Last edited: December 31, 2011
As you may have read, I took a trip to Christchurch on the 21st of October to track two songs over Labour Weekend. The day started abruptly with my alarm screaming out at 4:30am. It wasn’t even bordering on daylight by then, so was quite a shock to the system! I had factored in an entire day in the studio to familiarize myself with it and suss out any potential challenges or issues for the recording. My flight left Auckland at 6:50am. I should have spent the flight catching up on some much needed sleep, but the picturesque views of the sunrise over the beautiful New Zealand scenery did get the better of me.
Upon our approach to Christchurch, chatter amongst passengers faded away as a distant silhouette of the CBD appeared beneath the clouds. As one of the many passengers not to have visited Christchurch since the earthquakes, my face was also pressed hard against the window to capture a glimpse of the ghost city. Due to the early hour of the morning, I was presented with quite a haunting image – the few remaining tall buildings silhouetted though golden tinted morning fog. One of the most striking things was the apparent lean of the Grand Chancellor Hotel – something I had previously thought to be barely noticeable. Upon my arrival, I met Kevin Allison at the airport. Kevin is a US expat now based in Christchurch, and is the owner of Angel’s Gate Recording Studio. After a quick chat we were soon on the way to the studio.
We pulled up at Angel’s Gate just before 9am, and within minutes we were inside discussing gear and the forthcoming session. After a short studio tour and a look over the gear and extensive guitar & amplifier collection I began sorting out a few tracks for an emerging Christchurch artist. It takes a while to get your head around a session someone else has engineered (as everyone has their own techniques), so spent the first part of the morning sorting out and familiarizing myself with four of her tracks. Little did I know, I would be doing a lot more work on these.
Shortly after lunch the artist arrived at the studio to track a few vocals, as these tracks only had guides on them for now. The studio was running an API 1608 console, so it was great being able to run the vocals through the API EQs. I find them really clean and clear and really seem to be notched to great frequencies. As per usual I compressed her vocal on the way in, and used an API 2500 outboard compressor to do so. We tracked two songs worth of vocals that Friday evening, and made a start on a third before calling it a night for her. We put together a comp, then called it a night ourselves. Turned out to be a very productive first day!
The next morning I was up at 7:30, starting the day with a coffee to get me ready for the session! For the weekend we had another local band in, and was engineering for a Sydney based producer. We opted to track the whole band live and track vocals after, along with any other overdubs. We maxed out the 16 channels available on the API desk – the perfect size for recording this band! The band play a style similar to classic rock, bringing elements from 70′s rock and combining it with modern sounds. The singer has got the classic gravelly rock ‘n’ roll voice and a few pretty catchy tunes. The two days concluded with all band and overdubs tracked and the vocals recorded but not comped. I spent half an hour or so putting down monitor mixes and backing up to his drives before farewelling the band and getting on with the cleanup.
Monday morning arrived, and I was asked to continue on with the tracks I was mixing on Friday. I spent the morning comping her vocal tracks we had recorded, then finished tracking the other two later that afternoon. We spent the evening working on harmonies too. I love backing vocals, they really bring so much to a track, especially multiple harmonies. With the recording out of the way, the next few days were just for me to mix the tracks! The first mix in a new room is always a challenge, as you don’t really know the finer intricacies of the room, or what the low end is like, etc. The monitoring was good though, so I felt relatively comfortable. We did take a few mixes out to the car to give them the car test. It seems to really work – and helped me to recognise how big the low end is in the room. Vocals are another thing that can be hard to judge – in some studios the vocals sound really quiet, others really loud. I had become somewhat familiar with Kevin’s car stereo from the drive to and from work every day, so was a real bonus listening in there. Kevin is the studio manager, and was producing this artist’s tracks. I spent all of Tuesday and Wednesday mixing, with a half day of touch-ups on the Thursday, before heading off to visit family, friends and have a few meetings before my flight on Friday afternoon.
In the limited time I had off I made it to another studio soon to be opened, met up with Sleeping Dogs, Tainted and a local rapper, as well as catching up with some of the family in Christchurch. It’s lucky I stuck around for an extra week – I ended up working seven days rather than just the two. I’m pretty happy with the mixes so far, although after having a week away there are a few things I am keen to touch up. I’m planning on heading back to Christchurch before the end of the year, so will be able to do it then. There seems to be a few great facilities opening up in Christchurch that will really benefit the South Island, so I can feel a few more trips coming on!
I’ve attached a few photos from my trip, check them out below or in the gallery: