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Bedroom Bouncedown - Home Recording

Home Is The Hero

Six stars outline their home demo set-ups

sketching song ideas at home. how certain successful stars record their demos - John Entwistle, Nik Kershaw, Annabel Lamb, Adrian Belew, Blancmange


ADRIAN BELEW


Fostex X15 4-track cassette
Fostex A4 4-track reel to reel
Fostex 2050 mixer
Roland GR700 guitar synth
Log drum


"I'm making my third solo record right now and I'm doing it in different stages — the engineer comes here and we work for a week or so, and then he goes away for another couple of weeks. In the interim I work here at home on my own.

"I'm working on two things at the same time in effect: I'm scheduled to do a third solo album proper, with songs, singing, drums and so on, plus an all-guitar album, kinda orchestral music. At the moment, then, I'm putting down things without too much preference as to which album they'll go on.

"I used to use my X15, which is good for getting down quick ideas: I'm not too crazy about it just having two channels, or its playback system. But it's a handy tool, particularly if you're travelling.

"But now I've decided to log my ideas in a manner which might be transferable to 24-track if needed, so I've hired the Fostex A4 and the mixer.

"I leave one track for a microphone line, and tend to put down a log drum on that — that's a little wooden slit drum with different tones depending on which of the wooden slits you hit. Bill Bruford has used it a lot on some of the King Crimson things. It's a little more interesting than a drum machine.

"I just use the machine with four straight tracks, I don't go in for bouncing — same with the mixer, I only use the mixer for monitoring. I don't really need to mix these tapes down.

"The other three tracks after the log drum I'm filling with my guitar synth, at present. Occasionally I'll put straight guitar just through a compressor, but with three tracks of guitar synth each is effectively two sounds — straight and synth from the 700 — so you're getting six quitar parts at a time. That's plenty of parts!"



JOHN ENTWISTLE


Two Sony F1 Betamax recorders and digital processors
Two Neve Melbourn 12 into 2 desks slaved together
JBL 43/12 monitors
Drawmer compressor


"I've been through eight tracks and messing around, and I've decided the fastest way to actually write songs is to go backwards and forwards in stereo. Normally you'd get a huge build up of hiss, but because the Sonys are digital it's very quiet and easy, you don't have to worry about overloading the tape because you're only dealing with numbers.

"There's a separate room which has all my guitar amp speakers in it and the amps themselves are wired through to the control room so I can have a loud bass sound and still hear what's coming off tape. I've got a Sunn 18 cab for the bottom end with a Colliseum amp and one of the small Boogie combos with an extension speaker for the high end. But recently I've been using a Gallien Krueger pre-amp direct into the desk and I find I can get just as good a sound. It's got extra gain controls to build up sustain, and a built in compressor so though I've got the Drawmer I very seldom use it.

"When I mike a bass I use a cheap mike because expensive ones record all the high frequencies you don't want! I use the same Shures we had on stage. Unispheres.

"I try to discipline myself to do no more than five or six passes on the Sonys otherwise I kind of lose the thread of the song I'm writing. Once I've got that down I'll do another demo on 24-track when I can worry more about the sound and balance. For that I go to another studio with an engineer.

"At home I usually start with a Linn Mk 2, one of the old ones, and put together a chain of patterns and record the drums and a keyboard at the same time. Then I'll put the bass down, a few more keyboards and maybe more drums, if I can get a good atmosphere and feel, that's enough."



NIK KERSHAW


Fostex 250 4-track
Roland Juno 60
Yamaha DX7
Roland TR808
Assorted Boss effects
A 'duff old vocal' microphone
TDK SAX C60s


"I haven't got too much gear because there is the danger of letting the machines run away with you — you can fool yourself into thinking that the more equipment you have the better the songs will be. I've had this set up for a year... it's brought me luck, so I thought I'd write the songs for this album on it.

"The 250 I prefer to the TEAC because I think it's got better heads, has Dolby C, and is more reliable.

"I have got some more effects since writing the album... I usually get most of my gear when I go on the road which is a bit Irish. I've now got a rack system for the guitar which I didn't have originally — I used my Boss effects instead, chorus, delay, all the usual ones.

"We've just moved and I've got my eye on the attic which is going to be a good room for it. Obviously I do intend to put more gear in there but time is the problem.

"Every now and then you can let the machines do some work for you. For instance I haven't got a sequencer but I did try running the clock-in of the Juno 60 arpeggiator with the TR808 and that produced an interesting bass line. But if you haven't got a sequencer, you have to do things like simultaneously changing the TR808 pattern and whatever chord you're playing. After 20 goes I resorted to splicing the part together on a multitrack in order to get it completed. Worked, though. It's a song called "Don Quixote" which is on the album.

"I've tried taking a Portastudio on the road but you don't get, (one), in the mood and (two), the time. One of the things I like doing in a big studio is multi-tracking guitars. You can't do that on a Fostex. Well, you can, but you wouldn't hear much else."



ANNABEL LAMB


TASCAM 144 Portastudio
A "cheap old" ghettoblaster
Grand piano, Emulator, DX7
Boss Dr Rhythm drum machine
Sony stereo mike


"I always write on keyboard. I usually MIDI the DX to the Emulator, using say a Rhodes sound on the DX and a cello from the Emulator, and use that as one instrument. For demos I'll use either that combination, or piano.

"If I'm in a hurry I'll put it down in stereo on to the ghettoblaster, but if I want to put more tracks on I go to the 144 — often you find that if you try to play and sing something, your piano parts aren't as complicated as you'd like them.

"I put the Dr Rhythm down quite early — I don't like them, they're really just to keep time. I have been known to use a metronome before, but the joy of the Dr Rhythm is that you can of course plug it directly into the Portastudio.

"I find my 144 does spill from track to track sometimes, a sort of ghosting effect. But that's probably me not cleaning the heads often enough. I eq some of the stuff as it goes on: voice I add some top, as I think most people do. And piano — although it's a warm, rich sound, it tends to sound very twangy on the 144, especially if it's recorded in a rather bare room.

"The old Sony stereo mike is very sensitive and present, which is good for me because I have a very close-to-the-mike voice — I don't really belt it, not even in the studio. Generally I want to keep my demos simple, because the band listen to the tapes I make. If it's too complicated that will set ideas straight away and you get into that awful situation of trying to beat the demo.

"The other criticism I'd make of the Portastudio is that when you're a novice reading the book that comes with it, it talks about 'busses', apparently an old term but not one I was familiar with. And if you're not used to the difference between 'tracks' and 'channels' it can be confusing. It could be explained more easily."



STEPHEN LUSCOMBE


RSD Studiomaster 4
Roland Space Echo
Boss CE-2 chorus pedal
Jupiter 8 synth
Poly 6 synth
TR909 drum machine
TDK metal tape


"We've used the RSD for a couple of years and it's much better than the others — you get more control, there are six inputs, and it takes Cannons. We put everything down in stereo... first two tracks in stereo, then the other two tracks in stereo, then bounce them down to another hi-fi cassette deck, an Aiwa, and transfer that back to two tracks on the Studiomaster.

"We've done up to 16 tracks that way — four passes — and there's hardly any hiss, the quality is excellent, you can hear everything really well, even the vocals. I think it's because everything stays in stereo and things are clearer and easier to pick out.

"Part of the secret is not to eq until the end; get the balance right first then eq on the final mix — let the ear decide. We do put a wee bit of treble on for each generation as it goes to the other tape recorder, and maybe a bit of bass as well. We've got such good results, we don't even bother going to a demo studio any more.

"We tried using some of the Fuji metal tape and the quality was excellent on playback but we found we had trouble recording over it again, it wouldn't take another pass, so now we've gone back to the TDK metal.

"I've just got a Sync Track (MPC's device that lets you drive drum machines and sequencers from tape) which can be quite good. It means that you don't have to put the drums down at the beginning. We can put the sync code on one track and record on the other three then when we bounce down to the Aiwa we can use the sync to add the drums in stereo — you're getting five tracks in the mix.

"We don't use really good monitors, we use a pair of old speakers that a friend gave us from his hi-fi system: I reckon if things sound good on those, they'll sound even better on a pair of professional monitors."



KIM WILDE


Fostex 250 4-track cassette
Yamaha DX7
SCI Drum Traks


"The DX7 is very adaptable and doesn't sound too synthy, so it's a good basis to use. It's the main instrument I use — I've got an old guitar which I can't play but it can be an interesting accompaniment.

"My Fostex is adequate for things I want to do as demos, because I've also got my own recording studio, so I can enhance what I do later. I think the limitations of a 4-track are very constructive because they make you get to the essential ideas in a song.

"I use a Drum Traks for a drum machine — I wasn't keen on the original bass drum in that so I had it replaced with a Linn chip. It's heavier and thicker now, but still not stunning. I suppose I'm spoilt because I'm used to being in a studio where a bass drum sounds like a bass drum.

"The Fostex is dead easy — I had to overcome the technological barrier that most people have, but as soon as I got over that it was straightforward. I tend to put down a lot of vocals, and bouncing those together is easier than bouncing instruments together — the balance of instruments is easier to mess up, I find.

"Writing's quite a new thing for me, so the demos are for my own reference, to help me in the studio. And the machines will throw ideas at you — it's up to you whether you grab them or not.

"I wish they'd use ordinary terms more in the manuals for all this equipment. I find that I learn more from the machines by trial and error than I do from the instructions. It's not that they're beyond comprehension, they could just put things in a far more basic structure."


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One Two Testing - Jan 1985

Bedroom Bouncedown - Home Recording

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