Ian Eagleson from Extra Golden's Tips for Tracking Big Sounds with Budget Gear

There’s more than one way to bake a cake, but you don’t have to be a world-class chef in a state-of-the-art facility to cook up some tasty treats. Ian Eagleson—co-founder of the band known as Extra Golden—knows all about maximizing what you’ve got, and recording great-sounding albums on a budget. Tracking the entirety of Extra Golden’s newest foray into the world of American rock and Kenyan Benga dance music fusion, Hera Ma Nono [Thrill Jockey], at his portable “Nyathi Otenga Flying Studio,” Eagleson is an ardent believer in the power of low-budget gear.

“My entire set-up is a PC running Sony Vegas, an RME Multiface II, a Mackie 1604-VLZ3, and just a handful of mics,” he says.

Here are his tips for making the most of what you have.

Experiment With What You Have

“When I was recording on location in Kenya—and working on my doctorate in Ethnomusicology—every session was totally improvised. I’d be working in very remote places—at times having to bring a generator to even track. And I could never bring much gear, so I had to make what I did have work. I learned a lot from those times, so, on this album, when I was in a similar position, I used an old Electro-Voice PL11—which is designed as a broadcast mic—to record the drums. I only had a PL11 and a Shure SM57 to work with on the source sounds, so I put the PL11 inside the kick, as it could translate the low end, and the SM57 on the beater side of the head to get the attack. Then, I just blended the sounds together. It came out great. You’ll probably never see anyone else using those two mics to record a kick drum, but they work if you just apply them creatively.”

When In Doubt, Record Direct

“Whilke traveling around Kenya, it’s not like I could bring a ton of guitar amps to get the perfect sound. So I recorded everything I could direct. Afterwards, I could treat the signals however I wanted with plug-ins. In my opinion, it’s more important just to get the performance, than it is to worry about the sound. And it’s better to get a nice, clean, and malleable direct signal, than it is to get stuck with a bad sound due to poor miking techniques.”

Go Small

“If you’re recording in your bedroom, you don’t need to spend thousands on a 100-watt Marshall stack to get a good guitar sound. For this last album, we recorded the majority of our guitars in a small room using a Z.Vex Nano Amp, which is a really cool half-watt amp that lets you get a very thick, overdriven sound without turning it up loud. It was great for recording in a small space. So use little combos. They’ll save you cash, and, if all else fails, you can always reamp later.