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.”
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.
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.”
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.