AF’s Weblog

July 30, 2010

On Tour: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Modern technology reveals traditional sounds for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers 2010 tour.

Technical Evolution


“We’re working with a very organic set of sounds here,” says Robert Scovill, ruminating on the current Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers 2010 concert tour. “Piano, organ, old amps… a traditional drum kit. We don’t want to make things sound real modern. What we want is a transparent presentation of the way things are. That’s where digital comes in.  Using modern technology to reveal traditional and established sounds – I think that’s a great way to go.”

Scovill knows well of what he speaks, and of the technical evolution that has helped bring him to where he is today with the band.  Having pushed faders out front for Tom and the boys since right about the same time e-mail was sounding like a pretty darn good idea, for this tour the Front of House engineer gains the backing of a D-Show VENUE console from Avid and an L-Acoustics K1/KUDO rig supplied by Escondido, California-based Sound Image.

“I don’t want to ever lead people to believe we’re attempting to simply recreate the record live,” Scovill explains, commenting on the audio underpinnings that guide this series of dates running through October supporting Mojo, the band’s first studio offering in eight years.  “That will never be the spirit of what Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers are about at their live performances. They have been together a very long time and have gotten to know each others’ moves implicitly not just onstage, but musically too.  You never get into a routine with them where Tuesday night is the same as Thursday and that’s the same as Saturday. Even with the big production elements surrounding this show, there is still a looseness to it,” he continues.  “Any given song can take a left turn at any moment and go in a completely different direction. This is definitely an ensemble with a collective will, not a group of musicians spoon-fed with material by a frontman.”

tom pettyA DSP advantage was gained, however, in being able to port effects settings built by engineer Ryan Ulyate during the mixing of Mojo directly into the plug-in processing of the VENUE system.  That process was facilitated by the fact that Mojo was mixed entirely “in the box” using a single ICON and Pro Tools system, with plug-ins brought over directly from the recording sessions including Sound Toys, Acousticas EMT impulses and Digidesign Delays.

Many of the vocal treatments for Petty himself – especially on newer songs – were pulled directly from the record for the live stage based upon their ability to manage what Scovill refers to as “extreme aspects” such as exceptionally narrow, cone-shaped vocals and slap delays he wound up using to underscore the “vintage-y” vibe.  Scovill is quick to add that he doesn’t routinely lean on plug-in compression unless the situation warrants it, opting in many cases for the channel strip processing already onboard the console.  For the times he does step out from his own internal circuitry for applications like system EQ or group processing, he gains the benefit of a Serato Rane Series of dynamic EQ plug-ins or their parametric offering.

“If I want to get into multi-band compression, I typically use an MC2000 on Tom’s vocal and bass guitar,” he notes.  “Our vocal chain is essentially the multiband compression along with some dynamic equalization to take care of things down in the low-mids and some of the ‘esses’.  That’s really about it. After that it’s just onboard compression and EQ as needed.”  Crane Song Phoenix tape head emulation plug-ins are applied on specific inputs as well as right across the mix bus.  Eventide reverb is a primary player on the drum kit, which also benefits from Waves API 2500 compression.  As further complement, a Brainworx BX Boom plug-in sees use on the drum kit in a fashion similar to a low frequency harmonics box.

Now let’s take a closer look behind the scenes…

Analogous Experience

Monitor engineer Greg Looper (left) and assistant monitor

engineer Mike Bangs at the other D-Show VENUE on the tour.

A pioneering force in the cause of integrating digital into the world of live sound, Scovill offers some pointed comments on the idea of “choice fatigue”- a possible downside to the digital world that’s offering a myriad of sonic options.  “It’s something live sound engineers have never been faced with before,” he says, scratching his head and trying to recall a time in his 30 years of professional life when such a thing could even be considered a problem.

“In the past, what dictated our choices was whatever the sound company had sitting on the shelf. If you went outside of that, then you were confined by space, budget, and rental agreements.  There were a lot of constraining factors. Now our work flow is very analogous to that experienced in the studio. You can say this is what we need and just load it on your system and get to work.”

As for the logic and creativity used to build his mix out front, Scovill relates on a final note that in many respects, all he has to do is get out of the way.

“The sources are just so good,” he says with reverence for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, masters of their craft.  “These guys are so good at voicing their instruments and orchestrating their parts, that you just have to let them do their work. In terms of mixing the show, I like to say I overemphasize the obvious. If there is a solo, I bring it up. If there is a critical rhythm part under that solo, you have to hear that too.  “Tom and the band have taught me over time that there is just as much skill in revealing something as there is in bringing something up. It’s not always about louder, it might be a matter of pulling something back so something else shines through.”

To read the full Article see: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers Tour

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November 25, 2009

Infected Mushroom Sound Alchemy

Filed under: Artists — Tags: , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 6:20 am

Exclusive Interview Reveals Production Tips and Tricks

Erez Eisen and Amit Duvedevani “Duvdev” (background).

Innovators, geek tricksters, obsessive-perfectionists, un-serious, electronic-rock geniuses?   Time will tell, yet The Legend of the Black Shawarma, Infected Mushroom’s 7th album release will certainly grab the chair from underneath you and leave you thinking- I’m not sure what was this meticulous musical chaos, but I can’t stop moving even after the track has finished.

Hailing from sunny shores of Israel, now based in another sunny city, Los Angeles, the sun always seems to shine in Infected land, the core of which is Erez Eisen and Amit Duvedevani.  But seriously, between the hard-earned success, the mess, the nuclear shows, the private jokes you will find two very do-it-yourself kind of musician scientists who write, produce, mix, master, tweak and fix almost every detail of their music.

It was only fitting then that Audiofanzine (AF) will ask the obvious:  How do you make that sound?  As we brushed off the cobwebs with a morning coffee in Paris, Eisen joined us late at night from his studio in Los Angeles to tell us the production tales of Infected Mushroom.  Enjoy.

Part 1:  “It’s always changing, you know”

This is Infected Mushroom today.

AF:  Can you quickly present the band? Who’s doing what?

Eisen:  We started- my partner Amit Duvedevani, known as Duvdev, and I, Erez Eisen, in 1996 doing some horrible music.  Now today we are like a big band you know, not so big, but we have a drummer named  Rogerio Jardim he’s a great drummer from Brazil, he lives in America now.  We have an Israeli guitar player Erez Netz, which is considered one of the best electronic guitar players, the best in Israel.  We love him.  And also Thomas Cunningham, another guitar player from America who performs with us.  This is Infected Mushroom.

AF:  What do you consider to be your influences?   You’re using some ‘metal’ gigs and some ‘jazzy organs’ on the same tracks, some hip-hop influences, some Spanish music influences…

Eisen:  It’s always changing, you know.  It started with electronic like Psytrance bands, which is Simon Posford, known as Shpongle as well, also Hallucinogen.  At the time we liked X-Dream, Etnica, many other bands from this genre.  These are the main ones.  And slowly through the years we became open to everything.  We are listening to radio and MTV, not as it is today, horrible, but how it used to be with more heavy metal stuff.  Even if it is hip-hop sometimes, a few Jay Zee tracks, it can be nice.  Maybe we don’t like the whole concept but we like some ideas.  We try to just have fun in the studio basically and to be as creative as we can.

AF:  Your style has changed a lot in the past few years. When you go back to your old tracks and you listen to them, what are your thoughts?

Eisen:   The Gathering, which is the first album as Infected, I tend to think that is has a few decent tracks for me.  I think Tommy the Bat is one of them, and a few others, but the production is horrible.  I’m not so proud of it, let’s say.  But, you know, I was 16 I think when we did it.  So it’s OK.

Infected Mushroom’s Studio in L.A.:  Best place for inspiration.

AF:   Do you begin making a song in your studio or sometimes you need to go to someplace else to get inspired?

Eisen:  No, it’s always in the studio.  We tried doing tracks on the road, but we never did one.  Sometimes we come with just no ideas into the studio and we just decide on a BPM, usually it’s just 145, and we just start kick, bass line, and somehow looking for sounds and stuff.  Sometimes we are lucky, everything goes smoothly and we have a track going on very fast, and sometimes we get stuck like a week on a track.

AF:  I know what you mean.  I have been stuck for 10 years now.

Eisen:  When we are stuck, I wanted to kick myself sometimes, I wanted to say “that’s it, I cannot do anymore music, I have no more ideas”, but then Duvdev said “let’s see it as a fight in the studio”, like a video game- there is a level that is really hard to pass, and you keep trying until you move to the next level.  So this is how we see it these days and it really helps.  For us, when we have these horrible days we just give it a fight.  Sometimes it’s the lyrics.  Duvdev comes in with lyrics, and from there we get something- which is much easier.   Every time it’s something different.

Infected Mushroom Live in Chicago 11/14/09

AF:  What would you consider to be your biggest challenge as a band?

Eisen:  We always have challenges.  I guess the first big challenge was to make the band happen, to find the guitar player, to find the drummer, to write the parts for them, because the tracks are already kind of busy for us, and we didn’t want to make it noisy for the live show.  It’s kind of hard, in the beginning, to think about what the guitar player would play that will not sound too busy, and how to add a drummer that will not create too much of a mess.

AF:   In the studio you can create and produce music under ideal conditions.  It then becomes a challenge to re-create that sound on stage.  How do you approach that?

Eisen:  Yeah, for stage we try to have a little bit more bass, this feeling that you have a big speaker and you want to feel the bass, not just hear it.  This is very important.  And for the rest of the frequencies we try to make it as good as we can compared to what we had in mind in the studio- which never happens, by the way.  With our luck, we go to horrible sound systems most of the time.  It’s always a challenge to do a proper sound check.

AF:  The big thing in this record is your collaborations with Jonathan Davis, Perry Farrell and the Doors.  Is this something that you’ve wanted to do for a long time, collaborate with other artists?  And what was their contribution?

Eisen:  We can start with the Doors.  It was the Doors track that Warner Brothers requested us to remix.  They did a remix CD for many Doors tracks, and basically we got approved to use it in our album – The Riders on the Storm.  We got original channels from the Doors which was really exciting to get all these cool recordings, which sounded pretty good I must say.  This was the easiest one because it was pre-recorded so we didn’t really collaborate.

With Jonathan Davis from Korn, in the beginning we asked him which song he wanted to sing.  He chose Killing Time in the beginning.  He came to the studio and we said, ‘do you mind trying Smashing the Opponent because we think it fits more to your style’.  And he said ‘sure’.   He didn’t practice it, but we just printed the lyrics, he gave it a shot, and I think not more than one hour recording and it was done, the vocals.

AF:  So basically, the lyrics and the melody lines were written and he just performed them?

Eisen:   Yeah.  Everything was written before.  He just came and performed the vocals.  Same for Jane’s Addiction singer, Perry Farrell.  We asked him if he minds doing Killing Time, and he liked it.  With him we did two different sessions.  We bothered him twice.  Actually, he knows us for a long time.  He has Classical Mushroom EP and The Gathering, which was very weird for us.  Like, why do you have these albums?  It was pretty fun.

Our move to Los Angeles was the move to make collaborations with people.  In Israel we were pretty limited to Israeli artists, which I have nothing against.  But it’s limited to Hebrew mainly.   We have dreams, as kids, you want to work with big artists, and you never believe that you will be able to do, so we said let’s try.  We almost got Dave Ghan from Depeche Mode singing, but at the end it didn’t happen.  Hopefully, it will happen with Dave in the next album.

Duvdev and Eisen: Serving up The Legend of the Black Shawarma
to legions of ‘converted vegetarians’.

AF:  Last question about your lyrics from [the track] “The Legend of the Black Shawarma”, they are very positive and they are almost sending a message but maybe with a little bit of a warning.  I am assuming these are not totally random lyrics, is this something that you’ve realized with time and now you wish to share with your listeners?

Eisen:   When we started doing lyrics, we said we will write about everything except about love.  Because, it’s not that we have anything against love, but every song is about love.  So we said everything but love, which was not so hard.  And slowly it became the Duvdev road, most of the lyrics.  He came into the studio with almost all of the lyrics and maybe I didn’t like one or two words.  Duvdev is a pretty crazy guy.  He has lots of weird ideas.  Lots of them we cannot even write about.  We try to write stuff with less meaning, that will open people to think about stuff.  Or we write very un-serious lyrics that it’s just private jokes between us and our friends.  So please don’t take our lyrics seriously.


AF:  So you mean that actually you don’t want to convert vegetarians for real?

Eisen:   Why not?  No, I’m just kidding…  Everything is just funny, don’t take it too seriously.  Converting vegetarians, if there is a meaning it’s mostly meaning:  convert yourself from listening to regular music and be open to listen to other kinds of music.
To read the full detailed interview see:  Infected Mushroom Sound Alchemy

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