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New Decade… The Radio played the sounds we made.

January 26, 2011

I’m not one for thinking about – let alone publicising – new years resolutions: giving things up I actually like, doing more of the things I don’t really enjoy… So, at no point did I think (say) “I should probably make more of an effort with my blog”. If I wanted to at any point in 2010 I would/could have. I’m pretty confident there are bloggers out there who feel that avoiding sitting down and starting to write is a bit like putting off your homework, and I’m happy to remain one of them. That’s why, over a month since my last post, a new year tick-tocking away, a new decade dawned, I have finally got off  my arse (or, in fact – got on it) and managed a post. I’m more than happy for this blog to a remain a sporadic, often-shambolic, semi-retrospective studio diary. If it happens to make sense and/or be of interest….bonus.

3Khz studios shares it’s live/control room with a family of 3 women and 1 black cat. These happen to be my wife, daughters and our cat Pickle (a bit of her is above…). They’re pretty happy for me to take over parts of the house for recording projects, but Christmas is a different story… They want their house/life/dad/husband back and so the studio has a mini hibernation. I spend a fair bit of this “free time” sobbing into my mulled wine missing my gear, in between playing with the kids, cooking, eating, putting batteries in toys, taking toys out of their packaging prisons, eating and drinking. Did I mention eating?

As soon as the nippers were back at school the outboard rack, mixer, monitors, mics, cables, guitars and vibes were rolled back into their rightful place and – so far – it’s been a busy month. Dook has been up to put the vocal down on a version of one of the new Portlands tracks, only to decide what we’ve tracked is too fast. At the time what we recored was only a demo, with no idea of lyrics and/or melody but we got down a VAST sounding track. Ho hum… back to the drawing board. He’s back next week so we can batter thru it’ and get the whole thing down again in a day. At the right tempo. Promise. If something’s not right we’re not the kind of people to live with it. It has to be done again the right way. there’s nowt worse than listening to a track you’ve done and wishing you’d made it sound so it didn’t make you cringe. Shortcuts are for time-wasters.

Mid-month I had a cracking 2-day session with a young lady called Rachel Shearn who is singer/songwriter based in south Manchester. We recorded and mixed 4 tracks over 2 days – mainly very sparse acoustic tracks with her great voice on top. I double-tracked some of the guitars just to see what it gave us, and played around with FX to the “nth” degree. We both came to the conclusion that less is most definitely more, so all the delays/sends/reverbs got turned down, and the honest recordings we made came  thru in the end. There’s a rough mix of a track called Midnight Swimming here…

Rachel putting down some keys to the track ‘Voyeur’. We used a pair of spaced KM184’s into a pair of BAE1073’s (Neve clones – but just as good!)

The piano is our studio 1983 Yamaha U3 – which I am slowly learning to love as I murder Jazz standards on it.

January also saw the return of Acoustic Wednesday’s own Stuart Hudson (AKA The Young Vanish) to 3Khz studios and in the space of about 2 and a bit hours (including a big pot of tea and some slabs of Christmas cake) we tracked pretty much all of “Elevate”. Ash on bass really added to the track, and while it’s not finished, what we have so far sounds like this lovely link here… While we keep saying we will get this album finished “at some point”, I’m pretty confident this year will be the one when Stuart finishes it. Come on Sir!

Ash’s Jazz bass was fed into an Avalon U5 pre, then lined into a TLC1 compressor and hit at about 8:1. Stu’s vocals were done thru a UA6176 pre/comp using an ’87…

If I remember rightly I may have compressed at about 4:1 on the way in with the vocal. With an 1176 it’s difficult to hear.

The Main mics for Stu’s strummed parts were a pair of KM184’s in X/Y configuration into Neve 1073 clones, with a Royer 122v (reverse side to the guitar) into another 1073 clone (with the phase flipped, as it was 180 degrees off axis!). These figure-8 ribbon mics are much brighter on the flip-side from a few feet away from the source. Something to do with the angle of the ribbon in the mic! There’s also a 414 over in the corner for some room ambience. This ambience was pretty bass heavy to say the least. A little raise of the fader was all we used in the end.

In between the recording and mixing I have managed to find some time to practise the piano also. I guess there’s no time limit on it, as i’m not out to win a badge or ‘owt. I’d just like to be able to know my way around it as they’re such lovely instruments. I think i’m up to about lesson #4 and so far can play 2 jazz standards to a very basic level. This week I am gonna concentrate on learning all the open/closed 2-5-1 chord progressions in all major keys so – like with my guitar playing – finger/muscle memory can dig you out of a spot when you don’t know where you are! This is more applicable to me than most people.

I managed to catch The National and Arcade Fire pre-Christmas (both VERY VERY good in their own way), before seeing my first New Year gig with the aptly-named Scottish “supergroup” The Burns Unit at Club Academy last week. If I’m honest I only really went to see John Smith, who once again captivated an audience unaware of his talents. The gig started with maybe 10-20 people nervously forming an “audience” and by the time he finished the set with Winter, the place was pretty much packed… standing there gob-smacked. This mans needs to be heard live.

More of the same planned for this month on the recording front, while next month it’s time to start getting excited about Efterklang live in Manchester (and on a Friday night, WITH babysitters…!). March sees the mighty Deerhunter play in the city. If I can be arsed, I’ll endeavour to get another post out before then.



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One Comment
  1. Top stuff sir, don’t forget, you’re coming to see Sheffield’s next big thing on the 10th of March at Night and Day.

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