Mix Regional Sessions: Chicago


Bruce Hornsby and Mavis Staples at CRC


Stevie Wonder was in the studio recording for Mark Ronson’s album Uptown Special. Wonder recorded his harmonica in Studio 4 on an M 49, and it was featured on the tracks “Uptown’s First Finale” and “Crack in the Pearl, Pt. II.” Engineers Austin Thompson and Mat Lejeune worked the session…CRC’s general manager Chris Shepard and his American Mobile crew recorded live audio for webcast at Coachella. American Mobile will be traveling to 13 U.S. festivals this year, including Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Pitchfork and Austin City Limits…Dee Snider spent a week writing and recording with producer/songwriter Damon Ranger in Studio 4 with engineer Lejeune…After last year’s collaboration with EA Sports on NHL 15, engineer Stan Oda (assisted by Tom Zalduendo) recorded voice-over for their next round of production. The goal was to capture “game like” intensity by using the same mics that are used on air. CRC had to be consistent in the setup from year to year because a player’s name recorded in 2013 would have to be stitched on to a new play call or reaction that was recorded in 2014 or 2015. Clean audio from the engineer allowed for clean cuts/edits. This led to seamless play calling with different names and contexts all mixed together in the game audio matrix. The mic chain for this project was Sennheiser HMD 25 mic/headset / John Hardy M-1 mic pre / Waves Renaissance 4 EQ / Renaissance Compressor…Guitarist Joe Bonamassa and producer/drummer Tal Bergman recorded for their new project, Rock Candy Funk Party, in Studio 4 with engineer Jon Zacks (assisted by Shelley Bishop)…Bruce Hornsby’s work on his new album includes a collaboration with Mavis Staples. It was recorded in Studio 5 with engineer Lejeune (assisted by Jonathan Lackey)…Mavis Staples also recorded her latest EP Your Good Fortune in Studio 5 on the SSL 6000, and it was engineered by Steve Weeder (assisted by Lackey). The EP was produced by Son Little. Staples’ mic of choice is the Neumann U 47.

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Funkadesi was in Studio East recording their latest album, with producer Paul Von Mertens (Brian Wilson Band) and Chief Engineer Rob Ruccia. They ran Pro Tools HDX on a new Mac Pro 3.5GHz 6 Core, and Steven Slate Raven MTX MKII was used for control surface and monitoring (both the Raven and the Mac are part of Uptown’s recent studio upgrade). The session featured 10 musicians playing live. For optimal sound and ability to overdub or punch parts, isolated drums, bass and guitar were needed…Peter Lerner was in Studio West working on Continuation with producer Robert Irving III (Miles Davis/Roy Orbison/Bette Midler) and engineer Ruccia. The jazz-guitar-fronted group performed live to Pro Tools HD, multitracked with isolation on the drums and lead guitar, which was needed for separation and overdub potential. A Royer R-122 (10 inches off the right 12-inch speaker) was used on the Fender Twin through a Universal Audio 6176. Piano was miked using Shure KSM141s. Upright bass was captured using three mics: Earthworks QTC30 padded in foam was placed under the bridge, an AKG D 112 two feet off the f-hole for the low end, and an Audio-Technica shotgun pointed at the neck. The session featured 84-year-old Chicago legend Willie Pickens on the studio’s Yamaha GB1 grand piano, along with members of the Robert Irving III band…Clarkwise (gospel group featuring Twinkie Clark) was in studios East and West with Irving producing and Ruccia engineering. The vocalists were working with a studio in North Carolina while the music and production was going on in Chicago. The OMF format allowed the studio to work between DAWs when the vocals came in. Pro Tools was able to open the OMF and allow placement of the tracks into the sessions. Overdubs included large string and horn sessions where Decca Tree setups were used, as well as spot mics for added focus. This session featured Miles Davis’ nephew, drummer Vince Wilburn Jr.; bassist Darryl Jones; and pianist/keys player Irving…The Chris Green Quartet was in studios East and West with producer Joe Tortorici (Ella Fitzgerald/Whitney Houston) and engineer Ruccia. A modified AKG C12 VR and Royer 122 were used for the saxophone in a large room with 14-foot ceilings. The drums were tracked in the other live room with 12-foot ceilings. Extra room mics were placed for ambience…Thomas Pace was in studios East and West, with Ruccia producing and engineering (Pace also produced). Recording was set up as if it were a live show. Drums, bass, guitar and piano were in the same room, except for scratch vocals were performed through an SM7 in the control room for direction of the band during recording. Tracking live with bleed added to the rough and raw sound the artist was looking for. Earthworks QTC30s were used to capture the room reverb naturally.

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Americana punk rockers Green Denim are currently finishing their debut album, Before the Devil Knows Your Name, with engineer/producer/studio owner Chris Steinmetz. Chip Z’Nuff produced the project, and it features Jesse Camp of MTV, Kate Catalina (Boneyard Gypsy), Chris “Hambone” Cameron, and many more special guests…Rockers Blindspt are currently prepping the release of “On You,” which was recorded and produced by Steinmetz…Tony Magee, founder of Lagunitas Brewing Company, is working on songs for his band Alice Drinks the Kool-Aid. Magee recruited some of Chicago’s top musicians for this project, including Jim Widlowski on drums and Alan Berliant on bass. A Neumann 149 through a vintage Neve 1073 was used for Magee’s vocals…2013 IndianRaga Fellow Harsha Nagarajan was at the studior producing an interpretation of Bruhi Mukundethi, popularized by M.S. Subbulakshmi, set to a ragamalika by Nagarajan…Steinmetz is also currently wrapping up production for the new EP from Superbig. He used the vintage Neve 1073s for vocals as well as a UAD 610 preamp followed by an Empirical Labs Distressor for guitars. Steinmetz also used a wide array of the UAD plug-ins for mixing…Paper Angels have been working on their new album, with Steinmetz producing. Steinmetz notes the use of Sound Toys plug-ins, particularly Decapitator and Echo Boy, for some intense vocal sounds…Platinum rapper Twista recorded a verse on one of Tech N9ne’s new songs. Steinmetz seasoned Twista’s vocals with a UAD Pultec Pro…Jazz artists Steve Cole and Gerey Johnson came in for overdubs on The Sax Pack’s third album. Johnson was also in tracking with saxophonist Marqueal Jordan and drummer Khari Parker.

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Jonathan McReynolds recently wrapped up tracking for his upcoming album with engineer Andy Shoemaker in Studio A. Most of the tracking was done live over the course of a few days. Several acoustic songs were recorded live in front of an audience that was invited into the studio. Nine musicians performed an acoustic set for a small audience and a full camera crew. The album is set for a September release…Shoemaker has also been producing and engineering an EP with Marirose Weldon. He enlisted the skills of Larry Beers on drums, Noam Wallenberg on guitars, and Ben Joseph on bass and keys to build songs around Weldon’s lyrics and melodies…I Fight Dragons just finished tracking and mixing the theme song for The Goldbergs on ABC with producer/engineer Wallenberg…Wallenberg has also recently finished records for Jennifer Hall, The O’My’s and Royale. He is currently working on new records with Packy Lundholm and Andrew Lothian…Producer/engineer Rick Barnes recorded the band Candy Golde, consisting of John Stirratt of Wilco, Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick, Nicholas Tremulis, and Rick Rizzo. Tracking was done in Studio A, assisted by Shoemaker, and Rizzo mixed in Studio B…Rizzo also wrapped up tracking and mixing Woo Park’s debut album Smokes, and he continues to track blues bassist Biscuit Miller and his band…The studio recently hosted legendary engineer Alan Parsons for his most recent Master Class Training Session.

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FKA Twigs worked on a new song in Studio A with Michael Kolar and Jeff Arenson engineering (FKA Twigs self-produced)…Chance the Rapper worked in Studio A on “Sunday Candy,” with Peter CottonTale and The Social Experiment producing and Kolar and Jabari Rayford engineering…Members of Snarky Puppy edited and mixed sessions in Studio A, with Kolar and Arenson engineering and the band self-producing…Carl Tatz of Carl Tatz Design upgraded the subwoofer system to six 12-inch woofers powered by 3,000 watts. The studio also upgraded to two 1,000-watt Mono Blocks for the Dynaudio M1, for 5,000 watts total system power for the Phantom Focus System, and also purchased a Bettermaker EQ502P and a pair of Maag EQ4 matched by Cliff Maag. Studio A upgraded to a custom hybrid mixing and mastering console…Soundscape is also in the process of opening a third room for recording vocalists.

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Naked Raygun worked on new material for an upcoming release, with Steven Gillis engineering, recording and mixing, and Brandon Miller assisting…AyOH worked on their EP Dangerous Questions, which was produced, co-written, engineered and mixed by Gillis for Transient Productions…Keri Johnsrud worked on This Side Of Morning, which was engineered, recorded and mixed by Vijay Tellis-Nayak…Kevin Fort worked on Red Gold, which was recorded, mixed and mastered by Tellis-Nayak…The Nile Project worked on new material, with Miller engineering…The studio also recently upgraded Control Room A to Pro Tools 10, and Control Room B got a computer upgrade and Pro Tools 11.

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Saint Asonia—a rock “supergroup” featuring lead singer Adam Gontier (formerly of Three Days Grace), guitarist Mike Mushok (Staind, Newsted), bassist Corey Lowery (Dark New Day, Stuck Mojo) and drummer Rich Beddoe (formerly of Finger 11)—worked on their debut record on Sony/RCA, with Johnny K producing and engineering, and Matt Dougherty assisting and digital editing. The project was tracked in the Red Room, and vocals were done in the Cadillac Room. Johnny K mixed in the Cadillac Room…Ben Folds and yMusic (classical-pop sextet) are working on a live track for Folds’ new full-length album, which features collaborations with yMusic. The project was tracked in the Red Room and engineered by Johnny K, with Gena Johnson assisting…Unlocking the Truth are tracking and mixing their debut record on Sony. The project was produced and mixed (in the Cadillac Room) by Johnny K and engineered by Johnny K and Kevin Germain, with digital editing by Dougherty…Urge Overkill worked on their new full-length album, with Johnny K producing (as well as the band), and vocal tracking and mixing by Johnny K in the Cadillac Room…The Art of Dying did production and rehearsing at Groovemaster for their new tour with Apocolyptica…Kobra and the Lotus worked on a  special project to be released this summer, which was produced by Johnny K, engineered by Johnny K and Jasio Kulakowski. The project was tracked in the Red Room, and vocals and mixing were done in the Cadillac Room…Cilver is tracking their debut record, with Leon Lyazidi producing, Johnny K executive producing and mixing, and Chris Kress and Johnny K engineering. The project was tracked in the Red Room, and vocal tracking and mixing was done in the Cadillac Room. 

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Tony Allen was with the Chicago Afrobeat Project in Studio A, with Kevin Ford producing (CAbP also produced) and Ford and Xavier Galdon engineering…Phil Cohran Group was in Studio A, with Malik Cohran producing and Ford and Galdon engineering…Cornmeal worked on their album Slow Street in Studio A, with the band producing and Ford engineering…Killah Priest worked on various singles for Revolutionary Music in Studio A, with Bryan Ford producing and Kevin Ford engineering…The Main Squeeze worked in Studio A on “Jungle Land” and “Comes a Time,” with the band producing, and Kevin Ford engineering (Ford also produced)…Fullerton recently acquired a Kimball La Petite grand piano, a Dave Smith Instruments Prophet ‘08 analog synth, and a Nord Lead 4D keyboard.  

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Gravity Studios collaborated with Memphis-based Visible Music College to record, mix, and master a five-song EP to launch their band’s national tour in summer 2015. Band members from Visible’s Chicago campus and Visible’s record label, Madison Line Records, came to Gravity in April. Gravity engineer, Sam Fell, was the primary recording engineer, and studio owner/producer/engineer Doug McBride co-produced, mixed and mastered the EP...Gravity’s mastering clientele continues to expand, with new clients from Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazol, Portugal, Nigeria and the Congo.