NOTES FROM THE UNDEGROUND
Spinning Cloak of Ash by Hope Drone on vinyl a year and a bit after its release, more years since tracking it. Definitely the format I would recommend if you are into this record.
Despite what may be a common misconception due to Hope Drone starting at a time when more commercially accessible versions of black metal were occurring, they are a genuine band and have a genuine desire to make the music they make regardless of the shifting landscape they exist in. For the past four years they have been rehearsing constantly at my studio (Sun Distortion then, now Underground Audio for the past couple years), and I’m sure will proceed to do so independent of what fanbase may or may not exist.
We tracked most of this at the now defunct Wavelength in Nundah, and the remaining elements at Sun Distortion. Then went back to wavelength to mix it on the original monitor mix still set up with additional parts recorded in the interstitial put in place. Drums were a Japanese recording custom with boilerplate microphone techniques and outboard limiting on dynamic sources. Guitars were custom made telecasters from warmoth parts, into H&K and Peavey VTM amplifiers. Legions of effects pedals were in both chains, just unashamedly between guitar and amplifier input, but worked a treat. I’m reminded of Nels Cline saying in regards to his lengthy chain, “degradation IS my tone”. Bass was a 4 string into a Verellen Meatsmoke into an 8X10 make America great again Ampeg.
One of the notable pieces of equipment utilized was an Equator, a 2 channel tube equalizer made in Brisbane by Warren Huck @ Hux Electronics. It was a remarkable EQ that had a very detailed and specific sound that got implemented on drum sources on the way in and in the balancing process. I never found out what happened to it but I suspect there was only one or two ever made. Other pieces were the JLM Audio TG microphone preamplifiers (non impedance control versions). Also made in Brisbane, these are awesome pre’s with massive output transformers. Used on guitar of course.
Full record streams here:
Some notes on the new Black Deity record, which is streaming here:
The band deeply reveres records like Fresh Cream, Wheels of Fire, John Mayall et al. so those aberrant mix structures were kept in mind and in general those records were stylistically an intention. Contrary to popular misconceptions, outlandish panning structures was an actual style. Although it did develop by virtue of low track count machines, it did evolve toward an aesthetic in the later 60’s with some obscure blues bands.
We tracked this record to 6 tracks, 4 for the drums and 2 for guitar and bass. The simplest incarnation of a document of this band that could exist. All of the summing was done in the group outs of the console, although this was minimal.
The bass drum had an re20 and there was some LDC on the snare drum. One M160 was neighboring the hats and another was between bass drum and floor tom, 2 feet back and 2 feet off the ground pointed at the hanging tom. There were 2 boundary microphones and a diffused room microphone summed into this pair additionally. I shepherded this whilst the band was performing takes. For the drumset we used a 1980 Imperialstar Tama bass drum with 3 ply 1976 Ludwig Toms. I’m not 100% certain on the snare drum but I want to say a 76 Supraphonic.
The guitar was amplified with either an 800 or a Soundcity mark 4 or 5, miced with a ribbon and an M201. Electric bass was an acoustic 220 captured with a Heil Pr48.
Some technical info on the last full length from Last Chaos- Only Fit for Ghosts:
As an engineer you are often given the task of reducing a deafening ensemble down to something that will reproduce through (often) small and inferior bits of paper at a low volume. Making what came out translate was severe, notably due to the frequency of this band playing live and how often they were consumed by so many: amongst oscillating limbs and flying bodies. The sense memory of them as a collective was enormous. When making a record there is usually a feeling that it will be analysed for a lengthy time, possibly years. It isn’t often a negative feeling but sometimes there is some anxiety there, in this case by virtue of how imperative Last Chaos were in the music community in Brisbane. Also they were just such a remarkable and obtuse and vicious and blisteringly loud band that crudely mocked the commonwealth ruling with Japanese d-beat, and also had songs about lizards and stealing drugs.
It was tracked at Sun Distortion, the same room they often played in. This made drawing on the sense memory of them playing live a bit less laborious as it was all there. The drums were positioned in their commonplace setting of adjacent to the stage, with both guitar amplifiers in the dead room and the bass amplifier in my bedroom.
The drum set had a bunch of heil microphones on the shells, PR48, PR30’s, PR40.. overheads were an older and less brittle version of a Michael Jolly MJE384K pair. Front kit was a 121, boundary microphones were earthworks ripoffs (no memory of the kind).
Guitars were into a JCM900 and a Verrellen Meatsmoke, orange cabinets. M201, pro37 and beesneez ELLY.
Bass guitar was into a G&K 800rb w/ a 4×10 Sunn cabinet. RE20 and pro37, body and attack.
Vocals a PR40 split with a direct input box, one thru a DD6 and into the desk pre, the other thru a mono tape machine and Yamaha e1010 analog delay. The DD6 was the routine pedal for Declan live so it made sense to lean heavily onto that. The tape machine was more of an equalizer to shape the voicing much like a subtle slope low pass filter would. Vocals of this style I would commonly use a limited bandwidth dynamic microphone that colours the mids, like one of the earlier electro-voice mics. Because we had a PR40 which is brighter and more detailed, the tape machine path was setup to combat this in a more flattering action in comparison to a simple desk equaliser. The E1010 was then time delayed to create an illusion of acoustic reflection when paired together, the hass effect.
Halfway through this record an ibis flew into the powerline that fed from the street, its body imploded and an Energex crew hung it in a bag on a pole. This resulted in us having to track half the record again.
One thing Steve Albini said about this record was that it “sounds like early 80’s Polish repression”.
Some notes on this new 100% record, which is really really good and you should buy now. This was tracked at Underground Audio, entirely to computer. The drums were programmed by the band on an external device and then tracked through a Sytek MPX 4 channel preamplifier. We used a mult to send the stereo track out to a PA system and diffused boundary microphones on an omnidirectional setting picked them up concurrently, the tracks were then phase aligned to exact the sum.
Both synthesisers had similar treatment save for a thermionic culture rooster 2 channel preamplifier on a hot setting. I’m not sure if there was actual tube saturation from the attitude control these units have or if the input was maxed and the output was just trimmed to meet it. This preamp is equally useful on this setting when saturation doesn’t deserve to be hugely audible. The split signal was sent through a bass amplifier with a close and ambient microphone.
Electric bass was amplified with a HD130 and miced with an RE20 and pro37
For vocals we went with an electret mic, a cad equitek e200. It was necessary for the plosives in Lena’s voice to have a small rodule type object taped over the diaphragm, this divides the force of particular mouth sounds so it reaches the diaphragm eccentrically. I think I started doing this after picking up on it from a 90’s tapeop article with Joe Barresi.
Some notes on Dying Livers, the final LP (and release) from Brisbane band Quiet Steps.
QS existed in some form collectively since before I was even a recording engineer, not that I had the hubris of titling myself a recording engineer at the time of tracking this.. Hearing them as a 16 y/o on the sunshine coast I wouldn’t have thought I’d ever possess the fortuity to make a record with them.
In this instance they wanted to make a lo-fidelity recording that was steeped in obscene effects. I’m not a huge fan of recording things poorly or on the other hand, recording an ensemble in a flattering manner and then adding software distortions et al. To me that always sounds horrendous and not in a pleasing way due to the faults and exaggerations not being genuine. This LP however was absolutely an exception to this, as all the manipulations and handling of effects were hugely contributing to the result of this record being quite significant and set apart from many of the other bands in the genre at the time.
We tracked this at my old studio Sun Distortion over a weekend using some anomalous approaches. The drum shells were run thru some guitar effects pedals in the path, not multed and blended with a drier form of the audio but in the input path. The snare drum was tracked thru an EHX Holy Grail Max, toms thru BOSS ODB3 (most underrated pedal), drum room microphones thru BOSS DD5’s and DD6’s. Vocals were also some aggregate of these units, plus a Yamaha E1010 japanese analog delay unit. The guitar I’m fairly certain was a modern telecaster into a Fender deville and the bass was a Precision into an Acoustic 220 (far superior for bass sources in contrast to a 370).
This record was done in a normal circumstance, tracked over a weekend and mixed in a day or two following. If you want to bother anyone for info about some of the bands of this nature (math/post-punk/skramz is what they say) kicking around from that era or before, lean over the counter at Via if Cam is there and have a chinwag.