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Frank Zappas' Vault

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by Sean G, Feb 14, 2016.

  1. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    A tour of Franks' Vault where all his original masters are archived.

  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Frank edited his multi masters? Man... he was courageous... or at least very confident of his editing abilities. ;)
  3. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    I know...taking a razor blade to a two inch master...thats brave.

    Its great that his legacy is being preserved...a whole archive dating back to 1955...thats' impressive.

    It was interesting hearing about them using Scotch brand tape, as it stands the test of time, with the comment "we don't have to bake it...", what do they mean by this....?

    - Is it a way of preserving the tape from breaking down...?? I was intrigued by this comment.

    I found a clip from MTV from 1985 where he and a female interviewer were in his basement archive, it made me go searching and I found this video.

    Its like an FZ time capsule. :D
  4. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

  5. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Yeah, tape baking is common with older tape, although as mentioned in the vid you posted, not all tape requires it, no matter how old. Scotch/3M, for whatever reason, had properties to it that made it more stable than other brands when stored for longer periods of time, although I think it's important to mention that any tape can become damaged if not stored correctly... particularly if it's in a humid environment, that's one of the worst enemies of magnetic tape, the other is constant/drastic temperature changes, so that it swells and contracts with the changes. This is why precious masters and mixes are kept in "vaults" where the climate/humidity is controlled.

    But, even stored under controlled conditions, there were some brands of tape that could still suffer from effects of aging.

    Some brands of tape, namely Ampex 456/406 of the mid 70's to mid 80's, suffered from what is now known as "sticky shed", where the Mylar backing would become sticky after absorbing humidity, causing the tape to stick to itself in the layers on the reel, and sometimes, it would even shred off, when put through the pressure of a capstan/pinch roller of the tape machine, not to mention coating your tape head stack with a gluey, sticky mess...

    Baking seems to take care of this, although there have been some cases where it's been bad enough that the masters have been permanently damaged.
  6. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    actually editing 2" multi tracks was not that uncommon. i heard a story once that the Doobie Brothers edited a multi track tape length wise, cutting out and replacing sections of individual tracks. that's brave.
  7. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    Thats a concern, considering the vast array of works that were all recorded on tape from the 1950s' through to the 1980s'.

    I'm sure that many would have been transferred to newer mediums by now, but it is concerning for those masters that may have not have been to date.

    The preservation of those masters, no matter what they are or by who they are, should be first priority in the preservation of our audio history.

    In what I have researched so far, baking allows for the tape to be stabilised for most cases around a week to be able to be transferred or copied. The tape then in most cases returns to its pre-baked state.

    It was also interesting to read that Marie O'Connell who worked in the Radio New Zealand archive came up with a process using Isopropyl Alcohol, where she invented a machine which steadily applies the alcohol onto the tape then wipes it off, helping to remove moisture that brings the urethane molecules to the surface of the tape which gives it that "sticky shed" effect.

  8. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I think I'd be just as concerned about those classic masters that may have many edits/splice points; and having them hold after all these years, when put under the tension/pull of the take-up reel, especially in REW/FF. As was mentioned with some of Zappa's masters, or with something like the original Frankenstein master from Edgar Winters' They Only Come Out At Night. The song was titled as such because it was a slew of takes/jams physically edited together. I'm assuming that after the edits were made, a copy was spun-off of the edited master, to send to the mastering lab for print to vinyl, but, I can't say that this is what they did for sure. For all we know, they still use that original two track edited tape.
  9. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    maybe a little scotch tape to the back of the scotch tape....;)
  10. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    lol... maybe. The splicing tape I used to use was 3M.
  11. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    I tell you D...thats a lost art they don't tech anymore, if rarely.

    When I was in my course in 1991 it was the last days of analog...they taught us how to splice, but as you very well know, theres' no room for error.
  12. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I spliced more 2 track 1/4" masters than I could ever count... and a few 1/2" and 1" multi-masters as well, although that was far less common.

    I remember having my blade, my splicing tape, my white grease pencil; sitting the tape in the block and making cuts and splices for hours on end...
    I got to be very good at it, too.... almost a second-nature kind of process. It got to be where I didn't even need to really think about what I was doing, like turning on a light.

    If I were to have to do it today, I bet old muscle-memory function would kick in, like riding a bike - and I could be just as quick with it now as I was then. ;)
  13. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    I envy you Donny, I could imagine myself making a thousand mistakes and end up with splices and splicing tape from assh@le to breakfast time....:ROFLMAO:

    Or finding I had spliced either too early or too late leading to a terrible edit...I dunno, give me a DAW with a zoom and an edit tool any day !!! (y)
  14. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    It reminds me of a documentary I saw here in Oz not too long ago, called Blood & Thunder - The Story Of Alberts...

    Its based on the emergence of the Albert Studios & Record label here in Australia, run by Mr Ted Albert.

    Alberts were responsible for the majority of great rock acts that came out of Australia in the past 50 years, including AC/DC.

    George Young (older brother of Angus & Malcolm Young) & Harry Vanda joined Alberts as producers after their time in The Easybeats, Shes' So Fine being one of their hits from the 60s'.

    George & Harry, tired of trying to find good session drummers that could keep impecable time, decided that they would cut their own drum loops on tape, and were often seen walking around the studio many a day with 4 foot lengths of tape around their shoulders. They even had a wall of hooks with miles of lengths of tape of just drum tracks hanging in the control room.

    One such act they produced that went on to international fame was John Paul Young with his hit Love Is In The Air. The drum track in that particular song was actually of their tape loops. The song has since been covered over 300 times such was the success of the original, with covers by artists such as Shirley Bassey.

    To think we take for granted being able to produce a drum loop so easily today, yet George & Harry were doing it with tape nearly 50 years ago.

    I'd love to link the documentary, but its not on YT as yet as it was only aired recently.

    Its a daggy song, but you will get the idea.

  15. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Oh, don't get me wrong, pal ... I'm not saying I miss that part of the old days... I'd rather use digital editing any day of the week...
    But if I were put into a position where I had to physically cut/splice tape, I'm sure I could still do it without much thought.

    I remember that song very well... and I can hear the loop on that meringue rhythm. In fact, I think I can hear an edit... at :13, and again at :44 ... it's presenting itself as a quick double-strike on the 16th notes in the tambourine, and the kick being pushed against the 1 by just a scoodge...

    I doubt anyone but an engineer or musician would hear it. It certainly didn't effect it's success.

    It was a pretty big hit here in The States on AOR radio in the 70's.
  16. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    Heres' George & Harry with their ongoing studio project - Flash N The Pan...their song Down Among The Dead Men & Hey St Peter

    Notice the family resemblance to Angus ?

  17. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    You can pick it...
  18. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Only because I've done so many edits I can't begin to remember or count. It was a daily thing in the studio for me for the 12 year period I was using tape... and, because I'm a drummer, I can hear the push against the 1. ;)
  19. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    Editing by todays' standards is so much easier...just hit undo and you are back to square one...I couldn't imagine trying to repair a dodgy tape edit...once its cut its cut.

    But I suppose as you say Donny, doing it every day you would develop a knack for it....knowing the spot where to edit when you heard it.
  20. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Which is why you, in the beginning stage of learning, you should always cut a little bit before you think you should... it's always easier to cut more off than it is to try to add it back after a bad cut. ;)

    Don't take me wrong, Sean, like most any engineer of my era, the first few times I did razor editing, I screwed up big time, which is why my instructor had me practicing on a throw-away 1/4" copy of a master, many times before I did it for real.

    The first time I had to do it for real, on a real master, I was shakin' in my shoes. And the Producer was looking over my shoulder... It was a lot like when I was 5 and my Grand-Dad had taken the training wheels off my bike for the very first time, and I was at the top of a really big hill... ( which really happened ;) ).

    But, I did it perfectly. Although, I'm not so sure that the producer wasn't aware that it was my first time on a real master tape.
    I think he was... because after I rolled the edit and it played fine, he kinda let out a breath of relief as he said, "oookay, good...now, let's go to this point..." ;)
  21. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    I imagine you would have to keep that grease pencil nice and sharp so you don't miss the mark
  22. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    actually, after awhile, I got good enough to where I could just eyeball it without the pencil... but that took a few years. ;)

    It's like anything else you'd do repetitively... the more you do it the easier it gets.

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