3 Doors Down Records Its New Album at Home

Johnny K (Disturbed, Finger Eleven, Unloco) is all smiles when the subject of recording 3 Doors Down’s newest self-titled release is brought up. A certifiable gear head, and the band’s official go-to guy for all things recording, K says the experience of recording the album in a quaint house in Orlando, Florida, was a throwback to his formative years.
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“I started recording in a house—that’s how I learned,” says K. “I’m used to getting tones with headphones on! It’s all about the vibe of the place you’re in. If you have a good vibe, you can make a good sounding recording. For example, I thought we were going to have to go to a real studio to track drums. But the house’s study was all wood, and it had high ceilings. There were two hallways attached to the room, as well, so I was able to put an AKG C24 in each of the hallways, and one in the room. The mics are stereo, so we got some wide images with a minimum amount of room mics.”

The album also boasts bright, yet airy acoustic guitar sounds. 

“We just stuck a Neumann U47 and a KM84 in an XY pattern in front of the guitar’s sound hole,” says K. “One mic was pointed at where the neck meets the body, and the other near the position where the guitarist was picking. We didn’t have a console in the house, so I bussed the two channels down to one in Pro Tools. The U47 was compressed with a Universal Audio LA-2A. The KM84 was dry. I think you get more mileage out of having a good instrument, and not jonesing on the mics or over-processing the sound.”

The “get it right at the source” theory was also followed when K took the tracks to Sound Kitchen to record the album’s string arrangements.

“If you have to use EQ, I would suggest you get a better violin,” says K. “I found the mic preamps on the API Legacy console at Sound Kitchen impart just enough coloration to make the string sections jump out of the monitors. I didn’t see any reason to patch in anything else. Those premps sound perfect as is.”

The producer also got a nice surprise when he ran the home-recorded tracks through the API.

“I threw my rough Pro Tools mix on the faders—I had subgroups for vocals, the band, and the strings—and it was nice hearing how the sounds blossomed. It was a simple way to mix, but, then again, this was a simple record to make. When you have good players, it’s pretty much just plug and play.”