Monday, 8 October 2012

June 2010

There are already entries on this blog pointing to the continued recording of Girls Girls Girls' third album.  It was around this time that things were approaching their peak of activity, with plenty of late nights running into early mornings getting the mixes finished.  This would become the first album I produced that would be committed to vinyl.

Notes from the band regarding the mixes were copious.  For example:

Adrian Schille

to meJeremy

Apologies for the late response to the songs. As usual, Jeremy has been stuck in an Eastern European country with no recourse to internet. Back online though and comments on all of the stuff here now. This is also co-written by yours's trulys, so expect some bizarre and confusing 1st to 3rd person references, as well as both of us backseat driving with no one at the wheel.
We appreciate that the songs aren't fully mixed and that some of the comments here will have been picked up by you anyway. We've just listed everything that came up. I'm always wary that our directives will come across as sounding critical rather than constructive. I know that you have spent a lot of time on the songs and do not necessarily want Jeremy and I saying 'Uh, yeah, do it better, like'. But generally we know what we want, so no point in pussyfooting around. Honestly the songs sound great, which is all your doing, and we are pleased with the direction of things. Most of the comments are down to preference of tracks and instruments.
Generally speaking, it just needs cleaning up and plug ins (Sorry, dreaded things). Same treatment of the first three songs really. I dug out an email thread that had been sent when you were mixing the first three, and I think it is pretty relevant to these mixes as well, so rather than say it all again I have just appended the thread to the bottom of this email.
Broadly speaking, we found the following issues in the majority of the songs:
Messy mixes
Bass tone is poor
Vox need to come up
Need guitars up or clearer/crisper
Kick/Snare/Bass trio needs to be punchier and better tone
Too many instruments at full blast at points in lots of them – KISS.  With a good clean mix some of the auxxilary overdubs can be used as context/bedding rather than a choice between them all being up front driving the song or being cut entirely.
Quickly on these ones, the bass tone in a lot of them sounds very good but needs some balls behind it. My bass is typical for losing its body when you start getting into the upper registers; anything from a 'C' up tends to get tinny. So, the TONE is fine, and in fact great, in most of the songs, but it needs more body and something to carry it on the upper registers.
Messy mixes and too many instruments is part of the same issue. This is explained pretty well in the historic email at the bottom. As is the kick/snare/bass issue and guitar/vox volume. Hopefully that will all make sense.
The clean guitars sound good: spiky and clean.  The distortion may need a plug-in in some songs to beef it up a bit.  I also use it as almost a volume pedal on some of the songs, so needs to audibly lift the song when switching from clean.
Also, before we get into specifics, the songs are going to be mastered by the dog man in Canada, as were the past two albums. So we will need the final 'layer' of mastering that you put on left off, so as not to restrict the frequencies and headroom that he has to work with.
Specifics on the songs here....

An example for the first half of how we would like it to sound Sarah Jayne from Hawksley Workman . I'll email this over to you
1st Half:
Bass tone is cool but tinny on the upper registers – needs more body
Less/different verb on the vocals?
Are the vocals centre panned? If not they should be
Slightly louder drums or quieter bass. Is there any kick or snare in the beginning?

Less accordion – focus should still be on core instruments
Keep accordion running for a few seconds into the end rather than cutting it sharply
The cut is far too drastic when the end kicks in at 2'29 - use the extra guitar recorded to beef it up

Vox need to be on top of the mix
Insert added tracks done last time we were up where appropriate
2'58: additional rhythm guitar track is quite noticeable when coming in; maybe have it in the mix from 2'29 at a lower level, gradually brough upt (sounds great around 3'01 though)... the newly recorded guitars guitars should help
Newly-recorded vocal takes at the end
Newly-recorded backing vox at the end
Take out the guitar time scratches at 3'40

Hello Sailor
Intro is cool. We like the guitar noise
Piano needs to come down at 0'19 and guitar up
Piano sounds good in riff and chorus.
Vox needs to come up
1st verse and chorus sounds fantastic
Riff 2 needs piano punch on last note (where all of the instruments do a syncopated rhythm just before the 2nd verse starts at 1'06)
Wrong guitar track on the punches I think. If you remember we recorded this again because Jeremy was playing a slightly different rhythm. This is the same part as the missing piano punch above.
Bass tone sounds great
Guitar needs to cut through more and be a bit louder throughout the song – can't really hear it in the mix for some of the song
Pre-chorus guitar scratches at 0'44 sound awesome
Solo is great – maybe a bit less guitar volume though
Fake marimba sound is very nice but for reference can we try a more Marimba-y plug-in for the non-piano keys track that first comes in at 0'55?  If there's nothing else this one's fine.
Choice of instruments and takes seems right
Bass/kick/snare issue again. Snare sounds fine, just kick/bass

No Response
Get rid of piano after first chorus, or have it a lot quieter or try piano in from first chorus at 0'39 (at a lower level than when it is when it comes in)
Try having quiet piano &/or organ in v2 from 1'11.
Arpeggio guitar at 1'28 onwards is good
Add organ slide up to chrous at 1'41
Is Jeremy laughing in 'Is My Righteousness just uselessness' at 1'28? It sounds a bit odd. Can we try a different take for this
Organ is great
Piano in middle 8 is good
Clean up middle 8 – sounds very messy. Take out unnecessary instruments
What's all the noise in the instrument break after the m/8? Is it the piano? Generally can we try losing the reverb on the piano tone (this is particularly prominent in the second half of the song)
Keep the instrument break at 2'26 clean with only the relevant instruments playing (drums and vocals is all I think)
Fix (either volume or editing the tone) the piano in the last bit of the chorus, before the solo. It is a bit overbearing [comment: taking the reverb off should make this sound less murky
Have everything going throughout the solo from 2'58 (trumpets, piano, organ)
Solo guitar sounds great
Get rid of guitar scratches in the stops from 3'29 (but keep the guitar fill at 3'39).
Also add organ slide up at 3'38.
Remove ancillary noise (piano reverb) in instrument breaks from 3'29.
Probably get rid of the piano at this part or maybe try it without the reverb
Insert guitar pulls that Adrian did from 3'29
Kick/Bass/Snare issue again
Bass needs some more body again
B/vox needs to be crisper. Not louder, just crisper
Another note on this song – the piano is not a lead instrument and it is featuring quite a bit here. It needs to just be embellishments, without sounding incongruous when it comes in and out. The song should be pretty clear and airy. KISS, but only to a point. I like this song starting off simple and ending up with everything blaring like some showtune; my main issue with the murkiness is the piano reverb which swamps everything. Mixed correctly the piano can be there but not driving the song... The song needs to sound clear, even with several instruments going at once, so some tidy mixing will need to be implemented. Some Bacharach & David type shit or somesuch].

PS. Insert trumpet tracks

Kick and bass sound woody, not in a good way
Bass needs more body to the tone – sounds odd. One of the ones where the upper register is lost
Bring the acoustic guitar up in the mix, particularly on the pre-verses (the start and 0'48). This should be driving the song in verse 1
Lose the electric rhythm track (from the live take?) that you have up in the mix from the start to 0'11 and have it lower when it comes back in at 0'23. Lower as well for the pre-verse at 0'48.
Guitar up strokes like at 0'58 sound nice though.
Add the riff that you have panned hard left at 0'49 as also recorded at the start for the start of the song, front and centre and with lots of (clear, not swampy!!!) reverb. Boost it likewise at 0'49.
The single chord strokes electric rhythm track is fine at the start.
However, the choice of guitars and the picking in the chorus at 0'36/1'13/1'49, and on verse 2 from 0'59 sounds very nice.
Bring up the acoustic guitar and some v. quiet 'bedding' accordion under the solo from 1'28.
Maybe a little reverb on the solo guitar also.
Ride sounds very nice
Add backing vox in first verse that we did last time at 0'23 onwards. Did we record these for v3 as well? If so put them in
Vox should be louder
Outro part – I will split this into 3 parts. The first is where it is just Jeremy singing, before the band comes back in. The middle is where the band is back in but before everything falls apart, and Jeremy's main vocal is still going through. The end is where Jeremy's main vocal ends and everything falls apart.
First Part:
Get rid of guitar scratches at 2'06 – it should just be Jeremy's vocals come back in.
Keep the drums and accordion from 2'19 though
It sounds like the vocals are spliced in the end, which is fine. But just before the band comes in, which is where the splice is, Jeremy does two off time shouts, one in each different take. It makes it sound unnatural, because of the bizarre timing and draws attention to the splice. We need to lose one of these shouts
Band mix at 2'34 sounds good
Keep this part simple and in time, until Jeremy's main vocals drop out (the end). Just guitar, bass, drums, main vocals and some backing vocals IF they are in time with the song. Only have backing vocals at this point if they are in time.
I like the accordion in the mix here

General notes on the song:
Kick drum punches through nicely but needs some attack
Balance of kick/bass/snare is actually pretty good – just needs attack
Accordion needs to come down a little in choruses and guitar up a little
Surprisingly one of the better mixes (given it is one of the unloved songs)
Worst for bass tone

St. Pauli
Bass tone sounds nice, but it needs some more body
Bass can come down a bit in verse, or vox can go up
Bass generally is pretty high in the mix
Vocals are too breathy – see if you can get something less breathy from alternative takes and use the newly-recorded vocals from 2'56
Rhythm guitar up a little in verse 1 from 0'27
First chorus – 'life is a circus' at 0'54 is flubbed - change
First chorus – try just bass, drums, vox and single piano notes (maybe leave in the 'rhythm' piano here as well?) until the climax at the end of the chorus
Get rid of the 'OW!' at the end of the first chorus, or much lower in the mix. Not a feature.
Get a plug in on that crunch guitar doing the circus bit! (the riff bit that is)
The lead guitar overhang from the riff to the 2nd verse at 1'33 is good but have it lower in the mix as a kind of disembodied echo under what's going on above it.
Compensate by bringing the (tremelo) rhythm guitar up in verse 2 from 1'33.
Organ in 2nd part of the 2nd verse sounds nice
I may want to use a different bass take in 2nd chorus if we have it. In some I play a slightly different rhythm. It is not a big deal, and this is probably something that will need to be sung down the phone to make sense. Probably best to leave it for the moment.
Bass/Snare, drums in general need more punch
Wolfgang, Sarina. Etc is flubbed in 2nd verse at 2'00 – change
Instruments in 2nd chorus sound nice
m/8 sounds fucking mighty
Gang vox in both the middle 8 (2'26 onwards) can be a bit more gangy and up in the mix a little. Jeremy's vocal doesn't need to sit so distinctly on top of them and can blend in a bit more, with the compensation that the gang's are higher.
Try to get more of a clear ramp up into the m/8 off the back of Jeremy's vocal at 2'26. There are a few instruments coming in at this part (2 or 3 beats leading into the m/8). The vocals should be leading the attack, however the instruments coming in, which are at varying timings, confuse the crescendo. Can you fade the instruments in appropriately so they compliment Jeremy's vocal here rather than distract?
Is there any guitar in the m/8 – certainly can't hear it but might not need it
Get rid of piano or try it without nearly as much reverb at this point and lower in the mix (piano tone/reverb generally in the song is good) in breakdown/3rd verse at 2'56– just before outro - However bring it in again for the F-F#-G bit at 3'06
Get rid of the guitar time scratches in the breakdown/3rd verse from 2'57
Change vocal takes at the end of the song to what was recorded last time up
Get the vocals on top of the mix at the end – it all sounds very messy at the end. Maybe get rid of the piano
Guitar distorted arpeggios kicking in at 3'40 is too obvious a volume boost. They should be high in the mix, but it needs to be a less incongruous 'kick up' for when they come in.
Gang vocals on the outro can be a bit more gangy (and up)... 3'40 onwards.
KISS at the end. It's way over the top when the arpeggios kick in ('hello sailor' vocal bit).
Need crisper guitar in the arpeggios and a cleaner mix
Should we get rid of the piano shots at the end or lower in the mix? Keep the piano high for the circus at the very end at 4'09]
Is there organ in the outro? If so it is just confusing the mix and is not very audible, so best to get rid of it. Get rid of all but essentials in outro and put in some minor embellishments rather than have everything running through, whilst keeping it epic.

[Anything off Gogol Bordello - Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike... particularly Sally as mix guide]
New gang vocals in intro please, as we recorded last time up
Fade out guitar in the first verse where it drops out (0'40). The scratches are just for timing in recording
Sounds nice
Bass/drums need more punch
Vox need to come up
Chorus sounds messy. Too many instruments?
Solo sounds odd at 1'30. Best to get the piano quite low as it conflicts with the guitar too much when it is loud in the mix (or vice versa if this sounds better). Could put a different midi plug in on the piano to make it bit more honky tonk.
Bass sounds tinny on upper registers
New vocal takes recorded last time please
'Thank Th-eeeee' as recorded last time (Before the 2nd chorus I think), as well as the 'I! THANK! THEE!' gang vocals just before the last chorus
Really spiked snare shot just inside of 2nd chorus
Sort out transition into m/8 at 2'15 and out of m/8 at 2'56– stretch it out as we recorded last time up. Not sure what to do here really, so have some creative licence. I think it was placing a gap in the original take and using the longer vocal.
'So Sa-eve Me' vocal – change
“Vagabond is what I have to do' vocal at the very end – Change. We sound gay enough as it is

Add monologue at beginning
Get rid of all the hand claps – can't hear them really and they just clutter the mix
Example of a pretty good mix – apply to loud songs, such as Pauli
Get vox a bit higher
B/vox in choruses should be a little louder
Bass sounds great
Kick/Snare needs more punch
Guitar when distorted needs to be brought up, it seems to almost get quieter when changing from tremelo/clean to distorted.
Get guitar in 2nd riff at 1'39 and where soloing.
Really kick it up at 2'25 for the instrumental verse bit.
Change vox in Eddie Argos as recorded in v3
Get guitar in 3rd riff up a bit and take one guitar rather than two at 2'04
Get rid of Ughs in 3rd chorus (2'45 onwards)
Get rid of stick clicks in break at the end of the 3rd chorus (3'03) and do a somewhat hard fade on everything
Can we get a plug in on the guitar on the outro? The chorus tone sounds a bit weedy from 3'26. Needs a harder edge.

Hello Good Sir,

I apologise for our silence on the proffered mixes. We had wanted to send you a consolidated opinion, so as not to confuse things any more than necessary. Anyway, I now write with our collective thoughts on your good work.

This is written solely upon hearing 'Dogs' and without listening to ;Titanic, however I think the comments will be applicable to the session and songs in general.

Generally I think we are all happy with the direction and overall sound of the recording. It sounds quite raw and exciting, and (if I can say it without giggling) titillating. The choice of what material to leave in we are happy with, and Jeremy and the rest of us are happy with the Big Man's vocal take, or splice, or whatever it is you have done there.

We did have some thoughts and comments on the mixing; I'm not sure how far along you were with the mixing so disregard the following as necessary if these are simply a product of the somewhat nascent condition of the mix.

Generally the mix sounds a bit cluttered, as if you are attempting to get all sounds an equal footing and in doing so have confused the mix somewhat. I think it would be better to have a K.I.S.S. approach, and fill around that. What I mean is to have guitar and vocals as the main focus, with a driving rhythm behind it. With the other bits added in as embellishments where and when needed.

The mix also sounds quite 'mid'. I know that we are going for a live, open feel, but I don't think this means the songs should lose their punch, which seems to be the case at the moment. It could be lost in the bass, bass drum and snare. In previous recordings these have been quite strong in tone, whilst not being too loud in the mix. This created a nice base (not unlike a huge clamshell that a mermaid would ride on) on which to build the song. Anyway, I guess the point is that it seems quite 'mid', which is something we'd like to avoid. This probably needs some experimenting with the mix to work out.

The levels seem to move around a lot. As an example, the bass is very loud in the beginning then swims around. This is true for the guitar as well. Maybe you're not complete with the gating/compression/automation process...

The guitars themselves need to be clearer. The beginning of the song is a reasonable example, in that the guitar is quite muddy and then completely lost when the band comes in.

The main vocals are too low.

The backing vocals should come up in the outro.

The bottom toms sound very cool but are quite loud. They sort of jump in and flood the cans whenever they are hit.

I think that's all for the moment. I hope this doesn't come across as critical. We have just spent a lot of time in studios and have come to find that, when you're spending a lot of money on something like this, you'd best get da fooking ting right. Who cares if we upset friends and family along the way. No seriously, we do think it is sounding excellent, just needs massaging.

It's worth mentioning as well that I had listened to this on three sets of headphones and a stereo. I'm sure you have done this, but if not throw the song onto an old casio tape player as the sound will be completely different (and more realistic) than listening to it on those gleaming jet black powered monitors of yours.

Love and kisses,

Adrian and Gx3


All fair points; I'll see what I can do to remedy them...

The guitar has been difficult to get sounding prominent from the get go; the sound captured was not perhaps as sharp as I would have liked (the benefit of hindsight, eh?), however there are techniques I can employ to get around this.

As for the thing sounding 'mid', I'll tweak the compression and EQ on the overall track to see if this can be corrected.

As for the toms and backing vocal levels that is very straightforward to fix.

Sadly it sounds as if the drum overheads, and their resultant spill of high hats and background guitars, may well me the culprit of the messy sound.  I shall go back to the drawing board on this.  But from your email I can roughly judge the sound you're going for.  It may not be 100% attainable considering the methods used; but I shall do my damnedest to get as close as I can.  It won't end up sounding like either of your two previous records, which were very clean and neat.  It's worth mentioning that now so you're not under any illusions; simply because of the nature of recording live in a room together doesn't allow such clear separation between each of the instruments.  But I shall persist to get something a little more distinct.

Hope that all sounds encouraging rather than potentially hazardous, and I'm glad that overall you're excited by what you hear.

Speak soon,


 That's all fine. Just a quick note that we are by no means expecting something sounding like our previous album. The references to SFG were only about the tone of bass/snare, not an overall comparison.
 There are a couple of points I had forgotten about on the last email...
 The 'WHY CAN'T YOU PLAY GUITAR ANYMORE' is out of time slightly. It may be difficult to explain where it is out of time without signing it down a phone to you... Or you can have a look at the youtub vid.
 This may be cleared up in your guitar EQing, but the intro guitar sounds somewhat divorced from the song when the band comes in. It should be driving into the song and carrying through. At the moment it is comparable to a tugboat pulling the QEII out to sea, and is shunted away at the nearest opportunity; which in this case is when that humongous bass tones squashes it like a bug.

I'm hoping my tenuous analogies make sense. Have fun!

Okay, I'll have a look at that too.  The guitar is, generally, a menace to get a hold of.  Nothing to do with Jeremy's playing; simply a case of unruly frequencies.  There are several guitar distortion plug ins that I was toying with in previous (unsent) mixes that beefed the guitar tone up considerably.  I expect to return to these and see if more can be squeezed from them to make the guitar more driving.  I recall that much of the To The Boats..! album employed this, so it makes sense to employ them here.

Expect more mixes by this time next week; I'm at home until Thursday.  I'll do some much needed Gx3 admin on the two other songs while I'm away from my speakers (choosing takes and editing), but won't have anything to send you until I'm back at my desk.

Thank you for all your comments; they're really helpful and make my job much easier.  I had a client in the other day who said "can you make it a bit more... uh, different, I don't know what way exactly, though.  Yeah?" which was quite hard to interpret.



Excellent stuff.

Generally, on the emplyement of plug ins, we are not adverse to these at all and I personally don't think it will detract from the 'live' sound in any way, so have at 'em. I would have thought they would be being used anyway, if only to get some grit into the instruments. There is only so much tone that can be squeezed out of an SM51.

•  •  •

June also saw the bulk of the No Fit State 'Wonderland' album sessions.  This anarchist feminist punk band have always had a sweet spot in my affections; the songs were recorded live, with the cornet and violin dubbed in later.  Faye managed to battle an intimidating hangover to record the vocals at a later date.

The album was released by Discount Horse Records, in Durham, on tape cassette.  They are a very independent, very cool little label; worth a browse.

My main recollection from the mixing process of this album was battling to keep the cornet in tune with the rest of the group, since the temperature variations in the cold Roots & Wings place were always affecting it and causing it to go sharp.

•  •  •

Bec Jones dropped by to record a webcast; always a convivial way to spend an evening.  Within the live material there was a new composition by Jones and her band, some readings by Elodie Roy and a rather deranged cover of 'Byker Bridge' by Blue Screem of Death (it's at the start of Part II).  Listen to it here:

I was also fortunate enough to DJ once more at PopKlubb, this time with My Attorney.  I can't honestly remember a thing about it.  What did we play?  Did it even happen?  It says so in my diary - so I'm going to assume it did.