Me in Studio B

Me in Studio B
If you were googling Undertone Audio and found my blog here, well...welcome! You should visit the official website, undertoneaudio.com, but here you can follow my adventures as the crew and I build these mixing consoles, EQs and other oddities. Some, most or all of my work wouldn't be very interesting to a lot of people, but for recording junkies who get excited about vintage German tube mics, cool, eccentric compressors, studio history and some of the fun ins and outs of studio life, this could be for you. Hey, make it your home page and impress chicks! I can be reached at mw@undertoneaudio.com

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Trevor's Lunch, Slash's Pick Ups and Jimmy Page Wiring

I took this shot of Trevor's lunch about six or seven months ago.


I thought it was great that his sushi lunch special was sitting on the table along with a Les Paul, soldering iron and a bunch of other tech stuff and the soup or rice (whatever was in that little container) was left just sitting on top of the guitar. The guys from Seymour Duncan came by the previous year, as Slash was working with them and Gibson to come out with a new Slash model Les Paul. Like Marshall, they wanted to go after the Appetite for Destruction guitar tone, so they were trying to replicate the pick ups that were in Slash's #1 and 2 guitars.

Slash took a pair of SDs out of one of his guitars and gave them to Trevor. He installed them into one of his Les Pauls and he and Eric set out to do the "Jimmy Page" dual humbucker wiring scheme. They did a little research, but in the end I don't think they were successful. It seems to be a bit nebulous as to how the original Page wiring was done...it is supposed to give you maybe twelve or thirteen different configurations with the pick up select switch, I'm not sure. But, like most of these things, there is just too much misinformation out there. Do any of you know how to do it correctly? Send me an email if you do.

MW

Friday, January 28, 2011

¡América Latina!

Yay! México, Colombia y Brazil have visited my blog. I thought about doing a version of this whole webpage in Spanish, but I would need to study again first and I would need help. Anyone interested? on another note, we gave away a lot of Undertone Audio t-shirts at the AES show and on the second or third day we started seeing people wearing 'em. So send me pictures of you wearing your UTA shirts, posing in front of a landmark, or throwing up in an alley. (Cian...Golden Gate in the background, please...you better have packed one:)

In about a month, we will be putting a lot of effort into the EQs, mic pres and compressors. So set aside that cash now so you can get one of the first 100. We expect to move those constantly.

I've had a pretty exciting week and I'm going to sleep in tomorrow.

MW

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Studio War Stories

Today Charlie Bolois and Steve Perry came to visit. Charlie wanted to see the consoles and Steve wanted to see the place again, because he used to be a tape op there. He recalled Jackson Browne recording, "Doctor My Eyes" at Crystal. We all just hung out for a long time, talking. They had a tour of the place and we listened to a mix that Eric has been working on. It was a lot of fun.

Charlie always has good studio war stories, but Perry had one of the best I had ever heard. He said that when Journey was recording "Infinity," at a studio in San Francisco called, His Master's Wheels, they had Roy Thomas Baker producing. RTB, who had a bit much to drink with some sushi, chased a tech around the studio with a chemical fire extinguisher...spraying it everywhere. Everyone had to leave as it sucked the oxygen out of the air and they all stayed out for awhile. Well, when they came back, it looked like it had snowed in the studio. There was white stuff everywhere...all over the tape machine, the master tape and the console, a Neve. It ruined the console, the studio owner was called in and he punched Baker in the face. The band had to finish the record somewhere else, so they went to Cherokee.

This week I've been doing some wiring in Studio A, we got the samples back from anodizing of the new knobs we are going to use on the EQs and all consoles from now on...they look amazing. Maybe I'll post some pictures after they are laser etched. I've been working on the EMI for Jon and Greg so I've been over at Capitol a lot and I've been doing some microphone repair. It's the first time in a long time that I've done work on mics...I started with a couple of 414s. The adventures continue...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fun Day plus More Studio & Console History

I had an interesting day. First, I had an email from Barry Ober, he built the first custom consoles for the studio back in the 70s. He gave me a link to his website on which he posted a remarkable piece about his time at the studio and includes an article that he and Andrew Berliner wrote for RE/P magazine a long time ago. It is a good read. There are great pictures of the studio, technical details on the original Crystal consoles and some good stories about those glory days. http://www.soundoctor.com/crystal/

This afternoon, Eric experimented more with monitors in Studio B. This time it was a pair of large (and heavy) Barefoots. The mains are completely removed and the quest for a secondary pair of monitors has continued on. Matt Radosevich spends a lot of time in there, so there will be something to keep him happy. Matt, by the way, used a channel on the console to track acoustic guitar recently...he used the EQ and an LA-2A (instead of just a plug-in version of one). That's big news, because he is a modern, digital man and usually uses the console in there as a stand for the keyboard and mouse.

Then I got a call from Greg Koller. He and Jon Brion have taken up residency at the Capitol Records building and are installing Jon's EMI console in an editing room there. I have done a lot of work with Greg over the years and it's always fun, so I'm going to do some stuff for him over the next couple of weeks. I went over there...pretty cool...their room is up in the tower with a view of Hollywood. Circular hallways (I probably knew they would be since the building is round, but it was pretty cool). I had visited the studios (they're in the basement) a couple of months ago, but hadn't gone up into the round part of the structure. I was treated to a tour of the mastering rooms tonight too. I had never seen a record cutting lathe either. A super famous, blonde singer was there, but I didn't get to meet her...too bad, she's my type.

MW

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

More Taking Back Sunday Fun

Here are a couple more videos of the making of this new record. Eric is a peaceful, bohemian guy, but if a printer or other computer related device misbehaves, it faces destruction in the parking lot. Watch the end of a graphics card as it gets pitched into the brick wall and bounces off of Cian's Saturn.




Witness the merciless force of Mark O'Connell's hard hitting, power drumming. He breaks sticks like he was playing with twigs. It works so well for what they do.




I need some rest, we made major changes to Studio A's patchbay, so I was at it -repinning, normals, labels, etc. till about 6:00 this morning. Put on some Iron Maiden while I was working to help keep me going.

MW

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dear Mike

The first email, from what I expect to be an overwhelming response for my "Dear Mike" column, has come in from our very own Cian Riordan:

Dear Mike,

How come you always smell so fresh and so clean?

Cian Riordan
Los Angeles, CA

Dear Cian,

The importance of good personal hygiene in the confines of windowless recording studios where we rely on the circulation of air through an air conditioning system and often work in close quarters cannot be understated. That's why I shower regularly, using a scented body wash and generously apply baby powder after drying. Cologne can be used to "compliment" the over all scent presentation, but should not be used to disguise offensive odors. It is important to floss, brush and rinse with a strong alcohol based mouthwash and use an antiperspirant/deodorant. Instead of using an aftershave, which usually leaves skin feeling dry and rough, I use a dab of Hawaiian Tropic suntan lotion. That makes my face smell and feel like the warm sands of Waikiki Beach all day.

Thank you for your interest in Mike's Undertone Audio Adventures,
Michael Westbrook

NAMM Show Disneyland Foot Syndrome

I did a lot of walking today...I parked in my top secret NAMM free parking lot (I will not disclose where it is), walked through Downtown Disney, through the Grand Californian Hotel and to the Anaheim Convention Center. I did several laps once inside the convention, walked to Disneyland (I have an annual pass), went on the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, ate dinner and walked back to the car. So now I have NAMM Show Disneyland Foot Syndrome (sore feet).

We didn't have a booth at NAMM, but Roger did for THG Knobs, so I was his guest today and I brought some brochures and business cards. I visited API's booth, hung out with David Bock for awhile, attended Jacquire King's brief lecture on mixing and the use of plug ins at Universal Audio's booth, chatted with him for a bit, said hello to the guys over at PMI and saw Dave Malekpour.

It was productive and fun, I don't remember the last time I went to a NAMM show, it had probably been years. I didn't run into any of the evil music industry trade show bloodsuckers who can stain your afternoon...so that was good. It was funny, when I was at the Universal Audio booth, I asked if I could have a t-shirt, but this gal told me I would have to win one in a drawing. So I entered and I won! YAY! UA t-shirt for me! I also got a THG t-shirt from Roger, so all of my NAMM show dreams came true, like a perfect Disney happy ending.

Here I took a break from the marathon walking, soaking in the sights and sounds that a Sunday afternoon in Nammaheim can offer:



I'll post more fun videos, pictures, tales from the depths of studio life and a paper, cut-out Roger Fearing JR. doll that you can put on your refrigerator soon.

Thanks for checking in and don't forget to email me for my "Dear Mike" column,

MW

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Slash and Marshall Amps

Recently, Slash was working on developing an amp with Marshall, the AFD100. AFD stands for Appetite for Destruction, as they were trying to replicate the Marshall head used during the recording of that record. I may not have the story straight here, but it was either that amp or another one that was rented from SIR. It was modified and Slash loved it so much, he didn't want to return it...so he told them it was stolen. Then one of the roadies or a guitar tech returned the amp and it eventually disappeared.

Some of the research and development was filmed. The following clips were recorded at Barefoot in late January or early February 2010. We were building/installing the Studio A console at the time. The first video was shot in Studio B, long before the second console was in there, so you can see the silly set up with a Mackie Big Knob in the middle. Slash played a couple of familiar riffs:



Next is a discussion on the original amp. This was filmed in the Studio A tracking room. Because we were doing the install, we moved almost everything out of the control room to the big room. Painting and other work was going on in the lounge and the front hallway, so everything was moved from there into the big room also, making it a major mess. At the beginning, you can see the bike that Conan O'Brien bought for Slash on one of the very few Conan Tonight Show episodes (They went guitar shopping at people's houses in the valley, responding to Craig's List ads and ended up at a hoarder's home). Slash brought the bike to the studio after the filming and it has been there ever since:




The prototype head that was developed was used in the recording of the Australian Radio spot featured in that particular video, so listening to that will give you a good feel for the results.

MW

The Wombats' Jetlag

It seems that The Wombats must suffer from a permanent case of jetlag as they keep making transatlantic visits to LA from Liverpool on a regular basis. They spent a lot of time at Barefoot in 2010, working on a new album...coming out this year. Here is one of the tunes recorded and mixed in Studio A a few months ago, "Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves)":




They are a great band and a fun lot, so get the record and see them live.

MW

Contact Me or Just be a Part of the Silent Masses

I'm able to check the statistics of traffic to this blog of mine...its kind of neat...it shows a map and highlights the countries in which people are reading this stuff. First, it was just the US, then one European nation after another and it kept growing. It's been fun to watch as more and more countries change color on the map. It's sort of like watching a virus spreading to worldwide domination.

So, I hope people are enjoying it, I've been enjoying writing my entries and posting videos, pictures, etc. So I want to say thanks the everyone in Australia, Malaysia, France, the UK, Germany, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, Denmark, Canada and the US for checking in and seeing what I have to say. I hope I didn't miss anyone. I wish I had started this years ago, but the timing wouldn't have been right. It will be interesting to post entries during 2011 as the company grows and we get more press.

It's fun to see where the blog is getting hits from, but it would be more fun to hear from you, so email your comments and questions and I can have a new section called, "Dear Mike." If nobody writes me...I'll be forced to make stuff up, like I did with the frequently asked questions thing...although some of those questions were real, based on posts in different online forums. Contact me at mw@undertoneaudio.com and we'll have some fun with this. Send me your picture and we can have a reader of the month, then you can meet me at the next NAMM or AES show and tell me how much you regretted that. Better yet, send me a picture of your lunch and tell me about the restaurant.

That reminds me, I'll be at the NAMM show this weekend and I may drop in to Disneyland too.

MW

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The complete Adam Lazzara collection

I was able to get this from Cian -the complete Adam Lazzara Barefoot photo collection.



By the way, Adam designed new Taking Back Sunday T-shirts that have a shot of the Studio A console:



You can get your's here http://www.takingbacksunday.com/store/product/soundboard-v-neck-t-shirt

Girls will chase you everywhere!

MW

The making of Slash's record

Here is a short documentary about the recording of Slash's solo album in two parts. Lots of interviews. It was all filmed in 2009, before consoles were done, so notice the control room set up at the time. You can see the EMI and Flying Faders with no console. Of course, Elsie made an appearance.





The only two singers that didn't come to the studio were Ozzy and Kid Rock. They both did their vocals in their own studios (seen above). Only a hand full of the sessions were filmed, so many of the guests were not shown.

MW

Adam Lazzara picture day

If somebody leaves their camera laying around, the best thing you can do for them is take a whole bunch of pictures of yourself. That's what Adam did...he took about fifty shots of himself with different backgrounds. Here are a few. Cian made a slide show thing...I'll try to get that posted soon.


Check out the ancient Studer tape machine in the last shot.

OK, it's late,

MW