Sound City Studios

Tom Petty passed away yesterday. Very sad news.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers recorded a number of their albums at Sound City Studios including Damn The Torpedoes, Hard Promises and Southern Accents.

Sound City was started in 1969 and became a private studio for a period between 2011 and 2016. The studio reopened earlier this year.

From their website:

Originally built as a factory for Vox amplifiers, a studio was added in 1964 to test amplifiers. After a few years the building was purchased by Tom Skeeter who partnered with Joe Gottfried in 1969 with the intent to operate a commercial recording studio: Sound City Studios was born. Despite a few high profile sessions such as Neil Young, Dr. John and James Gang, the studio struggled to stay afloat for the first few years.

Then in 1973, the studio invested in purchasing additional equipment to attract clients. But it will not be until a young couple named Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks came in to record their debut album that fortune changed.

Through a chance encounter with drummer Mick Fleetwood, the couple joined Fleetwood Mac and went on to record the start of a string of hit albums. The release of their eponymous album in 1975 made the band superstars and put Sound City firmly on the map. It also further reinforced the reputation of the studio as one of the greatest drum room in the world.

Soon the 70s saw a flood of stars finding their way to Sound City: War, Elton John, The Grateful Dead, REO Speedwagon, Santana, Foreigner, Cheap Trick, Alice Cooper, Peter Frampton, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers among others.

The studio had purchased a Neve desk back in the early days, an 8028, that Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters later purchased for his own studio.

The 1970s and 80s were such an amazing time for music recording and it is wonderful to see Sound City Studios reopen its doors. So much history there.

Skip Prokop Passes Away

Skip Prokop spent a lot of time in my Toronto studio. We worked on a couple of projects together for his son Jamie. I had known Skip for many years, way back in the late 70s and early 80s when I was a session player. We lost touch and reconnected after many years and then started working together on Mercy Train.

Skip died yesterday. I loved the man and it really hurts to see him gone. He was strong in his faith and I know that he is home in heaven now. He lived an incredible life.

A few shots to share from the time we had together.

Skip cared deeply for his son Jamie. And Jamie is an exceptional talent. Much like his father.

This was the kit that Skip used most of the time when playing live. Skip also played Monolith drums. For many of the sessions, we used the Monolith kit. Bill Hibbs provided Skip with a lot of support. Monolith drums was co-founded by April Wine drummer Jerry Mercer and Bill Hibbs.

Skip had a rare musical talent as well as terrific production skills. He knew how to draw the very best out of a musician.

I did live sound for one of Mercy Train’s concert events and my wife, Lorraine, caught this shot of Jamie playing on stage with his dad. This was the first public performance for Mercy Train at an outdoor concert in Ontario. They were on the same card as Casting Crowns. The band was outstanding and it was really impressive to see just how amazing Skip and Jamie were as live players. Skip was in his early sixties at the time. He was still very much a monster player.

Very sad to learn of Skip’s passing. I’ll treasure the time we spent together.

Goodbye, old friend.

Heroes

Tony Visconti

A friend passed me this link to Tony Visconti’s interview on how David Bowie’s Heroes track was made. A fascinating look into music production. Wonderful to see great older tunes that had been recorded on tape being brought forward into the digital age. From the BBC site:

Producer Tony Visconti uses the original master tapes from sessions at Hansa Studio in Berlin to get to the heart of the title track from ‘Heroes’, one of David Bowie’s best-loved songs.

We hear the song built up by individual contributions, including those from guitarist Robert Fripp, Brian Eno’s ‘synthesiser in a briefcase’ and of course David Bowie’s powerful, harshly emotional vocal.

Sound On Sound also covered the technical details on the background of this recording back in 2004. You can read the article here.

This video also provides some additional perspective into that recording:

Global Music Awards

Trevor just passed me the press release for the Global Music Awards. Thrilled to see the recognition for our project. A wonderful accomplishment for the team!

PRESS RELEASE – Dec. 21, 2015. Canadian Trevor Dick Band wins two Global Music Awards with CD release, “NEW WORLD”.

The Trevor Dick Band (TDB) fronted by Guelph, Ontario, Canada electric violinist, Trevor Dick are pleased to announce their recent CD, New World has gleaned two Global Music Awards – “Gold Medal” for Top Ten Album of 2015 and Band of the Year. Details are found here.

Nigerian born, Trevor Dick and his long-time bandmates have entered new territory with the introduction of TDB’s debut album, New World. This world/jazz/folk fusion project with classical and modern pop/rock underpinning takes you from Africa to Latin America to Europe and North America, erasing all borders. The music represents that sense of excitement, adventure, vision and sacrifice as our forefathers and mothers left the “Old World,” got on a ship and sailed into the unknown, in faith and discovered the New World. “… That’s what this album is all about – that longing for adventure, that sense of creativity, the drive to explore new territories with reckless abandon.” New World is interesting, experimental, and improvisational. It is complex music, yet accessible to the average listener.

Shortly after the September 2015 CD release, NEW WORLD was also honoured last month with the Gospel Music Association’s “Covenant Award” for Instrumental Album of the Year.

Mark Rheaume, of CBC Music writes, “… not many acts can blend so many sounds as easily as the Trevor Dick Band on NEW WORLD. Sonic sweetness from beginning to end. ”

 In his review, Angel Romero of Progressive Rock Central states: “The [TDB] New World incorporates genres appealing to the progressive music community … [with] echoes of Jean Luc Ponty-style fusion on some of the more progressive rock leaning pieces … the mesmerizing electric violin in “East of Sinai Prelude”; the fabulous Middle Eastern-colored progressive rock composition in “East of Sinai” featuring outstanding violin solo work, violin and guitar interplay …”

World Music Project

I was asked to provide a summary of my experience with a recent mix that I did for the World Music Project. And this was the result.

Noble Street Studios

Noble Street Studios is a spectacular recording facility in Toronto, Ontario. I have done a few projects there and I really love the team and the studio. I’ve also done photography shoots for them. You can see a few examples on their website here and here.

I recently went back to reshoot Studio B as Noble Street had installed a new monitoring system from Quested. Quested make some amazing monitors and they can be found in a number of high profile facilities including Abbey Road Studios.

Here are some of my photos from the recent shoot at Noble Street. Mix Magazine will be doing a profile on Noble Street and I expect some of my photos will also be carried in the magazine.

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World Music Project

I am mixing an interesting project for a producer out of New York City. The project is called the World Music Project and it is a collaborative effort from more than fifty musicians across the world.

I will be keeping a video diary for the project partly to keep all of the players in the loop in terms of how the mix is progressing. And partly because some of my readers do enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at mixing.

The mix for this project will go through a few distinct phases:

File import and initial prep — you can find that video here.
Track management (naming, colour coding, grouping) — you can find that video here.
Track remediation for vocals (editing) — today’s video
Track remediation for instruments (editing)
Placement (stereo soundfield)
Processing (compression, EQ, effects)
Automation (levels)
Release candidate mix

Here is the third stage of the project: vocals.

Video Blogging With Pro Tools

ScreenFlow

Thank heavens for ScreenFlow. ScreenFlow is an easy to use tool for making screencasts and developing video content.

I could never bond with Final Cut Pro. Largely because its workflow looked similar to Pro Tools but so different in practice that it really got in my way. And, because I wasn’t using it frequently enough, I found that I had to relearn the environment whenever I jumped in to do some basic video editing.

ScreenFlow, on the other hand, is very similar to Pro Tools. Tracks of screen captures, videos and audio are easily cut, assembled and sequenced.

I have been using it quite a bit for a recent series of Video Blogs.

Getting it to work with Pro Tools was both difficult and easy.

Here was my rough workflow when I first started:

VideoBloggingBefore

I used ScreenFlow to capture all activity on the screen.

To capture the Pro Tools audio, I routed the signals out of my HD IO units to my Neve 8816 analog summing mixer. From the Neve summing mixer, the stereo mix of the audio went to a Soundcraft EPM8 analog console. The audio was then combined with my voiceover. My voiceover was captured by a Neumann Km184 mic. The voiceover was routed through the Soundcraft EPM8 analog console, and, along with the audio output from Pro Tools, sent to a handheld Zoom H2N recorder.

The video was captured by a Nikon D600.

The files from the D600 and the Zoom recorder were then loaded into ScreenFlow. Track line up was done by finding three claps from the camera and the Zoom and a keyboard sequence on ScreenFlow. Cut, edit, assemble, publish.

This workflow seemed rather complex to me. So I found a different way.

VideoBlogAfter

The Pro Tools session continued to be captured by ScreenFlow. I routed the voiceover mic into a Pro Tools track — I set the track to always monitor the input and I kept the volume of the studio speakers very low to prevent any feedback and phasing of the voice itself. All of the audio from the Pro Tools session went out to the Neve Analog summing mixer and, from there, direct into the audio input of the Nikon D600.

That made life so much simpler. Only two tracks to manage: the screencast itself and the Nikon D600 audio + video track. As the Neve summing mixer used a separate mix buss from the studio loudspeakers, I could keep the levels strong from the Neve and the levels low on the studio loudspeakers.

Simpler, faster and no difference in quality. Some might argue that bypassing the Soundcraft EPM8 likely improved the quality of the audio.