EvanescenceWhen Evanescence guitarist Ben Moody calls Mix from the road, his band is setting up at a Milwaukee venue called The Rave. 8/01/2003 8:00 AM Eastern
When Evanescence guitarist Ben Moody calls Mix from the road,his band is setting up at a Milwaukee venue called The Rave. “I'mwalking around a haunted building at the moment,” he reports.“I saw a shadowy figure out of the corner of my eye. We've beeninvestigating for about an hour now.” Evidently, The Rave islocated within an old Masonic building called The Eagles Club that alsohouses three other venues, including a ballroom on the roof. Boarded upin the basement is a large old pool that Moody half-jokingly deems“the epitome of evil.”
It is appropriate that Evanescence are headlining at this supposedlyhaunted facility, considering that they perform a gothic-inflectedstrain of heavy rock with a European flavor, augmented at times bystrings and choir, and influenced by the likes of Nine Inch Nails,Portishead and Type O Negative. Their theatrical music has taken themfrom their hometown of Little Rock, Ark. to around the globe, thanks inpart to the inclusion of two songs in the hit movie, Daredevil.Propelled by the grandiose and moody single “Bring Me toLife,” which features a dramatic trade-off between singer Amy Leeand 12 Stones frontman Paul McCoy, the group's Platinum debut album,Fallen (Wind-Up), immediately cracked the top echelon of theBillboard charts and has stayed there ever since. Evanescence iscurrently in the midst of a headlining tour that will last through theend of 2003. For a new band in a weak economy, that's definitelyimpressive.
Recorded and mixed between late August and early December of lastyear, Fallen is the culmination of eight years of passion anddedication for Moody and Lee. The duo has been writing and playingmusic together since they were 14 years old; early on, they evenenvisioned the string section and choir that permeate many songs ontheir debut. While the twosome have been pegged as“nu-goth” by Kerrang! magazine, they choose not tocompartmentalize themselves. “We didn't really try to be goth orpop or anything,” says Moody. “Honestly, we just write whatwe want to hear, and we like catchy music.”
While it contains electronic elements indigenous to many of theband's influences, Fallen maintains an organic feeling. “Ididn't want it to sound too fabricated,” comments Moody. “Ilove electronics and I love digital manipulation, but I wanted to firstestablish us as a real rock band. We're actually playing all of thoseparts: The strings are real, the choirs are real, the piano isreal.”
“I think one of the most positive features about [the album]is that it's like watching a movie from front to back,” remarksFallen producer Dave Fortman, who acknowledges that many radiostations were at first resistant to a rock band with a (gasp!) femalesinger. “Some areas waited and waited and waited until the proofwas really there. KROQ L.A. was one of them. Within the first threedays of them trying the song, it was already Top Five for requests onthe phones. People were freaking out on it.”
Louisiana-based Fortman, who has worked with 12 Stones, Boysetsfireand Superjoint Ritual, was impressed with Evanescence when he heard theinitial demos, and his admiration of the group grew during therecording process. “One of the greatest parts of this record wasthe band's vision and their dream about it being theatrical and like amovie soundtrack,” says Fortman. “I think that gives it aspecial emotion, really. Every song takes you through thisjourney.”
Recording work for Fallen started at Ocean Studios inBurbank, Calif., where most of “Bring Me to Life” wasrecorded for the Daredevil soundtrack, prior to full albumproduction. For that tune, Jay Baumgardner banged out the mix at hisstudio, NRG Recording Studios in North Hollywood, on an SSL 9000 J.
Fallen is an album built on overdubs. Drums were tracked atOcean Studios, with Josh Freese playing to a click, stereo guitars andscratch vocals on select songs. “If it was more of a rock 'n'roll band like the Black Crowes, you definitely want to set them all upand [record live] and try and make everything on there magic,”explains Fortman. “But for something that has the depth ofproduction that Evanescence does, it's definitely more of an overdubsituation. This type of record should be done to where it sounds largerthan life.”
In recording Freese's drums, Fortman used, on the advice of Ocean'sengineer Dean Nelson, C12As for overheads. “That was a real bigdiscovery,” says Fortman. “I thought those were some of thesweetest-sounding overheads ever. And a trick I stole from JayBaumgardner was using [Audio-Technica] ATM25s on toms. They're awesome.It's like magic. That through an 80 Series Neve pre, and I could almostjust put the fader up and call it a day.”
On the rest of the kit, Fortman used a D112 on the inside of thekick drum, a U47 on the outside, plus an NS-10 speaker as anoutside mic, an idea he also got from Nelson. The producer ran 414s onthe ride cymbal and hi-hat. “I can't remember what the room micswere,” the producer admits, “but it was real basic: about15 feet out in front of the kick, right about ear level, maybe a littlelower.” Fortman recorded the drums onto 2-inch tape on a Studermachine and then bounced the parts into Pro Tools, the medium for mostof the album.
The guitars for Fallen were cut at Mad Dog Studios, also inBurbank. Moody says that Baumgardner lent him gear, including his LesPaul and Gibson SG guitars, Marshall and Mesa/Boogie heads, and an oldMesa/Boogie cabinet. “It was an old cabinet that wastried-and-true on rock records,” says Moody. “It was ano-brainer to use it. I know it was used on Papa Roach and, I think,Staind. The heads were just the JCM 800, which was all souped up andmodified, [and] a Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier Trem-o-Verb.”
For the first time in his producing career, Fortman recorded theguitars through two different amps: one side being Marshall and theother Mesa/Boogie. “I doubted it forever,” he confesses,“and then I decided during the Evanescence recording that I wouldactually A-B it and see if there was really that much of adifference.” He recorded the Marshall amp for both left and rightsides, EQ'ing it to sound heavier than usual. “Then I A-B'd it byusing a Mesa on the left side. The differences tonally and with thedifferent frequencies in the two different amps really do create alarger stereo feel. It was amazing to hear.” The producerrecorded the guitars with two Shure 57s, running them through Neve 1081preamps straight to Pro Tools.
Bassist Francis DiCosmo, who had a “really off-the-wallamp,” according to Fortman, was recorded with a U67 set back sixor seven inches from his cabinet and through an Avalon U5 DI/pre intoPro Tools.
When it came to recording Lee's vocals at NRG, the group tested outthree mics: the Telefunken Elam 251E, the AKG C-12 and the regularNeumann U47 tube mic. The U47 won. “That one seemed to have theclassic presence,” reports Fortman. “It sounded really goodon Amy's voice. I love having that type of luxury, where you can recordsomething from each mic, have everybody sit down and take time tochoose.” The vocal chain was a U47 through 1081s Neve preamps toan 1176 Blackface.
Most of the piano on the album was also recorded at NRG. Fortmanused a pair of U67s spaced approximately three to four feet apart, onefor the high strings and one for the low strings, facing down betweeneight inches to a foot above the strings. The piano parts wereperformed by David Hodges, the other main performer on the album besideMoody and Lee. Hodges also played a variety of keyboards recordeddirectly through Avalon DIs into Pro Tools.
Throughout the recording process, Fortman worked on various Neveconsoles, which he says were integral to the overall sound:“Probably the most important part of getting that ‘sound ofstrength’ is the 80 Series Neve, which, to this day, is stillimpressive to my ears. They all have small differences, but especiallyat NRG, everything you listen to and everything you record just hasthis bigger-than-life quality. That's definitely my favorite place torecord. Jay just has the gnarliest monitoring system ever.”
Adding to the album's grand feel and gothic flavor was the inclusionof strings on a few tracks, notably “Bring Me to Life” and“Imaginary.” A 22-piece string section was recorded inSeattle by Mark Curry. They were later mixed at the Newman ScoringStage and Bolero Studios, both in Los Angeles. The orchestra parts werearranged by Hodges and David Campbell, except for “MyImmortal,” which was done by veteran Hollywood composer GraemeRevell.
“I forget which Sony condensers were for the main overheads,but they were done in just a regular spaced pair, probably eight feetin front of the entire string section, then probably six feet apart,maybe up to 10 feet,” says Fortman. “In the back, we usedU87s on lower strings, possibly U47 back on the basses. There wereclose mics for each section and a stereo pair for the overall. Therewere around 12 tracks. At mix, I mostly used the stereo pair,especially during dense sections of songs. However, the intro to‘Imaginary’ is a section where all of the mics arein.”
Following the recording of the strings, the final piece of the auralpuzzle was recording the Millennium Choir at NRG. Fortman ran a stereopair of U67s to capture their voices, and later the 12-member ensemblewas doubled or tripled to give them a larger sound. “During thebridge of ‘Imaginary,’ there are probably 70-plus peopleperforming on the song at that moment,” explains Fortman.“There's a choir that's been doubled, there is a string orchestrawith 22 players doubled, then you add all of the bandmembers, and it'shuge. That section has so much depth to it. There's no purpose to lookat it as a live band at that point.”
For Moody, to finally hear real orchestration to Evanescence songswas a dream come true. “It was surreal and amazing,”declares the guitarist, who originally used keyboards on his demos inplace of real strings. “It was just awesome to hear that, foronce, done right. Amy and I were both a little teary.” AddsFortman: “Just to hear that happen to the music in the room, itwas an emotional experience. It was amazing. You could just feel theenergy in the room.”
Following the multiphase recording process, Fortman spent nearly twoweeks mixing Fallen on a Neve 88R console at Conway RecordingStudios in North Hollywood. “I was impressed,” he says.“They say it's got the low end and the stickiness of an 80 SeriesNeve, but with the brightness of an SSL 9000. That's exactly what itsounds like. It's really compatible to any of the high-end SSLs.”Following mixing, the album was mastered by Ted Jensen at SterlingSound in New York City.
“I was surprised by how smoothly it went and how much fun wehad,” Fortman states. “I've always read that a lot offriction makes a great record, and I left California thinking,‘God, was that too easy?’ There was really no drama. It wasa fun record to make.”