Stuart McCallum, guitarist and songwriter from The Breath, gives us a fascinating insight into the recording processes and equipment used in making the band’s debut album Carry Your Kin. The album, recorded at Real World Studios, as well as Rosehill Studios in Manchester and Stuart’s own home studio and mixed by Tchad Blake, is available as the Society of Sound release for May.
The album is essentially an acoustic recording. Some of the acoustic instruments were modulated through electronic processors to closely integrate the electronic and acoustic sounds. After recording some initial demos in Manchester we spent a week at Real World Studios laying down the band tracks and lead vocals, before coming back to Manchester and recording the backing vocals in my home studio and the orchestral instruments at Rosehill Studios in Manchester.
The amazing U47 microphone that we used on the vocals, which has been used to record Peter Gabriel, Tom Jones and Robert Plant to name but a few, really added character to the record.
The acoustic sound of the drums in the Wood Room also gave a lot of possibilities in the mix. We had two different overhead pairs – AKG C12s and Cole 4038s, as well as two different sets of room mics – Cole 4038s a few feet in front of the kit and DPA 4011 on the mezzanine above the kit.
There was also an old Mac laptop mic inside an old upright piano that gave a really trashy sound. Recording the backing vocals for the album took a long time as we would double track each harmony – on some tracks there were up to 30 backing vocal tracks. To record the BVs we used a Neumann U89 through a TLA PA1 preamp and to avoid building up lots of room sound we used an SE Electronics Reflexion Filter.
The mix engineer, Tchad Blake, made a huge impact into the overall sound of the album. I would finish each track and consolidate all the files onto a USB stick and post it to Tchad. A couple of weeks later I would get an mp3 of the first mix emailed to me that would always blow me away. Tchad has an amazing skill to make everything sit around the vocal and sound so big. He would also add momentum to the arrangements by dropping instruments in and out of the mix. It was an exciting experience hearing such a master at work.
Real World Studios, Box – in both the Big Room and Wood Room
Rosehill Studios, Manchester
Home Studio, Manchester
Guitars: Gibson SG / Fender Telecaster / Martin 00016 / Yairi baritone / Taylor GS Mini. Tunings used: Standard, DADGAD and Nashville.
Keyboards: Fender Rhodes (the one used on the Portishead ‘Dummy’ album), Yamaha C3, Polychord app on an iPad
Basses: Lakland, Fender Precision, Fender Mustang, Vox Violin Bass, Ukelele Bass
Rioghnach Connolly – vocals
Stuart McCallum – acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, FX
John Ellis – piano, fender rhodes, hammond organ, polychord
Luke Flowers – drums
Robin Mullarkey – electric basses and bass ukelele
Steve Cordiner, Dee Dee Roberts – Violin
Tanah Stevens – Viola
Rachel Shakespeare – Cello
Iain Dixon – clarinet, bass clarinet, flute
Rachael Gladwin – harp