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Voodoo mixologies...
Old 23rd March 2007
  #1
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Voodoo mixologies...

greetings,

there have been similar questions about mixing approach and concepts for voodoo so i thought i'd try and tie some of them together here.

i've been thinking how to start my answer to this without getting drawn out...
first, i'd again like to thank you all for listening and recognizing what i do and i wish you all the best in your own quests!

i think there was something magical about the chemistry of everyone involved in making that record. we were all in the same frame of mind and goals. we all knew our roles and what each of us needed to contribute and it all came from the love of music and the belief in D'Angelo's talents and vision. i believe this to be an intangible reason as to why the record sounds like that.

i had a definite goal from the onset of this album. i've said before that i wanted to make records like the way my heroes made records. not neccessarily imitate, but take what i've learned from them and try to apply it to my own craft and hopefully i could attain the next level. but i hadn't met anyone whom i could realize this with.
so when i met D and we realized we could help each other in our quest, i just kept my goals in front of me and went in with a determined attitude.

okay the mushy, cosmic stuff is out of the way
i just had to get that out, thanks for listening....i'll be right back with the technical stuff in this same thread, so please check back!

cheers
Old 23rd March 2007
  #2
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If I had to list my top 5 favorite albums, this would be one of them. IMHO, you guys attained the next level.
Old 23rd March 2007
  #3
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mixology take 2...

hello,

as promised...let's get (a little) technical.

Quote:
D'Angelo's "voodoo" sounds incredible, it's really unique sonically. I'd be very interested to know about your approach to how you achieved that gorgeous low end, smooth vocals and feeling of air, space and dimension on that one. marcus
Quote:
I would like to know how you approach eq and compression for drums and bass. While I realize there are infinite possibilities, I am particularly interested in your technique for the Voodoo album. I have already read that you use the 1176 and Fairchild 670 compressors, etc.
But i'm more interested in your train of thought or goals when using compression. For instance, are you shortening the dynamic range and then boosting the compressed signal to achieve a fatter drum sound? What about the attack and release settings? Darryl Reeves
i have gone through much experimenting since voodoo. we started recording around november 1995, so that's over 10 years ago. so i was still learning (as i still am today) and experimenting a lot. i knew i got some great sounds on tape though. i remember doing rough mixes with everything flat, no eq or compression or reverb and thinking how good everything sounded...just like that...raw and gritty sounding.

i really loved the sound like that and found it hard to go in any other direction than what the original sounds were like, especially the drums and bass. there were times when i knew i wanted to twist something around with some sort of effect or processing but overall i felt the way to go was simple and raw and in your face.
so my concept was to use the eq's and compressors more for the sound quality of the signal running through the tubes or the transformers rather than extreme eq'ing or compression. obviously there were exceptions, as there always is, but that was my concept when i was mixing. i spent some time getting the blends just right to get the compressor to move things more outward than inward....essentially.

that's it for now....gotta go.
i'll be back though

Last edited by Russell Elevado; 23rd March 2007 at 08:09 PM.. Reason: date correction
Old 23rd March 2007
  #4
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mixologies take 3

hello,

Quote:
i just want to point out that this thread is only for voodoo mixing concepts. i try to have different approaches for every artist/album i do. my point is that not all the things i say in this thread applies to every project i work on.
i've always liked a full bass sound even from an early age. i would always turn the bass up on everyone's stereos in their cars or in their home. i was always the one adjusting everyone's eq's. so once i was behind the controls, i made sure the track had plenty of bottom. the records done in the late 60's and early 70's had bottom but in a different way, which i liked, but i like it more full sounding. and now we have the bandwidth to go a little further...

i dont think i really did anything out of the ordinary when i mixed voodoo. i just had a sound in my head (or should i say "on tape") and i went for it. but i think if you have good tracking skills, great gear and the right band when you're doing the initial tracking helps immensly. other than the obvious flanging, phasing, hard compression, etc, on certain instruments, the sounds are what i recorded. like i said in the last post, i put up the faders and that was basically the sound. so i didn''t do too much eq'ing. i experimented a lot as i had lots of time and freedom to do so, but ended up going with the raw sound most of the time. but the experimenting was not in vain because i learned so much during that time. a lot of the things i came up with i ended up doing with the roots and nikka costa, etc. in fact i couldn't wait to try out my new idea's and tricks with other artists.

i started blending the drums and bass first, this i do in general to start a mix. i eq/blend them at the same time. i know i used an la2a when i tracked the bass and i probably used an la2a and 1176 for the mix. back then i didn't have half the gear i own today (which might have been a good thing).
also a couple of people have pointed out that i slightly panned the drums and bass opposite from each other. not only for more seperation, but i like when things are panned 'cause it makes you feel like there's people in different parts of the room. it feels natural to me because of all my old school influences. and let's not forget that i recorded it to tape, that is definitely a big contributer to the warmth.

by now, everyone know's but let me reiterate: voodoo was tracked and mixed analog.
yes the entire process was analog, including mastering off 1/2". 3 songs (unfortunately) went into pro tools for editing purposes. but i transferred them back to 2" and mixed off tape. we did try and re-do the songs but couldn't get the same feel as the original performances so we just edited the mistakes out. we had over 100 reels when we finally finished. at that time Pro Tools was not the standard yet. But it was on it's way. I did A/B testing with it and i just couldn't believe how awful it sounded. The Digidesign 888's used some of the cheapest convertors you could find. the Adat's and DA-88's sounded way better. Apogee's were much better, but still not as good as the original analog tape source.

i'm sure you know i will be starting a thread about pro tools soon.
i'll be back on this thread with more anecdotes and concepts.

all the best

Last edited by Russell Elevado; 9th April 2007 at 07:13 PM.. Reason: added more info
Old 24th March 2007
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Russell Elevado View Post
i spent some time getting the blends just right to get the compressor to move things more outward than inward....essentially.
With "blends" do you mean like a group? For instance, all background vocals, drums, guitars, etc? Which you'd then put a stereo compressor on? So you'd have a stereo vocal blend, drum blend, guitar blend, etc?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Russell Elevado View Post
3 songs (unfortunately) went into pro tools for editing purposes. but i transferred them back to 2" and mixed off tape.
Were these 3 songs initially tracked to tape only? Or did you track everything to tape and protools simultaneously for backup and in case you needed to edit something?

Thanks in advance!
Anders
Old 24th March 2007
  #6
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I assisted Russell about 10 years ago while D was doing a track for the Space Jam soundtrack. What was interesting at the time is something that has stuck with me and influenced me a lot- Russell actually had a relationship with D. They got along. Russell understood him, he understood Russell. Take the Hit Factory out of it, take the label out of it, take the money out of it- they would have still wanted to make music together.

As a matter of fact, at the the time they were talking about doing a very Gearslutty thing in setting up a studio somewhere down south.

If you all want any hint of how to get that sound, learn how to get along with musicians and make sure the studio is completely cool the entire time everyone is there. The only other engineer I ever assisted who was as easy to be around and made the studio disappear as well was Warren Ryker, who worked with the Fugees.

Go figure. Cool makes cool.

Along with the team that was making the Seal track at the same time, my entire career was changed by those sessions. The thought of going back to a world where engineers babysat drum machines on records they didn't really like that much made by artists and producers they really didn't know, care about, or respect really sucked.
Old 30th March 2007
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joemamma View Post
With "blends" do you mean like a group? For instance, all background vocals, drums, guitars, etc? Which you'd then put a stereo compressor on? So you'd have a stereo vocal blend, drum blend, guitar blend, etc?
Were these 3 songs initially tracked to tape only? Or did you track everything to tape and protools simultaneously for backup and in case you needed to edit something? Thanks in advance! Anders
hey anders,

i'll take all my background vocals, for example, and group them all to a stereo compressor and eq. and i'll blend the harmonies in that group. mostly, when i group things that will have the same processing on them, it will be of the same instruments. so seperate groups for guitars, vocals, etc. there are times when i will group a bunch of different things together and go for an overall compression or processing.

pro tools was not even an option at all for me when i was tracking, although it was available. so no, we didn't have pro tools running simultaneously with tape. in fact, i didn't even want to see a pro tools rig in my sight. as i've stated, we edited in pro tools as a last resort as we wanted to use the performance of the live take but it was transferred after the fact. everything was recorded to tape initially.

there's a different vibe and intensity in the studio when all you're using is tape. everyone is that much more concentrated as there is no "undo" feature on the tape machine. punching on a track is final, no going back once you've punched onto the track. so you either play it right or risk losing it.

cheers
Old 30th March 2007
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robdarling View Post
I assisted Russell about 10 years ago while D was doing a track for the Space Jam soundtrack. What was interesting at the time is something that has stuck with me and influenced me a lot- Russell actually had a relationship with D. They got along. Russell understood him, he understood Russell. Take the Hit Factory out of it, take the label out of it, take the money out of it- they would have still wanted to make music together.
As a matter of fact, at the the time they were talking about doing a very Gearslutty thing in setting up a studio somewhere down south.
If you all want any hint of how to get that sound, learn how to get along with musicians and make sure the studio is completely cool the entire time everyone is there. The only other engineer I ever assisted who was as easy to be around and made the studio disappear as well was Warren Ryker, who worked with the Fugees.
Go figure. Cool makes cool.
Along with the team that was making the Seal track at the same time, my entire career was changed by those sessions. The thought of going back to a world where engineers babysat drum machines on records they didn't really like that much made by artists and producers they really didn't know, care about, or respect really sucked.
hey rob,
thanks for sharing that...
i remember your name but i can't place a face....sorry, that was so long ago. but that's an awesome observation! and i totally agree with you. projects have much more of a chance of having something unique when everyone is connecting on the same level. and like i've said, i really make it a point to get into the artist's head so i can get their vision across.
another good point is getting the environment right for eveyone including the engineer. the vibes have to be right...

alll the best
Old 30th March 2007
  #9
Gear interested
 

Hi Russ,

Hi Russ,

I’ve been poking around Gearslutz for a while now and was completely surprised to see your Q&A. I’m pleased to discover you receiving the recognition you deserve.

One post that really stuck out for me was Rob Darling’s comment: “If you all want any hint of how to get that sound, learn how to get along with musicians and make sure the studio is completely cool the entire time everyone is there.” I immediately thought to myself “yes, this person definitely worked with Russ.”

In my experience, “the environment” began with you, and, as Rob pointed out (and you demonstrated), cool does make cool. Observing your way with artists always challenged me to relate to others better (and to cultivate more humility). You certainly have a gift in that department -- and many others.

Just wanted to say “hi.” Hope you are well,
Tyler
Old 30th March 2007
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Russell Elevado View Post
pro tools was not even an option at all for me when i was tracking, although it was available. so no, we didn't have pro tools running simultaneously with tape. in fact, i didn't even want to see a pro tools rig in my sight. as i've stated, we edited in pro tools as a last resort as we wanted to use the performance of the live take but it was transferred after the fact. everything was recorded to tape initially.
Okay, that's what I thought!
Thank you!
Anders
Old 1st April 2007
  #11
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Smile

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyler G View Post
Hi Russ,
I’ve been poking around Gearslutz for a while now and was completely surprised to see your Q&A. I’m pleased to discover you receiving the recognition you deserve.
One post that really stuck out for me was Rob Darling’s comment: “If you all want any hint of how to get that sound, learn how to get along with musicians and make sure the studio is completely cool the entire time everyone is there.” I immediately thought to myself “yes, this person definitely worked with Russ.”
In my experience, “the environment” began with you, and, as Rob pointed out (and you demonstrated), cool does make cool. Observing your way with artists always challenged me to relate to others better (and to cultivate more humility). You certainly have a gift in that department -- and many others.
Just wanted to say “hi.” Hope you are well, Tyler
hey Tyler!

nice to hear from you! where have you been???
thanks so much for the compliment and keen observation!
i hope you too are well. you should call me and we can get caught up!

all the best
Old 1st April 2007
  #12
Gear addict
 

hi Russell,

after all your comments i have a question in mind:

How many time did you spend on that album ? From beginning to the finished product ?

thats really interesting to know!!

bye chester
Old 1st April 2007
  #13
Gear interested
 

Out of curiosity

Quote:
Originally Posted by Russell Elevado View Post
hello,

3 songs (unfortunately) went into pro tools for editing purposes. but i transferred them back to 2" and mixed off tape. we did try and re-do the songs but couldn't get the same feel as the original performances so we just edited the mistakes out.
Which songs are you referring to?

And off-topic, D'Angelo and you were supposedly working on a live album back in 2001. Was it because that tour was already heavily bootlegged that it didn't happen? I remember reading he wanted to put two new songs on there ("Betray My Heart" and "Say A Prayer".. still curious about those songs).

Thanks.
Old 2nd April 2007
  #14
Gear addict
 

Quote:
i remember doing rough mixes with everything flat, no eq or compression or reverb and thinking how good everything sounded...just like that...raw and gritty sounding.
hi russ,
i'm wondering about reverbs used for general ambience..
were you also in a 2 emt plate (LR) period then? or was that a little later?

and did the rawness of the drums then affect the way the backing vocals were tracked? e.g. more natural room ambience on tape or was that developed more in the mixing stage of the project?

the intimacy on the album is one of the characteristics i like the most even though i must admit i was disappointed when i first heard it and it took me a few months of listening to 'get it'

i had a preconception of what the album 'should have been' or was 'going to be' after brown sugar, i expected state of the art in a shiny polished digital way.. hmmm tutt
in the end the innovation came in other ways..
the tuning and flams of the drums.. the smoky feeling around the horns.. meth and red ad libs on left and right... i could go on...

anyway now it's one of a few albums that i can play from beginning to end without skipping. i learnt a valuable lesson about mixing and recording possibilities and also having expectations. (progress does n't have to come dressed in 1s and 0s)

and thanks for your time and humility.
you appear to be able to see the connections between everyone involved on a project from atrist to assistant to even the a&r and recognise that all have to find and maintain the higher self in order to create and support something of worth.

good luck with everything,
tony


p.s. great hook-up jules, respect to you and your team for the work you do to make this happen
Old 5th April 2007
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ninjaneer View Post
hi russ,
i'm wondering about reverbs used for general ambience..
were you also in a 2 emt plate (LR) period then? or was that a little later?
and did the rawness of the drums then affect the way the backing vocals were tracked? e.g. more natural room ambience on tape or was that developed more in the mixing stage of the project?
the intimacy on the album is one of the characteristics i like the most even though i must admit i was disappointed when i first heard it and it took me a few months of listening to 'get it'.
i had a preconception of what the album 'should have been' or was 'going to be' after brown sugar, i expected state of the art in a shiny polished digital way.. hmmm tutt
in the end the innovation came in other ways..
the tuning and flams of the drums.. the smoky feeling around the horns.. meth and red ad libs on left and right... i could go on...
anyway now it's one of a few albums that i can play from beginning to end without skipping. i learnt a valuable lesson about mixing and recording possibilities and also having expectations. (progress doesn't have to come dressed in 1s and 0s)
and thanks for your time and humility.
you appear to be able to see the connections between everyone involved on a project from atrist to assistant to even the a&r and recognise that all have to find and maintain the higher self in order to create and support something of worth.
good luck with everything,
tony
hello tony,

thanks very much for the compliments heh. that's some really nice insight. i'm glad the album "grew" on you. a lot of people who were fans of brown sugar have mentioned that.
yes i was already doing 2 plates in LR back then. that give's them their own type of movement on either speaker rather than an imposed stereo.

a lot of people mention the intimacy on the album and ask how i achieved it. and i seat here and think, yeah, how did that happen? i think it sort of happened on its own. i wasn't keeping that thought in my mind at any part of the process. which is why it's hard to answer sometimes. i've come up with a few insightful things throughout this forum but i think there are two i have taken for granted.

first, we should not forget d'angelo. he gave us the vibes and we went with it. it was there when we first started. it's his energy and his music and we helped bring it to life. but it starts with him.

second,
everything is played or sung live throughout the album. D'angelo sang every last lick of every verse and every chorus. there's only one, maybe two songs where i "pasted" his vocals (the old school term would be "fly-in"). D likes to sing his choruses live for each chorus. so no two choruses are the same. and we didn't loop or copy any of the players parts either. all of the instruments are "live". i think if you add this up with all the other equations i've mentioned in this forum, it would equal...chemistry.

all the best
Old 6th April 2007
  #16
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Russ...

Whats up Russ? So glad to see your getting the cool Gearslutz treatment man. Ya rock dude keep up the killer work you do. Are you still using those Semiens units ya got from me years ago?


Jay
Old 8th April 2007
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Doucet View Post
Whats up Russ? So glad to see your getting the cool Gearslutz treatment man. Ya rock dude keep up the killer work you do. Are you still using those Semiens units ya got from me years ago? Jay
Hello jay!!!
wow, nice to hear from you again and thanks ! that was actually an original rack of telefunken v676a's you sold me. that was one of the best deals i ever got as well as one of the first real "pro" pieces i ever bought and of course i still use them to this day heh. i've gotten more modules since then as they're one of my favorite types of pre's so i would never part with that rack.

i believe the last time we spoke, you had a song you wrote that was getting some interest, no? anyway, i called you about a piece on your site and you mentioned something like this. well i hope you're doing great! stay in touch...

all the best
Old 8th April 2007
  #18
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cool to have you in on q&a, russ

can only echo whats already been said here, voodoo is one of my all time fave albums, i rate it up there with the classic soul LPs from the 60s/70s

my question is: how much 'erb was bein passed around during the sessions?

only kiddin', how much of the gear used was vintage? does it matter? what are some of your favourite pieces?

oh btw, thanks for helping me into numerous girls panties, it is a most potent aphrodisiac. voodoo-like, even
Old 9th April 2007
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Russell Elevado View Post
Hello jay!!!
wow, nice to hear from you again and thanks ! that was actually an original rack of telefunken v676a's you sold me. that was one of the best deals i ever got as well as one of the first real "pro" pieces i ever bought and of course i still use them to this day heh. i've gotten more modules since then as they're one of my favorite types of pre's so i would never part with that rack.

i believe the last time we spoke, you had a song you wrote that was getting some interest, no? anyway, i called you about a piece on your site and you mentioned something like this. well i hope you're doing great! stay in touch...

all the best
Yo Russ, yeah man, its been a while. Glad those Telefunkens worked out great for ya. They do rock!!! Yep, Songwise, Ive gotten 8 of my tunes cut here in Nashville so far, Life is good. Dude stay in touch, and keep kicking ass out there.

JD
Old 9th April 2007
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by worm View Post
my question is: how much 'erb was bein passed around during the sessions?
I'm kinda curious about this one too! There must have been some brown sugar going around!
Old 9th April 2007
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joemamma View Post
I'm kinda curious about this one too! There
must have been some brown sugar going around!
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