Tell me about the Dirty Three live recording project you're working on.
JF: Last Fall, myself, Braden King, Michael Krassner and one other film maker from New York went along on a two-week tour of the Dirty Three and did a documentary film. I headed up the sound recording with Michael (and we would switch off with a portable camera) and Braden headed up the filming aspect of it. It was an amazing tour with a really great vibe. It was up in the Northwest and Canada so there was a lot of space and a good environment to spend some time in. The shows were completely moving. I was not sure how I would respond to that much expenditure of energy hearing the Dirty Three for 12 nights in a row, but I found it to never wane in its intensity and the effect it had on me. As I'm sure you know, their shows are quite an experience. You either really get into it, or you don't but there is not much room for being so-so with them. We traveled with one ADAT and a Mackie 1604. I would take feeds from the board and bus them through the Mackie to minimize track usage and then have either one or two pairs of room mics (Marshall 2003 and Shure SM81s). Midway through I started using a pair on stage and a pair in the back of the hall, cause the halls were so big that sometimes by the time the sound made it to the back, it would be some crazy wall of noise, so I found that the stage mics lent some clarity as well as space to the recordings. The release is going to be a CD as well as a DVD that is the documentary film. We still have to mix the music for the documentary, but the record itself is done. I just returned from doing a similar thing with The Boxhead Ensemble, who toured with a series of short films creating live soundtrack music. This time, we took two ADATs as well, as there were six musicians on the tour (Michael Krassner, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Jim White, Tim Rutilli, David Curry, Scott Tuma) who all played more than one thing a night. The music will become accompaniment to the films on DVD and more tours are planned for next Spring. I thought the ADATs worked much better for the lighter music of Boxhead Ensemble than it did for the loud rock of Dirty Three, I much prefer analog for them, but the recording still sounds great. It captures the raw power of Dirty Three as opposed to the lush, heavily reverby studio recordings, which I am also a fan of, but do not capture the live show for certain.
What other current projects are you working on?
JF: Right now, I am working with Califone on a record based on a live show I recorded where they did a film soundtrack to the 1930's animation film The Misfit. We are also shaping the record from live improvisation session from the week prior and from the first half of the aforementioned live show. Also, gearing up to do the next Terminal 4 record.
Now came the time to get a peek under the hood and see what they use to get that mellow-warm Truckstop Records' sound. Joe took me on a little walking tour, where we met Woody the cat and saw rooms filled with many a cool piece of gear.
The main room of the studio is large enough for your average 18-wheeler with doublewide cab. Off this main area is the control room, soundproof live room, Dave's mastering/recording suite, office, and a couple other rooms with stuff in them which Joe affectionately calls "storage". On a walking tour of the facility, Joe pointed out some of the more distinct features, one being an old Zenith console hi-fi with built-in reverb, which they sometimes patch a signal to and mic.
The main console is a Soundcraft Series 600 24 channel with 8 buses. The main analog recorder is a Tascam MS16 1" 16-track. For those on a budget, Truckstop offers recording on one or both of their 2 ADATs, or Pro Tools and Wavelab for mastering. And the microphones? Audio Technica 4033 and ATM 25, Rode NT1, Marshall 2003XL, Shure KSM32, KSM44 and SM81, CAD, Oktava as well as assorted 57s and 58s. In the live room, Joe shared one last story about the patch bay that led to the control room.
Did you guys wire all these XLR and 1/4" connectors yourselves?
JF: Yeah, Braden was pretty active with that, but we all worked a good deal on it. We hooked everything up wrong the first time and had to go back in and resolder it. We ran all the snakes through and hooked it up and then when we soldered it on the other side we put all the connectors on backwards. We were getting ready 'cause The Vandermark 5 was going to come in and do a 2-hour session, one song, so we were up all night resoldering the whole thing. That was our first session and we were so out of our minds. It was the last stretch to finish it and we just started booking without having anything ready.