Producer Fran Ashcroft: An insight to some of the contrasting methods that can be used with the minimum of equipment
Elks Skiffle Group: Aliens 263 Earthmen 0
The 2nd album from the inimitable puppet pop group from outer space is unashamedly 4 track in all its vintage glory, and was a best seller in '99/2000 from USA to Japan and beyond. It is a recording that stretched my little 4 track to its absolute limits, often with several overdub parts per track. There were innumerable fader moves, EQ and fx changes on every submix, as well as defined edit points and cross fades which had to match up to join the album together, more or less continuously. An enjoyably challenging piece of work, which utilized every mic, piece of gear or musical toy that could be found in the studio.
A typical example of the Elks recording process -
- Track 1: drum pattern 1,bass, kbd 1
- Track 2: organ
- Track 3: drum pattern 2 (synchronized manually), strings 1
- Track 4: strings 2, brass
Submix to stereo
- Track 1: submix L
- Track 2: submix R
- Track 3: submix L return from reel to reel, with tape delay and flanging by hand
- Track 4: submix R return from reel to reel, with tape delay and flanging by hand
Submix to stereo
- Track 1: submix 2 L
- Track 2: submix 2 R
- Track 3: l. vo cal, H.vocal (bounced on itself), sfx 1
- Track 4: backing vocals 1 and 2 (bounced on themselves), sfx 2
Final mix to Minidisc or computer
Brian Johnstone : Songs O' The Scots-Anglo Border
The first of a trilogy of 17th century Scots folk songs, some never previously recorded.The brief was to not make a 'pretty' folk recording, and I went so far as to deliberately degrade the sonic when mixing, for a wild, rugged atmosphere.
The album was made in a single 6 hour day, with a further day to mix. All recording was live, using 2 cardioid electret condenser mics, to Minidisc. No more than 3 takes needed for any of the performances.
Mic/Track 1 : vocal 1 and guitar, harmonica and a bleed of Northumbrian small pipes or bodrahan
Mic/Track 2: vocal 2, Northumbrian pipes, bodrahan, and a bleed of lead vocal 1 and guitar
I opted for this '2 track' approach, rather than stereo, which gave more flexibility to rebalance the instrumentation when mixing, which was either in mono, or fake stereo. The mix was made to an old Sony stereo reel to reel for tape compression, then loaded into the computer, where hiss was removed. No mastering was needed, other than setting relative levels between the songs.
The record met with a gratifying critical response and consistent sales when released in the USA, and I believe some tracks are up for inclusion in the Smithsonian archive.
Producer Fran Ashcroft has 30 years of recording know how, with credits diverse as Damon Albarn (Blur) and Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds.