Hi, buddy

Last year, I bought some EarPods for my iPhone and iPod….just for your casual listening stuff. I’m a massive advocate of mixing on headphones… I’ve mixed and mastered a large proportion of material on my Seinheisers over the last 5 years, til my studio space was finished, but since finishing my studio last year, I reverted back to a bit more normality, but I still use headphones for mix prep and editing.

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So, when I tried some prep work on the ear pods, gradually over time  I did a little compression, a little EQ and a bit more balance work….stuff usually reserved for monitors, but when I took my mixes into the studio for the ‘proper mixing’ I’ve been ever more suprised by how accurate those little ear pods are…..

I’ve spent a few hours this week on a mix…with lots of sub bass: usually super hard to place on headphones, but after taking the mix in the studio to finish, I was, again, surprised at how accurate the mix was!

In no way will I be hanging up my monitors, but, it just goes to show what this little bundles can do, and make a ten minute slot of free time more productive than it was before I bought them….

 

2013

Well, another year gone, and quicker than ever.

Been really busy with lots of varied projects. What I was really pleased with was the studio earned it’s money in terms of me using it: importantly, it feels like a creative space and homely: somewhere I want to be (not necessarily an easy feat)

Some highlights of the year (apologies if I missed something out I worked on for you!):

Mixed the Daydream Club EP

Released a couple of remixes under The Rise and Demise of John banner……: one for She Make War  and , a personal highlight for me, one for Martin Rossiter (ex Gene)

Released a debut single as the Rise and Demise of John.. then deleted it

Mixed a rather stirring track with live strings on the One Cure For Man album

Recorded an album in the back of a van

Plus, Edited around 80 tracks to 60 second and 30 second versions, mastered a couple of hundred tracks, mixed 40 or 50 tracks, wrote 15 or so tracks for TV, mixed and mastered an album for a singing astrologer (you couldn’t make it up), and mastered some albums for kids plays

Mixed a track for Sally Hossack for a possible Tricky appearence

Like the last couple of years, the majority of work’s involved artists recording themselves and passing to me to finalise/mix.master.. and I love that DIY-ness.

Albums I’ve enjoyed: Factory Floor, Mazzy Star, I Am Kloot, Midlake, Savages, Nick Cave, Jon Hopkins, John Grant, Johnny Marr. Number one’s got to be the John Grant one, tho: really excellent

Not much of a reader, I read 2 books this year…. 2 more than in 2012: the Moz biography was particularly ace, although totally self indulgent and moany.. what did we expect?

You Never Give Me Your Money about the Beatle’s money: never a Beatles fan, but this book was really excellent

Gig of the year was the Massive Attack vs Adam Curtis one at the MIF. Amazing.

Oh, and I turned 40

2014’s all about starting my production music publishing company up after a lengthy gestation period……everything’s nearly finished… feb/march I think for a launch

Happy New Year, all!

Methods

Since becoming a father 9 years ago, the way I work on music has changed dramatically.

Pre-kids, I used to go into the studio , pretty irregularly, whenever the inspiration took me for writing. For mixing, I only ever mixed in the studio.

When my son popped along, I bought my first Macbook… assuming it’d be just for ideas…. just to get me going, and I’d mix on the Mac Pro.. the ‘proper’ Mac. I rapidly found out that laptops rule the world, and despite less power than a tower, my northern frugal ways (auxes not inserts, bouncing not using more tracks) meant I found the laptop more than powerful enough for what I need.

I soon sold my Mac Pro and went Macbook only, and I’m on my 3rd laptop in 9 years.. 2nd Macbook Pro

I cant recommend them enough… whether a Windows machine or a Mac, the headspace of ‘I have 10 minutes free.. where are my headphones?’ is liberating, and it allows me to work much more than if I were relying on going into the studio to work.

So, these days, for mixing, I do lots of mix prep on headphones….. the Apple buds are great for 25 quid, but I have some Seinnheiser ones too that Ive had for years, and theyre really room-like. After basic balances, editing, pitching, I take the mixes to the studio for speaker treatment, but often the mix is better than I’d imagine. I’d never rely solely on headphones, but with time so tight, it’s reassuring I can get mixes mostly ‘there’ just by sitting on the sofa.

For writing, the studio’s a lovely space. Until I finished the studio (whilst I didn’t have one for 6 years), I’d happily write on a laptop only.. in fact it was such a new way to write I really enjoyed the structure: no MIDI keyboard, just Logic and a pair of headphones….and the built in Mic on the Macbook.

Now I’ve got the studio, it’s been brilliant to write on the toys in there.. I’m working on some piano tracks at the moment, so it was great to use the real piano and mic it up.. such an inspirational thing to play (despite my appalling playing). Today I spent a few hours mixing and writing a few new ideas, just on hardware: Copycat and old synths. Really pleased with the results so far….. importably, I had a brilliant time doing it….. and you just don’t get that purely from a laptop.

I rarely get extended time in the studio ..its an hour here and there these days, so I seem to save up inspiration, then out blurt a few ideas at once. It’ll take a while to turn those into whole tracks, but with my trust headphones, a glass of wine and a sofa, I can nail them in comfort.

But most of all… you got Love Technique

New Order’s ‘Technique’ is my favourite ever album. In 1989 it never left my turntable, cassette machine or ears in general.

The songs were great, the beats were clean, precise and shiny, and the electronics were beautiful. The mixing of that record remains a point of reference for what I want to achieve.

In a way, this album’s been a template for me and what I try to do.

Steve and Bernard gave a keynote chat at the LEAF festival a week or two ago…really interesting chat about how the album was made.

You can watch it here

And here’s the videos and some live appearances at the time

 

She Makes War Rise and Demise of John remix: free and out now

I remixed She Makes War a couple of years ago .

I’m a fan of Laura’s multi-skilled-jack-and-master-of-all-trades approach to what she does..proper old fashioned work ethic. So, when she asked me if I’d like to remix another track off the last album, I was really chuffed.

It was last November.. a time I was trying to focus on other projects and trying to turn work down..but I used the excuse of using the upright piano for the first time.. so, as long as I used that, I let myself have a crack at it!

It was a pretty quick track to build, but went though a lot of tweaks… I even did a full on rap (of sorts) at one point, but thankfully removed it……

Well, here’s the new remix : do download and share (and if you have any remixy friends, point them this way for lots of stems)

Don’t do it

I bang on about not having much time to do stuff I want or need to do. So as I draw closer to finishing the studio, I thought it might be a good idea to beat myself up about the mistakes I’ve made along the way that’s cost me time.. hopefully you might learn what not to do…….

I always knew I wanted a ‘proper’ mixing desk.. and as such I built the worktop around that…..around the desk I eventually got, actually: an 80 cm depth of worktop to take the desk.

What I forgot about, or chose to not think about, was the need for patchbays and the fact you need extra rackspace for it.

Before getting the desk, I built a couple of racks for my outboard…and didn’t particularly think about where to put them… really stupid! Luckily, I’d included a cupboard I’d built for some in/out trays… and with a little modification that did the trick.. swallowed everything pretty perfectly….. hindsight , though, leads me to advise you, potential studio builders, to just build as little as you can, til you get ALL the bits…..

I replaced some shelving, too….the ones I built were OK…. but I wanted some thinner ones, and IKEA started this modular system… cheap and perfect….again, I wish I’d finished the main bits before shelving it.

So… I find myself saying ‘nearly finished’ over and over and over.. popping out to finish a job, then finding another to start, but providing the desk connections all work (I almost daren’t test the patchbay!) all I have left to do is complete sawing up some speaker shelf supports, then do a flipping good hoover, wipe down and I’m done. Ready for use….

I’ll leave you with this.. ace b-side of New Order’s Fine Time..

Feb update

Sporadic blogging, as ever… Not through lack of good stuff to write about, but through a lack of time and it not being on my list of things to do.

So, I finished mixing an EP by the Daydream Club. That was a real treat…… Adam from the band is quite the organised creative! : excellent to mix as everything was so well recorded and edited , it felt very much like old fashioned mixing where you’re not spending time tuning and cleaning up timing , you’re just balancing.
The mix head I had on was very much about balance and light compression/dynamic control…..kind of a 70s feel. I used the newish Waves tape simulator a fair few times…. Sounded especially good on the drum buss, fact fans.
Lots of tweaks later via email lists , the 5 tracks were completed and they’ve gone to U2’s mastering engineer … Really can’t wait for that result. The EP should take the band a long way….. Ace songs and brilliant arrangements, and lovely people.

Studio: desks now in place. Blanking plate sprayed… I went through 3 different greys… still cant get one the same grey as the other channels but it looks good as is.

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Holds my Macbook, control interface and MIDI keyboard, with space to spare. Wired everything up last night…. Now need to label and test it all and have a big tidy up! Had to adapt layout of studio to get patch bays in…. Space is at a premium already!

Other news, I went to the Apple trainers conference. It’s been in Barcelona, Paris , Munich, Media City before… This one was in London….. I love going to this as its a great chance to talk to others from all round the world about problems they all face… And I learn loads. Highlight (other than the free bar!) was a Logic geek Toby Pitman ….. Dead interesting : he was on the music team for the closing ceremony for the Olympics ( with David Arnold) … Went through some advanced Logic stuff and told us what happened with Paul McCartneys fluffed intro!

The ‘big project’ is trickling along nicely… 6 months off to get into it would nice…..

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Stuff and nonsense

First week back at the mortgage paying thing I do, and my god I’m tired. Nice to see the rest of the team, and dare I say it, some of the students.

It’s been time to upgrade my Macbook Pro for a while and my new one arrived yesterday. I need to transfer all my shizzle over, and install all the stuff I need, upgrades etc… I shouldn’t moan: dead lucky to have the thing in the first place, but I’m not seeing a time where I can spend on it with concentration. Certain to have misplaced some install discs, I’m sure.

Had productive chats about the big project, and with baby steps that’s moving. Learning that good web people are much less reliable and findable than musicians!

Saying I was putting my ‘closed’ sign up on Arm Your Ears for a few months, a little something’s sneaked in. I’m doing a bit of mixing on the Daydream Club‘s new EP. Trialing a track and if it works out, will do the other 4 if I can work out the time. Really well produced, well recorded stuff and the lead track (called ‘Little Face’ ) is absolutely beautiful.

Studio wise, am waiting for the blanking plate for the Sabre.. should be a week for that. Just ordered 2 Neutrik patchbays, and looking for looms.

I’ve got to think about the racks I built for my gear.. maybe need to build 2u ones and spread them , or keep the 2 x 3 u ones I built and stand speakers on them.. maybe too high , though.. or maybe build new ones to put n the middle of the speaker shelf for the thin outboard (Drum and Bass Stations, MIDI interface and patchbays) and find another space for the deeper stuff.. TLA and Saffire.. hmm… lots of sitting there looking and thinking.

I intend to get a 23 inch Apple Cinema display down the line on an arm for the wall… so I need to work round that, too…. and there’s still drum machines and little keyboards I need to shelf up…. could do with a few months off!

..So what about Bowie’s single, then? Never been a huge fan, but what a masterstroke… pushing out a new single after 10 years away…how can anyone keep that level of secret anymore for 2 years?!