Feb 1, 2013 9:00 AM, By Blair Jackson
MY MORNING JACKET FRONTMAN EXPLORES NEW 'REGIONS'
James engineered the album himself, working “in little chunks, a week here or there, over the course of two years” in his studio, which was set up with considerable help from Tucker Martine and Louisville engineer Kevin Ratterman (who mixed the album with main mixer Rick Kwan and James at Ratterman’s Funeral Home Studio). Ratterman says James’ studio is “super-sweet. It’s in this ranch-style home, in the front living room. It’s a decent amount of space and it’s got a window that looks out over a park—really nice. He’s got a Trident 80B [console], ProAc  monitors, and a bunch of Telefunken pre’s—V76s and V72s. He also has an RCA preamp, maybe from the late ’50s or early ’60s, they used specifically to amplify ribbon mics. Jim’s in love with old RCA mics.” Indeed, James notes, “I alternated between using an RCA 44, a 77 and a [Neumann] M49 for vocals.” Most of the deep reverb on the vocals came from an old EMT 140 plate James adores.
“Where on Circuital we were really focusing on getting the entire take—including the main vocal—live, I obviously can’t do that by myself in a studio,” James notes. “So Regions used more of a building-block kind of method. Some songs, like ‘A New Life’ and ‘State of the Art’ are full takes, and then some, like ‘All Is Forgiven,’ or ‘Know Til Now’ are comped. Most started as a vocal and rhythm bed and then stuff comes in. But most of these had all the elements in place in my mind before I started cutting them. So I’d create the beat, then maybe put on a bass or Wurlitzer, then the vocal, then add more and more ’til it was done.”
As for the mix, which was done on the Funeral Home’s late ’70s Trident TSM, Ratterman notes, “Jim had everything super-organized. It was almost like opening up a final mix. There was lots of creative editing and there were already effects printed and EQs. He almost could have released it the way he mixed it. With our engineer ears, Rick and I sort of tailored it a bit, cleaned up a few frequency things, made it a little bigger in places. But overall it still feels kind of surreal, which is what Jim was looking for.”
Jim James: “I wanted the record to sound like it was the past of the future. Like you were living in the year 4030, but hearing a record that was made in 3970, if that makes sense.”
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