Engineer George S. Rosenthal’s parents assembled a demo studio in their live/work warehouse in the late ’70s, when the elder Rosenthals were musicians in the city’s punk and experimental music scenes. Rosenthal has pursued a recording career, and gradually has transformed the space into a pro facility called The Complex SF.
He recently tracked the alt-rocking Stone Foxes’ latest, Twelve Spells. “Initially, the idea was just to get their demos sounding as good as possible so they could shop them to labels and producers,” Rosenthal says. “But we realized, they have such great ideas, they didn’t really need anyone giving them overarching aesthetic decisions; they just needed help to maximize what they were already going for. They ended up making the whole album here.”
One of the hallmarks of Twelve Spells is the great overdriven ’60s punk sound of Shannon Koehler’s vocals: “When they play live, Shannon usually has a bullet harmonica mic going through a small amp [to get that sound], but we weren’t having good luck capturing that in the studio,” Rosenthal says. “Instead, we ended up recording with two mics, an Electro-Voice 664A going straight to a Silvertone amp, and a Peluso 251—a clean large-diaphragm tube condenser. The Silvertone had nice clarity but also the drive we needed.
“On some songs, we also used a guitar pedal on his voice that I had bought as a teenager: a Boss 59 Bassman emulator. One day when we were testing out the vocal drive solutions, we threw it into the chain and it got a great vocal quality. I don’t think we used it every time, but I know Shannon wanted to buy that pedal off me for a while.”