Music: Ludacris in Surround

May 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Blair Jackson



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How closely did you replicate the feel of the stereo mix? “My Number One goal, personally, is not to have any of my buddies pissed off at me; that's where I'm starting from,” Rideau says with a laugh. “Because I'm a mixer, I know how it is — you put your heart and soul into a project, and the producers and writers and artists all have visions, and I don't want to screw that up. I'd like to enhance it.

“It's not a remix where you're saying, ‘All right, I'm erasing everything but the vocals and bringing in a new guitarist!’ I didn't do any vocal overdubs. I made it clear from the outset my intent was to preserve what they had done and make it more exciting for a new format. That said, there were times when I added some effects — a little bit of room in some cases, a little bit of delay — but it's not that obvious; it's a dimensional thing. You take something that's in the front spectrum and you take it off by itself as an element, and all of a sudden it's naked. So my idea was to try to have it sitting in a space that's maybe created by another instrument. You might have percussion or something that's dry because it's sharing a space with something else that has a room or a tail of some kind, and it doesn't seem like it's dry as a bone, but you pan it to left-surround, and it's like, ‘Here I am! I'm naked!’”

At Rideau's L.A.-area personal studio, Cane River Studios, “I did some premixes and got things generally organized and figured out conceptually where I wanted to put some elements and did some experimenting on placement,” he says. But for the main mix, he traveled north to Studio 880 in Oakland, in part so that Lee, who works across the San Francisco Bay, could give his input. “Studio C there has a [Digidesign] ICON 32-fader with a surround package on it, and that was ideal for this,” Rideau says. “I had everything I needed, especially after I tortured them with six hours of setting up monitors — I'm really critical with the setup for surround and Noel is hypercritical. Part of Noel's thing is he wants to be able to get not only the five discrete panning positions of the five surround speakers, he wants to have the five discrete phantoms in between each of those pairs, and if I can't make that happen, he wonders what's wrong because that's part of his HDS concept. I had JBL LSR monitors, which were great, and Monster also has their own speakers, so I had both sets and I definitely used them both.”

Though Rideau says that when he's mixing at home, “I'm generally an out-of-the-box kind of guy, in surround I'm exclusively in the box because that's the only manageable way for me to make it happen — because it's recallable, it's totally automated and also because I've got some cool plug-ins!

“I can do a lot with just a mouse,” he continues, “but when I'm getting to the crazy stage — as I like to call it — at that point I'd like to have a joystick. And Noel Lee requires a joystick. [Laughs] He will not go into a studio that doesn't have one! ‘Okay, take that and move it over here and back over here.’ Noel wants it to be exciting. He wants it to be dynamic — not to the point where it's distracting, but to where it's helping emote the feeling of the song.

“I felt like we could take some chances and be creative with panning and effects because the title of the record was Theater of the Mind. One of my favorite tracks is called ‘I Did It for Hip-Hop,’ and there's a point where a guy does one of the most amazing scratch solos you'll ever hear. As soon as I heard it, I thought, ‘Oh, my god!’ and on the next pass I grabbed the joystick and did a light pass in his solo going crazy, and it was quite a rush. The whole thing was just so much fun. I've never laughed so much working on a project. That Luda is a very clever fellow.”

Rideau also has high praise for Lee: “He has some of the best ears in the business; he's a real visionary. It's rare to have a guy that geeky, like me, and passionate, like me; it's a weird combination of things. And to have a company he started in his garage for $1,500 and making it into what it is today — you have to have a vision. You can see it in projects like this. It's more than just a business to him.”

But it is also a business, as Lee freely acknowledges. One of his goals with the Ludacris remix, he says, is “to proliferate the format through our retail channels to the Monster Cable audience, so hopefully there will be enough people who will say, ‘That's a great thing! Boy, when's the next one coming out?’ It remains to be seen whether you can make a business out of it. I'd say the business model is still not there yet completely. We're not looking at is as a major revenue stream for the company; we're just looking at it for enhancing the canvas that artists can create on and give people a phenomenal musical experience they can't get any other way. By that measure, at least, it's already a great success.”

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