Well, I’m back in the studio. A new studio, and all you journalists who have referred, over the last few years to my ‘home studio’, you’re no longer wrong, I’m finally in my attic. Our house is from 1860something and it’s construction is post and beam, so it can feel a little like being up the Eiffel Tower on a windy day up here, but it is charming, with original pre WWII wood panelling and a nice 2007 green carpet to practice chipping and putting while I wait for the Mac to finally do what it’s trying to do. There is a lot of waiting around with a computer based recording system.

I’m going spartan up here. I think I may have suffered on the last project from too much multitasking. I’m hoping that I have learnt from this and I now have one master keyboard, a drum machine and a computer with a few USB devices to make data input a little easier than all mouse and keyboard.

For you gear nerds, here’s the permanent set up –

Monitors – Genelec 1031A (I’ve had these since I built my first idiotic home studio in 1992), also a pair of Pro Ac speakers, NS10 size, powered by my old Quad amp.

Pre Amp – everything passes through a Bryston BP25.
I have two ways of listening to things –
1/ the output of the computer only which goes via a Mark of the Unicorn 2408 III, into a Benchmark DAC 1 (Digital to Analogue converter), and then into the Bryston balanced input #1.

2/ The computer + live instruments, for when I’m playing electric guitar, or recording vocals, etc. In this mode everything passes through a Trident 8-6-2 mixer and into the Bryston balanced input #2. The Bryston has a neat little remote control which has a mute switch, so I can listen to the same mix through the speakers, or headphones, and just mute the speakers when I’m recording with a microphone.

To completely banish the idea of latency from the studio I use an Apogee PSX-100 as my A to D (Analogue to Digital converter) – it has a mode where the output of the digital connectors is ‘mirrored’ through the analogue outputs, so I use these to monitor what I’m doing, through a channel on the Trident, and I mute the channel that I’m recording to in the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation – Logic, or Performer, whichever I’m using). The mix output of everything else from the DAW is monitored through a stereo in channel on the Trident. This is the basic method I recorded all of the live tracks on Music IAFL and Antidepressant. The technology is now about 5 years ‘out of date’ and not at all ‘cutting edge’, but it works and it sounds great. I have no plans to change it.

The computer is a Mac G5 with dual 2 gig processors and 5 gig RAM, I bought it just before I started Antidepressant. Audio goes in and out, as mentioned above, via a MOTO 2408. I use an Apogee MiniMe as a second A to D, and because it doesn’t have clock in (and, according to Apogee has a better clock than the older PSX-100) it is the master clock for the system.
I record at 44.1, 24 bit.

For software, I’m going back to Logic. I gave up trying to use it in when making Antidep, early versions of version 7 sere just awful, and MOTU’s Performer was more stable, but unfortunately, with Performer – the deeper I got, the more bugs I found… I also use Reason and Ableton Live. Live is especially good for non-linear ideas. I only use Reason as a sound source, but I can’t say too much about how much I like it. If I had discovered Reason five years ago, I’d have about $3,000 more in the bank, for all the overpriced (relative to Reason) and frankly, not that great, virtual instruments I bought.

There are some good ones though.
Here’s what I use –
– BFD by F Xpansion. This is an amazing drum sampler/kit/room simulator and I used it to ‘play’ all the drums on Antidep.
– Spectrasonics: Atmosphere and Trilogy.
– Virsyn Tera
– Native Instruments: Pro 53, Electric Piano, Kontact (sampler), Battery (drums)
– Linplug: Albino 2 and 3. That bassy bubbly sound on many of the tracks on Antidep is the Albino doing a sort of Moog Modular impersonation…
– Synthogy Ivory. This is the best sounding virtual piano I’ve heard, but it takes so much juice that I sometimes have to make a mix of everything else I’m working on and then start a sub-project just to work with it, otherwise it can cause I crash. I know I should get a new computer but I really believe you should be able to get more than a couple of years out of one.
– Arturia: Analogue Factory, Moog Modular, ARP 2600, CS-80v (the last 3 are too complicated for me and I’ll be auctioning them off, or giving them away soon. They are great but too steep a curve for a tweaker, like me. Analogue Factory, on the other hand, is made for people like me. Of course they didn’t release it until after the other ones…
– Camel Audio: Cameleon 5000. This is a great synth with deep programming or easy tweaking options.

For effects I use –
– PSP: Lexicon PSP42, PSP 84, PSP 608 Multidelay, Vintage Warmer, Nitro. This is a great company.
-Waves: I have their cheapest set – Renaissance Maxx. Their other stuff is overpriced.
Camel Audio: CamelPhat and CamelSpace. That ‘triphoppy’ (actually I hope not) echoey stuff at the end of Rolodex Incident uses the CamelSpace.

There are only two hardware sound generators in the room and one lives in the closet most of the time – that’s a Dave Smith PolyEvolver synth. It is incredible. Dave invented the Prophet 5 in the 1980’s. He really is The Man. He’s got a new Prophet ’08 out now and that is probably all I’ll buy next year. The first Plastic Wood record had plenty of Prophet 5 on it and then I foolishly sold it, believing that the future was all in the computer. I was wrong – some is, some isn’t. On top of my G5 sits my drum machine – it’s an Elektron Machine drum. It was broken when I was making Antidep, I blew it up somehow, but it’s all over Music IAFL and will be on my next synthetic project, for sure.

The MiniMoog is in the basement as is the Nord Lead (William uses it for his music). The Nord stays, the Moog will be for sale, or trade, soon.

Microphones, Mic pre-amps, compressors, guitars and guitar gear next.