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.