EQ Interview Extras: Jake
By Jack Britton
The February issue of
EQ profiled Jake Shimabukuro’s Peace Love Ukelele. Here, read more from
engineer Milan Bertosa about working with Shimabukuro.
Bertosa: Jake and
I started working together about three years ago and we’ve worked on three or
four things that ended up in Japan plus the  live album.
Most of the new album [Peace
Love Ukulele] was done at a studio on Oahu outside of Honolulu called Avex.
It’s a really nice built in the mid- to late ’90s, with a couple of SSL control
rooms, a good sized room for drums and various booths. It’s a good space. I
usually bring in my own pre’s and Pro Tools rig, so basically we use the SSL
for monitoring. Kanye West was downstairs recording while we working at Avex. A
couple of things were done at Sony Studio A in Tokyo on a Neve board, using
Almost everything was recorded live in the studio. A lot of
the tunes were first take—like “Go for Broke,” and “Bring Your Adz” was
probably a first or second take with some punches in. So, it would be Jake and [bassist]
Dean Taba and [drummer] Noel Okimoto, who tour with hi. We tried to capture the
performances, His players are great and making stuff too stylized doesn’t
really get you anywhere so I try not to change the sound of the instruments.
The ukulele is pretty amazing as it is, and so is the stuff he does on there. Basically,
if you capture what’s coming off his hands it’s a ‘win.’
EQ: Is recording Jake
different than recording another great uke player, like Troy Fernandez?
Well, Jake is incredibly meticulous about what he wants to
hear out of his instrument, more than anyone else I’ve worked with. Troy
Fernandez and I worked a lot together. The sound of him playing the uke is the
sound of the uke struggling to stay in one piece, because he’s this huge,
monstrous guy who was pummeling the life out of it, and playing Eddie Van Halen
licks while he’s doing it. [Laughs] Jake is a very finessed guy—he can go from
whisper-soft stuff to extremely loud stuff and we’ve figured out a miking
scheme that gives us the best of all those worlds.
Was it hard to find
space for the uke in a full electric band?
No, that was not a problem. The guys in the group are very
aware of what Jake’s instrument sounds like, so everyone leaves room. The first
cut on the album [“143 (Kelly’s Song)”] is incredibly dense, with strings and
electric guitar, but because everyone plays with reference to each other, there’s
lots of room for Jake on there. It’s a pretty simple process.
Do you use any
outboard gear on the uke?
Using multiple mics give us the opportunity to go for
certain tones, if we want, instead of messing around with EQs. I used a
Fairchild on “Bohemian Rhapsody” [ recorded in Japan]; on everything else we
used a little bit of optical ADL [Anthony Demaria Labs] 1500 compression, but
Do you use any
plug-ins in general?
I use some Sound Toys stuff—a lot of little delays things
here and there; subtly. I don’t go crazy. McDSP compressors are great—you can
really dial ’em. And Steven Massey makes ridiculously good stuff for almost no