Photo: Courtesy Tim Fite
There's a difference between a field-recorded sound that's “to die for” and one that almost gets you killed while gathering it. Just ask Tim Fite, who, along with his friend Rob Badenoch, had a close call while sampling the sound of fireworks for use on Fite's new CD,Fair Ain't Fair(Anti, 2008). “The fireworks,” says Fite, “malfunctioned and came shooting right at us.” Luckily, no damage was done and they got a good-sounding recording of the incident through a Crown Sass-P condenser mic into a flash-card-based stereo recorder. “Even though we almost got killed, at least it was recorded in stereo,” Fite says.
The rest of the sampling for the new CD was not nearly as hazardous, which is fortunate considering the integral role played by sampled audio throughout the production. As on previous releases Gone Ain't Gone (Anti, 2005) and Over the Counter Culture (a Web-only offering, 2007), many of the songs on Fair Ain't Fair are based around a sample — either self-created or pilfered from dollar-bin CDs or other friends' music. Working from his Brooklyn studio, which comprises an Apple MacBook Pro laptop loaded with Digidesign Pro Tools LE software, a Digidesign Mbox 2 interface, a Mackie Onyx mixer, a Roland Cube amp, and MXL 2001 and Groove Tubes GT67 mics, Fite built his tracks with the samples and a palette of quirky instrumentation.
Another field-recording session for the CD found Fite back at his old high school's choral rehearsal room with Badenoch and drummer Justin Riddle, where they recorded drums after hours into a PC laptop running Sony Creative Software's Vegas Pro. Badenoch put up a pair of Earthworks M30 mics mounted high in an XY pattern on a Schneider Disc stereo microphone mount to capture the room sound. Those tracks became the foundation for many of the songs.
“On ‘Rats and Rags,’ I was thinking about how the basis of hip-hop songs is often the drums,” says Fite. “I wanted to strip this notion down, letting them [the drums] develop over the course of the track. Once I had the drums, I plugged in an old MIDI controller and began laying in rudimentary licks of fake cello and doubled that with electric guitar. I enlisted violist Marla Hansen [of My Brightest Diamond] to double the MIDI cello, and we built out the finale with overdub arrangements and vocals using the GT67 tube mic in both omni and cardioid patterns.”
“Names of All the Animals” was similarly built, with the addition of a 15-minute spontaneous “noise session.” “We walked in a circle counterclockwise around the mic using whatever to make noise — percussion, drums, pianos, whistles, upright bass, a megaphone, duct tape, water, wood, metal, skin. If you listen closely,” says Fite, “it makes for some spectacular headphone time. In addition, we added some fake mandolin [made with a capoed guitar and heavy delay], acoustic guitar, bells, and electronic enhancement.”
On “Trouble,” Fite enlisted his brother, Dr. Leisure, wielding a handheld tape recorder like a DJ would use turntables. “He fast-forwarded and reversed organic sounds to create organized cacophony. There's a rip to his tones that I've never heard anywhere else.”
Fite confesses that this record is more analytical than his others. “[I've always] had a firm concept before I started. For this one, I overscrutinized every sound. I had to buy the shoes too big and let the toes grow into them.”
Home base: Brooklyn
Primary software: Digidesign Pro Tools LE
Field-recording mic: Earthworks M30 (pair)
Fite's MySpace site