Shitake Monkey

Shitake Monkey are clearly insane. And if you don’t believe us, then just try them. After all, what less than the purest mental illnesses would cause three seasoned producers to attempt to start a band together? Having known each other from working under the Sony umbrella, producing acts such as Destiny’s Child and Brian McKnight, members Chuck Brody, Electric Pete, and Johnny Rodeo decided to give a shot at putting an album together themselves, and what they’ve turned out in the form of Street Beef is nothing less than, well, weird: Thousands of random noises and twisted effects converge with pop hooks for what could well be one of the most eclectic song collections of recent years. So we decided to corner them (but not to make extended eye contact) and get the scoop on the making of Street Beef. This is what we found.

EQ: Elaborate on these “15,000 vocals” you supposedly tracked for the album.

Chuck Brody: The 15,000 vocal stacks came from hours and hours of loop recording. The only way we could think of having the Madison Square Garden crowd singing along in “Baby Baby” was to actually record the part over and over for as long as we could. We looped the section for hours and went and found people around the studio to come join us in nauseating sing-alongs. With that, and the sing-along at the end of “Two Dudes” where we forced every person who came in the room to sing, we estimated about 15,000 vocal tracks.

Electric Pete: We were on Pro Tools TDM at that point and had to bounce down huge sessions of overdubs. It would take an hour to pan the whole stackapillar.

Johnny Rodeo: Blend and bounce, blend and bounce.

EP: We also recorded about 180 tracks of harmony vocals on “Come On.” Again, we made a separate Pro Tools session for the basic overdubs and bounced them all down to incorporate in the master session.

EQ: You guys manage some pretty off-the-wall sounds. . . .

JR: We really do go for sounds that are original — nothing stock, particularly with synths. A lot of times we send MIDI to three to five keyboards and then blend their sounds. Excess is Pete’s meditation mantra.

EP: My favorite is the vocal sound in the chorus to “Come On.” We threw Chuck in the vocal booth with a [Shure] SM58 plugged into his vintage Vox AC30 amp, cranked to 11. It started squealing like crazy. We miked the amp with the [Shure] SM7, gave Chuck some in-ear monitors, covered his ears with a pair of blastcan ear muffs made for lawn mowers, and then had him sing the hook with all the feedback in the room.

CB: We then put my vocals through the AC30 in the bathroom, on top of the toilet, and then threw a pair of Royer R-122s in Blumlein in front of it to record the room’s reverb.

EQ: What pieces of gear played the most crucial roles in the recording of Street Beef, and how did you apply them?

CB: We got a spring reverb unit that we took out of a Farfisa organ that was a lot of fun. We also had a couple of dbx 160xs and a 166 that we used for the guitar sound on “Maybe Lady.” We just went in one to the other, and then from one side of the 166 into the other side.

JR: We also found four consumer-grade stereo graphic EQs that we chained together inline with one another that Chuck’s megaphone solo on “Happens To Me” ran through. I’d like to challenge anyone to beat him in a megaphone shred off.

CB: Pete built a cool distortion pedal called “the Distorto” that was mounted to a piece of cardboard. It sounded beautiful with the array of red Squier guitars and basses we had.

EQ: Do you cut to tape, or did you keep everything in Pro Tools? Do you have a preferred approach?

EP: We cut our drums to tape, then throw them into Pro Tools when we get the opportunity. I have a TEAC 1/2" 8-track that was aligned by Kim Stallings from Sony, who is a badass. I don’t know how he did it, but he calibrated it at +9. We were using GP9 tape, but now we don’t know if we’ll get to so much. . . .

JR: One thing I always hear people say about tape is that it takes too much time. But one thing I find about cutting drums, bass, and guitars to tape is that it actually takes me less time in the mixing process. Tape just sounds more like the records I like; it smoothes out the transients in a way that Pro Tools just doesn’t. Since I don’t get to use tape as much these days, I have to make sure that I have the time to really check the sounds I’m getting to tape. If I’m working on limited time or with an annoying client, Pro Tools is definitely the answer. I can record a full band and read a magazine at the same time.