So with the drums and bass set up in the Neve live room and the levels looking great, it was time to get the vocalist Tony, and guitarist Daniel set up in the control room. A SM58 straight into the back of the desk sorted Tony and we used a DI
for Daniels guitar. The production team and guitarist Daniel agreed it prudent that the signal sent to the live room should not be a sterile guitar sound as multiple effects are usually used when practicing together and playing live. To this end we played around with the Native Instruments Guitar Rig plug in so we could emulate a similar amp sound complete with effects that the boys were used to hearing. Once the levels were good on the vox and guitar and feeding through to the lads in the live room at the desired volume, we were ready to track. It was about midday and 3 hours into our 12hr session, however our setup time was only really 2 hours as the band members arrived at just before 10am after finding parking and lugging all the gear to the Neve. An acceptable result and in line with our pre-production planning. We were on track, but our well laid plans were about to experience a small adjustment!
With everyone comfortable, excited and rearing to go I asked the guys which track we should begin with. Our communication with the band in the lead up to the session had identified 4 songs that were to be tracked in the 12hrs allocated: ‘Black Dog’, ‘Whole Lotta Love’, ‘Immigrant Song’ and ‘Dazed and Confused’. Jaxon Arundell (as chief DAW operator), had prepared four seperate Pro Tools sessions, tracks labelled, I/O and Bus sends all set up according to our plans. Lead singer Tony Hollis however had always believed that they could smash 6 tracks in this session but had agreed that it was preferable to nail four really well and then if time permitted, continue to track extras.
The band wanted to begin with a track that was not in our four agreed upon and whilst initially I felt as producer that this was deviating from the plan, took the attitude that it didn’t really matter as they were just ‘warming up’.
We began with ‘What is and what never should be’ and the guys in the live room (Drums and Bass), nailed it first take! So would begin a series of performances from the band that was a fluid display of musicianship and technically true to the original tracks which accurately met the brief. The bassist was unhappy with several phrases in a couple of songs which we easily re-tracked punching him into the appropriate spots, but of the six songs we recorded in this session, only ‘Black Dog’ and ‘Good Times, Bad Times’ required two takes to get the drums and bass where everyone wanted them. Thus Tony’s idea of getting six tracks down was indeed realistic? Despite personally having doubts and feeling a little like I was losing control as producer when we didn’t begin the session focused on the four originally agreed upon tunes, all was indeed well due to the skills of the musicians and professional delivery of each track. We were left with plenty of time to re-amp the bass parts through Dean’s equipment which was on point with what we had planned to complete in this first session. We packed the drum kit down and got to it.
At this point we endured a frustrating delay due to our inexperience in re-amping the Neve studio. After failing in our attempts to use the patch bay to this end, we decided to run directly from the back of the desk using a long XLR cable under the door and into the live room, through the re-amping box and into the amp. We quickly discovered that unlike the Audient studios, the Neve desk does not actually have any physical outputs! We consulted Stewart from the tech team who explained that we could use an adapter that connects a patch lead to the XLR and this worked for us finally. The bassist Dean played around with his settings and Shay adjusted the mic positions until everyone agreed that we had a great sound. We hit record and this re-amping process also gave everyone time to revisit each track and ensure that all were content with what had tracked previously. Ooops…a problem!!!
The guitarist noticed that one phrase that was supposed to repeat four times only repeated three. We all blamed the drummer as is standard operating procedure! So began a time consuming, angst riddled hour of cutting and pasting to add the missing phrase into the song as the drum kit had been packed down. Fortunately, the guitarist uses Pro Tools at home and as he knew the tune far more intimately than the production team, we happily handed over the reigns and worked alongside him to get it right. This was a frustrating endeavor that fortunately ended in success and we were glad that we had allowed enough contingency time in our booking for such an event.
With the bass and drums now complete and near perfection, we still had an hour left before we would need to pack down. We had booked till 9pm however the studio was available till 11pm. After consultation with the guitarist who was keen, we decided that as we were all here, we should shoot for laying down some rhythm guitar and see how far we could get. We promptly set Daniel up in the Neve with his equipment, took some levels and hit it.
When recording the scratch guitar for the drums and bass, it was evident that Daniel was a good guitarist, in fact Adrian Carroll had said “wow this guy is good, let me know when you are tracking him, would love to pop in”, but when the rubber hit the road he really showed his true colours. The guy was shredding and not missing a beat. We double tracked everything and his accuracy was such that on playback it sounded like ‘one’ guitar, just really full and fat! Man he had it loud in there though? During the last take of the final song (before we needed to begin pack down), I ran into the room to take some video and forgot my ear protection, big mistake; was ringing for hours afterwards. We got through four of the six tracks with some solo parts even being recorded. The completion of guitar tracking is booked for Thursday 12th Oct and we have secured 6hrs. From how quickly Daniel laid down the first four songs, this will be plenty of time to put it to bed. Vocals will be tracked the week after. Stay tuned…