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Posts Tagged ‘Aerosmith’

MIX MAGAZINE – Aerosmith records “New Dimension” with CLASP

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Steven Tyler singing.
Steven Tyler recording vocals.

Warren Huart on Steven’s vocals: Most of Steven Tyler’s keeper vocals were cut at Swing House with a Neumann U 48 that Huart had used previously on The Fray, James Blunt, Adele and others. Other pieces of the chain included a Brent Averill Enterprises 1073, “and then I mult to two sets of compression and I parallel compress. I have two [dbx] 160 VU’s, which I set pretty lightly, like 2-to-1 or 3-to-1. I split those out of a mult and then each of those goes to an 1176 set to limit on 20:1 and they just catch the peaks. I’ve got one for verses and softer vocals, attacking it lightly, and then when he goes into that louder, crazier Steven thing I have another set of compression set at half that. They’re multed back together and that’s the vocal sound. What it does is give you huge, fat vocals all the time. I ride the 1073—I’ll click the gain settings up and down depending on where he is on the vocal. It’s pretty old school. As an engineer, you’re blessed to work with a singer of that quality, because he makes your life very easy.”

Tape machine.

On Tape and CLASP: Douglas and Huart joined the growing ranks of producers and engineers to embrace the Endless Analog CLASP system, which Huart says “gives you a sound only tape can give you. You can’t fault it on drums—it gives you a nice little low that’s never going to be the same if you just EQ. You can also boost the top end on your overhead in the mix without it sounding brittle.” For this project, the recording team used CLASP in conjunction with three Studer A800 two-inch analog recorders—a 16-track (for drums) and a 24-track at Pandora’s Box, and another A800 24-track at Joe Perry’s Boneyard.

Swing House studio.

Douglas on Swing House: “The vibe [at Swing House] was totally relaxed. It’s like a clubhouse. Crystal Method was in there awhile, Marilyn Manson. And we had visitors, too—Richard Lewis, Rick Nielson, Jack Black, Johnny Depp, so it was a lot of fun.” Depp and Julian Lennon are among those who helped on backing vocals.

Douglas has done so much work at Swing House over the past five years that he has merged much of his personal equipment with the studio’s, including his (now-rare) SPL Charisma dual-channel processors and some Retro gear, such as the 176 (the modern version of the 1176), which he lauds for its highpass filter. “Also, their version of a [1950s-era] Gates Sta-level [compressor] and passive EQ are very good.”

Swing House studio compressor.

Other favored pieces of gear included Pulse-Tec’s modern versions of the classic Pultec PQ-1 and PQ-2; and the Vertigo Sound Quad Discrete VCA Compressor, which Huart likens to the “the classic dbx 202 VCAs that are in the original [SSL] 4000 bus compressor, though the control over it is much better. What I like about it is the highpass filter, which is very modern. It’s set at 60 and 90 and it really allows the bottom end to breathe.”

Both of Swing House’s two main rooms were used for the Aerosmith project. The control room of Studio A includes a vintage 20-channel API console, a Cadac sidecar and an assortment of Calrec and Neve mic pre’s. Studio B features a gorgeous vintage 24-channel, 8-bus Neve 8058.

SONIC SCOOP – Research & Development: Inside the Making of Machine Matrix from Endless Analog

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

How does an audio offering come to life? Welcome to the new SonicScoop series “Research & Development” where we’ll be exploring the genesis of hardware, software and services that catch our eye.

What's the story behind Endless Analog's new Machine Matrix? (Photo Credit: Jake Harsh)

First up: When Endless Analog first launched the CLASP (Closed Loop Analog Signal Processor) in 2010, there was no guarantee that the world would warm up to their system.

Patented by Chris Estes, the CLASP design bridged analog and digital recording techniques by seamlessly integrating tape machines into Pro Tools. The result was the ability to record to tape while maintaining the speed and flexibility of a DAW, delivering real-time analog monitoring with zero-latency through a mastering grade audio signal path.

In 2012, there are no doubts: CLASP is here to stay, with deployments for Lenny Kravitz, Aerosmith, Abbey Road Studios, John Shanks, Nathan Chapman (Taylor Swift), Beck, Michael W. Smith, Denis Savage (Celine Dion), Butch Walker (Panic at the Disco, Pink, Avril Lavigne), Dave Cobb (Shooter Jennings, Jamey Johnson), Chuck Ainlay and John Fields (Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, Switchfoot), and more.

As Estes spent time in the field with CLASP, however, he discovered that something more was needed for the line — CLASP users with multiple tape machines needed an additional level of control. For that, Endless Analog has just introduced a powerful complement to the CLASP line: the Machine Matrix ($3,750). Here, Estes explains how and why his new made-to-order system came into being.

(l-r) Chris Estes and Lenny Kravitz. (photo credit: Mathieu Bitton)

What’s the principle behind the Machine Matrix?

With the Machine Matrix and a CLASP system you can switch back and forth between tape machines in the middle of the song without any patching or re-syncing all with a single mouse click. Machine Matrix is software/hardware controlled analog tape with mastering grade auto signal routing.

What sparked the original idea for this addition to the Endless Analog line?

The original idea for the Machine Matrix came from Lenny Kravitz’ studio. I spent a good amount of time with Lenny at his studio in the Bahamas and he was one of first customers to utilize CLASP with the Studer J37 one inch four track. His J37 was actually used by The Beatles to record Sgt. Pepper.

He has several different tape machines, and and he wants to use them all. So that was the inspiration for creating the Matrix — a seamless way to switch between tape decks during a session that doesn’t disrupt the creative flow. With our old CLASP software you needed a separate template for each machine, but with the Machine Matrix and our version 3.5 software and hardware there is only one master template for all your tape machines, so you never have to stop the creative flow of the session, break down, and connect your Pro Tools and patchbay to the new machine.

With the Machine Matrix it’s just literally as easy as one mouse click, and within the time it takes to click the mouse your CLASP is switched over to a new tape machine, and everything is patched and synchronized instantly.

For example, let’s say your studio has an Ampex ATR ½-inch machine at 30 ips, but you also have a Studer A80 1-inch that’s running at 15 IPS. You could have 20:32 of tape left on the Studer machine, while the Ampex ATR is running at 30 IPS with 07:31 minutes left — it doesn’t matter. The Machine Matrix keeps track of it all. When you switch to the new machine, the CLASP hardware is automatically updated to the newly selected tape deck.

What did you learn from the rollout of the original CLASP – what was surprising/unexpected for you in terms of how studios were integrating them into their workflow, and using some of the features of the system?

(click to enlarge) This diagram depicts a CLASP system installation using pre existing D-Sub patch bays and pre existing wiring. There are 3 patch modes; (1) CLASP mode which requires no patching. (2) Pro Tools Only mode which requires only one patch from the mic pre outputs to the Pro Tools inputs. (3) Analog Tape Only mode which requires one patch from the analog tape deck outputs to the console line inputs. All of the patchbays are half normaled except for bays 1 & 2 (microphone lines to mic pre amps).

One of the things we learned was how to efficiently and economically integrate CLASP into a studio with minimal wiring. We now have a patchbay configuration diagram that uses mostly your pre-existing wiring. And if you already have a DSUB patchbay then it’s even easier. (see diagram) CLASP is designed to be plug-and-play, you take it out of the box, plug it in and go. It only takes literally one minute to install the software in your Pro Tools.

Another thing we learned was how to improve the software interface and its functionality. We had great suggestions from a few engineers at Abbey Road.

So with those in mind I reworked the interface, and in this new version 3.5 you see the culmination of suggestions from our users — a much better GUI where you can see the track arming status of all 24 tracks of the CLASP hardware simultaneously, better functionality such as Input Monitor and Repro monitor controls on the plugin. An auto update feature that scans for track arming eliminating the need to bank through channels manually with HUI. And we’ve put more controls on the plugin to control the hardware, because that’s mostly what the software is doing — controlling our hardware.

In addition to Lenny Kravitz’ studio, can you give us another example of how the Machine Matrix can optimize the CLASP workflow?

The Machine Matrix makes it extremely convenient to work with all of the machines in your arsenal for overdubbing, mix down — you name it. For example; you might decide to track with your 2-inch machine, but then overdub with your half-inch 2-track and then mix. Or you might be in a tracking session and you have two totally different 2 inch machines you want to A/B for a song. Well, now you can A/B without stopping the session.

You’re one mouse click away from any machine you have in your room. It’s possible to have three completely different 2-inch machines, 1-inch machines, half-inch, quarter-inch or any combination all connected to the Matrix at the same time. It takes as long to switch between decks as it does for you to click the mouse.

One of the best examples I have seen is a CLASP studio with two different 24-track machines (Studer A80, MCI JH24) and an ATR 102 that used a different 2-inch for each song at different tape speeds that best suited the vibe of each song while tracking, then switched into the ATR for vocal overdubbing and the final mix processing.

It’s really exciting to see how people use CLASP. A lot of guys are using it in the mix stage now. They insert the half-inch two-track into the mix chain after their bus compressor and set it on “input” using the VU meters on the two-track to keep an eye on the mix buss gain structure. After the mix is about 80% dialed in, they set the two-track into “repro” and take its transport online with the CLASP.

So now Pro Tools is driving the tape transport (automatic) and they are listening “through the tape” and making final mix and buss compression tweaks, letting the tape react to the fast transients instead of their buss compressor. They fold the output of the two track back into Pro Tools on a fresh channel and use a make up gain plugin like the Slate Mastering Plugin to offset the gain difference going from 0db @ -18VU. The results from this are amazing.

Back view of the Machine Matrix. (Photo credit: Jake Harsh)

What’s the most challenging aspect of designing an entirely new product, as you’ve done with the Machine Matrix?

I think the most challenging thing is to do it so it integrates with our pre-existing lines — that’s what I set out to do. Seamless integration was the goal: When you have a Machine Matrix and want to plug into a CLASP 8, 16, or 24, you’re there. It just plugs in and sees it.

The form factor also takes a lot of careful consideration. Originally we were going to make the audio routing and machine control routing of the Matrix as a separate pieces of gear, but in the end we decided it made more sense to put everything together — that this would give the customer more value. Fortunately it wasn’t difficult to integrate! I just had to re-work the circuit board designs.

Lastly, why is product evolution an essential part of what you do – what are the market forces that make new product features and models a necessity for manufacturers like Endless Analog?

As a music artist it is necessary to keep writing, performing and inventing. I used to write songs and make records — that’s what I did for a living, and then I had the idea for CLASP because I was feeling frustrated about how my digital recordings were sounding. So this is just me being an artist, just like when an artist writes a new song: You have the song in you, you want to get it out and make it happen you want to see it materialize. These are my songs in the form of gear.

Eventually CLASP will be a lot more than what you see right now. It took about five years for us to get the first patent issued for CLASP, which is kind of like getting your songs copy-written. So these first pieces of Endless Analog CLASP gear are like the first few tracks on an album that has been written. Now we’re recording the rest of the album for release a few tracks at a time and hopefully people will continue to like our music.

Just like we each like different genres of music, some engineers like plugins, and that’s fine. But when it comes down to it, we like the sound of using the real thing any day over a simulation. And why not use the real thing if you can? A real tape machine running in the studio is always way more inspiring than a plugin any day.

– David Weiss


MUSIC RADAR – Joe Perry’s gear, Steven Tyler’s ear, CLASP technology

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

By Joe Bosso When Aerosmith release a new album this year – their first since 2004′s Honkin’ On Bobo, and their first collection of fresh material since 2001′s Just Push Play – longtime fans are hoping that it will mark a return to the mean, raunchy, riff-oriented, blues-rock sound the group mined on the ’70s classics Get Your Wings, Toys In The Attic and Rocks. Joe Perry lays down a guitar track at Swing House Studios while producer Jack Douglas (center) and engineer Warren Huart (right) look on. In that regard, producer Jack Douglas says the upcoming record won’t disappoint. He’s in a uniquely qualified position to make such a claim: not only is he helming the new set, but he also manned the board for most of the group’s best-loved discs. “We’re going back to the rawness,” says Douglas. “There’s something special about the vintage Aerosmith vibe, and that’s what we have here.” For Douglas, capturing the group’s untamed spirit on tape means just that – using tape. To that end, the veteran producer, whose resume also includes work with John Lennon, Cheap Trick and Patti Smith, is utilizing CLASP (Closed Loop Analog Signal Processor), a unit which allows him to integrate real two-inch tape technology into a DAW signal and workflow. Joining Douglas behind the glass is fellow tape and CLASP enthusiast, Warren Huart. Huart serves as engineer on the Aerosmith project, but in recent years he’s produced The Fray, James Blunt, Howie Day and Augustana, among others. What’s more, he’s also the proud owner of Swing House Studios in Hollywood, where the Aerosmith team have called home for the past few months as they lay down vocals and overdubs on one of 2012′s most-anticipated releases. MusicRadar caught up with Douglas and Huart recently to talk about the sonic wonders of CLASP, their approach to working with Aerosmith, the band’s indefatigable energy and how the director of Desperado and Spy Kids somehow fits into the picture. How did you two start working together? Jack Douglas: “I was working at Swing House on other projects, a few film things, and I did a Michael Monroe record there. I really liked Swing House, and it kind of became my place to park myself on the West Coast. The rooms are comfortable, the equipment is great – I keep a lot of my gear there, actually. Warren Huart: “Probably 50 percent of the equipment at Swing House is my gear and 50 percent is Jack’s. We share a lot of tube equipment. Jack’s Pulse Technologies stuff is fantastic – they’re replicas of Pultecs.” Douglas: “Warren and I would trade rooms on and off for about two years, and we became friendly. I knew he was knowledgeable and extremely capable. Plus, he’s a guitarist, which is good – knowing guitars is very important when it comes to working with a band like Aerosmith. When the new project came up, I gave him a call. “The person I usually work with on Aerosmith, Jay Messina, he has boundaries – he won’t go crazy with his hours. With Aerosmith, you have to be ready to work when they’re ready, and on a long-term basis. You can’t do five days a week, eight hours a day with these guys. The other night, we were working till one in the morning – that’s just what it takes. Warren was up for that, so I brought him out to Boston. The boys liked him, and that was that.” Douglas and Huart flank CLASP inventor Chris Estes. So Warren, what’s it like working with Jack? Huart: “It’s great. What can I say? You know, I produce 90 percent of the stuff I work on. Even when I engineer something for a major label – whether it’s Howie Day or James Blunt or whomever – a lot of the time I’m the co-producer, and I even play on the stuff, too. “In this role, as an engineer, you have to be with somebody you can respect. Jack’s worked with Aerosmith and John Lennon and incredible artists. But Jack is in the handful of guys, he’s like a Phil Ramone or a George Martin. He has a real vision, but he’s able to make everybody feel comfortable, which allows people to do their best. And that lets me be creative, too. You don’t have to be afraid to bring up an idea.” How did you guys first become aware of CLASP? Huart: “I got in very early in the development stage. I had an assistant who knew Chris Estes, who invented it, and when I first heard about it, I knew it could be phenomenal. I grew up with tape, I loved working with tape. Who doesn’t? You can do so much with it. So, to me, CLASP offered the best of both worlds. You can use and abuse tape on the way in, and then you can have it instantly in a digital stage to edit it.” Douglas: “I think it was my son, Blake Douglas, that first turned me onto it. He owns some studios in LA. He has Record One, which used to be Ocean Way; he has Stage & Sound; and he has a room on a yearly lease at EastWest. He’s in the hip-hop business. But he’s an equipment dealer, too, and he was the one to tell me about CLASP. “The whole idea of CLASP got me really buzzed. I went out and bought a beautiful old A80, anticipating that I was going to buy a CLASP unit. I met with Chris Estes, and we talked about the technology. I thought, This could really work for Aerosmith; this will sound pretty good. “We got a couple of units on loan for the band’s studio, Pandora’s Box, and they fell in love with them, so they purchased the CLASPs. Then Joe bought one for his A80 for his room, the Boneyard. Everybody embraced the whole philosophy of CLASP.” Huart: “I was very excited to make the Aerosmith record my first CLASP project. The other way to do it would be to record everything to tape and then put it to Pro Tools. Working with CLASP seemed like a far better way to go.” What are the advantages of CLASP? Douglas: “Well, you can keep the warmth of the tape, which, to me, is the big, big plus. There are no advantages to working all-digital. I moved over to digital in 1979. I was curious, so I started using the first 3M machines. Then I went to Mitsubishis and Sonys, but I would go back to tape. I always preferred tape. And I love mixing to tape – the sound is better. “I do like the convenience of Pro Tools, however. CLASP is the real answer, one which allows me to work with the sound of tape and have the convenience of digital. To record Aerosmith, CLASP has been great. The band totally loves it.” Huart: “The band cut their teeth on tape. The sound of those records, the ones everybody knows and loves, comes from tape. Plus, they have the know-how and the experience… They know the difference sonically. They know what translates for their music. I don’t think, with this record, to do it all-digital, would have been a great way to go.” Douglas is Shure of his choice of headphones. Has the band worked with any outside songwriters? Douglas: “Marti Frederiksen. Marti’s contributed some. On the lyrical side, I wanted Steven to really have somebody to bounce his lyrics off of, so I said to Sony that we should bring in Stephen King.” Stephen King, the novelist? Douglas: “That’s right. They thought I was crazy, but I thought he’d be into it. Here’s who I had on my list: Stephen King; Robert Rodriguez, the director; and Tim Burton. They thought I was nuts, but I said, ‘Let’s try.’ As it turned out, Stephen King said, ‘I wish you had contacted me a month earlier – I’m writing with John Mellencamp!’ [laughs] How funny is that? People thought I lost my mind, and there he is, working with Mellencamp.” These are amazing ideas! Douglas: “I think you have to be creative. So what’s happened was, Robert Rodriguez has come in, and he and Steven have gotten together. Robert’s got great ideas – he’s a brilliant director, but he’s a musician, too. We’re waiting to hear from Tim Burton, but in the meantime, we’re doing fine.” What new pieces of gear do Joe Perry and the rest of the band have? Douglas: “The thing with Aerosmith is, you don’t find a lot of new pieces, but you find some incredible old pieces. Joe has a connection to these amazing RCA and Bogen PA amps, and they’re being converted to 30-watt guitar amps, so we’ve been using a lot of them. We’ve been using my Producer Model Morris amp – they’re a boutique company out of St. Catherine’s, Ontario. “The only new thing that I think is new is an Epiphone Casino, which has been reissued. Brad fell in love with that – it’s got a great, woody tone. The band collects a lot of incredible pieces that sound wonderful. They’re a part of history, but we do use them.” Huart: “You go into Joe Perry’s place, and it’s like a wish-list of stuff. You stand there and say, ‘I wish we could use a…’ and there it is. ‘Oh, I’d like to try a preamp like…’ and he’s got it. His console is full of 1073s. He’s got a tape machine. You name it, it’s there. I’ve gone into professional studios, and they can’t match what Joe Perry has. “But he’s still into trying out new pedals and things. The whole band is. They have a thirst for sound, a quest for tone, that you wouldn’t believe.” Jack, you’ve worked with the band for so long, but what impresses you about them these days? “First, you have to consider that these guys are all over 50 years old and still have the ability to just rock really hard. There’s so much edge going on, and they still have the vitality they had when we started 40 years ago. “Also, Steven has an incredible ear. He and I share an interest in classical music and American standards and jazz. We’ll talk about music and Gershwin will come up – we’re not afraid to talk in those terms. So that’s great that we have that catalogue thing going on. Plus, Brad is such a fan of blues, and the whole band loves ’60s British rock. There’s deep musical roots to these guys.” And Warren, what impresses you about Aerosmith? Huart: “That they play like a band in their 20s. We’re not putting a lot of things together, at least not what you’d think. Most of these tracks have been flat-out, off-the-floor performances. Their enthusiasm and commitment is not what you’d expect for a band over the age of 25. They feel the same way about playing music as they did when they were making their first album. “Take Joe Perry: He ‘s in here, on time if not early, to do overdubs. Steven’s in here at all hours working on vocals. He does American Idol and then he comes in here. We’re talking about amazing talents, and they work hard. What they do is beyond human, but it comes from work and commitment.” Douglas gets hands on in the studio, adjusting mics on Joey Kramer’s drums. Aside from using CLASP, what kinds of discussions went down as far as the sound for album? Douglas: “We’re going back to the rawness. There’s something special about the vintage Aerosmith vibe, and that’s what we have here. It’s got that ’70s feel and sense of humor. It’s a bit of a concept album – there’s a theme running through it, but I can’t really talk about that right now. But to get that edge and spirit, it made sense to capture tracks live with the band playing all out. “The way Pandora’s Box is set up, we can get that. It’s a gorgeous room that was designed by John Storyk, and the board was designed by Jay Messina and myself. It’s 24 tracks of Neve broadcast modules, eight tracks of API, eight tracks of old Focusrite, and then PAD built a custom eight-buss for us. So they all speak to one another. It’s just like having one board – we call it ‘Frankenstein.’ I had a lot of my gear and my mics sent over to the place. “Pandora’s Box really allowed me to record the band like I did in the ’70s. We’d sit in the production office and start with the germ of a song – just acoustic guitars and some basic ideas – and then we’d take that and go into a rehearsal room. In that room, we have small amps and keyboards, and we’ll record everything we do there into my laptop. After that, once it’s right, we’ll take it into the big room and record it. If we need to make changes, we’ll make them later. “We recorded everything at Pandora’s Box except for two songs, which we did at Swing House. One song was something we decided we could do a little better, and the other one was brand new – that’s the one that Sony likes and is convinced is a big hit single.” But you are doing some overdubs at Swing House. Douglas: “Well, yeah, we’re doing a lot of the guitars, the leads. When Steven gets done with American Idol and comes in to do vocals, we’re figure out what has to go around them.” Throughout the process, have there been any demos at all? Douglas: “Yeah, sure. Very often, if a song didn’t begin with a germ of an idea in the studio, it was from a demo. But again, we’d sit and listen to that and get a lot of the band’s input, and then we’d knock out some changes. I think it’s fun to track right away because everything is fresh. For me, the demo stage is when we’re in that rehearsal room. We’ll spend days in there listening to what we have.” And when the band tracks, it’s off-the-floor live performances? Huart: “A large portion is just that: off-the-floor takes. It’s the band playing together. That’s the beauty of this band – they can play. Joey Kramer hits those drums. He’s an animal.” Douglas: “Right. Steven’s in the middle with a vocal mic – he knows where the verses and choruses are. It’s live.” Jack, what do you think the band looks to you for? Do you give them “brutal truth”? Douglas: “It’s brutal truth, sure, but we’re like brothers, really. There’s never any pretense. I’m willing to listen to any idea the band has. It’s very communal. We always support each other. Even when I wasn’t producing their records, whether it was during the ’90s, there was a lot of hanging out. We know what each other can do. There’s no bullshit.”

Endless Analog - Digital Controlled Analog Tape Recording