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Author Topic: The Utterly Weird Session Thread  (Read 18297 times)

compasspnt

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The Utterly Weird Session Thread
« on: February 13, 2005, 10:56:04 pm »

Another thing that might be interesting would be to hear from anyone with a 'strange recording' tale...that is, any kind of completely out-of-the-ordinary sessions you have been involved in.  I don't mean just "musicians normally out of control in the studio" stuff, but something that should only happen once in a lifetime!

I'll start out with one of mine, a Lenny Kravitz tale:

After the recording of Lenny's "5" album, we were recording a song for Elton John, to be included in the CD release of his (and Tim Rice's) rock version of the opera Aida.  We tracked the basic at Criteria in Miami, because LK had some committments there, and couldn't get away to Compass Point those three days.  Everything went well, and I brought the track back to Compass Point for mixing.  Lenny finished his meetings, and took off from Miami for his "getaway" house on another island; he only had a few days to rest up for a big tour about to start.  I made a rough mix and sent it to the label.

A couple of days later, just as I was finishing the final mix, the call came in...Disney wouldn't accept our track, because the song had the word "bitch" in it, and they were a family company.  Lenny had to re-sing two lines, and change a couple of words.  But he was in a completely different, out of the way place, with no intention of leaving to do any more work, until he went on tour.  Plus, his rest time was almost up, and if he came my way, he wouldn't be able to catch the right flight to meet his schedule.

The only thing to do was for me to go to him, and somehow record a vocal which matched enough to slip in the new lines.  What to do?

This wasn't that long ago, but it was in the days before there were M-boxes which could be USB'd to a Powerbook, so I had to scramble and throw something together, and quickly.  I got a Panasonic dat recorder, a set of headphones, an API lunchbox with 512 pre and 550b EQ (and phantom power, of course), and a condenser mic.  I burned a CD with two versions of the track mixed to stereo...one with his vocals (for reference), and one instrumental.  I found out for sure that LK did indeed have a CD player in his hideout.  I booked a flight on a very small 'airline' (twin engine prop, two seats in back, plus pilot and one up front), and headed for the Nassau airport.  Little did I know the adventure about to befall me.

I paid my fare, and waited for the pilot to come out.  When he did, we walked to the Baron 58, and I loaded up the gear.  Because I am a pilot also, I sat up front, in the right seat.  I asked if I could fly part of the trip, and the pilot said sure, once we were airborne, and clear of the departure frequency.  We taxi'd out, and commenced a takeoff roll on runway  9.  Just before rotation, however, a tire burst, and flew off of the undercarriage.  I could see the right wheel rolling away into the bush off to the right side of the runway as the fuselage sparked from the metal contacting the tarmac.  The plane veered wildly to the right, spinning around, but the pilot was able to control it enough not to totally wreck anything.  We came to rest off of the runway, with smoke billowing out of the plane.  Of course, we exited the craft as quickly as possible, leaving the gear inside.  Already the airport fire brigade were racing towards us; fortunately, there was nothing for them to do, as no fire ensued.  But now what was I to do?  I still had to get the vocals recorded...the track was due at mastering 'yesterday,' and Lenny was leaving for a world tour the next day!

I asked the pilot if the little airline had another plane, but he said no, they did not, at least not one readily available.  He also wanted me to stay with him to help give the accident report to the Civil Aviation Authorities, but I had another agenda.  So I asked the firemen if I could ride back towards the terminal with them; they assented, so I grabbed all of the gear out of the wounded airplane, and climbed up onto the fire truck, catching that all-important ride.  When I got back to the general aviation area, I asked around to everybody I could find, and fortunately ran across a guy who had another Baron, and who was amenable to renting it out to me.  We set the deal; I  promised to pay him in cash when we got back that evening.  Off we went; and, I did get to fly part of the trip after all.

When we got to the destination airport, Lenny was waiting in his Jeep; the pilot promised to remain there for me.  We drove to LK's place, and I set everything up in his bedroom.  He listened to the phones directly out of the dat machine.  The CD instrumental track went into one channel, and the line out of the API into the other.  We quickly recorded the needed lines, and headed back to the airport.

My guy was waiting there for me, and the trip back was uneventful.  As soon as I arrived home, I got the pilot paid, and went straight into the studio to insert the new lines, and finish mixing.  I then rushed the tape, driving as fast as possible, but arriving at Fedex just as they were closing their doors; but I begged, and they let me in; the tape was delivered to mastering the following morning, just in time for their session.

Other than that, this one was a piece of cake.

Terry
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j.hall

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Re: The Utterly Weird Session Thread
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2005, 10:34:52 am »

i was assisting on a jingle for a national spot.  nothing ground breaking, nothing new....same old 30 second jingle lock to picture type session.  the studio i was staff at did this daily.

for some reason this particular ad agency had tons of people there (unusual for them).  so the engineer booked ont he session asked for some help just dealing with so many people and trying to tend to the band.

this was not something we usually did as we had 6 rooms that were typically running full tilt all day.  but luckily my session canceled, so i pitched in to lend a hand.

ANYWAY.......

things are going as normal as would be expected when the composer became unhappy with the drum sounds.  we tried a variety of things but he was just not into any of it.

he kept saying, "i want them to sound like they are being played inside an empty 18 wheeler trailor"

how would anyone know exactly what that sounded like first hand???

anyway....next thing i knew, some one had rented a trailer and it was being delivered to our already too small parking lot.

the studio tech was scrambling to make a long enough snake to get out to the trailer.....and i was gathering up a monitor and enough video cable to get out there.

long story short, the drummer set up in this trailer, sweated his butt off, and we tracked him and the whole band doing a 30 second jingle for Wal-Mart.....

i know what a drum kit inside an empty trailer sounds like now....first hand.

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Barry Hufker

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Re: The Utterly Weird Session Thread
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2005, 11:00:03 am »

I do a lot of remote recording so I have far too many bizarre stories to tell, but I'll share this one.

I was in Hawaii recording a music festival on The Big Island.  A friend of mine called to say someone had run across of group of Tonga (people from the Kingdom of Tonga), living in Hawaii and singing "Sacred Harp" music in their church service.  Sacred Harp being a kind of plaintive, a capella music that is also known as "shape note."  To give an example of how plaintive the music is even the tune "O Happy Christian" is in A minor (as an actual major key would be "too happy!").

No one could remember where they had heard the singing except that is was in Lahaina on Maui, but again no idea where.  I was asked to track them down and record them.  I made some calls trying to find out what I could.  I even called the Chief Enthnomusicologist who said he had heard of the group and had wanted to record them but had never been able to find them.

I had one day off from recording the festival and decided to take a chance.  Boarding an "island hopper" I flew to Maui and rented a Ford Escort at the airport (hey it was only $25!).  From there I drove to Lahaina, entering on Main Street.  I saw a small chapel with a woman sitting outside.  I can't tell you why but I thought "I bet she's Tonga."  I asked her and she answered "yes."  I asked her about the church service and the singing and she said "yes."  I told her I wanted to record the service and she said I'd have to ask the elders.

Her son was kind enough to drive me a few blocks to a house where the elders were meeting in a small hut in the backyard,  About a dozen men were seated around a large vat, ladling out what I assumed was a kind of beer.  One of the elders said something to my driver when they saw me.  I don't know the language but the meaning was clear -- "why the hell did you bring the white guy here?"

The boy who drove me explained and then elders then talked to me, eventually agreeing to my recording the service.  I was elated and we drove back to the church where I would setup the gear.  Upon arrival, I found out that there was to be a parade down main street  -- and the parade would start in front of the church -- and the parade would start with a procession of 300 hundred (no exaggeration) bikers on Harleys!

When the elders arrived I told them this and they agreed to hold up the service until the bikers had move further along, as the church was about 3/4 open to the outside (no walls).  The service was supposed to last an hour but was closer to two.  I had setup an ORTF pair of DPA 4011s (on a mike stand) which went right into a DAT.  I was blessed with a wonderful sound despite a guess on mike placement and no sound check.  The singing was like the Sacred Harp I'd heard on the Mainland but then it was also **so** different.  It was a glorious sound.

With tape running low, the service finally ended.  I thanked everyone,  promised them a CD, threw everything into the Escort and sped towards the airport to catch the last flight off the island.  Making the Escort do 75 when it thought 50 was a bit much, I hopped every car in my way until suddenly I was behind the 300 Harleys!  Not wanting to be forced off the rode and beaten to a pulp, I decided I'd take it easy.

Wheeling into the airport, I returned the car, jumped on a shuttle and ran inside the airport.  Running throught the airport to catch the last flight I could barely hold on the to gear, especially the mike stand.  Getting caught at the metal detector, huffing and puffing I explained the situation.  I then ran down the concourse and jumped into a seat in the plane right as they were closing the door.

I sat there catching my breath,  excited as I had done what no one else had been able to do -- find this group, gain their trust and record them.  It was the thrill of a lifetime that turned into a really nice recording and an even better memory.

Barry
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compasspnt

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Re: The Utterly Weird Session Thread
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2005, 03:05:15 pm »

GREAT recording stories, Jason and Barry!

I knew there were some "strange days" in the careers of many of us!

Anybody else?
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RMoore

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Re: The Utterly Weird Session Thread
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2005, 05:40:33 pm »

[edited.Sorry, evokes too many memories]
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Re: The Utterly Weird Session Thread
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2005, 06:01:26 pm »

 

Another TG story,
During much happier times in the Summer of '91,
Sessions for 'The Last Man to Fly' going on at Mushroom Studios
http://www.mushroomstudios.com/
I joined the sessions towards the end when the plan was to get more stuff live off the floor with a rhythm section.
Was in the big room laying improv ideas to DAT w myself on Bass, Cevin Key on drums, MArtijn De Kleer on guitar,
Suddenly the studio is invaded by about 20 East Van 'chicks' who arrive courtesy of a prank of a friend of Martijn's,
Some wander into the live room, while the tape is rolling,
I am busy concentrating on an odd time tapping bass thing, trying to keep up with Cevin,  and the groove is in full flow when one girl asks right in my ear do we know any ACDC?,
Its maybe a few seconds after that before I totally lose my flow & the session then degenerates into chaos & partytime..
That session got edited and used in an album track called 'last Post' - you can actually hear the point in the tune where I 'lose it' just after the ACDC question was posed..

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Level

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Re: The Utterly Weird Session Thread
« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2005, 06:36:43 pm »

Good one. I do some flying too, Warriors, SE only. No beech twins.. Smile

Thank you for sharing that Terry. (after all the hoopla, I hope we can be on first name basis.)

The late Raymond Myles had a 5 day session the week before in New Orleans that I recorded and we were beginning week two. The guides (scratch) tracks were wonderful and I had to track more fills and deal with some vocal production. I lived on Pensacola beach and the studio was in New Orleans (before I moved there and ran it as an SE) so we are talking a 3 hour drive.

I awake at 6AM for the 7AM drive off for the session at 11AM (wanted to be an hr. early to prepare) and begin the drive.

From Pensacola beach to New Orleans, you cross over 10 bridges and the causeway across Mobile bay going into Mobile had a fog alert. On the radio on the way, I learned of a 100 car+ pile-up due to the fog. Dead issue. It would be 140 extra miles to go around to get to New Orleans from this point. I had to get to the session!

So..I drove back to Pens. and chartered a plane myself to fly into Lakefront and secured a shuttle to Canal Place.

Once we got airborne, the plane (A cessina 172) started acting as though it could not get any air to the intake and we were in a state of "holy shit" and the pilot brought it down in Fairhope Alabama.

Since I needed to get to the session, a Mr. Sherrone had a B-25 parked there that was on its way to an air show. No other planes or pilots.

Well, I did not go to New Orleans aboard a B-25 but I was able to aquire lemo service back to my place and by that time, I was able to drive to the session,as the wreck had cleared out, 7 hours late.

I had called and we went forward.

I guess I had you going for a min??

Smile



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Re: The Utterly Weird Session Thread
« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2005, 09:51:02 am »

hey all (and welcome back--that was a weird coupla days, wasn't it?)--

Guilty parties in this story shall remain nameless; every word is true.

I'd spent a few days early in a week working with an R&B vocal group that was having its minute of success right then and a producer who was known both to me and in the industry.  After a couple of days off, I got the call to come in and do "quick rough mixes" on 2 of the 3 songs we'd worked on beginning at 8pm on Friday night--looked to be about 2 hours' work max.

At 9:15, Producer asked to hear the third tune.  Artist moaned--they didn't like the track at all and didn't feel it inspired them to sing (I can't blame 'em on this one, by the way).    While I was putting something like a mix together, Producer wanders out into the studio and sits down at the piano for a moment; moments later I note that he's on his 'phone.

At ten, much to my and my assistant's surprise, a local programmer arrives, with his MIDI rig.  Producer (probably contracted to deliver three songs) had made a decision to cut another tune.

You'd think though, that he'd have written it first.

No such luck.  For the next 20 hours, Producer and Programmer wrote, arranged and programmed an entirely new track--with the studio's clock running, requiring both me and my assistant to be at least close to the control room the entire time.

For those still paying attention, this takes us to 6pm Saturday; I don't know what my assistant's Friday had been like, but I'd been up since 8am, meaning I'm coming up on 36 hours with no sleep save for a one-hour catnap somewhere in there.  Meanwhile, the boss has been calling, wondering at first how the session was going, then wondering why the hell it wasn't over and getting increasingly agitated.

At the aforementioned stroke of six, I actually hit the record button; there were of course multiple passes and the inevitable re-dos brought on by Producer's changes of mind after the track was cut.  All told, we agreed that the track was finished and properly recorded as of 9pm.

It was at this point that Producer said "OK, I want to cut lead vocal."

Pandemonium ensued, coming from Artistes behind me (bear in mind that they've been at the session the whole time too).  Emboldened by their reaction (the fact of the matter is they were trying to bring the session to an end!), I took the opportunity to explain to Producer that his Artistes are tired and unlikely to deliver their best performance and that furthermore I, the guy who's supposed to capture their performances, am not at my best after 25 straight hours.  Programmer, bless his heart, took my side in the ensuing conversation; by 9:15 all had left the studio.  

As I left the studio (headed *straight* for a public-house of my acquaintance), I passed one of the Artistes who thanked me profusely for bringing his nightmare to an end.

That's quite literally the only time (in 12 years at this studio) that I've brought a session to an end before the client wanted to.

The kicker:  Sessions were accounted for as always ending on the same day they began at that time. I got a phonecall later in the week from our bookkeeper wondering how it was possible that I'd clocked 25 hours on Friday.

I told her to account for it any way she wanted, but that was the way it was and the money had better be in my envelope at the end of the week!

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Re: The Utterly Weird Session Thread
« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2005, 08:33:15 pm »

Three short ones:

Classical recording engineer/producer Marc Abort was at Powell Hall in St. Louis, working with his partner (the late) Joanna Nickrenz.  The pair were recording the Saint Louis Symphony.  I had dropped by the hall to say "hello" when Marc saw me.  "Come on in.  We're sacrificing virgins in here." "What???"  I replied in amazement.  Marc put a large grin on.  "We're sacrificing virgins."  "What does that mean?" I asked.  "We're at the movement where the sacrificing of virgins is happening."  "Oh..." I said. "What sort of microphone technique do you use to make it sound like you're sacrificing virgins?" I asked.  Marc smiled and said "Aw, you just move the mikes in closer!"

I was recording classical guitarist John McClellan for his debut CD.  We had been recording in a beautiful church in O'Fallon, Missouri.  The church was part of the convent of the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood.  We had been working like dogs all day and into the evening.  By 9:00 that night we were exhausted.  It was just then that Sr. Marcel showed up holding a tray in both hands.  "I thought you boys might like some milk and cookies" she said.  Suddenly finding ourselves to be about 9 years old again, we both sheepishly replied in a sing-song voice, "Yes, Sister."

I was returning from a remote recording and had parked my car in a concrete parking garage with steel beams.  I had a ReVox A77 (yes, I am **that** old) in one had and a heavy case full of gear in the other.  I had just pulled the stuff out of the car and walked to one end of the garage.  Setting the gear down for a moment, I looked up the long hill to the building where the classical radio station was where I worked as a recording/production engineer.  Sighing as I looked up the steep hill, I took a deep breath, bent over slightly to pick up the gear again and raised back up.  As I did, I hit my head on a steel cross-beam and knocked myself out.

There you go.

Barry
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compasspnt

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Re: The Utterly Weird Session Thread
« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2005, 08:54:42 pm »

OUCH!
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Bill Mueller

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Re: The Utterly Weird Session Thread
« Reply #10 on: February 18, 2005, 09:23:46 pm »

Ok, I've never told this story in public before and I have never heard of another crew surviving this level of disaster.

I was the Chief Engineer/VP at Sheffield A/V productions and we had a remote gig outside of Madison Wisconsin recording the 1998 Tibetan Freedom Concert. It was my second TFC and it was a big show. We were going to record an all-star lineup that included Rage Against the Machine, The Beastie Boys, Run DMC, The Roots, Eddie Vedder, Debbie Harry, Tracy Chapman and lots more. I was doing the recording for television and live mix for radio.

The truck always goes out first and the crew flies in the next day. When we got to the airport, everything went well until the pilot fired up the engines and bad things started to show up on his oil gauges. They shut down the engines and moved us off the plane. We got on another plane but were now a couple of hours late getting into Chicago. We got a car and made good time into Madison, but things were tense.

It was summer and there were serious storms moving across the Midwest. The night before, they thought they had a tornado touch down on the site and water was everywhere. We did our best to run snake and power to the stage and keep it out of the puddles.

As the engineer, I am responsible for the recording so I interface with the producers, artists, FOH and Monitor guys, while scoping out the venue for good places to put audience and house mics. After all that, I went back to the truck to set up.

The Sheffield truck at that time was the only Solid State Logic equipped remote facility in the US. We had a 4048 E console with Total Recall. For this gig we also had 96 channels (!) of DA88 laid across two tables in the back for dual 48 track digital. The wiring and tape striping for that setup was a trip.

About 3:00PM I was in the truck, standing over the SSL, trying to lay out the show on the console when our tec, up on the dance floor, threw the power switch on the Leibert power conditioner. At that moment, the console started SIZZLING and CLOUDS of smoke started billowing out from everywhere! I started screaming SHUT IT OFF! SHUT IT OFF!, and banging on the walls. The tec heard me and shut it down, but not before an amazing amount of damage was done to the console.

My boss at the time (name withheld) ran into the truck and pronounced us dead. Time to go home. I told him to go find us some pizza because we were going to be there all night. Our tec, myself, and Stevie Weincam (THE best stage guy east of the Mississippi) sat down and tried to decide our fate. We were all unwilling to quit, so we decided to take the console apart and see what was destroyed. There were four or five resistors blown on each module, four or five capacitors and two fuses.  The center section was fried hard as well. We had no spare parts other than (miraculously) the tec had thrown a handful of caps in his shirt pocket that morning before leaving the shop. He had never done that before, ever.

We called the local Radio Shack and offered to buy their entire stock of electronic parts. No dice, the guy had a date and would not wait even ten minutes for us. We called SSL in New York and I swear, when I told the tec on duty our situation, he told me, "I wouldn't want to be you!" Unbelievable. I told him we were going to hard wire across the fuses in the modules and he told me that that we couldn't do that! I told him, we couldn't NOT do it.

The next fifteen hours consisted of us swapping power supplies, sussing the damage, stripping the console of everything we could remove, cannibalizing sixteen modules to get parts to rebuild 32 good ones, blowing good parts up, and repairing and reinstalling modules. At one point around 1:00 AM we had blown up all of the capacitors we could spare and if we blew one more it was all over. We didn't blow any more caps. We rewired a couple of outboard mixers (one Neve and on Mackie) to handle the extra channels and wired up the Da88's in a configuration that would work.

At 5:00 AM we had everything ready to go, so we jumped in the car, drove an hour back to our hotel, stared at the ceiling for an hour, took a shower, ate and drove back an hour to the gig. The show started at 10:00AM and went full throttle until 11:00PM. I mixed 12 or so bands and did not loose a single instrument or vocal. I lost a few channels through the day but they happened (I don't know why) in between sets (less than 10 minutes between bands with a full console re-patch each time) and I was always able to patch around them for the next band.

It was a good show and no one else but our little group had any idea how close the whole thing came to disaster. If you liked that one, I'll tell you a really great one about Aerosmith.

Best Regards,

Bill
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Barry Hufker

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Re: The Utterly Weird Session Thread
« Reply #11 on: February 18, 2005, 09:32:07 pm »

Yes, Bill I liked that one very much, so now you have to tell about Aerosmith.

Barry
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compasspnt

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Re: The Utterly Weird Session Thread
« Reply #12 on: February 18, 2005, 10:07:34 pm »

Bill Mueller wrote on Fri, 18 February 2005 21:23



It was a good show and no one else but our little group had any idea how close the whole thing came to disaster. If you liked that one, I'll tell you a really great one about Aerosmith.

Best Regards,

Bill

Awesome, Bill.  This is what men are made of in this business!
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RMoore

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Re: The Utterly Weird Session Thread
« Reply #13 on: February 19, 2005, 07:37:01 am »

Loving this thread,
The whatever it takes to get the job done mentality is very inspiring.
FWIW I don;'t think anyone can surpass surviving a plane accident / near crash and STILL getting the session done..Smile
Not that its a contest,
Keep em coming people
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Re: The Utterly Weird Session Thread
« Reply #14 on: February 19, 2005, 03:25:28 pm »

This happened just last week!  I was asked by a group in town here called the Blue Hawaiians to record a live album at the Lava Lounge.  It's a club that holds about 120 people and the stage barely fits the drums, two guitarists and bass player.  The Hammond B3 had to be set up off the side of the stage.  

The Hammond player was in charge of setting the gig up.  After mulling over several options, we decided to rent an HD rack from Audio Affects, a sixteen channel snake and a U-Haul cube truck.  I brought a pile of mics and we brought our own pres (API, Langevin and UA) and rented some 1073s as well.  (My own Neve setup doesn't come out of the rack easily.)  We grabbed a shit load of packing blankets, some TV tray tables and a couple of oriental rugs for vibe.  

The biggest problem was how to mic everything in the small space provided.  That took a really long time.  I used my tube SM69 for the drum OH, a SM57 on top of the snare, a 414 underneath, a D12 on the kick and D19s on the toms and the hat.  With a guitar amp less than three feet away, I couldn't get over how much separation there was, even on the D12 which was placed outside the double headed kick.  We ran a 441 through the Mackie PA for the vocals, and I just pulled a 1/4" line from the ch insert into a Jensen xformer DI then fed that through a 1073 and 1176LN and into the 192.  

We used the entire 16 tracks.  I had the speakers and Cinema Display set up on the shelf that sits above the cab, with the racks behind me. I had thick foam against the wall  behind the speakers and a thick woolly oriental hanging on the wall over that.  We stuck the packing blankets on all the side walls.  While it wasn't the greatest sonic environment, I could at least hear if I were on the right track.  It was like 50 degrees and raining the whole time anyway, so beside that meaning I sat outside freezing my ass off for four hours, two nights in a row, I had the noise of raindrops hitting the top of the U-Haul to contend with.  

The band was ecstatic with the results, and we wound up spending only the cost of a U-Haul and the rental of the rig and snake which came to about $800/day.  (Design FX mobile truck goes for $5,250/day not including the generator!)  A guy named Cort (that I'm sure many of you know) walked by, kind of quizzing me on why I was doing this instead of just renting one of the old Record Plant trucks that he has.  He was clearly bummed.  

Yet another adventure in recording, and one of my favorite stories: I was recording June Carter Cash's record in a cabin in the woods across from the Cash residence, because Johnny was very ill and could not make the trip to Nashville to a studio.  I brought my own mics and pres, but was stuck with using their blackface ADATs and their mic stands, which were not very stable.  Somebody is videoing the whole thing, and is asking Johnny about the guitar he's playing.  He is telling the story about how it's the signature edition, glossy black, Johnny Cash guitar that Martin is making.  At this moment I am moving a Neumann UM57 on one of their crappy stands.  He has the guitar flat across his lap and no sooner does he finish saying "This is serial number one," does the mic on the crappy stand fall over, land square on the guitar and put a ding in the fucking glossy black finish!  I was mortified!  John was a good sport about it and rubbed his eyes in a fake "boo hoo".  His guitar tech wound up fixing it.  When I saw the guitar months later, I couldn't find the ding.  I asked the videographer to send me a copy of that moment, but like most people in this business, he flaked.

That moment is second only in embarrassment to an klutzy incident at Frank Zappa's house, but we weren't recording, so you don't get to hear that one!
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