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Brian Tarquin Produces ‘Les Paul Dedication’

Brian Tarquin in his Jungle Room Studios

Producer/engineer/guitarist Brian Tarquin recently released Les Paul Dedication: Guitar Masters Vol. 3 & 4, a double-CD compilation that celebrates Les Paul’s influence on the art of guitar playing, on Tarquin’s BHP Music label. It offers new recordings produced by Tarquin in his Jungle Room Studios in New York, as well as rare classic tracks, such as the original 1940s release “Why Do I Love You” from Les Paul and His Trio.

Among Les Paul Dedication’s 25 total tracks is the little known song “Gutty Guitar” featuring Jeff Beck with Lord Sutch, which Jimmy Page produced for the Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends sessions in 1970. The CD also features “Funk Me Tender” from Grammy Award winning guitarist Steve Vai; Leslie West performing the Led Zeppelin classic “Moby Dick”; and bassist Billy Sheehan offering his version of Jeff Beck’s “Blue Wind.” In addition, Volume 3 features the first new recording in four years by guitar virtuoso Gary Hoey, performing the Jeff Beck classic, “El Becko.” Allan Holdsworth, Frank Gambale (Chick Corea), Chris Poland (Megadeth), Alex De Rosso (Dokken) and Hal Lindes (Dire Straits) also appear, among others.

Tarquin—a veteran Emmy Award winning composer and guitarist with numerous TV and film credits—plays guitar with each guest guitarist and recorded many of the new tracks, featuring rhythm sections that Tarquin assembled, in Jungle Room Studios. Some guests, such as Chuck Loeb and Billy Sheehan, recorded parts elsewhere and submitted tracks to Tarquin.

Tarquin says that he maintained an “old school” approach to producing the project, recording primarily through analog circuitry to tape. “All those records that we know and love from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s were done that way,” he explains.

“I brought in the rhythm section first,” Tarquin explains. “We did everything live, as much as possible. I basically put the melodies down and some of the solos.”

In the following Q&A, Tarquin shares some details on how he produced Les Paul Dedication at Jungle Room Studios.

How did you set up the rhythm section at Jungle Room Studios?
We did everything live, as much as I could. I put the drums in an isolation room and we [used] a Ludwig [drum kit]—one of the big [John] Bonham sets with a 26-inch kick. I put a Sennheiser 421 on each of the three toms. [For] the really huge floor toms, I used an [Electro-Voice] RE20. I used one of the clip-on AKG [C 418] mics for the snare. And then for the overheads I used 451s. I did the whole thing in an old-school kind of way. I used the Neumann TLM 49 as a mono room mic but I put it back just a little bit. I sometimes bring that in lower in the mix and it gives more of a live room sound, and then I bring in the overheads higher. For the kick, I always use a D 112.

Usually I will put the room mic through an 1176 and I compress it tightly when going to tape, so it gives you that over-compressed sound that I could put underneath just to give it more beefiness.

I put the bass [amp] in the amp closet. [Bassist] Randy Coven used his signature Pavel bass and played through a Fender amp miked by a D 112, and he played [into a] D 112. The keyboardist played Rhodes on everything, direct. So those three guys cut everything with the first trip around, and then when we needed piano [the keyboardist] came back. I have a spinet piano, so I stereo-miked that. I have a Hammond M-100 [organ] with a little Leslie cabinet, so I miked either side of the cabinet in stereo.

How did you record these sessions?
I tried to keep everything in the tape domain. I have a 2-inch, 24-track Ampex MM 1200. Some guitarists had to fly in their parts, [which] they [sent me] over the Internet, so with that kind of take I would basically bounce everything down to Logic through a MOTU 24 I/O. I recorded everything down to 2-inch tape through a 32-channel, 16-bus Trident Trimix [analog console].

Essentially, you put down the basic rhythm tracks first and then a guest guitarist would overdub.
That’s right, exactly. For example, Leslie West came here and we did “Moby Dick” with [bassist] Randy Coven and overdubbed all his parts, live. He played through my 1986 Marshall JCM 800. We put that through a 4×12 [Carvin] Legacy cabinet and I close-miked him using one of the SE [Electronics RT1 ribbon tube] mics. It has its own little power supply and I probably put that mic about six inches away from one of the speakers. I had an iso booth for all the amps, and I left the door open and put the Neumann TLM 49 probably about four feet back with the door open, and that’s how I recorded it. It gave it a little more beefiness. I blended the mics together when I mixed it.

You were going for a good room/amp combination sound.
Right, exactly. I may have put the room a little lower in the mix and then put the close mic a little higher in the mix. But when you take out the room mic it doesn’t sound as good, so it does something to really beef up the sound. I used a [Peter Frampton] Framptone amp switcher, so when I was recording [I could] switch between two amps or have both at once. For the rhythm [guitar] I went to a JTM-45 Marshall amp, and then a Mesa-Boogie Mark II from the late ’70s. I’ll close-mic each of those amps—one with an M140 and another one with the RT-1—and then I pan them in the mix, one to the left and one to the right, so it gives it a full, rich stereo room sound, and you get a nice, thick tone [so] you don’t have to go back and overdub again.

How did you mix and master Les Paul Dedication?
I mixed it all down to half-inch tape [on a 2-track Sony APR 5003 tape recorder]—every song. Even if I were mixing out of Logic, it would go through the [Trident Trimix] desk and then to half-inch. I recorded at 15 ips because I go through an old Dolby A-type Model 361 [noise-reduction system], and it fattens up the mixes really nicely. I sent the half-inch reels to Airshow [Mastering].

It sounds like this production was quite an experience.
It was an honor and a dream come true to work with such unbelievably talented guitarists. Some are old heroes of mine, and others new to the ear! It’s a perfect dedication for Les because—even though maybe not all of [these guitarists] play like Les or even play a Les Paul [guitar]—[we can all] thank Les for the whole recording process and also for how much he’s influenced everybody [on] the guitar.

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