"I'M IN A CONVERTIBLE HEADING OVER TO CHRISTOPHER'S [GUEST] HOUSE RIGHT NOW,hope you can hear me," shouts producer/songwriter CJ Vanston over the California wind blowing into the phone. "One of the best things about working on A Mighty Wind was that Christopher knows how to hire the right people and let them do what they do best. I did some research because I knew we had to capture a specific vocal sound. I bought a bunch of records from that era. I put one on and thought, 'wait a minute, I grew up listening to this stuff in my house.' It was the same for Ed. We had that sound ingrained into our heads."
EQ caught up with the pair to find out how they captured performances that received Grammy and Oscar nominations, and won a Critic's Choice Award. Says Vanston, "Ed got the fine line between reality and comedy. We tried to err more on the side of reality and let the jokes take care of themselves."
"The guys wanted to be recorded playing their instruments and singing at the same time. Those takes ended up being the performances we kept," says Cherney. "We didn't use gobos between them; they wanted to be able to interact with each other. So we needed vocal microphones that would sound good but also were very directional and not sensitive to outside sources. We wanted it to be late-'50s, early-'60s and really just capture the texture and the tone of how they made records then.
"Harry has a very strong voice so we used a Shure SM7 with a Neve 1073. For Christopher we used an [Electro-Voice] RE-20 with a 1073. And on Michael, because his voice was a bit more delicate, I ended up using a Neumann U67, running it through a 1073. All vocals came up through the Neve 88R console. I recorded to the Studer A827 using Quantegy GP9 tape, then transferred to Pro Tools for editing and mixing."
"Harry, Christopher, and Michael were sitting around in a semi-circle because they were playing their instruments too," Cherney confides. "Michael who was on guitar, and Christopher who was playing guitar and banjo, were about 10' apart and Harry was 12' away because he was playing an upright bass.
"It was critical to make sure that the position of the microphones were off-axis to the adjacent musicians. This can be a trial and error process but it kind of worked the first time we positioned them with the mics."
"Mitch and Mickey was a different approach because they're not necessarily seasoned musicians. Their harmonies were so tight and well rehearsed. Eugene Levy [Mitch] learned how to play guitar for this. He was playing guitar and singing, and Catherine O'Hara [Mickey] was playing autoharp and singing. I used an AKG C-12 on Catherine and a Neumann U67 on Eugene and then had them face each other and miked their instruments. They performed their songs live. On "Kiss At The End Of The Rainbow" their vocal blend is phenomenal. It was a live performance done in the studio.
"Processing was straight ahead," states Cherney. "I wanted the natural dynamics of their performances without using heavy compression, so I used dbx 160s only to protect the tape from unexpected peaks."
Cherney concludes, "Bottom line, these guys are great musicians, they're super-intelligent and great performers. They're the real deal. They've been playing together for a long time [in Spinal Tap] so they know what they sound like, they're very savvy in the studio, they know when it's right.
"Working on A Mighty Wind with CJ and everyone was one of the few times that I just looked forward to going to work everyday and seeing everyone. It was fun and natural. Very little stress. These guys have a total understanding of what goes on in the studio and CJ is the consummate professional producer and musician. I would love to do it again!"