Regina Spektor

Jun 1, 2012 9:00 AM, By Barbara Schultz



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photo of Mike Elizondo, Adam Hawkins

Producer Mike Elizondo (left) and engineer Adam Hawkins in Phantom Studios, in front of Phantom’s former SSL AWS 900 console, which now resides in Hawkins’ personal studio.

“I used an old E-V radio mic that’s really distorted and midrange-y,” Hawkins recalls. “On the intro to that song, you can really hear that mic—that’s it, by itself—but it’s also blended in [with the other mics] in other parts [of the song]. We made that sound, where the piano is small and warbly, with that low-fi mic running through Sound Toys’ Echo Boy plug-in.”

Once the piano-vocal parts were laid down, Elizondo and Spektor began to flesh out the production. Some of the songs were recorded front-to-back in Elizondo’s studio; others were tracked in Can-Am Studios (Tarzana, Calif.).

“A lot of the time, the arrangements on these tracks were just a matter of following Regina’s lead about the sonic direction of the song: listening to how she’s playing the piano, what the lyric was,” Elizondo says. “Is it playful? Is it mysterious? I would figure out how she hears things, and then there was a lot of give and take with both of us throwing out ideas. Sometimes we’d have a very clear understanding of where the song was going; sometimes we’d start on a path and see where it led. It was quite a journey.”

One of the songs that went furthest beyond simple piano-and-voice is the first single, “All the Rowboats,” which includes electronic keys, electronic drum parts that Elizondo created in Logic, and two real kits as well.

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“We started off with me grabbing some electronic beats and Regina playing piano with that,” Elizondo says. “It sounded like it somehow needed to have a lot of percussive interplay, so we brought in Jay Bellerose, who did some overdubs taking a really cool, orchestral-type approach. Then as we added more layers of keyboards and sounds and vocals, we felt it needed even more rhythmic layers, so Aaron Sterling came in and overdubbed another layer of drums. That one was definitely an experiment in terms of figuring out what we wanted to come across, and helping it unfold.”

During the mix—accomplished partly in Can-Am and partly in Hawkins’ private studio, and finalized in The Cutting Room (New York City)—Hawkins manipulated those drum parts to create definition: “I used lots and lots of automation—more than normal,” he says. “Up and down in certain sections, on certain kits, constantly riding one of the kits up and down to play in between the sounds of the other one, and then EQ’ing certain frequencies out of one with a GML plug-in so that another could fit in better.”

“The thing about that track is, the dynamics are all centered around Regina sonically,” Elizondo says. “She raises up in certain sections volume-wise, and then gets very quiet. It was a challenge and exciting for us to create this atmosphere that rose and dropped with the piano and vocals. You’re really on a roller coaster ride, sonically.”

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