Friday, March 19, 2004

This week I have mainly been using the Nederlandsche Omroep Stichting stereo microphone configuration.

I watched Dario Argentos' Tenebrae today and felt the kind of disappointment one might feel when the DVD of 2001: A Space Odyssey you received for Christmas turns out to be an ex-rental video of the Best of Hale and Pace.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I am having dreams about being wrapped in a stinking green velvet curtain, and buried alive inside a vocal booth, with Steve Albini and Bob Weston as the two gravediggers. The whole thing is being recorded directly onto an Otari MX50/50 1/ 2 inch 8 track reel-to-reel through a pair of Coles 4038s either side of my head, in order to capture the 'ambience'. For some reason, John Craven is engineering the event.

Decided to try a non-coincident pair of 4041s, one halfway up the neck, and the other on the tail/soundboard. Pretty happy with the sound
Couldn't get a decent take down, taking a break.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Good couple of days. Started recording with the old Akai 12 track due to the PC debacle (still waiting toget it returned via InSecuricor). Set up the two 4041s as a crossed XY pair inside the vocal booth, and set up the 4050 for vocals. When I say 'vocal booth' I mean the 5'x5' walk-in wardrobe which I deadened with some ancient green curtains, ripe with the accumulated stench of forty years in a Bedminster working men's club. Obviously it's quite a tight squeeze in there, with three mic stands, a headphone amp, a stool and a guitar. In fact it's downright oppressive; a bit like recording in solitary confinement, which may or may not enhance the ambience of the recordings.

There isn't too much crossover as the 4041s sound best right at the tail-end of the guitar over the soundboard, fairly far from the vocal mic. The vocal mic unavoidably picks up the guitar, but there is no phase problems. I got a guitar and vocal down simultaneously for a song, then added some organ, and got a guitar take down for another.

Kind of nullified the point of having a polyphonic organ; the top notes were much louder than the lower ones, so I ended up multitracking chords as separate notes to get the right balance.

The 4050 works pretty well on my voice. It's perhaps a little too sensitive, brittle even, on the top end, accentuating the 'airy' sound of the vocal, but on the whole it's pretty damn good.

There's a limit to what I an do now though; need the PC as the Delta A/D converters should whip the Akai's ass.

Watched lots of League of Gentelmen as not-so-light relief. It seems i'm about five years behind on popular culture.

Thursday, March 11, 2004


The new PC turned up, via Securicor, upside down, and the processor fan had fallen off inside, presumably when the couriers played catch with it on their tea-break. The guy who made it for me explained how to get it back on over the phone, and thankfully it all seems to be working, so no need for an insurance claim there. I've never received anything expsenive through the post that hasn't turned up buggered in some way. The Philicorda was sent mint and arrived mute and dented, and the guy who sent it to me explained over the phone how to take it apart and resolder the speakers back in. It wasn't the speakers after all, it was the amp, and I sellotaped a torch to my head and climbed inside a terrifyingly meaningless bank of transistors, sellotaped a key down and stuck wires to each other until I got a sound out of it.

Just waiting on the new LCD monitor to fire up the PC.

A frustrating but illuminating few days. I think i've used every configuration possible with the mics I have. The XY coincident pair and A/B spaced pair of small diaphragms sound pretty good but still aren't giving me the 'woody' sound on Jansch's 'Rosemary Lane' album. Placing a mic halfway up the fingerboard pointing towards the picking fingers should give the 'cat-gut string' sound (like Jansch and Dake ; I thought this was due to never changing their strings or actually using gut strings, but it seems it's a trademark John Wood engineering technique...). Detailed here:

However, this approach didn't quite do it. Good resource that, though.. I seemed to get a 'woodiser' 'guttier' sound by pairing this with a mic somewhere near the other end of the guitar pointing towards the sound board (the body behind the bridge).

One thing I have been doing to ensure there are no phasing problems is to use the two mics and get a good tone in mono first; once I have a good tone I pan it gently to a good stereo sound (often the mono sounds better). I haven't read of anyone else using this 'two mics in mono' approach first, so either it's a massive engineering mistake or i'm a fucking fucking fucking genius. I strongly suspect the former. I suddenly panicked about phasing problems, and went back and listened to Internal Travels and Flashlight Seasons in mono to check that whole parts don't suddenly disappear. Considering we aren't remastering Flashlight on the Warp re-release this is rather important. Thankfully, both Cds translate very respectably to mono. That was a fluke, but it's very probably because I only used one mic for most of FS, so there is no great depth of stereo field. It would more likely be a problem with IT, as we used two mics on the guitar. Which leads me to a very strange quandary: I seemed to get my best acoustic guitar sound thusfar on IT using two SM57's, which are universally acknowledged to be the wrong kind of mic to use on an acoustic as they have little top end response to catch the transients from acoustics. We used two at either end of the guitar (my mate Phil's guitar, an Aria SW-20 which used to be mine, but I sold to him when i was poor then borrowed indefinitely till I bought this Simon and Patrick. A rather contrived arrangement). After various experiments it sounded great, even though we used no dedicated preamps, unbalanced leads straight into a Roland VS880 complete with retarded onboard digital compression. The patient and talented Simon Grant of The Signal and Azalea City Penis Club engineered that, and I really don't understand how he got it sounding that good. Surely with my high quality gear I can improve on that sound.

Another day, another budget engineering anomaly.

Been listening to Radio Caroline (on short term illegal broadcast); fantastic. Smog and the theme tune to the Wicker Man at midday on a thursday.


Experimented with the wide diaphragm AT4050 mic on the acoustic in various positions; think I actually prefer the rather unforgiving but precise sound of the small diaphragm 4041. Tried loads of positions in systematic order. Discovered that the original take I thought was a wrap is actually distorting slightly on the second microphone; had it up too high. Bugger. I've kind of killed my enthusiasm for that track for now so will start over on a different song, recording straight to the PC via the Delta 44 soundcard which should have better A/D converters than the Akai 12 track. Maybe try a take with vocals and guitar simultaneously to one mic, as it's a 'loose' kind of song. I tried to write a song like 'There Was a Man' by Pearls Before Swine, and it either sounds too much like it or simply isn't as good as it. Note to self: don't try to write songs that have already been written.

Going to see School of Rock tonight.


Got 'Messages', the War Against Sleep debut album through the post from Fire Records; superb. A totally coherent work.

Got a guitar part down. New XLR lead from Mind (Sound) Control was faulty, second time in a row, so couldn't get drums down. Another morning will be wasted in town tomorrow exchanging it.

Using two AT4041s overhead and the notorious 57 on the snare. The Neve preamp I bought makes a dramatic difference.; extremely detailed sound. The mics take on a new life; the Midiman Audio Buddys I was using before sound distorted and crassly mid-range in comparison. The two 4041s on the acoustic sound very 'real'. Perhaps a little too accurate, might have to try the 4050 as it's not a great guitar.

It's not until you have some proper equipment that you realise how bad the stuff you were making do with was.


Tried to do some recording today but didn't get any further than the bathroom, which I cleaned whilst listening to Zen Arcade. The bathroom is quite far from the lounge so I turned it up very loud, so the whole street got to enjoy it too. Then I spent a few hours trying to make Andrew a Husker Du compilation, which I've just lost somewhere in the office. Now I have finally got the PC stabilised I don't know what to do with myself. Wasted some more time on the Choke forum. Going with Erin to review a Mexican restaurant tonight. I've got about two hours free to do some recording now. Instead i'm writing a weblog. Going to see Andrea Hernandez, Emily Breeze, Rita Lynch and Rasha Shaheen play at the Folk House tomorrow.

Idea for a film: Stoned Alone. Teenager's parents go away for a week, leaving him with free run of the house. He plans a big party, getting his promoter mate to get Public Enemy down for a live PA, and maybe set up a brothel in the front room like in that Tom Cruise film 'Risky Business'. But instead he does a bong and looks at some internet porn.


Spent another 50-odd quid on leads at Mind Control. I've got the Neve mic preamp now as well as the mics; just waiting on the new PC. No excuses.

Played a solo gig at the Cube Cinema; Float Records launch for Mole Harness album and Knowledge of Bugs EP. Very good night. Mole Harness was particularly good; ecstatic rave-anthems slowed down, with New Order guitars. When I came off the stage someone asked me if I was into Joan Armatrading. I said I thought it was the kind of music I might eat a packed lunch to. Duncan Fleming played strange records in the bar and I got drunk. Textbook night out.


Decided to start a weblog. Why, I don't know. I certainly don't need another internet-based folly to distract me from recording, so that's precisely what i've arranged. I suppose the idea is to document the recording of the next album, which is precisely what such an activity will impede upon.

Went to the One Stop Thali in Montpelier for a friend's birthday. I think the food is rubbish, but everyone else raves about it, particularly vegetarians. The chickpea dish tastes like Vesta Boil-in-the-Bag Curry. Too much cumin. The relishes are quite nice though. Great atmosphere. We ended up at the Star and Garter which could have got messy. We left earlier than everyone else, smoked a spliff on the way back through St Werburghs, which felt like an appropriate gesture with which to end the evening.