Beyonce Runs Her World
Aug 1, 2011 1:43 PM, By Blair Jackson
INSIDE THE RECORDING OF '4'
“Shea Taylor was sort of the day-to-day producer, so a lot came from him,” Swivel adds. “If B wanted to add a bridge section, she would give it to Shea and he would go and add the parts. He wasn’t one of the guys who came in for just a couple of weeks; he was there every day. But B ultimately produced the album. She’s very hands-on with everything, lyrically and musically. If there’s something she doesn’t like about a track, we’re pulling the track apart and fixing it. A lot of it is B getting her ideas out and then having a team around her to help execute those ideas. But everything was very collaborative and open. It was sort of like ‘the best idea wins.’”
Originally from Toronto, the 26-year-old Swivel had some DJ and production experience in his hometown before earning a Recording Arts degree at Full Sail University in Florida. Two days after graduation, he took the leap and moved to New York City, a place where he knew no one. After a brief internship with a jazz studio, Full Sail’s placement program found him an opportunity closer to his own musical interests—working as an assistant in the private studio of Desert Storm Records CEO and one of the hottest mixer/engineers in New York, Ken “Duro” Ifill, whose voluminous credits include Jay-Z, Mariah Carey, Ludacris, Busta Rhymes, DMX, Diddy and scads of others. “Everything I learned there was from watching Duro do it and seeing how he interacts with clients, how he mixes a record,” Swivel says. “I assisted a hundred or more of his mixes. It was really beneficial having such a good mentor to learn from.”
It was one of Duro’s artists, Fabolous, who gave Swivel his first big shot at engineering: on the 2006 album From Nothin’ to Somethin’. “When I did that, I was still assisting Duro at the same time, but eventually the engineering took up so much of my time I stopped assisting. And then in 2010 I got the Beyonce call.
“The way the whole B thing happened,” he continues, “a friend of mine, Omar Grant, who had worked with Beyonce during the Destiny’s Child days, gave me a call, and said, ‘Listen, she needs a fill-in today, can you do it?’ So I showed up at Roc the Mic [Studios in Manhattan], and we recorded the song ‘Party’ [written primarily by Kanye West]. At the end of the session, she said, ‘You did a great job, you’re really fast.’ Several weeks later I got another call, came in and did a few more days. It was that week that she began discussing the beginning stages of the album with A&R [and Roc Nation exec] TyTy. We basically started the next week.”
The writing and recording process on 4 encompassed numerous studios along the way, including MSR (used the most), Roc the Mic, KMA, Germano Studios and Jungle City (Swivel’s current favorite haunt) in New York; Conway in L.A.; various producers’ rooms; and even a few overseas. When Beyonce’s husband, Jay-Z, toured Australia and New Zealand opening for U2’s 360 Tour this past December, she and Swivel showed up for a nearly two-week stretch in Sydney, during which Jay-Z had planned to do some recording with West on their forthcoming Watch the Throne disc. Two makeshift studios were built inside a Sydney mansion, with Jay-Z and West working in the living room, and Beyonce and Swivel ensconced in the top-floor’s home theater space working on her album. “We had a basic [Pro Tools] HD rig, all the plug-ins I needed and a [Lexicon] 960. There was no booth. I recorded her on headphones and strategically placed the mic and had a reflection filter to take care of some of those issues. There was actually no problem.” Swivel’s chain for Beyonce’s vocals throughout the album was a vintage AKG C24 stereo mic (using only one capsule) through an Avalon 737 mic pre and a UA 1176 compressor.
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