Last summer Paul Dinletir of audiomachine asked me over to his studio to begin conceptualizing the production of his next trailer release. He wanted to discuss achieving a unique and innovative sound. Something ‘bigger’ than anything we’d ever heard or done before. After the wildly successful and larger-than-life Helios, I knew this would be no small feat. Paul has this ability to make what seems impossible become possible. The result is Phenomena. Watch the first placement “300-Rise of an Empire” HERE:
We recorded this release at Air Lyndhurst in London. I’m thrilled with the results as we were working with such diversity. In the end we captured a huge dynamic. From an intimate performance of a string quartet all the way up to a 100 piece orchestra, including 10 percussionists, not to mention an 80 voice choir.
In that initial pre-production meeting we agreed that there needed to be space in the orchestration and arrangement of the pieces to let the power and uniqueness of this release shine through. In other words, it would be impossible for a string quartet to rise above a bombardment of 180 musicians bashing about. The same goes for the 10 percussionists if we didn’t leave room it would just become a wall with no clarity. We wanted listeners to hear all 10 players but with a room that size, the acoustics would be challenging. It needed to sound absolutely gargantuan and precise at the same time.
During our brainstorming session Paul asked me with a smile, “How do we achieve that?” My response was “Easy, no problem. I got this!” Truth was, I did NOT have ‘this’ at that moment, knowing that I would have to discover the solution quickly. I realized that the only way to balance so many players was for me to situate myself in the room with them and produce them first hand. So I called upon a good friend, Casey Stone, who also happens to be a first-class engineer. During the session at Air, Casey stayed in the control room engineering so I was free to be in the hall producing. This simple maneuver was the key to creating the sound we wanted. I have never experienced such a thunderous sound as sitting in the middle of those 10 percussion players at Air. Four of the drummers played Traps, six played Taikos, the effect was powerful, explosive and sonically exhilarating.
Whenever I record an orchestra, I go into the hall with the players at least once an hour to experience their performance and recreate it in the control room. The Strings and Brass were of course magnificent and grand, however we had not recorded this many percussionists at one time before. In the two days of those sessions I found myself conducting, guiding, balancing, and most of all, making sure that the section always performed as one single point of unimaginable sonic power. After this experience it was hard to head back into the control room, I was having way too much fun out there.
After a week, it was back to the States to mix at “The Farm”, my private studio. As with all audiomachine releases, Paul tells me to push it to the next level and take the time I need to make it the best it can be. So I spent 3 days researching new techniques, plug-ins, software and hardware routing. I pushed my system to get each and every ounce of power. I was telling people that my computer had exhaust pipes coming out of it. Phenomena was mixed with my HDX2 using Waves, UAD and my custom Neve sidecar. Most of the cues had 350+ tracks that obviously needed to be mixed down to 2. Good times.
So for nearly a month, I sat down to mix and produce Paul’s phenomenal compositions performed by the world’s finest musicians and recorded at my favorite hall. What I learned from this project was that there’s always another level you can take your vision to. I’m fortunate my work still offers me ways to learn and advance beyond what I thought I was capable of. Challenges call for greater creativity. I thoroughly enjoyed working on this release and can’t wait to see how far we push it next time.