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3khz Vs Bloopington

after a couple of late nights chewing the fat with Bloopington, we wrote and recorded this acid house inspired little ditty earlier today (while i was also making the dinner!)…




New Decade… The Radio played the sounds we made.

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.


A (ahem, part-time) journey into Dub…

3 weeks into my new University course it dawned on me: I just couldn’t do it… not in a year anyway.

While 4 taught modules totalling 8 hours a week might appear an easy part-time route, the reality is a further 10 hours per module per week of self-study. GNNNK! As each day passed, thoughts of actually recording some music with bands I’m involved with, spending time with my wife and kids, and even doing some really thorough hoovering filled my head, along with the realisation that life  as I know it would have to stop if I’m gonna get an MSc in a year. After some serious soul-searching the answer was clear: Education, learning, self-development are important, but so is having time for myself,  to do the things personally and creatively that I want (need, even) to do. Decision made. Forms signed. As it stands, I think I feel better, though I’m still not sure if I’ve halved the pain or doubled the time I have to endure it. Watch this space, as they say.

In moments of doubt, of late, I tend to turn to this… Danish men with moustaches wearing cardigans.

Workwise, I’ve been recording some demos of my own at home and am hatching plans to get something going with The Young Vanish on a more regular basis. My good friend Mr Dook Dootson of the mighty Portlands is joining me up at 3KHz studio on Monday to track a couple of new demos. It’s always exciting waiting see what he turns up with, and we usually get it down within a few takes. Give that man an old beat up guitar and let the magic happen! (Click here for Dook…!).

Down at Salford I’ve been trying to get to grips with sound synthesis. While making noises with soft-synths can help pass the days/hours/weeks, studying the mechanics behind it all (a necessary evil) is not as straightforward. I have a long list of areas to master including, oscillators, filters, envelopes, Frequency modulation and synthesis methods. So far I’m just about getting on with the “source and modifier” paradigm, and in particular, subtractive synthesis, which is quite limited. I’d like to be able to just go blank and nod in agreement at whatever anyone tells me about the subject, like I believe it all, but it’s not enough. It has to sink in…

On a slightly more creative front I’ve just put the finishing touches to a Dub mix of Bob Marley’s “lively up yourself”. The practical side of this was highly enjoyable. The academic ‘scientific report’ side, not so. It’s been good delving into Dub – something I’ve never done before. This week alone I’ve consumed the Trojan Dub set Volume 1, Augustus Pablo’s “King Tubby meets Rockers Uptown” as well as various Horace Andy, Lee Perry, Errol Thompson, Mad Professor and Scientist. So, not a bad week. Trying to replicate the Dub style seemed daunting at first, but after hours and hours of listening a lot of the production techniques revealed themselves. In en era of ProTools and plug-ins its easy to forget that those Dub pioneers did it all analogue and in real time. They had probably had a few guys manning the desk and the effects, and were fuelled by more than a skinny latte, but they had to know the track, know the gear, and know how to mix. Trying to control the feedback loop you create by patching a delay insert back into itself while dropping tracks – or whole sections of the song out using sub-groups – is not easy to get right… never mind getting the timing right, the tone right, the depth and width of the mix right. Those guys played the desk like it was an instrument. Sheer skill and intuition, and possibly more than just the one take…

I salute you, pioneers of Dub.

One final word from King Tubby.


Interesting article Re: digital ID in this weekend’s Sunday Times…

Reader, I tweeted him (from The Sunday Times)

As Autumn reddens, one last glance back at Summer…

Not content with kicking off the summer with an epic trek to Cornwall and back, in mid August we headed out on another driving endurance test to the Green Man festival down in the Brecon Beacons, for 4 days of music, cider, mischief and a hell of a lot of rain. Despite the worst weather possible, a top time was had by all with highlights including The Flaming Lips Saturday night headline slot (check out this time-lapse sequence of their show opener!), Steve Mason on the Friday, and the sublime talents of John Smith, accompanied by the equally gifted Jon Thorne: Their set early on the Saturday evening was extremely special, and we were all moved by it. That was even before the cider had properly kicked in…

A third marathon drive, this one all the way up to Northumberland via Whitby was squeezed in before I headed out to NYC for an 8 day tracking and mix session with The Portlands at Skyline Studios. 6 planned tracks became 10, plus a further 6 acoustic numbers were laid down, so all in all a successful trip for the band. This new material is due for release soon, but in the meantime here’s the video to the track “Noctilucent” I produced for them at my home studio earlier in the summer. I’ve also just found this recent clip of them doing an acoustic version of “3 Spaniards” from the “on the couch” videocast. While in NYC I also became the proud owner of a mint condition 1969 Fender Jaguar in sunburst. Thank you 30th Street guitars!

Workwise, I kicked off the summer with the mastering of James Neal’s “Mine” album, a project I had worked with him on for over a year while at Futureworks. I recorded and mixed all 11 tracks in the Neve and SSL studios, and as I write the artwork is being finalized and the album should be out soon. While the world waits, here’s a Sneak Peak.

While at Futureworks and working on the “Mine” album I also produced for Stuart Hudson, a.k.a. The Young Vanish. We recorded a handful of tracks, before moving the project to my home studio after I graduated. The first track we recorded (in my dining room!) was Drag Queen. We took a very simple approach to the recording: double-tracked acoustic guitar parts, using different guitar/mic combinations for each take, then hard pan them, leaving plenty of space for the lead vocal in the middle and 3rd and 5th harmonies for BV’s just off to each side.  Stuart’s Guild M20 recorded really well with an ’87, and we put up a ‘414 in front of a Martin 0028. Reverbs came via a TC M3000… I’m really loving the ‘acoustic guitar spaces’ and the ‘wood rooms’ at the moment. At the last minute we put a really simple bass-line down, and once we were happy with the overall balance I put the whole mix thru’ two stages of stereo 1073’s (Neve clones) gain, which really gave it some warmth and brought out much more of the low end. Working with Stuart is an ongoing process and I hope to have some more tracks up soon.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll get some more examples of my work posted, including a dub mix for a short film, sound design for an animated computer game trailer, and various music production projects I’ve been doing with other artists.

This is me… Or is it?

What is about to follow are the ponderings of Paul Maddocks, an Audio Engineer based in North West England, specializing in music recording and production and audio post production…

I have recently completed a Professional Diploma in Audio Engineering and production at Futureworks School of Media, and after a short break of 15 years am now back high full-time higher eduction, studying a Master’s Degree in Audio Production at Salford University. Study areas currently include: Digital Studio Production, Sound Synthesis, Creative Audio environments, Digital Control in Audio, Audio Post Production, Multi-platform Distribution and Social Media.

The last of these – Social Media – is a concept that is pretty new to me, and while i use Facebook – and occasionally Flickr – actively, it’s something I’ve never really given that much thought to. It’s just there and i use it as and when, posting whatever, saying what I want, buying stuff too easily, keeping in touch with friends and the (usually) odd relative, etc, etc… Which brings me to the idea of our “Online Identity”, or in particular MY online identity.

The first thing i thought about when considering an online identity is the difference between reality and perception. I think I know who I am (?), but what do others think of me based on my activity out there on The Web? I think I’m generally being “me”, but is the perception the same? Inversely, there are plenty of people out there who are intentionally, wholeheartedly trying to be something – somebody – else. It’s an interesting freedom, if that’s the word.

My currently limited understanding is that we all – sometimes unknowingly – develop elements of our online identity just by clicking a mouse in our browser (in particular by our online spending habits), and that’s something we need to be aware of. However, the online identity of ourselves we actively promote – via social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Vimeo, etc – is what interests me most. While my own Facebook profile will continue to serve as platform for socializing with friends and family, sharing info, images, videos and ideas (sometimes rather randomly), the aim is to use this blog as a platform to help focus on my new concerted effort towards promoting my professional online identity as a Sound Engineer. As a result I’m hoping it will lean towards audio/music related topics, subject areas I’m currently studying, projects I’m working on, and – most importantly – stuff that’s interesting, or just plain daft. As a result the facts may from time to time be diluted with nonsense…