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Sound City

Discussion in 'Recording' started by audiokid, Dec 20, 2015.

  1. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I think I posted this once, but seeing it again, I couldn't resist.
    Bryan Adams studio has one of those 4 Neve's. I have a nice picture of me sitting at it.

    Did anyone here see that movie?

    DonnyThompson and kmetal like this.
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Repeatedly LOL.

    3 times I think. Maybe 4.
  3. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Enjoyed it a lot. Of course I never worked at that level with artists that famous, but it still took me back to a time that I could personally relate to, when we all shared similar studio memories and workflows, and when musicians actually played together. ;)
  5. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    It was great to see that amazing Neve console live on
  6. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Saw it a while ago. For a guy who could have easily retired and hung on to his nirvana fame, Dave Grohl really stays busy and productive. Neves are still the sound of rock and roll imo. They will stand the test of time over their ssl counterparts. Mainly because the ssl was all about workflow and speed, which daws pick up where they left off. Neve is regarded for its sonics, which current technology has yet to truly match, especially in digital/daw form.

    The coolest thing about the whole video is that they still use the console. While it's certainly museum worthy, it's just not as fun to look at as play with. Droooooooling. ;)
    Sean G likes this.
  7. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I did love the section on the reclamation of the Neve. As an engineer, I really enjoyed that part of the movie. There's certainly no doubt that Neve made a major contribution to the sound of classic rock.

    But ... as a musician, arranger and a producer, for me, the biggest enjoyment of the movie, was watching ( and remembering) what it was like to record in those days; when musicians actually worked, played, and recorded together.

    We don't see enough of that anymore; as technology has put mini-recording studios into nearly everyone's basements and spare bedrooms, ( too many of them being people who have no business playing or recording to begin with) with workflows centered so much on one person doing it all. It's great that we can work that way - to get ideas down, refine a song and to work out arrangements, but unfortunately, so very often we end up recording finished product that way, too. And in doing it that way, we're missing out on the vibe, the magic, the feel that can only really happen when you get a group of great players working together, each contributing in their own way(s) to the goal of serving a great song on the whole.

    Records used to be made this way. Any alternate method wasn't really even discussed, because that way just worked. It was proven, it had a successful track ( no pun intended) record. Whether it was an orchestra backing up one of the famous 50's crooners, or a rock, blues, country or jazz band all playing together, or a group of session cats laying down instrumental backing for a vocal group, there was a certain magic that resulted from an ensemble of great musicians playing at the same time. Groove and pocket came far more naturally, as opposed to it being "forced" or "programmed". And sometimes, little mistakes, those "whoops" moments that were thought to be clams, turned out to be gold. You can't get those kinds of things by doing it all by yourself; you're missing the "magic dust" that comes with hearing how other musicians might approach a part, or the culmination of what a group does. Certainly, the gear was important in order to capture performances in the best ways, but make no mistake, it was the human element that made the best music. Gear doesn't write and perform great music, humans do. ;)

    When I was calling in session players for this most recent album, I really gave them a free artistic range to work from. I never told them what I wanted them to play. I might have let them know if there was a certain section I didn't much care for, but it was never due to a specific thing, it was always about how their part was fitting in and working with the rest of the song. And, most of the time, if they played something that didn't quite work, they ended up telling me they wanted to do it over before I had a chance to tell them.

    Personally, I never saw ( and still don't see) the point in calling in a particular musician or group of musicians, and based on liking what I'd heard them do on previous works, not letting them be that person or group that I hired.

    I called them in because I wanted their approach, their style, their translations to a certain part. There would have been no point in me hiring them to come in, and then explaining to them in great detail as to what I wanted them to play, note for note.
    If I was gonna do that, I'd just have done it myself, and I didn't want to do that. I wanted the album to show artistic diversity. I wanted those different flavors and styles and nuances and tones; those things that you can only get by working with other talented artists.

    So, I'd set them up, get them comfortable, and let them warm up to the playback as much as they wanted, ( but I was always recording... always. ;) ). I let the player decide how many takes they wanted to do, I let them do certain things over if they wanted, I might suggest certain things, but I would never order them to do anything.

    Not one of those 12 or so players ever gave us less than their all. Not one of them "phoned it in". They gave fantastic performances, that served and benefitted the songs in wonderful ways.
    (Of course, you need to hire talented players, who have the ability to contribute in a positive way... and, you need to marry the right player to the right song, too).

    The album would have turned out to be mediocre - at best - had Terry and I taken on the responsibility of playing everything ourselves. It turned out to be a good album ( and a fun one to work on too) because we had such talented players contributing.

    IMHO of course.
    kmetal likes this.
  8. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    That's a good set of points. Like so many people in my generation I started recording myself and my bands and my friends bands, in basements practice spaces and bedrooms. when I started at the studio there was coworkers and assistance involved, and I was very wary of giving up my "absolute control" I had one working by myself as I never mixed with another individual or had somebody else set up at mic. I was very apprehensive about this at first, but I learned to see the upsides of being able to just doublecheck levels, bounce arrangement ideas, and have somebody else do the punch ins well I focused on the performance itself. Well I still prefer to mix by myself in a dark room my apprehension was simply wasted energy and I've grown to like working with other engineers on my projects. We just always reach an agreement that whoever brings in the project has the final say. Overall I think the results have been beneficial, and is always a new trick to be learned.
  9. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    I couldn't agree more Donny.

    The big takeaways from all the great documentaries that have cropped up over these last few years [Sound City, Muscle Shoals, Wrecking Crew, Motown / Funk Brothers] should be. It's about musical-chemistry and a good song. A great piece of gear in a great room is nice, an engineer/producer who knows how to maximize what they've got (whatever that may be) is even better. Some of the tracking rooms were pretty unremarkable, but they've got something special out of them over and over again. Some of the greatest session players in the world knew they might have to play dozens of takes before they'd get one that was greater than the sum of the parts. Sometimes a third-party producer/engineer can hear that magic take better than the musicians. There is no substitute for great players who have played together often enough to do the musicians'-mind-meld. It's difficult to ruin a good song with a bad recording, it's nearly impossible to make a lousy song sound good - no matter how immaculate the recording is. And what you call a trombone player with a beeper…..
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  10. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Amen., Hawk.

    I need to clarify that I love digital. Modern technology has given us fantastic tools, and capabilities that would have otherwise been inaccessible to those of us who are serious musicians and writers, and who like to record our own songs.
    There are other not-so-good sides to it, too ... obviously some parts that are not as attractive; in that this same technology has also given easy access to those who really have no business writing, recording and releasing music. ( I'm not an elitist, I just don't consider the process of editing, copying and pasting pre-recorded loops, drum tracks and performances to be "music" or art). These same people who are relying on the technology as a substitute for talent; and while digital recording can offer a lot of good things, it can't "make you" a great writer or musician. For as many great tools as digital provides, there is no such thing as an "MMNS" ( Make Me Not Suck) command on any DAW.

    Yeah, there's pitch and phrase/rhythmic correction, but those things can't replace the true talent and skill that comes from within a talented artist, someone who has honed their craft on whatever instrument they play, someone who has dedicated and disciplined themselves to rising above mediocrity.

    But, the "good old days" weren't always all that good, either ... there were some things about that time that I have no desire to return to; the cost of tape, aligning tape machines, replacing console mods, fighting the ever-present SNR, editing with a grease pencil and a razorblade ... I have no problems with using modern technology in these newer and better ways to achieve the best fidelity possible. And, we had our fair share of "hacks" and completely untalented people then, too... the only real difference now, is that we have a global vehicle from which more crap can be heard - but that doesn't mean that the same amount of untalented wanna-bee's didn't exist then, too. Record store cut-out bins used to be choked with 45 singles of vanity presses, albums too, of some of the worst music, performances and recordings imaginable.

    We just didn't hear quite as much of it then as we do now, because in those days it wasn't all that cheap to have a song recorded and pressed, never mind having it distributed so that it could be heard by people other than just your family and friends, so the expense tended to weed-out more of those who were terrible; whereas today, it doesn't cost anything - other than the cost of a computer ( which nearly everyone has anyway), a cheap mic, a cheap I/O, and a basic DAW platform, to record and upload a song, so there's just more garbage available... but there's no more or less the number of untalented people out there. We had just as many then as we do now.

    The one thing, the most important thing, IMO, that we seemed to have drifted away from - that we should have held onto for dear life - was what you and I have mentioned... the magic that happens with a group of talented people.
    A great song, a great arrangement... This is The Human Element - the natural "drift" in vocal pitch, that one note on guitar, or that one drum fill that wasn't planned, but that ended up being awesome, the emotion, the soul ... the contribution of group of talented individuals - including a great engineer and/or producer, all coming together for the sake of the song, adding their own individual talents; the chops styles, and personal nuances that differ just enough to make the difference between a "good" song and recording - and a great song and recording. It doesn't always take much, either. But it does take talented humans.
    A console doesn't create a groove, a drum machine doesn't play in the pocket, or come up with an impromptu but awesome fill, a sample doesn't perform a great take, and a DAW doesn't write an awesome song...

    Humans do. ;)
    kmetal likes this.
  11. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    One thing a lot of bands miss, is the fact that they can record much much faster when the basic tracks are layed down live. They can do an ep worth of bed tracks in a weekend. Yeah it might be twice the hourly rate of a basement studio, but overdubbing each instrument isn't exactly quick. It's not as much fun either for me as the engineer either. I prefer to record live no headphones with my bands. Even in a practice space with no massive walls. It's just more natural, it's how we play at shows and at practice every week.
    Sean G likes this.
  12. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I love the part in the film where Grohl is interviewing Sir Rupert Neve, who is trying to explain to Grohl about preamps and transformer construction...
    And Grohl, his face as blank as a deer in the headlights, VO's over the top of the scene, "he must not know that I dropped out of school..." LOL.
    kmetal likes this.
  13. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    I'm getting pretty sick of hearing the, "it's bad because all these people who have no business recording are recording," complaint, followed followed by pining for the good old days.

    No. It's good that people who have no business recording can stand up in front of a mic and suck. It's good that people can fix their pitch issues with a computer. It's good that everybody can do it, and not just people with enough discretionary cash. Yes, they/we suck, but that's okay, because a)it's great fun to create music, even if you suck, and b) the people who don't suck will still rise to the top as much as they ever did, and c) every now and again, someone who never before in history could have even dreamed of producing their own music might just come out of the crowd and be great, because they had access to the tools.

    I was a photographer in the 80's, when my Hasselblad cost $10K, and we had to pull a Polaroid and wait 60 seconds to find out what happened. And then digital came along, and its arc parallels that of music exactly. Suddenly everybody was a photographer, and had access to tools we could have only dreamed about.

    And it is good. Now everybody can create, shoot, edit, learn. They can enhance their images, fix their issues, and learn how to make better images. They're having a hell of a lot of fun. They can in some cases create a better image than the trained photographers. So it is good, and they have every right to do it without some old timer showing up and peeing on their parade.

    End of rant. Back to your regularly scheduled program.

    Yes, Sound City was a hoot, if only as a 90 minute advertisement for Foo Fighters and Dave Grohl. I especially was surprised that this little company scraped together 75K in 1972 dollars(or whatever it was) to buy a Neve built sound board, when you'd think there were other places a fledgling studio would have used it for.

    My two red pills.
  14. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I take it that you don't do this for a living...

    You've neglected to mention that many of these people who have no business recording are opening up "commercial studios", and are drastically undercutting the rates of professionals who are very good at what they do, using professional gear, with years of experience... all of which adds up to a quality that Joe Blow and his Tascam pre, Samson USB mic, a free copy of S1, and a folder filled with cracked plugs can't deliver - but that doesn't matter, because he's only 8 bucks an hour. They are also flooding the world with recordings that sound like crap, lowering the bar of quality to the lowest possible common denominator, but that's okay too, because the client only paid a hundred bucks for ten songs.

    You can be sick of hearing it ... your opinion is duly noted, and given the proper amount of respect and weight sufficient to your own extensive experience as a professional commercial recording facility engineer and owner.

    IMHO of course.
    - "old timer".
  15. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    Well somebody has to fill the quota on all those reality singing shows...:ROFLMAO:
  16. ric3xrt

    ric3xrt Active Member

    recorded this at Soundcity, was done for a Marshall Amp Contest...... I was lucky enough to record with two of my bands, once in 87 and then again with a new band in 88, place smelled like the back room at CBGB's but it was fun, I did some hired gun work there in 05, Miss the place. Where there better sounding places , yeap...but it was a piece of history.
    kmetal likes this.
  17. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Pretty freakin cool man!!
  18. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Well, from what I've heard and read about, SC had its own vibe, its own "sound"... between the Neve desk, tape machines, and the live room(s) -(particularly for drums), and, I don't think we can leave out the engineers, either - who had their own individual mixing chops - there's no doubt that SC recorded some pretty great-sounding albums.

    My good friend Jonah Koslen tracked all the songs for his band's (Breathless) second EMI album at SC, and he's said that the place definitely had a "funkier" feel to it; in that you never really felt like you could take your shoes off LOL - but he also said that none of that really mattered when you walked down the hall towards the studio with all the gold and platinum albums hanging on the walls. ;)

    But many other studios had their own sound as well... not really better, just different, but still of exceptional quality:

    Abbey Road ( London) - Beatles, Pink Floyd, Alan Parsons, LSO
    Olympic ( London) - Hendrix, The Who, The Stones, The Beatles
    Trident ( London) - Queen, Peter Gabriel, Bee Gees, Thin Lizzy
    Criteria (Miami) - Bee Gees, Bob Seger, Michael Jackson, Abba
    Caribou ( Colorado) - Billy Joel, Elton John, Chicago, Frank Zappa
    Universal/Western ( L.A.) ( and would eventually become Ocean Way) - Beach Boys, Sinatra, Phil Spector
    The Hit Factory (NYC) - and later they bought Criteria for their Miami location) - Springsteen, John Lennon, Talking Heads, Stevie Wonder
    Electric Lady (NYC)- AC/DC, The Clash, Hall & Oates, U2
    Le Studio ( Quebec) - Bee Gees, Rush, April Wine, Cat Stevens, The Police

    Countless great-sounding records were made at all of those places.

    So, I'm not sure that "best" is the right word to use?

    IMHO of course

    kmetal likes this.
  19. ric3xrt

    ric3xrt Active Member

    When I 1st walked thru there Bill (Drescher I think that was his name) , pointed over to the couch as I sat down, He smiles, and says I caught (name withheld), banging some groupie there last night.....
    my little recording doesn't do SC any justice, that was copied off of a master tape raw, no compression, no reverb. actually I think that was the 1st take of 6 , and the only section of the tape that was useable. 61 Jazz bass with Hi-A pickups , thru a Yamaha PB1 pre , feeding a peavey CS 400,( I think it was a 400) , I do remember it being a peavey Power amp. and the cab was a Fender 4x12, the funky one where the speakers tilted towards each other. I took up 4 channels ..... two mic'ed , and the main Output of the PB1 and the Hi out, with everything under 400hz rolled off of the hi out.
    Muscle Shoals, was another great studio , ..................... soon there won't be any, and I think the world will be a sadder place for it.
    kmetal likes this.
  20. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Amazing list!

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