Music: Plain White T's

Nov 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Elianne Halbersberg



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Wallace acknowledges similarities in the way he and the producer work, and in how they developed their expertise: “Johnny comes from the same recording and production style I've done,” he says. “I built my own studio. I was self-taught, if you will, and cut my teeth by doing tons of sessions. That's what he did, producing local bands for peanuts, and that's how he learned. We have similar miking techniques, similar philosophies on how to record basic tracks, and similar experiences on how to record live tracks.

“A lot of producers record drum machines, or if it's live they quantize the live drums,” Wallace continues. “There's an art to recording live drums so they don't sound like a prerecorded sample. His raw tracks remind me of the way I record tracks, and it's nice that there's a more natural thing to work with and I don't spend time working on something I don't like or have trouble separating sound between mics. Because our general style and approach to recording and producing is compatible, and his is similar to mine, it makes it nice to work on; it's like mixing my own tracks.”

With the band in Chicago at Johnny K's studio and Wallace at Soundtrack in New York City, tracks were uploaded and mixes came back in “real time” via iTunes, iChat and videoconference — a first for Johnny K. “I hook Pro Tools up to my computer, we get videoconferencing, he's at the board, I push Play, the mix comes up and I hear it immediately,” he explains. “It's pretty exciting. The videoconference is running on my laptop and a live broadcast is coming out of the SSL in New York City directly into the outputs of the console in Chicago. He can hit the guitar track in his New York console and I hear it on mine in Chicago. If there are any changes, I talk to him on videoconference.

“I felt like I was there. I'm looking at him and talking to him, we both have Genelec speakers going, and the band at one point was still in the studio and we were all listening to the mix. In theory, basically you can get an iTunes radio thing, get a secure password and you have your own thing rolling. It goes through iTunes, but it's a broadcast. It's pretty cool.”

“Generally, things come in Pro Tools and I mix on an SSL J console here in Studio G at Soundtrack,” Wallace says. “I have various outboard gear, not tons — probably far less than a lot of mixers do. I mix into Pro Tools and Masterlink, and use Pro Tools as a recording medium and do some editing and effects in it.

“This CD has a live band feel,” Wallace continues. “You're not just hearing leakage between mics. You can tell things were played together, there's definitely a ‘real band’ live performance feel; it's not overly arranged. I get tracks sometimes with way too much on them from an arrangement point of view. The Plain White T's album was very well-arranged and there's not a lot of stuff on it. What's on there was intended to be there, and it all works together like a nice painting. It's attributable to the band and their compositional abilities, and Johnny's ability as a producer.

“The music came to me sorted out. Even the overdubs made sense. The tracks were cut anticipating what overdubs were coming. A lot of it was just dealing with the sonics, making sure the dynamics were good, making interesting architecture, combining things but making all the sounds big. It's further engineering, but I didn't have to rescue any bad-sounding tracks.”

Higgenson says that the band couldn't be happier with the results, and credits Johnny K with much of the creative outcome. “Johnny came straight off of Three Doors Down into Staind into Plain White T's,” he says. “He's been working for the past year straight, so Malibu was pretty good for him, as well. He was right there with us. We all had a crazy year, and we all took advantage of the [Malibu] setting without losing track of the goal at hand.”

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