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
ABOUT THE SESSIONThe 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.
ABOUT THE RECORDING
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.
ABOUT THE MIX
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.
|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|