R.E.M.: Vocals

DATE: End of 2002–July 2004 (time off over six months with sessions conducted for approximately 3–4 week periods) STUDIO: The Warehouse, Compass-Point, Hit Factory/Criteria LOCATION: Vancouver, Bahamas, Miami ARTIST: R.E.M. PROJECT: lead vocals with Michael Stipe ALBUM: Around The Sun PRODUCER: Pa
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0

DATE: End of 2002–July 2004 (time off over six months with sessions conducted for approximately 3–4 week periods)

STUDIO: The Warehouse, Compass-Point, Hit Factory/Criteria

LOCATION: Vancouver, Bahamas, Miami

ARTIST: R.E.M.

PROJECT: lead vocals with Michael Stipe

ALBUM: Around The Sun

PRODUCER: Pat McCarthy

ENGINEER: Jamie Candiloro

It's important for me to create a situation where the recording process is transparent . . . where the person can walk in the room, pick up their instrument, hit record, and do something spontaneously, never feeling like they’re even being recorded,” states Jamie Candiloro, R.E.M.’s engineer of choice for the last four years. “Part of my system is being set up to go at any moment and still being able to match what we did a week ago.” It’s this mindset that has made Candiloro first choice for top rockers: Ryan Adams, Luscious Jackson, and Courtney Love, to name a few. “Courtney said to me once, ‘I know when I go into the studio with you that we’ll come out with something usable, it’s a war zone basically and we’ll survive it together.’ I was so flattered because that was kind of the way I felt.”

In between finishing up 5.1 mixes for R.E.M. with Elliot Scheiner and cutting news tracks with Gemma Hayes and Randy Weeks the in-demand engineer took a break to give EQ a behind the scenes look into recording vocals with Michael Stipe.

SIGNAL PATH

“Michael [Stipe] wanted to do all his vocals in the control room; we liked the immediacy of being able to work next to each other,” confides Candiloro. “So I put up a straight mic stand and an Audio-Technica AE5400 with no pop filter and ran that into the John Hardy M-1 mic pre. Although we did the basic tracks on 2-inch 24-track analog, by the time we were recording vocals we dumped everything into Pro Tools.”

MIC POSITION

“When we did Michael’s vocals we were at Hit Factory/Criteria in Studio E. It’s a mid-size control room with two outboard racks at tabletop height with a walkway between the two. In the middle is where we set up his mic stand,” explains Candiloro. “On one side was outboard gear on top of the rack and the other side was Michael’s station with his headphones ready to go. He liked the Fostex T-50s and we used the same pair for the whole record. Most of the time it would only be Pat [McCarthy] and myself in the control room with headphones on while Michael was doing his vocals. He would work the mic — grab it sometimes. He’s very consistent. He’s been doing it for a long time and knows his voice so well. It’s an instrument he’s kept in great shape; he knows exactly how to work a mic.”

PROCESSING

“During the recording I really didn’t use much processing at all,” Candiloro states. “On fitting his vocal in the mix, most of what I wanted to hear was his voice naturally. Every so often I used a Waves C4 multi-band compressor if I needed to pull certain frequencies out. With less heavy compression I could get the vocal to breath a little bit more. We were on the SSL 9000J but I didn’t use their compressor, I was using an [Universal Audio] LA-2A. With Pro Tools you can do some quick automation and it’s always going to sound more natural than compressing the life out of something just to get it to cut through. Michael likes plate reverb on his voice, so we used that too.”

TRACK NOTES

“Usually after Michael does a few takes, he’ll walk out of the control room saying, ‘Now do your thing, sprinkle your fairy dust on it.’ I usually know that means he wants me to add a little compression on the insert, pumping it up, beefing it up a little bit, doing a tiny bit of EQ, and seating it in the mix with either a little delay or a little reverb,” Candiloro concludes. “On this record he sang so amazingly, he might do five takes of a song and to the average listener you probably wouldn’t be able to tell. You’d say each one was completely brilliant. He’s great at knowing exactly what he wants to do and he’ll basically put that in front of the mic. It’s really my job to stay out of the way and translate what he’s putting in front of the mic. He’s one of the last guys that doesn’t need processing; he doesn’t need to be hidden in the mix. You end up putting the spotlight on his unique vocal character and making it a huge part of the songs.”