Music: The Lonely Island

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



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These guys have some production chops.
Absolutely. One of the songs is supposed to sound like two guys in a bedroom who just got a brand-new keyboard for the first time. Jorma actually produced that entirely. He programmed the beat and did the synth and bass lines, and he did it less than exceptionally on purpose. He wasn’t supposed to sound like Rodney Jerkins; he was supposed to sound like a 16-year-old kid who got his very first MPC, or whatever.

It’s fun to make fun of a lack of production chops.
Yeah. They’ll make fun of everything. They have no fear.

Given the time frame of the Turtleneck & Chain project, it was one of the first major-release projects to be done with Pro Tools 9.
Yeah, and that was really great because I was using Pro Tools LE, and some of these sessions were massive with the background vocals by the time I got the tracks. I’d literally have an instrumental session and I would be comping that, editing it, putting it on a grid, figuring out how to reconstruct the 2-track there with a 2-track of the vocals. Then I would put that into the vocal session and go ahead and do whatever pitching, time aligning, cleaning up was necessary on the vocals, and then start trying to marry and comp and get it to the point that I could mix.

And, significantly, you mix completely in the box.
When I committed to going into the box, I fully committed. I was never a hybrid mixer. All of my primary processing was outboard. Pro Tools, for me, was used as a tape machine and something for editing and pitching—production, not mixing. But I decided I wanted to mix in the box. A couple of plug-ins came out that allowed me to emulate that background noise that you get from consoles and outboard gear—tape hiss, for lack of a better word, just white noise. As we all know, with digital, when there’s nothing, there’s nothing. That’s not true in the analog world; when there’s nothing there’s still something—whether it’s audible or not, it’s still there. And once VCAs and trim automation became available [in Pro Tools], I just jumped in. Now I am 100-percent in the box—every bit of it! [Laughs] There’s not a single piece of outboard gear and there hasn’t been for years.

Your mixing sessions with the Lonely Island took place in Lower Manhattan at Downtown Music Studios, which you describe as your “go-to” studio. What is it about that facility that appeals to you?
I use my system in combination with their system to mix records. It’s very accommodating of my particular way of working. It’s a great-sounding room. The clients love it. I love it down there. It’s my first choice of studios in New York at this point. It’s got a full chef’s kitchen. You walk past the label and the publishing arm, and once you hit the studio, you’re completely isolated, and they have their own lounge and their own staff and everything. So you really feel isolated without being isolated.

I understand that you’re a frequent visitor there.
Yeah. I mean, every opportunity, to be perfectly honest. The ability to work out of your house is great, but I’ve been doing this long enough that I prefer being in a proper environment. It’s more conducive to making records. The vibe is awesome. [Downtown Music’s chief engineer] Zach Hancock has done a phenomenal job with it. He’s got a vintage Neve [8014 console] and a ton of great outboard gear. I tracked drums down there for a project, and didn’t have to rent a single thing. [Studio A has] a big control room with natural light, and the small room [Studio B] sounds really punchy. I actually prefer it for mixing because it’s a little smaller and really punchy. It has Genelec [1031As], which I’m familiar with. Their Pro Tools rig is macked out. When I didn't have my own setup and I needed a TDM rig to do these sessions, it always worked, it always ran smoothly. Not enough can be said for being able to walk into a studio and just have stuff work these days. I think it's an under-appreciated element. It’s a phenomenal facility.

Which room did you use for mixing?
I was in the A room with the Neve. Having the three guys plus me and the assistant, and occasionally friends or film crews or whatever, made that the right choice. I have a pair of JBL 6328s that I’ve been using that live down there, so I’m very familiar with the way that they sound in the room. I use their rig 90 percent of the time and my hard drive when it was necessary. Downtown has matched their rig to mine. I don’t really have to bring mine down there any more.

My setup fits in a backpack. I was able to take my laptop to the mastering sessions [at Sterling Sound]. Instead of asking [mastering engineer] Chris Gehringer, “Can you bring the vocals out a little bit more,” I just went in the lounge and printed the vocals up a half a dB and gave it back to him.

All in all, Turtleneck & Chain sounds like it worked out as a fun New York City–based project.
I’m in New York, and I love it here, and it’s starting to pay off, being loyal to the city and the people who are still here. I would never have gotten this gig if I were in L.A.—ever.

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