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Kutna Hora – Live Session

June 26, 2016

Back in early-mid June, I recorded new local band, Kutna Hora, live in a Village Hall close to my house (the same venue where I recorded drums for Summer Drive Home, TATE and Conchairto.

Recording live is always fun, but also precarious at the same time. Everything has to be more-or-less perfect when you hit the record button, as there’s little room for error. The band need to be comfortable that they can play the song live, and the mic positioning in relation to where the instruments have been placed in the room is so important. The guys are quite influenced by Sonic Youth and Joy Division, so this gave me a basis for how it should be recorded and mixed.

For the first time ever, I tried out a tip (which I can’t remember where I heard it from), where I picked up Ian’s (drummer) floor tom and started walking around the room to hear where it sounded best. From there, I let him set up the rest of his kit, and placed amps in relation to where the drums were in the room. I walked around each amp to hear where the biggest null point was, which turned out to be the side of the amps.

I used figure 8 mics where I could, as they generally have the best off-axis rejection. I used a mono overhead placed more towards the shells than the cymbals to pick up a good representation of the kit, the mic used was an NT2000 in figure 8. Unlike other sessions I’ve done, this mic was about 80% of the drum sound. Mics around the kit were generally a standard array; 57 snare and hi tom, 421 mid and floor tom, Heil PR40 kick in, KSM32 kick out (and also KSM32 as a room mic).

For bass, I took a direct signal and also mic’ed with an AKG D112. Andy’s bass tone was pretty boomy through his Trace Elliot, partly due to the 15″ speaker, and also due to the EQ settings he had set on the amp. During the mix, the mic recording was mainly for the beefy low end to fill out the bottom, and the DI for the string note. I’ve realised that the D112’s cardioid pickup pattern is pretty loose and picks up a lot of bleed, so during the mix this caused some issues with colouring the drum sound which I had to address. In the end I sidechained the snare signal to a multiband compressor on bass and ducked the offending frequency.

Guitars were pretty easy, generally. Fred played through his Hiwatt through an Orange 1×12 and Jay played through a vintage Orange head and 4×12 cab. I initially used Cascade Fathead IIs for both amps, but found it sounded horrible on Fred’s 1×12 so I swapped it out for a 57. For Jay’s 4×12, I still used the Fathead II.

Surprisingly, the Fathead II got quite a bit of bleed from the drums even though its null was facing them, and it was also blocked off partially by Fred’s 1×12 which was propped up on his Marshall 1922 cab. During mix time, I again sidechained the snare to the a multiband compressor on Jay’s guitar.

For vocals, we tracked them separately, as it would’ve been impossible to record vocals live with everything else, as Andy’s vocals are soft and more-or-less spoken word. Andy uses effects when doing his vocals live, and to keep with the band’s sound, I decided to track through his vocal effects pedal. I put him in a small hallway which we padded out with drum bags and a roll of scrap carpet which Ian uses for a drum mat.

Vocals were recorded through an SM58 for the effected vocal, but I took a safety vocal just in case with an SM7B. Vocals went through both channels of my newly-acquired A-Designs Pacifica, which really brought the vocals up front. In the end, the 58 was fine for the mix, so I ended up keeping it and scrapping the SM7B track. Great session overall.

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