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MixLine Feature: John Cale Completes New Album at Ocean Way

Pictured: John Cale, sitting at the piano, with co-producer Herb Graham, Jr. (left) and mixer Mickey Petralia

Photo: David Goggin.

John Cale, solo artist, producer and co-founder of The Velvet Underground, recently completed his new album, blackAcetate, tracking at The Lair and mixing in Ocean Way Recording’s Studio B, both in L.A.

Cale and co-producer Herb Graham, Jr. played most of the instruments, with guests such as guitarist Dave Levitta, banjo/harmonica player Mark Deffenbaugh and cellist John Krovoza adding parts, as well. Jasper Baj, Nailah Porter and Music Galloway offered up backing vocals.

To record, as well as play on, these sessions, Graham set up four “stations” in The Lair’s spacious tracking room: “We had a place where drums and percussion were set up, another for guitars, including John’s Flying V and Gibson Les Paul Jr., and an area just for keyboards—Minimoogs, Wurlitzers, John’s Nord Lead that he used for trippy sounds, and I brought in a couple of my own,” Graham says.

During the sessions, Cale sang lead and backing vocals and played viola, acoustic and electric guitars, acoustic piano and keyboards. Graham, in addition to his engineering and programming duties, played drums, bass and keyboards. “Ninety five percent of the record is John and I playing,” he says. Additional engineering was handled by studio owner Larry Goetz.

There was a relaxed vibe within the velvet curtain-covered walls, proving an ideal atmosphere for the improvisational recording process. “We kept everything set up and we just jammed, made things up on the spot,” says Graham. “We got 38 to 42 tracks done in six weeks.”

Graham captured the sessions on Pro Tools, using a Cranesong HEDD as his main A/D converter. “For ‘Gravel Drive’ and ‘Turn the Lights On,’ I heard John just picking this [random] pattern; I set up a click track as a guide and he put it down in one pass, then started humming the melody and a vocal and [we had the song]. There were a lot of moments like that.” Graham would set up either a Neumann M49 or U87, Soundeluxe 250 or SM7 in the room for Cale to sing his ideas, most of which turned out to be “keeper stuff.” Graham notes that 80 to 90% of the song “Wasteland” was recorded on the first take.

Cale’s main vocal path included Brent Avrill API 312 and Neve 1272 modules, running into a UREI 1176 compressor, then through an API 550A EQ.

After leaving The Lair, the album was taken to OceanWay’s Studio B for additional piano and vocal overdubs, and mixing with Mickey Petralia. “It’s such a well set up room,” Graham says. “It sounds great and you really know what you’re walking out with.

“The sound of this album encompasses everything John has done in his career. All of his influences are here, from really beautiful string arrangements to hard punk rock—and everything in between: hip-hop, ballads, pop-funk electronica, and ball-busting electric guitar. The work was certainly put in on his part in terms of giving and I hope that really comes across.”

Look for blackAcetate in stores on October 3, 2005, released by EMI.

For information about Ocean Way, visit