Recording: Faceometer – Why Wait For Failure?

On May 15, 2014

In December 2013, after 4 years of faffing around with PhD work, wooing models and other boring stuff… it began.

Faceometer working on Electric guitar parts

Faceometer (AKA Will “Wild Arm Flailing” Tattersdill) came back from the wilderness to finally get down some of his solo material. Previous projects included the intense two-week turnaround of the Spooky EP, and another album project which was archived. Everything about this time was going to be different. It wasn’t going to be rushed, but it wasn’t going to lose steam. It was plotted out way before hitting the studio and was driven by a gusto I’ve not seen from the brummy maniac for a while.

Why so different this time? From my perspective, there was a drive and a motivation that stemmed partly from the way Will funded his efforts. Using crowdfunding site Indie-gogo, the project not only reached its target of £1750, it surpassed it and creeped over the £2000 mark. Although I’m sure this was a relief to have the budget to produce the album with, there is always pressure to deliver. Essentially, the album has been sold as a pre-sale to fund the album being made. Of course other options are available; Will chose to sell postcards, artwork, t-shirts and living room concerts. Fans were also given the chance to be on the album as part of a choir (see below). So although the money is in the bank to let him do the project, he is indebted to his fans to deliver on his promises – something I know he will not only do, but will fulfil at more than the face value his fans gave him on the site.

Will also secured the services of the fantastic Freya Hartas to do the artwork on the project, giving a visual aid to some of the imaginary creatures that appear through the album.

Faceometer Cat Monster

Will has also reached out to other extremely talented artists to beef up the project, including James Bell and Ditte Elly. James has a wild English traddy/folky/thingness about him (he explains it better in his video), which is almost a polar opposite to the smooth and gentle approach of Ditte.  Both sets of dynamics are complimentary to the album, but in very different ways. We’ve also brought in an amazing drummer who, like Voldemort, SHALL NOT BE SPOKEN OF!!

Faceometer and Ditte Elly

Some of the technicals…

The approach for the album was to keep things really clean and intimate for most of the album, while really going nuts and smashing the shit out of everything for other bits. One day it’s super expensive, Class A preamps; another day its cheap Casiotones and bit-crushers.

Will’s voice can be quite challenging to record; his dynamic range goes from gurgling deep noises to screaming like a stock exchange banker. So I looked at both the Shure SM7B and the CAD VX2 for a balance between the two. In the end, the CAD won out; the high frequency detail was just a bit crisper and it can handle a decently high dB SPL before distorting. This would travel through the trusty Universal Audio LA610 for mic pre and compression purposes. Only a touch of compression was added to roll off those louder dynamics, with a Tube Tech CL1B doing more of the compression work at mixdown. The ultra-clean Apogee Ensemble provided the A/D into Logic. We decided to go with Logic as the DAW for this due to extra composition we wanted to add later, alongside the comp-swiping tools which can be very handy editing those little blips.

CAD VX2 MicrophoneUniversal Audio LA610 in the studio

Acoustics and choir are being tracked using a matched pair of AKG C414 B-ULS in an X-Y configuration, using the Apogee Mic Pres to ensure a clean and accurate stereo signal. However, later through the project we switched to the Audient iD22 for the preamps and ability to move around into different spaces to record.

Bass and electric guitars also went through the LA-610, providing both presence EQ and compression straight into Logic. This will give us the opportunity to decide on which amp style we are after later in the mixing stage.

Last thing on the list was the drums. As you’ll here, the drum sound is nice and punchy but doesn’t dominate any of the other material when on the tracks. I’ve found the fewer mics I use, the less imposing my drums tend to be. So I’ve gone for a moderate 7 mic channels (Kick – Lewitt DTP640, Snare – RE20, Toms – MD421, Overheads – C414 XLS), all running through a Neve Genesys and already mixed at the gains. So far I’ve refrained from putting any compression and EQ on the drums (because they sound awesome, of course), but it’s likely they will get run through an SSL bus comp eventually just to control some of the pokey bits (being the technical term).

Faceometer drum session

The final run

This weekend we hit the mix and start tidying up. We have been so busy tracking and adding bits onto other bits that it will be nice to finally sit and reflect on the project as a whole. You can sometimes lose site of the big picture when you are flinging paint at lots of little pictures. What we do know is we have lots of epic stuff in the bag. The performances have been solid and the planning has worked out well. That pressure of pleasing fans who have already bought into the project has not been negative at all, and has helped to drive all of us towards a project we are going to be proud of once it gets out there.

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