Music: The Lonely Island

Jun 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Matt Gallagher



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Mix engineer Jason Goldstein seated at Downtown Music Studios’ 16-channel Neve 8014 console with Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer

Mix engineer Jason Goldstein seated at Downtown Music Studios’ 16-channel Neve 8014 console with Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer

Anyone who has watched NBC’s Saturday Night Live in recent years has seen “SNL Digital Shorts”—the wickedly satirical, off-the-wall, manic, edgy and often risqué hip-hop/R&B/pop music videos and conceptual pieces that humorously and mercilessly skewer pop culture. These videos are the creation of The Lonely Island, a comedic and musical trio comprising SNL actors and writers Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone. In May 2011, the group released its second album, Turtleneck & Chain (Universal Republic), which includes collaborations with Akon, Justin Timberlake, Snoop Dogg, Rihanna, Michael Bolton, Beck, Nicki Minaj and Santigold.

Samberg, Schaffer and Taccone produced and recorded tracks for Turtleneck and Chain individually and collectively in their own studio spaces, as well as in their offices at NBC’s 30 Rock. When it came time to fine-tune, complete and mix the tracks, they found veteran freelance New York City–based mix engineer Jason Goldstein (jason, whose track record in hip-hop and R&B (The Roots, Ludacris, Jay-Z) made a solid impression.

“I actually interviewed for the job in person,” Goldstein recalls. “The guys are very into their records and they know exactly what they want. Their main question was, ‘How do you work?’ Because of their [busy] schedules, it was important. They read about how I mix in the box and that intrigued them. Once VCAs and trim automation became available [in Pro Tools], I just jumped in. They contacted me at the end of October and we finished at the beginning of April.” Goldstein works out of his home on a MacBook Pro laptop, and in commercial studios on Pro Tools HD and HD Native setups.

Executive Producers:
Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone
Villanova, B-Sides, Knoc Down, DJ Frank E, Micahel Woods, Beck Hansen, DJ Nu-Mark, JMIKE, T Minus, Drew Campbell, Asa Taccone, CHOPS, Sean Maxvel, 6th Sense
Jason Goldstein except Rocky done by Nu-Mark and Ken Hitchcock

“I did all the editing and compiling of files, and arranging, pitching and tuning, as well as mix the record, and I did a number of vocal overdubs,” Goldstein says. “They solicited beats from a number of producers. They rented a house in Southern California during the summer [of 2010] when SNL was on hiatus, and recorded the bulk of the record [using] Pro Tools LE 8 with varying interfaces. They had all these vocals against a 2-track. I had to reverse-engineer all the edits before I could start mixing. The whole record was recorded, edited and mixed in Pro Tools—either [Version] 8 LE, 9 HD or 9, with this Complete Production Toolkit 2, and on HD TDM, HD Native and laptop-based systems.”

Goldstein and The Lonely Island often exchanged files in the cloud. “They would send me emails or we’d have phone conversations about things that they wanted. I set up a account, an Internet drop-box, and they just accessed mixes as I threw them up and made comments. When they had to do additional vocals or as we got vocals from their guests, I gave them access to certain areas of the Website, they would upload the files and I’d grab them and put them into the mix. And it was really a very seamless way to do it.”

For all in-person mixing sessions, Goldstein booked Downtown Music Studios in Lower Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, which he calls his “go-to studio,” bringing in sessions on a FireWire drive. “The ability to work out of your house is great, but I prefer being in a proper environment,” Goldstein says. “[Downtown Music’s chief engineer] Zach Hancock has done a phenomenal job with it. The vibe is awesome.” They mixed in Studio A, which in January saw the installation of a 16-channel analog Neve 8014 console to go with its Pro Tools HD4 and HD Native setups. “Downtown has matched their rig to mine,” Goldstein says. “Once I was able to open an entire session in my house [and] enter into that 
exact same session at Downtown, my world just became 100-
percent creative.”

Goldstein says that Avid’s release of Pro Tools 9 with the Complete Production Toolkit 2 expansion option was pivotal in refining his workflow for Turtleneck & Chain. “Until I was able to get my hands on Pro Tools 9, I was pretty limited because I had to use very low-latency plug-ins or I had to sit there with a calculator, and anything like that takes away from the creative process. I started [this project] working between LE and an HD4 rig. When Pro Tools 9 with the CPTK2 came out, I was able to work in any of those formats seamlessly.”

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