Slater had been a Queensryche fan when he was a teenager so the opportunity to produce their record was a metalhead wet dream come true. “I was a fan of the bass playing on the first few Queensryche records,” says Slater. “And being a bass player myself, I was flattered that they asked.”
When it came to recording the bass tracks for Operation: Mindcrime II, Slater invoked the use of three different signal paths to capture the multiple bass tracks he intended to use for the record. First, direct through a Little Labs D.I. box to a Summit Audio pre amp. Next, through an Aguilar DB924 Bass pre amp to an Avalon DI and then to a Summit Audio compressor. Third, through to a Gallien Krueger 1001 RB head and a 4 x10 sealed cabinet, miked up with an EV RE20. The tracks were recorded into TASCAM MX-2424s.
To say that Operation: Mindcrime II is slightly bass heavy would be a severe understatement, and might also be considered a serious invitation for a bar brawl with Slater — who lives and breathes bass. “The key when using this many tracks for the bass is keeping everything in phase,” explains Slater. “I always adjust the miked signal so the phase is aligned with the direct signal.”
Zon basses make up a good part of the bass-end of the project. “You have to start with a great sounding instrument to get a great recording and — to me — these are it,” says Slater. “We used a five-string Sonus series and a five-string Piccolo. And on a few tracks we used a 4-string VB series.”
Slater used RE20 and FET U47 mics to record the bass tracks. As for his preferred position, Slater responds, “I mic things very closely.”
And everything counts to Slater. “I start with a great instrument, and from there I use the highest quality equipment I can get my hands on,” he says. “It’s critical to use a short, high-quality cable between the instrument and the DI or amp. In my experience, that has had a huge impact on the tone.”
Slater deployed both hardware and software effects to process the signal. “I’ve been using MOTU’s Mach 5 sampler, Altiverb 5, and Crane Song’s Phoenix plug in,” he says. “And I really like the older Summit hardware that was designed by Dave Hill.”
And that’s not the only legacy gear that came into play. “I have a couple pres from an ill-fated modular system that I relied on a lot, and the TPA-200 pretty much kicked the crap out of any other tube pre I’ve heard,” attests Slater. “For solid-state pres, I’ll usually go with the Crane Song Flamingo.”
The recording of Operation: Mindcrime II took place across four different studios. Thanks to portable technology, the band could continue touring while the record was being made. “This whole record has been mobile,” says Slater. “We have been working between Geoff Tate’s, Mike Wilton’s and Scott Rockenfield’s studios in Washington, my studio in the San Francisco Bay Area, and tracking backstage on two tours.” Operation: Mindcrime II will be delivered in January 2006.