JESSUP, MARYLAND – MAY 2011: Proof that analog audio is a powerful force in the digital age, the Foo Fighters’ recent analog effort, Wasting Light, debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart last month. The album, which moved more than 235,000 copies in its first week, was recorded and mixed completely on a 32-channel API 1608 console in frontman Dave Grohl’s untreated garage and spare room. Although many consoles would have fit Grohl’s spacing and input requirements, the API 1608 and its sixteen-channel expander stood out as the perfect mix of uncompromising professionalism, flexible topology and functional size.
“The API sound is great for rock,” said Wasting Light producer Butch Vig. “It’s not subtle and it’s not soft. When you turn the gain up on an EQ, you can really hear it. It’s musical. We drove the 1608
and colored the album with the pleasing sound of its subtle distortion.”
After the group decided on the recording desk, album engineer James Brown requested that the console’s 500-series expansion slots be filled with sixteen API 550A three-band EQs, eight API 500B four-band EQs and eight 560 graphic EQs.
“I’ve always loved the API sound,” said Brown. “I grew up as an engineer on a pair of API consoles back at RAK Studios in England. The sound is very open and musical. Heading into the project, I was glad to have the API sound as a known quantity. Also, I knew it would withstand the heavy workload day in and day out.”
According to Vig and Brown, Grohl deliberately avoided any digital recording, mixing or mastering for reasons in addition to the sound quality. He desired an honest shift in production techniques. Grohl wanted to avoid the urge to “tweak and shift and polish” and to no longer rely on editing to fix any less-than-great takes, which meant a revival of the all-tape-based production techniques the Foo Fighters had used in its early years. They described their recording process as “challenging, yet inspiring.”
Although the original plan was to mix the final recordings on an automated console at a large studio, the band had become accustomed to the lively mixes Brown was generating on the 1608 throughout the tracking process. “After four or five mixes on the other console, Dave said, ‘yeah, these mixes sound good, but they don’t sound like the garage anymore,'” said Vig. “So we left the commercial studio behind and returned to the garage and our API 1608.”
Brown noted, “The 1608 had a way of gelling the mixes. I can’t exactly put my finger on why or how, but the reality of it was pretty undeniable. Again, it might come back to the way we ran the board hot and captured some nice, harmonic distortion.”
Critics and Foo Fighters’ fans agree that the end result was completely worth the process. They both continue to praise Wasting Light as the band’s best effort to date as the album holds strong in top positions of numerous Billboard charts.
Larry Droppa, president of API, said, “A project like this reinforces why API continues to do what we do. To be acknowledged for having even a small part in drawing out the creativity of musicians and engineers on such a successful album, gives everyone at API immense personal satisfaction.”
ABOUT API Established more than 40 years ago, Automated Processes, Inc. is the leader in analog recording gear, with the Vision, Legacy Series and 1608 recording consoles, as well as its classic line of modular signal processing equipment.
PHOTO CAPTION Wasting Light, the new Foo Fighters release was tracked by engineer James R. Brown (left) and producer Butch Vig.