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Author Topic: I went to Los Angeles to make a record.  (Read 39241 times)

electrical

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I went to Los Angeles to make a record.
« on: November 06, 2006, 05:02:27 pm »

Some time ago, I went to Los Angeles to make a record. I had never been to a proper studio in Los Angeles, and the label had asked me to recommend a studio, so I did a little research. I called Mixerman.

The record would be pretty simple, my part of it at least. I had been asked to record the artist playing acoustically and singing, and that's it. No band, no extras, no nothing. Perfect. I am really comfortable recording stuff like this, and have a lot of experience with it. All it really requires is a nice acoustic space and a bare minimum of decent equipment.

A live acoustic session would be simple enough that I could bring most or all of the mics I would need, I could record it on 2-inch 16-track (my preferred format), and I would need no more than a half-dozen channels of a console. All of these conditions conspire to make an almost fool-proof formula, because they place minimal demands on the studio.

I relayed all of this to Mixerman, and he recommended several studios. One of the other people involved in the session had a strong preference for a specific studio (a famous one with a long history), and Mixerman concurred that it should be suitable, so arrangements were made. I am not naming the studio for reasons that will become clear as our story develops.

"One more thing," said Mixerman, in a slightly conspiratorial tone, "Try to find something to complain about. Even a little thing, like a stiff fader or something. They'll buy your lunch for you if you have any problems, and you can do it every day."

Sweet. This is precisely why engineers need to keep in touch with other engineers, to keep them abreast of blue-plate specials like this.

When I arrived at the sudio, I was immediately taken aback at the lavishness of everything. There was not just a parkiing lot, but a valet to park the cars. Parking spaces had printed placards with client names on them. My space didn't, but then, I'm not that famous, and was only going to be there for a week.

The interior decor was startling. I am used to spartan, utilitarian mid-western studios, where the studio is meant to be as un-noticeable as possible. This was, well, different.

I entered our studio (the bulding was a labyrinth of studios, from studio A to, I don't remember, maybe Studio K) through a smallish overdub booth, maybe 12 feet by 18 feet. It was about half-filled with a piano.

There were tapestries, tie-dyed drapes, beaded curtains and christmas lights everywhere. Bowls of chocolate miniatures, fruit and candles (especially candles, what the fuck?) on every flat surface. In the studio, A neat dozen candles sat flickering on the floor surrounding the piano. Candles? What the fuck?

Back when I was young myself, I noticed that young women like to surround themselves with candles, particularly when they take baths, or are entertaining a gentleman caller at night. The studio candles were slightly nostalgic for this reason, and I couldn't help thinking about particular events illuminated in my memory by candle light. This made me a little uncomfortable, because many of them were really dirty.

On closer inspection, all of the walls were faced with giant floor-to-ceiling mirrors, like a mafia bathroom or something, which had been covered with the batik and tie-dye drapes. A tiny room faced entirely with mirrors, while a bold design choice, would both sound terrible and drive everyone insane. The Earth Mama approach, while disorienting, didn't immediately suggest cocaine frenzy.

The control room, while small, was dominated by another couple dozen candles and an enormous console, of a type I had used many times. For the purposes of this session, it was a grotesque overkill, but that didn't matter. If a channel went down, we'd have about 100 spares at hand.

The assistant on the session was attentive and smart, and I felt good about him immediately. I asked him to show me the rest of the studio, and he looked a little puzzled. He gestured toward the client lounge (as large as the control room or the booth I had seen), and said, "there is a restroom..."

Apparently, that one little booth was the studio. The hundred-plus channels of console, two tape machines, dozens of candles and three sofas worth of client space were meant to serve that one little booth.

Okay... Well, we'd better get that piano out of the way then..

(to be continued)

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best,

steve albini
Electrical Audio
sa at electrical dot com
www.electrical.com

maxim

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Re: I went to Los Angeles to make a record.
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2006, 05:07:44 pm »

nice story so far

can't wait for more

you and mixerman should write a book together
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gatino

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Re: I went to Los Angeles to make a record.
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2006, 09:42:30 pm »

electrical wrote on Mon, 06 November 2006 16:02


Apparently, that one little booth was the studio.



recording tokyo style...lots of luxury, little space to keep it.


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Ali Moniack

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Re: I went to Los Angeles to make a record.
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2006, 01:13:32 am »

Nice. Is the artist a hippy chick? I smell hippy somewhere...

I do prefer the more grey lab-coat approach myself, although a few clients have noted the spartan decor where I work. Hardly anyone cares. Our dingy little studio has more of a "we're here to work" feel, since most of the punks and metallers we record don't wanna relax and soak up the "studio vibes", they want to rock and work like demons. The hippies can get lost in the garden (which is a sizeable jungle & rather lovely in summer).

I guess there has to be somewhere for sensitive souls to focus their chi or whatever, fair enough...to hell with stepping over candles in a live space. That's incongruous, impractical and silly.

But pray, good sir, continue with your tale...
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Fibes

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Re: I went to Los Angeles to make a record.
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2006, 10:03:31 am »

Candles are a big issue for me.

Especially the ones that burn unevenly and dump wax all over stuff.

Fuck that.

If they want candles we'll call up www.canles.com and let them stare at a high res photo of one whilst snorting coffee mate and the candle flavor of their choice.

Double fuck that.

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Fibes
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max cooper

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Re: I went to Los Angeles to make a record.
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2006, 11:14:41 am »

electrical wrote on Mon, 06 November 2006 16:02



I entered our studio (the bulding was a labyrinth of studios, from studio A to, I don't remember, maybe Studio K) through a smallish overdub booth, maybe 12 feet by 18 feet. It was about half-filled with a piano.

There were tapestries, tie-dyed drapes, beaded curtains and christmas lights everywhere. Bowls of chocolate miniatures, fruit and candles (especially candles, what the fuck?) on every flat surface. In the studio, A neat dozen candles sat flickering on the floor surrounding the piano. Candles? What the fuck?




NRG?
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I'm infinitely baffled.

ruben e

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Re: I went to Los Angeles to make a record.
« Reply #6 on: November 08, 2006, 12:54:16 pm »

does this story include a harp as well as a hippy by any chance?
looking forward to the next chapter...
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neve1073

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Re: I went to Los Angeles to make a record.
« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2006, 01:56:03 am »

electrical wrote on Mon, 06 November 2006 22:02


On closer inspection, all of the walls were faced with giant floor-to-ceiling mirrors, like a mafia bathroom or something, which had been covered with the batik and tie-dye drapes.




Great beginning. I'm hooked.

The batik/tie-dye over the floor to ceiling mirrors helps cut down the reflections.
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wiggins

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Re: I went to Los Angeles to make a record.
« Reply #8 on: November 09, 2006, 04:39:35 pm »

[posting to be notified of updates]

maxim

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Re: I went to Los Angeles to make a record.
« Reply #9 on: November 09, 2006, 06:32:55 pm »

steve wrote:

"...I noticed that young women like to surround themselves with candles"

it's the insecurity thing

everyone thinks they look better in the dark (and they often do...)

i also find a lot of women to be sensitive to fluoros

since it's been pointed out to me, i too, find the harsh fluorescent light disturbing
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Curve Dominant

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Re: I went to Los Angeles to make a record.
« Reply #10 on: November 10, 2006, 01:23:05 am »

That's what you get for following Mixerman's advice.

lord fear

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Re: I went to Los Angeles to make a record.
« Reply #11 on: November 11, 2006, 08:01:25 pm »

smells to me like record plant, henson, or chalice.
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BrettB

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Re: I went to Los Angeles to make a record.
« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2006, 01:49:54 pm »

Looking forward to the rest of your story! Makes me feel like the first time I discovered the Mixerman diaries:).

TotalSonic

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Re: I went to Los Angeles to make a record.
« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2006, 01:58:00 pm »

electrical wrote on Mon, 06 November 2006 22:02

"One more thing," said Mixerman, in a slightly conspiratorial tone, "Try to find something to complain about. Even a little thing, like a stiff fader or something. They'll buy your lunch for you if you have any problems, and you can do it every day."

Sweet. This is precisely why engineers need to keep in touch with other engineers, to keep them abreast of blue-plate specials like this.


Dunno - I disagree with this modus operandi.  To me crying wolf and doing some unnecessary whining just ties up the resources of the tech crew and studio assistants for no reason for a few minutes each day and eventually causes ill will with the studio staff. To me if you want free lunches in the first place they should be included in the rate or the contract.  Steve - as a studio owner wouldn't you get annoyed at someone who tried to pull this on you?

Quote:


There were tapestries, tie-dyed drapes, beaded curtains and christmas lights everywhere. Bowls of chocolate miniatures, fruit and candles (especially candles, what the fuck?) on every flat surface. In the studio, A neat dozen candles sat flickering on the floor surrounding the piano. Candles? What the fuck?


Cool - sounds kind of like a Stevie Nicks dream room.

Quote:


Back when I was young myself, I noticed that young women like to surround themselves with candles, particularly when they take baths, or are entertaining a gentleman caller at night. The studio candles were slightly nostalgic for this reason, and I couldn't help thinking about particular events illuminated in my memory by candle light.


Yeah, I've got some nice memories of this too.  I actually like the candles when I go to my girl friends place...

Quote:


On closer inspection, all of the walls were faced with giant floor-to-ceiling mirrors, like a mafia bathroom or something, which had been covered with the batik and tie-dye drapes. A tiny room faced entirely with mirrors, while a bold design choice, would both sound terrible and drive everyone insane.


I really can't understand this choice.  It makes no acoustic sense whatsoever - especially for what I would conceive the primary purpose they were imagining for this space was tracking of vox and piano.  Guess you could bring in a ton of gobos - but personally if it were for tracking acoustic guitar I'd much rather have a bigger space with a mixture of some wood diffusors and lots of bass traps on the walls.  Not trying to dog you - but didn't you get specs & the room layouts before you had the producer or artist book the room?

Quote:


Apparently, that one little booth was the studio. The hundred-plus channels of console, two tape machines, dozens of candles and three sofas worth of client space were meant to serve that one little booth.


Seems to be layed out more for stereotypical major label hip-hop overdub / mix sessions.  For some reason a lot of these guys just like to be in a room with a giant console even if they never use more than say 40 channels of the board.  And a small dubbing room with a piano would make sense in these cases too - usually all the action takes place in the control room and all you need to track is vox and maybe an occasional additional live instrument as most of the backing tracks would be flown to tape from digital files created in a smaller pre-production room anyway (which explains why there are two tape machines in the room too).  Would explain the devotion of a lot of space to client couches too - as there is often a large entourage hanging out at these sessions also.

Quote:


Okay... Well, we'd better get that piano out of the way then..



Guess you first tried to find out whether there was another room that would sound better for the acoustic gtr available in the studio complex that they could move you to?   Guess also that you were trying to avoid cancellation fees and delays by just upping and finding another facility that had a better sounding room?

Best regards,
Steve Berson

malice

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Re: I went to Los Angeles to make a record.
« Reply #14 on: November 13, 2006, 02:25:11 pm »

Curve Dominant wrote on Fri, 10 November 2006 07:23

That's what you get for following Mixerman's advice.



I bought a Neve summing box out of one of your review, I was not that "thrilled" either...

Can't wait for the next instalement though

malice
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