Mix With The Masters – Steve Albini

I’m just back in Edmonton from studying recording in France with the one and only Steve Albini, and wow did I learn a lot! This seminar was totally analog, from recording on a Studer 2″ 24 track to mixing through a Neve 88R console to a Studer 1/2″ stereo tape machine. Steve went over analog tape machine setup and maintenance, microphone selection and placement, mixing techniques, recording studio psychology, and so much more. He had a lot of constructive stuff to say about my mixes, and I even managed to show him a thing or two. I’ve already applied some of the techniques I picked up and am loving the results, even though Edmontone Studio is primarily digital. Albini’s approach is minimal and elegant, and I hope it’s rubbed off on me and that I can bring some of that magic to your next recording project.

Doug Organ, Edmonton Recording Studio, Steve Albini

Doug Organ studying recording with Steve Albini, Studio La Fabrique, Mix With The Masters 2014

The year Edmontone took over Edmonton radio

Wow! Three of CJSR Radio’s four most played records of 2013 were recorded, mixed, and/or mastered right here at Edmontone Studio! Big up to The Lad Mags , Doug Hoyer, and Mikey Maybe (and to friends Amy Van Keeken, David Bowie, and Field Assembly, who also made the list! Check it out here.)

Cover of Lorde’s Royals

I was really feeling Lorde’s smash “Royals”, so in one evening I arranged & recorded an old-school flavored, Hammond organ based cover version. Some of my rules: only ribbon microphones and tube pre-amps would be used to record, and only plate reverb would be used to mix. The other members of my trio were unavailable so I gritted my teeth and did my best impersonation of a guitarist, aiming (loosely) for a Stax kind of vibe. Check it out here!

Recording F.A.Q.

1. How much will recording at Edmontone Studio cost?

I charge by the hour for many recording services, so the cost will depend on the scope of the project and how prepared the artist is. A good estimate is that, over the course of an album, recording will take about one hour per instrument per song. This varies; for instance, recording ‘live off the floor’ tends to save some time. I then usually take about 4 hours to mix each song, depending mostly on the density of the instrumentation.

2. What are your business hours?

Edmontone Studio runs by appointment, and I am usually available 7 days a week. It’s a great idea to phone or email between two weeks and two months in advance, although I can sometimes accommodate last minute recording sessions.

3. What types of music do you record?

Anything and everything! I’ve worked on rock, jazz, hip hop, punk, classical, pop, bluegrass, film soundtracks, blues, and much more. If it makes sound I’ve probably placed a microphone near it.

4. I sing, and I need musicians to accompany me. Can you hire them?

Abolutely. I’m lucky to know and work with many of Edmonton’s best professional musicians. Need a bassist and a drummer? A string section? Guitar solo? I can hook you up.

Colin Lay

I was very saddened to hear that Colin Lay passed away. Colin was my, and many of my friends’ and peers’, recording instructor at Grant MacEwan College. I can’t overstate how much I learned from him in just one year. He was incredibly knowledgeable about the physics and the art of recording, a thorough teacher, and he listened intently. He was one of the (younger) trailblazers of recording in Edmonton and contributed to the music scene immensely. Not just on record, either; if you’ve seen live music in Edmonton, particularly at The Sidetrack Cafe or The Edmonton Folk Music Festival, you’ve probably heard Colin’s live sound. I always appreciated his no-nonsense attitude. He wasn’t one to flatter, so if he paid you a compliment, it meant something. Thank you, Colin, and rest in peace.

Mastering Session at Abbey Road Studios

Abbey Road Crosswalk

Once again I knew I was going to be in London so I brought an album to the magnificent Abbey Road Studios to have mastered. Last summer we did Peter Belec’s ‘Melodic Miner’ disc with senior mastering engineer Peter Mew (David Bowie, The Beatles, Paul McCartney, etc., etc.) and this time it was the excellent Geoff Pesche (Gorillaz, Radiohead, Cadence Weapon) mastering Ido Van Der Laan’s upcoming album, title TBA. Here are some of the very nice and informative comments Geoff made during the mastering session. I wrote them down right away and as close to vertabim as I could.

“You’ve got the guitars recorded really nicely.”

“I like his voice. Nice.”

“It’s cost effective to master here when the mixes are good; if they were rubbish the bill would be [expensive].”

“I’m doing not a lot to these [mixes], so well done.”

“Wherever you’re going in your control room to get this, keep going there.”

“That sounds great. Please come see us again because this is a breeze.”

“You didn’t find the microphone you used to record that guitar in an alley.” (When I told him I found the bass drum I was playing on that song in an alley! It was a Royer R-121 blended with a Neumann KM 183, by the way.)

“Didn’t have to boost the mid range in any of them ’cause the vocal is present and the guitars are loud.”

“Well done!”

Abbey Road Mastering Room 5

Geoff really wasn’t compressing or limiting very much at all. On some songs the passive compressor was knocking off 2, 3 or 4 dB, and the limiter not much more than that. He credits the loudness of the master to the EMI TG 12410 Transfer Console, which was being run quite hot. It sounds amazing.

EMI TG 12410 Transfer Console

Some songs were transferred ‘flat’, or without any equalisation at all. For this one we were boosting 16kHz by 1 dB, medium blunt.

EMI TG Equalisation

Needless to say I had a blast. While we were waiting for the reference CD to write Geoff showed me how their Neumann record cutting lathe worked and even cut a few seconds of one of Ido’s song into an acetate.

Abbey Road Neumann Cutting Lathe

Acetate

Stay tuned for Ido Van Der Laan’s awesome album!

Ann Vriend Video Shoot

Ann Vriend Recording at Edmontone Studio, Edmonton

AV was just in to record solo piano and vocal and shoot a video for a song commissioned by the Canada Tourism Commission. With Ann, 3 videographers, and their lights, it got pretty warm in the piano room.

New Tim Gilbertson Videos & Free Song Downloads!

We recorded these two songs live off the floor (minus vocals) and now, only days later, they’ve been made into awesome videos and are available for download from Tim’s website. These guys are going to be piling into their steal of a Rock Van and touring across the country this Spring and Summer. Watch for ‘em!

Bill George on the kit

Here’s a little video of Bill “Furious” George (of Red Ram and Modo Trio) playing the drums on a session for artist CameronSound. When you’ve got a pro drummer like Bill playing, the session almost engineers itself. I find I need to use way less EQ and compression for a great player. (Of course I still smacked Bill’s kit with a pair of Distressors because I can.) Shaping up to be a fun project, inspired by Massive Attack, Radiohead, Portishead, and of course Harry Nilsson.

Soul?

Jerry Wexler & Aretha Franklin

I just read this quote from legendary producer Jerry Wexler: “Time and again I have found that flagrantly artificial attempts at melisma are either a substitute for real fire and passion or a cover-up for not knowing the melody… Please, learn the song first, and then sing it from the heart.” Truer words were never spoken.