Recording Sister Axe

Sister Axe

Sister Axe are one of the winners of our monthly studio time giveaway. They won 5 hrs/ recording time and are here @ Certain Sparks Studio to record some Punk-ROCK.

We started at 10am which was a little rough for me. I’m more of night owl. But once you’re awake and working it feels nice to be up and alive.

The band was right on time. That’s always a great way to start the day.

Quick “hellos” while we set up drums – they were using one of our sets, a sweet little Tama Rockstar  I got for $50.00!

Daily, the drummer, brought his own snare (Pork Pie Squealer) cymbals and hats. I asked what drum sounds he was into and he said he liked Pennywise. I switched to the plastic side of the kick beater to get some more attack. Waaay better than EQ’ing later.

Dialed in drum sounds for 30 minutes then moved to Guitars.

They brought two Marshall heads. One was solid state and the other was some JCM tube head. IMO – I got the solid state sounding slightly better than the JCM. I’m not a huge Marshall fan. They’re just too big and they often have that brittle high end.

One of their guitars could have used some new strings. They broke 2 strings while recording. Fortunately, I have lots of strings here for these situations. No biggie.

Cody used my Fender telecaster, and I overheard him say that he really liked it. Everyone loves that guitar! They always ask if it was expensive – it wasn’t.  Only$150.00 on craigslist w/ a hard case!! I did the setup. It is really sweet.

The band was happy with the guitar sounds. One guitar was more crunchy & one was more sizzle-y. They complimented each other well. Guitar set-up took maybe 20 minutes.

Our bass rig is always set up with a line out direct to Pro Tools to save set-up time. The bass player was stoked on the Fender Jazz bass and the sound of the Ampeg B5R. (I can also send a DI to one of our Bass pres so the Bass player can have his sound in the live room and I can have mine for tracking. I rarely mic a bass amp anymore…)

We ran some test takes. I like to let the band hear some playback before settling on tones. This took maybe 15 minutes but in the end it makes for happy bands, and no ugly surprises.

The band was well rehearsed and sounded pretty sweet during tracking. I was stoked.

I suggested adding leads after the basic live tracking of: Drums, Bass, Guitars, and scratch Vocals. We had scratch vocals (SM58) going to the drummers headphones so he wouldn’t lose his place in the song. No one else wore headphones.

They got everything in 2 or 3 takes so we were able to track 4 songs.

Solos were also pretty easy. I switched the JCM to a  lighter distortion setting which I think was called “Crunch OD” or something. I ran a Monster cable to a tuner and my Snarling Dog Distortion pedal (SDP-1). Every guitar player I record has loved this pedal. It’s like mix between a Tube Screamer and a Big Muff. We added a Flanger at Daily’s suggestion to make the leads stand out from the regular unaffected tone. Very slight, added a little shimmer but not really an all out “flanger” sound. We all liked it.

Vocals were easy. Both singers really had they acts together, I was especially digging James’ voice. We doubled the choruses but kept things pretty simple.

The mic was an ADK s-51, via a Monster Cable direct to Pro-Tools. There I compressed liberally with the Massey CT-4 plug-in, EQ’d, & added some slap echo w/ the Massey TD-5.

The vocal double also got some slap echo and eq. Pretty easy.

After talking with the band we decided to use all of the 5 FREE hours for tracking and arranged for them to come back next week for mixing. They decided to pay for a few more hrs to get something they can be proud of. A very good decision.

I quick mixed 1 song, ‘Pierced, Like Brosnin’, for them to take home and talk about. That way they could come in for mixing with suggestions, complaints, or critiques.

The master fader had a high pass at 32hz and a low pass at 17.5khz., ending with the Massey L2007 Mastering Limiter. I hit it pretty hard because I wanted them to have a loud CD to analyze.

For final mix I’ll use a compressor before the limiter, and use each one a little less.

Sister Axe is great band. Super nice guys. The songs I recorded won’t be up till the end of August 09.

I called Mike from the Mongers / Red Cent Productions and recommended them for any upcoming shows. These guys are ready to play!

And now… a few unedited words, direct from the band:

“Great equipment, I feel a little less alienated from the rest of the band than I usually do.” – Daily, Drummer

“Recording at Certain Sparks gave everyone in our band a second wind – in the same a really good show would. We were really happy to have someone recording us who understood the sound we were going for and who could offer helpful suggestions to help us obtain it. Randall knew his shit and and then some. I look forward to mixing and mastering our tracks with him!” – James Bilous, Guitarist

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