From left: Todd Rundgren, Elliot Easton, Mark Linett and Prairie Prince.
Engineer/producer/mixer Mark Linett and the New Cars—Elliot Easton and Greg Hawkes from the original band in addition to Todd Rundgren, drummer Prairie Prince and singer/bassist Kasim Sulton—set up shop at Sound Stage in Burbank, Calif. for three days of rehearsal in front of an invitation-only live audience in January. "They are going out on tour, so we did a live recording to hear how things were coming together, as well as to record a live album," Linett explains.
The New Cars performed a handful of hit Cars songs, including "Just What I Needed," "Best Friend's Girl" and "Drive," as well as three new songs titled "Not Tonight," "Warm" and "More." The tracks will be available on an 18-song release titled It's Alive, which is due for release on June 6.
Linett turned to a rack full of API 312s that were modified to be slot-mounted along with the original version of the 312s that use the 2520s in a remote system. "It's not the most mobile of racks, but it's worth the hassle of hauling around a rack that weights about 175 pounds," he says with a laugh. "We have about 48 of the 312s in the rack. I just like the way they sound. It's what I've always used."
In addition to the New Cars gigs, Linett has recently used his API system on remote dates for the Isley Brothers, Hawthorne Heights, Nada Surf and Brian Wilson projects that include the Live At The Roxy Theatre album, the Pet Sounds Live DVD and CD and the SmiLE DVD and CD. He also mixed Wilson's SmiLE, Gettin' In Over My Head and What I Really Want For Christmas, the singer's most recent Christmas album, at his home studio.
While many of the projects that Linett works on start outside, most come back to his home studio, which is based around what he describes as an upgraded API 2488 console that started life as a simple 24-input stock black console. Over the years, Linett and the console's previous owners have adapted it to add more inputs and additional echo returns.
"The last big change I made came when I commissioned entirely new input modules for the board, which would give me everything that I wanted," Linett says. "So, now I have 12 echo sends and three stereo buses that are all switchable." The board now features 44 550A discrete 3-band EQs, four 560 discrete 10-band graphic EQs and a handful of 525 discrete compressors.
Building a studio around the API console was important, Linett explains, "because I am not a believer of mixing in the box. Even as I've graduated from [having] no Pro Tools to having a Pro Tools system for ancillary work, to a full-blown Pro Tools HD system, I still treat it as a tape recorder and I use the console for mixing.
"So, even some of these bigger projects where I have up to 62 channels of Pro Tools playing back, we'll sum a few things down, but I'll still bring it up on the API as individual channels and mix that way," he continues. "I've never heard a digital summing system in a box that seems to work quite right. Maybe I'm old school, but I like to think of Pro Tools as a big, fancy, ultimate tape machine that will do all the things that a tape recorder can't."