Here’s what I’ve been up to over the last few months.
Bog Oak A Treatise On Resurrection And The Afterlife I did side A of this huge downtuned EP. The band was so dialed that it was almost easy. We tracked at Sharkbite and mixed at Antisleep. This was an interesting mix–after I spent a lot of time making it bigger, meaner, whatever, I referred back to my rough tracking mix and realized that the rough was better! We got it right the first time. So I scrapped my mix and started again with a lighter hand, and I’m really happy with the results. (listen / session pics)
Power-Take-Off Unhinged I’ve known Gus since his days in GRIDS, and I’ve wanted to work with PTO since I heard their first released song. The band tracked this EP in a North Carolina practice space and I mixed. It’s gnaaaaaarly. (listen)
Sie Lieben Maschinen June Gloom Josh Newton (Shiner, Every Time I Die, most other bands) and Steve Tulipana (Season to Risk) with great contributions from Chris Bolig (Cartographer, Replicator), Shannon Corr (Minot, Greenlight the Bombers), and 41 distortion pedals. This record’s story is a post unto itself, but I tracked a lot of it and mixed, and directed traffic. Should be out early next year. (listen)
Puig Destroyer The baseball band got signed and did a full-length. Riley did the drums in LA, Mike tracked vocals in Chicago with Andrew Ragin, we tracked guitars and mixed at Antisleep. Fun as hell, as usual. (listen)
Tartufi Canyon We recorded “Sick of the Sirens” at Sharkbite and mixed at Antisleep. There’s also a second song from this session, which will hopefully end up somewhere. I really like this band–another one that I wanted to record since I first heard them. So many layers. (listen)
And last month I installed this small but beautiful Neotek Elan II console. Handmade in Chicago, 16 mic inputs, 36 inputs at mix, sounds great. It’s already been awesome to use the console for tracking and I’m figuring out ways to fit it into real-world mixing workflows. Everybody likes the idea of keeping it real by mixing on a console–ride faders as the mix goes down, commit and call it done–but in reality I do lots of recalls and jump between sessions over the course of weeks or months. But if you want to do an attended mix session and call it done when we’re done, I’m down.
November makes a year since I opened Antisleep Oakland. To all the bands I’ve been lucky enough to work with during that year, new friends and old: Thanks. I love making music with you.
(photos: BO Kevin Brown; PTO Andrew Christian; PD Ian Miller; SLM, Tartufi, Neotek me)
It’s been half a year since I wrote here — as soon as the new studio was up and running, things got busy. But the new rooms have been great, both for tracking and mixing. They’re comfortable, they sound good, everything’s good. I also upgraded to Pro Tools HDX, and had Bob Hodas over to tune control room, which was a big improvement.
Here are some projects I’ve worked on over the last six months…
In November, A Minor Forest played their first show in 15 years. It was fantastic. Ken Thomas filmed and edited, and I recorded and mixed.
Kowloon Walled City / Batillus split KWC covered Godflesh’s “Anthem” and our friends in Batillus covered Ministry’s “Lava”. Batillus stopped by Sharkbite for a day of tracking while they were on tour last year. I’ve wanted to record them for a long time, and I love how their track came out. (listen / session pics)
Hush Unexist Slow, enormous doom from Albany NY. This LP was a cool collaboration – Ryan Slowey and I planned out tracking together, then he tracked at Black Dog Studios in upstate NY, then I mixed. I’m really happy with the result. The record comes out in June. (listen)
Pins of Light “Lie Detector” 7″ Another band I’ve wanted to record for a while – we did a 7″ split (with Weedeater) for Scion AV. We tracked at Sharkbite and overdubbed and mixed at Antisleep. (listen)
The Loyalists First of the Mohicans Busted noise rock with electric cello, played by friends from a stack of previous bands. Tracked at Sharkbite, the band did vocals and other overdubs on their own, then mixed at Antisleep. (listen / session pics)
Vulgar Trade Gross Century After we finished the Loyalists record, their drummer Chad casually said “I play guitar and sing in another band and we want to record too.” Turns out Chad’s other band is rad! Fast, dirty hardcore with a mathy DC twist. We did drums at Sharkbite, and everything else at Antisleep. (listen)
A few more recent releases:
- Glose The Very Best of Glose
- The Atomic Bomb Audition Infinite Fires
- Puig Destroyer Wait for Spring
- Imperils Imperils
In progress: Tartufi, Power Take Off, Sie Lieben Maschinen, Doralice, Disastroid, Hellbeard, and probably a few others I’m forgetting.
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.