Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.
January 29, 2008

Things A Producer Never Wants To Hear From A Band...

by Chris Randall

I was busy sifting through some old material today, to put up on The Tubes, and something caught my ear on a track that Martin Atkins remixed for me, and it got me giggling, and thinking of all the bullshit things I've had to put up with while producing other bands. Some of these comments would be not-out-of-place in a Society Of Creative Recording Anachronism meeting, as I'm a bit ol' skool, but keeping that in mind, just off the top of my head:

1. "Hey, could we get that reverse reverb effect on the vocals in this one part?" Bands that were used to recording on ADAT, when suddenly presented with a 2" machine, magically recalled everything they ever read about Rodger Bain, and had to have at least one Stupid Tape Trick. This is usually the first that came to mind. No problem, except you have most of a mix up by the time this idea comes out, and you need spool the whole roll twice (because, naturally, it was on the first song of the three that would fit on a roll of 2" at 30 ips.) Then SMPTE comes blaring out the foot channel, and, well, whee....

2. "Hey, let's do a reverse guitar solo on this." Okay, forget Rodger Bain. Now we're getting in to Chas Chandler country. (Or was that Eddie Kramer? I forget.) Anyways, Stupid Tape Trick #2, see above. Nowadays it's easier, if you can get it through the dumb-ass guitarist's head that they have to start big, end small.

3. "Hey, can I double this vocal track?" It's far easier to get a thick vocal sound from a bad singer with an H3000 than it is to get an Eminem double from 'em that is anything approaching usable. This is the sort of thing that makes the studio manager's eyes light up. (And the engineer, if he's hourly.) I think John Lennon should be heartily thanked by every studio owner in the world, since his ability to double his own vocals is singlehandedly responsible for more wasted studio time than probably any other factor.

4. "Hey, I think this track needs some percussion." Sigh. Nobody but percussionists can actually play percussion worth a shit. See #3. If you own a studio, and you want to increase your hourly billing, just leave some maracas and a tambo lying about the control room.

5. The various "I know everything about my instrument" comments, which we'll lump in to one category, else I'll go on all fuckin' day. "I replaced the heads less than 10 shows ago!" "These strings are broken in now!" "Can someone hit an E?" "Does anyone have a pick/pair of sticks/tuner?" Etc. ad nauseum.

6. I'm not sure how to word this one in a simple catch-all phrase, but my personal biggest pet peeve is The Part That Can't Change. This is invariably the foot, but it could be just about anything. I'm a fairly heavy-handed producer, and I could give a shit about any part at the expense of the song; very few musicians feel that way about individual parts, so this is usually the biggest struggle I'll have. Back when I was producing shit industrial bands, after we spent three days turning their Master Tracks Pro Atari ST files driving their Zoom Samplemaster or whatever in to something that everyone else in the world could deal with, the arguments about the kick drum parts would start. "You know, you don't really need to put a foot on every 16th note, dude...." And away we go.

January 27, 2008

New at NAMM...

by Chris Randall

Down in the basement, with the Chinese USB-Powered Melodica makers and the singing toilet seat, we find this wonderful new iteration of the analog low-pass filter. Completely passive in operation, it also doubles as a speaker cozy. The company's motto: "Im on ur Adamz, mufflin' ur high-end."

January 26, 2008

Uh oh, here we go again...

by Chris Randall

I know I swore off modulars like two years ago, as a big fat waste of time and money, but there's some really interesting stuff coming out for Eurorack format lately, and I have to admit that it has piqued my interest.

In particular, I've been eyeballing the Livewire shit. The Chaos Computer (yeah, I realize it isn't released yet, you literal fucks...) obviously has my attention, because it's just the sort of thing I like, but most of the Livewire line seems to live somewhere between cool and sexy. I've been pondering getting a 6U Doepfer rack and making a system expressly for play-by-itself type shit. Does any of my fair readers (excluding, you know, all the people I banned for posting retarded comments in the last thread) own some Livewire shit, and can you speak to its general build quality and robustness?

January 24, 2008

Variations On A Theme...

by Chris Randall

There's an article that has been making the rounds written by Simon Napier-Bell, the manager of quite a few name artists, including the Yardbirds, Wham!, Japan, Ultravox, and Asia. It appeared in The Observer last weekend and has caused quite a splash among the Various People that Know.

Interestingly, the article doesn't say anything that anyone who has had a recording contract with a proper label doesn't know, but it puts the entire experience in this sort of meta-framework which is interesting. Even to those of us that Know. It does make me pine for the 70s a bit, though. Read and discuss...

January 23, 2008


by Chris Randall

I Eat Beats from Kyle McDonald on Vimeo.

Peter Kirn got all up in our grill with a bubblegum sequencer over on CDM. Well, Peter. I'll see your bubblegum sequencer, and raise you one done with Skittles. If candy-based sequencers were "Shane," this one would be Jack Palance. I think making electronic music with little balls of sugar is a curiously unexplored area that merits more consideration. Somewhere in here, we'll find the next John Cage.


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