ONCE UPON A TIME
According to Miguel Bahamonde, engineer in charge of Studio A at Estudios Master in Santiago, Chile, “I was told that Moby wanted to make a stop somewhere during his South American tour because he hoped to capture the energy of his band in a studio. The band had been playing together for a while and he was very happy with the sound, so he asked his production team to book a studio for some sessions.
“So there it was, September 2005, and Moby was coming to our facilities to record some tunes. His hall engineer, John Pennington, was not exactly sure about the purposes of the session, but the reason became pretty clear once it was done.”
Bahamonde elaborates, “They sent their backline the day previous to the session; we were miking the guitar amps and drum set, as well as setting up the keyboards, just like for a live gig (Figure 1). The only ‘studio’ gear we used involved Neve 9098 preamps for both the snare and kick drum.
“John did a final sound check at 9 a.m., prepared five separate headphone mixes, then added EQ, compression, and FX to the different channels which would be sent to a 44-input Amek Big and then to a Pro Tools HD system at 24-bit, 48kHz.
“Moby and the band got to the studio by 2 p.m. The band consisted of Moby on vocals, bass, keyboard, and guitar; Joy Malcolm on vocals; Scott Frassetto on drums; Daron Murphy on guitar and backing vocals; and Luci Butler on keyboard and backing vocals. The guitars were recorded with Shure SM58s on the Marshall and Vox amps, and there was also a direct line to the console. Moby’s vocals, and all backing vocals, used Shure Beta 58s.
“Fifteen minutes later, after minimal adjustments, the band started playing. I was supporting John at the console. The experience was huge! They had been playing together for this entire tour, so the music was flowing very naturally. The band played 18 songs in a row — the only pauses were between songs, when Moby gave some indications to the band about the mood of the song. He also asked the band to play some of their original tunes at different rhythms, like “punk” or “reggae” versions and they even played some covers from Billy Idol and the Doors. The vibe was very natural, and they were playing their hearts out. Once they finished playing, Moby played and recorded bass for all the songs and added some synth pads.
“Back in the control room (Figure 2), Moby noticed some undesired bleeding of the drums into the vocal channels, so he decided to re-record the main voice in some of the songs, this time using a Neumann U89. Fifteen hours later, a rough mix was finished. As Moby himself says, ‘They’re interesting documents from a great day during a really nice part of the tour.’
“With no overdubs at all from the band, the final sound was very similar to what you get from a live situation, but with the control a studio can offer. This is especially meaningful when you have a well-rehearsed, level-headed band. I have recorded several of the best Chilean artists, but this time the vibe was very special: Quick setup and ‘Go’ . . . it was an awesome experience.”
Incidentally, some of these recordings are included as a bonus with the CD Go: The Very Best of Moby.
Gus Lozada hosts clinics around Latin America about music production, is a contributing editor to several printed and web media, and is currently touring as the front man of WoM (www.wom.com.mx) while moderating “Nuestro Foro,” Harmony Central’s Spanish-language community. Send him some love or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.