How To Make A Carmen Rizzo Record

Most of the songs from The Lost Art of the Idle Moment started and finished at my studio in Hollywood at Suite 775. However, when I set out to collaborate with other artists I admired, I packed up my Apple G4 1.5 laptop (1 gig RAM) running Pro Tools LE (I now use M power with a FireWire 410 or Ozonic when I travel), an Oxygen keyboard, Sony headphones, and a passport, all stuffed into an M-Audio backpack and I was off. I went to NYC, Paris, London, and Munich to record.

One of the most interesting recording experiences from the album was “Too rude.” The song was conceived in Bristol, England. I went there to record one of my favorite bands, Alpha (on Massive Attack’s label). Their studio was based around a Mac running Logic with a Mackie Digital 8 console with lots of cool vintage keyboards and drums in the recording area with modern gear in the control room. The studio was in this old barn in the countryside just outside of Bristol.

Toward the end of the recording sessions they gave me this unfinished song idea. I then took it back to L.A. and started to tear it apart — adding more parts, sections. I brought in long time collaborator and friend, Jamie Muhoberac, to add his magic as well. I really loved the song — it was a good marriage between myself, Corin, and Andy from Alpha. All I needed was a singer. Ladybug Mecca (Digable Planets) who I was also working with suggested I call Esthero, who I hadn’t spoken to in awhile.

After speaking a few times on the phone, I was not sure how we were ever going to be in the same place at the same time. A few weeks later she called me and said, “Hey I’m in L.A., let’s make it happen”. I stopped what I was doing, she came down to my studio, and after playing her the song she started to sing this idea she had over the track. I was speechless. We tweaked it a bit and there it was. Just her voice over the track was like velvet, really one of the best vocalists I have ever worked with.

I recorded her voice through a Neumann TLM 103 through a Bret Averill API mic pre then a dbx 165A Compressor and a UREI 545 EQ. I then, in Pro Tools, used the Focusrite EQ and compressor. The wonderful outro is from an old gramophone I found in the lobby of Studio 301 in Sydney, Australia. I cranked it up and heard this amazing (public domain) recording. I recorded it to a DAT with a Shure SM57, brought it back to my studio, ran it through my old Space echo speeding it up and down. Then added even more static from Sample Tank; it was just magic creating this beautiful atmospheric interlude that goes on for a pretty long time.

But here are my Top 5 “tech” tips on making a Carmen Rizzo record:


Panning: Just because you can record in stereo, does not mean you have to. There is something to say for mono. Separation is very important in a mix, whether parked at one place or swimming in the mix. Everything hard left and right can be a bit boring.


Effects from instruments: From soft synths to hardware ones. There are wonderful effects from places you probably never look.


Listen at low volume: I cannot monitor loud for very long. I’m a near field monitor guy.


Mid beat clock: I use MIDI for everything, from locking other computers, to drum machines, synths, and so on. You can use MIDI for great effects from other boxes in real time.


Drawing out de-ess: When a de-esser does not work, go into the audio waveform and draw those “S’s” out; it’s time consuming but it really works.