Producer Mark Frith on the challenge of recording live

The tens songs which feature on David Rhodes eponymous second album were recorded “as live as we could make them”. We asked producer Mark Frith to explain the challenges of recording live.

“The first stage of the recording involved a live, full band setup which presented the usual challenge we always face with this scenario; how to separate the drums yet allow everybody to see each other.

Ged (on drums) had no problem making himself heard as he is most definitely the loudest player I have ever encountered! Any notion of putting a sensitive large diaphragm condenser mic close to the kit were quickly dismissed as I walked around the room and was literally punched in the chest from the pressure coming – not only from the kick, but the snare too.

In the end I sited David in the corridor (oh the glamour!) and put the ridiculously powerful Rivera 4 x 12 in the bathroom. Well why not?!

Charlie, wanted to be near the drums of course, so I ran the lead from his bass guitar out to a quite ‘dead’ sounding cupboard, normally used for storing cables, now available to house his beautiful old Ampeg B15 Porta-flex amplifier. I mic’ed that with a Neumann TLM170. That way I had perfect isolation acoustically, but the guys were able to see each other.

So to the drum mics.  I chose the AKG D112 on the kick and for the snare, my favourite, the old Electrovoice RE10. I saw Hugh Jones use one of these many years ago. I love the breathy top end it brings to the snare, as well as a nice gutsy bass, too. Under the snare I used a Beyer m200 – a really sensitive mic which gives so much ‘tizz’ to the snares. They tend to fuzz out a little too, which in this situation works well I find. Toms?  Well no shocks here –  Shure SM57s all round and for the overheads a pair of AKG C414 BULS (the black ones!) I quite often say that if I only had two mics to use for the rest of my life I’d pick an AKG C414 and a Shure SM57. There are very few occasions when one of these mics won’t work and do a good job. The ubiquitous AKG C451 on the hat of course and that’s about it. I put a lovely old telefunken U47 valve mic about three metres back in the room to try and capture some of that air that Ged was pushing around. I always find that the biggest challenge – to try and capture for the listener the feeling of being in front of a really powerful drummer – and the old U47 valve is a really great place to start. A bit of compression and it all comes up lovely.

Next to the mic amps. These were dealt with by the Neve Prism rack ; basically a set of mic amps and eq’s from a big format Neve desk but split into a portable box. I also have a couple of Siemens V76 preamps which came out of an old EMI console, and one these partners up with the U47 nicely, leaving the other free for the bass mic. The bass di always gets used because I have my sansamp bass driver di, which I’ve used on every single session since I first came across it 10 or 15 years ago. I love that little box.

In the bathroom, meanwhile, I mic’ed the Rivera 4 x 12 with a Neumann U67 which sounded pleasingly fat. Since we were only recording scratch vocals at this point I gave David a Shure SM58 to shout at.

This is pretty much how everything went down. Obviously there was a bit of overdubbing and I let David into the studio to record his final vocals, but that was pretty much it. The little percussion overdubs were recorded using the kit overhead mics, which meant Ged didn’t even have to stand up to play them. Once he’d done his business we were able to move the 4 x 12 into the main room, which was a great relief to everyone wanting to go the loo. Some of the more ‘roomy’ guitar overdubs were recorded with the help of a pair of Earthworks Qtc 1 omnidirectional mics set back in the room a bit, together with the original Neumann U67 and a touch of Shure SM57 blended in.”

Find out more about the album.



1 Comment

  • Magnus says:

    Thanks for sharing the recording details, would love to read some about the mixing “secrets” also.
    And a big HOORAY for David Rhodes’ return in my ears!!
    Love “Bittersweet”, and have a feeling I will spin this one a lot too.

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