Tracking in Lililand

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The impetus for singer-songwriter-violinist Lili Haydn's third outing,Place Between Places(Nettwerk, 2008), was a desire to make a recorded journal of her emotional and spiritual evolution — a “distilling,” she recalls, “of my particular journey of the heart in song and poetry.” Prior to launching a solo career, Haydn had established herself as a sought-after violinist working with a range of artists including Herbie Hancock, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, and George Clinton (who dubbed her “the Jimi Hendrix of the violin”).

Song-driven in nature, Place Between Places runs the gamut from stripped-down, pristine gems featuring Haydn's soaring vocals and violin to pop-oriented rockers with lush orchestrations, crunchy guitars, and gritty electronic loops. “Kate Bush meets Pink Floyd meets Air meets Led Zeppelin meets Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra,” she laughs.

Whereas previous recordings had sprung from lo-fi demos created on a Roland VS-1680 at home and later transformed in commercial rooms under the guidance of producers like Tony Berg and Bill Laswell, for this recording she took a more hands-on approach. Within her upgraded Lililand studio, Haydn put together an intimate, velvet-encased space composed of an Apple Mac G5 running a Digidesign Digi 002 Pro Tools LE system. Other gear included an Apogee Big Ben, a Neve 2-channel preamp, Neumann TLM 103 mics, and various keyboards, including her dad's '60s Rhodes piano and her grandmother's baby grand.

Haydn recorded her violin both acoustically and electrically. For the former, she used a Blue Bottle or Royer R-122V mic. For electric sounds, the signal chain started with the L.R. Baggs pickup on her violin into a pedalboard featuring a Line 6 DL4 delay; DigiTech Wah, Whammy 2, and Space Station effects; and then went into a vintage Silvertone amp miked with an Audio-Technica 4050.

Haydn also spent hours creating her own organic loops with, she says, “'laborious Rain Man-like persistence.” For example, on the title track she took a recording of a breathing pattern, looped the rhythm, and combined it with a bass sequence and bell and glockenspiel sounds from a Korg XP50 synth. “I programmed a lot of my last record with [Propellerhead] Reason and Ableton Live, but on this record, I chose to create my own organic loops, grabbing sounds that I liked from other songs of mine, importing them into Pro Tools, and literally chopping up and nudging them manually in order to find the magic.”

Many of these recordings, done solo or in tandem with musical pals like Marvin Etzioni, found their way onto the CD under the expert guidance of Grammy-winning producer-engineer Thom Russo. He recorded basics with the group at Dusty Wakeman's Mad Dog Studios, then moved those tracks to his Womb Room studio, where they were combined with the product of the Lililand sessions.

The album's “guilty pleasure” was Haydn's cover of Funkadelic's “Maggot Brain” (the only cut created within a commercial facility, Capitol Studios), lushly orchestrated thanks to the daKAH Hip Hop Orchestra. “I added it at the last minute and Thom was furious. But I was vindicated after getting a call from [Pink Floyd's] Roger Waters, who especially loved my playing on that and invited me to perform with him at the Coachella festival!”


Home base: Los Angeles

Sequencer used: Digidesign Pro Tools LE

Key effect: DigiTech Whammy 2 pedal (for violin)

Web site:


Lili Haydn's Web site

Thom Russo's discography