Recording Techniques

jeglican about 8 years ago
I've been impressed with your production for a while now, but I cant figure out and am wondering whether you record your stuff via tape or digital, or a tape to digital technique.  I definitely feel a tape sound coming from the drums especially.  I'm just wondering because I'm stating to learn production techniques and have been very frequently impressed with your sounds.  Thanks Guys.

Band Member
michael.james about 8 years ago

This could go on for a while but, to start, I will confirm just a few things: Yes, tape. Tape good - especially for drums and particular vocals. The regular MO for most all of our recordings up until Destroyer have been drums to a Tascam 424 mkII or Yamaha MT4X - very hot from the same Mackie 1642 we've been using for 10 years or so. Self titled and Field Rexx were dumped from those cassette machines to a Fostex R8 1/4". Nation and Furr used those old 4-tks into a 2 channel cheap interface - MAudio or something. Destroyer was at a 3rd party studio which had a Soundcraft Ghost board and an Otari 16 tk 1" machine - no cassettes harmed on this one.

There is much to elaborate on but I don't wanna reveal all our secrets! Ha! However, I would love to field any other questions you have. I'll try to dig up some recording notes from the past to post as well. Thanks jeglican!

otisarungus about 8 years ago

I usually prefer using a producer because they can be more objective, but it seems like you guys can be very successful either way. So how did you guys record the upcoming record? Did Eric do it himself or did you go to Mike's again?

Band Member
michael.james about 8 years ago

We've never used a producer - guess we've just never been approached by the right one.

The upcoming record was recorded at The Trench here in Portland by our old buddy Gregg Williams who also recorded most of our very first one and various other pieces of other albums. All done on an old TEAC 8 track 1" machine then assembled in Pro Tools. Gregg has some amazing gear - Neve, API, Summit Audio, old UREI, Alan Smart blah blah blah - probably our most hi-fi recording to date but still tons of analog character.

otisarungus about 8 years ago
Ok maybe engineer with a good ear is a better description? I just meant it's rare for a band to be able to produce such a high level of quality consistently when doing so much of recording themselves. If that makes sense.

Thanks for sharing the info. I love hearing about that stuff.
Band Member
michael.james about 8 years ago

Thanks for the compliment otisarungus. Really glad you like our stuff and can appreciate what goes into it.

Most of us in the band have been recording on 4-tracks or 8-tracks for over 15 years, so I think we've figuerd out what it takes to make those machines and our arrangements sound their best - or weirdest, or whatever we are going for at the moment. And though we have been mainly independent in our productions, working with guys like Gregg Williams and Mike Coykendall, who certainly have good ears, has given us some important 3rd-party perspective.

The upcoming record is also the first one we haven't mixed ourselves - don't know if I can announce yet who mixed it, but we're super stoked on the results and hope you are too.

Holla!

jeglican about 8 years ago

Thanks so much for filling me in. I have so many questions.  I love your guys production and have been trying to emulate it in ways.  If you wouldnt mind elaborating I have quite a few questions that you can pick and choose to your liking. Before that though, I'm going to need to sift through your guys material and pick out good examples of what I'm referencing.

Thanks alot!

- Andy

jeglican about 8 years ago

Ive been trying to hone down some questions but I'm having a hard time.  One thing is that I'm having problems with laying acoustic guitar in my tracks. It always turns out muddy and the low notes stand out way more than the high ones, even if i place the mic further along the next. I can hear acoustics laying back in a lot of your songs and it sounds great. Do you guys have any tricks or standards by which you record your acoustics? Do you E.Q. them a lot?

Band Member
michael.james about 8 years ago

What a difficult instrument to record! Took me quite a few years to figure it out. Firstly, it's extremely difficult to get the results you are talking about with a dynamic mic. Use a condenser. And use a small diaphragm condenser pointed at the 12th fret or thereabouts. My favorite cheap "pencil mic" is the Audio Technica PRO 37 - all Audio Technica stuff is pretty awesome. Avoid the AKG C-1000.

I also record everything with a low-cut (high-pass filter at 75 or 60Hz with -18dB per octave below, pretty standard stuff), except kick and bass - should help alot of tracks in general. Also a moderate amount of compression is usually needed on acoustics - a fast attack and medium release at 2 or 4:1. I like the dbx 163a which can be found for like $40. RNC makes great stuff for cheap. Of course an 1176, Summit TLA50 or EL8X are all awesome but they cost thousands and won't help you record or write a better song. Also, real tape compression is always preferred (by me!).

Yo! Hit us up again with other questions any time!

Much love - Michael

ps - favorite mic? MD421 - I've started to use it on literally everything.

jeglican about 8 years ago

Haha, Great. I always use small diaphragm condensers for my acoustic (with the low cut), and Almost always at that fret range.  I wish I knew the model type so I could let you know.  I guess A problem could stem from how deep some tracks from you guys get.  For example I listen to a song like "Sleepytime in the Western World" and Its just unbelievable how many tracks you can squeeze in comfortably.  If you wouldlnt mind me asking or if you could elaborate in any articulate way, just what is going on there.  Its perfectionate chaos to me.  Organ, at least 3 guitar tracks, yada yada.  I guess the biggest mystery to me is that there seems to be so many guitar tracks just laying down.  I look at a track of mine and have no idea where to start compared to something like that.  Did you guys just play that by ear or did you have an idea that you decided to hone down over time?  The gelling that you guys have just seems magical enough to be unobtainable.

With the deepest respects and much love back,

- Andy

P.S. 

Thats the not the first I've heard of that mic. I need to look into that!

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