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Geeking out

I’ve been listening to a very cool podcast called Knobs for the past couple of weeks.
It’s a pretty simple format. They interview artists about the equipment they use and ‘geek out’ talking about gear for a half an hour. I ended up buying a new guitar pedal off the internet after listening to the one with Jason Lytle from Grandaddy.

So I thought it might be cool to run through the list of gear we used to record our last album.

THE MELLOTRON

We’ve used a lot of Mellotron sounds on our last 3 records. The Mellotron was first released in the early sixties. It’s essentially a keyboard with a large tape player. Each key plays an 8-second reel of tape. It’s most famous for the flute sound used on Strawberry Fields, but you could use almost any kind of sound or instrument with a Mellotron.

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We used a fairly inexpensive sound library for Kontakt made by PureMagnetik on One Frame Per Second and The Magic Empire.
Since we invested in a Digital Mellotron for our live performances, we used the M4000D for most of the Mellotron sounds on the new record.
If you don’t know what a Mellotron is, check out this cool video where Sir Paul does a nice little demo.

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Old analogue synths are really cool but they’re pretty fragile, heavy and expensive. I really love the organ sounds on the Moog Opus 3, the first polyphonic synthesizer Moog made in the early 80’s (I’ve been dreaming of owning one for years!). But PureMagnetik made a pretty cool Kontakt instrument for the Moog Opus 3 so we used that instead. You can check out this video of a guy doing some pointless noodling on the Opus 3 to get a better idea of what the synth can do.

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THE OPTIGAN

Have you ever heard of the Optigan? It was manufactured in the 70’s by Mattel, the toy company. It uses opitcal discs to play samples. It’s a bit like the Mellotron except that whereas the tape on the mellotron stops after 8 seconds, the disc on the Opitgan keeps spinning, round and round. But the sounds are similarly dirty and lo-fi, sometimes even more so than the Mellotron. We used a Kontakt Instrument called the Optomotron by Hollow Sun. Check out the TV ad for the Optigan from back in the day.

THE EUPHONE

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One of the most unique instruments on our new record is from an instrument called the Euphone. You play it by vibrating glass rods. We didn’t use a real one, we used the virtual one made by Spitfire Audio. They made a pretty cool video about how they record the Euphone, which was made not too far from Toulouse, near the Pyrenees mountains.

G&L ASAT CLASSIC

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The G in G&L stands for George (Fullerton) and the L stands for Leo (Fender). Leo Fender sold Fender in 1965 but stayed on to work on the Music Man brand until he founded G&L in the late 70’s. The G&L ASAT Classic is essentially a Telecaster, but on steroids, and hand made in California! A lot of the guitar tracks on the new record were recorded using the G&L ASAT.

FENDER STARCASTER
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The original Starcaster, in production from 1976 to 1982, was a bit of commercial flop. Some believe it’s because Fender was considered a solid body guitar company, while Gibson was considered the semi-hollow guitar company. Others will say that it’s because the head is so ugly! Either way, the original Starcasters are pretty rare, which is why it’s great that Fender decided to re-issue them a few years ago under the Modern Player brand. Initially, I bought it to replace my electro acoustic guitar for live performances. But the Starcaster makes a few appearances on our new record.

FENDER TELECASTER

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Papi plays a Mexican made Telecaster from the late 90’s. I used to own one as well but pawned it off to pay rent 15 years ago!

ZVEX LOFI JUNKY

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The z.vex lofi junky made its first appearance on The Neon Nest (The Magic Empire). It kicks in around 0:52. It emulates an old tape recorder kind of sound. It’s the kind of pedal you mustn’t overuse so I try to use it sparsely. Here’s a pretty good review of the pedal.

NEUNABER WET STEREO REVERB

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I was looking for a reverb pedal with a shimmer effect. After watching dozens of reviews on YouTube, I opted for the Neunaber.
One of the cool things about these pedals, are that they’re 100% digital and can modified via USB cable. So you can turn your reverb pedal into a chorus pedal if you want.
The reverb sound at the beginning and the end of Mutual Seasons was made using this pedal. Check this video to see what you do with it, it’s awesome.

DISTORSION

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We hadn’t used a lot of distorsion or saturation until this last album. Papi uses a Digitech BadMokey for overdrive and an Electro Harmonix BigMuff to add some fuzz! I use an old ProCo Rat.

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BASS

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Our new bassplayer, Fred, used two different bass guitars for this record. A 1977 Fender Jazz Bass and Japanese made Fender Precision bass from 1989, running them through a Markbass Little Mark 3 amp head and Markbass speaker.

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DRUMS

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Olivier plays on a Sonor 3007 natural Maple drumkit, Sabian AAX cymbals and a Zildjian A Custom Hi Hat, and uses Vic Firth brushes. Olivier recorded the drums for our latest record in his attic using various different microphones and an M-Audio Firewire 2626. A friend of Fred’s lent us a pair of Russian Oktava mk012 microphones to record the full sound of the drums.

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Here’s a video of us setting up all those microphones!

UNIVERSAL AUDIO APOLLO TWIN DUO

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One of the new additions to my home studio for this record was the Universal Audio Apollo Twin Duo. It’s a desktop Sound Interface that uses the new thunderbolt input, which is supposed to be a lot faster than USB and Firewire.
One of the cool things about this piece of gear, is that it has embedded DSP’s which allow you to run UAudio effects plugins without slowing your Mac down too much.

If you’re not familiar with these terms, the effects plugins are small software programmes that do things like compression, EQ, delay, reverb, etc… They help improve the sound of each individual track.
Sometimes, you can end up with 4 or 5 different plugins on each track. And each one needs to be powered by your computer’s processor. Not only do some of the UAudio plugins sound great, but because of the DSP’s, I could use even more of them (but not always as many as I’d like!)

The plugins I used the most on this record were the Universal Audio Neve 1073 Preamp & EQ Plug-In plugin neveand the Universal Audio 1176LN Legacy Classic Limiting Amplifier Plug-In1176ln_3_hq

FULL LIST OF GEAR

Guitars:
Fender Telecaster
Fender Starcaster
Fender Telecaster Modern Player Thinline
Lapatrie Hybrid CW Black HG
G&L ASAT Classic
Fender Precision
Fender Jazz Bass

Guitar effects:
Proco RAT
Z.vex Lofi Junky
Neunaber Wet Stereo Reverb
Moog Minifooger Tremolo
Electro Harmonix BigMuff
Digitech BadMonkey
VHT Melo Verb
Ernie Ball VP Junior

Amps:
Fender Blues Junior Amp
Fender Champion 600
Hughes and Kettner amp
Markbass Amp cabinet
Markbass Little Mark 3 Amp Head

Synths:
Mellotron MD4000 Mini
Waldorf Streichfett String Synthesizer

Drumkit:
Sonor 3007 natural Maple drumkit
Pearl free floating snare
Sabian AAX cymbals
Zildjian A Custom Hi Hat
Remo ambassador coated heads

Microphones:
SE Electronics 2200a
Audio technica AT2020
Oktava mk012
Shure SM-57
shure beta52
shure beta56

Audio Interfaces:
Universal Audio Apollo Twin Duo
M-Audio Firewire 2626

Pre-amps:
Joe Meek ThreeQ

Software:
Universal Audio Ampex ATR-102 Mastering Tape Recorder Plug-In
Universal Audio Teletronix® LA-2A Legacy Classic Leveling Amplifier Plug-In
Universal Audio Neve 1073 Preamp & EQ Plug-In
Universal Audio 1176LN Legacy Classic Limiting Amplifier Plug-In
Sansamp PSA-1 Plugin
Native Instruments Battery Plug-In
Native Instruments Kontakt Plug-In
PureMagnetik MicroTron Sample Library
PureMagnetik Opus Sample Library
Hollow Sun Optomotron Sample Library
Spitfire Audio PP012 EUPHONE Sample Library
Avid Pro Tools 12

GEEK OUT FINI

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