GREGORY BUTLER Project: Recording Vox for Thelonious Monster’s Bob Forrest

When Thelonious Monster’s Bob Forrest decided to record a solo project under his own name, he enlisted the recording and producing prowess of long-time friend, Gregory Butler, producer and engineer for Dweezil Zappa, Switchblade Symphony, Sparklemotion, and Loma Lynda, as well as films like Wicker Park, Napoleon Dynamite, and the TV show, Punk’d.

He also brought along a few guest contributors for the project including Flea and John Frusciante from the Chili Peppers, Josh Klinghoffer from PJ Harvey, as well as Ikie Owens from The Mars Volta. The project was recorded at Hell Pony Studios — the home studio of Lakeshore Records’ exec/indie film director/producer (Better Living Through Circuitry, Call It Democracy, and East of Sunset) Brian McNelis — which also happens to be the home base for Butler, who co-designed and built the studio with McNelis.

Butler took some time to give us the scoop on how he captured the former Monster’s vox for Forrest’s solo release, Wednesday.

In order to properly capture the direct fury of the beautiful madness that’s the Bob Forrest experience, Butler started recording Forrest’s voice using a GT67 tube mic running into a Vintech 1272 pre amp. “I just want a mic to not destroy the sound more than to add anything to it,” he says. “The GTs are good for that. They’re solid, ‘put on your work boots and get to it’ kind of mics.” He deployed the Vintech 1272 because — as he puts it — “It does something at the top end that makes me feel happy inside.”

The signal coming out of the Vintech went straight into a couple of Nuendo-branded RME 96K 8 I/O boxes. From there the signal fed into a PCAudioLabs ( custom-built PC computer running Nuendo. “I’ve had two-inch tape machines that were less stable than this setup,” says Butler. “It’s really amazing and fast.”

In general, Butler would set up the mic about four to six inches from Forrest. “But when we were working on a song that had a lot of emotion, I would have Bob do multiple takes at varying distances from the mic and then comp them together according to the delivery,” he explains. “This helped out the most on the track ‘a love trilology in four parts’ where we had four completely different songs that were turned into one.”

The vox tracks were processed using effects powered by a UAD-1 DSP card. “I’m a big fan of the UAD-1 and especially the LA2A and Reverb plug-ins — they are used for every mix I do,” says Butler. “The other effects that I used for Bob’s vocals were Classic Delay — which is a really cool, shareware delay; Northpole — which is great for instantly making things sound BAD; and BlueTubes — just set the delay on ’77 and let the punk roll!”

When Butler and Forrest were getting ready to record the second song of the session, they found out that the guitarist scheduled to play on it was running late. “Bob just stood up, walked over to the mic and said ‘Let’s just start without him,’” reflects Butler.

“As a producer, I immediately wanted to go into a diatribe about how we couldn’t record the vocals without any musical frame of reference,” he says. “But then I realized that I was just invoking some sort of rule that I had never tested. So we went ahead and recorded all the vocals to the drums, as I guided Bob through the pitch as I imagined it would be. Then, when Josh came in, he just tuned to the vocals and it turned out great!”

Butler was happy with the results of the recording. “Where most of my other records are fairly polished — or at the very least ‘indie’ polished — this one feels raw,” he says. “And not MC5 raw — it’s acoustic-punk-folk-anarchist raw.”