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SSL’s, Recording with Tape & Building a Resume

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Hello there! It’s Warren Huart. Hope you’re doing marvelously well! As ever, please subscribe, hit the notification bell, and of course, you will be notified when we have a new video coming out.

Okay, so in this week’s Feedback Friday, we have a lot of very, very wonderful questions, starting with…

“Do you use the SSL at all? It seems that it is simply an expensive book stand.”

The books! Yes, they’re books. From the left, we have Jerry Hammock’s Beatles book. Then we have an Ace Freely signed picture. Then we have a signed Jeff Emerick book, and then we have a signed Shelly Peiken book. I am very lucky. David Bowie, Alice Cooper book, oh, written by the great Dennis Dunaway, the bass player from Alice Cooper, who — and also Ace’s book, and also my dear departed friend, Dick Wagner.

Yes, there are books on it, but it’s actually not a book shelf. No, if you’ve watched any of my videos, I’m sure 99.9% of people that heard that comment that watch my videos, you know, metaphorically rolled their eyes. I use the console every day.

However, I teach all different ways of working. To me, it is really important that we understand everything, and if you followed me, you know that I subscribe just as much to recording and mixing in the box, as I do to recording and mixing through a console, as I do to mixing in a hybrid fashion, mixing in the box and through the console.

I primarily work in a hybrid fashion, where I mix inside of Pro Tools, and then output through the console and use the dynamics and the EQs on the console. If you’ve watched the Mark Endert video with me, you’ll see the discussion we have, how he transitioned from a 9000J to entirely working in the box.

It’s not impossible that I might do the same thing. However, the desk doctor, my good friend Bruce Millett, who everybody knows and loves, if they know SSLs, has been talking about the Tangerine, which is the computer system that he’s now involved in, that will replace the computer on these, which will make it a lot more sophisticated.

Something a lot easier than the 8” floppy that this thing currently has.

So there’s lots of different things that make me think about stuff like this, but ultimately, this is what I believed. If you grew up coveting or using consoles, that’s probably where you’re going to go. However, if you’re started without having a console, especially now, I can’t understand why you’d ever need to buy one.

The advantage though of a console is not so much about mixing, necessarily for me. It’s great for monitoring, because we have this setup beautifully, and it’s so easy to just lean over and change a send to the singer in there, or the drummer.

That is gorgeous. It’s so much easier than having two sets of multi-sends inside of your DAW, and different — I mean, there’s different windows, and that’s all kind of silly. It’s nice that I can just lean over and go, “Beep,” in one second.

However, I think tracking is a big deal. If you’re tracking a live band, even with some beautiful mic pres built into like, you know, we always like the Audient mic pres that are in there, we’re big fans of them. Even with that, there’s still something about having, you know, 24 or 32 or whatever mic pres that are all have a flavor, have beautiful EQ, maybe have some dynamics on it, and you can record a band live.

But that is a whole different world. You know, tracking over mixing.

When I see guys, like, truly amazing mixers like Mark Endert, and Neil Avron, when I see them mixing entirely in the box, you know, those are guys that are detail orientated. They’re not like, “Oh yeah, global rock and roll, yeah.” I mean, these are guys, especially those two guys, that really get into like, total detail. That are making slamming, incredible mixes.

You know, anybody that’s listened to that 21 Pilots record knows what I’m talking about. That is a modern, loud, but really amazing sounding record. Neil Avron hit that thing out of the park, it was so good. And that’s why it was so massively successful. That was all mixed in the box.

“I’ve been staring at the Studer tape machine over your right shoulder. Do you still use tape?”

Yeah, no. Yeah, no. No, no, no. Such a difficult question. We haven’t used tape in quite some time. Not decades, don’t get me wrong. It’s because we haven’t really had anybody that A, was dying to use it, or B, had the budget to use it, but it’s there. It got used with Andy Palmer, it obviously got used with Aerosmith, it got used with a lot of artists that I was working with around the time about three or four years ago, it was getting used quite a lot. We also were using a CLASP system, which I believe is a closed loop audio… I don’t remember. I don’t remember what it stands for.

The point was is it basically comes off the Repro head straight into Pro Tools, so it allows you to get the sound of tape immediately into Pro Tools. And then when you’re playing it back on Pro Tools, it’s from the tape.

So that was pretty awesome. I really liked that. And you just basically controlled it from your Pro Tools screen. So you just sat there punching and recording, and all of this kind of stuff, and everything was being done. So I did love that. You’d have to start the tape off, but then you could punch in and record.

So it’s a nifty device. Tape is a phenomenal experience for many reasons. Like, if you’re just recording to tape, for instance, you’ll get an artist play, and then they come into the studio and they listen back, and they make decisions based on their performance. They go, “Oh, I’m a little ahead of the drums, I should lay back.”

They don’t go, “We need to edit the drums tight.” It’s a very, very different world. It produces different results, and it pushes musicians in different ways. Drummers for instance start hearing their cymbals as being too loud, and realize it’s a performance thing, and not just a quick fix it in the mix. You know, they’ll be like, “Oh, I kind of need to lay back here, I need to get more aggressive there, I need to…”

Tape does change the nature of how you make music. It’s not all about the sonics though, and I’m not a snob, and I’m definitely not a purist, and as you know, I’m not an expert.

So you know, I’m not going to get into the analog versus digital. To me, I’ve made records in digital that people thought were analog, I’ve made records in analog that people thought were digital, and everybody I know has had those experiences. You know, it’s — there’s a lot more to it than just that. You know, to marginalize tape and call it a big plugin, like some people have said, I don’t think it’s that.

I think it’s more of an experience for artists to come in and listen to a playback on tape, and start thinking about how they interact with other musicians. That’s the beauty of tape. Unfortunately, haven’t used it that much recently.

“What is your favorite record that was tracked and mixed on a Neve console?”

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Our good friend, as I’m sure you’ve watched his two videos, Dave Way, used to own a studio called, “The Pass.” Dave Way is one of the best mixers in the world, he’s also one of the best producers, and he’s an amazingly sweet guy. Check out his two videos we did at his studio.

So Dave bought The Pass, and The Pass had two 8078s. I also owned an 8058. Very similar consoles. Not the same, but very similar consoles. And what we did is we tracked at The Pass, the album by Augustana called Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt. Hopefully, there’s a link popping around somewhere for that album. I tracked it essentially live. The basics. Then we opened up some vocals and a couple of guitar parts and stuff at The Pass, several years ago now, on that 8078.

We then took it to Jim Scott’s, and I sat with Jim Scott, and he mixed it on his Neve, which I believe was an 8048 or an 8038. I’m blanking. I’m thinking it was an 8038. At the old RCA Neve. And we mixed it on that.

So that whole album was tracked and mixed on a Neve, and I love the way it sounds. It’s called Augustana — the band is called Augustana, and the album is called Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt.

“Do you ever use services like Taxi or Audio Jungle for stuck material for your projects?”

No I don’t. Why don’t I use other sources for music? I mean, look around. I mean, there’s drums in there, a piano, and keyboards, and virtual instruments, and at least 40 guitars on the wall. I mean, if I want something, I play it. I got into music to make music. The other side of the glass thing, I realized was something that I really wanted to do because the albums that I loved were all massive production masterpieces.

You know, A Night at the Opera is arguably my favorite album. Revolver is right there too. But at the same time, Double Fantasy is a master production. You know. So you’ve got Double Fantasy, Night at the Opera, Out of the Blue, you know, ELO, or Super Tramp, Breakfast in America. You know, these are all masterpiece albums, and I wanted to be in the bands. Basically, I wanted to be Brian May, and then I discovered Jeff Beck, and I wanted to be Jeff Beck, but always essentially wanted to be Brian May.

I still kind of do, but to cut a long story short, I got into music through those kind of bands, and I woke up one day after playing in bands for years, and just was like — and I had always done my own demos, and done the demos that the bands I was in got the bands signed that I was in from doing my demos, you know. So even some of the demos I recorded became singles. One of them actually became a “semi-hit,” you know. Got into top 40. So I was always doing the production stuff, firstly out of necessity, and then secondly when I got to my early 30’s, I was like, “Well, wait there. I’m always producing artists. I’m always doing all of this stuff. Isn’t that really what music’s about? And I can still play.”

So for me, I don’t use any of these services, because if I want something, I just play the music myself. If I want a Reggae song, I’ll write a Reggae song. If I want a Metal song, I’ll write a Metal song, or if I want a Country song, I’ll write it, and I believe that, you know, many of you watching are like that. You’re musicians, and you want to be producers and engineers, and I think that’s very admirable, and I think it makes perfect sense, because I think every musician now should be a producer and an engineer, and a mixer.

It’ll annoy the shnizzle out of all of the other producers, engineers, and mixers, but I agree, because who has the budget to go into a studio for weeks at a time, and there’s more people than ever that want to make music, so let’s encourage everybody to learn how to record their own music.

“What is the best way to build a resume?”

Lots of people say don’t work for free, and I get it. If you’re a professional and you do it for a living, and you’re just doing demos for local bands, and that’s absolutely fine, then you really don’t want to be working for free if you own a lot of studio equipment and if you’ve got a mortgage and a family.

However, if you’re a younger guy and you’re building your credits, or you’re an older guy coming back, and you want to kind of like, have some fun with doing music and stuff, it’s really a question of like, how do you delineate? How do you say, “I need to make money, and I want to build my resume.”

For me, I worked a lot for free starting off. I just did. I found artists, I did one song with them, and if they liked it, I’d get more work, but I would always do it for free.

Now, people say to me, somebody said the other day, and I understand where they’re coming from, they said, “Just don’t do it for free, they’ll pay you if they like it.” The problem with that idea, for me, the problem with that idea when I was building a career is people would tell me they wouldn’t like it, but use it anyway, and then they would feel weird about using me again.

Because they might want to do one song, it came out pretty good, I’m like, “Pay me if you like it,” and they’re like, “We kind of like it, if we have to pay you…” and the point is, I didn’t get repeat work.

I think you’ve got to — don’t kill yourself. Don’t go work a week on one song. Go in for a day and track a song in a day, and see if they like it. If they like the experience, and you gel with them, trust me, 99.9 times out of 100, they’ll come back.

And if they don’t come back, they were never going to do that anyway. That’s the point. I always say this as a bit of a sideline, one of my typical sideline tangents, but it’s a good point to think about.

If you’re working with an artist and you’re developing them, and you’re getting to a point where you think you might be able to get them a record deal or take them to the next level, you present them with a very simple contract, and they don’t want to do a deal with you, they don’t want to sign a contract, the reality is they wouldn’t have done a deal with anybody.

It really comes down to that. People that don’t do deals, don’t do deals, and when they don’t do deals, especially fair contracts, they’re probably not going to succeed in life, because to work in the entertainment industry, you have to, you know, form relationships and business relationships with multiple people. So there will be contracts involved over a period of time.

So my point is like, artists will show you who they are. If you work with them for free and they take advantage of you, then they weren’t ever going to be a big client, but at least you might get a song out of it to build your resume.

You need to get out there and build your resume in any way you can.

Also, of course, look. Not a sales thing, but go to Produce Like a Pro. Even if you don’t want to sign up for The Academy, it doesn’t matter. You can sign up and download a ton of free multi-tracks, and you can mix them, and you can use all of the multi-tracks that I provide to get yourself some work. You can also take the multi-tracks — what we do in The Academy is we do productions to them. People like, overdub their own guitars, and retrack the drums, and we do productions, and they just take the vocals sometimes and remix the whole track, and that is fine.

You can build your resume like that, so if you want, go and join The Academy.

Thank you ever so much for watching, have a marvelous time recording and mixing. Thanks for another FAQ Friday, and I’ll see you again very soon.

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Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at producelikeapro.com.

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