Tag Archives: recording music

Studios In Which We Have Recorded part 3. Red Eye Studios (1999)

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We are heading into our first professional studio in nearly 20 years in January 2019 so we are looking back at our previous experiences before we went DIY.

The end of the 90’s was a strange time for four musicians who loved their rock. Grunge was long gone, rock was out of fashion (again) and Britpop was now a bloated mess of champagne and coke. Everyone apart from the general public were panicking about the millennium bug.

The band was drifting, by now we were treading water, turning up every Wednesday to play some tunes then we would head home for another week. We were no longer playing gigs or making any attempt to promote the band. We were writing songs though, a lot of songs, now we were away from the ‘classic’ Weird setup, I was full time on rhythm guitars.

After the slightly disappointing second return to Split Level we decided to look for a new studio to record some new tracks. I can’t even remember how we booked the place.

Located in Clydebank, just a short walk from the river is Red Eye Studios, an unassuming single story brick building which seem tacked on the old Clydebank Cooperative. Like many studios it’s not obvious that a fully functioning music studio is set up inside.

Greg drove the first day, I had my license by this time but Greg always seemed to find himself behind the wheel in the early days. We arrived at the studio, rather excited to what lay ahead and this time we were prepared. Derek and I would return for a second day of mixing. So here we look back at our session in this studio.  

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Stu looks dejected in the practise room as we struggle to finish Cold Home Street.

Pabs

I thought the studio didn’t look like much when we arrived but this is normal, its whats inside that counts. I couldn’t wait to see inside. I was now getting an increasing enthusiasm for sound engineering. We walked in and there was a long corridor, the guy met us and took us into the control room. We were met by a large control desk and a window that looked into the live room. It was a fairly big room, I think we did all the drums in there, in fact everything. There was no vocal booth or anything like that.

We picked three songs to record. ‘I Tried to Fly’, ‘Hope’ and ‘Sun Shines Brighter’. They were probably our most ‘pop’ sounding songs, quite far removed from the heavier rock we had done previously. They were fairly easy arrangements and pretty straight forward to record. Even when I recorded the vocals I didn’t go for the louder vocals, my style was changing, looking back it kind of lacked the passion that I usually have

I always thought the guitars sounded a wee bit tinny, a bit thin, but we didn’t really cause a fuss, I was starting to wonder if we’d be able to record our own music. On reflection I think my setup didn’t help either.

By the end of the day the only thing left to record was the backing vocals, Stu headed through and started singing the backing vocals to Hope, is quite a high key. There is a bit at the end, ‘la la la la laaaaa’ or something as we head towards the finale of the song. The music was blaring and I looked up, Stu was in the room singing his heart out. I looked back at the desk listening to the rough mix when suddenly the singing stopped. I looked back up and Stu was gone! We all rushed out of the control room, into the live area and there was Stu face planted into the sofa with the music blaring through the ear phones. He’d passed out, it was for a couple of seconds and then he was back up, if a little stunned.  

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I looked up and Stu was nowhere to be seen!

Stu

I remember Bo driving me home after I passed out, my heart was still racing and he drove like a racing driver!

Greg

Ah the days when I had a (relatively) fast car..

Pabs

Greg’s love of cars and big exhausts goes back a long way.

Greg

For Redeye we recorded it all one day but only Pabs and Deek went back for the mixing and mastering. I seem to remember Pabs getting excited about a snare ring?

Derek

For some reason Pabs and myself went back through, just the two of us to finish the mix, was it the Monday? I remember listening to it in Pabs old Toyota on the way home marvelling at the reverb on his vocal at the end of Sun Shines Brighter like we just invented vocal reverb!!

Pabs

I remember the mixing of ‘I Tried to Fly’ the engineer had everything panned centre apart from the toms of the drums, so they really stuck out. The bass had a nice tone, the guitars tone was not too bad although having them all panned centre meant the tracks lacked stereo width. So when it came to Hope I asked the guy to pan the guitars, it did make a difference. I found it strange that I had to ask for this, it was another step to the bands eventual hiatus, we were just letting things pass over our head. I think these songs would have sounded brilliant had we not settled for these mixes. Maybe the sound engineer thought we just wanted a demo, I’m not sure. Maybe the guy was just starting out, you have to remember this was twenty years ago.

We didn’t go back to Red Eye studios, the songs were used on the album ‘Coldhome Street’ an album that arguably proved to be our weakest. This wasn’t the studios fault, we had kind of lost out way at this point, this is the only album that we haven’t released on digital distribution but it can be found on Bandcamp.

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I’ve always had a soft spot for Coldhome Street, despite its sound. Pabs

Red Eye looks like it is still going strong today, judging by the photos it looks well kitted out with rehearsal rooms and the studio is well connected with the local scene. We still had lots of ideas that we wanted to put down for our third album so it was back to the yellow pages to see if we could find another studio. One caught my eye in Stirling.

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Recording Weird Decibels 2

Recording Continued after Springfield

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The trusty Korg D3200, love it.

You can read about the Springfield session here parts one, two and three . Looking back I’d happily go back there again with more knowledge and perhaps record only the drums and bass along with basic rhythm guitar parts. Time was never on our side and this was often when the mistakes were made.

The recording desk.

Released in the UK in 2006 the Korg D3200 was and still is a classic multi-tracker. By chance there was a music auction where my wife Kirsty works, I put a cheeky bid in for it and it was mine.

In reality it is a fairly basic machine that’s delivered reasonable results. We recorded the album on the desk highest sample rate of 48kHz and 24 bits. Higher quality that a CD but it falls short of what you can achieve on a typical DAW running Pro Tools etc. (digital audio workstation).

The beauty of the Korg was how cheap it was and the number of mic inputs, 12, for simultaneous recording. This allowed us to have 10 mics on the drums and a couple on the bass.

Rightly or wrongly the Korg was used for recording, mixing and mastering. This album as not recorded with Pro Tools etc.

Substantial planning went into preparation for the album, its predecessor had taken nearly a year to mix and master. We were determined not to make the same mistakes, to a certain extent we didn’t, we just made new ones.

From the early mixes I could hear that the drums sounded great in the big room. I had the option for a direct sound or allow some room spill to add a bit of air to the album. The bass came out fairly well, with a mixture of cabin and DI. To this day I’m not sure how effective it was but I found a good sound quickly.

Happy with the drums and bass I had a listen to Stu’s guitar and here was where I realised that I had made a big mistake.

Bad Angles

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One of the many mic setups. We should’ve called it a day after the drums and bass and came back to this fresh.

I remember the afternoon that I turned to Greg and asked if the Stu’s guitars sounded too bassy. As he tapped the A and B buttons on the Saturn controller trying to break Derek’s numerous Athlete King records he didn’t seem to think so but to be fair he had been playing the bass all day. I had tired ears as well but something wasn’t sitting right. Against my instincts I decided to keep the mic in place (it was probably too close to the grill) and recorded his guitars.

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Greg beats Derek’s Athlete Kings records AGAIN

Back in the studio I wrestled with this frequency for weeks; the mixes were starting to build though. Then came in the indecisiveness.

The vocals recorded at the lodge were a mixed bag. Some sounded really good while others sounded weak. For months we would take the desk down to the practice room and re-record them. Then one afternoon while listening to the ever present influence; Nevermind I heard Kurt’s doubled vocals and decided that would be the key. Eventually double vocals would play a big part in WdB2

Overdubs were next. A few parts of acoustic guitar were added. Sitting back over the whole project there were a few songs that, to my horror, started to sound poor compared to others. Quoted didn’t feel right at all.

I removed the ‘Springfield’ vocals and my guitars and completely re-recorded them in the home studio much to the delight of my neighbours. I had nothing to lose with Quoted so I free styled some distorted guitars in the style of Nirvana; then I added a voice changer to the vocals and recorded the newly written lyrics. Mixing this song was fun, a few automation tricks were used to enhance the middle of the song to build up to the crescendo

Greg had made a mistake just before the end, I couldn’t cut and paste a clean part so I left it out. The part without the bass sounded brilliant (no offence Greg!), it added so much to the build when the bass comes back in.

The Morningday Effect

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Its morning and I have coffee and I must mix

It’s hard to explain exactly what happened halfway through the recording of this album.Springfield was weeks behind us, the drums and bass were in place. The guitars were touch and go, the vocals were hot and cold.

I was getting fed up with the shouty vocals. Morningday had done reasonably well and for some reason I tried to merge the two music paths which in reality should have remained separate.

The albums balance began to veer towards quiet vocals peppered with acoustic guitar. Medicine was the biggest casualty of this.

I was unhappy with the my original distorted guitar, it swamped the verses and sounded awful so I recorded an acoustic guitar and some guitar vocals and sat with that for a while. On it’s own it sounded OK but within the album it didn’t sit. Weird Decibels 2 was becoming unfocused.

I remember walking out of Camelon Tesco with a couple of bottles of red heading towards Stu and Lisa’s for a wine night, I had my headphones on. The album just didn’t sound good at all.

This was a real low point. The money spent on the cottage, the hours spent recording, re-recording and mixing seemed to be in vain. Every time I saw the guys they’d ask how it was going, it was hard for me to admit that WdB2 wasn’t working. But it’s amazing what just a few changes can make…

I ditched nearly all the changes I had made. The Medicine acoustics were scrapped and replaced with chunky Soundgarden like distortion that was like the original riff but more control. I added double tracked vocals at a higher octave and screamed my lungs out for the ending.

Feeling choruses, the vocals were shortened and more punchy. Sorted

I took the decision to drop Smash the Glass entirely (it is now a B side to Kill it Kill it), the band supported me on this…just.

Curtain hits the cast, end vocals doubled up to epicicity (new word)

Suddenly the album, albeit short, was now leaner and far more focused.

Then there was the Dancer…

The dancer changed a few times, clean guitars were replaced with finger picked acoustic, subtle backing vocals were added. Stu’s acoustic pedal recording didn’t fit so I sample it, delayed it, reversed it and made it sound like rain to fit with the lyrics. It worked. Stu then dubbed acoustic over the verses.

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Stu, is a patient guy. Most of the time (has the odd fall out with cars). Here he is laying the new guitars for The Dancer

The ending vocals were doubled. The Dancer went from filler to single.

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Setting a deadline was a mistake.

Mixing was still in full flow, mastering was near. I felt happy to announce a deadline date. Something I hadn’t done before. It was mistake and cost us nearly six months and I almost walked away…