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(photos by Andrew Weiss)
'The Last Ferry to Cydonia'
For this session we set up at one of the band members' house, with the band in the tile floored causeway, and me in the front room. We went for a basically live approach, using what is called the 'Invisible Gobo' technique. Basically, it's an approach where instruments and amplifiers are placed in one room with the musicians, but are mic'd in such a way that other sound sources are in the null of the mic's pickup pattern. An example would be the drums and guitar amps. I set them up on opposite sides of the room, facing each other. This way, the drums are in the null of the guitar mics, and the guitars are in the null of most of the drum mics. Add to that the fall-off rate of sound (the sound level is reduced by half for each doubling of distance), and you can see that there is little bleed on most mics. The only place where bleed is a potential problem is on the overheads, which I bring in from the front of the kit, in a semi-unorthodox placement. Also, any passages where the drums are not playing, some muting may be required to lower the amount of snare rattle. I don't typically try to take ALL of the rattle out, as I think that sounds unnatural, but too much becomes distracting. This approach requires no headphones during tracking, which most bands find preferable.
The guitar and bass setup for Hellas Mounds is quite large, with each guitarist playing through multiple heads and cabinets. In order to get the full picture, I mic'd each cabinet separately, using different mics on each. Typically, I like SM57s on large guitar amps, and large diaphragm condensers on smaller amps. In this case, I used a combination. I also took a DI signal from each guitar and the bass, which was also mic'd with an RE20, my favorite mic for bass amps, and also a good choice on guitar and vocals.
The drums were mic'd in fairly standard fashion, with Sennheiser e604s on the toms, 57 on top of the snare, Oktava MC012 under the snare, D112 in the kick, and Groove Tubes GT44 SDCs up for overheads. I didn't use a room mic in this situation, since there was enough bleed on the overheads to give a sense of space. I used a packing blanket hanging from two boom stands behind the drumset to counter some short reflections that were causing a little phasiness on the overheads, and another packing blanket wrapped around the ceiling fan, which was vibrating with the bass and guitars.
Vocals were tracked after the basics were down, using an Oktava MK219. Preamps used included 4 PM1000 channels (kick, snare, and primary guitar mics, along with vocals.) Toms and overheads went through the Mackie Onyx 800r, as did the other guitars, bass was through a Yamaha GF16/12 mixer, along with the DI tracks. I had the 'control room' setup in the other half of the house, with my usual monitoring Event TR5s. The session was recorded into Cubase SX 3.
Mixing was done another day, at my house, with Greg and the guys in attendance. Hellas Mounds are quite specific about the sounds they are going for, and mixing was pretty straightforward, involving a good bit of level riding on guitars, to emphasize the different melodic lines they play. There were a few effects used, reverb and a bit of delay, again just to emphasize some parts, as both guitarists performed through their usual effects rigs. I generally prefer to record guitars live, with the players using their regular setup. In this case, there were no guitar overdubs whatsoever. There were a few keyboard notes added afterwards, simply because they were played by Tyler (drums) and would have been difficult to track (though not impossible.)
All in all, a pretty simple session with a great band, which resulted in a track that everyone was happy with.