Evanescence

Aug 1, 2003 12:00 PM, By Bryan Reeseman

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When Evanescence guitarist Ben Moody calls Mix from the road, his band is setting up at a Milwaukee venue called The Rave. “I'm walking around a haunted building at the moment,” he reports. “I saw a shadowy figure out of the corner of my eye. We've been investigating for about an hour now.” Evidently, The Rave is located within an old Masonic building called The Eagles Club that also houses three other venues, including a ballroom on the roof. Boarded up in the basement is a large old pool that Moody half-jokingly deems “the epitome of evil.”

It is appropriate that Evanescence are headlining at this supposedly haunted facility, considering that they perform a gothic-inflected strain of heavy rock with a European flavor, augmented at times by strings and choir, and influenced by the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Portishead and Type O Negative. Their theatrical music has taken them from their hometown of Little Rock, Ark. to around the globe, thanks in part to the inclusion of two songs in the hit movie, Daredevil. Propelled by the grandiose and moody single “Bring Me to Life,” which features a dramatic trade-off between singer Amy Lee and 12 Stones frontman Paul McCoy, the group's Platinum debut album, Fallen (Wind-Up), immediately cracked the top echelon of the Billboard charts and has stayed there ever since. Evanescence is currently in the midst of a headlining tour that will last through the end of 2003. For a new band in a weak economy, that's definitely impressive.

Recorded and mixed between late August and early December of last year, Fallen is the culmination of eight years of passion and dedication for Moody and Lee. The duo has been writing and playing music together since they were 14 years old; early on, they even envisioned the string section and choir that permeate many songs on their debut. While the twosome have been pegged as “nu-goth” by Kerrang! magazine, they choose not to compartmentalize themselves. “We didn't really try to be goth or pop or anything,” says Moody. “Honestly, we just write what we want to hear, and we like catchy music.”

While it contains electronic elements indigenous to many of the band's influences, Fallen maintains an organic feeling. “I didn't want it to sound too fabricated,” comments Moody. “I love electronics and I love digital manipulation, but I wanted to first establish us as a real rock band. We're actually playing all of those parts: The strings are real, the choirs are real, the piano is real.”

“I think one of the most positive features about [the album] is that it's like watching a movie from front to back,” remarks Fallen producer Dave Fortman, who acknowledges that many radio stations were at first resistant to a rock band with a (gasp!) female singer. “Some areas waited and waited and waited until the proof was really there. KROQ L.A. was one of them. Within the first three days of them trying the song, it was already Top Five for requests on the phones. People were freaking out on it.”

Louisiana-based Fortman, who has worked with 12 Stones, Boysetsfire and Superjoint Ritual, was impressed with Evanescence when he heard the initial demos, and his admiration of the group grew during the recording process. “One of the greatest parts of this record was the band's vision and their dream about it being theatrical and like a movie soundtrack,” says Fortman. “I think that gives it a special emotion, really. Every song takes you through this journey.”

Recording work for Fallen started at Ocean Studios in Burbank, Calif., where most of “Bring Me to Life” was recorded for the Daredevil soundtrack, prior to full album production. For that tune, Jay Baumgardner banged out the mix at his studio, NRG Recording Studios in North Hollywood, on an SSL 9000 J.

Fallen is an album built on overdubs. Drums were tracked at Ocean Studios, with Josh Freese playing to a click, stereo guitars and scratch vocals on select songs. “If it was more of a rock 'n' roll band like the Black Crowes, you definitely want to set them all up and [record live] and try and make everything on there magic,” explains Fortman. “But for something that has the depth of production that Evanescence does, it's definitely more of an overdub situation. This type of record should be done to where it sounds larger than life.”

In recording Freese's drums, Fortman used, on the advice of Ocean's engineer Dean Nelson, C12As for overheads. “That was a real big discovery,” says Fortman. “I thought those were some of the sweetest-sounding overheads ever. And a trick I stole from Jay Baumgardner was using [Audio-Technica] ATM25s on toms. They're awesome. It's like magic. That through an 80 Series Neve pre, and I could almost just put the fader up and call it a day.”

On the rest of the kit, Fortman used a D112 on the inside of the kick drum, a U47 on the outside, plus an NS-10 speaker as an outside mic, an idea he also got from Nelson. The producer ran 414s on the ride cymbal and hi-hat. “I can't remember what the room mics were,” the producer admits, “but it was real basic: about 15 feet out in front of the kick, right about ear level, maybe a little lower.” Fortman recorded the drums onto 2-inch tape on a Studer machine and then bounced the parts into Pro Tools, the medium for most of the album.

The guitars for Fallen were cut at Mad Dog Studios, also in Burbank. Moody says that Baumgardner lent him gear, including his Les Paul and Gibson SG guitars, Marshall and Mesa/Boogie heads, and an old Mesa/Boogie cabinet. “It was an old cabinet that was tried-and-true on rock records,” says Moody. “It was a no-brainer to use it. I know it was used on Papa Roach and, I think, Staind. The heads were just the JCM 800, which was all souped up and modified, [and] a Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier Trem-o-Verb.”

For the first time in his producing career, Fortman recorded the guitars through two different amps: one side being Marshall and the other Mesa/Boogie. “I doubted it forever,” he confesses, “and then I decided during the Evanescence recording that I would actually A-B it and see if there was really that much of a difference.” He recorded the Marshall amp for both left and right sides, EQ'ing it to sound heavier than usual. “Then I A-B'd it by using a Mesa on the left side. The differences tonally and with the different frequencies in the two different amps really do create a larger stereo feel. It was amazing to hear.” The producer recorded the guitars with two Shure 57s, running them through Neve 1081 preamps straight to Pro Tools.

Bassist Francis DiCosmo, who had a “really off-the-wall amp,” according to Fortman, was recorded with a U67 set back six or seven inches from his cabinet and through an Avalon U5 DI/pre into Pro Tools.

When it came to recording Lee's vocals at NRG, the group tested out three mics: the Telefunken Elam 251E, the AKG C-12 and the regular Neumann U47 tube mic. The U47 won. “That one seemed to have the classic presence,” reports Fortman. “It sounded really good on Amy's voice. I love having that type of luxury, where you can record something from each mic, have everybody sit down and take time to choose.” The vocal chain was a U47 through 1081s Neve preamps to an 1176 Blackface.

Most of the piano on the album was also recorded at NRG. Fortman used a pair of U67s spaced approximately three to four feet apart, one for the high strings and one for the low strings, facing down between eight inches to a foot above the strings. The piano parts were performed by David Hodges, the other main performer on the album beside Moody and Lee. Hodges also played a variety of keyboards recorded directly through Avalon DIs into Pro Tools.

Throughout the recording process, Fortman worked on various Neve consoles, which he says were integral to the overall sound: “Probably the most important part of getting that ‘sound of strength’ is the 80 Series Neve, which, to this day, is still impressive to my ears. They all have small differences, but especially at NRG, everything you listen to and everything you record just has this bigger-than-life quality. That's definitely my favorite place to record. Jay just has the gnarliest monitoring system ever.”

Adding to the album's grand feel and gothic flavor was the inclusion of strings on a few tracks, notably “Bring Me to Life” and “Imaginary.” A 22-piece string section was recorded in Seattle by Mark Curry. They were later mixed at the Newman Scoring Stage and Bolero Studios, both in Los Angeles. The orchestra parts were arranged by Hodges and David Campbell, except for “My Immortal,” which was done by veteran Hollywood composer Graeme Revell.

“I forget which Sony condensers were for the main overheads, but they were done in just a regular spaced pair, probably eight feet in front of the entire string section, then probably six feet apart, maybe up to 10 feet,” says Fortman. “In the back, we used U87s on lower strings, possibly U47 back on the basses. There were close mics for each section and a stereo pair for the overall. There were around 12 tracks. At mix, I mostly used the stereo pair, especially during dense sections of songs. However, the intro to ‘Imaginary’ is a section where all of the mics are in.”

Following the recording of the strings, the final piece of the aural puzzle was recording the Millennium Choir at NRG. Fortman ran a stereo pair of U67s to capture their voices, and later the 12-member ensemble was doubled or tripled to give them a larger sound. “During the bridge of ‘Imaginary,’ there are probably 70-plus people performing on the song at that moment,” explains Fortman. “There's a choir that's been doubled, there is a string orchestra with 22 players doubled, then you add all of the bandmembers, and it's huge. That section has so much depth to it. There's no purpose to look at it as a live band at that point.”

For Moody, to finally hear real orchestration to Evanescence songs was a dream come true. “It was surreal and amazing,” declares the guitarist, who originally used keyboards on his demos in place of real strings. “It was just awesome to hear that, for once, done right. Amy and I were both a little teary.” Adds Fortman: “Just to hear that happen to the music in the room, it was an emotional experience. It was amazing. You could just feel the energy in the room.”

Following the multiphase recording process, Fortman spent nearly two weeks mixing Fallen on a Neve 88R console at Conway Recording Studios in North Hollywood. “I was impressed,” he says. “They say it's got the low end and the stickiness of an 80 Series Neve, but with the brightness of an SSL 9000. That's exactly what it sounds like. It's really compatible to any of the high-end SSLs.” Following mixing, the album was mastered by Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound in New York City.

“I was surprised by how smoothly it went and how much fun we had,” Fortman states. “I've always read that a lot of friction makes a great record, and I left California thinking, ‘God, was that too easy?’ There was really no drama. It was a fun record to make.”






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