I made the drive out to Sacramento this morning to have the next Tycho single mastered by Eric Broyhill at Monster Lab Audio. In case this is sounding familiar to you, it’s because this is my second pass at this song. I mixed and mastered it last month but after repeated listens, something just wasn’t quite right so I did another mix over the past week and it’s finally wrapped. It’s been a long road, this particular track is sonically very dense and it’s been a very difficult one to mix. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the idea of mastering, it’s the last stage in the production process in which an engineer puts the finishing touches on your music and gets it into the form it will take for the final release — be it CD, MP3, vinyl, or otherwise. That is, of course, a gross oversimplification of what mastering is, if you’re really interested in the details here’s the Wiki article on the subject. It’s a vital step in the process of moving a recording out of your studio and into the real world where every stereo and every room is different, and you hope that your music sounds good on and in all of them. I think most importantly it puts another set of critical ears on your music. By the end of the production process your own ears can become deaf to the subtleties (or not-so-subtleties) and details of the material so it’s vital to have some fresh ears hear it for the first time and recognize it for what it is, not what it has become for you through infinite listens. Ideally, those ears belong to a capable person who knows waaaay more than you’ll ever know about the science and nuance behind how people perceive sound. Mastering can be heavy-handed or light and transparent, and therein lies the problem. Because the process can have such a profound effect on the final product, you have to trust the person doing it. You must have faith that they get what you’re trying to do with a song. It’s a very difficult thing to hand over the reigns to something you’ve put so much of yourself into, to another person who may or may not understand the essence of what you’re trying to do sonically with a song.
I was fortunate enough to meet Eric Broyhill back when I was finishing up my first album and he’s mastered all of my releases since. He’s great at understanding what I am going for and I am always amazed at the night-and-day results when I compare his versions with the raw material. The shots above are from his space which is located inside Hangar Studios (John Baccigaluppi’s studio and the home of TapeOp magazine) in Sacramento. I took these shots during a session a while back so they aren’t really up to date, I think he’s replaced a few pieces in the rack but the interiors are the same and that’s the really impressive thing about the place (unless you’re like me and you can’t stop staring at the Manley Massive Passive). A mastering environment has to be acoustically treated to ensure accurate monitoring of the material. There are many ways to go about this, most involve fiber sound absorbers and diffusers. I’ve always admired Eric’s solution to these problems from both a technical and aesthetic perspective. He was able to build much of the treatments into the structure so that they’re almost unnoticeable but the most prominent element is definitely meant to be noticed. The primary diffuser on the front wall is a giant face he had built by a local artist out of wood blocks set at varying heights (see picture above). This randomly redirects reflected sound waves to avoid phasing issues that can be caused by parallel surfaces. It looks amazing and sounds even more amazing when paired with the incredible Earthworks Sigma monitors he uses. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever heard a better sounding system than this one.
Now it’s time to finish up the album. I really can’t wait for the day I get to drive back out there, it’s always like a celebration for me at the end of the months spent in the studio slaving away on the music. You get to hand it over and then watch it become complete. If you’re in the market for mastering — which any self-respecting musician should be — definitely check out Eric at Monsterlab, he does incredible work at very reasonable rates. And if you’re not in Northern California I know he can do the work remotely as we did a couple sessions that way. Monsterlab Audio
Finally home after an eventfulweekend and it’s time to get back to work on the album. I want to thank everyone who made it out to the shows and Ghostly for making it all happen, it was a great time all around. banx_zor got some great shots of the SF show at Mezzanine (posted above). If you have any more of the SF or LA shows let me know! As you can see in photo 2 above, Dusty Brown made a rather animated cameo during the set, thanks to him for tearing it up on the keys. Our very own Alex Cornell also turned in a great performance on a couple guitar tracks (3rd picture down). For those who were wondering, the last 2 tracks I played in each set were new songs, the final one being a single due out shortly on Ghostly International. I’ll keep you posted.
Thanks to everyone for coming out and supporting last night in SF, it was an incredible vibe and I had a great time playing. We drove down to LA today just in time to see Michna’s show @ Turntable Lab. Tomorrow I’ll be playing the L.A. installment of the Ghostly Anniversary show at Jimmy’s Lounge. It’s a daytime show (doors @ 2pm) and I should be going on around 7pm inside (remember to set your clocks forward for daylight savings!). Here’s the lineup with tentative set times (right now I only have times for a few of us )
Kate Simko DJ Set – 3pm [Outside]
Michna – 3:30pm [Outside]
The Sight Below – 4pm [Inside]
Deru – 4:45pm [Outside]
Lusine – 5pm [Outside]
Aarnio (Jakub) Pt. I – 6pm [Inside]
Elliot Lipp – 6pm [Outside] Tycho – 7pm [Inside]
Kate Simko LIVE – 8pm [Outside]
Aarnio (Jakub) Pt. II – 8pm [Inside]
The Ghostly 10 year show is tonight (Friday – 3/6) and I wanted to debut a new track I’ve been working on during the set but wasn’t sure if I would have a live version complete by today. I’ll be cutting it close but I think I can get it wrapped in time so I should be playing it towards the end. I also just got the official, updated set times:
10-1030 Christopher Willits
1030-1110 The Sight Below
1200-1245 Lusine 1245-130 Tycho
225-315 Kate Simko
315 – 400 Eliot Lipp
I will post the LA times when I get them, should be going on around 7pm for that one (Sunday, early show). I’ve got some new visuals prepared as well so it should be a good one. Hope to see you all out!
As you may already know, this Friday and Sunday Ghostly International will be celebrating their 10 year anniversary and have a select few artists (Tycho among them) playing in San Francisco and Los Angeles live. We’re giving away a set of two tickets for both shows which will include two t-shirts each (see above) for the winners. The first two people to correctly answer this question win:
Which Ghostly International catalog numbers are currently missing between their first release and their latest release? (Note: Catalog numbers are the numbers that are put on each release to show what number release this album is.)
Please email the answer to: jakub [at] iso50 [dot] com (please specify which show you will be going to). The winners must be able to go to the Los Angeles or San Francisco shows, sorry to the friends that just want the shirts, we will run a few more giveaways soon to make up for it.
More info on the shows is here and advanced tickets can be purchased here (SF) and here (LA).
Ghostly, Xlr8r, Red Stripe and Jimmy’s Lounge Present: Attn: This is a Daytime show, starts @ 2PM
The Ghostly 10 yr Anniversary – 2nd Installment – Los Angeles
Michna w/ Raw Paw LIVE
The Sight Below LIVE
Kate Simko LIVE
Eliot Lipp LIVE
…and more TBA
Sunday March 8th
@ Jimmy’s Lounge
6202 Santa Monica Blvd., LA
Update: The L.A. installment of the show has been set for Sunday Mar. 8th. More info is on the events page, get advance tickets here.
Ghostly International’s 10th birthday is fast approaching and they’re having anniversary shows in San Francisco and Los Angeles to celebrate. I’ll be playing the first date on Friday, March 6th, 2009 at Mezzanine in San Francisco. As far as I know, the line up will be the same for L.A., but I don’t have all the details for that show yet. This should be a great night filled with a lot of great performances by the Ghostly crew. You can snag some advance tickets for $5 off here. Hope to see you all out, here’s all the details: GHOSTLY and MEZZANINE present
10 Year Anniversary
1st Installment – SF!
Featuring LIVE performances by
TYCHO / ISO50 (live music & visuals) (set time: 12:20am)
THE SIGHT BELOW
After what was perhaps the most arduous musical experience of my life, I’ve finally wrapped the new Tycho single. It’s a rather dense arrangement so getting everything to work together ended up taking 3 mixing sessions in SF and LA. I definitely learned a lot though, first, SSL is the most useful, greatest sounding EQ and compression I’ve ever used. Second, my monitoring situation at home is garbage. Time for some more Auralex and Adam A7s. Anyways, it’s done, and I’m done…for about a week or so then it’s back to work on the album.
I spent the free time I had between mixing sessions last week creating the cover art for the single, luckily that process ended up being a bit less stressful (you can see a small snippet of the artwork above). All the details will be coming shortly, the estimated release date is looking like late January. As always, you can keep an eye out here or subscribe to be notified when more info is available.