perjantai 10. lokakuuta 2014

Kekkonen elää! #7 Delay Trees - "Perfect heartache" live at Studio Kekkonen

Kekkonen elää! is back with a brand new live session with one of our all-time favourite groups, Delay Trees to celebrate the release of their latest record Readymade in Germany. Thanks again to our backers at Soundtools and the video guys at Luomustudio.

Kekkonen elää! #7 

  Delay Trees: Perfect heartache

Performed by Delay Trees
Written by Rami Vierula and Delay Trees

Rami Vierula Vocals, guitar
Lauri Järvinen Guitar
Sami Korhonen Bass
Onni Oikari Drums, backing vocals

Recorded by Julius Mauranen & Mikko Raita
Assistant engineer Arttu Aalto
Mixed by
Julius Mauranen

Video by Luomustudio
In association with Soundtools 


The thing I (Julius) love about working with great bands like Delay Trees is that when they show up, they bring their own special energy and quirky personality as well as their unique sound. I've worked with Delay Trees a lot, starting way back in 2009 when I mixed one track on their debut EP Soft Construction, I produced, recorded and mixed their eponymous first album and have worked on every Delay Trees release since, including Doze, Before I go go EP and their latest album Readymade, which was released early this year in Finland and today, 10.10.2014 in Germany by Soliti. Having said that, working with Delay Trees is always a great pleasure.

The song Perfect heartache was the first single of the new album and after some contemplating in prior to the session we ended up picking it for the live session. It's one of my favourite tracks off the new album and it was very nice working on it again (and also getting to record it the way I like). The band played four takes (plus one false start due to ProTools weirdness) and the keeper was take number two.


We decided to record this session in our lounge, as we did with the earlier ones this year. Rami expressed a strong wish to be in the same room with the rest of the band - despite the obvious leakage from Onni's drums (and believe me, that was a LOT of leakage!) and having worked with them before, I knew this to be the most comfortable setting for Rami and the band, so that's what we went for.

To fight leakage I chose to record Rami's vocals with the Shure SM7 (through the Knif Audio V804 pre), but even then there was a lot of drums in the vocal mic. Rami's vocal style is very soft and I don't think anybody has played as loud as Onni in our lounge before, so that's a tough combination! As the lounge is not a dedicated recording space the acoustics weren't designed for medium loud drums. However, the leakage was the only real issue I had with the drum sound.

Also due to the leakage, we put Rami's guitar amps into our live room, Lauri's guitar amp into the office and Sami's bass cabinet in Mikko's control room. The cable run to Mikko's control room was 25-30 metres, so it's a blessing that Sami didn't have a combo and we could run it as a speaker level signal! Rami's guitar cable was long too, but thanks to the George L cables our great assistant Arttu soldered some weeks before there was no significant signal loss.

We picked up the drums with AKG D112 and Audio-Technica 4050 on kick, Shure SM57 on top and bottom snare, AKG C414 XLS's on toms (yes, with the -20dB pad on...), Neumann CMV 563's (into Knif V804) as overheads and Audio-Technica 4050's for the room. Onni's backing vocal mic was Sennheiser MD441.

Rami's guitar setup was a Roland Jazz Chorus in stereo for the classic, jangly sound and our Creamsound CS-1/6 for a fatter overdrive for the chorus. The Jazz Chorus was mic'd with two Audio-Technica 4081 ribbon mics and the Creamsound with an AxeTrak isolation cabinet (into GAP-73 pre), partly to prevent leakage, partly because we ran out of mic stands! This time around, Rami played his Fender Mustang instead of the loyal Rickenbacker. Lauri's guitar was picked up with the classic SM57 into a GAP-73 pre. Sami's bass cabinet was mic'd with a Sennheiser MD421. Most tracks went through the pres and fat Lundahl transformers of our MS Audiotron desk with no EQ and no compression at the recording stage.


The mix of Perfect heartache was fun, but required quite a bit of work - again due to the leakage, the main issue being the drums leaking into the vocal mic. 

The first thing I did was lower all the bits where Rami wasn't singing by about 30dB with clip gain and filter out as much of the top and bottom end that I could comfortably do. This already helped a lot, but the snare was still pretty loud and sounded a little messy bleeding into the vocal mic. Also, as the dream-poppy quality of Delay Trees and the vocal on this particular song demands a healthy dose of Roland Space Echo (featured in the intro of the video too!) and Knif Audio K.Verb (i.e. tape delay and spring reverb), the snare leaking into the vocal mic wasn't a great thing. So I ended up setting up two compressors - one regular, one multiband with a sidechain feed from the snare, ducking the vocal mic briefly by about 6dB every time Onni hit the snare (a very nice snare by the way). In solo, the vocal sounded pretty obviously processed, but with the music it worked like a charm! Onni's backing vocal got a similar treatment.

I also duplicated the vocal track with all its processing for a send for the Space Echo and edited that track even more drastically to get rid of any non-vocal signal in the effects send.

There was other sidechaining going on as well as to make the vocal stand out a little more. I compressed both the reverb return and the 2-bus master a little with a sidechain feed from the vocal. The former was to have the reverb signal duck a little when Rami sings for more intelligibility, but without losing the nice tail of the spring reverb. The latter is a somwhat special technique where the vocal ducks the whole mix, but so that it's also within the mix... It's more simple than it sounds and the bottom line is that it actually works. There was more master processing going on, notably our desk's stereo channel going into the Gyraf G-SSL compressor. This time around I ended up using the Slate Virtual Tape Machine with very mild settings instead of our Otari, simply because the Otari's settings were set to such hot levels that it messed up the cymbal sound, making the hihat in the chorus too washy.

Other than that the mix was very pleasant and fun to mix! I used our lovely MXR Dual Limiter on the drum bus. It's a very strange compressor in terms of design (it uses the unusual pulse width modulation-topology), but sounds punchy and open with practically any settings. There was a dbx 160X on the kick and snare too and a Rantanen LA-4 as a "send parallel" compressor for all instruments in the mix, but not the vocal. The other processing for the drums was pretty basic EQ, Waves API for boosting. The bass had a little compression (Softube FET), a little extra distortion (Soundtoys Decapitator) and a small amount of subharmonic action from the dbx 120XP. Sami played his vintage Fender Jazz bass and the sound was great to begin with. Both guitars sounded great to begin with and aside from a touch of Softube FET and some EQ, it was mostly about getting the automation right. There was also a Slate VCC Channel on all audio tracks of the mix for some softening niceness.

Rami, SM-7

Onni and Julius miking the drums

Julius, Sami & the Jazz bass and Arttu

Lauri with pedals...

The Audio-Technica 50th anniversary 4050!

Gazing at the shoes

keskiviikko 30. huhtikuuta 2014

Kekkonen elää! #6 Sakilaiset - "Poppia" live at Studio Kekkonen

To celebrate the First of May (not by coincidence this time), our sixth Kekkonen elää! session is here! Brought to you by Soundtools and Luomustudio. This time something completely different!

Kekkonen elää! #6

Sakilaiset: Poppia

Performed and written by Sakilaiset

Recorded by Mikko Raita & Julius Mauranen
Mixed by Janne Riionheimo
Video by Luomustudio
In association with Soundtools


Sakilaiset was founded in 2002 and early on played and sang songs in Helsinki slang. After that the repertoire of the band has broadened, ranging from 150 year-old couplets to new “rautalanka”. The band is a combination of “rillumarei” music, a schlager orchestra (up to 12 musicians on the stage) and a folk band with a crude flavour. Some related artists might be M.A. Numminen from Finland and Max Raabe from Germany as well as Tuomari Nurmio and for the next album also Nick Cave. As a band member and the engineer of the band, I (Janne) will write something about the song and the live session.

As a band, we rehearse, perform and release music quite randomly, but we are now recording our third album at Studio Kekkonen. The song “Poppia” is one of the new tracks. The song is actually 5 years old, it started out from lead singer Olvi’s lyrics for which guitar player Pate made a tune, which was then finalized together in one jamming session. It became a strange combination of modern couplet, humppa and a pop-jingle. Slightly annoying like every pop-song!

We had booked studio Kekkonen a few weeks before this live session for the recording of five songs, but unfortunately our drummer Joni had an other gig so he couldn’t play at the session. We considered different options and ended up with a peculiar one: let’s hire our friend Jönkka to play banjo instead of having a drummer! So when we got to the studio we arranged Poppia for acoustic guitar, banjo, double bass and keys. After a few takes Jönkka found Juppu’s Yamaha RX-7, a drum machine from 80’s, and got an idea of adding some tom fills to the song. The song was already recorded without a click so we overdubbed the fills real time with the clumsy buttons. When it was time to perform “Poppia” for the Kekkonen elää! live video our drummer was again unavailable, so we programmed the drum track with the RX-7.


For the live video recording we wanted a cozy and intimate setup in the lounge where everybody could hear each other without headphones. However, we needed to hear the drum machine track and the organ so headphone monitoring was still necessary. Although the playing balance was pretty good, we considered different options for the positioning of the instruments in order to minimize leakage. Beforehand we were thinking that the banjo would be problematic, but fortunately the tone of Jönkka’s instrument is not very loud. Actually the most problematic instrument was the kazoo!

The mic setup was as follows: An Audio-Technica AT4080 on Jönkka’s banjo, an AKG 414 XLS on Pate’s acoustic guitar and a Neumann U48 on Antti’s double bass. Antti and Pate had also electric “piezos” in their instruments, which were recorded just in case. Pate was also singing to an AKG 414 XLS while playing so we used figure-of-eight pickup patterns both on his guitar and vocal mics. Antti’s backing vocals were picked up with a Shure SM7B and Janne sang and kazoo’d into an Audio-Technica AT4047. We used two tracks for Janne’s Wurlitzer: DI and an amp, which was placed in Janne’s office and picked up with a SM57. Janne also used one of the studio’s weird organs, which was pitched realtime up by 30 cents in ProTools. Olvi was singing into a Audio-Technica AT5040 which was recorded though our Knif Audio V804 mic preamp. Another Knif channel was used for the banjo. The other channels went through our customized MS Audiotron Multimix desk (R.I.P Matti Sarapaltio 23.4.2014).
The song was played five times and the arrangement changed slightly in each take. Pate found a different more open position in his guitar at the last take and Jönkka changed his banjo lines also slightly.

Olvi, Juppu, Pate and Antti behind the Shure SM7B.

Pate with two AKG 414 XLSs.

Jönkka in front of AT4080.

Janne in front of AT4047.

Jönkka, Janne, AT5040, 2xAT4081, AT4080 and the RX7 on the floor


The guideline for mixing Sakilaiset has previously been to “sound old”. Our previous release was a recording of J. Alfred Tanner’s couplets from early 1900’s so it wasn’t necessary to sound modern in any way, so the album didn’t have much high or low end and the sound was quite lo-fi. Our next album will be a collection of our own songs so the esthetics might change a little, but it will not probably sound too hifi. That was also the guideline for the video mix, which will be added to our album later on, with possibly some overdubs.
Although we didn’t have real drums I had a kind of a normal setup for the RX7. The distinctive tom fills were compressed with a RComp and equalized with a Digi EQ III (450 Hz cut and boost in the low and high ends). RX7 claps transients were slightly smoothened by a transient designer and mildly compressed with a DBX 160 (needle hardly moving). The bass drum had a low cut filter to get rid of the overwhelming sub bass and the shaker and the snare had a mild top boost. Our Stocktronics plate was used as a reverb as well as a room IR for the toms, and I also added parallel compression to the RX7 track with our Knif Audio Vari-mu compressor.

Bass channel (combination of DI and U48 tracks) had Digi EQ III, RComp, C1 and URS emulation of Neve to boost the pluck at 1,3 kHz. The banjo was compressed with a second channel of our 1178. No EQ was used. Acoustic guitar was mildly compressed with a LA4 and the top end as well as mid-range at 1,5 kHz was boosted with Waves API 550. Some distortion was added to the Wurlitzer with a Softube FET compressor and some mud at 350Hz was cut with a Digi EQ III, and some presence was added with URS Neve emulation. The organ had the before-mentioned +30 cent pitch, a chorus, Digi EQ III and Soundtoys Microshift to make it stereo. Kazoo was compressed mildly with a Digirack Compressor that was already on the track.

Olvi’s vocals had a little bit more processing. First there was a 3,5dB cut at 260Hz as well as very narrow and deep notch at 2,65 kHz to cut the unpleasant mouth or throat resonance peak. Then it was compressed with LA2 and 1178 and the high end was boosted with our new Waves API 550 plugin which was purchased just for that purpose. Before we had a Focusrite’s Liquid mix which has pretty good emulations of API and NEVE EQs, but we are about to upgrade our computer and update our OS (now 10.6.8) and unfortunately our Liquid mix won’t be supported anymore. In the end the vocal track was de-essed with a RDeEsser. The lyrics in the chorus have lot of p's and somehow some of the p's didn't have so much energy and sounded more like k's in the mix, which changed the meaning of the lyrics (for instance shoppia sounded like shokkia and koppia sounded like kokkia) so I had to reinforce them by replacing them by double p's from the word poppia.

I used our Slate digital virtual channel and mix bus in vocal tracks as well as some other tracks. I have often used Waves C1 with side chain in split mode on Olvi’s vocals to control the 2,5-3 kHz harshness especially when he is singing loud, but now I didn’t have to use it. Was it the AT5040 microphone or was it the feng shui in Olvi’s throat? I think it's the combination of different factors but alternative microphones are always worth trying - especially eccentric designs with four rectangular capsules!

Backing vocals were sent to a stereo bus which had Digi Comp, Digi EQ and a Massey tape head plugin in its inserts.

Master chain was our MS Audiotron desk stereo channel with master EQ -> G-SSL -> Otari MTR-12 1/4” tape machine.

The ambience was recorded with a pair of AT4081 ribbon mics in Blumlein setup. The not so optimal balance in the ambience track made the effective use of the track difficult so I played also with few IR samples to get a suitably balanced muddle for the mix.

These days I do studio work quite infrequently and for me this was the first time when I mixed with our new FAR active studio monitors so I felt little uncertain about the mix at the start, but after a few versions I was happy - so here it is, the song of the first of may 2014. Sakilaiset and Poppia!

Our new FAR monitors are being installed.

torstai 13. helmikuuta 2014

Kekkonen elää! #5 Nuria - "The great escape" live at Studio Kekkonen

To celebrate Valentine's day (or perhaps by coincidence), our fifth Kekkonen elää! session is here! Brought to you by Soundtools and Luomustudio.

Kekkonen elää! #5

Nuria: The great escape

Our guest this time around Nuria may not be a household name (yet!), but the trio only released their debut album "Winter's end" on Rockadillo / Zen Master Records in late 2013. The recordings began already back in 2007 and after a somewhat extended period of waiting for the right moment to finish it, Mikko entered the picture, mixed the album and helped the band shop for a label, which resulted in Nuria and Rockadillo finding each other!

It's a great track and we're proud to present it! Enjoy!

Performed by Nuria
Written by Nuria

Recorded by Mikko Raita & Julius Mauranen
Mixed by Mikko Raita
Video by Luomustudio
In association with Soundtools


This was the first time we've recorded drums in the lounge and although the drummer Pekka Saarikorpi's dynamics on "The great escape" are on the soft end of the scale, it's not the most straightforward setup to have next to a finger-picked acoustic guitar and vocals (Markus Kahila) and a cello (Tuukka Helminen), so there was an element of challenge! (We kinda like that, though.)

The drums setup was the following: AKG D112 and C414 XLS on the bass drum, C

414 on the top and a Sennheiser MD421 on the bottom of the (very large) low tom. We had an Audio-Technica 

AT4047 on the Djembe / "snare drum”. 

Another 4047 was on the top, and a Sennheiser MD441 on the bottom on the mounted hand Cajon (the inverted pyramid-like wooden thing!). Our Neumann 

CMV 563’s were as overheads and were recorded through a Knif V804 preamp

 and into ProTools through RME ADI-8 DS converters. The other drum channels went through the customised MS Audiotron Multimix desk.

On the acoustic guitar we first tried the Neumann U48 in figure eight, but the leakage from the drums was overbearing. We ended up using a an Audio-Technica ATM350cw clip-on mic attached to the body with some gaffer tape (the mic is inteded to clip onto a tom, sax, violin or similar, but it worked like a charm!) and as a safety we recorded the piezo DI from the guitar. The AT was recorded through a Knif V804 as well. The song usually features a delay pedal on the guitar, but we opted to use a delay plug-in in the monitoring instead, to have better control over the delay.

On the cello we ended up setting up both an Audio-Techica AT4081 and our trusty U48 in figure of eight (freed from acoustic guitar duty) as alternatives, as well as 2 DI lines, pre effects and post Tuukka’s Line6 POD used for octave and delay effects. The mics were positioned with the null facing towards the drumkit to minimise leakage.

Markus' vocals were recorded with the trusty Shure SM7B through the remaining Knif channel.

There was a pair of ambience mics too, surprisingly very useable and useful Behringer ECM-8000 omni mics (their only real downside is the noise floor, but it rarely becomes a problem when there's a drumkit around).

The hand cajon setup.

Cello - AT 4081, Neumann U48 and two DI feeds.

Markus, ATM350 and the elegant gaffer tape solution.

As you can see the ambience mics in the back point upwards. Just to leave a little mystique.

The drums setup.

ABOUT THE MIXING OF "The great escape" (from Mikko)

In the beginning, "The great escape" looked like quite a difficult mix to pull off due to the fact that the drumset was right beside the cello and especially the softly picked acoustic guitar - but that was to be expected when we decided to do it as a true one room live take.

To begin with, I again imported in my trusty master section and effects, opting for summing amp crucnh via my Vintagedesign SU1 summing unit, as well as enabling Pro Tools’ own HEAT processing on a moderate bright setting. 

I started with the easy part, mixing the drums. Pekka’s drumset sounded beatiful in the room and very little needed to be done to the tracks except for balances and basic EQ. I started off by adding some parallel compression via my trusty Knif Vari-Mu as well as a tiny hint of parallel bite from a EMI TG12143 plugin limiter. Then I proceeded to slightly tidy up the low end and midrange on the tracks. The bass drum was very resonant so I cut a little 90Hz out of it, as well as clearing some low mids from the second bass drum setup as a low tom. For the snare drum- like djembe I ended up boosting the lows to have some more body and adding a hint of my beloved EMT 140 plate. The overheads got a tiny midrange dip and some high end boost from the Softube Trident A-range. The only thing that needed more processing was the small and relatively quiet hand Cajon played in the verses. I ended up muting the track completely in the loud sections and added a liberal low end boost to the bottom mic to make it sound slightly larger. It also got some EMT Plate. I added a modicum of the omni ambiences flat to the mix and the drum sound was done - keep in mind, that we did have quite a bit of drum ambience in the other mics as well!

The cello sounded very good but it indeed contained quite a bit of drum spill, though not bad sounding due to the quality mics used in figure of eight. We were undecided between the ribbon and the U48 during recording and ended up keeping both which was just as well, as I ended up using both mics muting them in sections. I found that the AT ribbon had slightly less bleed so I used it in the loud intro and verses where Tuukka was playing a bass line in combination of some line sound. But in the bowed chorus I found the U48 to have a more pleasing top end so I switched over to that. Tuukka also had some effects on in the song. In the intro and first verse I used the post FX line where he had a +1/-1 octaver sound, but in the later stages where he used just a delay I switched to the clean DI and recreated the delay as a stereo version.

 The cello received moderate EQ and some group compression via a Softube Summit TLA-100A plugin. I also added some plate and Reverb One to the cello for a similar sound as what I used on the album version of the song. The delay used was a Soundtoys Echoboy, automated to be used only in the parts Tuukka had his own delay on.

The acoustic guitar sound was very quiet and even though we managed to capture quite a bit of it due to the drastic taped-on goosenec hypercardioid, I ended up using roughly 50% line signal in the loud parts, but automated the mic up in the intro and choruses when leakage permitted. It was also EQ:d and compressed liberally with a Massey CT5 and Softube Summit TLA-100A. For the song’s signature delay I again used an Echoboy.

The vocal was relatively bleed-free and sounded very nice already. I used some Waves RDeEsser as well as mild EQing and HOFA IQ-EQ dynamic EQing to clear it up a little as well as compressing it with a Softube FET compressor. I added some EMT plate and Softube’s TSAR-1 for reverb, as well as quite a bit of Echoboy delay fed into the TSAR, automated from section to section.

After a bit of volume rides I sent a reference mix to the band. They were very pleased and in the end I only went back to do a very minor recall, taking just a hint of the vocal delay off in the choruses and lowering the djembe “snare drum” a bit. The whole mix took surprisingly little time in the end, not so difficult after all!

perjantai 17. tammikuuta 2014

Kekkonen elää! #4 Joakim Berghäll & Aki Rissanen - "Bamboozle!" live at Studio Kekkonen

New year, new Kekkonen elää! session! Happy 2014 to everybody from us at Studio Kekkonen and our associates Soundtools and Luomustudio.

Kekkonen elää! #4

Joakim Berghäll & Aki Rissanen: Bamboozle!

This time we're proud to present you another jazz duet session, this time the fantastic saxophonist Joakim Berghäll and someone you know from our previous session, great pianist and keyboardist Aki Rissanen! The duet was - conveniently for all! - recorded on the same day as the Verneri Pohjola & Aki Rissanen session. 

The duo collaborated on Joakim's Dialogues I album (released in september last year, it's first in a series of duet albums) on the track "Bamboozle!" which they also perform here, although with a slightly different choice of instruments: Joakim plays baritone sax instead of the alto. Also, on the album Aki plays grand piano.


Performed by Joakim Berghäll & Aki Rissanen
Written by Joakim Berghäll

Recorded by Mikko Raita & Julius Mauranen
Mixed by Mikko Raita
Video by Luomustudio
In association with Soundtools


The performance was pretty relaxed, Joakim & Aki laid down a couple of takes and chose their favourite. As this was a duet with only a single instrument each and no multitasking, it was a focused and concise session.

The setup was very similar to Verneri's & Aki's session (watch and read more about it here), as a matter of fact the piano setup was identical: A-B pair of Neumann CMV-563's in the back, a pair of AT4081 ribbon mics in the front side aiming at the hammers and a pair of workhorse SM-57's very close to the body of the piano in the back. Neumanns and AT's went through Knif Audio V804 mic preamps of which we have two at the studio.

Joakim's baritone sax was miked with our vintage crown jewel Neumann U48 just above the bell and a supplementary side mic (Audio-Technica 4047) to pick up some more body.

There were a pair of ambience mics: AKG C414 XLS behind Joakim and Line Audio CM3's facing away from the piano (see pictures!).


The mix here is quite similar to the one we already documented earlier about mixing “Hyperballad”, recorded the same day and with the same piano recording, and again with wonderful world class musicians just doing their thing.

I actually started the mix by importing some mixer settings from the “Hyperballad” session, though obviously it had to be tweaked to work here where the whole arrangement is just the piano and sax. I kept the same master section (Vintagedesign SU-1, McDsp AC-1, Waves SSL, parallel DUY DaD Tape & L2007) as well as moderate HEAT processing.

For the piano, I had to tone tone down the large low end boost I had created for the prepared low end on Hyperballad for a more natural upright sound, though in the end Aki ended up requesting slightly more low end hype - their album version was recorded with a quality grand piano after all!

 To sweeten things I again used a hint of my EMT 140 Plate and Valhalladsp’s ValhallaVintageVerb, as well as some room mics. Here I ended up favoring the 414’s behind the sax despite having the more piano-centric Line Audios available as well - the 414's just had a nice combined room tone.

 Due to the full acoustic nature of this track I ended up dropping the KNIF Vari-Mu parallel compression I had on the piano in the previous mix, though I did keep slight group compression on it from the Masssey CT5.

For Joakim's baritone, I ended up using both mics with the low side mic -10db, from which I also cut some low mids to make it less boomy. I then grouped these and added very mild compression with both the Massey CT5 (actually added already during recording) and a Softube TLA-100A, as well as just tiny midrange dips in the 750 and 1900 Hz ranges. To “top” things off I added a few dBs at 10k on the Softube Trident A-Range.

For spatial effects I again used the prerecorded Stocktronics plate but also added some EMT 140 Plate as well as Softube TSAR & ValhallaVintageVerb, both at a darkish setting and hovering around the 2,5-3s range. I also used the “1970s” color preset on the Valhalla.

From there, it was just a matter of balancing the 2 instruments with very small rides, mostly to get the end of the piano solo and the transition to the sax solo to really gel. I wish all mixes were this simple and enjoyable!

torstai 19. joulukuuta 2013

Merry Christmas! Hyvää Joulua!

With this video from Janne's band Sakilaiset Studio Kekkonen (with Soundtools and Luomustudio) would like to wish everyone a happy and peaceful Christmas!

Tämän Sakilaisten videon myötä Studio Kekkonen kumppaneineen haluaa toivottaa kaikille hyvää ja rauhallista joulua!

perjantai 22. marraskuuta 2013

Kekkonen elää! #3 Verneri Pohjola & Aki Rissanen - "Hyperballad" live at Studio Kekkonen

We (Studio Kekkonen with our associates Soundtools and Luomustudio) are proud and excited to present you the beginning of "Season 2" of our live series Kekkonen Elää!

Kekkonen elää! #3

Verneri Pohjola & Aki Rissanen: Hyperballad

Extraordinary Finnish trumpet player Verneri Pohjola and equally extraordinary pianist and keyboardist Aki Rissanen are no strangers at our studio: Mikko has worked with both on numerous occasions, with Verneri starting way back in 2005 with the second Quintessence album "5 AM" and since then on a fairly regular basis. Curiously enough, Julius recorded Verneri even further back in 1993 in one of his earliest studio experiences, though the recording (un)fortunately doesn't exist any longer!
Verneri Pohjola's latest album "Ancient History", featuring Aki Rissanen as pianist was recorded and mixed by Mikko and released in 2012 on the ACT label.

The track the duo chose to perform is Björk's "Hyperballad" which is also featured on the aforementioned album.
Performed by Verneri Pohjola & Aki Rissanen
Written by Björk, Nellee Hooper & Marius De Vries

Recorded by Mikko Raita & Julius Mauranen
Mixed by Mikko Raita
Video by
In association with


As jazz musicians generally feel most comfortable playing in the same space and leakage was not an overwhelming issue with trumpet and piano, we decided to record in the lounge. It's naturally quite a live-souding space so we damped the room with heavy curtains and a rug from our live room. After the initial setup of the room was done, it was time for some miking (and DI'ing!). Mikko - who was first-in-command of the session - presented what he had in mind for the recording and we set it up all together. Once everything was up and running, Verneri and Aki laid down three takes and picked the last one to be the keeper. Sounds easy, eh!

Verneri's trumpet was picked up with an Audio-Technica AT4081 ribbon mic (through our MS Audiotron desk) which he uses both live and in the studio and - conveniently for us - brought along his own. There was a looper pedal involved in the equation with a send from the control room that took a little while to set up, but during the keeper take it was not used. The performance is obviously largely improvised so there's always a chance that things can (and will!) change. It's an organic process by nature and the technology is there to make it happen, not dictate the rules. So no looper this time, folks!

Our Yamaha U3 upright piano was miked with three stereo pairs: Vintage Neumann CMV-563's in an AB formation in the back, a pair of the very same AT4081's as with the trumpet (provided by Soundtools) in front of the hammers to pick up the attack of it and a pair of the humble-yet-legendary Shure SM57's (AB as well) right in the back of the piano to pick up some body (this actually works like a charm). The Neumanns and Audio-Technicas had Knif Audio V804's for preamps and the 57's had Rantanen SSL clone pres.

There were two pairs of ambience mics: a main pair of AKG C414's (in omni) plus an extra pair (convenient little Line Audio CM3's) behind the piano, facing away from it to pick up some room ambience as the main ambience pair was a bit trumpet heavy.

Aside from the piano, Aki had a Micromoog for bass sounds that's been slightly modified to increase the filter range to the same as the Minimoog. The bottom end is indeed impressive. He also had a Native Instruments Kore 2 software with the controller as a platform for soft synths: the Reaktor GoBox drum machine with effects that he tweaks during the performance and Steampipe 2 with a layer of the FM8 synth. The synth is played with the tiny Akai LPK-25, which fits absolutely anywhere!

Verneri triggered sounds from his laptop using Ableton Live with the Push controller - the thing with all the nice blinking lights that's actually a pretty powerful music-making tool! Verneri got this from Soundtools a few days prior to the session to get used to it.

To pick up the electronic elements we had a pile of DI's (BSS and BBE's we got from Soundtools).

ABOUT THE MIX (from Mikko)

Mixing of Aki’s and Verneri’s duo performance was quite a straightforward affair.

I opened the tracks of the session up into my “mixer” which is in fact a ProTools template that incorporates a hybrid in-the-box/analog master section as well as a collection of my most used effects as a ready-to-go virtual rack. It also has interfacing for my analog equipment.

The sound of the master section is quite important for me to get things to gel and make it “like a record” - I have a few different setups I pick depending on the project but here I went for the Vintagedesign SU1 Neve- style summing amp pushed quite hard, in addition to some additional mix buss push from a McDsp Analog Channel 1

The whole mix buss was compressed gently vith a Waves SSL “quad” compressor which I have found quite faithful to the original. I used some additional “analog modeling” in the form of DUY’s DaD Tape, mixed just slightly in via parallel routing (it is a quite drastic effect if not done like this).

I also added Avid’s own HEAT processing to the inputs of all audio tracks, with moderate/bright settings. I then finalized the master section with a Massey L2007 lookahead limiter with a conservative setting to apply mild limiting/normalization as this track was not going to be mastered separately.

For piano, I ended up using a mix of all of the mics, with the CMV/ribbon combo most prominent and a hint of the dynamic body mics and the “piano ambience”. I applied slight group compression via a Massey CT5 and used HOFA’s IQ-EQ V3 dynamic EQ to soften up the midrange. I also ended up with a quite liberal 6db or so EQ boost with Avid’s own EQ in the low end to emphasize the prepared piano bass sounds - here I needed to jump a few hoops to make the low end slightly more “grand piano-like” but the end result worked nicely.

I also added some parallel compression from my beautiful Knif Audio Vari-Mu compressor (Serial number #002!), as well as reverb from my beloved EMT 140 plate reverb as well as Valhalladsp’s ValhallaVintageVerb.

Aki’s Micromoog bass synth went almost unprocessed, save just a hint of added high mid Avid EQ.

For Aki’s laptop, I ended automating some low and high EQ bands as well as using a bit of Waves’ C4 multiband compression, as all of Aki’s virtual instruments were premixed to 2 channels and I wanted to emphasize certain elements at key spots, otherwise it was left untreated with just some volume automation.

For Verneri’s trumpet I used slightly more processing even though his source sound in combination with the AT ribbon mic is already very, very good. I added just a tiny bit of saturation and crunch via SoundtoysDevil-Loc Deluxe, and again used Massey’s CT5 for slight leveling as well as a mild HOFA IQ-EQ V3 dynamic midrange cut, topping it off with some high end boost from Softube’s Trident A-range EQ as well as some more high end and mid tidying via Avid’s own EQ.

For reverbs and delays, I had a prerecorded track from control room 2’s (
Juppu’s and Janne’s) Stocktronic plate, but I used that just a bit because it was obviously pre-mix processing - due to my mix compression it ended up as a nice touch where it gets comparatively more loud when Verneri plays louder. But for the majority of spatial effects I again went for a combination of the EMT 140 plate as well as the ValhallaVintageVerb, adding a custom-made TL Space “stereo spring reverb” impulse I often use (Especially if control room 2’s Knif "K.Verb" Spring Reverb is not readily available which was the case here), topping it off with a hint of tape-like delay from Sountoys’ Echoboy.

After a few hours of mixing, and some passess of volume automation (also via my trusty ICON D-Command) I sent a version to Verneri and Aki who suggested a few minor balance tweaks to Aki’s laptop track, and after seeing the edited video we adjusted a few more balances but all in all, it was a quite swift mix despite some of the “tricks” employed.

lauantai 16. marraskuuta 2013

Hello blog, sorry I've been away.

Well well well... It seems like a year goes by VERY fast and - shamefully - I've not managed to write a single post into this blog in 2013. Sorry about that, dear readers.

Fortunately, that's changing now, as I type!

It's been a busy 12 months (obviously) and a lot of great music has been made at the studio helped by the bunch of us. There's been some new winds blowing, but the core of our operation remains very close to what it's always been: produce, mix and record music to the best standards of artistic and technical quality!

More about that later, for there will be a time for an epic end-of-year-post, but it's not quite yet (the year ends in 45 days, let's see when we get closer to that!).

Now, we've got news for you:

Our Kekkonen elää! Live at Studio Kekkonen series is continuing!

We recently did not one, not two, but three sessions for your enjoyment and sooner rather than later there will be even more of them!

What we learned from the first two (Matti Johannes Koivu and Suvi Isotalo) is that it's a good idea to keep the production as simple as possible so this time we teamed up with Luomustudio (who are experts in keeping things simple and elegant) as well as our friends and neighbours Soundtools, both of whom are very excited to be part of this!

The first session will be online soon, stay tuned by following us on social media!


torstai 29. marraskuuta 2012

Studio Kekkonen five... no, SIX years this month!

Well, well, what have we here? A finished blog post to celebrate our five-year journey THAT I FORGOT TO PUBLISH!

Yes, I am retarded, thanks for asking.

So here it is, our 5th anniversary blog, scheduled to have been published 16.11.2011. but worth a read anytime! For example now - to celebrate our sixth anniversary! A year goes by quickly these days...
This month we have a reason to celebrate! Studio Kekkonen in its current location in Vallila was officially opened in 2006 - five years (edit: SIX years) ago! 

In the grander scheme of things, five years isn't actually such a long time when compared to studios like Finnvox (since 1965) or Abbey Road (since the dawn of time, more precisely 1931). However, five years is nonetheless a milestone and in today's turbulent state of the music industry, we're fortunate enough to celebrate it - during the time at least three big studios in Finland have closed before reaching the mark. And what the heck, it's also a great excuse to have a party! (Shocking pictures will appear in this blog and on our Facebook Page!)

During the past five years we've recorded and mixed dozens and dozens of albums, singles, EP's and whatnot. Our goal since the very beginning was to run a studio where the first and foremost goal is to deliver excellent work. We've worked hard to keep that high standard and raise the bar constantly as we go. Initially we invested an awful lot of time, money, effort and good will of close friends into building the studio itself into what it is - a place where technical excellence meets a vibe and mood that make artists feel comfortable. Since then we've invested even more time, effort and money to constantly expand our collection of gear and further sharpen our skills and widen our horizons. A recording studio is an ever-evolving creature that's never truly finished. It's always in motion. (That also means it's always pretty heavy on the wallet, but let's not go there!)

It's been a great five years. We've had the continuing privilege to work with some of the brightest, most talented and influential artists and musicians of our time. There have been countless priceless, inspired, breathtaking moments within these walls. Stuff I used to dream of as a kid. Things I will never forget, however demented I may become. I may only speak for myself but Mikko and Janne would agree.

And speaking of Mikko and Janne, it's been a true privilege to work with and around them for the past five years, and I'm equally looking forward to following years. I could not imagine better studio partners (especially now that even Mikko makes tasty coffee!). I love you guys. <snif> <Cue: "We are the world">

Of course it's not all gone like in the movies. It's an unforgiving line of work to be in and running a studio in the 21st century isn't the easiest of tasks and as said above, the fact that we're still here is worth a little celebration. It's been a combination of hard work, stubborn determination, good relationships with our clients, colleagues and friends, moral support from our families and of course - sheer luck of being in the right place at the right time in the right circumstances.

But to elaborate more on the subject of what makes it hard to run a studio these days, I give you a short(ish) view on the state of things in our world:

The past five years (and much longer of course, but we zoom in to the last half a decade now) have marked a big change in the music and recording industry: record sales have dropped from poor to alarming to near-catastophic, digital sales has picked up too slowly, low-revenue streaming services have made something of a breakthrough to further ridicule professional music-makers, recording budgets have diminished - as has the number of major label projects each year. Many fine small record labels have called it quits, fallen into catatonia or have been swallowed by the majors, which are currently in the process of becoming a trio

The structure of the business has changed. The focus is not on the music or the record, but on things like merchandise, publishing, product placement, marketing, shareholders' interests, etc. Naturally, those are not new things and have been on the agenda for long, but the emphasis seems to have shifted to that direction quite a bit too much.

At the same time, more music is being made available than ever before. While the business side of music shrinks and changes shape and artists (and everybody else for that matter) look for new ways to make it possible to do music for a living, the actual need to communicate with the world through the means of recorded music has not disappeared anywhere. Nor has the will to listen to music (or "consume" it, as number-crunchers like to call it, that's a rubbish word).

Also, the miniaturisation and even further decreased cost of recording equipment has really brought recording tools of seemingly acceptable quality to the masses. The latest addition being Garageband for iPad and iPhone - a production studio available in your pocket immediately for 4€. That's really somehting that was beyond imagination in 2006 (not to mention 2001). That's real democratisation. Equal opportunities. Whether it's a good or bad thing in terms of music is a subject that's out of the scope of this blog, but the discussion goes on wild in all sorts of other places. But the truth is that bedrooms, rehearsal spaces and all sorts of smelly cellars have filled with Chinese-made recording equipment that allows recording at semi-acceptable quality (very much acceptable in the right hands!).

Audio software and hardware developers are catering for the home studio users to sell huge quantities of less-than-ideal products. It's more about how the GUI of a plug-in looks like than what the audio sounds like. Impression is everything. Quality, reliability and musicality of gear is secondary to cost and instant availability of a huge number of ready-made solutions ("Just add water!") and cheap shortcuts to somebody else's ideas.

All of the aforementioned things have affected the recording business directly. Many artists have given up, many studios have closed down, many engineers and producers have moved to healthier sectors of the business or changed careers completely. Competition has become tougher, average prices per studio day has been pushed down as hobbyists and semi-pros compete of the same clients who have less and less money to spend. Time spent in professional recording studios has decreased and more emphasis has been given to post-processing and production work (in the aforementioned grotty cellars).

Am I painting a grim picture of the state of our industry or what? 

Honestly, all of the above may sound like moaning, but it's really not meant as that. On the contrary, I'm actually quite content with the way things are. The fact that a lot of music is made and an increasing amount of it independently produced is not at all a bad thing for us. It has its good and bad sides, just like the old model of the majors producing and funding records in their own ways.

I'm happy we've made it this far, it's sure been one hell of a ride. Also, it looks very much like we're not going anywhere for the time being. I'm sure there will be demand in the future for a bunch of guys doing a great job recording, producing and mixing music. As far as we know, music's not going anywhere and as long as there is any point in putting it in recorded form, there is a good chance that someone will want to work on it with another one who shares a passion for it. A person with a work ethic, professional pride, ambition, musical sense, a whole lot of creative madness, common sense, great ears and lots of experience. A person a lot like us.

Business models change, client bases change, styles and fashions and economics and hairstyles and tools change, as do a lot of other things, but the essence of music and the love for it are not likely to change. 

And if it will, I reckon it'll take a lot longer than another five years.

Happy (sixth) birthday, Studio Kekkonen!