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Zak Glynn
Manchester
Last Update: 21.04.15
Recording, Mixing and Mastering a radio single in just 8 days.
SSR Manchester - Zak Glynn,

POSTED ON – 30.03.15

Exploring full band takes and capturing emotional responses


I was watching a talk recently with Glyn Johns, responsible for some of The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Eric Clapton and many others greatest hits. Johns discussed his techniques and one struck a chord with me. He described music as an emotive thing that is affected by the interactions of the artists hearing it at the time, and that these interactions are key to making an emotive record. It must be clarified that emotive doesn't just mean "sadness" or "inspirational", it can be violence, anger, frustration, stress, relaxation, happiness or any emotion a human is capable of.

I'm sure every person has listened to a record at some point in their lives and thought "Boy, this artist sure is [insert emotion here]", examples such as "Boy, Rage Against the Machine are angry!" or "Boy, Angie by The Rolling Stones is really sad, you can feel the emotion". Capturing emotion is a little more difficult that just placing a microphone in front of the performer and hoping for the best. You need to make them comfortable in the studio environment, make them feel their art can be expressed without judgement.

Some of the earliest examples of this can be found in the early history of recording, with Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter and Moses Asch of Folkways Records. Leadbelly had been recorded by the father son combo of John and Alan Lomax. The Lomaxes has tried to maintain the character of Leadbelly as a violent convict, and to exaggerate the racial stereotypes of the time which they perceived as the "true" for of Leadbellys music.
After a while, The Lomaxes fell out with Leadbelly, and he fell into relative obscurity with a reputation as a comedic racial stereotype. This is when Moses Asch approached Leadbelly with a early magnetic tape recorded, visiting him late one night and explaining that he would be back the next day, Moses would just record him, no requests or specific things to be done, Asch would just record Leadbelly playing his music as he wanted to play it.

The new freedom of timing of magnetic tape allowed for longer takes and a more relaxed environment. These sessions with Leadbelly are considered some of his best, and the difference in comparison to the Lomax material is extremely obvious.

To return to the Glyn Johns talk, he explains that each musician in a band reacts to the others, and that any overdubs will not have the same level of interaction between the musicians, the recorded stuff will effect the overdub, but the overdub will not effect the original. A simple way of shortening this is essentially;
"Glyn Johns reckons the music sounds better if you do it in a live take"

I mulled about this concept for a while, meaning to try it but never finding the appropriate band for it. At the same time I had been doing a research essay on Steve Albini, of Nirvana, the Pixies and The Breeders fame. Albini follows the same idea of live is the way to go, and goes to the point of avoiding click track recording to allow the musicians "groove" to be captured as much as possible. With all these ideas spinning in my head, I finally found a band that would be compatible with them, Purple Merlin.



Purple Merlin are a Stockport based 4 piece Stoner/Blues Rock band. I saw them at a show at Night and Day, I approached them and asked if they would be interested in recording with me. They contacted me a couple of days after and we set up a session.

Overall, Purple Merlin had 5 main elements, Drums, Bass, Rhythm Guitar, Lead guitar and Vocals. The drumkit used for our session was SSR's own Yamaha 5 piece kit with Merlin providing the cymbals. My channel list for this comes up as this;

1 - Kick Inside - Audix D6 - Placed around 2 inches from the batter head inside the kick.
2 - Kick Outside - AKG D112- Placed at the exit of the kick drum slightly to the left, pointing towards the batter head.
3 - Snare top - Shure SM57 - Placed pointing to the centre of the batter head, placed at 45 or so degrees from the Hi-hat to reduce a bit of spill.
4 - Snare Bottom - Audix i5 - Underneath pointing directly upwards at the snare wires around 4 inches away.
5 - Rack Tom 1 - Shure SM58 with the grill removed - Placed pointing towards the centre of the batter head, this was a quick replacement as I didn't manage to get as many MD421s as I was planning.
6 - Rack Tom 2 - Sennheiser MD421 - Placed pointing towards the centre of the battle head
7 - Floor Tom 3 - Sennheiser MD421 - Placed pointing towards the centre of the battle head
8-9 - Overheads  - AKG C451 Stereo Pair - Placed above the centre line of the kit, obey the 3 to 1 rule.

We then had two guitars and a bass, two Fender Showman 212r2 amplifiers and the bassist elected to use SSRs house Ampeg amplifier. I didn't feel like reinventing the wheel here, so just went with the standard SM57s on guitar amplifiers dead center and DI'd bass. Overall taking up 12 inputs, which is Ghost 2's XLR Limit.

I used the floating acoustic shield to try and kill some guitar and bass spill to the drum microphones and pointed the amplifiers away to reduce as much spill as possible, we got some reflections from the back wall into the overheads, but nothing too extreme.

It took a couple of takes to get the track down, but I could see through the window all the guys looking and smiling at each other, they were having fun and grooving together. I could hear it in the music, all the elements were tight together, the kick and bass pumping with each other and the guitars harmonizing the riff at every cycle. I understood where Albini and Johns were coming from with this idea, a good live band will end up translating into a good studio band.

After the instrumental was done, we overdubbed vocals using the Neumann TLM-102 which matched the vocal style of the vocalist quite well.

Overall though, I can say I'm very happy with the outcome of using a live take for the instrumental, and will be likely using this technique for bands who I think have their live sound really perfected.

You can listen to the track on my soundcloud below, linked in this post. It's only a rough mix but you get an idea for the sound. SSR  - Exploring full band takes and capturing emotional responses

Zak Glynn
Posts

POSTED ON – 21.04.15

Recording, Mixing and Mastering a radio single in just 8 days.

POSTED ON – 30.03.15

Exploring full band takes and capturing emotional responses

Biography
Zak currently studies BSc (Hons) Studio & Live Music Production at SSR and is a freelance audio engineer under the name "Daybreak Audio Services".

As of 2015, Zak has completed a full europe tour with anglo-swiss power metal band Gloryhammer. The tour covered 30 gigs across all of europe including such venues as the O2 Academy Islington, Switzerland's famous Z-7 and the infamous Beibob in Belgium.

Zak is also a in-house engineer at The Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn, which has the longest named pub in Britain.

As a recording engineer, Zak favours the raw style of Steve Albini, some of his work can be found below.


In his spare time, Zak can be found playing in his punk rock project "Dayruiner".