The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
Elvis Costello's "Satellite" from 'Spike'
Old 10th February 2007
Lives for gear
timtoonz's Avatar
Elvis Costello's "Satellite" from 'Spike'

Mixmaster Killen (!),

whether it was your intention or not, you've kicked off a week of "Killen Music" in my studio, and I've been rediscovering so many great albums and artists over the last few days thanks to you... Which brings us to:

Elvis Costello's "Spike" - everyone has what they figure is Elvis' most underrated gem of a record, and this is it for me. A beautiful sounding CD full of standout tracks, beautiful sounds and great variety. But my favourite of'em all is 'Satellite'. It gets me every time. So....

What can you remember about the recording/mix?

It's a huge production, glocks, timps, xylo's... was it tricky getting all that together without losing the sense of space?

Is there a trick to EQ'ing or compressing timps? (I find they never poke out properly in my stuff, then turn into low-mid mud when compressed.)

The snare reverb, kind of a delayed Lexicon plate?

...And if it's not too much to ask, I'm also curious about all the brass on this CD (The Dirty Dozen Brass band, as I recall). Was it tough integrating them into the mix? The way the tuba fits into those 'funky bass' parts is always fun to listen to.

...And the guitar on 'Baby Plays Around'.... MAN I LOVE THIS CD!

(Er, excuse me. It's playing in the background as I type and I was blown away - again. I guess good music is SUPPOSED to do that. So easy to forget that, some days.)
Old 11th February 2007
engineer / producer / mixer
Kevin Killen's Avatar


There is a funny story associated with "Satellite", EC very much wanted the song to have a Burt Bacharach flavor and sound, hence all the orchestral percussion.

We laid the backing track down with electric drums and Piano and Chamberlin. Then Michael Blair added all of the orchestral parts. We were referencing some of Bacharachs most famous recordings, thinking of course we were getting his sound. While we were adding the sonic components to our song we truly oblivious to how Burt really worked.

We added bass with TBone Wolk and Jim Keltner added the snares ( I believe it was a combination of a plate and a chamber ). Just before we completed the song we discovered that Burt was recording in studio 1 next door. Elvis plucked up the courage to introduce himself and asked Burt if he would lend an ear to the song.

Burt was incredible gracious and said he liked the song. Ten years later after we worked together on "Painted from Memory" we realized the folly of our approach.

Burt is meticulous in terms of arrangement and parts. He manages to produce a really full sounding song with VERY LITTLE instrumentation. Meanwhile we had thrown literally the kitchen sink at our production and although its a great song, EC and I both believe that had BB done it , the song would have been even better. We all had a great laugh about that moment during the making of "Painted". Burt said something to the effect, "I liked the song, but the production was a little confused sounding !"

For tymps, I found moving the mic back 4 or 5 feet , up around head height and pointing down toward the skin to be really effective. just open up that mic pre and let the sound of the instrument fill the room. Very little eq and compression needed.

As for the Dirty Dozen, it was not a problem fitting them into the mix. After recording the three traditional songs in Dublin, we headed to New Orleans to work with the DD. Because they were the foundation for those songs, it was very much a question of making all the overdubs blend with them.

Glad you like the record, I need to listen to that one again. Also not a bad record for mixing without automation !!!!!!!

Old school.......

Old 11th February 2007
Lives for gear
timtoonz's Avatar

Wonderful detail and a fab story. And I know it's heresy to admit it, but I actually prefer the 'confused' kitchen sink production style of Satellite to the sparser, 'smarter' sound of Burt's classic recordings -- impressive and elegant as they are. Guess it's my 'over-produced' roots showing (I was raised on Queen, 10cc, Genesis and the collected works of Bob Ezrin. There! I admit it!)

Maybe some day I'll learn how to keep it simple.

Thanks again. thumbsup
Old 12th February 2007
engineer / producer / mixer
Kevin Killen's Avatar


I was raised on all of that too including a healthy dose of Beatles, Zeppelin, Stones , Motown and Thin Lizzy.

But I can appreciate what you are saying.


Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Forum Jump
Forum Jump