2016 in review

Can’t believe how quickly the year’s gone..only 12 months since my last annual review.

As ever, a fruitful year: never  a shortage of things to do.

Have released a couple of albums on my music for media imprint  : an Ambient one and my favourite one…a Moterik album. Lots of music of mine on there. Signed a co publishing deal to try to kick the company into the stratosphere in 2017

Just finished mixing album 3 for One Cure for Man and lots of mastering for a few artists.

Did a load of production for Hannah Brine for some publishing avenues.

I slipped in a remix for We Three and The Death Rattle

I mixed most of the stuff on this over the last 2 years, but glad it’s all out as an album: Lux by The Daydream Club

 

I recorded and mixed/mastered another album at Simon Says festival

Favourite plug ins for me this year have been the Soundtoys mini versions : the Little Radiator and the Primal Tap have both been on pretty much every mix I’ve done in 2016: super simple and sound great.

Books? : Read the Mixerman books: all of them highly recommended but ‘The Daily Adventures Of’ is a great place to start.

The Johnny Marr autobiography is a good read: still leaves lots of mystery to the bits you want to know more of (for me, anything behind the Smiths and Electronic) but it’s written is such an open and conversational way you can’t help but love him…and you can’t say that about Moz’s biog a couple of years back

Three gigs in a year is unusual for me these days, but I made them count this year! Massive Attack, John Grant and PJ Harvey:  a trio of ace-ness.

Song Of The Year is ‘I Feel The Weight’ by Miike Snow: it’s perfect meld of production and a rock solid ‘song’. Beautiful.

Albums I’ve loved:

Bowie, Beyonce, Iggy Pop, Bon Ivor, Mystery Jets, Shura, Miike Snow, Radiohead, Leonard Cohen, Meilyr Jones

 

2017 holds more of the same: got a few music for media albums to finish and get out.Am doing some recording and mixing for Kafka Diva in January for their new album, too and things always just crop up out of the blue.

You just keep working, don’t you?’Get yer tackle out and see what bites’ as Paul Calf said

For those of you who work on your own, do bear with it: it’s hard to keep going sometimes when you can’t see the wood for the trees…but there’s always light at the end of the tunnel

All the best for 2017

 

 

 

Leonard Cohen

I was first introduced to Cohen in my teens…There was an album of covers around in ’91 called I’m Your Fan with some versions by bands I liked,and , like so many other things I got into, I got ‘Im Your Man’ out from the local library to listen to. I was puzzled…musically it sounded like a bunch of MIDI files, but with this amazing voice. ‘First We Take Manhattan’ : what an opener…still sounds great when I hear it now….I’d always imagined New Order covering it for some reason.

So, I started to delve into his other work: I got ‘The Songs of Leonard Cohen’ on vinyl from a charity shop I worked at, and this is the album that plumbed straight into my blood. I took it to Manchester when I moved and it became a staple for my time up there. I loved the classical guitar and the female backing vocals.. I’ve just been listening to it tonight and it’s pretty beautiful but ramshackle! Listen to ‘So Long,Marianne’ and things just get thrown in then chucked out! It’s great!

Later albums left me a little cold for a while: it was the music…just sounding so cheap and Portasound-y…but then again, I loved Momus, and all his albums sounded that way too, so I always dipped in and out of his albums over the years to see what he was up to.

His last one, released just a few weeks ago really is lovely: razor sharp words, and, maybe my age, but the music sits well with me now.

May he rest in peace.

Zen and The Art Of Mixing

Regular readers will know I l-o-v-e-d the Daily Adventures Of Mixerman.. I really can’t recommend that enough. Well, Eric Sarafin’s written another three (soon to be four) books, on mixing, recording and mastering… so was super keen to read each of those. I’ve started with the Mixing one, just because I love mixing.

zenandtheartofmixing3D-400

What was apparent about The Daily Adventures of…. was Eric’s writing style was so forthright: I was wondering how it would translate to a book about a relatively narrow subject (but with wide scope within it), and one with already a load of technical books out there (‘use a DBX 160 on a snare, use a 1073 on a vocal’, ‘let’s examine standing waves’.. this sorts of things) The great thing is, this book isn’t really about these technical aspects.. they are unavoidable when covering this subject, but this is a book with attitude, and, that word is key to why this book works. It’s made me look hard at how I have and do approach mixing, and raised lots of things for me to try in future mixes. It offers pragmatic advice about everything from pricing your skills to phase coherency.

Even opinions you might question are presented with such weight and with such eloquence you just think ‘well, if Eric says this is how it is, then this is how it is’.. or, at the very least, you feel better about sticking to your original thoughts because you’ve weighed up an argument

“Mixing is a game of confidence. If you’re confident, you’ll mix great. If you’re not, you won’t. Confidence in mixing is critical” I love this quote, and this is a theme that crops up a few times in the book: makes perfect sense, really.. we’re all tortured artists with senses of self doubt, but mixing is where the whole process should come together.. we should be absolutely certain we can make a kick ass mix.. its the producer’s job to have presented us with the elements…let the producer fret, not the mixer!

Anyway, whether you’re new to mixing or have been doing it for years, this book’s great: you will get technical geek stuff from it, but you’ll get a host of the thoughtful stuff we all go through : absolute gold.

As an aside, here’s Eric on Pensado’s Place : is it me, or doesn’t Herb like him?

 

Best book ever?

Paul from Seamus Wong recommended The Daily Adventures of Mixerman a couple of years ago… and finally got round to reading it

ReadTheDiaries

It’s a satire based on the recording of a big budget album in 2002: back in the days when major labels threw money at bands, rich with the money from reselling catalogue on CD. Mixerman (engineer/producer Eric Sarafin) details his sessions with Bitch Slap, a ‘bidding war band’ : not particularly much to do with the technicalities…mic choice, pre amp settings and the like, but a massive amount to do with the idiocy of major labels, and the characters surrounding a band signed for silly amounts of money with the pressure on to sell hits. Well, to sell hits, they need to record hits, and that’s where the diaries reveal such a wealth of characters anyone who’s ever worked in the music industry will recognise. The recording of these hits is painful at best: ghost bassists, session drummers, girlfriends, preening singers, astounding wastes of money…all told in such a warm way by Eric with a story that unfolds in such a great way.Very much a time capsule in some respects of how never ending budget albums were made.

Mixer man clearly knows his onions: his people skills, the way he reads a room and the band, the way he recognises the dynamics of the team and tries so hard to progress the sessions is so interesting, and, so often made me laugh out loud.

This book should be essential reading for budding producers, engineers and bands: read it, absorb it and the mistakes that were made and learn from it!

More books to read, am some way into Zen and The Art of Mixing, and that’s making me look at mixing in a different way: great perspective changer.

 

Simon Says Pop Up Studio 2016

Annual festival recording made me return to Demontfort Hall for the Simon Says festival last weekend.

The last two years I’ve been in the Garden Suite.. lovely vibe there.. this year, we were stuck upstairs out of the way… less vibes, but some good stuff recorded.

Usual fighting against adjacent sound stages and time, but, again, managed to capture some lovely performances with a couple of students doing lots of the work. Mixed in between sessions then finished mixing off and mastered super quick in my studio here.

I used Logic X again: I set up a template in advance with go-to reverbs and delays to make the mixing as smooth as possible… short plate, hall-verb, amp verb and 2 tape delays: slap-back and mid length delay.. along with compression and EQ that was that.

Recording was taken care of with a pair of Beta 57s: I love these.. directional and warm. There was a couple of 58s and 3 DI’s to cover every eventuality.

IMG_2800

All this was plumbed into an Alesis USB Multimix desk : this is the 5th year I’ve used that.. been pretty rock solid bar 1 restart.

I rarely record these days… I do much more mixing out of choice.. I can get super bored in recording sessions waiting for stuff to happen… so it’s great to gorge on loads of artists over a weekend recording some magic super quickly with no hanging around!

 

 

 

 

Song Exploder

So much great stuff out there in the Wild West that is the internet.

Screen Shot 2016-05-21 at 20.58.19Song Exploder takes a song, and speaks to the writers and producers about how it was written. Super simple premise, super short in length.. a definite easy win for any song writers.

Recent highlights.. Iggy Pop ( I like him) and Wheatus (I don’t like them), but all the episodes are fascinating

Take a listen here  

Pass it on

A great example of one thing leading to another… a recent blog post was on Bobby Owsinski’s Inner Circle Podcast….and how brilliant it was/is.

anc

Well, through this, I found out Bobby is a regular on Audionowcast: it’s been going for ten years… so I’ve been ploughing through recent episodes. The premise didn’t inspire confidence: a group of audio geeks chatting for a couple of hours… but it’s brilliant. post production You’ve got guys at the top of their game talking about anything and everything audio related.

I’ve been learning a tonne of stuff about how post production works, foley, vocal chains, mixing techniques….just a load of really useful info. Reassuringly, I’m not out of my depth. I love the tone of the show: and even though all of the people are proper, and I mean proper professionals, they’re all still finding the feet, just like us mere mortals.

Go check it out