Yamaha AW1600, Audio-Technica AT3035 mic, Aria Pro II bass, Yamaha drums, Fender ’65 Mustang, Gibson ’65 145, Hohner Blues Harp, Dynaco speaker powered by Crown 150 power amp.
Reviewed By: Marty Peters
Recording: “Fourteen” is a garage rock style track with a bit of Neil Young, Kinks and Troggs in the soup. In his fairly extensive cover letter Kemp tells us that the song was essentially recorded while it was being written and that each sound source was awarded one track on his Yamaha multitracker, including the drums, which were recorded with one microphone. We’re told that this approach is rather different from Kemp’s usual method of bouncing and submixing tracks.
As for the recording itself, well it’s pretty cool, if lo-fi, punky garage rock (not a putdown, by the way) is your thing. The vocals have a definite attitude, the electric guitars have excellent tone for the style as does the harmonica, and Kemp has done a pretty darn good job on his drums considering the fact that he only used one mic. We do hear some pumping from an overactive compressor on the acoustic guitar and the cymbals get a bit raw in spots, but it all sort of fits the vibe, really.
Near the end of his correspondence with us, Kemp informs us that he usually mixes his material in a more high end facility alongside more seasoned engineers. In lieu of that he asks if we can recommend a purchase that might enable him to achieve better results in his home setting.
Suggestions: While there are no shortage of fun tools that we could suggest that Kemp invest in, that’s really not our goal here at Readers’ Tapes. Rather, we are more interested in helping recording musicians achieve those better results by improving their skills and techniques, beginning with their most important tool, that being the ears.
We have discussed the idea of intent on more than a few occasions in this column, and Kemp’s inquiries have once again brought it to our door. Could Kemp have achieved different results with “Fourteen” using only the gear that he presently owns? We think that the answer is a resounding yes. The mere fact that he had enough tracks at his disposal to use multiple mics on the drums and yet chose not to, leads us to believe that Kemp achieved exactly what he set out to do with this mix. Would the song have benefited from the additional drum mics? Well, who’s to say? Perhaps by straying from his lo-fi blueprint, the rest of the mix would certainly have lost its edge and a good measure of its appeal.
What we can suggest to Kemp, and all of you other loyal readers out there, is that experimentation is never a bad idea, ever. We personally love the idea of using one mic on a drum set, so what about two, three? Knowledge is power, they say, and trial and error has led to some awesome discoveries (Sgt. Pepper’s, anyone?) in our field.
In this spirit we would suggest to Kemp that his next recording utilize some different ideas and skills, maybe a more mainstream style project, not because of any flaws with “Fourteen” but rather as a learning experience.
Summary: Go for it!
Contact: Kemp Jones, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.followthecat.net.