Recording diary: Paper Street Soap Company

Originally published on the Things You're Missing website.

Recording diary: Paper Street Soap Company
by pssc

Having had no experience of recording whatsoever leading up to this, we were quite anxious about our recording session in Apollo. We arrived early on a sunday morning and met up with our sound engineers for the day. After loading the equipment in and realising that we only had two plectrums to last us 12 hours we began to mic stuff up.

Setting up:
We left the two guitar amps out in the hall. After miking them up we put covered the trace elliott with cushions from the couch in the live room to prevent any sound leakage and the marshall with sound boards to do the same. The guitar leads ran from the hall into the live room so we could see the drummer when playing as we had decided that we'd do everything in live takes. We put the bass amp in another room off the hall and miked that up too. We had initially tried to DI it but unfortunately for us, the DI box was fucked and we were already using all the other ones. The lead from this also ran into the live room. I can't remember how many mics we used on the drums but there were definitely two condensers overhead, the bass drum was miked up from both sides, the snare was miked and so was the tom (we only had one). The keyboards were put in the control room and were put through DI boxes. We used a roland keyboard primarily for bass sounds, a small bontempi keyboard which brain found in his house, john's roland em-10 put through a cheapo digitech multi fx pedal and another mini keyboard that john found in his house.

Recording:
As we were quite nervous we ran through one or two takes without recording just to get used to playing in the studio. We were recording digitally onto Radar 24 which really does simplify the whole process as if you mess up a take there's no rewinding of tape. You can start again straight away. For the first song, we used both guitars, bass and drums.

This song was done in 3 takes and we were quite happy with that. We still hadn't figured out how to end it so on the third take we all just turned distortion on and dropped our guitars on the ground. This sounded quite good so we decided to keep the final take. We did one overdub on this song with john's mini keyboard.

This consisted of john shoving a scissors in the back of the keyboard and detuning it while myself, brian and michael hit random keys.

The next song was done in one take but we were still happy to keep it because we weren't able to play it any better. For the start of the song, i played a dictaphone machine with an answering machine tape that john found on a bus through the pickup of my guitar while putting heavy amounts of delay on it. Michael and John played the three other keyboars on this song while Brian played the drums. This song was pretty easy to do and we were finished it very quickly. We left the vocals for this to be overdubed later. The last song was done in two takes. In this myself and Brian played guitar with Brian switching to bass later on in the song. John played keyboards and Michael did the drums. When we listened back to the song in the control room we weren't happy with the bass sound at all so we overdubed michael playing bass on the roland keyboard. I did a fairly simple guitar overdub on this and then it was finished.

Since we had recorded the 3 songs a lot quicker than we had thought we would, we decided to do a live take of another song that we had just so we could have a decent recording of it. We miked up another hi-hat and snare for Brian to play in this as well as Michael on the drum kit.

Brian also did guitar while john played keyboards. I did some vocals although i couldn't really hear myself and also played melodica and bass guitar.
Considering we hadn't played the song in about 6 months, it turned out quite well for a single take.

Vocals:
I was only doing vocals for one song so these were done very quickly.

The rest of the guys went to get something to eat while i made up a melody line for the already existing lyrics. I messed a few takes up and generally tried to find a melody line that suited the song. I found it quite daunting in the vocal booth facing a ridiculously expensive microphone. When the guys came back in we played them the take we had and we decided a few thing s had to be changed. After two more takes the vocals were finished.

Mixing:
We had a fairly good idea of how we wanted the songs to sound. Since most of the songs were recorded in 2 or 3 takes, we thought that they should have a raw live feel to them and shouldn't sound over-produced in any way. This is possibly where we did not see eye-to-eye with our sound engineers. It is safe to say that the kind of music that we make is not the kind of music that they listen to or would probably ever listen to.

Therefore we had quite a few conflicting ideas. Nevertheless, they listened to our ideas and we listened to theirs if not always fully agreeing with them. We knew that we wanted to distort the vocals on the second track but we weren't sure how much. After much trial and error we came up with a sound that seemed to fit the song. It sounds like someone talking down a telephone with lots of static in the background which is nice. Otherwise we didn't spend too much time mixing this song. The next to be mixed was the first song that we recorded which sounded great except for the bass which sounded shit. It was our fault for using a small 15 watt amp that was't very good. Apart from the bass, we were happy with the song. The sound engineers seemed very happy to treat the drums with fuckloads of reverb leaving them to sound like drums at a soundcheck in wembley arena. After much debating, we had most of the reverb taken off leaving just enough to make them sound livlier than they had with no reverb whatsoever.

The last song gave us a bit of trouble as the mixing started make a crackling sound on certain tracks. This may have taken 2 hours to mix making it the song that we spent most time on that day. Once that was finished we transfered all 4 songs to DAT leaving the song we did live unmixed. The quality of the songs is incredibly good considering the small amount of time that went into them. We were told by the sound engineers that a band would normally only record and mix 1 song in a day in Apollo and they felt we were over-ambitious trying to do 3.

Over-ambitious or not, we think the cd sounds good so we're happy.

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