Saturday, March 29, 2008

Pearls of Wisdom

Hello everyone

I've been getting a couple of e-mails lately asking "how do you go about doing this or that?" and I have one universal response for everything. It's not only about music but I believe it's the key to life and happiness in general.. are you ready?

Find what works for you... and exploit the hell out of it.

There it is.. there is no other way to say it really. I practice like a maniac when I can't do something... it's just the way I'm wired. With that being said someone else might need a more strict time setting. Like "okay I'm going to practice this everyday when I get home from 6PM-6:30PM..etc". There really is no "key" to anything. I might have to practice 12 hours to get something that someone else will get in 1 hour. It's just the way it works.

When I wear the producer hat during recording I will always give someone a "pearl of wisdom" that makes them say "whoa I never thought of doing it like that" and don't get me wrong that's always great… but if you only practice what someone else suggests to you. You will never elevate yourself to a level above that person teach.

Try everything!
If it's recording make sure you read up on what the masters have to say. There are webpages like or there are TONS of Podcasts out there that will help you find the sound or technique that you are looking for… my only suggestion I can give is.. once you find it… open it up.. see how/why it works. Try deconstructing the idea and find out WHY it did what it does.

I truly believe the same thing for life in general. (not to sound to motivational here or anything) but I get so many people saying "Man your job is awesome, your life is so stress-free…etc" there is a reason behind that.. I saw a way to improve things in my life and I did it. There is no "can't" and once you start understanding that you'll understand that life is only what you put into it.

(God I am sounding preachy).

Anyway.. as for my guitar sound. I use a lot of different techniques. I mic a Marshal Half Stack with an SM57 off axis (about 45 degrees or so) I keep the mic about 1 inch away from the cone. Sometimes I also set a "Room mic" which is in the back of the room for natural reverb… I will ALWAYS record a direct track. Using a direct box right into the board. I truly believe that gives off frequencies that you just can't get from a mic. You definitely can OVER do it but.. it always helps to have more tracks than less.

I have had songs where I have done 4 guitar tracks (all playing the same thing at different eq frequencies) but… personally I tend to just stick with the solid 2 guitar tracks and a Solo track (or 2 if there are harmonies)

For vocals I double track a lot. Or sometimes I'll single track and copy the track and move one a couple milliseconds ahead to give that "slapback" delay. It adds a doubling effect without it sounding to "chorus". Doubling is really a skill a singer needs to develop. If I am recording a singer who is unsure of himself I'll often record him once.. and mute the track and tell him to re-do it.. and see how it sync's up without him knowing.

Drums are a completely different matter and to be honest I can't give much advice for those besides… Less is more when it comes to a drum kit. I have a HUGE kit… it's not needed. Whenever I have someone record I basically strip the kit down to a 3 piece. Just because most drummers don't need all the bells and whistles and you're basically wasting time getting all of the mics sounding good when all you need is..

1 bass drum mic (don't cheap out on this)
2 for the snare (over and under)
1 for each tom (Rack & Floor)
and 2 overheads (remember to be careful for phasing out on the mix)

now… my kit (as it stands right now is mic'd)
1 bass drum mic (I don't remember the model number but it's a Shure.. it cost me about $300 it nice..)
2 SM57's for the Snare Drum (over and under.. I actually duck tape the sides of the 57's to stop as much "rattling" as possible)
4 SM57's for each tom (10,12,14,16)
2 Overheads (Cheapies… Shure PG something er others..)
and 2 more 57's for Over the Hi Hats and Under the Ride.

I mix my drums this way… (as far as faders go.. I'm going to use %)
Bass Drum 80%
Snare Over 35%
Snare Under 45%
Overheads (Panned to the Left and Right 90%) 20% (each)
Toms 65% (I do tend to take the lower toms down sometimes)
Hats 10%
Ride 10%

Advice for DRUMMERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (please read)
> I'm not saying that a metronome is the end all be all.. but.. if you can't play to a solid rhythem… LEARN!... Or you're going to find yourself paying a lot more money in the studio. I love the sound of a live band recording but some drummers just need to be grounded.. and some people need to punch and it's almost impossible to punch drums that are not to a metronome.. so LEARN!.. that goes for guitarists and bass players as well… if you can't play to a click track… sit down and work on your rhythm it's badly needed.

> Bring an extra snare head into the studio (or an extra snare would be even better if you have one) It's sad to say but some snares just don't sound right when put to tape. Some are pingy and annoying (see Lars' snare on St Anger).

> Learn how to tune your drums! I have had some drummers come in.. sit down and there drums have sounded like absoleute dog shit… This includes a couple of people who were playing for over 20 years. Your drums should SING in the studio… fucking throw out those O rings.. in the studio you're better duck taping any unwanted noise away.. but you should always have a little over-hum that continues after you hit that drum.. (no rattling… that is bad).

GUITARISTS (and bassists for that matter)
> when you know you are going into the studio be sure to restring your guitar the night before. Use that "String Ease" shit.. Put the strings on and tune the guitar about a half a step higher than you normally tune.. spray the strings and let it sit over night.. wake up in the morning and tune the guitar properly.. fact is.. your strings have just been stretched and will produce a much better tone and a much more solid sustain. IF YOUR STRINGS ARE MORE THAN 2 WEEKS OLD… RESTRING!!!!!!

> bring a spare set of guitar strings.. (and maybe even 2 extra high E strings just in case.) you never know.

>Bring (or make sure the studio has) sprite or some light carbonated beverage. Sounds crazy but I've seen sprite save a lot of vocalists when their voice was dying.
>Drink hot tea and do vocal exercises 30 minutes to an hour before going into the studio. Even if you're a screamer.



Myth: "I don't know why I can't sing this… I sound much better while playing guitar/bass"
Fact: No, you've always sounded like that you just didn't hear yourself because you were too busy playing guitar. Your voice doesn't change.. your comfort level does.

Myth: "We can just punch that… right?"
Fact: No! a lot of times you can't punch something without it screwing with the timing of the song. It is just a fact of life… sometimes you'll save more time re-recording something than working with something that starts off broken.

Myth: "I want my friend to come in the studio.."
Fact: NO you don't.. too many cooks spoil the soup… Fuck when I have a band in here.. if I notice that they are harping on the singer.. I will kick the band out and work with the singer one on one.. if the band doesn't like it… then find another singer.

Myth: "I just want to play around and experiment"
Fact: NO…. that is a job for you at home.. not in a studio where you are paying by the hour. You should KNOW what you're going to do when you go in.. or.. invest in a studio because with recording gear prices as low as they are you really can do this stuff yourself.

Myth: "I don't want to record direct.. I like my guitar sound"
Fact: You sir are an idiot! I understand you love your sound.. I understand it's a part of you… and you don't want to abort your baby right… right!?... well.. you don't have to.. but.. understand that technology has progressed and there is a lot to be said for getting those "direct channel" frequencies… Sometimes a blasting guitar is not going to mesh well with a microphone.. and .. well.. you don't want to record your guitar at low levels.

Myth: "Compression and Gate should be on EVERY TRACK!"
Fact: this is a HUGE misconception when it comes to recording. Compressing tracks tends to destroy important frequencies. (especially low end) Compressing bass guitar is VERY tricky.. and should only be done by a professional. Keep in mind. Your master will be compressed… and tweaked to high heaven.. so you're not hearing a final product at all.

That is all for now.. I hope this post helps someone..
Just please remember what I'm saying here… Explore every option. When I began playing drums I was taking advice from every side.. even moving my drums in uncomfortable setups because "that's the way Oly Olson played it" or.. "that's the way Vinny Appice suggested"… here's the thing.. Oly and Vinny are both light years ahead of me… but… the fact remains that… we are different people.. and we all learn different ways.. and have different positions we like to sit.. watch people bowl. When you first learn to bowl you copy what you are taught.. within' 2 or 3 times going back you start to find what works for you… so in turn.. life… is like bowling..

Don't be a gutterball!
(that wasn't even planned.. HA!)
Hope you are all well

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Planet Gemini March Update

Hello everyone,

I know I haven't had all that much to say in the last couple of months and it really is for good reason. I haven't been working on Planet Gemini material all that much. I've been wearing the producer's hat much more than the artist. Both are fun and don't get me wrong I'm not complaining at all but, I feel it is time to start heavily working on the next Planet Gemini album.

I have some great ideas that I've been throwing around but haven't really taken the time to polish much. Songs that I have floating around at the moment are "Hole in Heaven", "The Book of Red", and "The Cellar". I'm sure you can tell by the album titles that this is going to be a bit more of an "occult" driven album. I've been watching a lot of old movies about "the devil" and "possession" and I must admit it is really affecting the way that my music is coming out. Demos I have floating around are much more… experimental but I'm sure they'll heavy up nicely once I take the time to layer and play with things.

I don't like naming an album before it is released but right now I am referring to the album as "The Book of Red". Again, that is nothing set in stone but I have a feeling that it will all work itself out in due time.


*Release date*
Okay, as of right now I'd like to say that I should have the album done by early summer. However, as you all know sometimes I get a little sidetracked with other bands coming in and whatnot so I'm not 100% sure about anything. I will say this however, the 4 or 5 songs I am contemplating putting on the album are all 8-10 minutes long. So it's not going to be a short album by any stretch of the imagination. There will be no cover song on this album as I do plan on pressing it fully.

*Cauldron of Fuzz VI*
I can say this.. if the new album lasts beyond summer I will be putting it on hold to work on the next Cauldron of Fuzz installment. I REALLY enjoyed the last Cauldron of Fuzz (which can be downloaded for free here on the webpage). For those of you who have written me about "A Time Before Time" you'll be happy to know that there is going to be a lot more songs like that. I've been rehearsing the Cauldron V stuff a lot. I really wouldn't mind doing a "Live" recording of a Planet Gemini set for everyone who is clamoring to hear the stuff live. I have some friends that I jam with that would be happy to be on a PG recording. My only issue is playing the old songs without Josh feels kind of weird.. especially because the bass player I've been jamming with plays much more technical than Josh did and it sounds a little different.

*New Demos*
I'm going to take the time to upload some new demos sometime in the next couple of weeks. Due to the popularity of "A Time Before Time" I figured that I would put up the original demo. It's not too different but it really gives you an idea of how I write vocals. The demo track has the original improvisation. I have a couple more gems I would like to release and maybe for the heck of it I'll release a new track in demo form or something.


So hopefully you can see that everything is back on track. Expect a re-launch of in the coming months with some new content. Also… let me know if anyone would be interested in a podcast of sorts. I'm not looking to talk 100% about Planet Gemini, but about recording techniques that I use and how I go about getting certain sounds and certain ways to record different singers. As always your best way to reach me is by e-mail

Never fear I'm not looking to do the next "Ask a Ninja" or anything.. (which is fantastic by the way)
But I know there are some great audio podcasts that really help people that are just getting started.. and while I don't consider myself a professional or anything, I have worked with many seasoned pro's who have taught me many studio tricks… Music to me should be shared and as musicians we should ALL be about sharing techniques and making all of our material better.


Thank you all so much and I look forwarding to hearing for you soon~!