Raccoon Eyes: The St. James Session

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We arrived at St. James around 11pm. Miggy strummed a few chords and warmed up his voice, while Mike and I assembled the recording setup.  Using Drawmer 1960 pre-amps and a Fireface 800 interface into a reliable 2011 Macbook, we were free to experience multi-tracking Heaven.

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Miggy sang into a Sennheiser 421 about 4 inches away. The mushy sonic character of the Drawmer 1960 pre-amp and compressor compliments the harshness of the 421. Striving to capture a lot of bass and foundation from the acoustic guitar, I placed the Apex 205 ribbon microphone about 3 inches away from his strumming hand. The guitar had an interesting sound-hole right near the bottom of the guitar’s body. The buttery smoothness of the Apex 205 countered the bright, edgy sound of the pick hitting the strings. No compression was used since Miggy’s arrangements relied strongly on the instrument’s dynamic changes.

Besides the usual close mics, we placed a single Apex 460 (with the ‘good’ mod) on omni-directional about 8 feet from Miggy, and we had stereo TLM 103s above the upper deck, on either side of the room about 50 feet from Miggy, creating a massive stereo space. The mono mic could be leaned on heavily if needed as it contained a good balance of guitar and vocals along with the acoustic delay from the amplifier..

My ambitious co-recordist Mike Paton setup a wonderful side-chain for the vocals:

A green bullet microphone was placed alongside the 421,  fed through a Line 6 DL4 pedal (classic!) and then into a mini Orange combo that sat about 3 metres behind Miggy. Each song, Mike would adjust the Time and Feedback controls of the DL4. This was used to get a slightly-distorted medium delay or slapback delay directly onto the initial performance, bringing new life to the ambience mics and precluding the need for additional effects during the mix-down. [VERY IMPORTANT: Put the mix blend of the DL4 on 100%, so there is no un-effected sound going through the amp causing severe phasing with the singer’s voice.]

Rather than reaching for the Soundtoys and Waves plug-ins during the final mix, we tried to put all the effected sound we needed directly into the space we were recording. Truth be told, we were spoiled to record in that room and it was satisfying to make use of it in that way.

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