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Sweet Sorrow 3 VIVA!

February 2, 2012

Last week we finished work on the 3rd album by Korean band Sweet Sorrow.  Jazz composer, pianist and producer D.D. Jackson brought me on board to record and mix the 4 songs he was producing for the project.

At Dubway Studios

At Dubway Studios recording drums, piano and bass.

There were so many wonderful elements that fell in place to help make this such a great sounding album, that if I start listing them all, this is going to end up reading like a boring sappy award acceptance speech.  So, im going to concentrate on just a few of the aspects that made this project great and really fun for me to do.

the crew after 1st recording session at Dubway Studios

from left back row: Me, In Ho-Jin(SS), Mark Peterson (bass), D.D. Jackson (producer, piano), Tony Lewis (drums), Song Woo-Jin(SS), Anthony Gibney (asst. eng) Left front: Sung Jin-Hwan(SS), Kim Young-Woo(SS)

The Ingredients:  The starting point of having great songs, great arrangements, and a high level of musicianship all in the same project, is the equivalent of starting off a cooking session with a bag of really good groceries.  Hats off to all the talented people I got to work with here.  Everyone involved was just really good at what they do.

The Gear:  The recording studios we used had some really sweet mics, preamps and compressors.  Lots of vintage and tube gear.  Nowadays we spend so much time in the digital realm, that we’re all looking to add as much warmth to our sounds as we can, before digitizing things.  At least that’s always my goal.  Old analog gear sure helps with this quest.  Recording sessions are so much fun that they never feels like work to me.  I love recording sessions!   Now, a key element to keep it fun is having a great  assistant engineer.  You see, what Kato is to The Green Hornet, that’s what it feels like to have a session with a great assistant.  Anthony Gibney at Dubway Studios and Mark Bengston at Downtown Music Studios were my Katos in this project.

(video: At Downtown Music Studios recording the brass section for Viva)

Of all the cool gear I got to use here, two big highlights for me were the Coles 4038 ribbon mics and the EV ND868 kick drum mic.  I think the EV instantly become my favorite kick drum mic.  It’s not really a standard in studios, so I might have to buy my own if I wanna keep using it.  Good thing it’s not too expensive.  The Coles, I used them for an extra mono drum overhead, for an external second kick drum mic, and then again for a stereo pair for the brass section.  Ribbon mics went out of fashion and almost disappeared in the 90’s, but they have made a big comeback.  They just sound so warm and sweet, how can you not love them?

in ther studio

Working at Downtown Music Studios with Kim, our main guy within the band.

The Plugins:  These mixes were made “in the box” like they say.  This means that my main tool was my computer software, as opposed to a large studio console.  There’s one external reverb I use, an URSA MAJOR Space Station SST-206, but most of my mix sound comes from carefully selected plugins, and then I just mix inside my ProTools HD system at my home studio.  For automation (that is, for recording volume rides), I use a single motorized fader, the PreSonus Faderport.  I love it, I use it constantly.  As for my plugins arsenal, for this project I got a hold of the recently released Waves bundle Eddie Kramer Tapes, Tubes & Transistors.  Oh man, these Waves guys did an amazing job with these things.  They are analog emulations of 3 pieces of gear that engineer Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Kiss) loved to used to make some of his landmark albums.  Again, hats off to the guys at Waves for making such awesome plugins.  These things have a warmth and “analogueness” about them that I only used to dream off in a plugin.

The Mastering:  I’ve always said that mastering engineer Bob Ludwig is the Yoda of sound engineering.  A very wise man (and an incredibly sweet human being), I always learn something important when I talk to him.  I’ve known him for years and he has mastered several albums i’ve engineered, but I think this was the first time he was actually mastering mixes I had done.  I say “I think”, because in my years working in the Miami music business, many times I would finish my work in an album and then I’d never know anything about it until I heard it on the radio one day.  Either way,  I felt honored to get this chance to work with Bob.  In the end, he handed us an album that sounds like “it should”.  I love the kind of transparency in his work.  The songs sound bigger, with the perfect balance of air and girth, and still sounding like the mix i did.  I mean, he doesn’t color them in any obvious way.  The rest of the album was produced by a different crew in Korea, so naturally, those tracks sounded very different from the stuff we did here in NYC and yet, Mr. Ludwig made them all sound like they came out of the same room.  He’s a true master.

And here’s a sampe of the finished product.  A video released only a couple of days ago, for the song Viva, one of the tracks we helped create.

Chua! Daebak!!!

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