Archive for the ‘Audio Production’ Category

First time working with Enthroned Serpent, a black metal band from Athens, Greece.

Just realized I have never posted this mix on the blog. Well… until now. We worked for several months on this EP, as this is the band of Simos, the owner of SoundWay studios and a good friend of mine.

To begin with, real drums were recorded at the great sounding room of SoundWay Studios. The drummer brought a small piccolo snare drum with him, which helped the snare to cut through. Of course, samples were used to give it more body, but more about this later. Managed to capture a great stereo image that compliments the width of the mix.

Guitars were reamped through a Peavey 6505+, a really cool JVM410H Marshall tube head and a massive ENGL 4x12cabinet. Both amps were cranked to death and 2 microphones were used to capture the final sound. A small secret about black metal: ”Turn the Treble frequencies up until the guitar amp sounds harsh, then turn it up some more.” The opposite goes for the bass frequencies. The balance between the 2 mics was adjusted accordingly during the mixing process for rhythm and lead guitar playing.

The singer was really steady and really helped the final result to shine. Among others, Sakis Tolis (from Rotting Christ) gave a helping hand to one of the songs.

Black metal is a unique genre that requires an out-of-the-box approach, and mixing was a really fun procedure. The challenge was to make everything sound big, in your face and, well… black metal, without sounding harsh. APHEX aural exciter was my friend, which gave character to guitars and vocals. Samples were used for drums, (you simply can’t avoid it) blended with the natural kit. Bass was heavily compressed and distorted. A typical old school black metal mix is not complete without TONS of volume. The amount of limiting at the mastering stage was huge, maybe my loudest mix to date.

Really happy to work with Enthroned Seprent, co-produced, mix and mastered during 2017-2018.

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I know this artist from Matter Of Act, a cool Greek band I produced a few years ago. This is his one-man solo project described as Acoustic Metal…and it really is both acoustic and metal, how cool is that?

Once I started recording, I realized that the level of the performance would make my life easier. What you hear in this recording is mainly one take/first take. Most of the times, I would record a second vocal/guitar take just for safety. Same thing goes for editing, I only removed unwanted noises and…editing was done!

From the very beginning we decided to keep it simple and straightforward. Many mics on the acoustic guitar to get as much of the room “sound” as possible. Vocals were recorded with an AKG condenser mic. This is one of the many examples of using TONS of plug ins, without actually sounding “over-mixed”. Sculpting EQ, some compression, some more EQ and some more leveling, saturation, multiband compression, limiting for overall loudness and so many more. A touch of reverb added but, other than that, there are no reverberation FX.

Recorded, mixed and mastered during August 2018.

Now this is an interesting project I did a while ago for Wild Machine, one of the few glam rock bands left in Greece. Interesting fact: back in 2004/2005 these guys were the talk of the town, with a growing audience and we even played some shows together when I was 15 years old.

These guys still have it! Drums were recorded with no triggers or samples, a P bass covering the low end, double tracked guitars and a SM7 for the vocalist. Straightforward Rock’n Roll ingredients. Same goes for mixing: I decided to keep away from the typical cheesy stadium rock mix and stick to a more natural (Ac/Dc like) result.

Wild Machine are actually getting ready for their full-length album (entirely recorded at Soundway Studios, where I engineer), and this is a taste of what’s coming. Once the album is out, I am going to post a new article, as the mix will also be slightly different.

Recorded, mixed and mastered in 2018 for Soundway Studios.

Here is the first song that I produced and mixed for Panos Smyrnaios, since he participated in the “Rising Star” TV show and got nationwide recognition.

The initial idea was just an acoustic guitar and vocals. We set up the guide track with Panos and begun building the main structure of the song. Intro is a typical “spotlight to the singer” approach, while the full production kicks in at the first chorus, with drums and electric guitars (played by me). I suggested some production ideas, for example backing vocals in the chorus and an acoustic outro, which really made a difference to the track.

Acoustic guitars were played by Panos, who (as always) did a great job with groove and dynamics. Bass duties were handled by John Grigoriou, a musician that has participated in countless recordings and who gave an interesting twist to the song.

I also had the pleasure to work with an exceptional clarinet player, Mr Petros Halkias. Petros is a well known traditional player here in Greece an the grandson of Petroloukas Halkias who, more or less, established the sound of the clarinet here in Greece, as we know it today. He came over to my studio and did a great job.

Recording wise, both acoustic guitar and clarinet were recorded with an ORTF mic placement and a condenser mic, a combination I frequently use lately. I used my AKG for the vocals and decided to keep just the DI of the bass blended with a mild overdrive for the chorus. I mixed the whole thing until I was 100% happy with the way it was sounding. Had a tough time removing the harshness of some elements (including the vocals) without making it sound dull, so countless instances of multiband compression came to the rescue.

Last but not least, I sent the mix to George Archontakis, the bass player for Magic De Spell and a famous sound engineer, to master it. (George is also the guy who called me to play and reamp for the one and only Vasilis Papakonstantinou.) He once again nailed it, adding extra depth and extra glue to the track, through various outboard and in-the-box tools.

Produced and mixed: early 2018

First time working with Jagertees, a jazz pop/rock band from Athens. 

Here is a mini-diary of the recordings:

Preparation:

The guys sent me a rehearsal of their song in order for me to get the general direction and vibe. I instantly decided that the final mix should give the impression that the whole band is playing together, in the same room.

First day: Drums!

The drummer of this band is a brilliant and a creative musician. I set up a Yamaha Stage Custom drum set and really took my time to tune it to perfection. The snare on this recording is a Mapex Black Panther 13′ snare tuned low, in order to get rid of its aggressive rock character. Rack toms were tuned pretty high, while the floor tom pretty low, in order to maintain the low end of the drum kit. Two Overhead mics and two Room mics in ORTF position, and there you have it: a great overall drum sound even without enabling the spot mics. This guy practically “mixed himself” as he had steady dynamics and a great laid-back groove that allowed me to turn off (and forget) about the metronome during the rest of the recordings.

Second Day: Guitars and Bass

These guys can really play, so we only did a couple of hours to finish the other instruments. The general sonic direction was decided from the very beginning, but I kept a DI signal to reamp later. Most of the layers are one take, including the main and outro solo. I also suggested adding an Ebow during the acoustic bridge which worked really nice with the track.

Third Day: Vocals

Vocal tracking was once again an easy task for Jagertees, so I mainly concentrated on the feeling, expression and dynamics. I chose my trustworthy AKG condenser mic, directly into the Golden Age PRE73. A bit of improvisation on the bridge and…Done!

Editing and Reamping:

Editing on this track was kept to a minimum, due to the quality of the takes. So, only basic editing, mainly to remove unwanted noise and headphone leakage.

Reamping was done on my Bugera 333XL, with 2 microphones perfectly in phase with each other. I even added some reverb on the way in, to give more body to the guitar sound. Lead guitars were treated with a Maxon OD808, a great addition to the sound.

Mixing:

My biggest doubt was how “much” should I mix? Mainly because it is supposed to sound natural but not messy. So I decided to make a lot of small and subtle moves, instead of major and bold ones.

EQing with multiband compression is a great way to have an ear-pleasing mix and a natural result so there are MANY instances of multiband compression on this session. A bit of compression on the room mics, but nothing fancy, the source was great to begin with, so this made my life easier.

FX-wise I had mainly 3 buses with 3 different types of verb to choose from and a basic filtered delay.

Mastering:

It’s always tough to master your own mixes, isn’t it? So, once again, I introduced my mastering chain early on and mixed through it. Some multiband compression, a bit broadband compression, a tiny bit of EQ and a limiter, made the track to sound the way it is.

It’s always a pleasure to work with skilled and dedicated musicians and this track is the proof that mixing begins from the musicianship and creativity.

Produced, Mixed and Mastered: January 2018

Here is my first production for 2018. This track came to me on a basic format, so all I had was just an acoustic guitar, a basic drumbeat idea and vocals.

The real challenge for me was to give a vintage twist to the song without making it sound old-fashioned or outdated. So, the recipe was simple: 80s, almost disco feel to the drums, slap back delay on many elements, a heavily saturated bass guitar played with a pick, compressed vocals with (you guessed it!) slap back delay and various filters.

After listening to bands like Last Shadow Puppets, I also decided to add a Tarantino-style guitar and some backing vocals to compliment each chorus. A tambourine was also recorded, to add more groove to the whole song.

This is one of those times that I used multi band compression instead of just lazy EQing. This is a great way to achieve instrument separation without making everything sound small.

Recorded, mixed and mastered: December 2017-January 2018

This is a very interesting project, as it comes from an artist with a classical background.

In other words, the original composition was just a score written for some basic instruments, like the bass and the violin. The real challenge for me was to turn that “lifeless” score into a vivid, finished song.

The main work began with the drums, and then came the bass, the guitar and all the other instruments (vocals, violin etc).

I recorded a tambourine to compliment the snare hits and also added a bendir as a MIDI instrument.

Another challenge for this particular mix was to get rid of the rock philosophy! No punchy drums, no subtle saturation on bass, just a clean approach with lots of reverb and gentle sounds. Doing that, without ending up with a dull result was something I had in mind from the very beginning.

Once again a great project! Produced, Mixed and Mastered during late 2017.