LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: A busy recording and touring schedule for Billy Bob Thornton and the Boxmasters left the band’s Grammy-winning engineer/producer/guitarist/bassist, J.D. Andrew, with precious little time to mix their next release – an album of Yuletide tunes on Vanguard entitled “Christmas Cheer.” Luckily, Andrew had a brand new pair of Klein + Hummel O 300 active three-way monitors at his disposal, which, as he explains, were crucial to getting the mix completed in time.
“I wouldn’t have been able to mix that record in three days if I hadn’t had those speakers,” states Andrew, one of three core members of the Boxmasters along with Thornton and guitarist Mike Butler. The trio met in 2007 during the recording of Thornton’s fourth solo album, which was engineered by Andrew, who had previously worked on The Rolling Stones “A Bigger Bang” and Kanye West’s “The College Dropout.”
He adds, “We had rehearsals then three days off before we hit the road, so that’s all the time I had. Luckily I’d recorded everything so I knew the stuff inside and out.”
Billy Bob Thornton and the Boxmasters, a self-styled ‘modbilly’ band that combines the 1960s sounds of the British Invasion and electric hillbilly, have had a busy year since their debut North American tour in the summer of 2007. The band released a seasonal single for Christmas 2007, followed by a double album of covers and original songs, recorded a version of “Little Boxes” for Showtime’s hit series, “Weeds,” and recently embarked on another major U.S. tour. Meanwhile, they have recorded a Christmas album, and already have another album underway to be released in 2009.
It was Robby Scharf, market development manager, western region at Sennheiser, who first introduced Andrew to the K+H monitors, he says. “We had a couple of Neumann mics that needed some help so I contacted the repair department and shortly thereafter Robby called me and brought over a TLM 49 mic for me to try. He also mentioned that Sennheiser now sells K+H monitors. He told me they were great, really flat and really accurate sounding. I got excited about hearing them and began reading about them on online to see what people thought of them. I’d never even heard of them!”
The K+H O 300s were a revelation, declares Andrew. “I could instantly hear everything! It was really easy to balance on them and to see what sort of problem spots I had in my mixes. The depth of field was amazing, as well as the width. It was fantastic to just listen to them. I set them up on the meter bridge and went to town.”
According to Andrew, Thornton liked the fact that the O 300s are natural and revealing, with no coloration. “Billy’s way of putting it,” he says, “was that they still sound ‘raw.’ You’re hearing what you have; not too much low-end or high-end or rolled out mid-range. You’re hearing it really flat and accurate. It was great being able to have them. It made working so much easier.”
“Christmas Cheer” – an ironic title to say the least – features hillbilly covers of songs from the traditional “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” to John Prine’s “Christmas in Prison,” plus three Boxmasters originals. “It’s pretty much the dark side of Christmas,” says Andrew. “Especially this one called ‘Slower Than Christmas.’ It’s about a guy and how Christmas is the worst day of the year for him because his family is so dysfunctional. It’s an upbeat little song about dysfunction!”
“Christmas Cheer” was recorded and mixed at Thornton’s private studio, The Cave.
The current Boxmasters tour extends through September 5th, when the band plays Wasted Space at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas.
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PHOTO CAPTION Billy Bob Thornton and the Boxmasters new Christmas CD “Christmas Cheer” was mixed on a pair K+ H 0 300 D monitors by Grammy Award-winning engineer/producer, and Boxmasters guitarist and backing vocalist, J.D. Andrew (left). Sitting in on the mixing session is Mike Butler (right), lead guitarist for the Boxmasters.