Kekkonen Elää! Live at Studio Kekkonen #2
Due to unforeseen circumstances we couldn't "quite" keep the pace we originally intended with the sessions (one roughly every two-three months), but we nevertheless are definitely going to do more sessions - hopefully a bit more frequently! We have some goodies planned for this fall - more about it a little later. Meanwhile, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter (we're @studiokekkonen and I'm @juliusmauranen).
So to the session! This time around we had the amazing Suvi Isotalo and her band (the great Timo Kämäräinen and Olli Krogerus) do not one, but two songs! What a great bonus! Suvi obviously has been mentioned here before as I (Julius) wrote a lengthy post about the making of Suvi's second album "P.S. Maj'lle" that was released last fall on the Sound Of Finland label. For those not familiar with Suvi's work, we strongly recommend you pick up the album from the above link (and don't forget her first album "Jollet Rakasta" as well). A new album is in planning stage and it will surely be a great one, too.
The two songs Suvi recorded with us are a previously unreleased track called "Vapaa" (that includes the angelic voices of Olli and Timo too!) and "Vastarakastuneet", a piano & vocal track which was released on the latest album and here recorded for your enjoyment.
So, sit back, turn up the volume and enjoy:
Kekkonen Elää! Live at Studio Kekkonen
SUVI ISOTALO: VAPAA
SUVI ISOTALO: VASTARAKASTUNEET
Piano & Vocals: Suvi Isotalo
Guitar & background vocals ("Vapaa"): Timo Kämäräinen
Drums & backround vocals ("Vapaa"): Olli Krogerus
Music & lyrics: Suvi Isotalo
Arrangement: Suvi Isotalo, Timo Kämäräinen, Olli Krogerus
Recorded live in Studio Kekkonen by Julius Mauranen, Mikko Raita and Janne Riionheimo
Mixed by Julius Mauranen
Directed and edited by Olli-Pekka Komonen
Suvi Isotalo appears courtesy of Sound Of Finland
A big special thank you to Suvi, Timo and Olli!
Thanks to Elisa Visapää for piano tuning
Thanks Aapo / Sound Of Finland
ABOUT THE SESSION
As studio sessions are supposed to, this too was a thoroughly enjoyable session. We had a good time with Suvi, Timo and Olli - as always - and though a live session like this is always something of an undertaking to set up and run, things went smoothly - partly cause all three of us (Mikko, Janne and myself) were there and partly cause we were one session wiser than the first time!
We recorded "Vapaa" first. It took five takes to complete, including rehearsal runs for sound check and headphone monitoring. Aside the great vocal delivery, we felt Timo's two guitar solos were nothing short of stunning. Afterwards, Suvi recorded "Vastarakastuneet" on her own, in just one take. The intensity and fragility of the song was immediately there and it was quite clear there would not be another take. It was one of those takes and we were lucky to have it on camera too.
While setting up we had the chance to enjoy a little chat, a little afternoon brandy and I had the chance to Hipstamaticize (is that a word?) that:
|Timo and Mikko.|
|We used our U48 for Suvi's vocals. Great sound!|
|Janne tried his wings as an assistant cameraman.|
|How many engineers do you need to mike a drum kit?|
|I think we deserved that drink!|
|Olli, a UFO and an out-of-proportion Avantone MixCube.|
|Timo told us all about his pedalboard/rack setup.|
|While I was sweating at the board, the lads took it easy.|
The session started a day before with the usual cleaning operation - the studio is quite confined and we have a bad tendecy of piling stuff up in the lounge, where this session happened. The reason why we decided to record (partially) in the lounge is simply that our piano happens to be there and at about 230 kg it's 'a bit' of a drag to move! The piano by the way was upgraded during the Olavi Uusivirta album sessions last year to Janne's very nice Yamaha U3 upright - a huge step up from the old stinker... I mean my dear old Hellas we had before...
Olli's drum kit was set up in the live room but as there are large windows between the rooms, Olli could see Suvi from behind his kit and vice versa. That makes playing together a little easier and definitely more enjoyable. We could place Timo in the lounge with Suvi and his amp in Mikko's control room. This way we had great separation, but everybody was comfortable. Bingo!
The upright piano was miked with a pair of (cardioid or perhaps sub-cardioid) AKG C414's in a loose ORTF-type stereo setup from behind the piano. We piled some quilts and foam baffles on the floor to kill excess floor reflections, like this:
Knif Audio Vari-Mu (my favourite compressor in the world for piano).
For Suvi's vocals we used our vintage Neumann U48 into a Knif 804 Pre. The mic was set as cardioid, which picks up a little more spill than figure eight placed with the null point towards the piano, but the lounge is rather reverberant so the back lobe picked too much room (also, proximity effect is more pronounced with a figure eight).
Timo's vocals were picked up with a Shure SM7B - one of my favourite dynamic mics - into the Knif 804 and his guitar amp (Vox AC15) either with an MD421 or a SM57 - can't recall right now. Timo's sound is so amazing that generally speaking putting any decent, working mic in front of the amp and the result is great! There was a DI signal as well for the octave-divided bass notes.
The drum kit was miked with an AKG D112 and DIY Subkick on the kick, SM57 top (with my DIY hi-hat spill guard "Moltonkirves") and bottom of the snare, Line Audio CM3's on the toms and for overheads we used vintage Neumann CMV-563's with recently reskinned and stereo matched M7 capsules (which sound amazing, BTW - reskinning was done by Thiersch Elektroakustik in Germany). The ambience mics were a pair of 'affordable' (=dirt cheap) Thomann ribbon mics, the RB-100's (highly recommended "my-first-ribbon"-mic!). They were placed behind the kit with nulls pointing at the sound source. The reason is that we placed Olli and his drums so close to the window in order for him to see, so there was little space in front of the kit. They worked like a charm behind the kit too (though they didn't make it to the final mix). There was no need for a hihat mic so we didn't put one. The less, the merrier. Olli's vocals were miked with a SM58.
All drums and guitar mics went through the MS Audiotron Multimix with possibly a little EQ and no compression during tracking, save Timo's sub-octave bass track that was squeezed a little with a Rantanen 1178 clone to even it out a little.
ABOUT THE MIX
As it goes with live sessions, the sound should be (and was) more or less 'there' at recording stage and mixing should ideally be mostly about musical balance, general tone and charatcter. While doing these sessions, I'm in a lovely position cause I'm in my most familiar mixing environment, so mixing really starts from the first listen.
For drums - this time - I used very little EQ, just a bit on the kick, snare and overheads - toms were left completely untouched (which I find rather rare!). I didn't gate anything, but used a touch of parallel compression from the Gyraf G10, Rantanen LA-4 clone, dbx 160 and 160X (mono parallel for kick and snare respectively).
On guitars, more or less the same thing applied - very little EQ - but a little more compression from Rantanen 1178 clone.
For the sub-bass I used a little Sansamp PSA-1 (plugin) already in the recording to get a bit more definition of the notes - it was a DI signal so there was a lot of sub-harmonic action compared to "high bass" and adding some harmonics (distortion) helped it out a little. It was compressed further with an LA-2A.
Piano was a tiny bit more processed, there was a little high-frequency compression (Waves C4) and a little low-mid cut and top end boost - a little goes a long way as they all within a range of 6dB...
Suvi's vocals sounded great to start with so little processing was necessary: bit of compression (I actually left the monitoring compressor - the humble but transparent Avid Dynamics 3 - on the track!), a bit of EQ (varying 12,5 kHz, 240Hz and 1,6kHz boosts), a bit of reverb (Stocktronic plate with EchoBoy delay before it) and an automation ride gave it what it needed. During the instrumental sections I turned the vocals down to get rid of unnecessary leakage.
The backing vocal tracks had to be cleared of leakage too, I ended up muting them where Timo and Olli weren't singing. Olli's vocal track required a little more drastic filtering to deal with the remaining drum leakage, but worked like a charm.
Master processing was my usual chain of MS Audiotron desk - master EQ - G-SSL - Otari MTR-10 1/4" tape machine (15 ips, RMG 900 tape)
Vastarakastuneet required even less processing on both piano and voice. The setup was "same, but less" though I used the LA-2A on Suvi's vocals. That was it - nice and simple!