A Brief History of "A Million Different Moments"

Between the recording of “Sublimation” and “A Million Different Moments” a number of things changed in terms of the recording environment we used, the processes we followed, and the influences involved. All of these – and some more audibly than others – had tremendous impact on the final output.

For some reason I figured this might be interesting to chronicle. Hey, it’s my blog, I can do what I want.

Part 1: the studio

Probably the event that had the biggest impact was the movement of Makeshift studios from an overstuffed corner of my apartment bedroom to a sizeable chunk of the basement of my new house. Suddenly I had some room to work, I could randomly tack things to walls if need be, and most importantly I could record and monitor any time, day or night. My first sound tests showed that even with my monitors cranked, sound from my basement could barely be heard upstairs and outside. Contrast this with my second-floor apartment, where after 9pm even my TV was too loud for my neighbors. My work window shifted from 7-9pm to “whenever the hell inspiration struck.” Inspiration frequently struck at odd hours, so the ability to just wander downstairs and start working was invaluable.

A spate of hardware upgrades also changed the way the process worked, as well. I made the move away from a purely software solution and started buying hardware synths and processors. I’d purchased a Korg MS2000R shortly before the completion of Sublimation, and by the time we really got rolling on AMDM it was the foundation of a lot of the analog synth sounds. I added an Oberheim Matrix1000 and a Novation A-Station as development continued, although they were less-used since they joined the party late.

While using Cubase became incredibly frustrating as time went on (many bugs became evident as I tried more complex things), there were a number of upgrades in software as well. FM7 and Kontakt became staples, I purchased some good sample libraries for source material, and I upigraded my compressor and EQ software. The compressor especially made a huge difference. It also sucked processor on a grand scale, but it gave me output that was much easier to mix with.

On the semi-acoustic front, I added quite a number of bits. A new Gibson/Steinberger guitar replaced the failing Danelectro – while the steiny wasn’t as resonant as the Dano, it stayed in tune and had very flat pickups which were easy to adapt to a number of sounds. A piezo buffer preamp was added to the chain for the e-violin, givng me more solid signal strength and less “brittle” tone for very little investment. A few hand-drums of the middle-eastern variety were added for tonal color and a little more of a human feel to the heavily quantized electronic percussion lines. Of course I didn’t know how to play said drums intially but a little practice took care of that. Finally I added a good aremnian duduk, an insturment whose sound I’d been in love with since I heard one in the mid 80’s, to the final lineup. I’d never played a wind instrument of any kind before so this was a new experience, and from everything I’ve read a duduk is prety unlike most wind instruments anyway. My intial attempts were with William’s duduk, which was a mass-produced turkish instrument, and the results sounded like a wounded duck. After several tries I was able to get a somewhat consistant, albiet horrible, sound out of it. Then I discovered the reed was cracked and replacing it fixed an awful lot. This convinced me to purchase a pro-quality hand-made instrument, and when it arrived even my naive attempts to play it yielded startlingly good results. I was no Djivan Gasparian, but it sounded passable. My naive dudukery was featured in three tracks on the album.

The final hardware upgrade was a new mic preamp. It sounds like a little thing, but the difference in quality it made was unreal. The mic pres built into the 828 were passable, but I wanted some really clean, smooth, warm vox that I just wasn’t getting. So a focusrite Voicemaster Pro was added to the studio and I liked the intial results so much I went back and rerecorded almost all my previously recorded vocals through it. Smooth compression, transparent EQ, really nice harmonic enhancer, subtle de-esser…about the only thing I didn’t like was the “tube saturator” which just made me sound like I wasn’t watching my levels. It ended up making a huge difference in the final product.

So that’s what defined the technology of “A Million Different Moments.” Up next, the influences that shaped the sound.