How we made records in the 90's

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2,199
The chief engineer at Southern Tracks when I started there recorded the Talk Show record. He now works with Guns & Roses both live and in studio. Still a great friend.

I almost did Army of Anyone. When I moved to LA, I primarily worked with producer Josh Abraham. We were going to work with Richard Patrick on a Filter record and Josh suggested to Rich that he try a few co-writes. He connected Rich with the DeLeo brothers and they really hit it off and decided to form that band. Josh and I had recently done the first Velvet Revolver album and the guys felt it would be a little weird for them to follow the exact path that Scott W had followed to make their record. Plus they had always wanted to work with Bob Ezrin so it’s all good. After that band, I made a Filter record with Rich.
Contraband was a cool record too! I like the song Fall to Pieces, lots of emotion on that track.
 

louderock

Member
Messages
5,234
Pearl Jam

Worked on 3 different records for them as well as the Brad (Stone Gossard's band) album Interiors.

The first PJ record I was involved in was No Code. I had not been working at the studio very long and was still in the assistant/ intern position. It was exciting to have the band coming in and I was already a fan. Let's face it, they were huge in the early 90's. I was watching those videos on MTV just like everybody else. A few years prior, I was living in Jax Beach and playing in a band full time that did a few PJ songs. Stone Gossard had a studio in Seattle and they recorded most of the songs there over the course of several months. Everyone came to Atlanta with the exception of Jack Irons to finish up some overdubs and vocals and get into mixing. I do remember early on in my career that I'd have a bit of nervousness when meeting these "Rock Stars" but in this instance, just like most, that would quickly go away because they were just dudes who played in a band. Very nice to everyone. We'd often take breaks during the day and play some basketball in the Southern Tracks parking lot. Jeff Ament was really good. I remember guarding Eddie one time and thinking "am I supposed to try to get the ball away from him and block his shots???!" Ha. Yes!

Ed had a Polaroid camera that was super high resolution and was developed for things like crime scenes where detail was important. He was constantly taking pictures of things that all wound up on the cover of the album. I ran down the street one day and grabbed McDonald's. My burger was on top of the wrapper on the kitchen table along with fries and ketchup and Ed walks up and says "Wait! don't touch it yet!" He grabs his camera and gets a few close up shots. I don't think that made the cover. We did have these 2 plastic bobble head looking guys that when you turned on the switch, you could say things to them and one was Mr Positive and would say things like "oh yeah I'm behind you all the way". The other one was Mr Negative and would say "I've screwed up again". Pretty sure there's a pic of Mr Negative's mouth on the cover. Can you find him?

I was in the control room when Ed did some of his vocals. I remember having the realization that he had something special going on. People talk about the "It" thing or however you want to call it. He certainly had "It". Great at delivering his songs and there's something extra in there that goes beyond singing the notes and words of the melody. You can't learn how to "It".

Same kind of situation for the Brad record. Stone came down with the other guys in his band to finish overdubs and mixing. We had a ping pong table set up in the tracking room. Turns out Stone was friends with John McEnroe and he came by the studio. I played ping pong against John McEnroe and no it didn't unravel into a shouting match. Also, the band got their name because they actually had another name but found out some other band had it. They contacted the guy and it didn't seem like his band was really doing much so they asked if they could have the name. This dude found out it was Stone from PJ and asked for a ridiculous amount of $$$ to give up the name. They decided to just use the dude's name instead. Brad.

Yield was mostly recorded in Seattle and we just did a few overdubs in Atlanta. I really dug the songs on this record and I remember that Mike had bought a Fender Tweed Twin that he used a lot. Another funny story regarding Mike - Brendan's main engineer Nick had found an old Maestro Phaser pedal (MP1) and brought it to the sessions in Seattle. He pulled it out to show Mike and says "look what I found!". Mike replied "OH WOW man thanks so much this is great!". Nick wasn't sure if he was serious or joking but gave him the pedal anyway. It appears a lot on the album and we joked that when you hit play on every track, you hear the WIIISSSSHHH WOOOOOSSSSHHH of the phaser noise because he wanted to use it all the time. The following Christmas, I bought another one of those pedals for Nick. Found one for myself too and they're great.

PJ worked with Tchad Blake on Binaural to try something different but Brendan mixed several of the songs at Southern Tracks.

It was cool meeting those guys and working on the music early on in my career. It squashed the "rock star" thing in a good way and let me realize that we're all just people that enjoy making music. Also, in all of these situations, your best bet is to not treat these folks in any special or different way. Make jokes and talk about normal stuff. You wind up becoming friends during your time working. This creates the best environment when people aren't wound up tight. There really aren't any secrets or tricks as to how they made those records. There is no fancy production going on. They're just really talented writers and players. Brendan always managed to document exactly what they sound like playing together in a room.

Here's something to make the super fans drool. A few years after moving to LA, my sister gives me a box full of stuff while I was visiting back in Atlanta. She said I had left it at her house for some reason. Random stuff in there but it did contain a legal pad. There were various pages of session notes but I flipped a page over to this from the No Code sessions. Ed wrote these out at Southern Tracks at that's where he sang it. I decided to frame these and they're up in my studio now.

MU47xE3g.jpg
 

ziobrandy

Member
Messages
220
This is what I heard as I walked in day 1 to try to get a job. Oh yeah, this is where I wanna be. Listen to those guitars. It’s nostalgia for the way it used to be that made me start this thread. Rock bands with budgets got to go into studios and make great sounding records. No computers generating the “magic”.



That is one of the best and more quintessential Rock'n'roll album ever made.
 

Marlin Barry

Member
Messages
22
Drum Stuff

We had a Noble & Cooley kit that sounded great and would just swap out snares and cymbals according to the song. That kit was on a lot of records. We also had an old Slingerland Radio King kit from the 40's with a 26" kick. Also a 60's Ludwig kit. Drummers would sometimes bring their stuff and we'd mix and match. Here's the typical routing for recording.

Kick - 421 in/ AKG D30 out. Both to SSL pres (really quick and punchy) bussed together through the eq side of the ADR Vocal Stressor to track 1.

Snr - 57 and AKG 451 taped together so the capsules aligned on top. 57 under. SSL Pres. All bussed together through a Pultec EQP-1 to track 2.

Hat - 451 or KM84. SSL pre. Track 3

Toms - 421. Later 421 top 57 bottom. I wired a XY cable with the polarity reversed for the 57. Both mics fed into a single pre through one cable. SSL pres. If there were more than 2 toms, they'd be bussed together so everything was recorded on tracks 4 & 5.

OH - KM184 - Neve 1073 pres - Summit DCL200 compressor to tracks 6 & 7.

Room - Coles 4038 - Neve 1073 pres - Distressors to tracks 8 & 9.

If we needed a ride mic, we'd mix it into the OH buss. Sometimes we'd use more Neve preamps but the SSL pres were used more often for the actual drum shells/ close mics. Later on as we incorporated the 3348 machine into our setup, we may split things out just a touch more. Drums were always tracked to analog 456 tape and we'd hit the kick, snare, toms channels pretty hard. 456 saturates and compresses really well. I never really liked 499.

First off, thanks for sharing all this Louderock. You made some of my favourite records from the 90s so it’s great reading how it was all done.

A couple of technical questions if you don’t mind....

Was wondering if the individual close mics on the drums were eq’d before they were bussed together? Or was the eq’d applied only after they were summed?

You mentioned that you would often track drums hot to tape for saturation. Since you’re now recording to digital is there anything you do to recreate that sound while your tracking? Or is it just an effect applied afterward ITB?

Were the room mics always Coles? I remember seeing the RHCP documentary Funky Monks back in the day and it looked like Brendan had 57s setup as room mics and was curious if this was something he did often.

Anything about how Bass was tracked would be great. Brendan’s records always had good bass tones and low end.

And what speakers were using to track and mix at the time? Was a subwoofer used?



Thanks!
 
Last edited:

louderock

Member
Messages
5,234
First off, thanks for sharing all this Louderock. You made some of my favourite records from the 90s so it’s great reading how it was all done.

A couple of technical questions if you don’t mind....

Was wondering if the individual close mics on the drums were eq’d before they were bussed together? Or was the eq’d applied only after they were summed?

You mentioned that you would often track drums hot to tape for saturation. Since you’re now recording to digital is there anything you do to recreate that sound while your tracking? Or is it just an effect applied afterward ITB?

Were the room mics always Coles? I remember seeing the RHCP documentary Funky Monks back in the day and it looked like Brendan had 57s setup as room mics and was curious if this was something he did often.

Anything about how Bass was tracked would be great. Brendan’s records always had good bass tones and low end.

And what speakers were using to track and mix at the time? Was a subwoofer used?



Thanks!
Most of the time, the individual mics were not eq'd before being bussed together. Kik In/Out would be sent out buss 1 through the Vocal Stressor EQ and usually the individual channel inputs would not have any eq applied. Same with snare drum bussed through a Pultec EQP-1. The toms were usually recorded flat but on occasion would get a touch of channel eq on an individual input if needed before being bussed out 3-4. Usually overheads and rooms were flat. We really didn't use much eq on the drums. Mainly just the basic boost around 70, dip around 450, boost around 2.5 - 4 k on the kick. Boost a touch of 100 and 5k on the snare via Pultec. That's it.

Ampex 456 was the best compressor of all and I do miss that sound on drums mainly. There are some pretty good emulations out there and I usually end up with Decapitator which is more of a console saturation vs tape emulation. On the tracking side, I'll sometimes hit the mic pres a little harder and lower the output fader. This can saturate the pre just a touch and is where a mic pre really takes on its character. Other than that, just try not to hit red in Protools.

I recorded an album around 6 years ago where we did drums to tape and then transferred in to PT. We had it set up so the output of the tape machine fed inputs of Protools and that's what we used for scratch tracks and click. The producer was saying "you're peaking in Protools with your levels" while monitoring things on input. I told him it would be fine on playback after we recorded. Sure enough, it wasn't peaking any more. The tape compression smoothed out those peaks.

The Coles came along later in the 90's. Prior to that, we had a few Lawson 47's, Crown Sass, U87's....there were a few different things in use. Not sure about the RHCP records but there's a good chance the 57's were talkback mics in the room. Those will often end up sounding good and get printed. I don't ever recall a situation where 57's were a "go-to" for Brendan's room mics.

We had a DW Fearn tube DI box and a SVT Classic at Southern Tracks. It got used a lot though some bass players would bring in their own stuff. The chain was usually DI - Neve 1081 - Neve 33609. 47 Fet - Neve 1081 - Neve 33609. Tim from RATM and Robert from STP always used a 2nd bass amp that was distorted and mid-rangey. There was rarely any eq. Really simple and basic chain.

With most of the things we did, the mic pres and all the gear in the control room was a bit secondary. It was always about what was on the other side of the mic. That's where the effort went. It seems many people have gotten away from that approach and want to just capture a sound/ performance and figure all the different ways they can tweak it into something good. I have a friend that will spend 15 minutes tracking a vocal and then hours processing it. Dude, just track it again and get what you're looking for.

Tracking was predominantly NS-10s through an Adcom Amp. Switchable sub which was a Tannoy. There was also a pair of Genelec 1031 speakers that were used in addition to the NS10s. Same setup for mixing. 90% NS10 w sub.
 

louderock

Member
Messages
5,234
I did work on this console yesterday. It's probably from the 1890's or something. Amazing how they got it to look just like that plug-in!! Just a big knob on each channel for MORE and then you send it to Left Center or Right.

88074385_10157350105327029_6400009447275495424_n.jpg
 

AndyZ

Member
Messages
1,100
I did work on this console yesterday. It's probably from the 1890's or something. Amazing how they got it to look just like that plug-in!! Just a big knob on each channel for MORE and then you send it to Left Center or Right.

Ryan, is that the 610 console from Arcade Fire's studio?
 

Marlin Barry

Member
Messages
22
Most of the time, the individual mics were not eq'd before being bussed together. Kik In/Out would be sent out buss 1 through the Vocal Stressor EQ and usually the individual channel inputs would not have any eq applied. Same with snare drum bussed through a Pultec EQP-1. The toms were usually recorded flat but on occasion would get a touch of channel eq on an individual input if needed before being bussed out 3-4. Usually overheads and rooms were flat. We really didn't use much eq on the drums. Mainly just the basic boost around 70, dip around 450, boost around 2.5 - 4 k on the kick. Boost a touch of 100 and 5k on the snare via Pultec. That's it.

Ampex 456 was the best compressor of all and I do miss that sound on drums mainly. There are some pretty good emulations out there and I usually end up with Decapitator which is more of a console saturation vs tape emulation. On the tracking side, I'll sometimes hit the mic pres a little harder and lower the output fader. This can saturate the pre just a touch and is where a mic pre really takes on its character. Other than that, just try not to hit red in Protools.

I recorded an album around 6 years ago where we did drums to tape and then transferred in to PT. We had it set up so the output of the tape machine fed inputs of Protools and that's what we used for scratch tracks and click. The producer was saying "you're peaking in Protools with your levels" while monitoring things on input. I told him it would be fine on playback after we recorded. Sure enough, it wasn't peaking any more. The tape compression smoothed out those peaks.

The Coles came along later in the 90's. Prior to that, we had a few Lawson 47's, Crown Sass, U87's....there were a few different things in use. Not sure about the RHCP records but there's a good chance the 57's were talkback mics in the room. Those will often end up sounding good and get printed. I don't ever recall a situation where 57's were a "go-to" for Brendan's room mics.

We had a DW Fearn tube DI box and a SVT Classic at Southern Tracks. It got used a lot though some bass players would bring in their own stuff. The chain was usually DI - Neve 1081 - Neve 33609. 47 Fet - Neve 1081 - Neve 33609. Tim from RATM and Robert from STP always used a 2nd bass amp that was distorted and mid-rangey. There was rarely any eq. Really simple and basic chain.

With most of the things we did, the mic pres and all the gear in the control room was a bit secondary. It was always about what was on the other side of the mic. That's where the effort went. It seems many people have gotten away from that approach and want to just capture a sound/ performance and figure all the different ways they can tweak it into something good. I have a friend that will spend 15 minutes tracking a vocal and then hours processing it. Dude, just track it again and get what you're looking for.

Tracking was predominantly NS-10s through an Adcom Amp. Switchable sub which was a Tannoy. There was also a pair of Genelec 1031 speakers that were used in addition to the NS10s. Same setup for mixing. 90% NS10 w sub.

Thanks Ryan! This is gold for someone like myself trying to setup a place where bands can come in and track off the floor together quickly without the technical side of recording interfering with performance and creativity.

I like the idea of sub mixing the kick, snare, and guitars when multi micing a single source so there are less options come mix time. Just wish there were more quality 3:1 line mixers for us working ITB without consoles. It would also free up a couple of channels of ad conversion on the way in. If you have have any suggestions on a good way to submix without a console I’d love to hear it.

You also touched on the overheads, did they usually stay spaces pairs (based on the pic you posted) or did that change from song to song? And what was the distance typically from the snare?

And having never tracked to tape I’ve always wondered if a big part of its appeal on drums was that it raises the RMS making it louder?

And that makes sense about the 57s. So the room sound was just a pair of LDC or ribbons compressed through distressors. Since the 90s has a lot of cymbal riding, any tips on how to compress rooms when you have a cymbal basher?

And that’s interesting about the 33069 as a bass compressor. I think Bob Clearmountain uses that on bass as well. Was the bass pod being used back then or did that come in later?
 




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