Music: Stone Temple Pilots
Jul 9, 2010 4:00 PM, By Sarah Benzuly
TAKING THE REINS
As for mics, DeLeo responds, “Where do we start! I’ve been collecting mics since the early ’90s and it’s one of my passions. My favorite kick drum mic is an AKG D20 and I managed to pick up a couple of those over the years. I’ve actually acquired some from the ’60s, dead stock, still in the box. [We placed a] D20 on the outside and then a 421 on the inside of the kick; 57 on the snare with a 414 underneath the snare. [We used] 57s and KM84 for hi-hats and C12As for overheads. The C12As have a nice depth to them. Royer 122s phantom-powered for overheads; U47s out front and RCA 44 for over the drum set. I kinda look at mics like painting a picture: whatever’s going to work for that space. Used an old Coles ribbon for out front—whatever worked.” Weiland sang through a U47, which DeLeo recalls as the first mic the band bought in the ’90s.
DeLeo’s bass was split into three channels: an early vintage ’61 Bassman A/B’d into an Ampeg VT22 combo, using only the power section of that. “And I run that out into a very rare—I think they only made them for three years, but I found one—1970 Marshall 8x10 cabinet. And then I run that into a Demeter mic direct box. I split those [three channels] up into the Marshall giving me the distortion, the Bassman giving me that roundness and the direct punch of the direct sound. I blend those together into three different channels and adjust according to the song. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past three or four records.”
The one constant in this record-making equation is that all the tracks were loaded onto Pro Tools, and after all the back-and-forth (individual tracking at a personal studio, coming back together to discuss further direction, back to a personal studio, etc.), the final songs were sent to mixer Chris Lord-Alge at his room in Mix LA place (formerly Studio B in Can-Am Studios). Lord-Alge had mixed STP’s “All in the Suit That You Wear” for the Transformers soundtrack, and the bandmembers were intimately aware of, and keen on, his mixing style.
“Back in January , they gave me the test drive,” Lord-Alge recalls. “They gave me the first song, and if they liked it, they said, ‘Okay, let’s keep going.’ We would get two or three tracks at a time to prepare because my staff preps the tracks for me. We like to have plenty of time ahead; it’s not like the file shows up in the morning, we plug it in and go. Plus there’s last-minute vocal edits that are getting e-mailed to us. There have been times when there are vocal issues dropping in before the band shows up and I quickly insert it.”
As for bringing tracks from three separate locations and making it sound as if the band recorded together in one room, Lord-Alge replies: “For us, that’s just normal operation, because the way records are made now who knows where they came from? The thing with STP is, when you hear the songs, you think, ‘This is exactly what it should be and you just get it there’—just from knowing what the band should sound like. For me, they’re more of a Led Zeppelin three-piece than anything because of Dean; he’s more of a Jimmy Page for our times. All I was thinking about was Led Zeppelin and how I would mix Led Zeppelin: Make it a little less polished and more about the riff than the melody. The guitars and vocals had to be 50/50. A lot of times, the song just dictates that you make it more of a vocal-heavy mix because of the song’s structure.”
Lord-Alge mixed on his SSL 4k 72-channel console (“this is what makes rock ’n’ roll”), monitoring through Yamaha NS-10Ms, Infinity subwoofer and M&K powered speakers. “More important is the boom box, which is a Sony ZS-M1 MiniDisc player,” Lord-Alge adds. “That’s what the band tends to like best because that’s like your computer speakers, but not that crappy. The most important thing is to hear how it’s going to show up on a smaller medium because 90 percent of the people are going to hear it on a small medium: ear buds, computer speakers, car stereos. Not to say that we’re making it lo-fi; we’re just making sure the balances are there.”
The mixer also made use of his arsenal of outboard gear: Pultecs, 1176s, etc. For their “larger, bigger, better and louder” mantra, Lord-Alge selected choice pieces from his “700U” of outboard. “All my plug-ins are installed with a power screwdriver. The thing with STP, I’m using vintage reverb, vintage analog delay. All original 224 reverb from the ’70s, original Marshall slap tape delay, a Rev-1 reverb, the original EMT 246 from the late ’70s. All stuff with character. Even an Ursa Major Space Station. Just using those flavors, you can’t re-create that in the box.”
Dean DeLeo and Kretz were involved in the mix; Robert DeLeo chose to stay at home and have the tracks e-mailed to him. “I think what I’ve learned over the years is to not tweak my own music,” he explains. “And for me, it was better if I was down at my house and I had the mixes sent to me. I was in an environment that I was used to. I think that when you get into a mixing studio, it’s supposed to sound good, so I get a little fooled by being in a foreign place and listening to it because I’ve been in the situation before where it’s like, ‘This sounds great,’ but when I get it back to my house, it didn’t sound as good as I thought it did. And that’s the beauty of the technology. You can actually get something sent to you over the Internet and sit in the comfort of your own home or go out in your car and check it out. Listen to it on your home stereo.”
Once final mixes were approved (total mixing took about nine days), tracks were sent to Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound, whom Lord-Alge uses for all of his projects.
Reflecting on the final product, which was released in late May, Robert DeLeo sums it up: “I think ultimately we’ve been conscious of making a great record, a great listening experience from top to bottom. I think producing is many, many different facets, and I think producing is ultimately getting to what you call a finished product. Dean and I were hard at work getting this finished! I like doing things quickly and getting them out and getting a performance. I never took myself out of the ear of the listener. I think I’ll always be a fan of listening to music, so if I can incorporate the ‘listening to the music’ facet in the music that I make, I think it makes great music.”
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