside, Laurie Lewis, Billie Joe Armstrong & Norah Jones, Meyer Sound, Narada Michael Walden, Taylor Eigsti piano remote, Gospel Whiskey Runners remote, The Lady Crooners, Joe Rut, composer George Peter Tingley piano, Cypus String Quartet, Well Tempered Productions and the remote Film Score Recordings of the last Two Hobbit films in Wellington, NZ.
What's your strongest skill?
Bringing out the best of creative and talented individuals to work together cooperatively toward achieving the common goal in some level of engineering and/or joint production capacity.
What do you bring to a song?
Professionally, I have been making records since 1970. While I understand how to lead the process, I also know how to take a support role as the assigned producer or engineer without disrupting the creative process. I bring a vast wealth of recording knowledge regarding microphone selection, placement and reading of room acoustics in tracking set ups.
What's your typical work process?
Listen closely to the client's request, discuss the musical preparation and song material to be tracked, the preferred location based on the session requirements, acoustic treatments if needed, those participants who will be at the session, the session timeline or schedule of the project and the defined goal of the recording work being planned.
Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
Professional recording services and high-end audio recording equipment resources and for a day, week or month, or longer per the studio use or remote location recording project .