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,, 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

Monday, March 28, 2011

Taking Back Sunday Single out on Youtube

Taking Back Sunday put out the first single, "El Paso" on Youtube to satisfy some of the curiosity and anticipation of fans.

Analog master tapes...Yay!

I don't know the release dates for the singles and record, but I'll post them when I do. Right now, the band doesn't even know, but here are some tour dates:

They will be playing at Reading and Leeds this year:

That's a pretty good roster of bands, I've never been to those festivals, sadly, but I don't live in England anymore, and it isn't so easy to just hop on a plane.

Cian has been mixing B sides in Studio B, which will be released via the band's website and in the evenings Eric is mixing various projects in Studio A. We have made huge progress on the rackmount EQ/mic pre... we have been driving around town to meet with people about the chassis, the paint to use on the faceplates and picking up parts. The past week, our main work at UTA has been getting quotes, doing inventory and ordering parts. Garen is coming over on Thursday night to discuss finalizing the compressor designs.

Over at Bock Audio, we have been building the 5-zero-7 This is BA's best mic and most innovative -believe it or not, the capsule is elliptical as opposed to round. The 5-zero-7 is my favorite mic to build...I think I've done about three of them so far -the way they are put together is just so cool. David will be at Barefoot Recording on Thursday afternoon to demonstrate it, talk about it and answer questions. We have invited a few friends to come participate, one of them is Pete Karr, a brilliant musician friend of mine who still hasn't been to the studio. Pete, by the way, did email Roger to congratulate him on being reader of the month and he hasn't even met him...Roger was a little confused.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Great Flying Faders II Upgrade Episode

I just realized that I haven't posted anything about Flying Faders II. The Flying Faders moving fader automation system is a product of Martinsound. They had a long term relationship with Neve; as Neve sold console after console from Cambridge, England, they installed FF on their consoles.

Martinsound, in Alhambra, California (not too far from us) came out with Flying Faders II recently and we had one of the FF I systems in Studio A (Studio B has one as well), but Eric wasn't ready to upgrade, it just wasn't a huge priority last summer while we had our hands full with our console building and installation. One day when I woke up, I had a message from Eric telling me there had been a disaster in the studio...I called him back -the tube output amp stages for the stereo buss and monitoring were on the floor behind the console (and on) and a metallic mouse for the automation computer that was sitting on the meter bridge fell off and landed on top of it. The console's outputs were fine, but there was an explosion in the machine was the computer...dead, along with the automation.

So he bought the Flying Faders II upgrade that day and we became one of the first studios to have it. This started our relationship with Martinsound as we outfitted our 24 channel console with a FF II system to exhibit at the AES convention and now they have a new console manufacturer to be family with. They are a cool company, Doug Osborne is a great guy and they have a huge studio of their own in their facility.

Our reader of the month is Roger Fearing, so flood his email to congratulate him,


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Shepards Pie, Baby!

This week, as Cian is as Irish as an Irishman can be and Thursday was St.Patrick's Day, he cooked homemade shepards pie from a family recipe. I'm a bachelor who can't cook anything and I go out to eat or have left overs a lot, so the smell of food cooking is rare for me. It was an Undertone Audio/Barefoot Recording Irish themed party, that food was tasty and Larry brews his own beer, so he brought a batch of that.

Eric and I spent time discussing our next steps for UTA, Larry is almost finished with rackmount EQ and mic pre designs and the final compressor design is wrapping up soon. We have had the prototype compressor for awhile, it's been Eric's new favorite on drum mixes and we are going to build a prototype mic pre, it's going to have a secret feature that we are looking forward to playing with.

Greg Camp has been in Studio B mixing some super cool songs he recorded with his wife. Their band is called, The Selectrics. Check out thier Myspace page, you can listen to demo versions of the songs If you are a fan of Smashmouth, you are in for a treat and if you aren't a fan of Smashmouth, you are in for a treat music, fun people.

Over at Bock Audio, we worked on the 251s David and I finished six of them yesterday, so they are burning in all weekend. By the way, there is a documentary coming out soon about Bock Audio, here is a trailer for it.

I finished up another patchbay for Greg and Jon and took it to Capitol on Wednesday. Steve Perry was over there with Niko Bolas. I hadn't met Niko before, so Greg introduced me and we all hung out for a while telling more studio war stories...That was a blast.

Today I'm straightening up the Barefoot tech shop, trying to restore order to the Studio B tracking room and looking forward to Mexican food for dinner.


Friday, March 11, 2011

New Barefoot Recording website

Cian got the new Barefoot Recording website up so check that out.

Trevor, Eric, Roger and I had a long talk tonight about the volume war; the state of mastering and record companies today. We did some A/B testing, a better way to describe it was A/B/C testing -we took turns switching between three versions of a song that were mastered differently, listening on NS-10s, the mains and headphones and we all agreed that A didn't sound as good as B and C. Roger preferred B while Trevor and I preferred C. It turned out that B was digital master from analog 1/2 inch tape and C was digital master from digital mix. A was a different story altogether and I don't want to get into that, but these conversations and listening tests are always enlightening.

The Taking Back Sunday record is pretty much done, just one more song is going to get a mix recall, then the last of the mastering.

Experimenting with components in the EQs continued on, but it's going to heat up in the coming days as UTA R&D and design becomes the main focus at Barefoot.

At Bock Audio on Monday and Tuesday, we were preparing switch assemblies on 251s (that curved pattern switch just below the head). We are doing a batch of ten of them and wrapping up more 241s. David is out of the office/shop for the rest of the week, so I've been focusing on more patchbay work for Greg Koller and Jon Brion. This patchbay has all 96 points going to female DB25 connectors and a panel with 16 male XLRs for the monitor output -I don't remember how many times I've gone to Pacific Radio to pick up parts for that in the past few days, but it's nice to be able to walk into a store and get parts for this locally, although that seems to be getting harder, as compared to fifteen years ago.

We went to Roscoe's for dinner!!!

That's the last time we do that for awhile and sorry my phone takes such grainy pictures.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mike's Undertone Audio Adventures is Proud to Present: Josh Freese Cinema

If you are ever having a bad day, or just want some quick fun, just watch these short films by Josh Freese. He's so out there, he makes David Lynch look boring. I recommend watching them about a hundred times.

I hope everyone enjoys these as much as I do -it helps alleviate wire syndrome.


wire syndrome

noun \'wí(-e)r\ \'sin-,drom\

1) A rare, but serious mental condition brought on by wiring, especially associated with patchbays, soldering DB25 connectors and crimping elco pins. Large doses of caffeine are generally prescribed to minimize symptoms, which include talking to oneself, laughing inappropriately, shaking and rocking back and forth.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Josh Freese: Drummer's Drummer and Creative Marketing

I've only met Josh Freese on a couple of occasions, one of those times was while working on a session. He put out a solo record a couple of years ago and came up with a pretty clever marketing scheme. Some artists/bands will offer different packages on their websites, for example, $15 for the CD, $25 for the CD and T-shirt. Well Freese redefined that: It starts with the $7 download, then $15 CD/DVD, I think for $50 he calls you and for maybe, $250 he takes you out to lunch -all the way up to $75,000 which includes him joining your band, giving you a drum lesson...the man is nuts. Nuts or not, he's been selling records and these packages. He sold one for $20,000 and brought the guy to the studio to hang out during a session. The CD is fun -he played everything himself and I think he did the engineering, etc. Check out the music and his pricing plans here

A couple of years ago, he was playing drums for Nine Inch Nails and he set up some video cameras around his kit while on tour and edited this together with audio straight from the live mixing board. Drummers and non-drummers alike can appreciate this:

I love drummers and I regret not having become one...but this is so inspiring -it might not be too late for me.

Rock & Roll,

Mike's top restaurant picks

There are great restaurants in Hollywood, but we usually go to our regular places. Good food, I'm trying to eat healthier these days and some of our favorites are very close to the studio, however I wanted to put together a list of my favorites citywide. Some of these may be far from healthy, but worth a visit for sure. Not all of them have websites:

My all time favorite is Versailles -Cuban food. This is amazing, absolutely will not disappoint. There are several locations, but they are not equal, the one on La Cienega and Pico is great, as well as the one on Ventura in Sherman Oaks. Try the lechon asado.

Chili John's in Burbank -greasy, but worth it. Every city has places that serve chili and they almost always have a sign that says, "The Best Chili in Town." This place doesn't have one of those signs and this is it...the best chili in town, no doubt. All they serve is chili and pie. Their recipe is secret and trademarked. It is one of the oldest recipes in the trademark registry, even older than Coka-Cola. I dump viciously hot sauce on it and a bunch of chili powder, then I sit in pain. Located on Burbank Blvd, just East of Buena Vista.

El Floridita in Hollywood -more Cuban. They have live Salsa bands crammed into a small space at night with dancing and during the day it's not too busy. The food is fantastic. The original was in Havana, I don't know if it is still there. The location of this one is on Vine Street at Fountain, tell Mario I sent you.

Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles -Fried chicken and waffles with maple syrup and butter poured all over it.  Not for the dieting, vegans, lactose intolerant, diabetics or anyone at risk of a heart attack. Wow, this place makes me happy, but I just can't do this or Chili John's very often...I just can't take it.

Don Felix -Peruvian food. People swear by Mario's, but I think this place wins. There are two locations and they are on the same street...I don't get that, but one seems better than the other. Go to the one on Virgil and Silverlake. It's on a corner of one of those crazy intersections where three or four streets cross and when a light turns green, you aren't sure if you are supposed to go or not. Get the lomo saltado.

Lotería -Mexican food on Hollywood Blvd. Someone took me here recently for the first time. They stand by it and I agree. Good mole, good atmosphere.

The Mexican Village -across the street from Don Felix, this is real Mexican food and family owned. The original building was burned down in the Rodney King riots in the early 1990's, but they reconstructed. Beverly and Virgil.

Cuctus -tiny little stand...amazing tacos and burritos, but take it to go, don't eat it there. Vine Street, just north of Willoughby.

La Tia -seriously authentic Mexican food in East LA. Don't be afraid of the neighborhood, it's not bad. It's a pain to drive there from Hollywood, but it's worth it. East Cesar Chaves Avenue.

Le sisters -Southern and BBQ. This place is way out in Chatsworth, so I just don't go often, but it's special. They have this unique buttermilk a slice while you're there, then order a whole one to go. It's on Devonshire near Topanga.

Dr. Hogly Wogly's Tyler Texas BBQ. You'll feel like you will never be able to eat again, but just do it...beef brisket with ribs. Sepulveda near Roscoe.

Now I need to get back to the patchbay,


Friday, March 4, 2011

This Week in Recording and UTA Research & Development

Most of the vintage mic repairs over at Bock Audio is just about done. So we are going to take a brief period to appreciate the empty repair shelves and get more new mics out (the 241)..then we will go into another round of vintage stuff. This week I worked on an M49 and an M249. One was an amplifier rebuild and a serious overhaul of the power supply, the other was less involved, but I did install a Neumann capsule.
I have a massive amount of wiring to do for Greg and Jon, which I've kept going almost constantly. The past few days it's been wiring for more outboard gear -besides all the stuff in racks, they have chunks of old, crazy consoles sitting around that fortunately have XLRs on them, which makes my life easier. Next is wiring for surround mixing units (they do a lot of film work), so I spent time with Greg earlier tonight going over the plans/patchbay layout for that. Sometime later this month it will be another round of Protools wiring, bringing it up to 48 inputs and 96 outputs.

Mixing in Studio A continues, but we are setting aside time this weekend to experiment with resistor values for the rackmount EQ designs. One of the interesting aspects of Undertone Audio and Barefoot Recording sharing the same roof and the same boss is that the studio is also the research and development lab. As Eric has spent a year now on Studio A's console, especially with the amount of mixing he does, he finds that something could be better here or tweaked there or comes up with ideas for mods and designs. Larry figures it out, or just seems to know right off the top of his head what needs to happen electronically, we try it out on a couple of channels, usually in the bucket just to the right of the master section (channels 25-36) and Eric spends time with it. If it survives his scrutiny, we implement the mod to the rest of the console, then in Studio B. Everything after that (stuff we'll put out on the market) gets that mod worked into the permanent designs.

Over the past nine months or so, we have experimented with different caps in the EQs as well and a decision has to be made as to which ones we're going to use and we may put it in as an optional "mode" that is switchable in the high mid frequency and high frequency bands. There is a sense of security knowing that this gear/these designs get put through the paces to such an extreme degree and they have to pass the terrifying blind A/B test.

I'll run around next week to get more parts, we're trying out another kind of paint for the faceplate artwork, we're going to mess around more with main monitors in Studio B and I'm going to try to find time to recap the EMT plate's amplifier at some point. As for installing capsules into mics, David and I are going to install thirteen of them, probably in one sitting, so I might skip the coffee that morning to minimize shakiness.

We had a visit from Blag Dahlia, he was in town playing a gig. It's always fun to see him -I wear my Dwarves t-shirt with pride.