"DON'T TOUCH THE CONES"
Alan's editorial for The Mix magazine ran in the May 2000 edition.
Over the course of my years in the industry, I have reached some conclusions as to how to achieve optimum results from a recording session - how the commercial studio can help to bring the very best out of the artist by creating the most conducive environment for that all-important creative process. Yes, we need midi, speakers, a mixing console. But what about those other requirements - the small but significant details so consistently overlooked by the budget-tightening studio manager...
So, what can the studio do to help? Firstly, attempt to provide a parking scenario that doesn’t necessitate producer downing tools in order to relocate his vehicle so the brewery truck next door can make it's delivery. Once inside, why not welcome in that free but oh-so-often ignored commodity - natural daylight? It works wonders for the soul and minimises the inevitable onset of 'studio tan' where production team emerge from six-week session with the complexion of a freshly unearthed Pete Moss.
Secondly, try situating the effects units in positions which don't require the engineer to perform extraordinary acts of contortion (thus exposing builder's crack) for the sake of one more notch on the PCM70. Aside from eliminating hums, buzzes, crackles and creaks, scrap the heart attack-inducing hydraulic chairs which plummet unexpectedly in the middle of that crucial overdub, ditch those blinding low voltage interrogation spots and under no circumstances offer up soiled pantyhose as pop shield. Finally, appreciate the benefits of a fully-effective air conditioning unit..... finding oneself stripped to the Y-fronts, drenched and drooped over the console isn't exactly the ideal circumstance for getting that album delivered on schedule, especially when your young assistant hasn't yet discovered the joys of 'Right Guard'.
Speaking of staff, the conscientious manager should employ personnel who don't balk when speaker covers are removed to expose those essential pulsating cones (we need to SEE the sub-bass frequencies), and remind them NEVER to contemplate rearranging the musician's set-up (or tidying up his last minute scribbled lyric). It is also crucial that the artist be allowed to mark his territory, so no objections should be made to visual entertainment in the form of posters hung to conceal depressing wood chip decor, 70's artexing and Elton's gold discs. Educate your over-exuberant secretary to think twice before 'phoning the control room during that critical vocal drop-in and insist your 'boys' are proficient in the production of a decent cup of char - they can never make enough! Take now-established but once plain old Mark Ellis, who, while serving his apprenticeship as tape op., acquired his famous nickname 'Flood' due to over eager tea-making skills. His aptly named colleague 'Drought' never saw the importance of this career-breaking move and hasn't been heard of since.
For relaxation, be sure to supply the full quota of Sky Sports channels but go easy on 'Sonic The Hedgehog'-type distractions by which young impressionable assistants can be lured away from their duties. To maintain the genial disposition of your client, invest in real coffee (plus the relevant tools for it's preparation) and vitally, ensure there is 24 hour access to a well stocked 'fridge - or better still, an accommodating chef. (A stack of menus detailing the gastronomic delights of the neighbourhood's artery-clogging cuisine is NOT acceptable. Neither is a packet of sweaty tofu and a tub of 'Benecol' as the "healthy option". )
So you see, technology IS important, but only up to a point. Of course I want my 9600/ProTools 24 system to digitally lock via MTP-AV to the SSL and multitrack machine - that goes without saying - but I also need a little peace and pampering. Consequently, these days, I run my own studio - and no grimy rock band is getting within 10 miles of it. Now, lets see what 15khz does to those cones........


Alan Wilder
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