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EM Editor's Note: Ahoy, Gear Geeks

June 25, 2010

I don''t think I''m going out on a limb by saying that for the great majority of recording musicians, gear is a big deal. Yes, we can sometimes focus too much on it, and we need to keep the “art” part of recording front and center, but gear not only helps us get our job done, it''s also just plain fun. I don''t know about you, but when I get a new piece of hardware or a plug-in, or a new instrument, I get almost the same feeling I used to get as a kid when opening presents at my birthday party.

So for all of you who are gear junkies like me, we are introducing yet another component of EM''s new-and-improved column lineup: “Gear Geek.” Written by former EM senior editor Geary Yelton (his first name, though appropriate, is purely coincidental), this column is designed as an homage to classic equipment, software, and instruments. Each month, he''ll look back (in text and photo) at a piece of gear that was consequential in some way to the evolution of music technology. For this month''s column, the spotlight is on the New England Digital Synclavier. Although very expensive when it came out—definitely not a home-studio kind of device—the Synclavier was ahead of its time in the areas of sampling, sequencing, and the whole workstation concept. I''ll leave the details to Geary, but give it a read. If you like gear, you''re going to love this column.

The final piece to EM's column lineup is “Inside Talk,” in which we''ll get insights and tips from recording artists, producers, and engineers about their work. This month, I talked to renowned producer, remixer, and recording artist Carmen Rizzo. He just released his latest solo CD, Looking Through Leaves, and he talks about the songwriting, recording, and production process for the album, much of which was done on the road while he was touring with various acts or producing other albums.

And, of course, we have the cover story. I was intrigued by The Glitch Mob when I heard that they liked to perform by triggering samples from JazzMutant Lemur controllers. It sounded like a pretty unusual approach. It turns out that for their current tour, it''s a lot more complex than that. Each bandmember has several controllers (Lemurs, keyboards, pad controllers, and electronic drum controllers) at their station onstage. I was able to talk to them onstage after soundcheck, where they went through their live setups and explained how they execute their complicated show. I''ve posted a video of portions of that interview, intercut with recent live footage of the band performing at the Moog factory in Asheville, N.C. My thanks to Moog for providing that footage.

But the live part is only one aspect of The Glitch Mob''s story; their recording approach is fascinating as well. Starting off by writing quick musical sketches in Steinberg Cubase, the band eventually builds up the sounds on their tracks with massive layering and processing. Many of their songs came in at upward of 100 tracks. They also have some pretty interesting things to say about how they mix and the way they use social media to connect with their fans.

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