Randy Bachman's The Barn Studio: Inside The Toy Box

Jul 2, 2003 12:00 PM


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Access to a wonderful recording environment—such as The Barn—certainly facilitates the creative process. But the other side is having some fun tools to work with, as well. We asked Bachman to talk about some of the favorites in his toy box, and he was enthusiastic in his response.

“We have a lot of good toys here, including 400 guitars. It's the world's largest Gretsch collection and we just finished photographing them for trading cards that Fender [Gretsch's new owner] is issuing with new sets of Gretsch strings.

“Besides my large guitar collection (about 350 Gretsches, couple dozen Fenders, couple dozen Gibsons and a couple dozen miscellaneous other guitars), I have an extensive microphone collection picked up from secondhand and pawn shops in my world travels. These are in additon to my normal studio mikes. These oldies—but goodies—looked great as decorations, but were basically unusable until I got the Groove Tube VIPRE preamp. It also works on (direct) acoustic guitars, drum machines, etc. Wow! What an amazing difference. VIPRE brings every piece of gear—with different impedances—to life, including vintage, high-impedance mics.

“Before the VIPRE, I often used an old 1950s, 4-channel Ampex mixer from the Norman Petty Studios in Clovis, New Mexico where Buddy Holly & the Crickets and The Fireballs recorded their hits. After he sold the publishing of Buddy Holly's music to Paul McCartney's MPL Communications, Norman scrapped his old recording board (two Ampex 4-channel mixers) for a new setup. A friend of mine from Edmonton, Wes Dakus, was recording his band there at the time, saw the units in the trash dumpster and asked for them. Sometime in the mid '70's, I traded Wes an Eventide 910 Harmonizer for one of the ‘Buddy Holly/Norman Petty’ mixers and still use it to this day. It gives everything a warmth and harmonic overtones that screams ‘rock and roll.’

“My main console is a Neve 8058 MkII. Originally from the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corp.), it’s a small board with just 32 inputs. John Vrtacic—the Vancouver genius who built Bob Rock's studio and Metallica's studio—rebuilt my board as 64-inputs with those great blue EQs. I also have some Neve 1081 EQs in a lunchbox and a bunch of Neve outboard limiters. I also have some original gray Teletronix limiters from Sunnyvale, California—with matching consecutive serial numbers—some UREI 1176s and LA-4s, LA-5s and a new Chiswick Reach compressor/limiter that's handmade in London. It's a lot like an old Fairchild—very sweet.

“I have a great engineer here—Andy Bowmer—who helped build the studio with John Vrtacic. They recommended the original RADAR, and then we went with the new 96kHz, 48-track RADAR, which has pretty much replaced all of our 2-inch tape. I also do a lot of Pro Tools stuff and have just finished a jazz album on that.

“I just got a fantastic new piece of gear: It’s the Superscope PSD300 CD Recorder. You can put in a CD and change the tempo and pitch and burn a new CD with that. It's the greatest tool for songwriting. I just came back from Sweden with a demo in G, and wanted a guy to sing it in B. So I got the Superscope, dialed in a new key, set the tempo and burned a new CD for the singer. I've also used it on drum loops that might be pitched high, but I wanted the kick drum to be John Bonham-low. I can then burn new CDs at different pitches, but at the same tempo. This machine is fabulous.”

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