THE MUSICIAN ’S RESO URCE
MARCH ‘17 FREE
Things They Don’t Tell You About Pressing Vinyl How To Set Up The Perfect PA System Turn Your Lyrics Into Revenue interviews
FOXYGEN · CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH MOKA ONLY · DUDE YORK
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
VOLUME 27, ISSUE 2
Lady Lamb cover story by Casandra Armour
4. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR 5. VINYL OF THE MONTH: Curse of Lono 6. RECORDS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: Stereo Off
8. Five Things They Donâ€™t Tell You About Pressing Vinyl
10. How LyricFind Can Monetize Your Words 30. TOUR TEST: Electro-Voice ND Series
by Taylor Northern
32. TOUR & STUDIO TEST: Shure KSM8
by Anthony Cammalleri
34. STUDIO TEST: Avid Pro Tools Cloud Collaboration
36. TOUR TEST: Audio-Technica ATM350a Microphone System
38. How to Set up the Perfect PA System 40. Best of NAMM 2017 41. MEET YOUR MAKER: Vertex Effects 42. GEAR REVIEWS: Moog, Yamaha, PreSonus
47. MY FAVORITE AXE: Solilians
by Sarah Brooks
48. FLASHBACK: Vintage Gibson ES-5 Cover
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah 26 by Jaclyn Wing
Shervin Lainez PERFORMER MAGAZINE MARCH 2017 3
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Howdy, y’all. People often ask what it takes to get reviewed or noticed by press. And my stock (non) answer is that your songs have to be memorable. Now, that’s a very unhelpful response to a very earnest question, and I wish I had a better answer for most bands out there. But the honest truth is that if I’ve forgotten your song by the time I take your CD off the stereo, then it’s likely going to be a pass for us. That said, I’ve noticed an alarming recent trend of fairly likeable songs, but dreadfully boring recordings of said songs. The worst thing you can do for a great song is make an unremarkable recording of it. The ultimate sin. Mistake numero uno. I’m not sure when this sad-sack train left the indie rock station, but it’s time to get off at the next stop. Let’s take a real-world example. I love “Suspect Device” by Stiff Little Fingers. LOVE IT. Probably the greatest punk song ever recorded. Well, one of the versions of the song, at least. Because, you see, the 7” single version of the track sucks. Blows
chunks. OK, that’s a tad harsh. It’s still one of my favorite tracks ever. But the point is, the song itself is so killer, that listening to a watered down, tame version of what’s easily one of the most explosive numbers in rock history, is one of the greatest disappointments any music lover can experience. Listen to the album version of the track, and then the single version. Night and day. No contest. I would have passed on the single version back in the 1970s if it came across my desk. So, when I tell bands that their songs have to be memorable, I’m not just talking about the underlying composition. If the recording doesn’t capture anything special, then writing that great song was a waste of time. Do a back-to-back comparison of both versions of “Suspect Device,” and think about what you could be adding to your mix to make elevate your song. Benjamin Ricci, editor
Volume 27, Issue 2 PO BOX 348 Somerville, MA 02143 CONTACT
Phone: 617-627-9200 Fax: 617-627-9930 PUBLISHER
William House Phone: 617-627-9919 email@example.com EDITOR
Benjamin Ricci firstname.lastname@example.org DESIGN & ART DIRECTION
Bob Dobalina email@example.com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS
Anthony Cammalleri, Benjamin Ricci, Casandra Armour, Jaclyn Wing, Mason Marangella, Michael St. James, Robert Meigel, Sarah Brooks, Taylor Northern CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS
Shervin Lainez, Michael Regan, Sam Gehrke, Cara Robbins, Stacy Archer, Larilyn Sanchez ADVERTISING SALES
Performer Magazine, a nationally distributed musician’s trade publication, focuses on independent musicians, those unsigned and on small labels, and their success in a DIY environment. We’re dedicated to promoting lesser-known talent and being the first to introduce you to artists you should know about.
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EDITORIAL SUBMISSIONS In the words of our esteemed forefathers at CREEM: “NOBODY WHO WRITES FOR THIS RAG’S GOT ANYTHING YOU AIN’T GOT, at least in the way of credentials. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be sending us your stuff: reviews, features, photos, recording tips, DIY advice or whatever else you have in mind that might be interesting to our readers: independent and DIY musicians. Who else do ya know who’ll publish you? We really will... ask any of our dozens of satisfied customers. Just bop it along to us to firstname.lastname@example.org and see what comes back your way. If you have eyes to be in print, this just might be the place. Whaddya got to lose? Whaddya got?”
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ho would h a v e thought the best i n d i e roots-rock album of the year would come via Curse of Lono, a Londonbased collective who, with Severed, may have just released the best Shins-cum-Fleet Foxes record the world will ever hear? Cinematic, full of lush harmonies, layered guitar jangles and singalong choruses, the new LP from Curse of Lono easily stands out as the best record of 2017, and it’s only March. It’s instantly grabbing, and so full of purpose that I’d point other bands questioning why their music’s not getting noticed to pick up a copy of Severed on vinyl, just so they can listen to what a truly talented ensemble can accomplish with the right material. It’s not just that the songs are engaging, endlessly listenable (and hummable), but the recording quality is so rich, warm and inviting, that you’ll want to repeat Side A over and over again, forgetting (like we did) the record still
has a Side B to enjoy, one that’s equally as perfect as its A Side counterpart. There’s not much left to say. Severed is a triumph. A record so brilliant and accomplished that in a fairer world, would outsell anything else on the radio today. It earns our highest recommendation.
Curse of Lono Severed
(Submarine Cat Records)
Follow on Twitter: @curseoflonoband Listen now at curseoflonoband.com
Benjamin Ricci PERFORMER MAGAZINE MARCH 2017 5
RECORDS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE
With Sebastian Marciano from Stereo Off
Sam Cooke Songs by Sam Cooke (1957)
My father would play this all the time when I was I’m a singer/writer/producer in the band Stereo a little kid, and I fell in love with it. Off, and my own journey started at age nine, with saxophone, then pursuing choir and theory. Later I found my wings in hip-hop, releasing underground records and doing shows. Graduating music conservatory at Purchase College while engineering at studios and performing around the city, my tastes eventually changed. I knew I wanted to become an indie pop singer, so I started the band Stereo Off. We just released our third EP and will continue playing live shows in New York City this spring.
Sade Diamond Life (1984) My mom played pop radio in the car since she thought ‘this is what kids will like.’ Despite being barely old enough to talk, she was right. The cinematic quality of this album took me to a world where part of my brain still resides.
For more, follow on Twitter @stereooff and online at www.stereooff.com. Which records inspired you to become a musician? Let us know and you can be featured in a future column. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info. 6 MARCH 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
A Tribe Called Quest The Low End Theory (1991)
OutKast Aquemini (1998)
What else does a kid need to hear to know he wants to make music, or listen to hip-hop or jazz? Forever a classic.
A masterpiece which showed the world that Southern rappers, blues players and beatmakers tend to get together and make some of the best songs you’ve ever heard. I found it late, like all my favorites, and it helped me through a very tough time in my life.
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o, your band has recorded a new album and you’re thinking of releasing it on vinyl. Who doesn’t love vinyl, right? Well, you might not after you read through the following things no one ever tells a band when they’re contemplating a vinyl release. We don’t want to scare you off, we just want you to be loaded with all the info you need to make an informed decision. 1. VINYL IS HELLA EXPENSIVE Yeah, you knew pressing vinyl would cost a bit more than your average CD run from Disc Makers. But no one ever tells you the true cost of pressing vinyl before you get started. United Record Pressing has a great online estimator that will allow you to (roughly) calculate
what your dream vinyl release will add up to. We love their calculator because they’re completely upfront about the costs of pressing, and what it entails. And we encourage YOU to use it to figure out if vinyl really makes sense, financially, for your band right now. You want colored vinyl? Great. That’s gonna cost you. Up to 70 cents per album if you’re doing a short run of 500 or less. Seventy cents doesn’t sound like much, right? Well, that’s about $350 extra when you press up 500. Also, be prepared to pay a setup charge from your pressing plant of choice, fees for test pressings (which can be mandatory and up to $100 per release), printed labels (oh, you
wanted color? that’s gonna cost you), inner sleeves, record jackets…the list goes on. Never thought of that stuff, did ya? You want the plant to insert your records into their sleeves? Well, of course you do. Guess what? Extra fees! Shrink-wrapping? Fees! This isn’t meant to slag the plants, it’s just a reality check when it comes to the manufacturing costs that add up when pressing wax. The next time you see an advert claiming, “We charge $XX amount of dollars for #XX number of vinyl,” really look hard at what that includes. 2. YOU’RE ORDERING TOO MUCH Vinyl’s great. Everybody wants it. Your fans will eat it up! OK, reality check. Most bands order far too much physical product – be it CDs, vinyl, tapes, merch, whatever. Look, we love vinyl, but unless you’re taking pre-orders, or really tracking anticipation through a crowdfunding endeavor, it’s hard to accurately judge the quantity of records you’ll need to order to satisfy initial demand and future sales after your initial release push. We caution bands to order LESS than you think you might need. You may think your fans are clamoring for vinyl, because you’ve read all about it and there’s tons of other bands doing it, and vinyl’s supposedly hot right now. But over-ordering leaves you with extra costs and product that can be hard to move without losing even more money through discounting. Plus, having a limited release can actually be a bit cooler, as it might encourage those who were on the fence about buying your record to snag one up before they go out of print. Maybe order fewer copies, but make them a bit nicer (colored vinyl, gatefold sleeves, etc.). And if you sell out of your initial run, you can always press more later. 3. YOUR VINYL WEIGHS A TON No, seriously. Have you ever tried moving your record collection? Vinyl weighs a friggin’ ton, and what that means for your lucky band
is, you now get to pay to ship it all once it’s pressed! Oh, and not just once, but multiple times! You want to get the records once they’re done at the plant? You’ve gotta pay to have them shipped to you. You want to start selling them at an online retailer? Well, you’re likely gonna have to pay to ship them (again) to that retailer’s warehouse or storage facility (hint: drop ship them from the plant to your retailer if you won’t be fulfilling orders directly). You want to ship them to fans who order through your website? Great, you’re gonna have to ship ’em! All this shipping (and multiple shipping) adds up because records are heavy and require good packaging to arrive safely (you don’t want to have to pay return shipping on broken records, do you?!?)
a shipping container to arrive on Friday, full of your new album. Contact the few remaining pressing plants still in operation and ask what their current wait time is. Oh, and for extra fun, don’t be shocked if major label records take priority over your smaller run. It’s not unheard of for smaller indies to get pushed down the schedule if there’s a big release taking precedent.
The logistics of shipping (and storing) vinyl rarely enter the conversation, but it’s something to take into account. We know of at least one band who ordered a ton (well, not literally) of records only to find out they didn’t have enough cash to ship them. Then, you’ve got the extra fun of informing your fans of the extra shipping and handling charges you’ll need to pass on to them if you want to break even on postage, packing materials (you do plan to send these in proper LP mailers, right?) and tape.
5. TRACK SEQUENCING TIPS Vinyl’s a cruel mistress. For maximum fidelity, we really recommend no more than 18 minutes per side at 33 1/3 RPM, so keep that in mind when it comes to your album’s run time. Inner groove distortion is also a very real concern, yet few bands actually sequence their albums properly to compensate for this when sending in their masters to the vinyl plant.
Again, we don’t want to discourage you from releasing your next album on vinyl, we just want you to make smart decisions. 4. YOU GOT THE TIMING ALL WRONG CDs and digital downloads take very little time to prepare and distribute. I did a rush order on CDs once and the turnaround time was just three days. Three days from the delivery of the master to fully pressed, professional CDs in cases. And downloads, as we know, can be instantaneous. So, if you’re used to that sort of timing, be prepared for a lovely surprise when it comes to vinyl. Yep, these plants can get backed up. There simply aren’t enough presses still in operation, and with more demand comes more lead time. You can’t order a record on Monday and expect
ey Don’t Tell Pressing Vinyl Delays and longer-than-expected lead times should be factored into your release strategy. The last thing you want to do is get fans hyped up for a vinyl release, only to totally bum them out when you’ve gotta tell ’em it’s gonna be a few more months. By then, they may have forgotten about it. Call the plants. Know the timeframes. Plan accordingly.
After you decide which tracks are going to be placed on each side, it’s recommended that you put “hotter” songs, or tracks with more frequency information, at the beginning of each side. That way, mellower songs, or acoustic tracks with less musical information, can be placed at the end of the side. With less room for musical information, packing the end of each side with blistering tracks will all but ensure you end up with noticeable inner groove distortion, even on good playback systems. For an example of a well-sequenced album, look no further than The Replacements’ Tim. Side A kicks off with the rocking “Hold My Life” and ends with the more subdued “Swingin’ Party.” Side B opens with glorious slop-rock of “Bastards of Young” and closes with the acoustic “Here Comes a Regular.” Ah, if only all of life’s problems could be easily solved with a Replacements record… PERFORMER MAGAZINE MARCH 2017 9
LYRICFIND IS MA SEXY (AND PROF
earching for lyrics online used to be an absolute mess. Plug in a lyric, and Google would display tons of sites with spammy banner ads, and incomplete or incorrect lyrics. Why? They weren’t licensed from the publisher, so the quality was low. Not anymore. Try Googling a lyric today and watch what happens. The lyrics are displayed right there in search, beautiful and correct, complete with the band’s name, the album, and a link to the song on Google Play. You’ll find the same with Pandora, and iHeartRadio, plus hundreds of others. How is this possible? LyricFind. With lyrics being a top search term globally, and an explosion of music streaming, music publishers and songwriters needed a solution. So, LyricFind wrangled over 4,000 music publishers, including all the majors – and has also built a quality-controlled, vetted database of lyrics available for licensing and
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synchronized technology, tracking, reporting and paying royalties to publishers in over 100 countries. I caught up with Darryl Ballantyne (pictured), LyricFind’s founder and CEO, to get the scoop on where the lyrics business is headed in 2017. Lyrics are obviously a passion of yours. Personally, do your write songs? I have no musical talent whatsoever, purely music appreciation. Mom tried to teach me piano. My brother was big into playing music, always the first chair in sax. I was the guy who could listen to the song and be able to tell you who sang it, and the title. I was sort of the “Name That Tune” guy. I’d sit and listen to CDs and follow along with lyrics in the booklet. I had an Ugly Kid Joe album, and the lyrics to every song were listed except for “Cats in the Cradle” -- it was the only cover song. I was a pissed off teen. That was the genesis of what I do now.
Can you explain to the readers the value of lyrics? For instance, in the Recording Academy deal, they are displaying only snippets but you are paying publishers the full display license. The difference between those payments is one doesn’t have a payment (snippets are an allowed usage free of charge as a promotional item) but full lyrics get paid. We knew they wouldn’t be displaying the full lyrics, but we didn’t want no licensing paid for that use. So, they’ll bump a nominated song, here’s a piece of it, and a little lyric display, so we made sure there was a payment. We are trying to push the idea of full value of a full display. There is obviously some money in lyrics licensing. In music licensing, I’m constantly searching lyrics to find songs with particular keywords/subjects. Is that a big part of this? Absolutely; lyric display licensing revenue is primary. But the secondary reason is definitely
discoverability, displaying in Google. If someone hears the song, they do a lyric search. If the content’s in the database and licensed, people find the artist and it creates a royalty. And as you mention, it works the same way with people doing syncs - using lyrical keywords for emotion, which is bigger money. Tell me about the lyrics merchandising initiative coming in 2017? Super excited about it. I think it is definitely going to be a huge revenue stream for publishers and songwriters. Here’s how it works: choose any line from any song, and turn that into a t-shirt, hoodie, coffee mug, phone case - all sorts of different products. It’s possible because of the growth of on-demand printing combined with our database and reach and distribution. Think about seeing Beatles shirts with lyrics on Canal Street; you know it’s not licensed. People obviously want these products, but now you know the right people will be paid, you can choose exactly what you want, and they’re fully licensed. There are a lot of possibilities.
MAKING LYRICS FITABLE) AGAIN
cool -- think of it as Duolingo using music. For songwriters who may not have considered their lyrics as a revenue driver, how can they become involved with LyricFind? We do some direct deals for publishers with big catalogs - just email us. For U.S. publishers, the best way is a commission-free deal with the Harry Fox Agency (HFA). It’s the exact same amount of money. Go through HFA - everything flows nicely – lyric payment royalties, database inclusion, and opt-in to the merch program. For more, visit lyricfind.com. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development.
Where else will we see LyricFind in 2017? We’re really excited about many new partnerships, and continue to focus on multiple languages. We’ve added Musica. com, the most visited Spanish-language lyrics site, as a partner. And we will be launching a cool project with Linguician, a platform for individualized and personalized language learning based on music and lyrics. It’s really PERFORMER MAGAZINE MARCH 2017 11
SPOTLIGHT 12 MARCH 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
SPOTLIGHT Stacy Archer
Skirting the Line Between Jazz and Hip-Hop
PERFORMER MAGAZINE MARCH 2017 13
e recently caught up with multi-award winning Canadian hip-hop artist Daniel Denton, aka Moka Only, to get a sense of what makes the insanely prolific emcee and producer tick. It’s not often, after all, that a single artist hits triple digits in their discography… Last year you released your 100th album! When you dropped your first LP in 1996, had you already planned on releasing that much music? No, I never really looked into the future. I’ve always been in the moment and never had a set game plan. But you still released 100 albums! That’s odd, by any artist’s standard. All that was personal goals and something I wanted to do. In hip-hop, nobody has ever really done that; you look at Madlib, El-P, J. Dilla, etc. and no one else has done it. I guess a part of me kinda wanted to see if a label would catch onto it, but really it was more of a personal goal for me to see if I could do it. Your music is heavily influenced by jazz. Do you consider yourself more of a jazz musician than a rapper? 14 MARCH 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
I got into jazz when I was really young, even before hip-hop. I just found jazz on my own… in the back of my head, I always wanted to be a jazz artist, but didn’t feel I had all the skills, so I channeled that energy into hip-hop. The way I did it was to marry both worlds together. Another thing is a good chunk of hip-hop music is influenced by jazz. Now that has fallen out of favor in recent years, but to me the golden era of rap was influenced by jazz. For instance, two of my favorite albums are Thrust and Manchild by Herbie Hancock - to me jazz is classic. The genre shouldn’t be abandoned to fit the flavor of the month. Jazz music is the most important music to come out of America and it should be given more respect. Do you write the majority of your lyrics or just freestyle stream of conscious? I kinda like freestyle on paper – some of the songs are freestyled, but mainly its complete stream of conscious on paper. Overall, I’m just trying to capture a moment and that’s equally as important as rappers who write scripted lines on a notepad. But when it comes to music, I’m seriously stubborn and it’s my way or no way, that’s my privilege. I have to be happy with it (laughs). You’re a hard rapper to pinpoint. Lyrically
you’re similar to Q-Tip and MF Doom, but producer-wise you’re like Pete Rock or J. Dilla. Which rappers actually made you want to rhyme? Honestly, you hit the nail on the head. As far as favorite emcees and producers, Q-Tip is handsdown my favorite for beats and rhymes. At the same time, I’m very wary about what I listen to, I like to be on my own and not easily influenced. That’s why for a long time, I didn’t work with a lot of people. But I guess because I use certain cuts and samples you can compare me to Q-Tip or MF Doom, but really what I try to do comes from my own perspective. What about working with Ishkan or Illa J? Oh yeah, for sure those producers influence me. And even the Ayatollah collaboration EP with me and the producer Ayatollah was fantastic, but those were Ron Contour lyrics I used for that one. So, who else are your favorite emcees? I think my favorite emcees are people that are concentrated on things that are autobiographical and not inventing pure fantasy. But at the same time, I do appreciate emcees who are a certain way like grimy storytellers such as Mobb Deep or Biggie. I have created my own characters before like Ron Contour and that was just a way to get out
Last time I checked you were using a digital audio tape machine, a Portastudio with 8 channel mixer, two keyboards and a Jackson electric guitar. Do you still have the same recording setup? Wow, that was a while back, I change it up every month! (laughs). I have a LOT of vintage equipment. Right now, I’m still using the Portastudio 24, but I rarely use more than eight tracks. I’m familiar with Pro Tools and other DAW rigs, but I don’t need them to make a sound. Pro Tools is the same as Logic and they’re both recording devices, it’s all digital. So, it doesn’t matter so much what I record with, it just matters what I put on it. So, let’s go back to music influences. You play the piano as well as a few other instruments. Who are your favorite keyboard and synthesizer players? George Duke, Bill Evans, Ahmed Jaffar, Bud Powell… Robert Glasper is really good too. Really a list of my favorite jazz musicians would be saxophone players. Players like Wayne Shorter, Eddie Harris, Stan Getz, Hank Mobley, and Horace Nelson.
watched it hahaha! You’ve lived all over the West Coast (Vancouver, San Francisco, Seattle). How does that influence your sound and vibe? There’s something calming about being on the Pacific Ocean, whether it’s San Fran, LA, San Diego. That scenery is even reflected in jazz music, a lot of the cool jazz movement was attributed West Coast jazz. Yeah, Miles Davis set it off, but a lot of cats on the West Coast quickly picked up and embraced that cool jazz. At the age of 43, how do you keep your creative energy fresh year after year? All music is a reflection of life and I’m still alive! As long as you’re living you can channel creativity. It’s also a bit different for me because I’m a solo artist and not in a band. When you’re in a group, that’s a whole democracy. People have jobs, kids, wives, separate lives; but I get to focus on what I want to do first. Tell me, how did you come up with the song “Blue in the Drums” off Milky State? Well I don’t want to give away the full secret, especially in terms of sampling (laughs), but I’ll tell you this. I heard a 1960s pop song on AM
in my own world. But yes, the music has been divided in terms of lyrical content and image. You know you’re not going to hear a Top 40 rap song where Diamond D and Lil Yachty are mentioned in the same sentence. As an independent artist, why have you avoided using a traditional website? Because people don’t check websites anymore. Not that I don’t support having one’s own website, just saying lots of people check social media first these days. You can go directly to the artist on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, whatever. But for all intents and purposes, people can go directly to www.urbnet.com/mokaonly and that acts as my website. You can also access all my records and merchandise on Bandcamp, iTunes and Spotify.
of myself. Ron Contour is like your eccentric uncle.
So far, what have you planned for 2017? My main plan is to promote what it is already out there. I’ll be revisiting all the albums I came out with last year and dropping videos for them. I just dropped three new videos and I’m working on some top-secret stuff with the crew. Like I just finished producing Dave Psy’s new album and I’m really anticipating the release of that. That album will be called Playpen – I’ve also been working on
“I’m familiar with Pro Tools and other DAW rigs, but I don’t need them to make a sound.” You’ve been an independent artist now for over twenty years. What pre-empted your decision to never rely on a major label? Well, it’s not that I wouldn’t rely on a major label, but basically, they aren’t interested in what doesn’t have a lot of commercial appeal. I think some of my songs could be Top 40 hits, but the music needs money behind it and exposure. As a Canadian recording artist, is it easier for artists there to get government grants and funds for creative and artistic endeavors? Nah, I don’t do any of that. I got a few Juno awards, but that didn’t really do much for me. All it is, is a trophy. I appreciate it, but it’s an award, that’s it. Now, the Grammys are different because that can change your life, but that’s also because the U.S. has 300 million people whereas Canada has [about] 35 million people. The Grammys are a huge machine with the world’s eyes on it; it’s a whole different can of worms. Like, when was the last time you watched the Junos on TV? I haven’t
radio and the melody instantly reached out to me, I loved it. The lyrics just came to me instantly, like you know how some people say they feel like they’re down in the dumps? Well I was like, I’m blue in the drums. Like maybe if I’m down that may show or reveal itself through my music. What about your album Desired Effect? That’s one of your best releases, can you talk a little bit about the production behind that? Hmm, basically I had a major label deal and everything fell through. You can hear a lot of my personal turmoil throughout that whole album. I wasn’t happy – I wasn’t happy with the label situation, my management, it was just a difficult period. The only good moments during that time period were the actual recording sessions. It was therapeutic and the music allowed me to get everything off my chest. As you get older, what do you feel about the current state of hip-hop? I see it being very divided, but truthfully, I live
some straight-ahead jazz albums. Any last words of up-and-coming emcees and songwriters? Kinda cliché, but do what you want to do and speak from a genuine place. And if you’re writing fantasy, that’s cool, but do it the best you can and to the best of your abilities. Learn music history, not just hip-hop history, but all music history. Learn world history and about the Earth. It’s important to know the foundation; without a foundation, everything turns to dust.
Follow on Twitter: @MOKA_ONLY
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DUDE Y Sam Gehrke
Breaks The Songwriting Code on Latest LP, Sincerely
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YORK PERFORMER MAGAZINE MARCH 2017 17
“I haven’t written thousands of songs, but…the closer I get, the closer I am to writing the kinds of songs I that want to write.” 18 MARCH 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
ike any other form of art, music is not merely a stagnant body for entertainment, but rather, a living, breathing, and rapidly evolving form of expression. As a result of such an animate tendency, we see it rapidly morphing, evolving, and progressing year by year. From Bob Dylan’s transition to electric guitar, to The Beatles’ experimentation with psychedelic sounds, it is evident that artists generally kick off their careers with one unique sound, and then slowly broaden their horizons, experimenting with new styles and genres.
think that part of what makes us Dude York is our commitment to eclecticism. A popular thing with bands right now is to be eclectic, and for us it’s kind of our second nature. I just think that there’s so many great writers in the annals of history that it would be crazy to focus so specifically that you cannot have anyone you want reflected in your sound,” Richards says.
For guitarist and singer Peter Richards from the indie rock band, Dude York; however, such a progression does not appear to be slow. On the band’s latest album, Sincerely, released on the 24th of February, Richards strays from the natural inclination of a musician to assign one specific style to an album, and instead, leaves hints of punk vocals, classic rock guitar, and even Conor Oberst-style modern folk.
Concerning variety in Richard’s music, the span of song meanings on Sincerely ranges from topics like marijuana to those of innercity poverty, or sad farewell. According to Richards; however, the album has a general focus on the concept of moving forward from an emotionally dark place: “Sincerely is sort of like a process record. It’s about coming to terms with depression and trying to move forward from otherwise bleak circumstances with an air of hopefulness and strength, even when your personal infrastructure has been compromised again and again. It’s about how you keep going with a depression at the heart,” says Richards.
Despite the variety of sounds and clear experimentation on Sincerely, Richards wishes not to follow in the footsteps of other musicians, but, instead, create an original sound that is unique to Dude York, stating, “I
Using the record’s theme of triumph in the midst of hopelessness, the second-to-last track on Sincerely, “Twin Moons,” has a pop-punk style chop-chord sound with lyrics that paint a decrepit picture of a man living in a crime-
Richards had written the piece as an ode to the homeless communities of cities around the States. “Seattle, and I bet all the other cities, see an unimaginable epidemic of homelessness, so that [song] was an attempt to address homelessness directly, talk about disenfranchisement from the systems in play, and take a stance about the necessity of passion for other people,” he says. While focusing on suffering and the bittersweet recovery of hope, album cut “Paralyzed” has the appearance of a breakup song, with lines such as: “Since you’ve been gone, behavior, I can’t regulate, since you’ve been gone, all I do is hesitate,” one would not be likely to assume the track was actually written about a feeling of social anxiety Richards’ recalls experiencing after his days of excessive pot smoking. “It’s about smoking too much weed, getting kind of anxious in social situations, and needing social situations even though you can’t hang. That’s what the song’s about: wanting to hang, but not being able to hang,” Richards says. Like “Twin Moons,” “Paralyzed” has a relatively upbeat tempo, and a loud, thrashing chorus that makes way for a catchy tune. Residual energy from these two songs; however, will be subdued by the record’s final track: “Time’s Not on My Side,” in which Richards breaks off from the alternative rock sound, and strips down to a live acoustic guitar and clean
vocals. With a tamed, candid, and raw voice, Richards mentions having written this closer as an ode to a friend who had moved away without notice. Using bits and pieces of what his friend had sent him afterwards, Richards used this all-acoustic black sheep to top off Sincerely. “That song probably has the most to do with my actual life…some of those lyrics were sent to me by a friend who had just left the city. He had moved out of town without telling anybody. The first sound of that song really resonated with me, and I thought it was kind of a bumpy situation to find myself in, so I wrote it to say goodbye in a long-distance sort of way…It just seemed like a good thing to write a song about,” he says. Going acoustic also exposed Richards to a new kind of simplified recording which he had never tried before, but is eager to experiment with in the future. “It was just one take and one microphone for both guitar and vocals. I had never recorded anything in that way, actually. That was the first time I had ever tried to record something in a ‘folk’ style, and I was very pleased with it. I hope to get the opportunity to repeat that one day,” Richards says. As opposed to previous Dude York records, Richards distinguishes Sincerely for both the prominence of Claire England’s vocals and lyrical writing talent, as well as the band’s increased prolificacy. “I would see the there are two big differences between the past album and this album: the first big difference, and in my opinion, most important difference is Claire’s editorial voice being significantly stronger on this album than any work we’ve put out in the
past. The fact that this album features songs that she wrote is extremely important to me. The second part of it is just the amount of songs…I haven’t written thousands of songs, but I’m getting there, and I think that the closer I get, the closer I am to writing the kinds of songs I that want to write,” says Richards.
ridden cityscape. Its verses have a simplified, slowed-down tempo, with a haunting electric resonance, but then later the track progress to fast, pump-up choruses followed by a final speedy electric guitar solo that builds in climactic energy.
Richards sees prolificacy in songwriting as a series of steps towards more accurate writing about how he feels. He expresses a ceaseless desire to keep improving his abilities to accurately depict and share his thoughts and emotions through the songs that Dude York produces. “Hearing an idea in your head, and then figuring out a way to bottle that for an audience or for yourself. It’s a discrepancy between what you hear in your head, and what you record; those two things don’t always line up. I think that the more songs I write, the easier it is to write the songs I hear in my head,” he says. Dude York will be playing at the restaurant “Chop Suey” in Seattle the night before the release of Sincerely, and then again at “Above DNA” in San Francisco after the record’s release. “I enjoy touring, it’s nice to perform in a new location every night - that’s my favorite part,” says Richards. “I like writing songs, but I like performing them the most.”
Follow on Twitter: @DudeYork
DUDE YORK SINCERELY STANDOUT TRACK: “TONIGHT”
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FOXYGEN Cara Robbins
On Recording to 2â€? Tape and Employing a 40-Piece Orchestra on Their Latest Opus
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SPOTLIGHT PERFORMER MAGAZINE MARCH 2017 21
am France and Jonathan Rado are so in sync—to the point where they seem to know what the other is thinking throughout their musical process. For a 15-year music-making friendship, this is something to be treasured. After a three-year hiatus since …And Star Power, the duo known as Foxygen has released one of their most ambitious works yet, Hang. In the three years since their last album, beyond the duo listening to artists like Ariel Pink and Sly & The Family Stone, France has been working on producing records for other bands—which truly
vocals and intriguing sonic twists, but backing by a 40-piece orchestra throughout its duration. Ambitious, indeed. “I think we think of all of our albums as films, and this is an old Hollywood ’30s film, I guess,” France notes. “We think of our records as experiences and as movies and as immersions; we immerse people in stuff. We made it for ourselves, and we made it for everybody else. We wanted to make just another movie that shows another side of these two people.” With this album, they’re creating not only a new experience, but a new identity, too. Each one can be revisited, of course—but the goal is to keep
“We think of our records as experiences and as movies and as immersions.” lent itself to the unique sonic elements present in Hang. At this point in their career, Foxygen knew exactly which sounds they wanted to produce, and how to get them. Cinematic in feel, Hang not only features the 22 MARCH 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
changing, and keep growing, as France states. “I think the characters that we were in the past few records were these at a missed time, missed place rock stars. And at this time, we’ve kind of cleaned ourselves up a little bit, brushed off some of the dust, put on a tuxedo, and did our thing,”
Hang was recorded completely on 2” tape— which isn’t a new thing for the band, but it’s something that is done more for practicality, because as the band clarifies, you’re “analyzing it with your ears instead of your eyes.” Along with enlisting orchestral performers, Foxygen also reached out to some of their closest musician friends. For rhythm, they looked to Brian and Michael D’Addario, brothers from blossoming group the Lemon Twigs. For ingenuity, they looked to multi-instrumentalist member of the Flaming Lips, Steven Drozd. As Foxygen calls out, the Lemon Twigs are a brother-based band; they’re also closeknit and able to feed off of each other’s musical energy. When asked which song is most precious to the duo, I’m met with a bit of silence before a decisive answer. “It’s weird because the whole album feels like one massive piece to me. A lot of it. What do you think, Rado?” asks France. Rado chimes in with his affinity for “On Lankershim,” yet comes to the same conclusion—this album is better not in parts, but as a whole. In contrast to And Star Power..., a wholehearted concept through and through, Hang doesn’t tell a narrative, but it asserts the identity of Foxygen with an orchestra, which is a story in and of itself. The joy in this album comes not only from the sounds, but of the process used to create it. New sonic elements? Well, besides the 40-piece
be hooked into and immediately go to the human soul and heart, and I think using those big themes, it’s become obvious how people are using this album to process things for themselves, which is good. It’s about self-analysis. It’s about going inside oneself – that’s what that album [Hang] is, and I think people are doing that now with themselves, listening to it and then revealing how they feel.” This mentality seeps into the album art as well, which was created by France himself. Worked on for more than a year, the artwork was meant to depict the Los Angeles cityscape, and uses rich tones and textures to do so. But what’s cool about the artwork is the fact that it was literally sitting on Rado’s floor during its creation. “I just wanted it to represent the record and so I just had it on the floor of my room, and I’d walk on it, and dirt and shit would get kicked on it, and I just wanted to live on top of it while I was writing and recording Hang. And I wanted to paint whatever came to me over a slow process, and what it ended up being was sort of this abstract LA cityscape, where it’s you can see the ocean or hill or something’s burning down in the background, and this sort of surrealist landscape.” Hang has become more than an album, but an assertion of Foxygen’s identity. Where will they go next? Time will tell, but we’re certainly eager to see the next direction this dynamic duo is going to take.
Follow on Twitter: @foxygentheband
orchestra, you’ll find a crisp sound that’s standard of Foxygen. This time, the communication between France and Rado and the review process lent itself to a truly cohesive work. “It was more of a communication thing. More of a way of just not tinkering around forever, just knowing I want this sound. We want to get this very particular sound and know what does that? How to do that?” France extrapolates. France also states that the review process is built completely around trust. Both musicians know exactly which sounds the others prefer, and which they don’t. There’s a lot of respect, and not a lot of shutting down ideas. With a 15-year musical partnership, they know what they want out of their work. And it shows. “Don’t make it [music] with anybody but Rado,” France says with a laugh. Though they’re collaborating with other artists, their band is the most important factor in
the equation. “It’s a low-pressure thing, even though it’s a professional band, it’s what we do for fun.” With the current state of the union, I undoubtedly wondered if themes of divisiveness and the issues we’re facing every day would come into play on Hang. Spoiler alert: Hang is focused on anything but. “We were not trying to relate to modern things at all, and that’s what Foxygen is, too. It’s an escape for me, so anything put into it is more subconscious and more poetic and more mysterious. I’m never going into Foxygen with a political angle in any way—so far. Who knows what will happen,” France states. Though it’s not discussing the climate of the times, Hang is certainly helping people process them, which France explains: “I wanted these heavy, archetypal themes that people would immediately
FOXYGEN HANG STANDOUT TRACK: “AMERICA”
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SPOTLIGHT Shervin Lainez
Lady Lamb On Writing An Album to Give Touring a Purpose
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avigating the beautiful abandon, enviable burden, and inevitable analysis of loving, Tender Warriors Club is an unyieldingly raw release from indie rock artist Lady Lamb. A nomadic adventure both in its catalyst and creative process, the singersongwriter said she poured out her lyrics while wandering the globe and had gotten the idea of intentionally creating the album to allow for her to take a North American tour. “I wrote the majority of it just travelling around the world. It made me feel really fulfilled and at peace,” Lady Lamb, who goes by Aly Spaltro off stage, explains. She settled into a friend’s studio space in Sweden to put down tracks and produce the EP solo, and considers this record a return to her earlier, resourceful roots in music: “I really loved recording this last record, it really took me back,” she says. As a young video rental store clerk in her Maine hometown, she’d take advantage of the solitude after hours and lock herself in for all-night experimental recording sessions. From overnight overtures at her Clerks gig to crafting handmade packaging to sell her homespun recordings at the local record store, eventually Spaltro took her ambitions to the Big Apple in 2010. She and producer Nadim Issa turned out her first official studio record, Ripely Pine, in 2013 on Brooklyn’s Ba Da Bing Records. Issa and Spaltro teamed up again when she co-produced her sophomore effort, After, in 2014. She was then snatched up the same year to join the illustrious roster at Mom + Pop Music, which includes indie darlings Courtney Barnett, Ingrid Michaelson, Andrew Bird, and more. In December of last year, Mom + Pop released the seven track EP Tender Warriors Club, followed up with a North American-only vinyl release earlier this year. “These songs served as a path for myself that making a conscious effort to stay tender, and be kind and patient towards myself when handling my own fears is the most fruitful way to maneuver them in personal relationships,” she wrote about the album. “Tender Warriors Club is not just a collection of songs. It is meant to serve as an emblematic space for people to relate in the shared interest of emotional vulnerability, using music as the collective form of self-expression. It is my hope that this work and concept can be a reminder to both myself and others to find the courage to remain sensitive through emotional challenges. I’d like to bring these themes into intimate spaces musically, without amplification or a traditional stage, as a means to connect through the aforementioned
concept that striving to express oneself with tenderness is ultimately a strength.” Dubbed “The Living Room Tour,” Lady Lamb hit the road at the beginning of 2017 and will be touring throughout the spring: an unconventional approach since Spaltro actually wrote the album to have a reason to tour, rather than touring to support the release. Her travels have featured both traditional shows and a series of more intimate, personal performances in spaces from art galleries to actual living rooms.
Follow on Twitter: @ladylambjams
UPCOMING TOUR DATES March 1 - New Orleans, LA March 2 - Houston, TX March 3 - Austin, TX @ Stubbs BBQ March 4 - Denton, TX March 6 - Santa Fe, NM March 8 - Phoenix, AZ March 9 - San Diego, CA March 10 - Los Angeles, CA March 11 - San Francisco CA March 12 - Petaluma, CA March 14 - Portland, OR March 15 - Vancouver, BC March 16 - Seattle, WA March 18 - Spokane, WA March 19 - Missoula, MT March 21 - Salt Lake City, UT March 23 - Denver, CO March 25 – Russelville, AR March 26 - Dallas, OK
LADY LAMB TENDER WARRIORS CLUB STANDOUT TRACK: “SEE YOU”
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SPOTLIGHT 26 MARCH 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Learning to Trust the Collaborative Process and Creative Freedoms
CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH Michael Regan
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“It’s not about throwing lyrics against the wall and seeing what sticks. It about what’s behind it.”
lec Ounsworth is a vocalist, multiinstrumentalist and songwriter from Philadelphia. You may also know him as the face of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. The band has been around for twelve years and The Tourist (out now) is their fifth album. As an artist, Ounsworth is constantly building on things. As a band, exploration and having freedom for things to evolve is at their core. With this new record, Ounsworth has evolved both musically and personally. Most of the songs came together during a time of reflection, primarily in his personal life and any correlation with the grand scheme of things is coincidental. In the past couple of years, Ounsworth experienced certain things that he never experienced before. While his previous albums are personal, as well, this one’s a bit more introspective. Everything ultimately comes from the same place, but this record is a doozy. “I wasn’t really reaching for anything to write about on this one; this is a little more immediate,” says Ounsworth. And that’s why the songs come across so organically. There is a certain musical lightness and almost dreamy nature to the songs, despite their emotional undertone. “There is subtle desperation,” says Ounsworth. Part of this balance has to do with the way he sings. The color instruments, and really majority of the instruments, are written and played in major. To reduce the composition to its simplest and purest form, he wrote music that typically would have counter melodies in major keys. But it’s the lyrics and back-up vocals that really set everything off. With this album, Ounsworth experimented with atypical lyrical structures. Inspired by Elvis Costello and Paul Simon, he wanted to see what it would be like to run lyrics against a changing chord structure. It was a conscious experiment and he packed in as many thoughts as he could, not just one line, and let the music run for a while. Experimenting with ‘packing lyrics’ was an everevolving process which allowed him to have a mental running list of thoughts. In terms of word choice and tense, Ounsworth focused on the one thing that prompted him to write in the present. He wrote towards the present and wrote up to the present because that one thing was still affecting him. He wrote and rewrote because his story is ever evolving. Despite each song being deeply personal, he is able to connect with people through his musicality. The delivery of the lyrics and vocal melody effectively carry the songs and allow people to relate to something so big on a personal level. All the tracks on The Tourist are distinct but have underlying similarities. While all of
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them are equally beautiful, the clear standout is “Fireproof,” where everything floats together. The first 17 seconds of the song consists of vocals with a plucking bass line. As other elements are introduced, the song evolves and becomes swirly and elevated with floating vocals. There is a strong kaleidoscope-like vibe. The style in which Ounsworth sings, and the distinct timbre of his voice, adds that special something to the mix. Ounsworth spent about four weeks recording The Tourist in a Philadelphia-based studio with a drummer, bassist and guitarist. They had some practice time, got to the foundation of the song and went over chord changes. This album definitely has more of a band feel that some previous Clap Your Hands releases, primarily because Ounsworth allowed his musical partners to put their own stamp on the tracks. As the time in the studio progressed, the songs were reimagined, but the heart of them stayed the same. From his studio time, he learned that there are going to be surprises with every song but it’s up to the artist to determine what a good or bad surprise is. While he went into recording thinking that he wanted a song to sound a certain way, some things ended up being totally different than he imagined they ever could. A space for freedom and exploration resulted in an album that has a balance between staying true to a core artistic vision and allowing the song to be what it is. The primary difference with this album compared to prior Clap Your Hands LPs is that Ounsworth had more time to tinker with everything. After recording, he and engineer Nick Krill spent a few months tightening everything up and adding backup vocals, keyboards, guitars and more percussion. Everything was done deliberately. While they had different perspectives on things, Ounsworth viewed this as a positive relationship because they pushed each other, creatively. After the engineering process, he worked with Dave Fridmann to mix the album. Ounsworth notes that Fridmann pointed out things that he never would have heard because he was so deep in it. “Doing twelve-to-fifteen variations a day, you need someone on the side to say, ‘Yes, no, maybe’ and take a direction,” says Ounsworth. “If you can put everyone on stage in a small theater, the audience can react to it in an intimate way; that’s the goal,” says Ounsworth on touring. He notes that he always gets nervous before performing live but it has nothing to do with people watching; it’s more his expectation of how he’ll play. Ounsworth notes, “After the first song I’m okay and can shake it off. I’m not comfortable with people looking at me; I don’t really like attention that much, which makes me an unlikely performer.”
“Doing twelve-to-fifteen variations a day, you need someone on the side to say, ‘Yes, no, maybe’ and take a direction.”
Shaking off the nerves happens fairly quickly once he’s performing because he truly wants to connect with people. “On stage, I have a sense of fulfillment. If I go too long without it, I notice it,” says Ounsworth. Creating a mood at a live performance is essential, and Ounsworth typically plays with soft lighting – perhaps that’s because he wants to go unnoticed and let the music shine through. At the end of the day “it’s not about throwing lyrics against the wall and seeing what sticks. It about what’s behind it,” says Ounsworth.
CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH THE TOURIST STANDOUT TRACK: “FIREPROOF” Follow on Twitter: @cyhsyband PERFORMER MAGAZINE MARCH 2017 29
Putting the Electro-Voice ND Series Mics Through Their Paces [Editor’s note – we recently chose two artists to test out the rugged, dynamic Electro-Voice ND series microphones. They documented their experiences on social media, and were kind enough to write up these final testimonials after performing and recording with the mics for a few weeks.] AINJEL EMME For this review, I tested three new ElectroVoice ND series microphones: the ND76, ND44, and ND66. I’m already a fan of the N/Dym series, so I was excited to see the progress Electro-Voice made on these new pieces. First, I did a simple voiceover session. I traditionally use an SM7B or RE-20, but the ND76 did the job quite nicely. My vocals were lucid and balanced, requiring only a touch of compression. Next, I streamed a performance on Facebook Live, employing the ND76 on vocals and ND44 on guitar. The 76 was remarkably sensitive, capturing details I’m more accustomed to hearing from more expensive condenser mics. Plosives were harder on this mic than your standard dynamic, but proper technique eliminates that issue (so no excuses!). The 44 was surprisingly full-bodied on the acoustic guitar. I was impressed by the warm, natural sound we were easily able to achieve. My next test was a live video session. I’m on the sound engineering team at an LA-based showcase series called Badass Bands, where we shoot videos of artists performing live in-studio. This was a perfect opportunity to throw the NDs into the line of fire. Our first act consisted of nine pieces in one room, with live monitors. The second was a high-energy power trio. Soloing the 76 on playback, we were pretty blown away—not only by the definition of the vocals, but by the isolation from the rest of the room. The 44, again, proved versatile and more-than-capable on the bands’ guitar amps. I sampled the 76 through my battery powered busking amp and concluded that the level of isolation on this mic is probably its key feature— virtually no street noise, far less propensity for feedback than other mics. Lastly, I brought it to a local songwriters night. After my acoustic set, I was approached by one of the other artists, who is now planning on purchasing one. On stage, achieving solid pitch and diction seemed to be a bit more effortless than it is with other dynamics I’ve used. I can see myself using this mic in most
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Overall, I was very impressed with the ND series. These are solid, quality tools that are built to last, work hard and offer pro quality at an affordable price.
live performance settings, and even some studio applications.
SCARLET CANARY When you are a regionally touring band, it can be hard to find reliable and affordable equipment that will roll with the punches. When we were chosen to demo the Electro-Voice ND series mics by Performer, we were excited to test out some products that had been on our wish list for some time. Several of our friends in other touring bands praised EV’s durability and superior performance and we now have to agree with them. We used the vocal mics first. Our lead singer Hannah used the ND96 and our bass player Marcos used the ND76. Although both mics provided amazing sound, the ND96 is by far the star in this line. Hannah had this to say, “I can’t believe how clear and crisp the ND96 is. It captured all the facets of my voice, even my screams, on a really loud stage. I didn’t feel like I had to push to get a great performance. I just sang and the mic caught everything. I am in love”. We used the instrument mics while tracking our upcoming album in studio with Rusty Sun Audio. Now to be fair here, we as a band know exactly as much as we need to know about tracking drums and that is: does it sound good? Cool - then it must be good! So, to properly review the instrument mics, we asked our producer, Nick Nordruft, to put them through their paces and let us know what he thought of them. We ended up trying all the mics and after lots of banging on stuff and adjusting, we tracked all the drums on the album with them. Nick complimented their sounds saying, “They produce a clear and rich sound that, even dry, is huge.” He also commented on how easy the mics were to position to get the right fit: “the way the ND46, ND44 and ND66 pivot and lock is a game changer. That perfect sound is only a small button push away. No more fighting with stands -- everything adjusts right there at the head of the mic.” Whether you are looking for a vocal mic that captures every dynamic of your voice on a loud stage or instrument mics that don’t quit and adjust to fit any kit or cab, there is a mic in the ND series for you. Trust us. All of us here at Scarlet Canary are incredibly happy we got the chance to test out these mics and look forward to using (and abusing) them more on tour this year. For more info, visit www.electrovoice.com PERFORMER MAGAZINE MARCH 2017 31
GEAR TEST Taking the Shure KSM8 Dualdyne Mic on the Road and Back Again [Editor’s note – we recently chose two gear testers to demo the game-changing KSM8 Dualdyne Dynamic mics from Shure – one to test the mic on tour, and the other to put it to use in the studio. They documented their experiences on social media, and were kind enough to write up these final testimonials after performing and recording with the mics for a few weeks.] ALKE First of all, I want to say how grateful we are to have received the KSM8 microphone from Performer and Shure. Having a mic that can actually translate a vocal performance live is so hard to come by, that it is almost comparable to the Garden of Eden. I can honestly say that Shure has taken a huge step in pursuing and pinpointing what technical qualities are needed to help a vocalist deliver a great performance, both live and in the studio. The first thing I noticed was how much output 32 MARCH 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
the KSM8 has. You can actually, for once, put some distance between yourself and the microphone without losing volume and detail. This is something I’ve only previously seen in some of the higher-priced condenser handhelds made by companies like Neumann. Alongside the fantastic output level and much-improved proximity effect, comes the ultra-low feedback. I couldn’t believe how hard I could push this mic before hearing the imminent ring of death. I’m not a live sound guy, but I think this would give any engineer more room to get creative with a mix. In terms of frequency, I was pleased to hear an ample amount of 2 to 4k. This really allows the vocals to cut through even if you’re a quiet singer. Another helpful frequency factor is the present, but not muddy, low end. I don’t know how they pulled that one off but kudos to you, Shure. The last thing I’ll say is, the mic looks slick. When you’re holding it you really feel like you have a top-notch piece of gear in your hand, which gives
GEAR TEST you a higher overall sense of confidence when you step up on that stage or open up its case in the vocal booth. So, to wrap it up, I would definitely put this microphone at the top of its class, and even go so far as to say that it transcends the categories of dynamic and condenser. I’m looking forward to seeing what Shure has for us in the future and if this microphone is any indication, it’s going to be amazing. TIMOTHY BURKHEAD – FOH/ PRODUCTION MANAGER for MOON TAXI I do not yet travel with a tour console, mics, stands, cables, or techs. The Moon Taxi crew is small, yet powerful. But my goal remains the same each day - better sound, clearer vocals. I make it work by adding ingredients to perfect the recipe until I get the right flavor. My main focus has been learning the basic concepts using the standard tools to make the best sound possible. I’m at the point to where I can begin hand-selecting the hardware to make a full meal of each show. Meet the KSM8 of house Shure, Inc., the Valyrian steel sword in my arsenal. The last channel of my input list is the centerpiece of the show! Beginning with a simple and sturdy design (and in a handsome matte black), the KSM8 Dualdyne
is the world’s first dual diaphragm dynamic vocal microphone, a design that eliminates the emcee mic-cupping effects or proximity EQ qualms. It’s a master of the plug-and-play. Most days I only had to gain to 11 o’clock (5-7 dB softer than SM58 capsules used on the three other vocals) to get the power I needed to push the vocals through the mix. With such a tame base level EQ, I found that I would pull a touch from 250Hz, and if needed, boost 6-8kHz for some extra sizzle. Other than -3db, 3:1, quick attack and release compression, this microphone is real-deal-ready straight out of the box. I used this mic for indie-pop rock, soulful oldies, public speaking engagements, in small venues, basketball arenas and major outdoor festivals, and I can say the power and presence of the Shure KSM8 produces one of the most full-bodied yet natural vocal sounds on the market. Say it with me, plug and play… plug and play. When the situation is intense and you don’t have those two hours you were promised to soundcheck, the last thing you need to worry about is your main weapon showing up for work. Invest in yourself and your sound. For more info, americas/ksm8
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ACCENT HARNESSES THE POW COLLABORATION TO RECORD WITH SIX VOCALISTS IN FIVE
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y group Accent began in 2011 as a one-time Internet collaboration of six a cappella vocalists from five different countries. We had stumbled upon each other on YouTube through a common love for close harmony vocal groups of the 20th Century. Eventually, we decided to produce a collaborative video from our respective homes. Following that first project,
we continued to work together, communicating solely through Facebook and e-mail. In 2014, we were invited to meet and perform live for the very first time in Sweden. After a rousing success, we’ve continued to perform live— increasingly nowadays—but we maintain a very busy music production schedule for albums and one-off releases. As you can imagine, our
When Performer Magazine posted that they were running a promotion to win Quartet audio interfaces and Pro Tools cloud collaboration software from Avid, we leaped at the chance to enter. The cloud collaboration tools jumped out at us for obvious reasons. And the interfaces would be the cherry on top, because even though all the Accent guys own capable interfaces, a couple of us were on the pretty outdated side, myself included (though I do love my trusty Digi002!). Testing these powerful tools couldn’t have come at a better time. We are in final stages of producing our new EP In This Together, which we actually recorded together for a change (so tracking was no hassle!), but now we are in mix mode. It made perfect sense for us to use the cloud tools to share mix feedback and ideas, all on the same version of the same session. We can literally share a session and make suggested changes for each other, which helps Andrew Kesler on the other end (in Los Angeles) who is ultimately responsible for the mix. Otherwise, we would have just been sharing bounces, awaiting comments and trying to reconcile those with the session. It was very intuitive to get started and make progress. We documented some of our shared sessions (which we led together over
Skype)—with a series of videos you can view at performermag.com. Using the cloud tools basically removed any need for file sharing services like Dropbox, since the audio files themselves are all right there in the cloud and don’t require us to worry about organizing them or managing updates and fixes. Our current changes can be viewed and accessed in another member’s session, halfway around the globe, as soon as we save our work and sync our file. We even used this new workflow to capitalize on each other’s plug-ins by printing effects for each other and adding those stems to the cloud session. Magic. A quick word about the interfaces: They are awesome! They’re the perfect balance between robust and portable…so much is packed in to a small footprint. I’ve been a full control surface user for quite some time, but I’ve also used various Mbox models including the first couple generations and the later Mbox Pro. The Quartet just seems sleeker and to my ears even sounds a bit better than other Avid/Digidesign interfaces from the past. My mate James Rose over in London is using the other one we were given to test out and is similarly excited about his upgrade. I also found I don’t miss the control surface from my old Digi002 too much because I’m now able to use the Pro Tools Control iPad app via EuControl. Stay tuned for a track preview from the forthcoming album. It feels good to finally be in the 21st century. Thanks, Performer and Avid! -Evan Sanders (Bass vocalist, Accent)
POWER OF PRO TOOLS CLOUD RD AN A CAPPELLA RECORD VE DIFFERENT COUNTRIES workflow really consists of six different remote workflows somehow merging into one. We have tended to just “make this work” over the years—all the guys essentially have used recording software and file sharing services of their choice to create, share and mix audio files. Fortunately, we aren’t trying
to manage 100-track sessions. But there has always been something inefficient about it. Every little change or fix would have to be rebounced, reshared, realigned to the master session. It is usually straightforward, but when you stop to think about it, it’s a real waste of time.
HITTIN’ THE ROAD WITH THE AUDIO-TECHNICA ATM350A [Editor’s note – we recently sent the horn-infused Boston-based band The Macrotones on the road to test out the new ATM350a mic systems from Audio-Technica. They documented their experiences on social media, and were kind enough to write up this final testimonial after performing with the mics live for a few weeks.] I had a clip-on mic for my trombone years ago. It wasn’t the Audio-Technica ATM350a. The gooseneck was floppy. It never securely clamped onto the bell. I had to rig up a system with duct tape to make sure the cord didn’t get yanked out. It always picked up ambient noise and maintained a steady hum. It made my tone 36 MARCH 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
brittle and abrasive. Soundguys hated it. I quit using it and never went back. The Audio-Technica ATM350a is the opposite of all of this. The gooseneck is firm and keeps its shape however you angle it. The clamp has a screw system that keeps it secure on your bell. The cord is neatly clipped into the gooseneck. The sound is perfect and requires little else than plug-and-play. Two gigs (and a few rehearsals) so far and the soundguys love it. My afrofunk band’s horn section (The Macrotones) will now be using these exclusively moving forward. The ATM350a has a cardioid condenser mic that can be used for woodwinds, strings,
brass, percussion, drums, and piano - both on stage and in the studio. The design reduces side and rear pickup and protects against feedback, which we’re very appreciative of as a live band. It even has switchable 80 Hz hi-pass filter (for low frequency roll-off ) if you do start picking up ambient noise, though I haven’t had to use it yet. With a maximum SPL of 149dB and a frequency response ranging from 40Hz to 20kHz, the mic is extremely versatile (we’re using them for bari sax, tenor sax, trombone, and trumpet). It takes phantom power, so no need to clip anything on your belt or set up a separate power source. Just engage the +48
HE MACROTONES AND THE 0A MICROPHONE SYSTEMS button on your mixer or audio interface and you’re good to go. It even comes with a fairly rugged case, though don’t bury it under mounds of gear. The only source of concern we’ve noticed so far is the length of the goosenecks. But thankfully they come in two sizes, so be sure to get whichever fits your instrument best and you’ll be all set. Overall, the Audio-Technica ATM350a gets The Macrotones’ glowing recommendation. -Nate Leskovic, trombonist for the Macrotones For more, visit www.macrotones.com and www.audio-technica.com PERFORMER MAGAZINE MARCH 2017 37
HOW TO SET UP
elcome to the second in a four-part series on getting better live sound, copresented by Performer Magazine and Yamaha.
In this installment, we’ll take a closer look at setting up a basic PA speaker system, and using it with your band’s compact mixer. The systems we’ll be describing today are going to be simple, and best suited for groups using PA’s for band rehearsals or traditional venue gigs that don’t already have installed PA systems. We’ll also touch upon some additional features of PA speakers that you’ll want to take advantage of. PASSIVE VS. ACTIVE When setting up your PA speakers, or seeking a new set of speakers for your band, it’s important to make the distinction between passive and
active speakers. Just as in the world of recording, where monitors come in both versions, so do speakers in the PA realm. So, what’s the main difference? Well, like the name implies, passive speakers do not require separate power cables to operate. You’ll plug them directly into an amplifier using speaker cables, and you’ll be all set. Now, what are the downsides, and why would we recommend you gravitate towards active speakers for your PA setup? A few reasons - chief among them being you’ll likely need to add a power amplifier in addition to your compact mixer in order to properly complete your PA system with passives. That means more pieces of gear, more cabling, more expenses, more stuff to lug around, and more things in your signal path. Now this might be a great option for large halls and venue installs, but for traveling bands who need portability, it’s typically a non-starter in our book. Active speakers, on the other hand, have power amplifiers and crossovers already built in. Yes, you’ll need to plug them into wall power and they may be slightly heavy (sometimes), but they can greatly reduce your setup’s complexity and speed up load-in/out times for gigs. Trust us; we’ve done this before. We highly recommend going the active route with your PA speakers. THE INS AND OUTS Once you’ve got your PA speakers unboxed, examine the I/O interface (typically located on the side or back of the speaker). You’ll likely find a few main components: 1.On/Off switch: self-explanatory, but remember, if you’re using active speakers and aren’t getting any sound, this might be the likely culprit. And of course, make sure your power cable is plugged in to the AC outlet for each speaker in your setup.
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2. Inputs: on the Yamaha DBR12’s we’ve been using, and many other similar types of speakers, you’ll likely find line inputs for things like CD players, laptops, and other-line level instruments like synths, in addition to mic/line combo inputs that accept both 1/4” connectors and XLR in one handy input. What we like about this is you can send a signal out from your compact mixer, or simply plug in a mic and instrument if you don’t have the need for all the ins and outs of a dedicated mixer (say, you’re a singer/songwriter doing a coffee house gig or house concert). Don’t feel overwhelmed here: for simplicity’s sake, just run the left main out from your mixer to the left speaker input and repeat for the right channel. 3. Levels: here you’ll be able to adjust the output volume of your inputs. Pretty straightforward and something you’ll enjoy about active speakers. 4. Outputs: most active speaker outputs allow you to chain together additional speakers for floor monitoring situations, which is not only super-handy but also ultra-easy. A simple XLR chain allowed us to hook up one of our DBR12’s as a floor monitor, taking output from another DBR12 we were using as an additional floor unit. 5. Cut-off filters: these will differ from model to model, but the main idea here is to set the desired cut-off frequency in case you’re adding a subwoofer to your system. This way your mains and subs will work well together and not cause a frequency headache out in the audience. Pro tip: set the high pass cutoff on your mains to match the low pass cutoff on your sub(s). CABLE MGMT OK, so we know the ins and outs of our new
PA speakers. What do we use to hook everything up?
P PA SPEAKERS Our recommendation, as most active speakers will have balanced XLR inputs, is to use XLR cables from your compact mixer’s main outputs, and run them to your speaker’s XLR inputs. Typically speaking, though, cable management will be fairly easy as you’ll be limited to what your gear has available, so just take a look at the control panel or check your manual if you’re unsure. Here are the most common cables types you’ll encounter: XLR: 3-pin connector that’s ubiquitous in pro audio. Used to hook up mics to mixers, and mixer output to speaker systems. Very common, you’ll likely want a few XLR cables in your cable bag at all times. TRS and TS: the other most common cable type, this is a 1/4” (sometimes 1/8” for headphones) cable that stands for tip-ring-sleeve or just tip-sleeve, depending on type. speakON: you may encounter these types of connectors, or you might not. If your equipment doesn’t feature speakON connectivity, don’t worry. They’re typically found on very highwattage units and are super rugged so they can handle all that power. WEDGE OR POLE? WHY NOT BOTH! One of the nice features of our DBR12’s, and many PA speakers, in fact, is that they’re versatile in their applications. Simply put, you can use them as pole-mounted main speakers for your PA setup, or as wedge monitors on the floor. Setting up your speakers as mains typically just means sliding them onto industry-standard speaker stands, and adjusting the height properly. One mistake we commonly see is PA speakers set WAY too low. We’ve even seen them practically on the floor! People’s bodies will get in the way of the sound projection coming from your speakers, and they’ll actually absorb and disperse frequencies in a very unwanted (and non-musical) manner. If you can, try to set the units about 6 to 8 feet high – this’ll help in two ways. First, you’ll be able to reduce the massive, ear-bleeding volume blasting your fans at the front of the stage (where they don’t really need it, since they’re so close), and second, it will alleviate frequency absorption and help those highs reach the back of the room, where they would have otherwise died up front. Ever notice that when you’re in the back of a club, you can’t hear the singer properly? One common
cure is to raise the PA speakers; it can make a world of difference in what your audience hears. TO SUB OR NOT TO SUB? So far, we’ve only addressed using your PA speakers as mains and floor wedges, for good reason. It’s been our experience (and we’re sure to get lots of nasty notes on this), that in many cases subwoofers just aren’t necessary. If you’re in a typical band setup, and especially if you’re not playing aggressive or bass-heavy music, a nice set of PA speakers is more than capable of handling just about all the sound requirements you could throw at them (including handling your low end, that’s why you got 12 or 15-inch speakers in the first place, right?) Subs usually tackle the 20Hz to 100Hz spectrum, which can greatly help you achieve a full-range sound; that’s true. It’s also true that you can actually lower the
output volume of your mains a tad when you integrate subs in the equation. But if budget and van space are at a premium, skip the subwoofers for now. The only times we’d really recommend subs are for DJ, EDM and synth-heavy acts that truly need optimal bass reproduction in order to have their work fully come across. Otherwise, add them only as needed and as budget allows. CLOSING THOUGHTS We hope this installment gets you on your way to purchasing the right PA speakers for your needs, and setting them up properly in your rehearsal space or on stage. Stay tuned for upcoming parts of the series that will further explore advanced mixer settings, and pro tips for getting better live stage sound. Until then, be sure to check out the entire range of Yamaha live sound products at www. yamahaproaudio.com. PERFORMER MAGAZINE MARCH 2017 39
BEST OF NAMM
The Best of NAMM from the â€™Gram Performer was in full force at NAMM this January, checking out all the newest, freshest, coolest gear we could get our grubby little hands on. And trust us, our hands were plenty grubby. We went, we saw, we conquered. Well, we documented it all on Instagram, at least. Sifting through hundreds of photos and a ludicrous amount of new products, here are a few rad things we saw at NAMM 2017. Be sure to check back in the months ahead, as all these products get released and we start reviewing them online and in print. Enjoy!
To see our complete (exhaustive) NAMM journey, follow our Instagram feed @performermagazine.
Trace Elliot @traceelliotamps are back with the Elf! #namm2017
Mackie @mackiegear showing off new versions of their famed Big Knob at #namm2017
KORG New @korgofficial Monologue synths on display at #namm2017
SENNHEISER Awesome new MK 4 digital mics for home recording from @sennheiser at #namm2017
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MEET YOUR MAKER
MEET YOUR MAKER With Mason J. Marangella of Vertex Effects, Inc.
BACKGROUND I got my start building pedalboards in 2009, thanks to Josh Smith (my first major client). Through Josh, I quickly started building for some of the top LA-based guitarists, including Kirk Fletcher, Michael Landau, Robben Ford, Scott Henderson, John Scofield, and others. Within a few years, I was building for many of the “A-List” players between LA and Nashville. After that, I got into building effects pedals based on custom pedals and pedal mods I was incorporating into many of these rigs. These custom pedals and mods were requested so frequently, that I started a line of production pedals and accessories, which has brought me to where I am now.
them to a new products that will further inspire their musical creativity. COOL FEATURES The most unique feature that we’ve done has been the Expression (EXP) control on the Vertex Boost. This allows players to connect any volume pedal or EXP pedal to the boost and use it to remotely control the output level from 0 to +16dB. When the boost is “ON” the EXP pedal will control the volume up to the boost level on the pedal potentiometer, and when the pedal is “OFF,” the EXP will function the same as any
normal volume pedal would (minus the tone suck as the impedance of whatever is placed the EXP loop of the Boost is totally isolated). The circuit is 100% analog, using optimized gain stages instead of the VCA characteristic of most EXP controls. LESSONS LEARNED Simplify wherever possible, and be loyal and honor your customers above all. Also, own your mistakes no matter the cost (a short-term win will never outweigh a long-term loss). For more, visit www.vertexeffects.com and follow on Twitter @vertexeffects
MOST POPULAR MODELS Until June 2016, the Vertex Boost was our flagship product and still continues to do well, however following the release of our follow up product, the Dynamic Distortion, it has now become our best seller and is on pace to be the best-selling pedal we’ve ever made. WHAT SETS YOUR COMPANY APART? 1) Our artists - we have formed some great relationships with some of the top session and touring professionals in the industry, leading to a well “sonically vetted” product. 2) Location - being in Silicon Valley, it allows us access to some of the best electronics manufacturing resources in the world, allowing for incredible efficiency, quality, and consistency from unit to unit. Fewer than 1% of our pedals are returned due to warranty-related issues. 3) Knowing my customers and taking feedback there is often a discrepancy between what “we” as builders/designers like, and what our customers want. It has been a humbling experience to have what I think is a great idea, fall flat when pitched to customers. To align new pedal designs to actual customer needs, I closely study data about my client from Google Analytics, social media campaigns, and sales data to understand what my customers seek and how to effectively introduce PERFORMER MAGAZINE MARCH 2017 41
MOOG Mother-32 Semi-Modular Synthesizer PROS
sounds amazing, highly tweakable, Eurorackcompatible. CONS
sequencer could be better. PRICE
he Moog Mother-32 semi-modular synthesizer is an amazing little piece of kit. Housed in a desktop enclosure, the Mother-32 can also be integrated into your Eurorack system, which makes it a double-threat: a standalone analog synthesizer/sequencer and a killer centerpiece to your new modular setup. On its own, the Mother-32 features the two classic components you’d want from any piece of Moog gear: the filter and the oscillators. No compromises here, for just $100 more than the Minitaur (which, admittedly, features 2 oscillators for a fatter sound), you not only get a killer VCO and VCF, but a very nicely laidout patchbay that can link between additional Mother-32 units (we ran three together for a MASSIVE SOUND using the handy 3-tiered case Moog provided us), and tap into other Eurorack 42 MARCH 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
modules to fully customize your sound and sequences. We love the versatility of these little units, and getting set up was a breeze. Just plug your MIDI controller in the front and start playing. Or run a sequence into the Mother-32 and start sweeping the filter, adjusting your LFO for modulation effects or just see what happens when you run the unit into another module. And if you’ve never patched things together before, Moog even includes a few cables to get you started on the road to experimentation (which, honestly, we feel is the best way to learn when it comes to the world of modular).
external audio in for processing, which is great for filtering drum loops and external sequences. Speaking of which, the only real concern we have is the on-board sequencer. Now, while you’ll likely be sequencing in another program or hardware unit, the capabilities are there, although I wouldn’t say it’s the best or most intuitive implementation we’ve ever seen. That said, it’s really a minor quibble when you take in all this unit has to offer at just $599. Add the fact that you can stack them together for a much beefier sound, or use the Mother-32 as the building block for your entire modular system, and we’d say this is one of the best deals in the synth market today.
Build quality is top-notch (as we also noted in our review of the Sub Phatty), and the sound quality is just spot-on. You can even run
The Moog Mother-32 gets our highest recommendation. Benjamin Ricci
PRESONUS AIR10 Powered PA Speakers PROS
lightweight, fantastic audio quality, easy-to-use controls. CONS
e were able to test out the AIR10 active PA speakers from PreSonus over the course of a few weeks, and are happy to report that these might just be the hidden gem of the live sound world. For starters, we can tell where the name “AIR” came from; these units are surprisingly light weight for how powerful they are (coming in just under 30 lbs). [editor’s note: in reality, it’s called “AIR” for the “air-y,” clear highend response, but we like our explanation, too!] From someone who’s done his fair share of loadins/outs, any chance I can get to lighten the load is a welcome relief. But of course, my pain-free back means nothing if the speakers are clumsy to use and don’t sound good. Luckily, neither is the case here. In fact, set up is a snap. You’ve got combo XLR/line ins and an aux in on the rear panel for easy hook-ups, and a sweet little screen that’s very well-lit (passing our very scientific “can we adjust this on a dark stage?” test). The on-screen adjustments allow for you to tweak basic EQ settings, of course, but one super handy feature we kept coming back to was the ability to jump between performance presents for different applications. One button push and you can, on-the-fly, go between optimized settings for wedge monitors, front of house, speeches, DJ gigs, etc. Normally we don’t put much stock in presets (because we’re fussy old codgers), but these settings
were truly the standout feature. Hey, if it sounds right and saves time at the mixing board, we’re all for it. Traditions be damned. The ability to just set it for the application you’re using it for, and have it sound right without additional tweaking, might just be the killer app we’ve been waiting for in the PA speaker world (and frankly, we haven’t seen work this well until now). Tech-wise, you’re looking at max output of 121 dB SPL, and the enclosures feature a two-way system with a 10” low frequency driver and a 1” high frequency driver. And even without a subwoofer, you can get down to about the 55 Hz range, so your bass-thumpin’ DJs will be happy. What’s cool here, as well, is that the AIR10s feature two different types of amplifiers, a 500w (continuous) Class D power amp to fuel the main 10” speaker, and a 200w (continuous) Class A/B for the 1” driver – the reason behind the dual system is to give the best frequency response across the board. So the lowend gets the nice, clean power it needs to operate properly and the highs sound natural and crisp. And
the final bonus is that power can be switched over to 50 cycles for our UK friends, as well. Sound quality, on the whole, is excellent. Highs are crisp, clear and full of headroom and low bass tones from our synthesizers came through cleanly, without the mud we’ve become accustomed to on some other brands. When I hit a low square or triangle wave on my Moog, I want my whole body to feel it. And the AIR10s deliver. Add to that the ultrarugged enclosures, and we can see these standing up to road abuse year after year. Of course, bands will want to check these out if they’re in charge of their own live sound for non-trad venues (or rehearsal spaces), but the install market will want to put these at the top of their lists, as well. Easy to mount either on poles or with handy flypoints, the AIR10s will likely be an FOH engineer’s new favorite wedges, mains or suspended rig. And just so you know, AIR10 is part of a series that includes the AIR12, AIR15, and two subwoofers: AIR15s and AIR18s. Benjamin Ricci
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heavyduty build quality, great mic pres, Bluetooth, no direct-box needed for guitar/bass. CONS
PRESONUS StudioLive AR12 USB Mixer
h, the StudioLive series. We’ve tested out some of the boards in the StudioLive range before, and the new AR12 USB mixer follows suit nicely (at a ridiculously affordable price point). One thing to note is that the AR series is analog (with digital recording and fx), whereas all other StudioLive mixers up till now have been digital. Let’s start with build quality. A beefy machine, we were pleasantly surprised with just how much mass the AR12 has. But construction aside, the mixer is laid out in a very familiar way, so newbies and pros alike will have no trouble navigating the channel strips, ins/outs and fx section. Look, PreSonus isn’t out to reinvent the wheel, they’re out to make the best wheel possible. Some handy features we like on this new board induce high-impedance ins on channels 1 and 2 for guitar/bass applications. No direct boxes needed (we wish more mixers at this price point had this option). There’s Bluetooth connectivity built right in, 44 MARCH 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
and pairing your mobile device is a breeze so you can stream backing tracks (or “hey, listen to this while you wait for us to set up” tracks), plus you’ve got access to an on-board SD card slot, which enables you to instantly capture a live performance (or rehearsal, jam sessions, etc.) in stereo. We’ve been advocating instant live recordings for your fans for years, and at this price point, we were surprised to find such an easy-to-use feature allowing you to do so front-and-center, with its own transport controls, no less! Which brings us to one of the main benefits of investing in the StudioLive series. As the name suggests, you can use these boards both live on-stage or as the centerpiece of your DAW setup. The AR 12 features a built-in USB 2.0 interface. Going straight from the board to Studio One on your computer is seamless, and you can send all tracks out to the DAW later for additional processing and tweaking (aka, fixing mistakes so no one will notice). Really, it’s the versatility of the board that we love so much. For under $500, you’ve got a more-
than-capable live compact mixer with all the I/O most bands will need, stunningly good mic preamps, fairly usable digital fx (we weren’t super keen on the built-in chorus, but some of the reverbs were surprisingly effective), a multi-track front end for your DAW, flexible monitoring options, quality knobs and faders (PreSonus does make a darn smooth fader, I must admit) and an EQ section that we found had a much better response than the Yamaha MG12XU we recently tested out, especially for cutting/boosting mid-range frequencies. All in, there’s really no room for complaints. Everything works as it should, you get some extra features usually found on pricier boards, and the mic pres can’t be beat at this price point (trust us, we’ve tested a lot of mixers in this range, and there’s an extra clarity to the PreSonus channels that we’ve become accustomed to). For stage and studio, we definitely recommend giving the PreSonus StudioLive AR12 a look. Benjamin Ricci
f you’re serious about audio production and synthesis, then no doubt the new MONTAGE6 from Yamaha has come up in your research. We recently had the opportunity to play with the 61-key synthesizer, the new flagship from Yamaha, and we were both thoroughly overwhelmed with the amount of things this piece of machinery can do, and surprised at its relative ease of use. The MONTAGE6 is really a mixture of the best of both the DX and MOTIF series (yeah, we never really figured out FM synthesis, either, but don’t let that stop you from giving this board serious consideration if you’re looking for a top-of-the-line synth monster). At the heart of the beast is the motion control matrix, which we saw demo’d at NAMM and really came to fully understand (and appreciate) after a few weeks testing the MONTAGE in our studio and office. The MONTAGE6 offers a seamless command interface for controlling the engines, that paradoxically feels both intimidating (because of all the parameters you can tweak) yet somehow intuitive. I know that sounds contradictory, but the Yamaha team has made a board that on one hand offers up so much control that you might initially feel overwhelmed, yet once you start using it, everything “clicks” and becomes second nature. What we loved, off the bat, was the Super Knob. Seriously, this thing is powerful, and if you felt a little intimated (like us), try using the Super Knob first. What it does is control multiple parameters at once, so you’re modulating in an optimized way with the turn of one simple-to-use control. We’re not gonna lie; sometimes we weren’t really sure what we were adjusting at the macro-level, only that this magic knob made everything sound amazing with a single sweep. You can even control it with a foot controller like the FC7, so you can easily go from subtle shifts in sound modulation to ridiculous, over-the-top severity in a matter of seconds.
YAMAHA MONTAGE6 61-Key Synthesizer Worthmentioning,aswell,isthereallycoolenvelope follower. The idea here is that you can use audio coming into the board as a mod source. What’s this do? Well, take a vocal track, for example, or some percussion or guitar, and use that audio to control parameters to shape the sound. It’s really far-out stuff, and expands upon the basic modulation parameters you might be used to, like simple LFOs that have one or two basic modulation sources. You’ll be up all night exploring this feature. Seriously.
not gonna replace a six-figure, master-crafted acoustic instrument like the Bösendorfer, you come pretty darn close to our ears with the on-board Grand settings, especially with the velocity sensitive key bed and natural sustain features. As in, so close you’d be nuts not to snap one of these up for your studio if you want to start recording serious acoustic piano parts, but have neither the space nor finances to install a grand piano in your main tracking room.
Everything about the MONTAGE6 is top-shelf. The weighted key bed feels great. The aftertouch works like a champ for our favorite vibrato effects, the pitch and mod wheels are ultra-smooth, the screen is touch sensitive, bright and colorful (you know us, we HATE menu-driven systems but grew to love the MONTAGE interface, so that should tell you something). We tried to find faults. Really, we did. But nothing comes to mind. And let’s be honest. If you’re shelling out 3 grand for a synth, everything better be perfect. Amiright?
There’s almost too much to cover with the MONTAGE6. It’s an insanely powerful synthesizer. It’s a sound engine masterwork. It’s a producer’s dream. It’s a sound-shaping gift from the Yamaha geniuses, let’s put it that way. It’s also a workhorse that will likely put four or five pieces of gear in your studio out of a job.
What kept us coming back, really, was the soundshaping capabilities afforded by all the parametertweaking options any knob-head will be drooling over. We see this as the future go-to for EDM producers, hiphop producers, heck, even classically-trained pianists who want a fully-featured keyboard for the road that sounds like their favorite grand piano. Yes, the MONTAGE6 even excels at the thing you forgot keyboards were originally supposed to do: sound like pianos (and as much as we have a soft spot for the old DX7, it was never our fave acoustic or electric piano replacement). The Bösendorfer Grand Piano is available as part of the MONTAGE sound library. Let that sink in. So, the first thing we did was listen to some hires Tori Amos piano passages to hear what a real Bösendorfer sounds like at the hands of a master, then proceeded to play passages of our own (admittedly, nonmasterfully) through the MONTAGE6. While you’re
[Editor’s note, after we completed our review, Yamaha released the new OS 1.5 for MONTAGE. Here’s what they say about it: “MONTAGE OS v1.5 adds both new features and new content, plus it’s a free download for all MONTAGE owners. The new OS enhances the instrument’s sound, broadens and tightens control on the fly, and streamlines workflow for a more intuitive interface.” Hopefully we’ll get to test out the new additions in a later review] Benjamin Ricci
amazing soundshaping capabilities, excellent build quality, natural feel, great display/ menu system.
PERFORMER MAGAZINE MARCH 2017 45
YAMAHA HPH-MT5 Studio Monitor Headphones
e know budgets are tight, especially if you’re putting together your own home studio. That’s why we were excited to demo the new HPH-MT5s from Yamaha. Studio monitors that clock in just shy of $100? Yes, please. So, how do they sound? In a word: excellent. At this price point, you’re sometimes lucky to find any sort of monitoring options that don’t turn your mix to mud, but we found no such issues with these headphones. In fact, the accuracy of these cans during some sample tracking sessions with our DAW was really surprising. Bass was tight and not unwieldy, mids were relatively smooth and high-end reproduction was pretty convincing, we must admit. We’ve tested out studio monitoring headphones that cost 2-5x as much, and honestly, while there is definitely a difference (especially in low-end bass reproduction and mid-range clarity), we couldn’t really find much to complain about for a $99 set of studio headphones. If this is the price point you’re at, you be pleasantly surprised with the isolation, comfort and sound reproduction they offer. The main driver is 40mm (compared to the 45mm driver in the MT8s we’ll be testing next month), which is designed especially for mixing. So while you can also use these to double as your stereo headphones, we’d really recommend keeping them in the recording studio or on-stage for live monitoring applications (oh yeah, they work really well for live applications, too). The Yamaha HPH-MT5 studio headphones include a handy carrying case, detachable straight cable, 1/4-inch adapter and offer flip-up ear cups for DJ-style monitoring. There’s not much more to say about these surprising headphones. Yamaha promised studio monitors that would actually help you identify problem areas of your mix, at a price point just about anyone can afford, and they delivered. Color us impressed. Benjamin Ricci
46 MARCH 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
great frequency response, good isolation, very comfortable. CONS
MY FAVORITE AXE
MY FAVORITE AXE
Got a favorite instrument you’d like to share? Email us at email@example.com
Larilyn Sanchez BACKGROUND
Solilians kaleidoscopic potpourri of space drone dreams evolved out of psychedelic lounge folk band So L’il, who between 2001 and 2012 released four full-lengths and two EPs. In 2013 came the Solilians Binah’s Dream 7”, followed by their 2016 full-length Shin. MAKE & MODEL
1985 Roland Alpha Juno 1 WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU
I’m from the Blind Willie Johnson school of “take a slab of wood and make a sound with it.” The Juno 1 has been my sound for sixteen years now. WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE
You can create your own analog synth sounds on it, so I’ve created my own warm sensuality through which we swirl. SPECIAL FEATURES & CUSTOMIZATION
Being able to customize any of the sounds gorgeously, and being able to adjust everything from envelope filters to brilliance to depth in a way that trips out perfectly for you is the main attraction here. There are a ton of Hello Kitty stickers and fire angels stickers from those fifty cent machines covering the entire thing. LISTEN NOW at www.solilians.com PERFORMER MAGAZINE MARCH 2017 47
Vintage Gibson ES-5 BACKGROUND
The Gibson ES-5 is a prime example of the Jazz influence in American music. The ES-5 was first introduced in 1949 and is constructed of a laminated maple body and maple neck with rosewood finger board and adjustable rosewood bridge. UNIQUE PICKUP CONFIGURATION
As you can see, the ES-5 came equipped with three P-90 pickups, which was rather unique at the time. (Fender didn’t introduce the threepickup Strat until 1954.) Interestingly enough, the pickup configuration of the ES-5 does not include a selector switch. Instead, the ES-5 boasted a single tone pot and three individual volume controls. ABOUT THIS EXAMPLE
The guitar pictured is a 1952 model and happened to pass through my shop last month. I was fortunate enough to find a few minutes to indulge and was swept away by this beautiful instrument. The playability and tone were as unique as the guitar itself. ABOUT THE AUTHOR
From Soho Guitar in Tampa, FL, I’m Rob Meigel.
48 MARCH 2017 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
ATM350a Instrument Microphone Systems Whatever your instrument, Audio-Technica has an ATM350a microphone system to ensure it sounds great. Not only does this cardioid condenser come with an array of mounts â€“ many with a re-engineered, robust gooseneck built to stay where you set it â€“ but it also provides clear, well-balanced response (even at high SPLs). So no matter what, where or how you play, the ATM350a has you covered. audio-technica.com