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Recording gear

Tracking

We recorded all of the audio parts on a Vestax hdr-v8, which is a very high-quality 8-track hard disc recorder. This on its own made the sound of our record much much better - previously, we had used a cassette 4-track, with track four dedicated to a synchronisation code, so we only had three tracks to record non-midi parts to. With the 8-track, not only is the basic sound quality much, much better, we'd also find that if we played a really good part, but with one bum note, we could just overdub the bad note, and not record the whole part again, the rerecorded version possibly being note-perfect, but lacking some of the nice "feel" of the not-quite-perfect take. This alone made it worth moving into digital recording. Having 8 tracks instead of three meant that we had the luxury of using various older keyboards and synthesisers more than we had done before, we could work out much more interesting guitar arrangements, not just the lead-and-the-odd-powerchord we'd used before, plus, we could record actual bass guitar parts, rather than use the adequate, but slightly unsatisfactory fake synthesiser bass we'd used before. All much more satisfying to listen to, we think!

Being more synthesiser based before, we hadn't used much in the way of compression, and we very quickly found that we needed one, especially for the electric bass, and clean electric guitar. Some bass parts were recorded using a DOD compressor pedal, the "milk box", but it wasn't really up to the job, so we got a Behringer "composer". Behringer gear is very cheap, and highly functional, which is very good, but it tends to need to be set up very carefully compared with better-quality gear, if you want to get a good sound. You can get a good sound using Behringer gear, but you have to work at it. It is very good gear for learning on, and our learning process can be heard in many places on "The Little Apocrypha". Guitar parts were recorded through either a Boss half-rack distortion/overdrive unit, which has a speaker-simulator, or using the speaker simulator from Marks' Alesis Quadraverb GT. We have a few FX pedals which were also used - TC electronic Phaser Mk12, Boss Flanger, DOD Tremelo, Proco Turbo-Rat, Electro-Harmonix "Electric Mistress"flanger.

Mixing down

We used a Mackie CR1604vlz, which is a really good small-format 16-channel mixer. The Vestax 8-track has its own built-in mixer, with 3-band eq, and three effect sends per channel. We combined the outputs and sends of the 2 mixers together using the "mix2" modules on our serge modular synthesiser panel, which was fiddly, but worked OK. Main reverbs on most tracks was from the remarkable little Zoom 1202, which we were very impressed with. We used a Digitech Studio Quad and an Alesis Quadraverb for echoes, chorus, phasing and suchlike. We also have an old, old TC Spatial expander which works beautifully for chorus-type effects on certain sounds. Halfway through the process, we bought a TLA "Indigo" valve equalier and a Roland Spatial Expander in a closeout sale, and both of these turned out to be really good buys - the Roland unit does a good leslie speaker impersonation, and the TLA equaliser has this quality of making most things recorded through it sound better in some indefinable way.

Stringed instruments

We used the following pieces - An american Stratocaster guitar of recent vintage, marks "frankenstein" Telecaster copy (this one is especially nice!) Rickenbacker 6 and 12 string guitars, a cheap Italian six-string acoustic guitar, a Shergold "Modulator" bass, and one of those Yamaha things that looks like a little Les-Paul, and has a magnetick pickup as well as a piezo-electric pickup. This one played nicely, but we were unable to get a satisfactory sound out of it. It's in there somewhere in the middle of "In Nos Aetas Ultima Venit?" anyway. Occasional appearences were made towards the end of the recording process by Mark's Yamaha APX4A electrio-acoustic. !!MARK HAS AN UPDATE!!

As with all things in life, nothing remains the same forever. Owing the to the tragic (well for him, anyway) death of a long-forgotten relative, who happened to own large parts of Western Poland, Mark has been able to undergo a somewhat protracted period of gear renewal. Actually, we made up the bit about the relative, Mark's just fickle... Anyway, the trusty US Strat Plus (1992 vintage) has gone the journey, being replaced by a much-modified US Strat Ultra (we think) and an equally butchered Ibanez Roadstar (an RS 530 initially but now only the body and neck remain of the original guitar). Acoustically, he was also lucky to happen across a truly beautiful copy of a Martin 0018, handbuilt by luthier Colin Kendall of Bury, Lancashire, England, whilst on a day trip to Leeds. This was truly love at first strum!! Said acoustic has now been fitted with a Fishman Earthwood pickup, but is always recorded via a condenser microphone. This means that the APX4A has also gone to a better place... The Telecaster remains!!

Amplification-wise, the venerable Quadraverb GT has also been largely superseded by a Behringer V-Amp, which provides much more authentic and dynamic distorted tones, and the kind of semi-clean tones that the GT was never really very good at. The GT is still a pretty darn good effects processor, however, so is still used in that capacity.

Just to prove that he really does have more money than sense, basses have also been eagerly purchased, in this case a De Armond Pilot six string (yes-6 STRING!!), thanks to that wonderful institution that is Ebay, and a Yamaha RBX270 fretless. Despite being a cheapie, the Yamaha sounds particularly wonderful and is all over the recent recordings that we've done. The De Armond arrived only recently and has therefore yet to find its way onto disc. Watch this space... Mark would now like to announce that he is thoroughly broke!!

Electronick Stuff

MIDI synthesisers were - Rhodes Chroma (big fancy analog polysynth), Yamaha FB01 (little, not-very-fancy digital FM module), Kawai K5m (digital additive synthesiser) Yamaha SY77 (big fancy digital polysynth) Emu Vintage Keys, Peavey DPM-SP sampler (samples inc grand piano, mellotron violin trio, voices, strings), Korg Wavestation (Interesting and inspiring digital synthesiser) Viscount Cantorum 3 (digital Church/classical organ keyboard) Drume were from a Roland R8m module. Non-MIDI stuff (IE that which we had to play properly) were a Korg "Lambda" string machine, and a Roland SH09 monosynth. We also have a Serge modular synthesiser panel full of audio processing modules, which a fair bit of stuff was tracked through. Oh, I nearly forgot, there was also an EMS Synthi-A, which saw a little bit of use as well.

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