The first step in building a console is sorting out the configuration. We have built three consoles and each one is a little different and this fourth one is very different. Everybody has their own work flow and when somebody wants us to build a console, it's custom from the ground up. Greg didn't want every feature, so it is easy to eliminate aux sends, group outputs and other odds and ends, but he needs sixteen channels of unity gain summing that ultimately feeds into the stereo buss, so he gets the first of this kind of set up and we will probably offer it as a product in the future.
We are able to consolidate features into parts of the console that would have been used for other purposes on the LC series (the first three consoles are LC, that stands for Large Console, but more importantly, it is a phonetic spelling of Elsie... very cute), so that means that Larry has been cleverly redesigning circuit boards specifically for this console. Soon we'll give more detailed information about his configuration and if you want a console and prefer that style, you can get the GW model/series.
The next step is ordering parts, I've mentioned this before. A lot of the parts we use are custom -they have to be made for us from scratch. Fortunately, Southern California is an extremely resourceful place; there are so many friendly, family owned businesses, some of which have been around since World War II, that offer metalwork, machining, painting and engraving. Many of these companies make parts for air and spacecraft as Boeing, Hughes and Nasa are here among others, so, when it comes to building mixing consoles, we are able to get almost everything we need nearby.
Good examples of custom parts and the steps that go into making them are knobs. First, they are machined out of aluminum by a local machine shop. We just got them in last week:
Then we take them to the anodizers where they use a proprietary two tone anodizing technique to get more than one color, for example, red or green on top, the rest of it black. Then we get the numbers laser etched through the anodizing. Each step takes a lot of time, ultimately taking about two months to get finished products to put on the consoles.
|Finished knobs for rackmount EQs|
While the knobs are going on in the background, other custom parts such as transformers, PC boards and our porous bronze faceplates are being made. The first PCBs came in and I started putting components in.
|Putting in the first components into the tube inverter stage|
We have rarely ever had any meetings, certainly not formal, scheduled ones... until recently. As we are growing into a more serious company (almost everything we have built has been strictly for Eric/Barefoot Recording, Greg Wells is our first client) we have meetings once a week to discuss parts ordering, scheduling and designs. I'm handling much of the wiring and component soldering, Roger is handling the mechanical aspects, including the frame and master section and Dre is responsible for the power supplies.
|Dre and Larry going over power supply details|
Meanwhile, over at Capitol... The install has begun, happening concurrently with the construction, acoustics and electrical in Studio A. The console arrived last Monday:
|Neve 88R in crates|
|Would it have been possible to send it to the wrong address?|
John Musgrave and I ordered parts on Thursday, starting with 1000 feet of cable and 12,000 Elco pins. It's a ton of work, but we're managing to have some fun.
|Gutted control room, the legendary live room will not change|
|Tim O'Sullivan finally losing it|
|Patchbays and that's not even all of them|
This is the first time in about twenty years that Capitol's most famous room has been taken down to go through such radical changes. Believe it or not, the control room used to be in the northeast corner of the live room and at some point it was moved to its current location in the southeast corner. We have a long way to go and not a lot of time, but we can do it.
For much of November and December at Barefoot, Slash, Todd Kerns (bass), Brent Fitz (drums) and Myles Kennedy (vocals and rhythm guitar) rehearsed in Studio A. They didn't need isolation of the amps, they just set everything up as if it were a show and ran through about fourteen songs over and over for about eight hours a day, more or less everyday. The only thing separating the tech shop from the live room is the echo chamber, which wasn't being used... I have been listening to the band play live together while I work on Greg's console and what a special treat that has been. The band is already tight from touring a year and a half together and after this extensive rehearsal/preproduction period, they are so prepared. Remember, this record is being recorded in a manner that is a little rare these days... playing live as a band, straight to analog tape. No digital. Eric is editing the old fashioned way -taking a razor blade to the 2" master tape.
During the recording, it has been necessary to isolate the amps. Barefoot is a big studio, but at these volumes (Slash plays with his amps almost completely wide open, which is extremely loud) the amps need to be far from each other while the band is in the room together. Slash's Marshall cabs are in the downstairs lounge, one bass cabinet is in the office, another bass amp is in the machine room and Myles' amp is in the Studio A iso booth. The chamber is being used now in addition to the front hallway being miked. It's tolerable in the tech shop and studio B, but you can hear the guitar and bass outside... it's that loud.
|Bock Ellfet7 on Ampeg bass amp|
Anyone who is a Slash fan is in for a blast and will not be disappointed... this is a real, serious rock record and the production is astounding. Slash regularly posts about the recording process on his Twitter account, including pictures, you can follow him here http://twitter.com/Slash. Todd Kerns has a blog on his website, which is fun http://www.toddkerns.com/ and the sessions are being filmed for a behind the scenes documentary.
On Thursday night, Trevor, Roger, Tim and I went to Rich Costey's studio to pick up the 24 channel console. It spent an extended period of time with Rich as he mixed The Shins' new record. We set it back up in the Studio B tracking room and I began going through it last night... just a check up. We are going to keep it there for awhile.
Now I'm tired, time to sign off.