AF’s Weblog

August 28, 2011

Apogee Duet 2 Review

About four years ago, Apogee launched a digital audio FireWire interface called Duet that offered two analog ins and outs. In the meantime, competitors have brought out some very interesting products, especially RME with its attractive Babyface. The brand with the violet logo couldn’t keep its arms crossed so they launched an improved version 2. The verdict?

The FireWire format, which disappeared from the MacBook some time ago only to reappear a few months later, seemed not to convince Apogee. Since the interfaces of this manufacturer are only compatible with Apple computers, they depend on the decisions of Steve Jobs and his friends. That’s why Apogee decided to change its strategy and add a USB controller to its compact interface One. The Duet 2 we review today went the same path — USB instead of FireWire. Is it the only change? No, but before we go any further let’s start unpacking the new Duet.

Unpacking

Apogee Duet 2

Let’s say it like it is: the Duet 2 impressed us as soon as we unpacked it. It looks very nice, professional and rugged. It is miles away from the plastic-looking One and it looks more modern and classy than the Babyface. In summary, it looks great and reliable, a bit like Apple computers… As for the weight and dimensions, the Duet is a bit bigger and heavier than the RME Babyface — its main competitor —, even if the difference is minor.

Along with the interface came a breakout cable with the mic/instrument inputs on big (huge!) XLR and 1/4″ TRS combo connectors, as well as outputs on 1/4″ TRS jacks for your speakers. A small aluminum box is available if you want XLR outputs and separate mic and instrument inputs. Why? For a more convenient fixed installation. Price? €81.33, VAT incl. It’s up to you…

 

Apogee Duet 2

On the front of the interface you’ll find a handy headphones out; The rear side includes a connector for the breakout cable, a USB port and the power connection. An external PSU is also provided but we didn’t use it since our MacBook Pro was powerful enough to feed the Duet 2. The interface has only the essential connections: neither digital nor MIDI ins/outs… A pity considering that the Babyface does have them.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

Among high-end mobile interfaces, the Apogee Duet 2 has some important advantages against competitors, like its looks, the manufacturing quality, the OLED display, the soft limiter, and the quality of the preamps and converters. On the other hand, the interface has neither digital nor MIDI ins/outs and provides no processing facilities (EQ, reverb) while some others (e.g. the Babyface) do offer these features for the same price. Moreover, PC users won’t have the possibility to use the Duet 2 — typical Apogee. These are many cons but some Mac users will be seduced by the simplicity of the Maestro software.

Advantages:

  • Manufacturing quality
  • Nice design
  • Audio quality of the preamps and converters
  • USB powered
  • Great OLED display
  • Convenient encoder
  • Soft limiter
  • Maestro’s ease of use

Drawbacks:

  • Supports only Mac computers
  • Big XLR connectors on the breakout cable
  • No processing (EQ, reverb)
  • No digital in/out
  • No MIDI in/out

To read the full detailed review see:  Apogee Duet 2 Review

Advertisements

August 22, 2011

The Top 10 Effects Pedal Targets

Filed under: Effect Pedals — Tags: , , , — audiofanzine @ 9:27 am

A lot of guitar multieffects have a footpedal that can be assigned to various parameters. Volume and wa are no-brainer pedal assignments, but there are a whole lot of other parameters that are well-suited to pedal control. Doing so can add real-time expressiveness to your playing, and variety to your sound.

Some multieffects make this process easy: They have patches pre-programmed to work with their pedals. But sometimes the choices are fairly ordinary and besides, the manufacturer’s idea of what you want to do may not be the same as what youwant to do. So, it pays to spend a little time digging into the manual so you can figure out how to assign the pedal to any parameter you want.

 

DigiTech’s GNX4 is one of many multieffects that has a built-in footpedal so you can add real-time expressiveness to your playing.

 

Certain parameters are a natural for foot control; here are ten that can make a big difference to your sound.

 

  • Distortion drive. This one’s great with guitar. Most of the time, to go from a rhythm to lead setting you step on a switch, and there’s an instant change. Controlling distortion drive with a pedal lets you go from a dirty rhythm sound to an intense lead sound over a period of time. For example, suppose you’re playing eighth-note chords for two measures before going into a lead. Increasing distortion drive over those two measures builds up the intensity, and slamming the pedal full down gives a crunchy, overdriven lead.

 

  • Chorus speed. If you don’t like the periodic whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of chorus effects, assign the pedal so that it controls chorus speed. Moving the pedal slowly and over not too wide a range creates subtle speed variations that impart a more randomized chorus effect. This avoids having the chorus speed clash with the tempo.

Some other effects…

  • Increasing the output of anything (e.g., input gain, preamp, etc.) before the compressor. This allows you to control your instrument’s dynamic range; pulling back on the pedal gives a less compressed (wide dynamic range) signal, while pushing down compresses the signal. This restricts the dynamic range and gives a higher average signal level, which makes the sound “jump out.” Also note that when you push down on the pedal, the dynamics will change so that softer playing will come up in volume. This can make a guitar seem more sensitive, as well as increase sustain and make the distortion sound smoother.

And there you have the top ten tips. There are plenty of other options just waiting to be discovered – so put your pedal to the metal, and realize more of the potential in your favorite multieffects.

To read the full detailed article see:  The Top 10 Effects Pedal Targets

August 16, 2011

Fender 60th Anniversary Precision Bass Limited Edition Review

Filed under: Bass — Tags: , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 4:23 pm

We don’t turn 60 everyday, and we don’t always have the opportunity to celebrate the advent of our species to this planet: the “Homo Sapiens Bassistus-Electricus.” Although Leo Fender was not the inventor of the electric bass, he found out how to make a great success out of the forgotten concept developed by Audiovox 14 years earlier. And this allowed our favorite instrument to conquer the international music scene to end up in your hands — you lucky, spoiled kids who have been pampered for 60 years.

Forgotten Fatherhood

 

bass fiddle model 736

Yes, the bass guitar was born in 1937 — not 1951 — from the hands of the man who had already conceived the fist electromagnetic pickup for a musical instrument (launched in 1932 and originally used to amplify zithers, pianos and Spanish guitars). A forgotten genius, a good Samaritan took pity on double-bass players who always had to travel alone because of their bulky instrument: in those days, once the double-bass was in the car there was no space left except for the driver. The poor bass player had to drive by himself and “enjoy the road” alone, unlike the other members of the band who generally traveled together in the same vehicle. The name of the great inventor was Paul Tutmarc and even though he was more than one decade ahead of his competitors in the electric-music market, his business was a failure. He could never apply for a patent for his electromagnetic pickup at the end of the 30’s because Bell had been controlling the exploitation of induction since 1875, when Alexander Graham Bell applied for his telephone patent. And the instruments Paul Tutmarc developed were only locally successful (his company was based in Seattle) and quickly forgotten. Nevertheless, he developed the first electric double-bass: the 1933 Bass Fiddle in cello format; and its little sister, the Bass Fiddle “Model 736” (1936), which had a more compact size (about 1 meter long) and was the first bass to be held horizontally.

As a consequence, Leo Fender was the inventor neither of the electric bass nor the electric guitar. The first amplified guitar is officially attributed to Georges Beauchamp in 1931, just before he founded the Ro-Pat-In Corporation with Adolph Rickenbacker. Called “Electro Spanish Guitar,” the instrument had a hollow body and featured a piezoelectric system.

 

Les Paul The Log

The first solid body guitar was “The Log,” a prototype designed in 1940 by Les Paul that was never marketed.  So, give to Caesar that which is Caesar’s!

However, this doesn’t reduce the genius of the man from Fullerton who understood better than no one how to convert technological innovations developed by others into successful businesses — thus paving the way for electric music genres.

 

Leo Fender literally created the electric guitar market and was the first entrepreneur to venture a mass production strategy in a very small industry. His success is well deserved considering that he succeeded where most of his predecessors failed. Without the success of the 1950 Broadcaster guitar (quickly renamed “Nocaster” and later “Telecaster”), Gibson’s bigwigs would have never recalled Les Paul who gave his name to the first solid-body guitar of the manufacturer (1952). The same thing applies to bass guitar: without the success of the Precision Bass, launched in 1951, Gibson would not have developed the EB-1 (1952) and Rickenbacker its Model 4000 (their first bass guitar) whose design was motivated by the success of the ’57 Precision Bass.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

As a summary, my personal opinion about the timbre of this lady is that it sounds like an excellent Precision Bass. I hope the simplicity of my judgment will be understood among fans of this classic: you can run to your dealer and try it out. Players who don’t especially like Leo Fender’s standard or who prefer a Jazz Bass, won’t be converted to a new religion. But give it a try anyway, trying it out is free! Personally, I had a lot of fun playing this bass, which will nevertheless make you a bit nostalgic: how many technological improvements in 60 years! Intelligently upgraded old recipes will always succeed. With the same philosophy in mind, Fender also offers a 50th Anniversary Jazz Bass that makes me curious. The price of this lovely Precision Bass is somewhere between 1,350 and 1,500 euros with the case, a strap and all accessories you need to adjust the instrument. I wish a beautiful summer to all readers!

Advantages: 

  • Original finish
  • Simple and effective
  • Overall weight and ergonomics
  • Good value for money
  • Sold with case
  • Isolation of the electronics and dual pickup
Drawbacks:
  • Lack of some accessories I really like
  • Lefties are punished…
To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Fender 60th Anniversary Precision Bass

August 12, 2011

U2 360°: Redefining Stadium Sound

Filed under: Live Sound — Tags: , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 9:30 am

Grand, colossal, gargantuan… Mammoth, immense, monumental… Promethean, towering, or just plain walloping huge – get out the thesaurus for more adjectives to adequately describe the size and scope of U2’s current 360° tour, an outsized extravaganza that continues to demolish records.

Part insect, part spacecraft, part cathedral…

As of June this year, the tour surpassed The Rolling Stones in terms of tickets sold, eclipsing the Voodoo Lounge tour’s 6.3 million landmark with over 7 million sold. By April just past, 360° had grossed more than $700 million, making it the highest-grossing concert tour ever. And so on. Pass the thesaurus…

Launched in 2009 in support of the album No Line on the Horizon, the tour has been years in the making. Incubating various ideas for epic in-the-round staging with the band and other crew members over the course of a career with U2 that began in earnest back in 1982, show designer Willie Williams finally gave life to a unified vision near the end of 2006’s Vertigo tour in a series of sketches.

Paying homage to the Theme Building at LAX, the central structure within these early blueprints is what has come to be known as “The Claw,” a mass of four-legged, 170-foot-tall alien steel appearing ideally suited for a starring role in the next Hollywood remake of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.

“The Claw” is at the heart of the U2 360° tour
production, supporting huge line arrays as well as
lighting and video. (All photos by Steve Jennings)

Serving as a grid for all of the major production elements, The Claw is used to suspend both the PA and a video screen designed by Mark Fisher in collaboration with Chuck Hoberman and Frederic Opsomer.

 

Fabricated by Opsomer’s Belgium-based company Innovative Designs, the screen was purchased by XL Video and then rented to the tour. Comprising hexagonal segments that allow it to open and spread apart during the show, the expanding screen is 500,000 pixels large, and uses 320,000 fasteners, 150,000 machined pieces, and 30,000 cables to tie everything together.

 

Rated to safely hold 200 tons, The Claw is double the size of the stadium set used by The Stones on their A Bigger Bang tour. And if one of these leviathans isn’t enough for your backyard standing next to the children’s playset, consider that the design was built in triplicate to facilitate leapfrogging, a logistical strategy requiring 120 trucks.

Setting Sonic Goals

Bono (using Beta 58 element on Shure wireless) and his
mates performing, all outfitted with Future Sonics in-ear
monitors working with Sennheiser G2 wireless systems.

U2 360° will also go down in history as a milepost marking a 30-year collaboration between U2, sound reinforcement provider Clair, and Joe O’Herlihy, U2’s sound designer and front of house engineer.

 

“The 360 concept was indeed first considered very seriously by the band at the end of the Vertigo Tour at Honolulu’s Aloha Stadium in 2006,” O’Herlihy relates, his navel-length, graying beard giving him the countenance of a Russian novelist, or maybe a Civil War veteran.

 

“There had, however, been various other in-the-round plans discussed since Joshua Tree days,” he continues. “Once the idea was presented as a goal for the next tour, I was charged with developing, planning, and implementing an audio design that would clearly set new industry standards, all while maintaining what U2 and their fans had come to expect: Sonic quality, high dynamic range, and crystal-clear stadium sound.”

 

Working with show designer Williams, plus Fisher and Jeremy Lloyd from the production architectural firm Stufish, O’Herlihy additionally relied upon the talents of an R&D team and engineers from Clair to establish the criteria and structural elements required of the build in 2008.

 

Veteran rock ‘n’ roll soundman Joe O’Herlihy (left) and system
tech Jo Ravitz at the DiGiCo SD7 heading up the monstrous rig.

Up until this time, U2 had historically relied upon Clair S4 PA to meet the needs of all its outdoor stadium shows.

“But with the goals of the 360° system in mind, the S4 system wouldn’t apply this time around,” O’Herlihy says with a hint of melancholy like that usually reserved for bidding farewell to an old friend.

 

“In-the-round, the application clearly called for a line source array system. The new Clair i-5 technology ultimately stepped-up as the timely and perfect solution that we needed to accommodate the off-center, 360-degree stadium configuration.”

The audio design team received their first real chance to test its plan in early 2009 in Toronto.

 

Setting up the i-5/i-5B-based rig at Rogers Centre (formerly SkyDome), the system was put through its paces over the course of rigorous testing that verified sonic calculations and phase references, established low-end time alignment, and confirmed strategies developed to maintain full 360-degree coverage, all while covering the audience with a blanket of even, uniform sound and high SPL, as well as the dynamic range and quality the band is known for in large outdoor spaces.

Now let’s take a deeper look…

Many Parts


CJ Eiriksson manages monitoring for bassist Adam
Clayton, drummer Larry Mullen Jr., and an offstage
keyboard player with an Avid D-Show.

As within the industry itself, mainstream media have remained upbeat in their coverage of the tour. Rolling Stone magazine maintained that the production was a cross between the Zoo TV and Elevation tours, and added that the design elements, despite their looming presence, remained transparent from the band’s perspective onstage.

 

In describing the staging, The New York Times dubbed it “part insect, part spacecraft, part cathedral,” and noted that the band was more visible than on earlier tours. The Washington Post called the show an “orgy of light and sound.” The latter should be taken as a compliment, especially by O’Herlihy.

 

“A project of this scale would probably not have been attempted 10, or even five years ago,” he concludes. “But thanks to lighter weight, low-profile loudspeaker cabinets and digital mixing consoles, even shows of this magnitude can be set up, run, and loaded-out in a timely manner. Technology has caught up to the concept. Now it’s just all in a day’s work, 48 hours a day, eight days a week…”

To read the full detailed article see:  U2 Redefining Stadium Sound

August 8, 2011

Arrangement 101

Filed under: Songwriting — Tags: , , , , — audiofanzine @ 1:19 pm

Before getting into the meaning of arrangement, I want to take a moment to stress the importance of arrangement. Arrangement ultimately bridges the gap between the composition and the mix. Give that a moment to resonate, and I will clarify.

Arrangement refers to the organization of any aspect of a song. A song can be organized in many different ways and still be essentially the same song. The arrangement is simply the way in which the song is delivered. While there are many different ways of thinking about arrangement, for this article I’m going to talk about three in specific: harmonic arrangement, structural arrangement, and the progression.

Harmonic Arrangement

The harmonic arrangement is the organization of instruments and their melodic or harmonic roles. The idea is to construct a sonic image using the natural timbre of sounds in the song. For example, do you have a flute playing a part, or a guitar? Which voicings do different instruments take, and what effect will that have on the listener? This is entirely the producer’s or arranger’s choice – and there aren’t really “rights” or “wrongs”, but here are some ideas: Harmonically dense sounds such as accordions, organs, string ensembles, etc, take up a lot of sonic space. Two easy ways of making these harmonically rich sounds work well is to:

  1. Have them doing simple parts that coincide with the main melodic movement. This is a good way to add fullness to the sound, and to vary the progression. For example, you can have your main theme and bass playing during the first part of the verse, and have a string ensemble doing something simple and basic come in during the second part of the verse. This keeps the energy building throughout the verse without actually causing dramatic changes.
  2. Have them take over as the main focus with few other harmonic parts at the same time. Having an accordian front and center is going to eat up a lot of sonic space. To retain clarity, you can make this element focal, and keep everything else sparse. Between a string ensemble, a bass, rhythmic elements and vocals, your mix won’t feel sparse at all.

Contrary to these ideas, you could go for the “Wall of Sound” idea, where you move tons of dense harmonic parts and mush them all together, then stuff them way behind your lead elements. This creates an extremely dense sonic pallet, but it comes with the cost of instrument clarity. When the harmonic arrangement is not well thought out, the mixer is often tied down to using a lot EQ in order to allow the instruments to be heard correctly. Harmonically open sounds such as flutes, clarinets, sine wave synths, or even the middle timbre instruments like trumpets and pianos function differently. You can create more elaborate counterpoints – but keep in mind these two ideas.

 

  1. Separation. Put things in their unique pitch ranges – if you have a counterpoint working in the same range of notes, you lose the clarity not just of the instruments, but of the harmonic lines as well. Separate the notes in range more and suddenly you have multiple dynamic harmonic lines that can be introduced or taken away through the course of the song to add dimension and development to the progression. The mix benefit here is that you won’t need much in the way of EQ to make these elements work together, if any.
  2. Layering. You can always assign multiple instruments to the exact same role, creating a hybrid-timbral instrument. One of my favorite tricks is to double a rhythm guitar line with a cello. The harmonics are potent – stronger than simply layering up guitars (in my opinion). The trick in the mix is to make the separate layers blend, as opposed to trying to create separation.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

A well-thought arrangement will yield a song that never gets stale, and practically mixes itself. This allows for the whole of the production process to yield less compromising and more creative thinking. So don’t forget to think of your timbres, progression, and structure when putting together your next song.

To read the full detailed article see:  Arrangement 101

August 4, 2011

Tech Gear Roulette

Filed under: Hardware, Software — Tags: , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 8:50 am

Live by these 7 rules if you want your budget to survive technological changes.

I met Billy Bumluck at a video store in the early 80s. We were both proud owners of new VCRs; he was browsing in the Beta section, I was looking at VHS. “You use VHS?” he asked. When I nodded, he said “Too bad, man. Beta is the only way to go — better picture, more reliable, and it has Sony behind it. Your VHS machine will be a doorstop next year, so enjoy it while you can!”

We talked a bit more, and I found out he was a guitarist and technology fan, so we kept in touch. A couple years later, I got a call. “Hey, you gotta check out this new Amiga computer! It has separate chips for graphics and audio, does sampling better than a Fairlight, and has some great games.” So I went over to his house, and sure enough, it ran circles around the Macs, Ataris, and PCs of its day. “No more Beta mistakes for me,” said Billy. “This baby’s made by Commodore, and considering they’ve sold 6 million Commodore-64s, I don’t think they’ll be going out of business any time soon.”

Well, after the Amiga died, Billy had enough. “Okay,” he said, “I’m getting a Mac. There’s a fantastic program called Vision, it’ll wipe the floor with your Master Tracks Pro. It will be the perfect complement to my Sequential Circuits and Oberheim synthesizers.” And for a while, it looked like Billy made the right choice, especially when Opcode added hard disk recording to MIDI sequencing. “Craig, nothing’s going to stop those Opcode guys. No one else is doing hard disk recording and MIDI, I’d buy stock in them if I could.”

 

Then Opcode was sucked into the BHDC (Black Hole of Dead Companies). Billy was pretty shaken this time, and had heard stories of Apple going through problems. So about a year ago, he decided to switch to a PC. “There’s a billion of ?em out there. This is one standard that won’t die on me.” I told him Apple wasn’t going anywhere, but he was adamant. “Nope, no more obsolete stuff for me, and no more little companies. I’m going out right now and getting Logic Windows!”

 

Billy never was the same after Emagic dropped Windows support. Last I heard, after his savings evaporated with the collap

se of Enron and Worldcom, he went to a back-to-nature commune in Montana, with no electricity or television. Oh yes, and with an acoustic guitar to replace his Yamaha G10 MIDI guitar.

There’s a little of the Billy Bumluck magic in all of us. My Commodore CDTV sits alongside some other ill-chosen relics of technology past, each one representing a costly mistake. But they seemed like such good ideas at the time…

 

With technology changing on a seemingly daily basis, you don’t just buy gear any more — you have to be a soothsayer. How can you protect yourself? How can you stay ahead of technology and bankruptcy court? Here’s the scoop.

 

Rule #1: You will Make Mistakes

Resign yourself to it. If huge companies can make mistakes after spending zillions of dollars on focus groups and product research, so can you. Maybe you got sucked in by the ads, maybe you just got taken by something that didn’t pan out. The object is to minimize these mistakes so they don’t devastate your checking account.

 

Some people end up with Purchasing Paralysis, where they won’t buy anything out of fear that something better is coming around the corner. Well, something is, so get used to it. The secret to avoid getting burned is not to lose money on an investment.

 

For example, suppose you bought an original, 16-bit Alesis ADAT for $4,000. As you sit mousing around with your shiny new DAW, that might have seemed like a mistake. But if you did projects on it that earned you $10,000, it was a wise investment indeed — you more than doubled your money (better than what you’d get from a bank, for sure).

 

Always consider return on investment (ROI). I was debating whether or not to buy a Minidisc when it first came out, because they were pretty expensive back then, and the survival of the format was in question. But I did, and wrote enough articles about MD and how to use it that I made money on the deal. MD could disappear tomorrow, and my buying it would not have been a mistake.

So the question is not “Am I buying something that will become obsolete?” because you know that you are. The correct question is “Can I amortize the value of this investment before it becomes obsolete?” If buying something will make you more money than not buying it, get out the checkbook. Simple as that.

Let’s take a look at the other rules to follow…

Rule #7: The best way to cope with technology is to put it in its place

I have a hammer that’s 20 years old. I’m sure that since then, the metals used in them have been improved, the handles have become easier to grip, and the weight is now distributed more ergonomically. But you know what? It drives nails just fine.

 

My main hardware synthesizer is 16 years old. My DAT deck is a TASCAM DA-30 (the original one). Then again, I have some fantastic soft synths, and two flat screen monitors. The point is, I don’t let technology rule me (“You have to buy a better DAT, you must go surround”). I rule technology: I pick and choose those things that are going to help my music.

 

I also either jump in as an early adopter, pay the premium price, and milk something for all it’s worth, or get in on the tail end of a technology when it’s proven, reliable, and inexpensive. I bought one of the first Panasonic DA7 digital mixers, and now you can buy them on blowout at a fraction of what I paid. Do I mind? Not at all: I’ve gotten so much use out of it, and made so much off of projects done with it, that not buying it would have been a major mistake.

 

I’ll leave you with this: when it comes to technology, you’re the boss. Fulfilling your needs is all that should matter. Good luck making the right choices!

To read the full article see: Tech Gear Roulette

August 2, 2011

Interview with Ned Douglas

Filed under: Recording reviews — Tags: , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 4:40 pm

Last may, we heard that Dave Stewart (Eurythmics) and Mick Jagger had teamed up to form SuperHeavy, an international “superband” also formed with Joss Stone, Damian Marley and AR Rahman (film composer, who previously scored Slumdog Millionnaire among others ND). We’ve had the chance to interview producer Ned Douglas, chief engineer at Weapons of Mass Entertainment recording studio but also responsible for some recordings and production on this new “super album”.

Ned Douglas & Dave Stewart

Hi Ned! I know that you’re Dave’s staff programmer and engineer @ Weapons of Mass Entertainment in Hollywood. You’ve been using the Dangerous D-Box along this project. How did you end up setting up this gear for Dave Stewart’s album?

I’ve been working with Dave for a long while now, nearly 15 years as engineer and programmer. He’s marvelously creative and diverse and it’s a constantly exciting and interesting job. When we moved studios last year I took the decision of losing the desk we had as the faders used to stay a zero most of the time, it felt like it was a waste of space. Having the D-Box has allowed me to keep an analog stage in chain which is great, it has also means I have quick hands on access to talkback, headphone levels and inputs.

How did this idea of creating a “supergroup” come to reality?

Dave has always done a lot of work with Mick Jagger and the idea of forming the supergroup came out of a session they did together about 3 years ago. We’d worked with Mick and Joss Stone previously on the Alfie soundtrack so we knew they sounded great together. Damian and AR were then brought in as they wanted to create a truly international and diverse musical project. Everyone worked together for a two week session at Hensons’s studio (former A&M in Hollywood, NDA) where the bulk of the tracks were laid down, all the songs were created in the studio and born out of jam sessions with the band. The rest of the album was finished in a variety of countries and studios (including on a boat and a Caribbean island) and I’ve been involved throughout the entire project. Keeping track of it all has been white a mission !

With all these sessions in different places around the world, how did you manage to keep a coherent vibe and sound ?

With the bulk of the band tracks being laid down in the initial monster jam sessions the backdown of the songs has remained pretty consistent (thanks to Damian’s drummer and bass player). For most of the the sessions we’ve done elsewhere we’ve had it so that we can pull up a great sounding mix with almost noplugins from a stereo Protools session (thanks to engineer Cliff Norrel!) which meant that I could turn up with a laptop anywhere and have things as they were last heard with full access to the parts. A lot of what we did outside of Henson’s were vocals and lyrics but some  songs like “Beautiful People” and “Warring People” were started fully programmed on my laptop and then recorded with the band later.

For this project, did you have to deal with unusual instruments or recording moments ?

AR Rahman has an interesting setup, he uses a midi controller called a Continuum which allows him to do micro tonal performances. He had it hooked up to a Indian sound module (who’s name I forget) which had the most bewildering midi setup I’ve ever seen. It meant he could do some pretty cool stuff though.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Is there something you try to achieve in every work you do ? From an artistical, technical and human point of view, which aspects in the music production process do you take care about the most ?

Something that I’ve learnt from working with Dave Stewart is that the vibe in the room in pretty much the most crucial element (and he’s a master at it) and that nothing kills a vibe faster than having to wait on technical reasons. Being able to quickly interpret people’s ideas and get things sounding exciting with a minimum of fuss is essential. In essence: people do their best work when relaxed and having fun and if that means recording in someone’s living room on a SM58 to get the best vibe then that’s the way it should be done (especially during the writing process).

The most important lesson I have learned however is: Always be in record!

As long as you can remember, what was your best studio moment ? And your worst technical nightmare ?

Be able to witness the writing process with great songwriters, as I’ve been lucky enough to, is always a magical experience. To start the day with nothing but an empty session and finish it with a song, created from thin air is something that never gets boring. Technically working in Jamaica has posed a few moments, unreliable power, blown speakers and the like… We ended up hiring a sound system from the local DJ when we worked with Shakira out there !

To read the full interview see:  Interview with Ned Douglas

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.