Mix analysis -
Song: Pure Energy – What’s On Your Mind
Artist : Information Society
Mixer: Mix Engineer: Roey Shamir
Format: 48 track Analog Tape mixed on SSL 4000 at Unique Recording Studio A
Producer: Fred Maher and Information Society (InSoc).
Songs and their respective mixing sessions are not all the same at least not in my experience; hence I decided to write a few mix analyses in several posts. I hope my words are read as a historic recollection as I am trying to humbly do just that.
I worked on this album in the late 1980′s so please forgive me if I don’t have all the details right. As reference I used my recall notes that were deep in storage as well as reached out to my assistant on the project Angela Piva (Engineer for Mary J. Blige,
Naughty By Nature, Color Me Badd). This really was not a difficult thing to do as we are now married and living together. Moving on.…
This trend-setting record came to me to mix after a fellow producer, Craig Kafton, recommended me to Fred and the Band. They listened to some of my known mixes at the time and were eager for me to put my swerve on what they had already artfully created in preproduction and recording of the song. They had gathered industrial sounds with their own portable recorder — I believe it was an F1 digital beta.
At that time I was one of the chief engineers at Unique Recording where I did most of my mixing up until 1989. Studio A was my main room; although I also had tracked and mixed some well know records up in Unique’s Midi City Vintage Neve 80 series room.
The console setup was already done, as I have a method for placing all my favorite sends and returns as well as insert and line level patches that I would generally make. Unique had a plethora of great outboard classics, and I had developed a healthy couple of racks of my personal favorite, more rare stuff that most studios did not have — my
“RoTools” as they were called. As usual, back then I did not listen to any reference tracks that they had previously made, but rather pushed up the faders and cycled the tape for a few plays as I got a vibe from the tracks as to determine which direction would be best for me to follow. Fred, being a brilliant drummer as well as producer, had selected really great drum samples with the band, so tweaking up a phat drum sound did not take me long.
After liking that, I muted them and then moved to the vocals and effects for the vocals tracks — EQ and dynamic compression, some
Publison doubling (this was a popular technique that still works today where left channel is set a few cents flat with a short 3ms delay and the right a few cents sharp with 7 ms delay). That is mixed via send
–return along with the “dry” vocal channel. A well know version of this is heard on Phil Collins vocal “In The Air Tonight” and Quantec
simulator (a warm realistic “Hall” ), plus controlled delay throws using Lexicon pcm 42′s.
I dialed in the bass with some vintage Neve 1073 EQ and Neve
compression, then I panned it hard left and brought a Yamaha Rev 1
chorus1 up on the right (of course, checking for mono compatibility with the Auratone mix checker). The cello, which was a super Jupiter patch was really the main baseline and then I blended in all the keys , doing some dramatic volume on the pads.
Next all the Star Trek samples including Spock and the Hunamana
Gundas. We ran into an unexpected problem when the band found out that the samples of Star Trek had to be cleared! This was remedied by getting Adam Nimoy involved. He liked the band’s stuff and later convinced his father Leonard Nimoy (Spock) to agree to the usage of his voice (“Pure Energy” “Illogical”). Another degree of separation as my business partner at Area51NYC – Tony Drootin — is the Nimoy’s cousin.
The “Guitar” part: Working unattended for the first few hours as I would always request from whom ever I would work with, and being a guitar player and fan, I felt a need for some guitar timbre in the orchestration. Naturally I patched a second version of the Rhodes pad into a line-matching box to bring it to -10db, then into the Rockman
sustain-or rack mount – A popular Guitar channel that Tom Sholtz from Legendary rock Group Boston had invented, this was where the distortion that transformed the original pure Rhodes tone was generated, then back to the match (up to +4) and then to a channel on the SSL. I set that channel’s gate to external trigger, and then patched that trigger to a buss so that I could send more than one
pre-fader drum part to trigger the gate. A combination of the hats kick and snare triggered the gate, creating the rhythm for that groundbreaking sound.
I set the gate for super tight with fastest release, about 60 db of
gain reduction – that was the most the SSL dynamics could do at that time. Now the resulting distorted rhythmic keyboard part was given some panned shuffle delay to further groove it up.
Liking the result I soloed it up to further tweak it when the Band
(Kurt Harland, Paul Robb, James Cassidy) arrived to see how it was going. Before Kurt even said “Hello” he blurted out, “What the Heck is that part? Where did it come from? We should use that!” (We did and then it later was lifted by MTV as a bumper that ran for years “new music, you hear it first…”)
A few years later my buddy Mic Murphy from dance group the System was working with another well known mixer man – Keith Cohen on the left coast, and my name came up. They called me and Keith and I were introduced on the phone, as he wanted to talk with me. He told me how Information Society’s whole album had been his benchmark when he was mixing, especially when he mixed Paula Abdul’s stuff.
Another interesting story was when Shep Pettibone was working a remix for the song, he called Fred asking where is the “guitar”
part? Fred replied, “Oh that was something Roey created in the mix. It ran live, and we did not print it on the multi.” (The multi was full, and the part partially sounded the way it did because it was not on tape.) Running live to the two track mix down kept the tone zingy and edgy. I later explained it to Shep, but in the end he just sampled it from mix parts passes (stems) and then flew it in to the remix. The technique I used also inspired C&C Music Factory’s gated “guitar” track.
Moving back to that day, I then further automated the mix and used constructive criticisms to tweak a mix everyone was satisfied with. This was the first of eleven mixes we did to complete their self-titled 1988 album over the course of a little more than 15 days. We stayed locked out, and the majority of the patches and gear settings stayed the same, although used on different elements from song to song.
I would take ear and room breaks every 90 minutes or so, and we worked about 10 hours a day. Generally I got the mix close and printed refs
for everyone to “check” outside the studio, then the next day perform any tweaks and print to half-inch tape. The remainder of that day I would get the next tune to a state of readiness, print some refs etc…
until the album was done.
Next I went to see Herb Powers at his mastering room at the Hit
Factory where he mastered my mixes, which he always did so tastefully and without ego. He would often do very minor and subtle adjustments, finding my work almost radio-club ready without him needing to do much to it.
Stay tuned as I will be writing about other sessions I had the pleasure to be part of. Next time in part two: Run DMC – Run’s House.