During covid 19, I’ve spent a lot of time upgrading the studio, so its now exactly as I want it. I have a lot of gear and many items that are just brilliant for recording. Today Fergus Quill dropped by to lay down bass for five different tracks which are in various stages of production. Fergus is an exceptional musician and has been central to both “The Caravan of Dreams” and “The Heartache” Not only is he technically a brilliant musician, but he also have a great feel for what works musically. We used the Acme DI for all the bass lines and the results were terrific. Fergus first told me about this unit, so I hunted one down and the Acme certainly didn’t disappoint.
We always record alternate takes of each track so we have options when mixing. Its fascinating to see such an artist at work where he can play a variety of different styles which gives us a huge range of choices. I’m super pleased with the results and these tracks will appear in 2022 and 2023.
In the last few weeks, I’ve been working in my studio with Agi laying down vocals and BVs for new material. We have been using the superb Austrian Audio OC 18 mic and its proving to be an absolute gamechanger. We are also now using a 55 inch 4k monitor which is fantastic for editing tracks as we can see everything up close and it makes editing super easy. I’ve been working with Agi for two and a half years now on a weekly basis and now and she has totally transformed by vocal abilities and I have already recommended her to a number of colleagues. Not only is she a brilliant teacher, but she is also the best harmony singer I have ever met.
Both my producer and I were also amazed at how quickly she has grasped how to use Reaper as opposed to Logic. These studio sessions have been amazingly productive and I’m astonished at the quality and speed at which we are now working. In the last 18 months we’ve got 47 tracks “in the vault” and I’m really happy with the studio set up. My plan is to continue to write and record material across the four different projects currently in play. These are truly inspiring times and Agi’s input has been invaluable in working up these tracks. She of course was also key to my last band album with “The Caravan of Dreams” “Tales of Dark and light”
This has been a very strange 14 months with no live gigs and no travel. I have taken the opportunity to review and upgrade my home studio as I realised that I was going to be spending a lot more time at home.
Big monitor time
One of the biggest changes has been to add in a 55 inch monitor instead of my old Samsung monitors, which served me well for many years. This makes a massive difference when editing tracks and I wonder how I ever managed to work with my old digital tape medium in days gone by which was almost always problematic. Monitor technology has massively changed and its really helpful to see the entire session of multi tracks with one glance.
I have already blogged on the excellent Austrian Audio mic. This was recommended by my producer and I have to confirm that its a total game changer in terms of sonic quality. Not only is it the best vocal mic I have used, but it also works brilliantly for instruments, either acoustic or electric. Its not until you use a really great high end mic that you realize what a difference this makes. I’ve previously used Ear Trumpet mics and these were excellent, but the Austrian Audio is another step up. I’m especially aware of the difference with doing vocal work as its super responsive to every single expression vocally, and I can appreciate why so many studio engineers are raving about this new unit
Reaper as a DAW
I’ve been using Reaper as a DAW for the last 18 months and I’m 100% convinced by this recording software. Not only is it super stable, but its also the most cost effective solution to really great high end recording. Increasingly studio engineers are moving over to Reaper as it provides everything you might need for audio recording and its really easy to use.
UAD Arrow and plugins
The UAD interface has also transformed the way I record in the studio. The Arrow interface provides the best audio and the UAD plugins blow away everything else I have used to date. There are endless options, but I tend to use a number of core plugins and the Arrow is really easy to use, one line in for the Austrian Audio mic and one input for instruments.
The simplicity of this set up really cranks creativity. In the last 14 months I have recorded 45 new tracks across 4 musical projects. This is a dream scenario when it comes to recording. Covid 19 has meant having to work differently, and the upgraded studio has been a gamechanger when it comes to creating new music.
I have always been a fan of high end recording gear in terms of amps and have to date been a big fan of Ear Trumpet mics, so I was interested to hear what all the fuss was about in the recording sector about this Austrian audio OC818 mic
For those interested in the technical aspects, check the link above.
I’ve used a number of microphones in studios and never really paid a great amount of attention to makes in the same way that I have done to audio interfaces, guitars and amps. Within the first hour of using the Austrian audio OC818, its crystal clear to me that this unit is very different to anything else to date. The responsiveness is quite extraordinary and the initial recordings sound so good that I’m going to re do some parts I had already recorded. To my ears everything sounds like a perfect representation of the vocal take. Many reviewers had made this exact same point and commented on the lack of a need for any post production. I’ve yet to try it out on instruments, but I suspect it will also impress in the same way.
I have been doing a ton of recording over the last 10 months, for three different projects, the code-e1 electronic project with Black Star Liner, material for “Nick Cody and the Heartache” which is all electric guitar based music and a collaborations/duet album with some amazing musicians from all over the globe. I’m working with my long time producer Carl Rosamond and Black Star Liner for remixes on the Code E1 project.
The Recording process
The recording process has been very different from what I have previously been used to in laying down tracks from my first three albums. Firstly I am doing all the recording in my home studio in the UK and unusually using DI’s into the excellent UAD Arrow and then into the Reaper DAW. Seeing as I have a stack of terrific amps and preamps from Soldano, Two Rock, Fender and Mashall, this may seem to be a strange way to go, but its working brilliantly. The UAD is superb sonically and crucially allows me to use their unique unison preamp options.
The other difference with the recording process is that I’m using all electric guitars, the Collings I25 Deluxe, Moses necked/ Warmoth strat and the Ranson Tom Holmes equipped Telecaster. This allows for a terrific range of guitar tones. I’m also using a number of different pedals including the Zen Drive 2 as favoured by Eric Johnson and in recent times a number of Supro pedals.
Once I get basic guitar parts down, Carl will lock these into a template and then I can start on doing vocal takes with my good friend Agi, who also does BVs on tracks. Agi and I have worked on over 34 tracks to date including most of the new songs across these three projects. She is an outstanding singer and the best harmony singer I have ever come across. Carl will send the projects we record in Reaper to her as Logic files and she will add BVs. The versions that come back then go to Black Star Liner for the Code E1 project as well as being kept for the other two projects.
I’m super pleased with the results to date and its become clear to me that one of the keys to creating great music is to have a really good team of people involved in the project, who all bring something special to the table. We are fast approaching 30 finished tracks for Code E1 and a similar number for the other two projects. This material will be released throughout 2021 and 2022
This has been a very surreal five months, during covid 19. Like all musicians I had to cancel all live gigs for myself and for music events I host with Music for The Head and Heart. With the lockdown, the whole world was suddently on pause and we have and continue to be in uncharted territory. I’ve driven 45 miles in 5 months, so am totally doing my bit for the carbon footprint as I also cancelled 8 overseas trips for my non musical work.
Music creation and recording
To my great surprise this has been an amazing period for writing and recording new material. Just as lockdown appeared I grabbed a number of new items for my home studio that have been used to great effect. I’ve already blogged on the Acme DI and the Ear Trumpet Myrtle mic and I’ve also been using Fulltone trem units and my Henriksen Buds for recording via the excellent UAD Arrow unit. I’m actually working on two totally different music projects at the same time with two different producers.
For the first time everything is on electric guitar, which is a first. Usually I’ll put down some sketch ideas, then work them up into a demo before starting to adlib and figure lyrics. I’ve been using my weekly meetings with Agi to do live takes of vocal tracks and I now have 14 tracks mixed and “in the vault” for one of the albums, and there will be very different versions of these tracks for a second album.
Gathering like musical minds
One of the few benefits of covid 19 is that there are many artists sitting at home neding work. I suspect that live work won’t appear until 2022 and in the meantime streaming will only increase, but that’s a very different experience. Social media has been great for locating session musicians to add to a core group that are generally my ‘go too folks” for any projects. I’m lucky to be working with two brilliant producers who have never been so busy. Its clear to me that that the role of any producer is essential in creating the very best music. Often music may be mixed but not actually mastered
Tracks “in the vault”
These tracks are already mixed and in the vault, with four more tracks in the pipeline
All is fine till the world goes pop 4.19 Gather round 6.57 Nothing here sounds good 3.21 All Kinds of Crazy 5.24 Your chosen one is coming 4.12 Please take this time 4.24 321 Lockdown 3.41 Hold that thought 3.30 Sticks and stones 3.40 The world is burning 3.39 That gals as cool as fuck 3.25 All about her lies 3.29 Maybe 5.04 Come on down 3.51
Special thanks to everyone who has helped with creating these tracks to date
I’ve recently rediscovered the superb Fulltone Supa trem. I’ve always like the analogue sound of the original unit and now I am using the mark 2 stereo version in recording. This allows for the guitar sound to really fill out and to my ears allows the guitar to be more like a piano. In recent weeks I’ve written four different tracks using this sound, all of which are way slower that I would normally opt for.
This makes for a very different vocal dynamic as there is literally nowhere to hide! At this rate I may end up with a whole new album of this really laid back more reflective series of songs that are the polar opposite of another sister project I am working on. Maybe its being in lockdown, but this is certainly a really creative curve ball that is quite unexpected but so far has been quite fascinating.
Aside from two very exciting 2 mile round trips to buy milk, I’ve been indoors now for 7 weeks. Fortunately pre lockdown I organised everything I need for the studio for recording . As I have previously blogged we’ve been using VST connect to record studio to studio as well as doing some work here using UAD Arrow interface, the Acme DI into the Reaper DAW.
This simpler stripped down set up brings challenges as well as benefits. The benefits are that less options really focusses the mind. We’ve recorded 4 tracks to date. For “Hold that Thought” and “That gal’s as cool as fuck”, we already had electric bass and percussion down from when we were all in the studio. Similarly I recorded “All kinds of crazy” in the studio with Ella Playford and played all parts on my excellent Waterloo acoustic. This is the only time to date we did didn’t use a DI approach
With “All is fine until the world goes pop” and “Your chosen one” had all parts recorded on electric guitar. I’ve been using the excellent Ear Trumpet Myrtle mic for all vocals. We now have 5 tracks recorded, mixed and mastered. Everything to date had been on guitar. On “Hold that thought” I started using the Zed Drive 2 as favoured by Eric Johnson and this has become one monster of a track which I’m really pleased with.
I currently have 5 more tracks to record, but new ideas are appearing all the time. I’m having to think differently and doing a shout out to a few musician friends for input. One of the next tracks will be “Wild hair and cocaine eyes” which is centred around a guitar riff. I have Adrian Knowles kindly send over a bass part, so next up will be vocals and additional guitar parts. I suspect it will either be great or a total train wreck. I’m also working on a stripped down version of a Caravan of Dreams song that we played live but never recorded, “Sticks and Stones” This will be just guitar and vocals with perhaps violin from my good friend Laurent Zeller. In short I have plenty to do with this project.
The results are a far cry from anything else I have released to date and the plan is to release video for each of these new tracks. I’m also further appreciating the value of having an excellent producer, without whom we’d never get such excellent final results.
Today is all about putting down guitar tracks for my first ever cover version. After recording 44 tracks to date, this is new territory. I’m also loving working with the Acme DI box, the Ear Trumpet Myrtle mic and the Arrow UAD unit.
I have blogged a lot about the Acme which was used extensively on Motown albums and it has a very distinctive 60s sound to my ears. I keep thinking about the third Velvet Underground album in terms of sound and that’s in my view no bad thing. This is a total departure from all my acoustic guitar and ukulele work and requires some very different thinking.
I’ve also found myself using the same guitar a Warmoth custom hardtail strat with a graphite Moses neck and a Tom Holmes bridge pickup which is giving a great great sound. I’m using Reaper DAW to put down the central tracks and tomorrow I’ll be hooking up with Agi and adding vocals before connecting with Carl Rosamond in the afternoon to explore mixing.
These as we know are very strange times globally and these recording sessions are totally different to my normal way of working. To start with I’m playing all the parts and doing all the vocals. We are also working really quickly on material and there is something to be said for such concise time effective ways of working.
One big lesson has been in investing in really excellent studio gear and not cutting any corners. This ia all the more important as there’s a run on studio gear in these times as more and more people are looking to beef up their home recording setups.
Today I laid down all the additional guitar tracks for “Your chosen one is coming” To my ears the guitar parts sound like something from Television’s classic “Marquee Moon” album from 1970s, much to my amazement. The Acme DI unit is earning its money in spades and we are recording studio to studio via Steinberg’s VST Connect performer pro version.
I am also for the first time using only electric guitar, no ukuleles or any other acoustic instruments in sight although the album title track with Ella Playford on vocals was recorded using my excellent waterloo acoustic. I’m used to having a band, so its a new experience to be playing everything and doing all the arranging. During the global pandemic lockdown i do have an unusual amount of extra time.
This process allows us to record high resolution 24 bit files and then mix and master in the Headingly studio. “Your chosen one is coming” is the first track to be recorded this way and its sounding great. We already have a terrific video for “All Kinds of Crazy” and are looking at releasing that sometime in April.