Mixology


They call me “Sir-mix-a-lot”. Actually, nobody calls me that. My friends call me “Golden Eagle”, or just “Eagle”. Either of those will work. Or “John”. Or “Coach”.

Here we are, the last day of the Dog Days of Summer and I think I’m done with principal tracking for B.A.N. record #3: Precious Melodies Against Satan’s Devices. I say I “think I’m done”, because I never know what manner or shape of self-doubt may strike my heart. Yay! It’s been a long and lonely road, and I got by with a little help from my friend(s) (@noahglenn). I now enter the mixing phase. It is a dark labyrinthian cave which I may never exit. Many a man has been beguiled by its wiles, and this stage can take forever if I let it. If you’re like me, it feels like I’m about to clean the gutters. I’ll be happy when it’s done, but it’ll be a messy, long process, with hands full of organic matter. And on a ladder. No, just kidding. Or maaaaaybe??
I run things on a pretty tight budget, so right now, it’s financially prohibitive to rent a room or pay out for an out-of-house mixing job. I WILL have another set of ears take in my roughs to give me pointers, but it’s pretty DIY around Casa Newton.

When it comes to mixing, here are a couple things that make my life easier.

1) I got started in Logic by the Mitchel Pigsley YouTube videos. He gives a lot of quick and dirty tutorials on many of Logic’s entry-level functionality. If someone needs a fast overview of, say, how the rhythmic quantization works in Logic, head there. His gains structures and on-air personality are occasionally questionable, but when I have a quick question about Logic, it’s the first place I head.

2) An enormous help to me is Recording Revolution Series. Graham Cochrane attempts to level the mixing playing field for the audio production layman by publishing daily blogs and videos aimed simplicity. His aim is to downgrade the idea that great mixes come from great gear, (outboard and plug-in) and to affirm the notion that the best tool we have is our ears. He encourages to start with volume,EQ, and compression (EQ and compression both a form of volume control by themselves! EQ is a “smart” volume control for specific frequencies, and compression just being an automated volume knob). I can’t say enough about this guy’s curriculum, and with a mountain of information before the beginner, here are some hip-shot links to some of the most helpful vids:

3) Mixing in Mono-
Ultimately, I learned this from #2 on my list. Mixing the bulk of my sessions in mono has been one of the single-most helpful tips! Mono eliminates the false audio impression of a center speaker through the use of directional panning, so if you are listening to a mix on lower-quality speakers, or in some degree away from the sound source, mono comes in handy for checking accurate balance of volume and frequencies of your tracks, and eliminating phasing.


Watching: Foxcatcher

Listening:


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Drums!


So this week my man Noah Glenn tracked drums until the wee hours of the morn! I thought it’d be fun to post an EXCLUSIVE video for y’all out there in TV Land. So this past year I’ve been pretty obsessed with drum sounds of the 70’s. They’re dead as dodos, so we had a few secrets up our sleeve to try and capture the dryness of Noah’s Ludwig kit.

The new record is coming along well, as far as tracking goes. Yesterday I did electric guitars all day–went back and forth between the SG and the Jazzmaster. I used different pick-up combinations and the Vox AC-30 and this little custom Fender Champ that sounds super gargly when it’s pushed.

animale spirito guida

I just wrapped up the vocals on the last two songs: Bronx Cheer, and the eponymous title track– Precious Melodies Against Satan’s Devices. They are more uptempo, power-poppy jams that have really fun, McCarntey-esque melodies! My diaphragm is sore, but it’s all for the rock!

Listening: Wilco – Star Wars

Watching: Nightcrawler

Reading: Just Do Something – Kevin DeYoung

“Bach in Wartime”, and New Song!

One thing Brian Eno points out, is that art should be an extension of an artist’s philosophy of all life. Some might say that the effect is similar to the observations of anthropologists who note that members of a culture are unable to accurately perceive their own culture. Many times this is done unintentionally; we don’t take time to self-reflect and parse the weeds to suss out a “life-philosophy”.

But we artists ARE communicating something.

What is that something?

Is it the same thing that I’d want to communicate?

It could be chaos and its descendants. Punk rock. Rock n roll deconstruction from nihilism made sound waves.

It could be the excruciating and exact reproduction of the image of a ship (like the Neo-classicists).

It could be transcendence through beauty. (Like the Existentialists/Romantics)


Maybe Dadism and Surrealism strikes your fancy? Letting anti-art wash over your mind, allowing neural pathways to try to create order where there is none.


So you can see where I’m going—philosophy influences style.
Shoenberg, Webern and Berg needed a way to communicate the heartbreaking horror of the Holocaust, and they settled into atonal 12-tone serialism.
In her fantastic collection of reflections Walking on Water, Madeleine L’Engle comments that folks love Bach in wartime because even tempos, fully functional harmony, and deliberate cadences gives us a sense of structure, rigidity, and security. In peacetime people can dance. They can experiment.


What other examples can you think of?
There’s a musician I’m familiar with that only uses modular synths from a certain era ALSO is a Quaker and tries to put the Quaker view of plainness and simplicity into all his work—something I found very interesting and to my point.
Limitations for a Creative System
As I’ve mentioned, I’m in the deep of tracking a new full length record, Precious Melodies Against Satan’s Devices, and it should be released by the fall! I’m very stoked on the new songs, and I discovered years ago that creative limitations help the whole thing go quicker. I generally make records by myself, and limitations help create the “voice” of other band members, dissidents, opposing view points from which to carom—without ever talking to a soul. I look at the “Fredkin Paradox principle—(your decisions take longer the more similar your options) which I’ve written about before, and I use the creative limitations to create riverbanks for my creative stream to flow through.
The last record (Unreliable Narrator) I had a few limitations:
  • No electric guitars (broke this one, but that’s ok)
  • Always choose the weird way – between two choices, I’d choose the one more elaborate, baroque, or rabbit-trailed
  • Drum programming over live drums
If you’ve listened to the previous record (Slingblades of Husbandry) you may notice an inverse relationship. Slingblades centers around electric guitars, economical pop songwriting, and live-band drum and room sounds. Many of the artistic/musical movements listed above are reactions to other movements on that list. In fact, ALL artistic movements are reacitons against other philosophies, trends, and movements.
Current Limitations for Precious Melodies Against Satan’s Devices
now I’m trying a few different things, I have a type of album-structure archetype that I like to follow, mostly dynamically and a “vibe” kind of thing. Maybe that’s a whole ‘nother blog for the future.
  • Thinking about a fictional band and sticking to a lower number of tracks for the arrangement.
  • Try to use more “live” instruments: MicroBrute, Juno, rather than in-the-box instruments. But if they sound better, then hey.
  • I wanted to use a Rickenbacker electric through a Vox AC-30 for the backbone of most tracks. I wasn’t able to get my hands on one (if you have one you’re looking to lend me or sell, hit me up!) so I’m borrowing an SG. I’ve been sticking to single-coils the last decade or so, especially my Jazzmaster.
I like fast ones, slow ones, that means really upbeat/driving, and at least one acoustic one thrown in there to really bring down the whole dynamic level. I actually tracked that one yesterday, and here is a link to an unfinished version, just for the followers of this site! It’s called “Shine for You”.


Watching: Orange Is The New Black – S3
Listening: Candy Butchers – Hang On Mike
Reading: Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung
Playing: Alien Isolation (XBOX 360)