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Bob Mould’s Hand-Made ‘Life and Times’

Bob Mould Life and Times 2009 Album Profiled in Mix magazine about audio production

Bob Mould tracks everything but drums single-handedly in his Granary Music studio

Photo: Noah Kalina

Bob Mould, the former frontman of proto-grunge bands Hüsker Dü and Sugar, acknowledges a similarity between his current release, Life and Times, and the first solo album he made 20 years ago.

“When I started writing for this record, I recognized quickly that I was writing quieter, sparser material, and part of it felt like revisiting a record I’d written years ago called Workbook. This album is a narrative, free verse, introspective kind of record.”

“Quieter” is a relative term, of course. Mould’s tracks often begin with voice and acoustic guitar, but they quickly build into powerful multiple-guitar, multitracked vocal assaults. Mould writes; records his own vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards; and programs in his own home studio, Granary Music (Washington, D.C.), which he laughingly describes as “just a plain old room with standing waves and horrible reflections. It’s a 20×25 space, and I just sit in the middle and work.

“I’ve settled into a groove where I have everything up and ready to go in front of me — not a lot of distance between the idea and the playback,” he continues. “My mode lately is just grab it as soon as it gets into my head and if I have to go in and fix it a little bit to make it sound record-worthy, it’s worth it to me because so many times the first time it comes out of your head is the way it was supposed to be.”

At the heart of Mould’s self-contained setup is Digital Performer 6. He says he also uses Reason 4 quite a bit for drum beats and effects, and Ableton Live “if I need to do any time correcting or if I’m trying to move things around a little bit to see what a different feel would be like.”

Mould mixes with a lot of Performer’s plug-ins as well as Bobby Nathan’s URS plug-ins. Also on hand is a collection of analog outboard gear: JoeMeek preamp/compressor, three Pultec blueface EQP1s, an original Drawmer 1960, Tony Larkin compressor, and Geoff Daking EQ.

Also key to Life and Times is Mould’s AKG 414 TL2 vocal mic. “I’ve used them for years, going back to the old Norelco versions,” he says. “It works well with the nasal voice that I have.”

To record drums, Mould travels outside his personal space; John Wurster’s tracks were recorded by Frank Marchand at Waterford Digital (Millersville, Md.).

“Frank is also my live engineer when I tour with bands,” Mould says. “His studio is great for drum sounds, and he’s great at editing drums, as well, if we get to that. John came in and I hadn’t played him any of the songs, so the first day, we would sit and listen song by song, and he would make notes and then go and play until he was happy with what he had. John is an amazing player. It’s really his record featuring my songs.”