Honeycut - EMusician

Honeycut

It’s official: No longer do you have to take a second mortgage out on your house to record a truly great-sounding record. Don’t believe us? Check out the three-piece electronic/funk hybrid heroes Honeycut’s latest release, the inimitable The Day I Turned to Glass. Having tracked the majority of the album in a little work shack in keyboardist RV Salter’s backyard, the Honeycut camp set up a rough mix and then high-tailed it over to Mike Cresswell’s Accompong Compound for that little extra touch that only a pro studio can provide. Working with a literal mess of tracks, Creswell’s M.O. was to bring a sense of cohesiveness to the album, and according to Tony Sevener, Honeycut’s drummer (also of Blackalicious, Livesavas, and Maroons), the first step in doing so was to recut, reamp, and overdub away, erring more on the side of wild experimentation than adhering to the tried-and-true.
Author:
Publish date:

“Mike isn’t afraid to do the wrong thing at the right time,” Salters explains. “I remember he felt a snare drum didn’t have enough “air” in it, so he fed the signal through an old Fender Vibro Champ, then layered another snare drum in front of it, and then miked the sound of the snare going through the Vibro Champ until he was happy.”

But that’s just where Cresswell’s unorthodox techniques start. As Sevener tells us: “Mike has these huge Genelecs, but 90% of the mix was done on these little Roland MA-1EX USB powered speakers. I didn’t know what to think at first, but Mike knows those. Because they don’t hype anything, the mix translates onto a lot of different systems.”

Alright, we wouldn’t believe you if we didn’t have empirical evidence that the entirety of Honeycut is certifiably insane, and a slight inkling that the company they keep is probably pretty similar. So, onto the next question, as we hear all these stories about how accomplished of a drummer Sevener is: Why are all the drum tracks on The Day I Turned to Glass programmed? Couldn’t fit the drum kit into the shed, Tony?

“The last track is live drums,” Sevener corrects us. “The rest are all programmed with an [Akai] MPC S3000 and an [E-mu] SP-1200. We fed all of it to a 002 Stanton turntable for samples through NHT Pro A-10 speakers. They’re pretty neutral. I don’t like speakers that hype up the bass or treble.”

It doesn’t sound like you like bass at all, Tony. Or, to be exact, bassists. But that’s probably because the synth sounds Honeycut comes up with are more than adequate for the low-end job. As Salters explains: “Most of the bass was done on a Roland SH-101 monophonic synth. Fairly intuitive, very warm sounding. You can get very fat bass tones: a very sub-E tone, like on a track like “Shadows” — very precise, punchy tones. It’s going to sound synth-y, but so what? That was the whole point. The riff on “Shadows” is this synth layered under a couple of guitar picks I sampled. So with the pick sound, and how I kept the attack mellow on the synths, it almost sounds like sometimes playing a picked bass. Honeycut isn’t about having instruments that sound like the traditional versions.”

And what of the lush strings and blaring horns throughout the album? Let me guess, those are all the products of some tricky synthesis as well?

“We used the [ARP] String Ensemble along with real string players to create the strings on the record,” Salters says. “That keyboard is famous on the Parliament records. Herbie Hancock and Roy Ayers used it a lot. We tweaked it to make it darker sounding, like out of a sci-fi record. The horns and strings were recorded at San Pablo Recordings in Berkeley, and in the basement of the house I used to live in. A lot of those strings sound like sections, but mostly it was only one guy playing a bunch of different sections and voicings I had written for him. It was all miked really close, due to the space constraints, so it lacked that necessary roominess. So we just took the tracks over to Accompong, fed the signal into the live room, and recorded the room sound.”

Well we see now why you save the cash and just cut your basic tracks in the shed: You re-amp everything later. One quick question before we part though: What the hell are all those wild synth glitches throughout the album? Did you re-amp your signal into an LSD lab?

“That’s the Digitech Whammy Pedal,” Salters confesses. “It’s our secret weapon for bending and pitch-shifting. It’s not a terribly complicated piece of equipment, so sending a signal through it can create some weird sonic glitches that I think are very interesting. It makes the tones other-worldly. Like our String Ensemble, it made the parts sound like they were being played back off an old 78.”

Click here to check out EQmag.tv to get behind the scenes with Honeycut and take a look at some of the gear used on The Day I Turned to Glass.