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Sneak Peek: Panic! at the Disco’s Vocal Production

January 13, 2016

Panic! At The Disco’s fifth album, Death of a Bachelor, drops Friday, January 15, and songwriter-vocalist-instrumentalist Brendon Urie was once again at the helm of this one-man-band. For our upcoming March issue, we talked to Urie and his team of producer Jake Sinclair (Taylor Swift, Fallout Boy) and engineer Suzy Shinn about making Death of a Bachelor. Author Ken Micallef wrote that the album “is a riotous production playground where Frank Sinatra meets Freddie Mercury, where samples of Chicago’s ‘Questions 67 and 68’ and The B-52’s ‘Rock Lobster’ smack up against Urie’s dynamic drumming, synthesizer layer-cake, and soaring vocal profundity.”

Sinclair explains how he recorded Urie’s vocals first for each song and detailed the vocal recording chain.

“We build everything around the vocal rather than the vocal being built around the track,” Sinclair says. “That gives us a starting place production-wise that is different than if you cut vocals at the end. You could say we use the scratch track, but with Brendon the scratch track is the final vocal. I don’t want to miss anything the first time he sings it. I might as well have him singing into a good chain.”

Urie’s vocal chain: Wunder Audio CM7 FET into a BAE 1073 mic preamp, to a Purple Audio MC77 compressor and a Universal Teletronix Audio LA-2A Leveling Amplifier.

“I’m trying to mirror what Sinatra did at Capitol with the mic just hanging there in front of him,” Urie explains. “I wanted to hear every little pop. I put the ratio at 4 to 1. I compressed it so you hear every breath, every pop, every tongue movement, every syllable. Then I tried to match the vibe on the piano. The Wunder CM7 FET holds a lot of good frequency for me. My voice either gets really shrill or a little too bassy. The CM7 picks up the mids where my voice carries different frequencies. It holds that crispness and tone, and it’s easier to filter than some microphones. We also put the Wunder CM7 mic on upright piano. For the money and what I need, the Wunder is amazing. I try to not EQ. I just use a filter to take out any pinch in the frequency.”

Emperor’s New Clothes

Shinn told us about processing those vocals while making the record in Urie’s Urielectric Studios — a mirror to Sinclair’s Vintage King complex.

“I processed the vocals through Waves H-Delay, Soundtoys Echoboy and Decapitator or [Waves/Abbey Road Studios] The King’s Microphone plug-in, which models the 1920s and 1930s microphones used for the British Monarchy’s radio broadcasts,” Shinn says. “For the kid’s choir in ‘Victorious,’ I used the ‘1970s tape trick’: varispeed. I changed the BPM of the instrumental to 10 to 20 percent faster or slower than the original BPM, tracked the vocals at the new tempo,then used Varispeed to put the music and newly tracked vocals back to the original BPM. This creates morphed or child-like vocals!”


Panic! at the Disco, “Death of a Bachelor”

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