After almost a year of planning and construction, the new Antisleep is go! LET’S MAKE RECORDS.
Ryan and Rob finished up construction in August. I moved in right away, and over the next 6-8 weeks got everything set up and wired. There’s plenty more to do, but I’ve been tracking and mixing for a few weeks so I’m calling this thing done. Here are some more photos.
The studio is: Two rooms plus an iso closet; 16 inputs; Pro Tools 10; lots of good mics and amps; and it’s literally right down the hall from Sharkbite Studios. I love working at Sharkbite, and I still plan to track there as often as possible — and now, I can run down to Antisleep mid-session to grab a mic or a pedal.
Kurt Ballou was the first person I interviewed for Tape Op. People really enjoyed this interview, and I still get emails asking for a copy. So here’s a PDF: Kurt Ballou, Tape Op #76, Mar 2010 (pdf)
And here’s some extra Q&A that didn’t make the magazine. Remember, these are outtakes so they’re not very well edited and may jump around a bit. And this interview happened in July 2009 — I’m sure Kurt’s techniques, gear, and opinions have evolved since then. Still, good stuff here! Enjoy.
When did you start recording seriously? You know, moving beyond 4-tracking…
I actually never had a 4-track. I had friends with 4-tracks and I certainly had an interest in that, but I never had any money. By the time I had enough money to afford a 4-track, I had enough money to afford an 8-track. So I had a Tascam TSR-8 and a Fostex 450 mixing board, which — I don’t know if you’ve ever used one of those — the EQ on it has high, high mid, and low mid. It doesn’t have “low.” That’s because there’s no low end in the console! [laughs]
How old were you then?
I was probably around 21. I’ve been a late bloomer with everything I’ve done. And I’ve been, I don’t want to say a slow learner, but I’ve been an independent learner. I never went down that internship or recording school path. I’m completely self-taught. It’s been a blessing and a curse. Had I worked under someone else at some point, I would have maybe come upon some techniques and ways to do things much quicker than I have.
So yeah, mid-’90s I got an 8-track and started recording demos of my own music in my parents’ basement. Then I started recording demos for my friends, then their friends heard them, then I was recording demos for people I didn’t know, and then it became 7-inches, and then I started charging $10/hr and I would record near every weekend in my parents’ basement.
Eventually I got a house with a bunch of friends in Allston, and built a studio there. I started with an 8-track, and by the time I left I had a 1″ 24-track and a Soundcraft Ghost.
Where was Converge at that point?
We’ve been together since ’91. We were a high school band. The first album we formally recorded as an album [When Forever Comes Crashing] was recorded in that house. I recorded it, and Steve Austin from Today Is The Day came in and mixed it. He did a little recording — I think he did the vocal production and recorded some of the guitar tracks — and then he did the mix.
I went from being a hobbyist to a serious moonlighter during my tenure at that house. When it was time to renew the lease, my roommates were like “hey, you can’t keep doing this. It’s just too loud all the time.” I’m recording Drop Dead, these smelly crust punks are hanging around the house, they’re sick of it.
So I moved to Norwood and got a commercial space. I was there for five years. It wasn’t an acoustically designed studio by any stretch of the imagination, but it was my own space, and I made a lot of records there — in a really trashy, bombastic kind of live room.
That started with the 1″ 24-track, then I went through several 2″ machines. I had a Soundcraft TS-12 console, which was great.
Two fun records with awesome bros.
Snailface- KWC’s idiot cousin. Same guys, far less quality control.
Right after we approved the Container Ships master, I emailed everyone: “Seems like we can and should schedule Snailface IV.” A month or two later, Jason flew down from Seattle for a weekend, and we convened at Sharkbite.
Three guitar attack! Maybe two and half, considering me. But tracking live with three guitar players was cool — if a song had an acoustic guitar part, or a 12-string part (and oh, they did), we took it live with the band and still had two main guitars. We wrote and tracked seven songs in two days.
Jason went home, got high as hell, and wrote pages and pages of lyrics about camping (yep). Then we started doing vocals, with Ian and Jason tracking at home. This didn’t work very well. “Try that line again, you can sing it better” needs a 30-second turnaround, not a 2-day turnaround. So I sweet-talked Jason into flying down for one more weekend (“we have burritos and beer”), and Ian and Jason and I and recorded all the vocals in my living room. One of my favorite recording sessions ever.
Then Jason and I added dumb guitar and synth overdubs from home, Jeff and I tracked a shit-ton of tambo and handclaps, I found a rad sax player to do solos over one song, I had a few lady singer friends over to ooh and ahh, and Jason’s brother and a buddy did an amazing strings & piano intro for one song.
Finally, as Snailface tradition dictates, I handed off the tracks to my friend Greg Thompson to mix. Greg’s mixes blew my fucking mind. They are fantastic. We did one or two quick revisions and called it.
This sounds like a lot of work but I swear, it was pretty thrown together. You should see the records I take seriously.
And that’s how you make a record of epic camp rock, that sounds like 1982 Yes meets 1982 King Crimson meets 1982 Asia meets 1982 Billy Squier.
Puig Destroyer – Six songs in six minutes. Riley from Thrice, Mike from Curl Up And Die, and Ian and Jon from KWC, screaming about baseball (yep). I tracked guitars and mixed. This has to be the only record I’ll ever have appear on the San Jose Mercury sports page. Out now on Grindcore Karaoke, or preorder Dodgers-colored vinyl from The Ghost Is Clear.
The studio build is getting there. Drywall’s done, flooring is in, everything’s painted, lights are up, and the tie line panels are wired up (check out the dovetailed boxes Ryan made). It looks really damn good. There’s more to do, but in a week or two I should start moving in — installing gear, hanging treatments, and finding the perfect $75 couch. I can’t wait.
There’s an Antisleep Audio facebook page now – check it out.
So far this year…
Neurosis – On New Year’s Eve, I recorded Neurosis at the Oakland Metro, working again with Kenneth Thomas and his film crew, along with Sal and Paige at the Metro. Exhausting, amazing session.
Old Man Gloom – The new OMG reissues include a bunch of live material, which I tracked last year in San Francisco and Chico, and James Plotkin mixed. I don’t think it’s online, but here’s the one video I mixed.
Rise and Fall – I just finished mixes for a gnarly live LP. It’s off to mastering now.
Command Control – We did 4 songs at Sharkbite in January. This was super fun. No bass guitar! Combo amps! Rhodes! (listen)
Glose – In January, we did three long-ass tracking days at Tad Doyle’s Witch Ape Studio in Seattle. Tad was the friendliest, most accomodating host I could imagine. Great session. I’m mixing this now.
There’s more, but that’s enough for now.
Meanwhile, construction continues on my rooms in the Sharkbite building. So much drywall and green glue.
(photos: OMG – Aaron Turner, RAF – Mathieu Vandekerckhove, CC & Oaf – me, construction – Ryan Massey)