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Man About a Dog
'Cheaper Milk/Good Morning'
Me in front of my rig
When I got the call about recording Man About a Dog, I knew it would be a fun project. We talked a bit about different possibilities, and eventually agreed to do it at Trunk Space, the local art space operated by my great friends Steph and JRC. It's a good sized room with high ceilings, cement floors and a glass window facing onto Grand Ave. I love recording there, the vibe is great, and the room sounds good to my ears.
I spoke with James (vocals and guitar) about the project a bit more, and we decided to go for a live-on-the-floor approach, which I always prefer! The band was a big group, with drums, bass, 2 guitars, a pedal steel, and keys (accordion on a few tracks!) The band had recently recorded for 602radio.com (my brother Jim does the mixing for that project) so I had a chance to hear some of what they’d done. Those tracks sounded really good, but the band felt they were a little limited by the time, and doing it all live. My approach would be similar, but with the option of overdubbing vocals, and anything else that we thought was necessary. As it turned out, we did re-do vocals, and a couple of keyboard bits, but not too much.
Between takes at Trunk Space
We got to the Trunk Space early one Saturday morning, and the band started loading in while I set up my ‘control room.’ Once they had everything in place, I started placing mics. I went with a pretty straightforward approach, using a SM57 on snare, e604s on the toms, and my GT44 tube mics in a sort of Glyn Johns setup, balanced to give an even representation of the toms. The kick was just a MK219 a couple feet out in front of the kit. Billy plays a big kick, with both heads, and we wanted a sort of vintage tone, rather than a super-clicky kick that would have been out of place.
Guitars got a 57 and an e609, while the pedal steel got a KEL HM-1. The bass was a DI from the amp. It did have a little 60 cycle hum, which required some gating during mixdown, but it sounded good. I had a mic on the bass amp, but it wasn’t any better than the direct sound, I didn’t think.
SM57 on guitar - Amps were all raised to reduce comb-filtering
For the vocals, we used a Beta 58, running through the Trunk Space’s house PA, so the band could hear cues. The house PA was also used to amplify the organ. Both vox and organ were split and sent to my rig, as well. Using the house PA in this capacity had the benefit of negating the need for headphones, with the drawback of some bleed on the room mics, etc.
Preamps were my PM1000 strips for the guitars and snare, M406 for the bass and toms, as well as kick, organ, accordion, and vocals. The overheads were through my 1084 clones, while the rooms mics (a pair of nady ribbons) went through the stock preamps on my 828MKII. The room mics added something nice, but they ended up being quite low in the final mixes, as the band wanted something a little more direct, less diffuse and live sounding.
Another gratuitous shot of my rig
We tracked 16 songs in a few hours, then tore down. Most of the songs were done in a single take, with three or four requiring a 2nd or 3rd pass. All in all, it went smoothly and quickly.
A week or so later, James and I got together at his place and laid down some new vocals, as he felt he was holding back a little on the originals. The new vocals were tracked with an RE20, through a 1084 clone, and a bit of compression from my iPro 1.
James and Andrew laying down some vocals
I mixed at home, and sent James tracks via FTP, which he gave me feedback on. Mostly, a few tweaks and we were moving on to the next track. After a week or so of back and forth, they had finals, ready to go to mastering.
This was a very fun project, and the results speak for themselves. Man About a Dog is a great band, be sure to catch them live (and buy a CD!)