When I moved back to Glasgow I didn’t have anywhere to move to, so I crashed on Stephen’s sofa for a week. Being a couple of musicians that are always ready to get a new project underway we started recording ideas, and in passing them back and forth we quickly determined our roles; Stephen would handle vocals and synths, and I’d do guitar/bass and drums.
The first track ‘Big Mistake’ came together quickly and off the back of that we decided to write and record an EP, but made the decision to limit ourselves to 7 days.
Between Stephen working from home and walking the dog, and me looking for a flat and a job, I’d be in the living room working on chord progressions and drum parts, and he’d be in the kitchen coming up with synths and rearranging whatever I’d just sent him over having vocals in mind.
The whole aim of this was to get an idea down and move on to something else. Second guessing as little as possible, while working together to make it work. Which reminds me, if you’re willingly working with someone on the same project, then you’re working with them for a reason. Remind yourself of that, and trust their judgement.
Before I briefly go over the next few things, I just want to say I’m by no means an audio professional and that my understanding of anything here is relatively basic!
The production was kept as straight forward as we could, with the vast majority of plug-ins used coming by default with Logic Pro X. Channel EQ, Compressor, Space Designer, all that lark. In fact, the only plug-ins not native to Logic were AmpLion & GK Amp 2 for guitar/bass amp simulation, and iZotope Nectar 2 which we used to treat all the vocals and the outro guitar on ‘Qualm Party’.
Drums were created using Logic’s own ‘Drummer’. It sounds pretty great straight out the box, but I added a compressor to the entire drum channel, along with a basic EQ to emphasise the snare a little, and then used a couple of bus channels for room verb (calculated using Nick Fever) & tape saturation to mix in.
With the loose ‘electronic’ vibe in the tracks from the synths, I leaned in to that a little by doubling up the snare and some hats with the UltraBeat sequencer and kept that relatively low in the mix throughout or used it solo, such as the intros to Big Mistake & Qualm Party with a clip distortion.
GUITARS & BASS
My guitar is a no-nonsense K that my friend salvaged for like £40 something before giving it to me. It’s kind of falling to bits, the pick-ups are held in place with white-tac, but it plays a dream and sounds good. The bass is a Squier Jaguar on loan from another friend.
I don’t actually own an amp and I’m not short of weird fuzzes to use, but I decided to keep it real basic by running just the guitar & bass through an ancient interface (Line 6 UX1) and used AmpLion as my amp simulation. I’m sure there are better out there, but this came with GK Amp 2 as a free bundle.
The bass was split through the GK Amp 2 for the bottom end and the AmpLion for crunch and bite. All guitars/bass ran through the room verb bus, and I’m pretty sure I had a separate compression bus for the guitars, too.
Despite what the photos suggest, the synths were kept pretty simplistic. Here’s what Stephen said about them:
“For the main lines I came up with a really simple single voice patch on my Eurorack which used a sequencer clocked to Logic, going into the SID Guts Deluxe (module with a C64 sound chip inside). I then created some patterns that sounded good, and chopped them up into loops that worked with the melody. For the noisier bits and pieces I had some sweeps through some cheap Russian built filters.”
Stephen recorded all vocals through an inexpensive Behringer C-1 condenser, and they were processed with iZotope Nectar 2.
The mixing was done with my AKG K702’s, and for referencing I used whatever my hi-fi system is (some Technics thing from the early 90s), along with some cheap & nasty phone earphones, and MacBook Pro speakers.
The purpose of writing this, hopefully, isn’t to discourage people from using expensive gear, or to suggest that studio spaces are bollocks and that audio professionals are rip-offs. Far from it. If you can afford it, and it’s important to you, then do it. I gladly would, it just isn’t practical or realistic for me.
But whenever I take a look on any music forum online, it isn’t long before I notice people being too distracted chasing expensive gear, or complaining that they don’t have the latest software/hardware to record too much which stops them putting out something they could be proud of if they’d just knuckle down and do it.
The point is that when it comes down to it, the gear & spaces used are mostly irrelevant. Recognise your limitations and use them to your advantage and just create music.
And with that, I introduce Hog Wild. A 5 track EP written and recorded in 7 days in a kitchen and a living room with some equipment that some people may laugh at.