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She's So Unusual
Old 3rd August 2005
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

She's So Unusual

Calling mr. Wittman...Calling mr. Wittman.

Curious about what you used to track, mix, what equipment, console, recorders, mics and anything else you may remember about the Cyndi Lauper sessions (Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Time After Time)?
Old 4th August 2005
  #2
Lives for gear
Well for starters,

it was an API desk (the one that made it's way to Kingsway in New Orleans after Record Plant NYC closed) and an Ampex MM1200 recorder
456 at my usual level (6 over 250 nW/m = 0 Vu)

all the guitars were 1 U-87 into an La2a.. usually an AC30. A few Marshalls here and there, notably the Marshall 50 watt 2x12 combo on Time After Time.

Bass was into an AMpeg B-15 mic'ed with an RE20.
Also a DBX 160 and a Pultec MEQ-5 on the bass guitar.

Drums were in the middle of that VERY live room...
RE20 in bass drum with blankets over it.
Km84 on the snare.
87's on toms (when there were any)
KM86 on the high hat (which was often under a bath towel when we used HH at all)
Overheads were M160's and I had a distant STC4038 ribbon way back in the room.
On some songs, I gated that distant room, triggering it from the close snare mic and compressing it to death in a DBX 160. Girls was one of those.
We used the Linn drum a lot as a basic foundation groove before we overdubbed drums, and in manyb cases we kept some Linn element, either a HH or shaker or something to mix with the live drums.

Some keys were also into the mic'ed AC30 and some synths were DI.
Whatever delays or effects, we printed right to tape, except on the vocals.

Vocal was either a U-47 or U-47fet depending on how loud she sang each song.
Always compressed with an API 525.

The mix was the last NON automated mix I ever did.
I mixed it to 15ips 456 (might have even been 1/4", I'm not certain!) on an ATR 102.
we mixed in the RPS mix room on the custom Trident TSM.
I would mix the enitre song making marks on the faders for each move I needed to make and rehearsing until I had the mix... then I would print it and then go back and fix anything that wasn't just right, editing in the fixes.
Eventually the tape had LOADS of edited small sections and that was the mix.


what else?
Old 4th August 2005
  #3
Gear Maniac
 

Memory

Thanks much for the detailed info.

Do you have this documented or is this all from memory?

I love the detail, man.

P.S. Do you know what Cyndi's doing these days?
Old 4th August 2005
  #4
Gear Maniac
 

Automation

So are all the vintage desks you still mix today on have fader automation.

Being essentially, home studio I never had the luxury. I've owned some great boards, but could never get past the cost of installing automation. Of course, I wasn't working with serious engineers/producers, nor had the business to justify it.

Every time I looked at the costs of automation, I thought, man, wouldn't that money be better spent on a Neumann?

Side note, what do you think of a Trident 80B as a mix desk compared to a discrete API or NEVE?
Old 4th August 2005
  #5
Lives for gear
I PERSONALLY think the Trident 80's are fairly "eh" sounding.
Adequate but terribly unexciting.
I wouldn't mix on one by choice.

and yes, I almost always mix with automation on the desk... GML being my preference.

I do occasionally mix at a studio with a nice API but no automation, and we've used the ProTools automation into the desk, leaving all 32 faders set at "0"... but it's FAR from my preferred way to work. It's a compromise all round.


all that is from memory... perhaps it's all wrong! {g}

Cyndi, right now, is resting!
We're in the middle of another record that I start mixing on August 15.

(I also play in her live band these last 5 years, if you didn't know)
Old 4th August 2005
  #6
Gear Maniac
 

APIs

Do you ever find APIs to bit a dark on the mix buss? I use to own one, and one of my friend's owns one now, and to me there seems to bit too much build up of that pleasing low mid harmonic distortion (that I fight to get out the mix). Don't get me wrong I love APIs, but I was curious what you thought?
Old 4th August 2005
  #7
Gear Maniac
 

One Other Ting

How are you mixing the next record for Cyndi. Off Protools, Tape? SSL?
Old 4th August 2005
  #8
Lives for gear
I also don;t really like SSL's... sonically.

I'll mix this record on a discrete 8078 with GML, from ProTools HD (at 96k) into the desk, just using PT as a tape machine, and then TO 1/2" analogue 456.
(at 15ips)


I have no problems with API's. i love them.
Old 4th August 2005
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by wwittman
I PERSONALLY think the Trident 80's are fairly "eh" sounding.
Adequate but terribly unexciting.
I wouldn't mix on one by choice.


So how do you feel about the TSM versus the 80? I've heard some mixes done on a TSM that are like ear candy...but sometimes it's hard to seperate the engineer from the board from the outboard gear.
Old 4th August 2005
  #10
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by NathanEldred
So how do you feel about the TSM versus the 80? I've heard some mixes done on a TSM that are like ear candy...but sometimes it's hard to seperate the engineer from the board from the outboard gear.
TSMs are sweet-sounding consoles and very easy to work on when they're in good shape.

Chris Garges
Charlotte, NC
Old 4th August 2005
  #11
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by wwittman

Cyndi, right now, is resting!
We're in the middle of another record that I start mixing on August 15.

(I also play in her live band these last 5 years, if you didn't know)
I didn't realize you were playing with Cyndi. I caught the Soundstage TV show a few months ago. It was great, I wish I had been there.

Did you play on the Joni Mitchell tribute concert a while back? Cyndi was just amazing on that show. I wish there was a record released of that show, just to get Cyndi's and Richard Thompson's performances would be worth the price.
Old 4th August 2005
  #12
Lives for gear
 
2leod's Avatar
 

After you've answered Nathan question, a little side note...

Although Cyndi Lauper's radio hits always caught my ear, I was never enough of a fan to buy her albums. A couple of months ago I saw her on a PBS special and I was really impressed. Great range, huge stage presence, really drew the crowd in and every cover song that night she owned and delivered. A true talent... and looking at the discography it looks like you've played quite a roll in helping her finding her place. Props to you, Mr Wittman!
Old 4th August 2005
  #13
Hey William,

I love the sound of this album. Very smooth sounding in the highs. No harshness.

Two quick questions:

Did you use any dolby A when traking on the mm1200?

What is the short predelayed reverb on the voice for most of the album? It sounds very cool.

Thanks,

Phil

www.sageelectronics.com
Old 4th August 2005
  #14
Lives for gear
that's me playing bass guitar on the Soundstage taping.
It was actually one of the very first performances of some of the material from the last album, so those spots are a bit rough.
They got a lot better!


Definitely no noise reduction on She's So Unusual.

There's not much reverb in general on the album but what there is a mix of EMT 250, and plates.

There's almost always a bit of delay on her voice, from a Publison DHM-89 delay/harmoniser which was a great box. It sounded unusually 'analogue'; like tape delay.
Almost all the delays on the record are the Publison.

I suspect what you're calling predelayed reverb is really a bit of Publison before that you hear before you hear the reverb.

I also used the Publison to make the stereo chorus effect on the Time After Time guitars.
It was something I threw up in a hurry while Eric was running it down; but it worked.
Old 4th August 2005
  #15
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by wwittman
that's me playing bass guitar on the Soundstage taping.
It was actually one of the very first performances of some of the material from the last album, so those spots are a bit rough.
They got a lot better!
It was still great

Quote:
Originally Posted by wwittman
-snip-
I also used the Publison to make the stereo chorus effect on the Time After Time guitars.
It was something I threw up in a hurry while Eric was running it down; but it worked.
Yes it did! Does Eric sing the male harmony? I always loved the color it adds to the song.
Old 4th August 2005
  #16
Lives for gear
 
swankdoc's Avatar
 

Cool thread, thanks.
Huge fan of Ms Lauper. Actually the best concert I've ever seen, and I've seen a bazillion or so, was her "so unusual" show, Paramount Seattle. That lady can flat out sing. I've always wanted her to do more stuff, explore other genres. How about a (jazz) ballad album? She'd kill.
Tell her I got a great garage based recording studio and some wonderful jazz musicians up here in Seattle if she ever wants to relax, have some fun and explore...

Thanks again for the thread info....
Old 4th August 2005
  #17
Lives for gear
 
Kestral's Avatar
 

I wish I could go back in time with Autotune and tune the vocal for "All Through The Night". Her pitch was pretty brutal, especially in the line "Stray cat is crying so stray cat sings back"
Old 4th August 2005
  #18
Lives for gear
 
kevinc's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 2leod
After you've answered Nathan question, a little side note...

Although Cyndi Lauper's radio hits always caught my ear, I was never enough of a fan to buy her albums. A couple of months ago I saw her on a PBS special and I was really impressed. Great range, huge stage presence, really drew the crowd in and every cover song that night she owned and delivered. A true talent... and looking at the discography it looks like you've played quite a roll in helping her finding her place. Props to you, Mr Wittman!

It`s true.

Once you get past her punky vibe (which I like anyways) she is a pretty good singer. I think she sounds a little better and keeps tone better in her upper register but she can be pretty impressive up there.

Plus She`s just such a weirdo that you gotta love her. heh

Some of the songs had some pretty cool instrumentation in them as well. I didn`t notice it as much when the song first came out but the main guitar riff in Girls just wanna have fun is fairly bitchen indeed !
Old 4th August 2005
  #19
Lives for gear
 
bunnerabb's Avatar
I probably told this story, before, but I don't really work with many famous types, these days, and it's a good one.

Way back in the day, Cyndi Lauper fronted a band caled "BLue Angel" and they were opening for a band I used to work with called "American Noise" at the old (some say the true) Agora in Cleveland, on E. 24th.

Poor Cyndi.. so sick.. nasty head cold. She was bent over a vapouriser for about an hour before the show, all sniffly...

She then went out and slapped the living **** out of the Agora, man.

And on the Cher tour.. what two years ago? She had some sort of support thing on her leg.. I think it was broken.. she rocked the place, none the less.

True trooper.

You wanna hear some singing? Listen to her on "Money Changes Everything".

I don't think many chickie-boo, asscrack divas of the day could get NEAR her if they even knew how.
Old 5th August 2005
  #20
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by wwittman
that's me playing bass guitar on the Soundstage taping.
It was actually one of the very first performances of some of the material from the last album, so those spots are a bit rough.
They got a lot better!


Definitely no noise reduction on She's So Unusual.

There's not much reverb in general on the album but what there is a mix of EMT 250, and plates.

There's almost always a bit of delay on her voice, from a Publison DHM-89 delay/harmoniser which was a great box. It sounded unusually 'analogue'; like tape delay.
Almost all the delays on the record are the Publison.

I suspect what you're calling predelayed reverb is really a bit of Publison before that you hear before you hear the reverb.


I also used the Publison to make the stereo chorus effect on the Time After Time guitars.
It was something I threw up in a hurry while Eric was running it down; but it worked.


Mr Wittman,

It is my pleasure to say "hello". My Band was one of that last bands to record at the NYC Record Plant in the "b" studio. The Hooters had me sing on a song of theirs while they were recording there at the same time.

The engineer (I believe his name was John, dark hair, mustache) who worked on our sessions took me upstairs to show me where some of Cyndi's vocals were done. This was a torn down area of the 2nd floor with much debris from walls crumbling and so on. I am not certain if it really was the area where her vocals were done (on the last record there), but if it was, could you elaborate on why that area was desireable for such?

A big fan,

Joel DuBay
Old 5th August 2005
  #21
The vocals on "time after time" sound so sad & (sucker that I am) often make me 'choke up' and .... well, want to cry..

whats the deal there? I dont track lyrics too much when I listen to pop I am a solid 80% music person 20%lyrics - "waiting hesitating" - "we cant rewind" (a recording pun) is about all I can ever remember + the chorus...

Wasn't she dating her A&R guy / producer? ...(sh!t was that you?!!!!!)

Anyhow what was the EMOTIONAL background on that track..??

Did you bawl as she put the vocals down? Did the assitant engineer need a mop and a bucket? I think I would have been a wreck....
Attached Thumbnails
She's So Unusual-kleenex.jpg  
Old 5th August 2005
  #22
Lives for gear
 
audioez's Avatar
 

LINN DRUM any one???

<img src="http://www.ezraudio.com/K1.jpg"align="middle"/>
Old 5th August 2005
  #23
I found this

http://www.songfacts.com/detail.lasso?id=672

Interesting seems to look at it from the songwriting viewpoint..
Old 5th August 2005
  #24
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Drumsound
Does Eric sing the male harmony? I always loved the color it adds to the song.
no, that's the OTHER Hooter, who wrote the song with her, Rob Hyman, singing.
Old 5th August 2005
  #25
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by swankdoc
I've always wanted her to do more stuff, explore other genres. How about a (jazz) ballad album? She'd kill.
.
did you hear At Last? the record we made a year or so ago?
It;s CLOSE to that in some ways.

personally, Jazz gives me hives.

"good jazz musician" always strikes me as a bit contradictory {g}
I always figure they just weren't developed enough to move on to rock.
Old 5th August 2005
  #26
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kestral
I wish I could go back in time with Autotune and tune the vocal for "All Through The Night". Her pitch was pretty brutal, especially in the line "Stray cat is crying so stray cat sings back"
Wow i SO don't hear it that way.


I heard that line as a bend, not as out of tune. It's totally intentional AND it lands in tune to my ears.
(which as far as pitch go, are pretty good... I have near perfect pitch)
Old 5th August 2005
  #27
Quote:
Originally Posted by wwittman
that's me playing bass guitar on the Soundstage taping.
It was actually one of the very first performances of some of the material from the last album, so those spots are a bit rough.
They got a lot better!


Definitely no noise reduction on She's So Unusual.

There's not much reverb in general on the album but what there is a mix of EMT 250, and plates.

There's almost always a bit of delay on her voice, from a Publison DHM-89 delay/harmoniser which was a great box. It sounded unusually 'analogue'; like tape delay.
Almost all the delays on the record are the Publison.

I suspect what you're calling predelayed reverb is really a bit of Publison before that you hear before you hear the reverb.

I also used the Publison to make the stereo chorus effect on the Time After Time guitars.
It was something I threw up in a hurry while Eric was running it down; but it worked.
Willam, thank you for sharing this, I have that publison DHM-89, I got it recently, when I heard the sound and fx of this unit I was fascinated! I think this unit should have cost a fortune in the 80s because in it you have a lot of functions that were almost imposible to get on those days.

Now after reading your response Im going to try it on guitars as chorus or Delay.

Thank you for sharing all this, for me (and Im shure for all of us!!) this is invaluable info.
Beast regards.

Armando Avila
Old 5th August 2005
  #28
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by bunnerabb
And on the Cher tour.. what two years ago? She had some sort of support thing on her leg.. I think it was broken.. she rocked the place, none the less.

yes, you noticed that even in those arenas she'd run out into the audience... and on one night she fell on the makeshift steps on the side of the stage and went down with her leg dragging.
We only cancelled one show though... she did the rest with a cane until she didn't need it anymore.

first and foremost though she is a GREAT singer.
Old 5th August 2005
  #29
Lives for gear
Was that John Agnello?
John assisted me on She's So Unusual and was my engineer on lots of records after that until he went off on his own to produce (and became an indie god)

That empty warehouse space on the 10th floor was affectionately (and sarcastically) called Studio E...
it was in the back behind the Mixroom.

When we had moved up to the Mixroom to finish the record, there were some vocals remaining to be done.
And for some of them, Cyndi decided she wanted to sing in 'E'.
First off, it was big and empty and weird and i think she liked that!
And second, we couldn't see her at all in there and it was somehow liberating for her.

Half of Girls was sung in there and half was the vocal from downstairs in B... i made the switch, in the mix, during the solo.

What was your band called?

B was an INCREDIBLE room.
Perhaps the best sounding rock band room I've ever heard anywhere.
Ridiculously live for its size; which is why it worked if you could figure it out.
Some pople went in there and made it sound just awful... you had to know how to USE the room, not fight it.



Quote:
Originally Posted by powerjoe
Mr Wittman,

It is my pleasure to say "hello". My Band was one of that last bands to record at the NYC Record Plant in the "b" studio. The Hooters had me sing on a song of theirs while they were recording there at the same time.

The engineer (I believe his name was John, dark hair, mustache) who worked on our sessions took me upstairs to show me where some of Cyndi's vocals were done. This was a torn down area of the 2nd floor with much debris from walls crumbling and so on. I am not certain if it really was the area where her vocals were done (on the last record there), but if it was, could you elaborate on why that area was desireable for such?

A big fan,

Joel DuBay
Old 5th August 2005
  #30
Lives for gear
"the second hand unwinds..."

"we can't rewind" would be Video Killed The Radio Star!

Time always sounded amazing for some odd reason from the first second we laid down the Linn Drum guide to the last guitar overdub.
Everytime I pushed up the faders it sounded magical.

But it was a very straight ahead recording... it wasn't particularly emotional to record.

I do remember it being written though... she had the title from a movie listing she'd seen in TV Guide, and we went out to dinner on a break and she and Rob stayed behind to work on it.
When we came back they were sitting at the piano in Studio A (the room we weren;t working in on the ground floor) and they played it for us.
Most of the lyric wasn't there yet but it had the chorus and Rob was playing it in kind of a bouncy reggae style.

But from there, in the next few days, it came together very quickly and relatively easily.
The guitar was actually the last thing to go on, and, except fot a bit of the solo section, it was added up in the mixroom with Eric standing in front of the desk between the two huge Westlake speakers on plinths.
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