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Chicano Batman Goes Oldschool

The energetic and unique soul/funk/Latin psychedelia sound of Chicano Batman, a four-piece from Los Angeles—Eduardo Arenas on bass guitar and vocals; Carlos Arévalo, guitar; Bardo Martinez, lead vocals, organ, guitar; and Gabriel Villa, drums, percussion—is best served live, as fans will attest on the band’s current concert hall tour, playing places like the Roxy in Hollywood and Fillmore West in San Francisco. Also, Coachella and Bonnaroo.

On this particular tour, it proved fortuitous that FOH engineer Jose Cruz, Jr., began his career in the studio. “We are working on replicating the amazing sound of CB’s most recent record, Freedom Is Free,” he says. “It was produced by Leon Michels at The Diamond Mine Studios in Queens, and was recorded live to an 8-track Studer tape machine using only old-school recording techniques and equipment. But we travel in a 15-passenger van, including all backline, so bringing a bunch of vintage equipment and ribbon mics wasn’t feasible.”

Most venues provide a decent console, Cruz reports, but he knew he needed something different. And he had little money and even less space. “We began looking into using DSP live, and I stumbled onto the Apollo 8p interface from Universal Audio, along with a bunch of their tape, compressor and EQ plug-ins,” Cruz says. “I patched them into our live console and re-created the signal paths that we used in the studio to get back some of that dirt, warmth and saturation that you just can’t get out of digital consoles. The Apollo with a Focusrite Pro 40 via ADAT, and I’m able to get 16 channels worth of processing. It seems like the best way to fit a studio’s worth of legendary gear in a four-rackspace unit.

“UAD’s API Vision Strips work great on my drums because of how punchy they sound, and how responsive the gates are,” he continues. “I use the Neve 1073 emulations on bass, guitars and organs for their girth and saturation, but use the Neve 88RS on vocals for their smoothness. I then follow the pres with compressors from their LA2A collection. I complete the chain by running each channel into an instance of UAD’s Studer A800 plug-in to get that little extra bit of warmth and tape compression.

“I would definitely describe the show as an active mix. They feed off each other’s energy, which means that whatever sound is coming out of the stage, the energy and vibe is there, and all I have to do is amplify it!”