Originally Posted by NoahP.
So i was wondering if you could take the time to answer some questions about the recent Wombats album "The Wombats Proudly Present...This Modern Glitch" you featured on.
They're my favorite band so I'm jumping at this opportunity.
As far as I know you worked on "Tokyo" and "1996", so without further ado:
1) The drums in this album have this very distinctive sound, I can't quite put it into words, but they sound almost like samples, yet they have this very real quality at the same time. Can you tell me anything about how you went about recording them?
Of course I can only speak to the songs I recorded (Tokyo, 1996 and parts of Techno Fan). All three of the songs are combinations of live drums and samples. The drums on Tokyo and Techno Fan were very similar. A fully mic'd drum kit in the large room at Barefoot Recording with supplimental samples for the kick and snr. On Tokyo we also recorded a round of live industrial percussion. It was Dan out in the sound room banging on anything metal in the room. I later went through and picked out some highlights and either made loops of them or placed them as specific events. On tokyo the real meat of the low end on the kick comes from a sample off of an old Ice Cube remix. I ended up using that same sample on 1996. I like to try and keep some consistency with the samples where its appropriate to give the songs I worked on a more cohessive sound.
1996 was very different. The live part of that drum sound is mostly 2 microphones. It is a pair of Coles 4038s about 8' from the drum kit with a wide spread. One out in front of the hihat side of the kit and one out in front of the ride side of the kit. The kick was my red vista light and the snare was a tiny 8" pork pie snr. There were some close mics set up but mostly as guides for editing/lining up samples and were barely used at all in the final blend. The coles had a lot of 1176 compression and a ton of EQ. I was using both the UTA EQ and a pair of ADR vocal stressors for to get the sound. It took a lot of fiddling to get those to mics to sound complete. There is also samples blended in to give it a more sort of "80's" type sound. there is a different kick sample in the verse than in the chorus. The chorus uses the same Ice Cube kick sound that was in Tokyo. The guys in the band were very much into capturing an 80's type vibe on these recordings. I was going for a Tears For Fears meets Peter Gabriel kind of thing. In the choruses of 1996 I added a bunch of extra drum programming. There are 16th note hihat parts and really ridiculous very 80's sounding tom samples in there. I literally went for the cheesiest roland drum machine tom samples I could find. There is also a snare sample that is introduced in the choruses that is from the same Ice Cube remix as the kick. Ultimately all of the samples and drum mics get bussed through a pair of......... yep you guessed it Distressors!!! yeah!!! I would then send selected items (kick, toms) directly to the main mix buss so the low end can breath a little more. Both 1996 and Tokyo were started as live band performances. They were not recorded to a click. I comp'd together some takes and tempo mapped the live performance so I would have a grid to reference when lining up samples or editing other parts. The tempo definitely moves around on those tracks. I thought it would be a unique approach to these songs that are really designed to be dance music (which is usually brutally metronomic). I think it added a subtle little extra bit of life to those tracks than if we had just done them to a click and grid'd everything.
2) I've always been puzzled by the bass sound The Wombats have. It's a "gainy" sound but without any harshness and massive distortion. I've tried to get this sound myself but I've never been able to pull it off. Anything you can say about how that trebly sound was acquired?
Tord definitely has a specific bass he likes to use. He has a spectacular sounding 70's Fender P-bass. It is a great instrument. The action is a bit low so their is a fair amount of fret buzz going on all the time. It adds to the metallic brightness of the sound. Whenever I do that type of gainy sound with out being distorted or fuzzy this is how I approach it. I have one amp set up as a solid more straight forward sound... usually an SVT. i have another amp set very bright that is distorted. In this case it was an oldfield combo amp feeding an SVT 8x10 cab. The bright amp makes it so the distortion is on the overtones of the bass instead of the fundamental note. thats how you can get that crunchy aggressive sound instead of a dull fuzzy distortion. You have the other amp that is not distorting to carry a solid low end when they are blended together. the other way to achieve this if you only have one amp is to set the amp really really bright so the brightness is driving the distortion and then add low end with EQ on the mic. As soon as the low end starts to really distort the bass can lose depth, punch and focus.
3) The vocal harmonies used by The Wombats have always been very inspiring for me, they've just always been so effective. Anything you can tell me about making them have such a tight, focused sound?
Hmm... the answer is easy, but doing it is not. They are just really really good singers. All three of them have lead vocal caliber singing skills. If anyone out there gets a chance to see that band live, I highly recommend it. They are literally one of the best live band I have ever seen. There is an inconceivable amount of sound coming off the stage for 3 guys. All of them sing and play multiple instruments. the vocals are incredible (no samples) and Tord is one the most energetic performers i have ever seen. They are really fun to watch.
4) And lastly I was wondering just in general what it was like to work with them. From what I know (and have seen, and heard), The Wombats are a very musically adept band. What was it like working with them? Did you have to give a lot of input or were they rather confident and did they really know what kind of sound they were going for?
They are exceptionally talented and profoundly dedicated to their music. All three songs were kind of different as far as my involvement. Techno Fan already had a lot of work on it, litereally 200 tracks of stuff when it was handed to me. On that one I was just trying to organize all the existing ideas, pair it down a bit, help them make some difficult decisions about what parts/recordings should be kept and which ones should be muted. We then recorded a couple of things that I thought we might be able to beat.
On Tokyo they had a pretty good idea of what they wanted. They had already recorded a pretty well realized demo version of it and we didn't stray to far from that. We did record it from scratch and it was mostly about capturing great sounds and performances for all of the ideas.
1996 was a newer song for them and they hadn't really had a chance to pin down every aspect of the song yet. I probably had the most influence on that song. mostly on the live drum approach, some of the dynamics and textures in the chorus. I also did all of the supplemental drum programming on that one.