Wilco’s Chicago studio, The Loft, recently installed vintage Neve 5432 (pictured) and BCM-10 consoles, as well as API 512s, Genelec 1031As, Studer Gold Series A827, AKG BX-10 and Pro Tools HD. The studio also acquired outboard gear from Manley, Electrical Audio, Universal Audio, dbx, Empirical Labs, Daking, Tube Tech, Retro and Chandler, as well as microphones by Neumann, Royer, AKG, EV, Shure, Coles and Sennheiser.
Meanwhile, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and Pat Sansone have been busy in the studio producing Sarah Lee Guthrie (daughter of Arlo) and Johnny Irion’s fourth album, Wassaic Way (August 6, Route 8 Records). The album features Sarah Lee and Johnny on vocals, guitars and keys, with Tweedy backing on guitar and vocals, and Sansone on bass and Mellotron. Additional players include Charlie Rose on guitar, pedal steel, banjo, and trumpet; Otto Hauser on drums; Jon Stirratt on vocals; Radoslav Lorković on piano; Spencer Tweedy (Jeff’s son) on drums; and Jocie Adams on clarinet. Jeff Tweedy also co-wrote the song “Probably Gone” with Irion.
In other news at The Loft, Tweedy recorded and produced Low’s The Invisible Way (released in March on Sub Pop), as well as new material for Kids These Days and White Denim. Mavis Staples returned to The Loft to work on One True Vine (Anti-, due out this summer), the follow-up to her 2010 Grammy-winning You Are Not Alone, also recorded at The Loft and produced by Tweedy.
Engineer Steve Kovacs stands up to gain a little perspective as artist Chris Mathien (seated right) and producer Chris Schneider discuss the mix of “John Madden,” off of the May release Darling Television.
Mathien Busting Out
Mathien has been something of a house artist at Pressure Point Recording Studios over the past few years, and he just released his sixth album, Darling Television, available as download, streaming and…pink vinyl. For a while he’s written in-house at the studios, and he’s produced by longtime PP studio manager Chris Schneider, engineered by up-and-comer Steve Kovacs (see Mix Tips hereNew Browser Window).
“I was having some issues with getting the right vocal sound for one of the tracks and kept switching mics, mic pre’s compressors, everything,” recalls Schneider. “I’m sure Steve [Kovacs] and his assistant, Greg Stoetling, as well as Mathien, were getting sick of me. Then I found our old Drawmer 1960, which is a combination tube mic pre and compressor. We were going to sell it at one point because it had this slightly distorted thing going on, and I figured the tube was going and it would be more trouble to find a replacement. We hadn’t used it in forever. We decided after one of those long not-getting-shit-to-work nights to try that on the vocal, and voila! Exactly what was needed to make the vocal sit—using the pre and comp and then, of course, into a vintage 1176. We thought it was a junky box for some reason, and now our old new toy has turned into a solution. And no, it’s not for sale, nor will we fix it.”
Buddy Guy and Blaise Barton
The Blues Take a Joyride
On the heels of a Grammy nomination for their first record in 2010, blues super group Chicago Blues Living History won Best Traditional Blues Album at the Blues Music Awards in Memphis for its latest release, The (R)evolution Continues. The album features guest artists Buddy Guy, James Cotton, Magic Slim and Ronnie Baker Brooks; it was produced by Larry Skoller and recorded, mixed and mastered at Joyride Studio by Blaise Barton.
“Part of the challenge in making the record was creating classic vintage blues sounds for the songs going back to the 1940s that sat well with the more modern-sounding cuts on the album,” Barton says. “A lot of room mics were used to capture the tracks, and we tried to record with all the musicians in the same room as much as possible. We also experimented with recording vocals using a vintage Shure 55 lined up next to a modern Neumann condenser. At mix time, we could play with the balance between the two.” All the tracks were recorded to tape using an MCI JH-24 recorder.
Skoller and Barton also mixed and mastered the 2013 Grammy-nominated Heritage Blues Orchestra album And Still I Rise. Barton just finished mixes for the soon-to-be-released debut by Jimmy Vivino and the Black Italians.
A view of the live room from one of the two isos.
Fullerton Recording Studios
Kevin Ford has followed a path that could be a model for how to grow a studio career while keeping one foot firmly on the other side of the glass, hanging with the musicians. A Chicago native, Ford worked as a backline tech with clients such as WGN, House of Blues, The Metro and Harpo Productions. He moved on to years of freelance engineering around town, and for the past seven years he’s been the owner/engineer/producer at Fullerton Recording Studios, a two-control room/one-live room facility in Chicago’s artist-infused Logan Square neighborhood.
Kevin Ford, left, and Matt Nischan
From the start, the still-active keyboard player has emphasized reaching out to musicians. He has kept his rates low, while providing a staff engineer, Matt Nischan, and a high-end backbone based around Avid Pro Tools HD Accel (Version 11 once it’s available), Avid Control 24 (the Focusrite version) and a load of analog pre’s and processing: API, Daking, Universal Audio and Manley mic pre’s; also, several channels of 1176 compression, Empirical Labs Distressors, and two custom-built SSL stereo bus compressors with a highpass filter and frequency-shelf mod. Clients of note in the past year include Mumford and Sons’ Triple J Radio mixing session for Australia, Kevin Ford assisting; Jill Scott, tour production support; the Congregation album Right Here Right Now, produced by Charlie Wayne and Ford, engineered by Ford; and Graham Czach’s Lucid, produced by Czach and Matt Nischan, engineered by Nischan.