Fat Possum Mic Closet Filled With Sennheiser, Neumann

Apr 16, 2004 12:00 PM, Editors


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Just over a dozen years old, Fat Possum Records was started by Matthew Johnson to record local blues artists in the North Mississippi area, including Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside, in addition to creating music for The Sopranos and Nissan commercials—all done with Sennheiser and Neumann mics.

Bruce Watson (pictured), who has engineered and co-produced all of Fat Possum's releases from the beginning, said "In those early days, we didn't know anything about recording so we recorded with any gear we could borrow, rent or find laying around: cheap boards and a bunch of cheap mics, whatever. For many years, we chased live blues shows and concerts and sold records and started making a name for ourselves as producers of authentic North Mississippi Hill Country music.”

As Fat Possum’s clientele increased, Johnson and Watson moved their recording process to a real studio. Watson took over and converted an old school building in Water Valley Mississippi into a studio he calls The Money Shot. "My first Neumann mics were a pair of KM 184 cardioids. They were incredibly flexible. I like them for drum overheads, piano, acoustic guitars and for string basses. It's the best overall mic we own," Watson revealed. "For electric guitars, I use the Sennheiser MD 421 II dynamic and a single Neumann TLM 103 drum overhead with maybe a kick and snare mic—that's it! We're very simple here. We record straight into our Studer A-80 2-inch 16-track and transfer to Pro Tools. I only use Pro Tools for editing and mixing back to my MCI console."

A few years ago Watson bought a pair of TLM 103s, which quickly became Watson’s main vocal mics. "On vocals, the 103 makes the singer jump out of the mix!,” he explained. “I run the 103 through a Neve 1073 preamp and add a little compression from an old Gates tube compressor and that's it. On drum overheads, the 103 is smoother on the top and fuller-sounding. It picks up more of the kit. A lot of times I'll use the sound from just one 103 for my whole drum sound!"

A Neumann TLM 127 has recently been added to The Money Shop’s mic closet and has been put through its paces on three session. "I last used the 127 on an R&B-flavored song where the acoustic had to be full and out front and the 127 was perfect. It sounds very comparable to the 103." Watson has started using the 127's omni mode even though all the musicians are playing and singing in the same room. "I make a deal with the leakage, since there are virtually no overdubbing or fixing later in this music,” Watson continued. “We edit from take to take. My Neumann mics always sound consistent all session long. I'm set with omni mode on the TLM127—that's great for acoustic guitars and the TLM103 for vocals and drum overheads. Both these mics let me record this authentic American music the best it can be."

For more information on the Neumann and Sennheiser mics, visit www.neumannusa.com and www.sennheiserusa.com, respectively. For more information on Fat Possum Records, visit www.fatpossum.com.

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