MIXER JAMEY STAuB AND BLuES EXPLoSIoN'SRuSSELL SIMINS FIND BALANCE AT ASToRIA LouNGEArtists and engineers often talk how important a tight relationship can be, but it's hard to beat the symbiotic union of engineer Jamey Staub and Russell Simins, drummer in the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. The name of their production team says it all: Separated at Birth.
"We named it that because we're exactly the same age, born the same day, same year and we're both drummers," says Staub. He shares a September 27, 1962, birthday with Simins, who throws in: "We have a similar vision. It's kind of a religious experience."
That preternatural friendship sustained the pair while they worked for the past two years on their latest project, in between Simins' touring commitments and Staub's work with Everlast and Run-D.M.C. The as-yet-untitled recording (which will be released in March by Grand Royal) picks up where the pair left off with Butter 08, which featured the Blues Explosion and Cibo Matto and production by Staub. The record includes sample-fueled, hip hop-inflected dance numbers as well as trad rock and acoustic ballads written, performed and programmed by Staub and Simins, with contributions by Beastie Boy Mike D, former Luscious Jackson keyboardist Vivian Trimble and Skeleton Key's Rick Lee.
For most of the project, the duo retreated to Staub's Astoria, N.Y., project studio, Astoria Lounge, where the engineer can be found when he isn't working at Greene Street Recording, Chung King or RPM. Amid the blue paneling and '50s decor of the basement studio, the pair have remixed or done pre-production for singles by Stereolab, Luscious Jackson and Asian Dub Foundation. The garage that once housed two cars is now a live room. The tile bathroom also gives good live sound, and the 30-by-25 control room, which is on a separate circuit, does double-duty as the laundry room for Staub's living quarters upstairs.
Staub seems to have crammed a lot of gear into the space. It houses a full-blown 24-bit Pro Tools MIX Plus system with Logic Audio Platinum, a Mark of the unicorn digital timepiece, and a MIDI Timepiece II. He also owns a Tascam DA-98, an Akai 4-track hard disk recorder, as well as a Mackie 16-channel 1604 mixing console. other equipment includes Avalon 737s, JoeMeek and dbx compressors, a DX72, Juno 106 sound modules, a Roland JV880 and Genelec 1030 monitors.
Since Staub is a drummer, it's not surprising he has a few tricks up his sleeve when it comes to remixing rhythm tracks. "A lot of times when I do a mix for someone and I don't like the drums, I'll sample the drums that are there and make them work more to my liking," he says. "I always like to make sure the drums are hitting hard, sound big."
He also got a rep for mixing rock and hip hop. Must be his Libran sense of judgment. "I think the trick is just finding the right balance between all the elements. You just do it until it feels right," he says. "I also think I'm very good at taking a track that has a lot of material, picking and choosing what to use when and where."