Like their last record, Nouns, No Age’s third full-length album was recorded with engineer Pete Lyman at Infrasonic Sound Recording Company in Los Angeles. But rather than mimicking the success of their sophomore album, No Age decided that this time they’d balance their energetic musical capabilities with new recording skills.
“When we tour, we like to play songs that are more aggressive to get the crowd going. For this album, we sat back and realized we needed more songs that were more progressive, to yin and yang the album,” drummer Dean Spunt says.
A two-man operation, No Age recorded the bulk of the album—title TBA, out on Sub Pop this fall—live, playing guitars and drums while also triggering samples. “We recorded the intro sounds on ‘Aim at the Airport’ with an Edirol R- 09HR, a handheld WAV recorder, from the luggage carousel at an airport in Australia,” Spunt says. “The wave sounds in the end were recorded with the Edirol on the beach in New Zealand.” The guys created other samples by meshing guitars, vocals, and keyboards with effects from DigiTech JamMan pedals and onboard effects from a Roland SP-555 sampler.
To mic the drums, Lyman set up a Radio Shack PZM mic taped to the outside of the control-room window, an AEA R84 behind Spunt, a Neumann Gefell UM57 six feet in front of the kit, and two Beyerdynamic M 160s set farther away “and spread wide for a more live-sounding feel,” Lyman says.
For his live tracks, guitarist Randy Randall used a Sunn Beta Lead Combo, a Supro, and a small Ampeg bass amp. “He splits the signal at his pedal board so a clean line goes to the bass amp, pre-effects, and the other amps are post effects,” Lyman explains.
The tracks were captured to a 2-inch, 16-track Otari MTR90 MKIII machine and then dumped to Pro Tools for overdubs. And an Otari MX5050 1/4- inch machine was used for slapback. “We would mess with the tape as it was recording and then print back into Pro Tools,” Lyman says.
After recording basic guitar and drum tracks live, Randall’s guitars overdubs involved several amps, including a Sunn Model T and Beta Lead, a Supro, and a Fender Champ. “Sometimes it may be all the amps at once,” Lyman says. “I use a custom Inward Connections guitar splitter to distribute the signals. We then switch between the amps depending on the sound Randy is envisioning. There are two Coles 4038s about nine feet back in the room during most of the overdubs.”
Vocals were recorded through the UM57 into a Shadow Hills preamp on the Steel setting, into an API 550A and a Purple Audio MC77. “During the mix, vocals were compressed again with an Inward Connections Vac Rac compressor,” Lyman adds.
After initial tracks and overdubs were recorded, they took the sounds to another level. “They are really into re-amping,” Lyman says. “We have reamped everything: vocals, snares, guitars, drums, samples, etc.”
“We like re-amping with samples to catch them again to get nitty-gritty sounds,” Spunt elaborates. “We have a Supra Amp from the ’60s that we use, and Randy rewired his first amp called a Gorrilla that we use for back tunes. I also have a noise gate that I was getting into and running complete mixes through it to get a weird sound.”
The guys sent tracks out of Pro Tools, into a Little Labs Direct/Reamp box, and then into the amp. “The amp was then miked and sent back to Pro Tools,” Lyman explains. “The re-amped track was then blended with the raw track, or in some cases it was totally replaced.”
Lyman mixed through a Rupert Neve Designs 5088 console, using an Ecoplate and EMT 250 plate for reverb and a DeltaLab Effectron, Roland Space Echo, and Chorus Echo for delay. During mixdown, he bussed guitars through two Neve 1064s and two silver-face 1176s. For more grit, Lyman used his Standard Audio Level- Or as a sub-bus on guitars and also used it for parallel compression on drums. “I inserted the Level-Or on a bus and sent the kick and snare to the bus, as well as the direct out, then blended them to taste,” he says.
But Lyman’s traditional recording techniques were often challenged. “Their approach is completely different than most bands—they really push me to try things that I wouldn’t normally do,” Lyman says, referring to recording with old cassette players and being forced to add abundant low end to guitars. “Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to me at the time, but I just hang in there to see how it develops, and they’re usually right.”