Prior to and including Anjani Thomas’s “Blue Alert” everything I recorded was done on my Telefunken M15a 24track analog tape machine. Somewhere there is a video EPK with me, Anjani, and Leonard with myself explaining analog properties of the M15a and our recording process. Around that time I had succumbed to the inevitable client pressure and acquired a digital protools rig which I could sync up to the M15a to make an analog/digital system. The next project was to be Leonard’s new record- (these sessions were started in 2007 eventually becoming the “Old Ideas” album). I had intended to do Leonard’s basic tracks on the M15a with some digital protools tracks to be added later. On the very first day I put the tape on, hit play, and boom- something blew up!! As there were a flock of musicians present I quickly switched gears- to all digital protools. This is the way I have recorded ever since as I have not had the time to delve into the ailments and remedies of the Telefunken multitrack. I do intend to do so- and as I write this it is “scheduled” for early summer 2018!
So the songs contained on “Conversations With Emily” were all in fact recorded at 96k/24bit on protools. They were mixed to a newly and fully restored Telefunken M15a 1/4 inch stereo analog machine.
The “A to A” converter-
I have always liked transformers. They used to be quite common in pro audio gear but with the arrival of “electronic balancing circuits” they began to become much less prevalent. I suspect this was mainly a cost factor as professional quality input and output audio transformers are not cheap! In one of my Ebay buys I obtained two Telefunken modules that contained what I discovered were very high quality German audio output transformers. This gave me the idea of making a transformer coupled in and out box. I bought some Jensen input transformers and built an adjustable amplifier with 990 opamps and there you have it- an “Analog to Analog” converter/enhancer. After much testing, modifying and listening I decided I did in fact like what it did to the overall sonic character. All the mixes were run through it.
The Leslie Speaker-
There is nothing quite like this sound. No electronic simulation can quite duplicate it! If you consider what is going on it is no wonder. There is a double horn on top attached to a treble speaker swirling around while on the bottom is a drum with a bass speaker pointed down into it spinning in the opposite direction. That is some “complicated” acoustics! While I am “storing” the L.C. tour B3 and Leslie I began thinking of getting a box to allow other instruments besides the B3 to be run it’s Leslie. After a bit of research (the positive side of the internet!) I discovered the tour Leslie has a 122 preamp which is really meant to use only with the B3. I have another Leslie and organ (C3) which need restoration so I set about to examine my speaker. Lucky for me it was a 147 preamp which with one purchase of a box from a guy called Dr. Fishstick and a bit of tinkering I was up and running. WOW- what a sound. It is so amazing you have to resist the temptation of running almost everything through it. I ended up using the Leslie (in the classic "George Harrison" way) for the arpeggio electric guitar in the song “Conversations With Emily” and a few Mellotron (Nord keyboard) organs.
Recording the Drums-
Without a doubt the most influential aspect of the recording was in my meeting and engaging the services of drummer/percussionist- Chris Wabich. I recall being at L.C.’s house one day before we started “Old Ideas”- he was listening to a “Klezmer” band and said “we should use these fellows on the tracks”. We did in fact use Robert Koda the violin player (“Amen”) and Chris Wabich the drummer (“Amen’ and “Lullaby”). I was at the time recording a set of “Buddy Holly-ish” songs and asked him if he would be interested in playing on them. I was instantly impressed by his knowledge of the specifics of that particular drum sound and his tremendous over-all musicality! We went on to record all the drums for “CWE”.
For most of my work I have used the pre- amps in the Harrison MR4 console. These are high quality “NE 5532” opamp preamps. These are quite neutral in their sound coloration allowing the sound signature of the microphone to dominate. With the introduction of the “500 series” rack (one of the most significant pro-audio products of the last 20 years!) and the re-introduction of so many “vintage” pre-amps I decided to try out a few. I was a bit taken aback by the considerable variation in sound to say the least. As an example the difference between a Neve 1073 and an API 512c being substantial indeed- the Neve being thick and a bit dark while the API is much thinner and brighter. It is very possible to radically shape the sound by experimenting with different microphone/pre-amp combinations. I ended up using the Neve (kick and snare), API (toms), Helios 69 (hat) and overheads through a Mercury M72s tube preamp.
I basically tried two different microphone configurations- two microphones on top and two microphones on the bottom for recording my old 1883 Hallett and Davis upright grand. I believe the bottom set-up yielded the “best” sound for my purposes.