THE MUSICIAN ’S RESO URCE
MAY 2014 FREE
Geeks Out on His Fave Gear & Home Studio Inspiration
HOW TO BUILD A RECORDING STUDIO FROM SCRATCH TRACKING AUTHENTIC MEMPHIS SOUL TO TAPE GEAR SHOOTOUT: DIGITAL WIRELESS PEDAL SYSTEMS
INTERVIEWS ART ALEXAKIS BUFFALO KILLERS INDIES AT SXSW
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
by Amanda Macchia Boston’s legendary MC sits down with us to geek out on his favorite production gear, and why he’s become more engaged with his work by utilizing the home studio. 2 MAY 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
VOL.24, ISSUE 3
Art Alexakis by Ben Marazzi
The Everclear frontman was recently named Chairman of the Los Angeles College of Music’s Songwriting Program, and took some time out to speak with us about the importance of music education, and his new role in it. Buffalo Killers
by Chris M Junior
The Ohio group has expanded its lineup and its sound since their last LP. We get the scoop on BK’s use of vintage Neve boards for recording and how their relationship with their label has supported their quick output.
In The Studio With John Németh
by Benjamin Ricci
Go behind-the-scenes of the harmonica ace’s new album, as we join him in the studio to find out how to capture the sound of classic Memphis soul on 8-track, 1” tape machines.
Letter From the Editor
Quick Picks: The Best in New Music
Vinyl of the Month: Connections
10. Live Reviews 12. SXSW Profiles 24. How to Build a Pro Studio From Scratch 28. My Favorite Axe: Arielle 29. Recording: Transition Home Recordings to the Studio pt. 2
30. Gear Reviews: Audio-Technica, Shure, Make Noise Music
32. Flashback: 1963 Gibson SG Custom
Cover photo by AMANDA MACCHIA PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2014 3
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Howdy, y’all! This month’s rant involves journalists. And really, who better to rip on than the folks I rely on to contribute to this very publication? Kidding, kidding...I love and value our contributors. But more to the point: we often get asked, "How do I become a better writer" from many of the writers we choose not to work with. To which I inevitably ask, "What's the last book you read?" Blank stares await me (or more accurately, the email equivalent of a blank stare, which is usually just a quick reply trying to explain away the fact that the last book they read was something I can tell was assigned to them in high school). And therein lies the problem with most "writers" we don't ask to contribute to the mag. In order to become a better writer, you need to become a better reader. Like…waaaay better. I consider myself to be fairly proficient with the written word, but like anyone who enjoys what they do for a living, I always strive to be better. And one of the ways I know I can do that is by reading more (much to the annoyance of my wife
and family). By reading what others have put down on paper, you will become a better writer, I promise. No class can teach you more than your own brain can process on its own by devouring the language of your fellow man. Todd Rundgren would likely advise you to start by simply reading something, anything. (get it?) So do it; read something, read anything! Read good books. Read terrible books. Read comic books. Read non-fiction. Doesn't matter – all writing is just storytelling, whether it’s a fictional novel or a hard-hitting piece of journalism. Trust me - you'll never be able to improve upon and critique your own work if you have no basis for comparison, and (perhaps more importantly) no inspiration to draw upon. And the "I don't have time read" excuse is nonsense. You've got 30 minutes to kill each day looking at cute kittens and auto-tuned news broadcasts on YouTube. And I know you waste at least that much time scrolling through your friends' food pics on Instagram. Find 30 minutes to read. It's not that hard and you're NOT that busy. End of rant. -Benjamin Ricci, editor (aka the grumpy old man)
Volume 24, Issue 3
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4 MAY 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
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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Folk Musician, Brown Bird David Lamb, one half of Rhode Island folk duo Brown Bird (see Performer cover story November 2011), tragically passed away after a long battle with leukemia. His wife and musical partner MorganEve Swain prepared the following statement: “Four days after Dave and I met we became bandmates, lovers and business partners, and set the tone for what our life would be for the next six years. We never imagined the amount of success we would enjoy in those years, how many incredible friendships would be forged, the experiences we would share…”
Dave Gregg, 54 Guitarist, D.O.A. and The Real McKenzies In a statement released by Fat Wreck Chords, the label says of Gregg’s passing: “It is with great sadness that we write about the passing of our friend Dave Gregg, former guitarist of The Real McKenzies and the classic lineup of Vancouver punk legends D.O.A. Dave was a true gentleman and a truly unique character…We will miss him dearly and our NYC shows will never be the same without his billowing, blazing white mane and long leather jacket, keeping watch over the whole affair.”
David Brockie (aka Oderus Urungus), 50 GWAR Frontman Jack Flanagan, manager of GWAR, has issued an official statement on the death of the band’s lead singer and frontman: “It is with a saddened heart, that I confirm my dear friend Dave Brockie, artist, musician, and lead singer of GWAR passed away... My main focus right now is to look after my band mates and his family.” Brockie portrayed the character of Urungus from the band’s beginning in 1982 until his death on March 23rd.
Arthur Smith, 93
Frankie Knuckles, 59 DJ, Godfather of House Music Knuckles was born in The Bronx, New York; he later moved to Chicago. He played an important role in developing and popularizing house music in Chicago during the 1980s, while the genre was in its infancy. Due to his importance in the Chicago house scene, Knuckles was often referred to as “The Godfather of House Music.” The city of Chicago named a stretch of street and a day after Knuckles in 2004 for this role. His accomplishments also earned him a Grammy Award in 1997.
David Lamb, 35
Cheo Feliciano, 78 Salsa Legend According to BBC News: “Puerto Rican salsa legend Cheo Feliciano has died in a car crash on the island, police say. The composer and singer of salsa and bolero hits was 78. Police said Feliciano was driving his Jaguar when he hit a concrete post in a suburb of the capital, San Juan. A Latin Grammy Award winner, he was in the legendary Fania All Stars. Puerto Rico’s governor declared three days of mourning for ‘one of the Caribbean island’s most acclaimed voices.’”
Jesse Winchester, 69 Prominent American Songwriter Jesse Winchester was an American musician and songwriter who was born and raised in the southern United States. To avoid the Vietnam War draft he moved to Canada in 1967, where he began his career as a solo artist. His highest charting recordings were of his own tunes, “Yankee Lady” in 1970 and “Say What” in 1981. Winchester’s works were recorded by many notable artists, including Patti Page, Elvis Costello, Jimmy Buffett, Joan Baez, Anne Murray, Reba McEntire, The Everly Brothers and Emmylou Harris.
Mitch Leigh, 86
“Man of La Mancha” Composer Composer of “Dueling Banjos” Mitch Leigh (born Irwin Michnick) was Born in Clinton, South Carolina, Arthur an American musical theatre composer Smith was a textile mill worker who beand theatrical producer best known for came a celebrated and respected country the musical Man of La Mancha. He began music instrumental composer, guitarist, his career as a jazz musician, and writing fiddler, and banjo player who had a major commercials for radio and television. In hit with the instrumental “Guitar Boo1965 Leigh teamed with lyricist Joe Darigie.” Renamed “Guitar Boogie Shuffle,” it on and writer Dale Wasserman to write a became a rock and roll hit by Frank Virtue and the Virtues. In 1955, Smith composed a banjo instrumental he called “Feudin’ musical based on Wasserman’s 1959 television play, I, Don Quixote. The resulting Banjos” and recorded the song with five-string banjo player Don Reno. Later the show, the musical Man of La Mancha, opened on Broadway in 1965 and in its origicomposition appeared in the popular 1972 film Deliverance as “Dueling Banjos.” nal engagement ran for 2,328 performances.
PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2014 5
ALOUD It’s Got to Be Now Boston, MA (Mother West Records)
BABY BABY Bog Boy Baller Club Atlanta, GA (Gospel of Rhythm Recordings)
THE BLACK LIPS Underneath the Rainbow Atlanta, GA (Vice Records)
Aloud has a fun, unique sound that is reminiscent of the days of yore. From their dynamic vocalists, to their jam-band instrumentals, this band is a great listen all day…“A Little Bit Low” highlights Jen de la Osa’s pipes, and general badassness with her soaring vocals over a rugged, instrumental track…With a powerpop, jam-band vibe, Aloud is perfect for lovers of bands like Dr. Dog, Fitz and the Tantrums, and Alabama Shakes…read the full review at performermag.com/reviews.
A thrashing party soundtrack driven by pounding percussion and gritty bass lines…Atlanta natives Baby Baby are back with their sophomore album and once again they waste no time diving right into energetic and raucous compositions designed to grab listeners and shake them from their seats…Big Boy Baller Club is equal parts punk, rock, positivity and in-your-face optimism. There are no breaks, no moments to take a quick breather - just non-stop, no-holds barred energy driven by accelerated chord progressions and the sense that if every word isn’t shared as quickly as possible, the band might burst… read the full review at performermag.com/reviews.
Underneath the Rainbow finds the band sticking to its tried-and-true formula of mixing an irreverent punk attitude with revivalist garage rock. Songs like the ramshackle opener “Drive-By Buddy” and jangly prison song “Smiling” have all the snotty catchiness of vintage Dead Milkmen tracks and succeed in sounding like they’re on the verge of completely falling apart at any moment. “Justice After All” is sure to become a live anthem akin to 2007’s “Bad Kids” while “Boys in The Wood,” an ode to both Skynyrd and bathtub gin, provides a demented take on swampy Southern blues-rock…read the full review at performermag.com/reviews.
Recorded at Glow in the Dark Studios and Matt Malpass’s studio by Will Pugh Mastered by Matt McClellan Follow on Twitter @babybabyband Vanessa Bennett
Produced by Patrick Carney, Ed Rawls Mixed by Jimmy Douglass Mastered by Joe LaPorta at Sterling Sound, NY Follow on Twitter @theblacklips Ethan Varian
Produced by Charles Newman, Benny Grotto, and Aloud Recorded live at Mad Oak Studios in Boston, MA Follow on Twitter @aloudonline Alex Lane
quick Here you’ll find the best new music our writers have been digging this past month. For full reviews and to stream tracks and videos from the artists featured on these pages, please head to performermag.com. Enjoy! THE CURRYS Follow Charlottesville, VA (Self-released)
DOWN Down IV Part II EP New Orleans, LA (Down Records/ADA Music)
MAHAYLA Electricspaceagesweetheart New Orleans, LA (Serial Lover Records)
Brothers Jimmy and Tommy Curry, and their cousin Galen, are dynamic performers, and their full-length debut is proof that they are onto something here. Whether they are singing about a destructive relationship on the rollicking bluegrass opener “Wrecking Ball,” or waxing philosophical about living life to the fullest so you can die fulfilled on the folk track “How a Man’s Supposed to Die,” the Currys perform with a remarkable confidence… read the full review at performermag.com/reviews.
Dedicated to sludge, but exposing more melody… Front man Phil Anselmo has undoubtedly trampled his way through the heaviest hits life offers, yet manages to offer up melody and rhythm along with iconic metal band mates…A sweet surprise occurs in the last two minutes of epic album closer “Bacchanalia,” which breaks off into ballad form with a distinct Alice In Chains effect…Join Down for a beer or three and mosh steadfastly to Part II…read the full review at performermag.com/reviews.
Produced by Chris Keup, Stewart Myers, and The Curry Mixed by Stewart Myers Mastered by Fred Kevorkian, Kevorkian Mastering Inc. Follow on Twitter @the_currys Brian Palmer
Tracked at Nodferatu's Lair (Phil Anselmo's home studio) Produced by Michael Thompson, Phil Anselmo and DOWN Follow on Twitter @downnola Ellen Eldridge
If you’ve just about had it with bands of Millennials trying to capture the indie-pop sound of the ’90s, go back to the roots of the sound and check out Mahayla’s latest release…It probably doesn’t hurt that the album was produced in part by Better Than Ezra’s Tom Drummond…The band harkens back to the sound of Superchunk, and has shared the stage with the likes of the Meat Puppets, the Breeders and Cracker since its resurgence. But Mahayla manages to bring a fresh infusion of “psychedelic Americana” to the proceedings…read the full review at performermag.com/reviews.
6 MAY 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Produced by Tom Drummond and Mahayla Engineered by Tom Drummond, Chris George and Daniel Majorie Mastered by Bruce Barielle Follow on Twitter @Mahayla_Nola Heidi Schmitt
PACIFIC MEAN TIME Pacific Mean Time Portland, OR (Self-released)
THE WRITTEN YEARS The Written Years Vancouver, BC (Self-released)
Smelted from the alloys of blues and hard rock, Mount Carmel’s modern metallurgy is an 11-stage brew of emotive grit and salacious slag…The LP is a guitar-laden steam engine, powered by bluesy hooks and running on tracks of clenched-fist rhythms and incendiary solos…With many tracks swamped in intricate musicianship and wild patterns, the record’s clean and balanced production helps to avoid overcrowding and mudding, clearly showcasing the band’s brand of blues-rock subtleties and the LP’s overall gritty lusciousness… read the full review at performermag.com/reviews.
Fervent, hypnotic, lush indie rock… Pacific Mean Time paints beautiful sonic pictures in their selftitled album, delivering the goods right away, as the opening tracks “Blindfolds” and “Minutes to Midnight” sizzle with glorious textures… These songs show great focus and thought during their time in the studio, as the album charms as a rewarding and fulfilling listening experience… The lyrics are intimate and personal, with a soft spoken delivery that strikes a nerve. Most all the tracks are endearing in some way…read the full review at performermag.com/reviews.
Highly listenable, well-crafted work of indie magic…The vocals are endearing and sonorous throughout the record, taking the ears of one’s soul on a remarkable journey, bringing together a mixture of the sights and sounds of Vancouver, in both the joyful springs and summers and the colors of fall and the dark of winter…“You’re Too Kind” presents more glistening synths and shimmering, chiming guitars, complete with a strong foundation of fervent drums and bass… read the full review at performermag.com/reviews.
Follow on Twitter @PacificMeanTime Shawn M Haney
Engineered and Produced by Ryan Worsely at Echoplant Studios Mastered by Ryan Morey at Grey Market Mastering, Montreal Follow on Twitter @thewrittenyears Shawn M Haney
Follow on Twitter @MountCarmelSwag Taylor Haag
MOUNT CARMEL Get Pure Columbus, OH (Alive Naturalsound Records)
GET REVIEWED - SEND YOUR MUSIC TO EDITORIAL@PERFORMERMAG.COM LISTEN NOW @ PERFORMERMAG.COM/PLAYLIST
THOMAS BLONDET Futureworld Washington, D.C. (Rhythm & Culture Music)
VENSAIRE Perdix Brooklyn, NY (Self-Released)
WILD THRONE Blood Maker Bellingham, WA (Brutal Panda Records)
Electronic beats paired with modern and traditional sounds creating a magical fusion… Blondet’s handcrafted mixes reflect the ease of which he moves between genres within tracks. The modern and traditional sounds he produces incorporate melodies including deep house, speed garage, drum 'n' bass, hip-hop, reggae, and dubstep with hints of Latin, Indian, and Caribbean influences…Each track offers different and unique sounds with chill, relaxed beats that you can sway and dance to…read the full review at performermag.com/reviews.
A concept album that fuses psych-folk, indiepop, and Homer’s Odyssey…On their debut LP, this Brooklyn five-piece delivers a thoughtful, nuanced album whose creative synergy, while unexpected, feels wholly organic. Led by frontman Alex La Liberte, Vensaire is an eclectic mix of musicians (folk singer, indie guitarist, club DJ, classically-trained violinist, and electronic pop-producer) who mirror the complexity of their arrangements…Like Animal Collective before them, Vensaire charms with tracks like “See I’m You,” which reconstruct pop music’s understanding of the sample-based track into an avant-folk experiment…read the full review at performermag.com/reviews.
Wild Throne's first EP (since upgrading from the previous name Dog Shredder) satisfies the varied tastes of both casual and diehard metal fans…Wild Throne combines expansive yet aggressive vocals, which range from clean to semi-yelling squalls. Heavy guitars and percussive patterns technical enough to give most drummers a migraine also populate the record…Combating the constant rhythmic onslaught of progressive and jazz tendencies are the melodic moments that allow Wild Throne to be the right amount of accessible yet still headbang worthy. Fans of rock that don't tend to be interested in metal may want to try out this threesong EP as a nice gateway…read the full review at performermag.com/reviews.
Produced and Mixed by Scott Colburn Mastered by Joe Lambert at JLM Sound Follow on Twitter @Vensaire Maria Pulcinella Murray
Produced by Ross Robinson & Zach Kasik Mixed by Mike Frazer Mastered by Alan Douches Follow on Twitter @WILDTHRONE Kristin Lockhart
Produced by Thomas Blondet Follow on Twitter @thomasblondet Jaclyn Wing
PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2014 7
Ultima II Massage
Pittsburgh, PA (Ghostly International)
Tobacco's latest gem, Ultima II Massage, is a disembodied aural experience. It's like sex with a head cold - grimy, distorted, wet, and rhythmic with a lot of heavy breathing. Sonically, Ultima sounds like it has been run through a meat grinder, only it has an engine that purrs and a beat that consistently comes back to knock. Tobacco's signature trailer-trash analog synths and vocoder vocals run throughout the album, appearing on tacks like "Self Tanner" and "Good Complexion." Ultima is constantly breathing, broken up by textures, clouds of fog, timing, the sound of metal being crushed, eardrums warping, and of intergalactic space weapons charging up and obliterating everything.
"Electro Psych Rock for junkyard dogs in heat"
It's full of demonic pussy-tinglers, mixed muddy with luscious bass lines and dirty drum patterns. Tracks like "Eruption," "Omen Classic" and "Beast Sting" deeply embed listeners into the aggressive sonic landscape that is Ultima. The album is entirely meditative. The world around the listener melts away while Tobacco rips apart their brain.
Follow Tobacco on Twitter: @maniacmeat
by AMANDA MACCHIA / photo courtesy of GHOSTLY INTERNATIONAL 8 MAY 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
by BENJAMIN RICCI / photo by JODI MILLER
The new LP from Columbus, Ohio’s Connections is like a stew made up of all the best, forgotten elements from your record collection. It’s a lo-fi affair, with hints of Pavement and Bob Mould’s Sugar, but perhaps a bit more focused on melody. Take the poppy “She’s Cheering Up,” for example. Like the Ramones before them, Connections seem to want to make bubblegum pop records, just with fuzzed out guitars and a bit more “rough-around-the-edges” swagger.
“Lo-Fi Gumbo Stolen From the Best Record Collections” “2 Makes 2” is the perfect mix of Pixies-era college rock and angular, Television-esque art noodling from the Bowery; while “Rough Patch” is a more subdued acoustic number that plows along to a demanding strum pattern. All in all, Body Language is not just a cherrypicked homage to a vinyl junkie’s crate-digging excursions. It’s a well-crafted, down-to-earth rock album with enough freshness of its own to earn our heartfelt recommendation. Recorded at Columbus Discount Recording Engineered by Adam Smith Size: 12-inch Speed: 33 1/3 rpm Color: Black Vinyl
VINYL OF THE MONTH Connections Body Language Columbus, OH (Anywayrecords)
PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2014 9
at Southgate House Revival Newport, KY March 7, 2014
For the uninitiated, experiencing mr. Gnome [editor's note: yep, lowercase m] is a singular musical odyssey. This Cleveland based husband and wife duo, featuring Nicole Barille on vocals and guitar and Sam Meister on drums, defies a neat description. Their live performance presented a remarkably robust sound: Barilleâ€™s voice capable of the sweetest croons or alternately breaking into keening wails, interspersed with looping guitar and harmonizing vocals. The group was swinging through the area on the way to their second consecutive appearance at SXSW, and what a treat this show was. Rock and roll lean, Barille, clad unassumingly in jeans and a black spaghetti strap top, her curly, long mane of hair pinned up atop her head, owned the spotlight as Meister supplied the backbeats and percussion each song required. The communication and interplay between them was both subtle and intuitive. They were a seamless unit, despite her being the one commanding the performance. And their sound? Thatâ€™s an impossible one to pin down. It was an ever-shifting wooze of ethereal or otherwise totally raw (and almost scary) vocal pyrotechnics from Barille, as all of it washed into a dizzying haze of distorted guitar and complex drum rhythms. To be sure, there were some sweet, less urgent and mellower moments too, but this group was totally transfixing to watch. They have been on the road touring nearly constantly, amassing a devoted following as a result of all their hard work and impressively unique sound. If this standout show was any indication, there will be much future success in the cards for this 10 MAY 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
An evershifting wooze of ethereal and raw tones, textures. Follow the band on Twitter: @mrgnomemusic
by LUCY FERNANDES / photos by RICK CARROLL
REVIEWS article and photography by AMANDA MACCHIA
The Wood Brothers
Somerville Theatre – Somerville, MA, February 28, 2014 Raw, succulent American folk music.
The show hadn't begun; the lights in the Somerville Theatre were still up. Chris Wood walked across the back of the stage and the crowd cheered. He strolled over to a record player that was sitting atop one of the two wood pallets they had standing up flat, facing the audience. He put on a Little Walter record and as the sound of blues crooned out over the theater, grabbed his belt buckle and danced across the stage until he was a shadow again. The audience stirred with excitement. The theater darkened. A small lamp placed next to the record player remained lit. Shadows fastened against the burning of the lamp's light. The Wood Brothers whispered across the stage. Red and orange stage lights slowly brightened as the theater became filled with the coarse, emotional, voice of Oliver Wood, and the dark plucking of Chris' bass.
It is easy to craft a beautiful, dynamic Wood Brothers set. Their catalog, however many albums deep, is full of raw, succulent American folk music. They don't need much. A guitar, a stand up bass, a melodica, a “shit-tar,” a drum kit, and some of the most powerful songwriting and playing in music today.
Follow the band on Twitter: @TheWoodBrothers
Their shows are always full of special moments. This time, they brought out Ryan Montbleau for “Luckiest Man,” citing it was the first time they had ever met the local musician. They dedicated "Postcards From Hell" to being present, thanking those of us not living behind our cell phones and Facebook statuses for being there with them. They invited the entire theater to get out of their seats and dance, as they closed the evening with Leadbelly's “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” and Michael Jackson's “P.Y.T.” It was as close to perfect as it's ever gotten before. PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2014 11
“It’s a lot more corporate,” said New Jersey-raised singer-songwriter Nicole Atkins, in town for her fourth SXSW - but even so, bands uncertain about taking their first plunge should “just do it. It’s really fun.” Atkins, who launched a successful PledgeMusic campaign for her new album, Slow Phaser, will tour this summer with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
A SXSW staple for years, the Austin-based Quiet Company made a huge splash in 2012, winning several Austin Music Awards. “South by Southwest is still very much about discovery,” says singer Taylor Muse. “Even if its face is very corporate, its arms and legs are very independent.” Look for Quiet Company’s Transgressor album this summer.
SXSW POR Every March, a myriad of artists from around the world trek to Austin, Texas, for the South by Southwest music conference and festival - and their SXSW-related experiences and opinions can be incredibly wide-ranging, as these 2014 showcasing acts illustrate. Presented here are portraits of some of our favorite showcasing artists, along with their thoughts on this year’s event.
12 MAY 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
For Suffers singer Kam Franklin and her nine bandmates, attending SXSW 2014 was a no-brainer, despite a vehicular issue. “We don’t have a van or a bus,” says Franklin, “so we took three cars here from Houston.” The band’s debut album, Make Some Room, is due later this year.
“I saw a lady with her tits out and an AK-47 protesting gun rights,” says Tontons singer Asli Omar, noting how crazy downtown Austin can get during SXSW. “It’s worth coming here at least once,” adds bassist Tom Nguyen. The Houston band attended SXSW this year to promote Make Out King and Other Stories of Love.
ORTRAITS photos and text by CHRIS M. JUNIOR
PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2014 13
MEET THE new BOSS How Art Alexakis Became Chairman of LACM’s Songwriting Program
by BEN MARAZZI photo courtesy of LOS ANGELES COLLEGE OF MUSIC 14 MAY 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
With the music industry becoming more competitive, the school is looking to enlist working musicians to help students learn real world, hands-on skills that can enable them to better hone their craft. It is LACM’s goal to create students who will graduate from the program with the necessary tools and skills to adapt to an ever-changing market. Performer was fortunate enough to speak with Alexakis shortly after the announcement at NAMM to get a better idea of what he and the school are looking to create in the upcoming school year. So to start, do you have a history with the school? How did you and the college start working together? This is what happened: I had been speaking with them the last two or three years about doing small groups or workshops, and eventually I met Erin Workman who worked at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood. When she left there last year she went over to, what at the time was called LAMA (Los Angeles Music Academy), and they were
“With training and information and guidance you can learn to develop your own ideas and workshop them to develop your own sound.” Will you be teaching the class? Or just overseeing the program? Both. I plan to write the curriculum for several of the classes. They already have some classes there and we’re designing some [additional courses]. As the curriculum goes on, hopefully I’ll be teaching more classes when I have time away from touring and making albums. It’s good. I like working; I like being busy. Is this songwriting program the sort of thing you wished you had when you were growing up? Absolutely! There were no lessons for songwriting. There might be something like it now… somewhere, but I think to this day this might be the first degree you can get in songwriting. Did you take music classes when you first started out? I took a few guitar lessons as a kid, but I couldn’t really afford it. I took like eight lessons. I had a guitar that my mom bought at a pawnshop and a 25-dollar amplifier; that’s what I had. I’d probably be a much better musician if I had something like this, but back then that’s how you learned, you ruined your albums. Mine was Led Zeppelin. I basically destroyed that [first] album going back and forth and learning how to play it.
“I couldn’t believe how excited they were to have what I do become part of what they do.” very excited about bringing in a curriculum, and having me do it. She’s an amazing musician and educator. I met everyone at the school and I was just so taken by how focused and happy everyone was, and how hard everyone worked. I couldn’t believe how excited they were to have what I do become part of what they do. Now they are an actual college. They offer a wide array of 4-year BA degrees. It’s exciting to be a part of.
I think there’s something good about that, having some skills and then learning to think outside the box and learning to use those skills. ‘Oh, you take these skills and you figure out how to make them your skills.’ I don’t want this to sound like a Hallmark card, but honestly it’s about learning how to develop those skills to be your own sounds. You begin to develop your own tone, your own sound, how to put your hands, how to work your voice, how you work your words and melodies and where they come from. With training and information and guidance
side from the cutting edge music gear, this year’s NAMM convention offered yet another debut to the musical masses. As a way of reflecting a new era in music education, the Los Angeles Music Academy has now officially changed its name to the Los Angeles College of Music (LACM). The school now offers its students the opportunity to earn 4-year BA degrees in various musical subjects. As part of this new era, the school has also created an opportunity for students to earn a degree in songwriting. To help launch the program, LACM has enlisted the multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated principal songwriter of Everclear, Art Alexakis, to serve as chairman of the new department.
you can learn to develop your own ideas and workshop them to develop your own sound. I did it, but to answer your question, yes I do wish I had something like this. This really didn’t exist when I was a kid. What would be your ultimate goal for the future of the program? I don’t have an ultimate goal, really. I want to be a part of it as long as I can be and develop a curriculum that works. I’m sure over time certain things will, and certain things won’t. I want to learn from that and develop more. I want to create something that lasts and continues to grow and evolve. I really haven’t thought about the future, I’m just trying to think about the now. The future tends to take care of itself. Author’s note: In addition to the school, Art’s long-running band, Everclear, is currently tracking their ninth studio album, which should be completed by mid-spring. Shortly after, Everclear will be embarking on a 35-date summer tour with Soul Asylum, Eve 6, and Spacehog. Lastly, Art’s also staying busy working on a memoir and a radio show. For those interested, LACM’s new format now offers four-year degrees including a Bachelor of Music Performance and Music Production, a new Songwriting Major, and a new Brass and Woodwind Major. The college also offers online courses as well as off-campus learning programs for drums and guitar (with bass, music business, and music production currently in development). For more information on LACM and the programs offered, please visit www.lacm.edu.
Follow Art on Twitter: @artalexakis
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if likes toys. He grew up watching the Creature Double Feature. His parents once drove all day to get him a replica of Godzilla. He still has it. The young Lif would wait excitedly each week for the records his dad used to bring home. New sounds sparked new ideas about the world, and new stories to get lost into. Toys still inspire the unconventional MC (who still acts as one third of the Boston crew The Perceptionists when not doing solo work), and whether those shiny new playthings are talented friends' beats, an excellent but affordable preamp, or new, customizable production gear (Lif owns two Maschines, the black and the white one, and many of the custom kits that they sell alongside those products), they are what get him creative. It was '95 when Lif picked up his first piece of production gear, the Ensoniq EPS-16+, which would prove to be a game changer for him. With this sampling keyboard, the MC churned out a number of tracks that were to become seminal to his career. To Lif, production has always been an essential part of the creative process. “When I first started my career, my mantra was that any MC should be able to produce his or her own beats, so that you don't run into that terrible time void of waiting for your schedule to line up with a producer, you know? And I feel like since I got away from that mantra in like, let's say, the mid 2000s, it has been a key to my drop off in productivity." After joining record label Def Jux in 2000, Lif left his EPS-16+ behind and married himself to the MPC1000. “It's crazy how a bad piece of gear can really mess you up. I just committed myself for 11 years to the MPC1000 and never enjoyed using it.” After delivering the Mo' Mega record in 2006, Lif left Def Jux. With an uninspiring MPC in tow, and without the structure of his label, he began to notice his productivity disintegrate significantly. “It's interesting. If you have equipment you want to play with, and that's what you're using to make music, you're more likely to just make your music. I think that there's so many phobias and little stupid things we go through as artists, sometimes you have to coax yourself, or trick yourself, into doing what you're naturally born to do.” When I met you, you were just coming off of a long period of time where you weren't producing beats, and you weren't attached to a label. You still aren't attached to a label, but you are producing and writing up a storm. Can you talk about where all of this creativity came from? I was living in the hills of Berkeley, California with the Balkan Brass Band that I had started making a record with. My re-introduction to
16 MAY 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
MR. LIF Legendary MC Drops Critical Knowledge on Home Studio Production & Geeks Out on His Favorite Gear article and photos by AMANDA MACCHIA
PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2014 17
production was really because they were pounding out different rhythms, most of which I could find my place in as a lyricist, but sometimes I just needed the drums to hit a little harder. That's when I broke out the MPC again as a useful tool to just at least be like, “OK, let me layer the preexisting drums with these drums so you guys can hear exactly what I need the pocket of this beat to be like.” From there my friend guided me toward Ableton. It didn't 100% click with me, although I recognize it's an amazing program. Then, one day, I saw some offer online that Native Instruments was selling Maschine Mikro for $250, and I just thought to myself, “$250, why not? Just take a gamble!”I went and got Maschine Mikro and it exploded my mind. I felt like a lot of the sounds that they gave you, just in the default KOMPLETE Instruments package, were sounds that if I was gonna give someone a sample bundle, that's what it would sound like. It was dark, epic, aggressive sounding stuff. It just immediately sparked my brain. From there I upgraded to the full version of Maschine. It gives me all of the feelings that I had when I was working with the EPS-16+, but it gives me those
to make it out, and he actually wasn't even able to. That was the moment that I decided to put my foot down and make a commitment to being able to make world-class recordings out of my own personal studio. What was some of the gear that you picked up? The first piece of gear that, for me, was the most intense part of my search, is this preamp by BAE. It's called the 1073 DMP. It's basically a recreation of the Neve 1073 preamp. I asked so many people along the way. I did so much research, reading things in different forums, browsing online stores, and just reading and reading and reading. Then, finally, I went to Gianmaria Conti, the guy that does front-of-house sound for Thievery Corporation. He said that BAE makes the absolute best gear, and if you're looking for that Neve sound, they are essentially the new Neve company, even though they have a different name. They're using all the same components - or components made by the same companies that made the original Neve gear. It's a very powerful preamp that, honestly, I have not mastered yet. I've gotten some amazing sounds out of it, and I've had times where I just
“I think that there's so many phobias and little stupid things we go through as artists, sometimes you have to coax yourself, or trick yourself, into doing what you're naturally born to do.” drum patterns like on the MPC. I always felt the MPC was nice for drums, I just couldn't do much else on it. I feel like Maschine is a great combination of those worlds. For anyone that was a passionate MPC user it's a pretty easy transition, so it gives me that fluidity. Plus, Maschine is just a controller. I hook it up by USB, and I can also have a mini keyboard, so if I wanna get back to that feeling of actually playing with some keys like I was on my sampling keyboard, I can. It gives me a wider range of flexibility, and in turn it has brought me back to the origin of who I am as an artist, which is MC/Producer. After getting comfortable with Maschine, you tapered off for a bit and found yourself really interested in gear. In recording gear. Do you think that was sparked by your interest in Maschine? Returning to production could have had a hand in it, but really what it was, was some of my recording equipment drowned in a flood a few years ago, and it was the same stuff I recorded the I Heard It Today album on. I never really made much of an effort to restore my studio. Akrobatik and I had started to record a new Perceptionists record, and I was trying to send him demos, because we were getting beats from Illmind. One day, I recorded something for him that sounded so bad I wasn't sure that he'd be able 18 MAY 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
can't strike the right tone with it. Other than that, another one of my favorite pieces of gear is my Focusrite. It's called the ISA One. It's a relatively inexpensive preamp. It just adds a certain...airiness to my vocals. I feel like if I was gonna be trying to cut a record that I wanted to get on the radio and I wasn't doing something particularly gritty and grimy, I'd tend to turn to that one. Then, when I was in Montreal, I picked up a third preamp. It's called the Golden Age Project (GAP) Pre-73, and it's really a knock off of the BAE, but it 's a very inexpensive knock off that I can travel with easily. Right now, the Miktek CV4 microphone is my microphone of choice. It's a large diaphragm tube condenser mic, and it just has a certain warmth to it. There are frequencies in my voice that I never want to hear because I'm very nasally when I deliver, and it can sometimes get a little piercing if I don't have the right mic and preamp combination to warm it up. I also got the Universal Audio Apollo, which I'm not even near mastering. That's the piece of gear that will allow me to inevitably become more of an engineer. Sometimes it's really tough to find the right engineer for a given project. It would be nice, especially for my self-produced stuff, to be able to run things through my own processors and not have to leave my studio to make my final sound.
I had actually just brought home an AKG C414 XLS, and wasn't in love with it. So I brought that back to the store, too. I had never heard of the company Miktek, but I went home, opened up the
Do you feel that your creative process is different when your self-producing vs. when you're working with a producer? The only thing that feels different about it is that I'm making the beat. And I think that in making the beat, the listener is getting the full version of me. There's just drum patterns in my head, and certain ways that sounds play with each other that I really only can create for myself. I know that you have to write in many different places because you travel a lot, but can you paint me a picture of what it's like when you're in your most comfortable setting? What it's like to write a record, or a verse? After I've been in one place for a while, verses happen in whatever mode of transport I am on first - buses, trains are great for verses. I think I wrote a verse flying from Austria to Germany this fall. I think that traveling can give you at least that illusion of progress. You're going somewhere and changing your situation, and there's often a burst of energy from that. As there is a burst of energy from returning home.
“When I first started my career, my mantra was that any MC should be able to produce his or her own beats, so that you don't run into that terrible time void of waiting for your schedule to line up with a producer.” box and immediately was like “Wow.” The first thing I recorded with it was actually for See-I, two guys from Thievery Corporation, Rootz and Zeebo. I recorded a verse using the Miktek and the Focusrite and fell in love with it immediately. So you're able to track more of your vocals at home. Yeah. The productivity is through the roof, because on any given day I have so many things on the to-do list as far as recording, and now I don't have to call someone and book studio time, I can just go to my own private lab and cut world-class vocals. They don't sound their absolute best coming out of here, but when a good engineer gets their hands on 'em and does the things that would typically be done to vocals, they do shine. And is that leading to more writing? Absolutely. I can definitely say the other day I broke through a writer's block on this track with El-P and Q*bert just because I wanted to use my gear. I came home from traveling, walked into this room, looked at my gear, liked what I saw, and just wanted to use it. A song that I hadn't been able to write for over a month happened in about 45 minutes. Now that I've upgraded my production equipment, I can dump my own beats into my own setup, get a rough mix on the balance and the levels that I want, sit here, and record vocals.
How do these new pieces of gear capture your imagination? The journey to get them was a huge part of it. There's just like a relationship with each piece of gear. For instance, I started off trying a Neumann U 87 Ai microphone, which is the newest kind of U 87 mic. And the U 87 is thought to be an industry standard. Any quality studio you go to is gonna have that. But it's also a $3,000 mic, so I borrowed it, kinda knew I wasn't gonna buy it because of the price, and ended up taking it back.I also had a Neumann TLM 103, which just didn't capture my voice well. It brought out all those frequencies that I didn't wanna hear. So that went back to the store, too. I'd heard so much about the Shure SM7B, which is the microphone that most famously is credited to the Thriller album. It's a dynamic mic that can be found in most radio broadcasting studios. I borrowed that, and at the same time borrowed the Miktek CV4. Left the CV4 just sitting in the box for a long time.
When you're home, what is it like to write? At home I think that it's more about discovering the beauty of a regiment, and understanding the power of stability. Over the summer, even though I was in and out of here a lot touring with Thievery Corporation, just having that ability to know that I've done enough writing for the day, and I can return to the song at some point the following day, and be able to come right into my studio.
Do you ever see yourself going back to writing, like physically writing? Yeah, I mean, sure! When it all comes crashing down, sure. You know, definitely. Pen and paper. Like in that shitty TV show Revolution. Or like in every prophecy in every blockbuster film that is out now. Where either aliens come and attack us, or the Earth is blowing up, or the power goes out. I think this deep-rooted sense that we all have - that the way we are living is not sustainable I think we are correct. It's beautiful ride, but when the phones won't light up anymore, and when the studios don't turn on, I will probably just be writing. I'll be the village poet…doing shows and just popping up whenever I feel inspired.
Follow Mr. Lif on Twitter: @therealMrLif
How do you write, though? Always to the beat. What do you use, do you use a pen and paper? No, usually just digitally. You know, virtual paper... On your computer? Umm no, no...I hesitate to say where I write…I write on my phone a lot. Do you sit down? I pace. I pace a lot of the time. Writing...it's very active for me. I don't know how much writing I do when I sit down. Actually, I think that if you looked at the ratios I'm probably walking around a lot more. Walking around, standing. I don't know why, but it just doesn't feel like a sedentary experience for me.
MR. LIF “BOSTON STRONG” NEW SINGLE AVAILABLE NOW! watch the video @ PERFORMERMAG.COM PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2014 19
On Expanding Their Lineup & Tracking with Vintage Neve Consoles article and photos by CHRIS M. JUNIOR
Buffalo pictured left to right : Andrew Gabbard (guitar) and Joseph Sebaali (drums), Sven Kahns (guitar) and Zachary Gabbard (bass)
20 MAY 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Killers PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2014 21
he Ohio-based Buffalo Killers already knew what Sven Kahns could do musically from his guest appearance on their third album, 2011’s appropriately titled 3. It wasn’t until last year that singer and bassist Zachary Gabbard really knew whether Kahns had what it takes to handle other band-related matters. “His first trip with us was when we did South by Southwest in 2013,” Gabbard recalls. “And it was one of our wild weekends where we go from Ohio to Austin - long, 18-hour drives. I thought, ‘Well, if he can deal with this, he can deal with any of it.’” Guitarist and lap-steel player Kahns is now a full-time member of Buffalo Killers, which had been a trio since the band’s birth, consisting of Gabbard, his guitarist-singer brother, Andrew, and drummer Joseph Sebaali. Already possessing a thick sound reminiscent of late-1960s/early1970s rock power trios, Buffalo Killers are even more muscular as a foursome. But at the same time, adding Kahns has opened up some space within the band, says Gabbard. Those positive changes are reflected throughout Heavy Reverie, the new Buffalo Killers album, released via Sun Pedal Recordings. The tracking sessions with producer Jim Wirt at Cleveland’s Crushtone Studios lasted about five days, and everything went so well that the band subsequently cut another studio album with Wirt in about the same amount of time.
We just knew at that point that the three of us were super-committed to being together, and that’s all we talked about. I think it was a pretty smooth transition, if you listen to the last Shams record and the first Buffalo Killers. At that point, I really felt like Andy and I had figured out how to write songs. We felt more confident in our songwriting, and things moved quicker [from there]. It was like wiping our hands of all our mistakes and starting over. [laughs] Bands with brother combos are legendary for having differences, like Rich and Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes, with whom you toured in 2007. Did you ever witness any backstage bickering between them, or did it seem like they were getting along fine at that time? They’re always in good spirits when I’ve been around them. Both of them are super-supportive of us, still. They really helped us along; seeing them every night and being respected by your peers and people you look up to was a big deal. It was a big boost of confidence at the time. But no, I’ve never seen them go at each other. They’re good guys, very down to earth. We saw them recently; they always invite us out when they come to town and treat us like kings. The first and second Buffalo Killers albums were released two years apart, but starting with 3 in 2011, the band has released new music annually. Is there an explanation behind this steady productivity? You know, we’ve hit a lick - it just keeps comin.’
On the band’s quick output: “We’ve hit a lick - the music just keeps comin.’ Being able to make it happen fast, we’re really into that right now.” - Zachary Gabbard Zachary Gabbard recently spent some time with us talking about Heavy Reverie, the early days of Buffalo Killers, the addition of Kahns, the band members’ equipment preferences and much more. When you transitioned from Thee Shams to Buffalo Killers around 2005/06, was there ever a detailed discussion about what the new band was going to be or not be? Or did everyone place their trust in the existing musical bond and allow it to evolve organically? 22 MAY 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
With Alive Records and our new label, Sun Pedal, they’ve been supportive of me and Andy writing real fast. We did 3 and Dig. Sow. Love. Grow. and Ohio Grass with Alive, and they were into it. We could go and play shows, and nobody’s telling us what to do. It’s nice to have that support, to be able to go into the studio and do what you want to do. So it’s really satisfying to do it and make it come out fast; we’re really into that right now. The band added Sven Kahns as a fourth
On the band’s label: “It’s nice to have that support, to be able to go into the studio and do what you want to do.” - Zachary Gabbard
member fairly recently. Talk about the circumstances leading up to his arrival. He played on 3 a little bit. It was just a thing where our sound had grown, and we don’t have enough arms and legs to do everything, so we decided to get somebody else. We’ve known him for a while, so it’s like he’s always been there. He knows all the songs; we didn’t have to say, “Learn this” or “Learn that.” It’s been easy. Us being a core group for so long, it took the right person to fill that spot. How did expanding from a trio to a quartet change the musical and personal dynamic of Buffalo Killers, both in the studio and onstage? I think it allows us to sit back a little bit more than before - not Joey, but me and Andy. As funny as it is, it’s freed up more space with another guy. And with Sven, it sounds great. Let’s talk about the new studio album, Heavy Reverie. Was producer Jim Wirt hands-on or hands-off during the recording process? Or was he a little of both? The way we approach things when we get to the studio, we’re ready. So I’d say that a majority of the time he’s a little more hands-on [with artists] than he was with us, just because we come ready to go. But it was a transition for us. He helped us with vocals and pushed a little further, whereas before, it was me sitting in the room, and Andy saying, “Is that cool?” [laughs] It was great to be out of our comfort zone in a studio we didn’t know, with someone we kinda knew. We didn’t know Jim that well; he’d come to see us a bunch of times. We didn’t send him any demos beforehand; we just went in and said, “This is what the songs are.” I mean, we definitely let him in, and I think it worked great.
What pieces of equipment do you use regularly? Andy and Sven both have a Fender Deluxe. We’re definitely not gear heads. We’re just bare bones. Joey used Ludwig and Rogers sets on this album;
On adding a fourth member to the group: “As funny as it is, it’s freed up more space with another guy. And with Sven, it sounds great.” -Zachary Gabbard
he’d always been a Ludwig guy before. We’ve always used the same acoustic guitar on a lot of stuff. It’s an Alvarez. And I always use my Gretsch hollow-body Broadkaster bass. Andy always uses Firebirds. Who’s the inspiration behind the song “This Girl Has Grown”? Andy wrote that, and that’s about his daughter.
Follow the band on Twitter: @Buffalo_Killers
Heavy Reverie was tracked on the Neve console that Michael Jackson used to record his Thriller demos. Who in the band was most impressed by that piece of trivia? We didn’t know that until the end. Me and the guys have listened to Thriller a million times, just critiquing. On the Thriller demos, there’s a song called “Carousel,” and it isn’t on the record. But “Carousel” is one of the songs that was tracked on that console, and “Carousel” is my favorite Michael Jackson song, so I thought that was pretty cool.
And how about “Cousin Todd,” which has the notable refrain “He’s a better junkie than you”? [laughs] I wrote that song. “He’s a better junkie than you” came from a lot of people I know; junkies always want to tell you who’s worse than they are. But when you go talk to that person, they’re saying the other person is worse than they are. When we were doing the song for the first time, in the barn at my house, I wrote the name of the song down, and Andy looked at me real serious and said, “We don’t have a fucking cousin Todd” [laughs]…But everyone has a “cousin Todd.” What kind of touring schedule will the band have throughout 2014? Will it be busier than in years past? It will be busier. We’re doing the East Coast, the West Coast and everything in between. Hopefully we’ll get even further…
BUFFALO KILLERS HEAVY REVERIE STANDOUT TRACK: “THIS GIRL HAS GROWN” LISTEN NOW @ PERFORMERMAG.COM
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How to Build a Recording Studio From The Ground Up An In-Depth Look at the Birth of Orb Recording Studios, Austin
rb Recording Studios is a 5,600-squarefoot facility built from the ground up on an acre of Texas hill country just 25 minutes from downtown Austin. The studio is the vision of co-owners C.B. Hudson (lead guitarist for Blue October) and Matt Noveskey (bassist for Blue October) who sought to merge the quality of renowned East and West Coast studios with the pretense-free vibe of Austin. They have created a studio that will not only accommodate major acts from around the country, but also nurture new artists. Mark Genfan, designer of Orb Recording Studiosâ€™ state-of-the-art acoustics and Acoustic Spaces owner/chief designer gives 24 MAY 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Performer a recap of his integral involvement with the birth of Orbâ€Ś.
THE INITIAL PLAN AND BUILD
CB and Matt approached me, as a studio designer, with a good list of initial concepts and goals they had for the studios. Among these were the need for a state of the art "A" room, and a smaller and somewhat scaled down "B" room. The had a very specific business plan for booking these two rooms, and even wanted space in the overall building for a future "C" room. They wanted a building that blended with the beautiful Texas Hill Country and was still economical to build but provided plenty of space as client comfort. To
that end, I chose a metal frame basic structure, but with a complete stone and stucco exterior. The height was important too, so we could have great sounding rooms, all fully f loated. The overall structure is about 25' high, and interior rooms are as tall as 22'. Our planning continued in a "round-robin" manner, with me starting to draw conceptual renderings, CB and Matt reviewing and responding, and then making adjustments in the floor plan or feature set. And while the building plan was taking shape, we were also discussing equipment and workflow. We brought in our integration specialist early on, so he could start his planning and ballpark pricing.
from Mason Industries. All doors are massive and manufactured "studio" doors, and all interior windows are extremely dense, double glass with large air spaces separating the panes.
The choices on the major equipment items are important, and can shape the client's perception of the studio. Matt and CB were committed to an SSL "G" series early on, and I will admit to trying to dissuade them, considering possible maintenance issues with a 20-year-old console. But their reasoning for this choice - that most of their very favorite records and producers used SSL boards - impressed me, and a refurbished SSL G+ became the centerpiece of the "A" room. To finalize the choices for speakers, we went out to Los Angeles and auditioned several of the very best big monitors. To my surprise, the guys absolutely fell in love with Allen Side's OceanWay HR2s. These are free standing monitors, very "hi-fi" but will rock hard as well. With this decision made, now my design for the control room changed radically, not needing the large soffits for a typical inwall monitor system. Originally we had an echo chamber behind the control room. But the desire to have a HUGE control room led to eliminating the echo chamber, and extending the control room another 6 feet in length. This turned out to be a great decision, as the finished "A" control room is over 9,100 cubic feet, and able to easily fit the entire band in any recording session. A long narrow hallway that serves as one of the entrances to the large tracking room now became a default "echo room," and putting a mic panel and wiring into that hallway made it easy to use for that purpose.
Choices for finishes, acoustic treatments and the overall aesthetics were also discussed from Day 1. Many things changed over the course of this planning, and slowly we brought all these elements together and the design began to gel. We needed the highest level of sound isolation, with the building close to the road and close to a residential area. The exterior was going to be beefy, with stone all around, and the "natural" air space provided by hallways to help isolate interior rooms. But every room in the entire facility is fully de-coupled, and we used an engineered approach, with products and materials
engineered isolators, and made up of a double wall system, and a f loor and ceiling which form the shell of each room, creating a very high sound isolation detail. There is space for a future "C" suite, and a huge lounge and kitchen, restrooms, equipment library, and offices. The studio rooms all have extensive "bass trapping" formed by varying thicknesses and geometries of absorbing and diffusing materials. The finishes are stretch fabric and a variety of different woods. All the acoustic finishes are custom designed and built, with the exception of RPG Wave Gaussian panels hung from ceilings, and Acoustic Geometry "Curve" poly, phase coherent diffusers. All doors are heavy-duty sound isolation supplied by ASI ProAudio. All interior studio windows are custom built, utilizing 3/4" and 1/2" thick glass, with large air space between the two panes. Recording equipment includes the usual complement of fully-loaded Pro Tools, a great mic list, a great outboard list, an SSL G+ 48 input and ATR 2-track for mixing. Ocean Way HR2s are the main monitors in "A" and several alternate speakers are available. The "B" control room features a custom designed "Amp Wall" with a selection of the best guitar amplifiers wired to a switching system that enables guitarists to easily try out any combination of amp heads and speaker cabinets, all from the control room. EVERY room in the building, even restrooms, are interconnected with audio, video, network and digital lines. The SSL patch bay was re-worked for more efficient workf low with Pro Tools; anything can be patched anywhere.
Even before a final set of plans was produced, we started "value engineering," which really means looking at the choices and specs for every line item, and seeing if there's a more cost effective way to achieve the same end-goal. The final and finished look of every room did not suffer, and we feel that Orb is the most attractive and comfortable studio in the area.
The construction process was lengthy, starting with a hilly and rocky site that needed extensive excavation. But the results are a state-of-the-art studio that has already attracted artists like Justin Bieber, Lil Wayne, Erykah Badu & The Cannabinoids, Bizzy Crook and Blue October since the studio’s official grand opening on March 16th. We are expecting a great year ahead.
THE "NUTS AND BOLTS" OF ORB STUDIOS
ABOUT MARK GENFAN A veteran studio architectural and acoustics designer with a background in both engineering and music, Genfan has created many of Texas’ most renowned recording and production spaces, including Tequila Mockingbird and Robert Rodriguez’s Troublemaker Studios’ audio facilities. For more, visit www.orbrecordingstudios.com.
The exterior building is a metal frame, 25' high and about 5,500 square feet. We applied a stone and stucco exterior. Inside, there are 9 "studio spaces" of varying sizes, from the large "A" tracking and control room, a medium sized "B" suite, and several isolation booths. Every one of those studio spaces is fully de-coupled from the building itself, built on
photo courtesy of ORB RECORDING STUDIOS
PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2014 25
Capturing The Classic Sound of Memphis Soul on Analog Tape In the Studio with John Németh interview by BENJAMIN RICCI / photos courtesy of SHORE FIRE MEDIA 26 MAY 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
ALBUM INFO & CREDITS Artist: John Németh Album: Memphis Grease Recording Studios: Recorded at Electraphonic Recording and Mixed at Ardent Studios Record Label: Blue Corn Music Release date: March 25, 2014 Producer: Scott Bomar Engineers: Kevin Houston and Scott Bomar Assistant Engineer: Justin Hess Mix Engineer: John Hampton Assistant Mix Engineer: Adam Hill Mastered by: Brad Blackwood at Euphonic Masters
“I love the adrenaline rush of tracking live. I need to feel the energy of the band in the studio.”
KEY RECORDING GEAR · MCI 416B Recording Console · · Scully 280 1" 8-Track Tape Machine · · RCA 77DX mic · · Langevin 4116 mic pre · · Magnatone M15 guitar amplifier · · Fairchild Tube Limiters · · Harmonica recorded through 1950s Astatic JT30 mic + 1968 Earth Sound Research PA w/ two 4x12 Kustom Cabinets ·
PRE-PRODUCTION What was your pre production like on this project? I demoed these songs with my road band Nick Fishman, Tommy Folen, A.C. Myles, Joe Meyer, Elliot Sowell and Smokey Davis while living in Oakland. How did you choose the studio? I chose this studio based upon their selection of vintage recording gear. PRODUCTION What kind of sound were you looking for and how did you achieve it? We wanted the classic Memphis soul sound of Stax, Hi and American Studios. We recorded the rhythm section, vocals and harp all live to an 8-track 1” Scully tape machine at Electraphonic and mixed it to 1/4” tape at Ardent. The other huge part of the sound is the studio band, The Bo-Keys. The drummer Howard Grimes is a legend who played on classic cuts by Al Green, OV Wright, Ann Peebles, and Willie Mitchell. Did you use any special gear or recording techniques on this one? Electraphonic Recording has a lot of great, unique vintage equipment. It is state-of-theart circa 1970. Lots of classic guitar and bass amplifiers, vintage keyboards, mics and outboard gear. A lot of the sound of the record is [captured on] the Scully 1” 8-track machine. It was the same type of machine used in the ’60s at Stax, Fame Studio in Muscle Shoals and American Studio in Memphis. The recording process at Electraphonic is the same as how records were made in the ’60s and early-’70s. The musicians would listen to the demos, put down the rhythm section tracks live with the vocals and harp and then horns, background vocals and any other overdubs like percussion would be added. My vocals were cut on a RCA 77DX ribbon mic through a Langevin 5116 tube mic pre. The Langevin 5116 is the mic amplifer used in a lot of
custom recording consoles like Bradley’s Barn in Nashville and Chess in Chicago. What was your philosophy on live, full band takes versus individual tracking? I love the adrenaline rush of tracking live. I need to feel the energy of the band in the studio. My best vocal takes are the usually on the first or second pass. Very rarely will I attempt a third cut of the song. I have never made a record without cutting keys, guitar, drums, bass, harp and vocals live. I have always tracked horns as sections and background vocals as sections, though. Any special guests? Special guests performing background vocals were Susan Marshall, Reba Russell and the Barnes Brothers: Christopher, Calvin and Courtney. What did you try to accomplish in the studio that you’re not able to do live? Using the vintage gear was the accomplishment. Transporting this type of equipment into a performance hall would have been difficult. POST PRODUCTION How did you handle final mixing and mastering? We took the 1” multitrack tapes over to Ardent in Memphis where John Hampton mixed it to a 1/4” MCI machine. They have an amazing collection of outboard gear there including Fairchild compressors and EMT plate reverbs. Ardent Studio has been around since the ’60s and was the “overflow” studio for Stax. Many huge records that were recorded at Stax and in Muscle Shoals were mixed at Ardent. Brad Blackwood at Euphonic Masters in Memphis mastered the record from the 1/4” master tapes. Any special packaging? The recording will be released on vinyl; the vinyl master was cut on the same lathe used at Stax. Brad Blackwood also made a special master for iTunes. For more, follow John online at JohnNemeth.com.
Have a unique studio story to share? Email email@example.com PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2014 27
MY FAVORITE AXE
ARIELLE photo by FIDEL GONZALEZ
Singer, songwriter and guitarist Arielle considers the music of classic rock greats Queen, Boston and Iron Maiden the great inspiration of her sound. She mastered singing, piano, trumpet and guitar by the age of 10 and by 16 had become a guitar virtuoso, earning the imprimatur of Queen guitarist Brian May, and eventually working with Nuno Bettencourt, Michael Angelo Batio and Uli Jon Roth (Scorpions) and shredding onstage in CeeLo Green’s band (amongst others). Arielle released her debut single “California” this February and her self-titled EP on Open E Entertainment is out now. MAKE & MODEL
The “Arielle” Guitar - Two Tone (2007) WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU
I have actually tailored my performance around the “Arielle” guitar and I would say that it is my most prized possession and my best friend. WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE
My guitar sounds like Brian May on steroids!! SPECIAL FEATURES
The custom “Arielle” guitar model includes Seymour Duncan pickups with crystals in them. CUSTOM BUILD
My friend Patrick Yates and I built it from the ground up. We drew out the design, cut and picked the wood and even mixed the paint! CAN BE HEARD ON
The guitar solo in my single “California.”
LISTEN NOW @ officialarielle.com
Follow Arielle on Twitter: @arielleofficial
Got a favorite instrument you’d like to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
28 MAY 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
How to Transition Your Home Recording Project to the Studio part 2 of 2 For part one in this series, please read last month’s issue or head to performermag.com.
PRE-AMPS & MICROPHONES
If you already have a quality analog-to-digital interface with a nice pre-amp, then you are off to a good start. But what if your recording setup is a bit under par? If you are going to record quality tracks at home you need some quality gear and luckily that doesn’t mean having to break the bank. You don’t want any weak links in your recording chain (microphone, cables, limiter/pre-amp/interface). So it starts with the best microphone you can afford; a few solid all around choices that pack the biggest bang for the buck are the MXL 990 ($100) and the Audio-Technica AT2020 ($100). Keep in mind that both of these large diaphragm condenser mics need phantom power, so you’ll need a pre-amp/interface that supplies it or else they won’t work. What you are looking for in an interface is the number of inputs that fit your recording needs and quality pre-amps with phantom power. A 2-channel model that fits the bill could be the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 USB ($249). If you already have an interface but it doesn’t have phantom power and your budget is a bit stretched, consider getting a stand alone pre-amp like the ART Tube MP Studio V3 ($95) which offers a decent tube pre-amp, phantom power and output limiter.
FORMAT YOUR HOMEWORK
So what do you need to bring with you from home when you go into the studio to finish your project? We can’t stress this enough – don’t book a studio and just show up with your laptop full of home recorded tracks without first having a preproduction meeting. Many questions need to be answered first. Are you planning on taking the studio recorded tracks back home to finish mixing, or are you going to complete the project in the studio? What software did you use to record
photo courtesy of ORB STUDIOS / pictured: THOMAS BLANK OF QUIET COMPANY the project? What’s your bit rate and frequency (e.g. 24-bit 96kHz?, 16-bit 44kHz?) If the studio runs the same software as you do, then you might be able to share a project file, but often the studio would like to just import individual raw WAV or AIFF tracks. If so, it’s important that all of these tracks start at the same place (zero) so that the studio doesn’t have to waste time lining them up. Make sure that when you output each track, you aren’t adding any effects, that they all start at zero (yes, even if the lead guitar track doesn’t come in until the second verse) and label each track well. You also want to tell the studio what the BPM (Beat Per Minute) is for each song so that they can set their project up correctly.
Okay, you got through all those finicky format hurdles and things are going well in the studio. Your newly recorded drum tracks sound great and the studio engineer has been able to make your vocals sound sweet. But now that the mix is coming together, you realize that a few vocal phrases could have been better. You duck into the vocal booth and re-record those parts and… wait, they don’t sound right. They sound like they were recorded in another room; that’s because they were. It can be hard enough to match tracks recorded in the same studio with the same microphone when days have passed between takes. It can be downright impossible on a lead vocal track that is hot in the mix when some takes were recorded in a bedroom with one microphone and pre-amp and then re-recorded with a different setup in the studio. In this case, you might have to completely re-track in the studio or do your retracking at home and send the raw files back to the studio for further mixing.
GOLDEN RULE: LESS IS MORE
It’s tough enough tackling all these technical issues, if you then add too many songs, it’s a recipe for disaster. Taking on too many songs during a
single session, especially before you’ve developed a routine in the studio, usually leads to bad results. There’s just too much to focus on. We don’t even know where this style of over-cramming came from – perhaps the days when you could book a block of late night studio time on the cheap. But remember, you get what you pay for. We’ve heard so many horror stories from bands who booked 12 hours of studio time to record all the drum tracks for an album and 12 hours later ended up frustrated when nothing came out useable. Yes, it’s better to do all the work of setting up the drums and working on one song to start (and don’t pick the strongest song either). That way the drummer and band can get through the studio learning curve with less pressure and more focus. You’ll then go back into the studio with the experience you need to be more effective and efficient.
Mastering a song is the art of making a single track shine. Mastering an album is the art of making all the tracks shine and work together in context – not an easy task. This task is generally made easier when all the tracks on an album are recorded and mixed in the same place. If you plan on making an album by recording and mixing some songs at home and others at a studio, you should really consider having all the songs mastered by a professional mastering engineer if your budget allows. ABOUT THE AUTHORS Zac Cataldo is a musician and owner/producer at Night Train Studios, a recording studio in Westford, MA. He is also co-owner of Black Cloud Productions, a music publishing company. Reach him at email@example.com. Brent Godin is a bassist/guitarist and engineer/ producer at Night Train Studios. He is also a talent scout at Black Cloud Productions. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2014 29
AUDIO-TECHNICA ATH-M50x Professional Monitor Headphones - $239 MSRP
AUDIO-TECHNICA System 10 Stompbox Wireless System - $349 (street)
Fantastic sound quality, comfortable, excellent accessories. CONS
inding the right pair of mixing headphones is a critical part of any home studio build. And hot damn, the new ATH-M50x cans from Audio-Technica may be the finest pair we’ve ever auditioned in this price range. Our tests ran the gamut from hardcore punk to hip-hop to smooth jazz, and in each case the highs were crisp without being overly bright or tinny, the midrange was smooth and present, and the bass was well-rounded, defined, and in no way muddy or boomy (a common problem with so-called “professional” grade headphones). We also tested a few rough demo mixes and listener fatigue was a virtual nonissue, even after hours at the computer/DAW. Not only were our ears pleased, but our head felt great, too (did we mention the incredibly comfortable, cushy headband?) We even tested them out in a DJ capacity, and the swivel-cup one-ear monitoring was perfect for beat-matching and mixing on-the-fly. The headphones also come packaged with a beautiful carrying pouch, an assortment of straight and coiled cables of varying lengths, a gold-plated 1/4-inch adapter and they even fold up nicely for easy transport. For our money, we’re hard pressed to come up with another recommendation for under $200 (street) for a pair of headphones that can tackle audio production as well as audiophile listening. Benjamin Ricci
Great sound, versatile. CONS
Transmitter’s plastic construction.
n the past, wireless systems were big, and the sound quality varied. Now AudioTechnica has a digital system that sits on your pedalboard. The receiver is a decent size and has a robust metal construction. The display gives the important info, the signal info, transmitter’s battery power, and a peak/overload indicator. Two 1/4” TRS outputs sit on one side. A standard size footswitch lets the guitarist switch between the outputs: such as connecting one to a tuner, and another to the remaining signal chain. A small selector on the back allows this to also act as a mute. Power comes from the included wall wart, but it also can be used with a pedalboard’s power supply, such as one by Voodoo Lab. The transmitter is a decent size, allowing indication of power via its LEDs, and a single button turns it on or can act as a mute. It’s powered by two AA batteries that hide under its plastic case. These days digital is the standard when it comes to wireless, and System 10 ensures plenty of clarity without any interference from outside sources, however it’s suggested to keep the receiver 30 feet away from a Wi-Fi transmitter. Like most wireless systems, the higher fidelity gives a lot more signal, and can add a bit more high end, so depending upon tastes, some EQ may be in order. The range is decent, working well up to about 70’ or so. At a $350 street price the sound is great, and overall it’s a great system, but the transmitter’s construction should be as robust as the receiver. The plastic-cased transmitter feels as if one good fall or some time spent knocking around the inside of a tour van could really damage it. Chris Devine
Stompbox-styled receiver 15Hz-28kHz frequency response
Advanced 24-bit operation in the 2.4GHz range
45mm drivers with rare earth neodymium magnets
Automatic frequency scanning finds an open channel at the touch
and copper-clad aluminum wire voice coils Tuned for flat response and superior accuracy across entire frequency range
Footswitch for output modes and muting
of a button Pair up to 8 transmitters to a single receiver True-diversity operation selects the better signal from the
90-degree swiveling earcups for easy one-ear monitoring
2 receiver sections, reducing dropouts
Detachable cable (includes 1.2m-3m coiled, 1.2m and 3.0m straight cables)
Balanced TRS 1/4” output jacks enable use with a wide variety of
Includes carrying pouch and 1/4” screw-on adapter
30 MAY 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Great design, durable construction, sounds fantastic. CONS
Battery design, super long cable on transmitter.
n the ’80s almost every guitarist had a wireless system in their rack. Pedalboards rule the stage now, and integrating a wireless system can be tricky. Shure’s been able to bring a wireless unit to the masses that’s meant to live alongside your pedals. The receiver is in a metal case and has a recessed display, making the chances of an errant foot causing any damage slim. Power comes in through a 2.5mm jack, which is pretty much the industry standard. A 9v power adapter is included, but it can work with the 9v from a pedalboard’s power supply. The receiver also functions as a tuner. The metal-cased transmitter is equally robust. The lithium ion rechargeable battery is specific to the transmitter. Plugging the transmitter into the included wall adapter charges it, but the unit can also be charged via a USB port. The transmitter can also display the battery’s power level, which should be around 16 hours per charge. It’s a digital system so there is plenty of clarity and definition. A touch of high end seems to come through, as is common on most wireless systems, easily remedied by adjusting some EQ. The 200’ foot indoor and 165 foot outdoor ranges should be enough for most players. The construction and sound don’t leave you hanging. The only downside is the battery; on the rare occasion that it could be dead, there’s no way of going to a 7-11 on the road and replacing it. While the transmitter is a good design, the cable that comes with it is way too long for the average player. If it was half as long there would be still be plenty of slack. Other than that, it’s hard to poke at something that works so well. Chris Devine
MAKE NOISE MUSIC Built by Robots, Loved by Humans
Make Noise modules leave such pretensions as “plug and play” behind and challenge their users from the first bout of voltage to cross their twisted and tangled wires. Make Noise is a Eurorack Synth module maker that revels in the quirks of techno-centricity, unapologetically weird and intimidating at first pass. Their synth modules are dense and powerful, beasts that require dedication to tame. Founder and inventor Tony Rolando has a penchant for putting Voltage Control on every parameter, even the ones that don’t initially seem to need it because it encourages experimentation and innovation. Modules like the René and the Wogglebug use the Cartesian coordinate system and vactrolbased low pass filters to bring hitherto unthought of sequences and control equations into the world, while modules like the Phonogene and MATHS combine historical ideas and modern circuitry into rare noise machines. Make Noise celebrates the beauty of technology and the electricity that connects us to it, featuring circuits on the faceplates of their instruments and including ‘Touch Plates’ that make the player a part of the circuit by passing a small amount of electricity through them. The addition of a Make Noise module to any rig brings both an unparalleled level of control and an unquantifiable amount of chance - two factors that can help leave the “plug and play” world behind and break through the noise.
SHURE GLX-D16 Digital Wireless System - $449 (MAP)
For more, visit www.makenoisemusic.com.
REVIEW / Echophon If an inspiring delay is worth its weight in gold, the Echophon might as well be made of platinum. This pitch-shifting echo comes with smooth time modulation, tempo sync, and saturating feedback, using a unique pitch-shifting algorithm inspired by the classic Springer Tempophon; it packs an arsenal of effects into its small Eurorack frame. Coded by legendary DSP guru Tom Erbe (of Soundhack fame), the Echophon pitch shifts two octaves up or down and can be tempo-synched to an external clock. It has two internal digital feedback loops and an external analog feedback loop for filtered and processed echoes. It can delay a signal up to 1.7 seconds and has a FREEZE button for hold, stutter, and sampling techniques. Like most Make Noise modules, it includes Voltage Control over all parameters and has an all-analogue dry signal path. Garrett Frierson
LINKFREQ Automatic Frequency Management
Globally-unlicensed 2.4 GHz frequency band allows operation of up to 8 compatible systems Guitar pedal form factor for easy mounting on/powering from pedalboards Rugged metal chassis design Built-in chromatic instrument tuner with strobe and needle tuning views Adjustable reference pitch (432-447Hz) Highly visible LCD display PERFORMER MAGAZINE MAY 2014 31
1963 Gibson SG Custom Polaris White
The Fretless 3-Pickup Wonder
photo by GABRIEL BURGOS
BACKGROUND Designed in 1961 as a less expensive version of the Les Paul, players called it the “fretless wonder” for its low frets and fast action. Les Paul himself, however, didn’t like the guitar and requested his name be removed from it, which it was in late 1963 (confirming this to be an early model). The model was replaced with the more recognizable “SG” moniker that it’s retained ever since, which was originally short for “solid guitar.” WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE Sustain for days. Listen to Angus Young (AC/DC), Duane Allman or Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath) for reference. INTERESTING FEATURES The three pickups give the guitar a real versatile, distinct tone. In fact, these pickups still have “Patent Pending” [markings] on them, making the guitar way more valuable. Also, the unique (and original) Gibson tremolo bar of this period is worth trying out as it doesn’t go up and down like traditional bars, but is pressed horizontally against the guitar. REPAIRS Well, when I bought it and it arrived via FedEx I opened the box and started to tune it up. The neck SNAPPED in half. Thankfully, the amazing folks at Rudy’s Guitar Shop in NYC put her back together like brand old vintage! ABOUT THE AUTHOR Don Miggs is a singer/songwriter/producer and fronts the band miggs (Elm City/Capitol Records). His love affair with vintage instruments and gear only presents a problem when he’s awake. Find out more at miggsmusic.com, @miggsmusic, thelalamansion.com or on his radio show, @thefringeAM820 (Saturdays 5-7pm).
32 MAY 2014 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
@ The Drunken Unicorn May 3rd Blood Drunk Records Presents: The Hermits Of Suburbia Waking The Bates 3 Birds Phossy Jaw Doors at 9:00 pm $6 - 21+
@ Great American Music Hall May 29th Doe Eye DRMS The She's Doors at 7:00pm $15 - ALL AGES
PERFORMER PRESENTS MAY TWENTY FOURTEEN BROUGHT TO YOU BY
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