GRTV: Propaganda and the Ukraine Crisis [Full Length Documentary]

 

 

Welcome-to-Nulandistan-400x248This full length GRTV documentary produced by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya examines the fictitious land of “Nulandistan” (named after Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland)  that has been constructed out of Ukraine.

It depicts how the realities of crimes against humanity and political oppression involving terrorist mobs are casually replaced by a World of fiction, in which real “Western style democracy” prevails.

It deconstructs the rhetoric and propaganda of the Obama Administration and its European allies regarding the crisis in Ukraine and takes a look at their growing frustration towards the Russian media, particularly RT, for challenging their account of events on the ground in what they have declared is an intensifying “information war”.

The documentary starts with an examination of the EuroMaidan protests that both Washington and the Western media have used to justify the instatement of an unelected self-proclaimed regime in Kiev.

The May 2 Odessa Massacre and the political protest movement leading up to the referendums in Donestsk and Luhansk in East Ukraine are reviewed.

The underlying focus is to show how the reality of events in Ukraine has been been misappropriated and propagandized to support US foreign policy and to justify tensions against Russia.

 

French Duo Cassius Create Summer Soundtrack on ‘Sunchild’ – Song Premiere

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Putting together “Sunchild” for the Ed Banger records Ed Rec Vol. X compilation wasn’t the easiest task for French electronic duo Cassius. With a deadline looming, they were about to abandon the track altogether before Boom Bass called up his partner Philippe Zdar and told him to meet him at the studio for one last go at it.

“I threw together a very quick beat, and then recorded Hubert doing a bass line and a piano,” Zdar recalls. “Then I put down some synths and a very light live drum that we ended up keeping – one long live trip, and no editing, with even the flaws and bad fingers. We loved it. It sounded like the soundtrack to all of us having raones, sardinas or paella in our favorite Ibiza beach restaurant on a long summer lunch.”

Cassius  Duo

Cassius Duo

Now you can take an exclusive listen to “Sunchild,” which will absolutely appear on Ed Rec Vol. X, out June 11th (you can pre-order through iTunes now). The track stands as a tribute to DJ Mehdi, a beloved member of the Ed Banger family who died two years ago: “Now if I close my eyes, I can feel the warm breeze and the pine trees,” adds Zdar. “And if I listen really carefully, I can hear our dear brother Sunchild Mehdi laughing loud like he always did with his deep and warm ‘ha ha ha’s.”

Things to Consider When Recording

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Things to Consider When Recording

Part 1: What should you be recording?

It is increasingly becoming fact that at the moment, album sales are decreasing . iTunes and digital downloads have become the main way to get music out to the public. The audience wants instant access to the songs they want to hear, whether it be a download or streaming.

The audience’s attention span has also decreased. Without regular updates about what your band is doing, the audience can tend to get bored or distracted away from your band. You need to constantly update and keep fans aware of what the band is doing. The audience needs to feel connected to the band, and wants to hear new things!

There are a number of ways to keep your audience aware of your band. It can be uploading videos from live performances (try to get a desk mix to put with the video, no one likes to hear distorted audio, they will stop listening!!), videos behind the scenes at rehearsals (showing the band working on new material), studio diaries etc.

Another option is recording singles. If a band of 4 people put $50 aside each week, they can record a new song every 6 weeks. This can keep audiences interested as they will keep coming back to hear new songs. By the end of the year, the band will have 8 songs recorded. If the songs are released via iTunes or http://soundcloud.com/ or http://bandcamp.com/ and even MySpace, you can track which songs have the most downloads/plays. Pick the most popular 4 or 5 songs, and at the end of the year release this as your E.P. Your dedicated fans will still purchase the EP even though they have heard the songs, because they will want a proper physical copy. You could also record a new song to add to the EP so there is further incentive for the dedicated to purchase it.

The most important thing, is that you have a solid EP that is already made up of your most popular songs, so now you need to do a large tour to play to new audiences, impress them with your live show, and they will purchase your EP, and be blown away by the fact that it’s a solid EP full of great songs. This new audience will then tune in to you releasing a new song every 6 weeks. At the end of that year, release another EP of the most popular songs, impress new audiences and build a solid reputation as a great band. If you put out a couple of EPs full of songs that have been proven to impress audiences, more people will take notice and there is more chances of the band breaking through!

The other benefit of this is that you don’t need to save up thousands of dollars and take a week or so off work to record your EP. By spacing it out, the money isn’t one large sum, plus it’s easier for the band members to all get 1 or 2 days off work every 6 weeks.

Why record an album?

Recording an album to find a label and get signed is kind of like hiring a reception hall; buying the rings and wedding dress, then waiting until you find a bride… That’s not exactly the right way to go about it. If a label has already expressed interest in you, and asked for an album to see what you are capable of, that’s a little different. If you are recording an album before you have a solid fan base, it’s going to be extremely hard to get people to notice you. Build your name and reputation first, create a demand for your album, make people want you to record a full length.

The best reason for a band that is still relatively unknown to record an album is purely for the love of music. Not to make money. You are making an album that you want to listen to and hopefully some more people will hear it and enjoy it too.

Part 2: How Can You Promote/Release Your Music?

In the past there have been numerous formats to release music to cater to what the audience was using for music playback. Over time, some have dramatically decreased (vinyl), while others have pretty much died (cassettes & 8-tracks). You need to look at your target audience and find out what format suits best.

How many people do you see walking around today with a discman?
How many people are actually buying CD’s? (Musicians, dedicated fans and older people are buying more than the general population).
If the majority of your target audience isn’t purchasing CD’s, why would you get so many CD’s duplicated?

There are plenty of sites to release your music online –
http://soundcloud.com/
http://bandcamp.com/
http://www.triplejunearthed.com/
http://www.numberonemusic.com/
http://www.cdbaby.com/
http://www.tunecore.com/
http://www.iTunes.com/

The first thing you need to ask yourself, is “Do I want to make money from the songs I record, or do I want to reach as many people as possible and create a fan base that will give me larger audiences at gigs?

If you want to create an audience and fan base, then the best thing to do is give your songs away. If more people are able to listen to your music easily for free, that can equal a larger audience. Not everyone who downloads your song may like your music, in which case, you have lost nothing but they may have friends who they think will like your music, in which case you may gain some fans. If people who download your music for free DO like your music, they will turn up at your gigs, giving you an audience, and if you have merch for sale, they may buy some of that too.
It isn’t so much about losing money as it is about gaining an audience. If you are selling your music and you only have a small fan base, once they have bought it, there will be no more sales. You need to draw as many people as possible in, so when you have gigs, albums or shirts for sale, there will be more people to buy them.

What about after a gig, when people want to purchase your songs while still on a high from your performance and/or alcohol?
http://www.bandtag.com.au/ tries the concept of selling a card which enables people to download the songs when they get home. You get the cash there and then. The audience gets the music in a format they can instantly add to their iPod.

An idea that is still new and used by a couple artists (Blink-182, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu) is to use USB sticks.
A bulk purchase of USB sticks can be in the area of $5.50 to $13 per unit depending on the casing itself, the memory size and the number ordered. You can even get custom-made USB sticks shaped like the band logo or a guitar or pretty much anything!
The benefit of a USB stick is that you can store more than just your music on it.
You can put album artwork, video clips, the behind the scenes footage you shot during rehearsals and recording sessions, desktop background images, phone background images, photos, a complete Electronic Press Kit, links to your website/facebook etc…

Not everyone enjoys listening to MP3’s, some still enjoy the quality of a higher resolution. On the USB stick you can have a folder with the MP3 versions ready to be put onto the iPod, as well as a folder with the full quality WAV files so people can make their own CD.

Plus, as you record new songs, you can very easily add these to the USB stick so it’s updated ready for the next gig…
While the initial purchase of the USB sticks can be seen as expensive, because they can be added to and updated over a couple of years, they are more likely to recover their cost over time, and because people can delete the data off the USB once its one the computer, it has the band logo/name on it, so when they take the USB to school/work/uni the band name is clearly on display just like a t-shirt.
If you release a new EP you can have it bundled with the previous EP on the USB. That creates a stronger incentive for people to purchase as they are now getting 2 EP’s as well as the extra data in one package. Plus if the band has evolved and there are songs no longer relevant to the sound of the band, simply delete them from the USB sticks.
Because the USB sticks are easily changeable (just takes the time to load your content on each stick, but this can be done by each band member at home while watching TV), you will never have old stock sitting under your bed that you can’t sell.
You could also encourage people who bought the USB stick previously, to bring the stick to the gig to receive the new EP and content transferred to their USB for a lower price, that way they aren’t purchasing a new stick every time you have a new release, just the data.

As I said above, there are still some people buying CD’s, so there is still incentive to release CD’s, but probably not to the point of duplicating 500-1000 copies of an EP.
Here is where you can cater specifically to your dedicated fans. By creating a package that is exclusive or limited, you create a demand among the dedicated.
If you print up 100 CD’s with exclusive artwork in nice packaging, the dedicated fans would want to get their hands on it. Years later these may be the releases of the EP collectors pay hundreds for, the band before they got big.

Well known bands are doing similar things on a larger scale. Nine Inch Nails released a deluxe box set of Ghosts I-IV for $300 and limited to 2500 copies which were sold in a flash. Smashing Pumpkins are releasing 11 EPs over the next 2 years as free downloads for anyone, but also releasing a limited number of boxed sets for the dedicated fans.
Dead Letter Circus released a limited edition version of their album with bonus DVD as well as 5.1 mixes of the album this was limited to 2000 copies and has been selling very well.

While “limited” numbers for these well known bands equals the thousands, a good band that is building its reputation while playing around Australia should look at the size of their dedicated fan-base and cater to that (even if its 150 CDs at $30 for example). Doing this method with a strong enough fan-base, it’s actually possible to cover the cost of recording, duplication and make a profit based on the limited edition copies alone.

When artists such as Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, Josh Freese (who offered different packages with his album, including selling his car ) and Radiohead are looking at new ways to release music, shouldn’t the up and coming bands be looking at new ideas and concepts on their own scale?

The old methods of releasing music are dead or dying.

Part 3: Where Can We Play?

Being a great live band that plays shows around a wide area is the best way start to building the band’s name. If you only ever play the same venue to the same group of friends and family that seems to be getting smaller and smaller each gig, you are probably over-saturating your local venues with your presence.
Venture out-of-town regularly. Put on a great show to whoever turns up (even if its only 5 people). Building a reputation takes time, but is also exponential. Once there is enough groundswell you will find gig attendance take off, but you need to play as many shows as you are able to get to in as many places as you can!

The most important thing is that the band is entertaining to watch. If there is no stage presence or the band is boring and dull to watch, you are fighting an uphill battle. This doesn’t mean you need to be extravagant with a stage show, but watch some of your favourite bands for inspiration on how to be comfortable and relaxed on stage.

Image these days is very critical (this can be a positive and a negative depending on your attitude…). It doesn’t mean you have to dress in matching clothes or dress like you are in Good Charlotte… It means finding a style and image that suits the band. A lot of bands have a tendency to wear on stage whatever they normally wear everyday. This can sometimes lead to a band on stage looking like the guitarist is a skater, the drummer is a metalhead, the bass player is indie and the singer is into hardcore. While these clothes may represent the individuals, is it a good representation of the band as a whole entity?

People go and see bands for different reasons – some have heard and like the songs, some think the lead singer is hot or the guitarist is amazing to watch live and some may be there to see the other bands playing. These are the people you need to try and win each gig. You friends already like you (or at least say they do).

Let’s say you have a fan-base made up of friends and local people as well as from the outside areas you have been playing for the last  6 months – year. If you have been releasing a new song every 6 weeks (see Part 1), these fans have heard the songs, downloaded/bought them, they know the words and have been telling their friends about you. When you play a gig, a percentage will be from this fan-base and their friends, but most likely, a larger amount will have never heard of you before.
Play an amazing set that will blow the other bands off stage. Make sure you play the songs that are the most popular downloads, as obviously these are your stronger songs.
The fans that have heard these songs will be singing along, which will impress the people who have never heard you before. A lot of bands hire a bus to play venues outside their local area. This is a great idea, the more people you can bring, the better you look to the audience that don’t know you as well as looking good to whoever books/promotes the venue if they think you draw a large crowd (this will lead to more gigs).
Hopefully a percentage of this new audience buy the CD and discover that most of the best songs you played at the gig are on the CD. These new fans will follow your band on the internet and tell their friends about the band so that the next time you play, you will have a larger percentage of the audience there to see you, many will have heard of you, but not seen you live yet, now you have to blow them away with your live set!

All of this is going to take a lot of time and a lot of gigs!

So where can we play?

This depends on how far you are willing to travel and how often.
When they were first trying to build their reputation, NOFX used to travel all over American playing gigs everywhere. Playing small towns that very rarely have bands playing is a great way to pack out a venue; the smaller towns have been known to turn up at venues simply because it was something different! NOFX traveled almost the same tour path for a couple of years, playing at established venues as well as small towns, all while they were still an unknown band. They built up a solid fan-base all over America simply by playing shows everywhere. By the time the band was starting to break through, there was already a large crowd of followers.
This was done in the days before you could run a search on the internet, find a list of venues and pubs and plan out a tour itinerary using http://www.whereis.com/.
There are a lot of country towns and mining towns throughout Australia. Once a year, in support of your latest release, you should do a tour hitting as many venues as possible. Not all venues will be able to pay the same amount, but some of the smaller country town venues can provide food and accommodation which is good when you are on the road for a few weeks, others may only have a budget that covers petrol money to the next venue, but if you put on a great show, you should be able to sell some merch!

During the rest of the year, it’s important to play outside your local area more often than you play in it. If you play too often at your local venue, even your dedicated local fans won’t mind missing a show because they know they can see you again there in a couple of weeks.

On your website/Facebook/MySpace have an area people can either request where they want you to play, or where they are from. If you are able to create mailing lists, you can look at creating targeted lists for different areas. If you are playing a gig in Sydney, contact the people who have said they live with 2 hours of Sydney, etc.

The main thing that I cannot say enough, is that it is going to take time, money, effort and a lot of gigs to create and maintain a fanbase, but without a fan base eventually the only person turning up to your local gigs will be your mum… if she has nothing better to do.

Part 4: Do We Need a Video Clip?

In a short answer, Yes

You tube is currently the 3rd most viewed website, while MySpace is 9th…

More and more, people are going to you tube to find music, where as a couple of years ago, MySpace was the destination to hear music. http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/stories/051110twoyears

So if you don’t have a clip up on video sites, there are potentially people looking for your music but are unable to find it.

There are a lot of factors that need to be considered when making a clip.

What is the aim of the clip?

Is it to show the band in a performance set up so people can get an idea of what to expect live?

Is it a story video clip telling the story of the song or relating the themes of the song in a visual representation?

Is the aim to have a video that will go viral whether it be comedy/graphic violence/porn etc?

Naturally, each of these has their pros and cons…

First let’s look at Viral Videos

The viral video is a trend that has taken off over the last few years. Sure it can lead to thousands if not millions of views and a lot of buzz, but then after the initial attention, if the song in the clip is not a great song, the band will fall aside and be forgotten.

If the song is good and there is more interest, then the problem of what to do for a second clip arises. Does the band need to then rely upon gimmicky videos to sell their songs, if the band stops with the gimmicks and tries to appear as a band, will it be the start of their downfall?

OK GO are an example of a band who are known not for the traditional reasons of great songwriting or live shows, they are a band who has become global sensations for their videos with each new video being listed as a must watch by the online community as the next viral video, often before it is even released.

They have so far managed 3 videos which are unique and have millions of views each.

The video which launched them as a global phenomena

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTAAsCNK7RA

4 million views at time of writing

Their follow-up video;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qybUFnY7Y8w

25 million views at time of writing

Third video;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHlJODYBLKs

9 million views at time of writing

Obviously the band’s success depends on how good the band are at writing songs and how they want to present themselves visually, but the important thing to remember with quick success and attention is that it can be gone just as quick when the next gimmick comes along.

The hardest thing about creating a viral video is coming up with the idea that will cause the video to become viral.

An example of a video which is far more memorable than the song is the video for “Ritalin” by Dancing Pigeons. This is a video which is truly memorable, but it makes the mistake of being a video which is more memorable than the song. To the best of my knowledge the band are not in the video clip and it could be any song being played over the video.

A quick search of YouTube for “flame thrower vs fire extinguisher” shows up this video and it is only once you look in the details of the video that it is revealed who sings the song and what the song is called.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZziLdaAaRIg&feature=related

The viral trend has become such a phenomenon that now marketing people worldwide are using the viral concept to sell every kind of product under the sun or make ads that don’t appear to be ads. The idea needs to be something that is seen by the general public as not being created by a team of marketing people trying to sell the band as a product. This can often lead to a negative backlash from the wider audience that can lose respect for the band.

Atomic Tom released this clip – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAllFWSl998

Upon research listeners realized that the video was not entirely as it seemed. The band were actually signed to a label that was responsible for the video and the song itself was given away as part of one of the apps for sale on iphone. So this band that was at first perceived as having bad luck by their instruments being stolen but coming up with a new idea, was revealed to actually be a commercial for iphone apps.

Video Clips with a Story

These kinds of video clips can be great at putting a visual image to the story of the song. The actors can help put a face to the feelings and emotions portrayed in the song, that is of course, if they are good actors.

If you have ever tried to make a short film with friends, you have probably discovered that not many of them can act well. In fact, not a lot of people can appear convincing on camera as actors.

The other thing to consider when doing a clip with a story is that in effect, you are shooting a short film, so you must therefore consider all the requirements that go with that process (including budget, catering etc).

Doing a video clip with a story “on the cheap” looks just like that – Cheap.

Not everybody can afford a full Hollywood film crew to shoot an 8 minute long short film with your music video in it. Even then, it is 2 minutes into this video before the song even starts playing. The line between music video and short film is very blurry on this 30 Seconds to Mars clip.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpG7FzXrNSs&feature=relmfu

Performance Clips

These clips can often be the cheapest option, but can also be the most effective. They can straight away showing what the band looks like (remember that these days, whether you like it or not, image has become a very important thing).

It can help your fans identify who does what in the band if they have never seen the band perform live.

The performance can be done to appear live (mining to the recording) with a group of friends as an audience, or done with just the band performing in a scene that they feel suits their image.

These days with the technology available on computers you can add some great visual effects, making sure not to look as though someone has gone crazy with the “Starwipe”.

This video directed by Mark Romanek is about as simple as they can come, sure their budget is bigger than yours probably is. But look at the essence of the video, band + fans + lights + camera = music video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYU-8IFcDPw

Some lesser known options, which can be just as equally effective to creating video content.

The photo slide show – also a cost-effective was of showing what the band look like visually.

Live videos footage with the studio song over the top. These can show a true live performance from the band or behind the scenes insights that would not otherwise be seen, the viewer is often more forgiving of dodgy camera quality if the performance looks energetic or has a unique quality to it.

An example of this can be seen with Gold Coast band Helm. They have done a cover EP of Icehouse’s track Great Southern Land. At the time of writing the official video for this track had not been shot, however the band have released a sideshow of studio photos to the studio quality recording of the song. It gives fans the option of sending the video to their friends, which in the case of a cover song such as this is a great way to break the band to a new fanbase who otherwise would not have heard of the band.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7OBM88gVbE

Live videos with live audio – we have all seen and heard these videos on YouTube. It seems only the truly dedicated fans are able to sit through a distorted recording, but generally not new fans. These are often not the best videos to upload as often people can struggle to sit through them!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otNnPKP9AZc

The most important thing for your band is to have content on the net. The more content, the more likely your band will appear at the top of searches. More content also keeps your fanbase interested as they can find more and more things involving the band.

Part 5: Building and Interacting with your Fanbase

These days there is more new music being put out than ever before.

What are you doing differently to stand out from the crowd? What attracts people to you rather than another artist?

How do you build a fanbase?

This goes back to Part 3, play as many shows in as many places as possible. Put on great shows and people will become interested in the band. Once they are initially interested, you have them on the hook and now you need to reel them in.

The most important thing to remember about your fanbase is that they are the strongest tool you have to spread your music. If you keep your fanbase involved and interested, they will tell their friends about you, bring them to your gigs, encourage them to purchase your music.

With all the music being released, it is easy for people to move on and forget about your music if you aren’t keeping them updated and interested.

You need to promote your band heavily, but without being annoying to that people block your feeds online.

Keeping Them Interested

There are so many ways in which you can keep your audience interested in what the band is doing.

The most obvious one is to keep releasing tracks, as stated in Part 1, if you release a new track every 6 weeks, your audience will constantly be hearing new and fresh music from the band, therefore their interest will be maintained, rather than 1 release a year of only 4 or 5 songs.

You need to create content online and it needs to be updated regularly. Rather than re-posting the same YouTube videos constantly, create new videos. Whether it is behind the scenes at a rehearsal or a song writing session or even just the band hanging out, the more videos and content online, the more your fanbase can find and enjoy.

Another way to keep your fanbase interested is to include them in what the band is doing. Don’t make it seem as though the band is separate to the audience, make them a part of the band. One way to include your audience is to let them design artwork for you. Fan art can range from gig posters, computer wallpapers, t-shirts and other merchandise or even CD covers. Fan art gives those with a creative flair the opportunity to connect with a band, the fan gets to feel a closer connection and the band gets free graphic design. In reality all it could take to decide on your next piece of artwork is to post all the fan art online and have a fan vote, what could be better for the band that having the person who designed the art tell every person they know that THEIR design will be featured on as the bands next tour poster or release.

The band Totally Unicorn (http://totallyunicorn.wordpress.com/) have been interacting with their fans by putting together a free compilation CD. Each member of the band has been putting together a CD of songs they like, are influenced or inspired by. These CDs are done in a limited number for the first 10 people who email when the CD is ready. It’s a simple enough idea, but will keep dedicated fans checking the blog to see when the next CD installment is ready so they can be one of the few to receive the CD.

A variation of this can be done on Facebook quite easily, one night a month the band can be online and post videos from you tube of songs they like and would like to show their fans, this can also lead to further interaction with fans by chatting and messaging. You no longer need be a guest programmer on  Rage to show your fans which music videos you really love.

The important thing to remember is that you are competing with all the other music available for the attention of your audience. Just because other bands are on major labels and have $100,000 albums, does not mean you are not competing with them. The music buying public only has a certain amount of money to spend on music; you need to offer them something that goes beyond the music, something that major label bands can’t offer –  interaction!

Once you have a fanbase you virtually have an army at your disposal. You can ask them to vote for your songs in online competitions or pass your videos around to their friends etc. Your fanbase will want you to succeed so they can say that they were there first and helped your band go to the next level.

Amanda Palmer has built up a strong fanbase which she interacts with via Twitter.

Granted that she has a larger fanbase, but this is an example of how interacting with the fanbase can lead to generating some income – http://mikeking.berkleemusicblogs.com/2009/06/23/how-an-indie-musician-can-make-19000-in-10-hours-using-twitter/

Recently at Soundwave after their performance, We The Kings said that they will be on Twitter after the show and for fans that want to meet the band or get items signed, they should contact the band on Twitter and they will come out to the fans.

Having a large dedicated fanbase that will get attention from other people. Your shows will get bigger, your tracks will get more plays. You then need to make sure you interact with your fans and never forget them. It’s this sort of interaction that builds loyalty with your audience, so they will stay with you for the length of your music career.

Part 6: Invest in Yourself

Invest in yourself, but be prepared to lose money.

If you want to try to make a serious career out of music, you need to remember that it is a business and being a band is your job. Just like any job, it takes time to work your way through the ranks. You need to dedicate the time and make the commitment.

You need to invest your time and money into the band. If you are not willing to invest in the band, why should a label or booking agent?

All bands over a certain size (basically as soon as you’re ready to tour) are registered as a business with the government, a quick look on the Australian Business Number website ABN Lookup shows that ALL Australian artists big enough to tour are registered as businesses. Go on, give it a look.

After a quick search for the iconic Silverchair it shows that they are registered as 2 businesses. One business deals with recording and the other deals with touring.

Like any business you will require start-up capital, this is the investment in equipment necessary for the running of your business. Instruments, leasing of rehearsal spaces, petrol to get yourself to shows, posters and merchandise, money for the recording of your music. They are all expenses that are vital to eventually turning a profit, and the more money you spent on producing it the better the product which you are selling.

You only get one chance to make a first impression.

Business researchers have spent millions of dollars and years of research on finding out how long it takes to make a first impression on someone, some articles say 7 seconds for a website, 20 seconds face to face. They haven’t published studies on bands performing live, but it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to presume that the first impression of a band can be formed by one song.

When performing live, everyone should look like they belong in the band. If that means that clothes need to be bought as part of the image, then so be it. The same thing goes with instruments, if you are on stage singing a love song, dedicated to your girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife and playing an instrument like this chances are you should see if you can borrow a more subtle instrument.

You only get one chance to make a first impression.

When it comes to putting up songs on the web, again, there is only one chance to impress. If you upload something that sounds like it was recorded on a mobile phone in a rehearsal room, people won’t play the songs more than once. Then after you upload more songs, you have to fight against the pre-conceived notion they now have that the songs are recorded badly.

Understand the difference between a Demo and an EP. A demo should be just for the band to record the song ideas and find a producer to listen to the songs to come up with ideas for the EP. Demo recordings are not as polished as the EP product so it may not be the best idea to upload demos. Compare it to releasing a first draft of a book, full of spelling errors and fractured grammar to the final edited and published book.

When you take the band on the road, the tour is more likely to cost money than return a profit, but you have to look at what you gain by the tour – making new fans, getting your songs to a wider audience and selling band merchandise.

There are a few things bands can look at for financial assistance such as arts grants or websites like http://www.pledgemusic.com/ which allow bands to receive donations from people to fund releases and tours.

You need to decide how committed you are to giving your music a go. Would you prefer to look back on your life knowing that you at least tried to give it a shot, or live with the regret of never trying?

Part 7: What Should we look for in a Producer?

The Producers job is to help you get the recording that you want to make. In most cases the music producer is also a competent arranger, composer or songwriter who can bring fresh ideas to your tracks.

Sometimes it’s good for a band to get an outside perspective on their songs. Picture the band in a boat heading towards their goal, they are all focused and looking towards their destination. Since they are all looking in the same direction they can’t see the hole in the back of the boat that is going to prevent them from getting there. To a person outside the boat, the hole is clearly visible.

Engineer and Producer are 2 separate roles, although some producers engineer sessions while others prefer to focus solely on the producer role and have a separate engineer.

The role of the engineer is the technical side of the recording, while the producer is focused on the songs.

What should we look for in a producer?

When looking for a producer you can look at who has worked on some tracks you like to see who is working in the style you like.

In Australia there are a large number of producers that work freelance that are able to travel to where the band is located to record. You can decide to go with a person that works with bands in the same style or you can decide to go with someone who would bring an outside perspective, it’s up to the band. There are pros and cons to both.

If you go with someone who works primarily within the style of the band, they will straightaway know where you are coming from and where you want to go. A problem may be that it could lead to the band not standing out form other bands in that style if the producer is known for a particular sound that they bring. In that case it is important that the songs stand out from the other bands in that style, as the sound may not distinguish the band above others.

The pros of a producer that works in a different style is that they can bring in other influences to help shape the sound of the band. This is what Tool did for the Aenema album, choosing to work with David Bottrill who had done a lot of world music previously as well as King Crimson. That Tool album launched Bottrill’s career with that hard rock sound and he went on to produce releases for Mudvayne, Godsmack, Staind among others.

The band can decide what level of involvement they would like the producer to do, but obviously the band has chosen their producer because they value their opinion and musical knowledge. The producer may be there to help shape the vision for the song, offer advice with regards to the sound or even help with the arrangement and lyrics of the songs.

The producer will need to be someone you trust to improve your music with their input, if you choose an award-winning producer they clearly have experience in taking artists tracks to the next level. However if you feel that the songs you are working are perfect already and that any changes made by an outsider will no longer have them feeling like your songs the perhaps a producer is not for you. Producers work by listening to your tracks and analysing them, offering criticism and if needed suggesting changes.

If the band is not yet ready for an outsider to offer criticism and advice, they may not be ready for a producer.

The important thing about a producer is that they are a separate person to bounce ideas off or help find a solution when a problem arises, so you need to make sure you get along with the producer!

Part 8: How Should we Prepare for Recording?

Before going into the studio the band needs to do some pre-production and rehearsals.

Pre-Production should involve recording the songs and listening back. Because this recording is just for the band, it can be as simple as a one mic recording in the rehearsal room.

When listening back to these recordings there are certain things to look for;

Do everyone’s parts work together? Does is feel like a guitar part is clashing with the vocal? Do the drums have the right feel? Is the bass player hitting the right notes in the bridge? Does the solo suit the vibe of the song?

If you have chosen to work with a producer they should be involved in this process, it saves a lot of time to do this before going to the studio!

One thing you should try in the rehearsal room is everyone taking a turn at not playing and just listening to the song. This can give you perspective on where you sit in the song. Doing this can highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the song, or show parts when someone is overplaying or a part that doesn’t gel with what everyone else is playing.

Another thing to try is playing the songs just on an acoustic guitar. This can help show how the melody of the vocal works with what the guitars are playing. If the song and melody feels right when stripped back, but doesn’t feel right when everyone is playing, perhaps the arrangement needs some work to see what is changing the feel of the song.

Once you have listened through the recordings and fine-tuned the arrangements and what everyone is playing, rehearse the songs so everyone knows their parts! An all too common argument bands have in the studio is “Have you always played that?”, it is a time-consuming and expensive argument to have in the studio and with proper preparation should happen in the rehearsal room so that studio time can be as smooth as possible.

Being well rehearsed will save time in the studio. This will save you money and give you a better final product.

It is important to be aware that things will still change in the song during recording. Inspiration can strike once things start coming together, but the more preparation beforehand, leaves you more time to add the little extra ideas that make a recording sound complete.

Rencontre avec Philippe Zdar – Qobuz.com

Published on Apr 19, 2013

Moitié de Cassius et producteur de Phoenix, Zdar est l’une des oreilles les plus prisées de ces dernières années. Rencontre avec le « mec qui fait des blagues » et déteste la starisation du producteur.

A l’heure où beaucoup se contentent d’un pauvre laptop sur un coin de table bancale et d’un enregistrement dans un sale bureau de 2,5m², d’autres demeurent d’impassibles ambassadeurs du bon vieux studio pur et dur, des bandes, bref de tout ce qui rend vivant et ample la musique, qu’elle soit, pop, electro, rap, folk ou thrash metal… Philippe Cerboneschi plus connu sous le sobriquet de Zdar est de cette race de producteur musicien pour qui la musique enregistrée n’est concevable que là et nulle part ailleurs. En plus de deux décennies, l’hémisphère droit (ou gauche ?) du cerveau de Cassius a surtout œuvré pour des hommes, des femmes et des sons auxquels il adhérait à 100%. The Rapture, Solaaar, Beastie Boys, Housse de Racket, Sébastien Tellier, Cat Power, Lou Doillon, Two Door Cinema Club et Kindness, pour n’en citer que quelques-uns. Phoenix est un cas un peu à part. Zdar est de leur saga depuis le premier épisode mais sa participation s’est amplifiée avec l’album “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” pour prendre une nouvelle ampleur avec “Bankrupt !” qui parait le 22 avril. Comment est né ce nouveau Phoenix, quel regard porte-t-il sur son parcours personnel, à quoi ressemble sa tanière, ce studio Motorbass installé à Pigalle, et sa philosophie du son a-t-elle changée au fil des ans ? Le temps d’un podcast, Zdar se confie, sans langue de bois.

Propos recueillis par Marc Zisman

Philippe Zdar: Recording The Beastie Boys’ ‘Make Some Noise’

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“Make Some Noise” is a song by American hip hop group the Beastie Boys, released as the third single from their eighth studio album, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (2011). Following two other singles from the album, “Make Some Noise” was released on April 11, 2011, prior to the album’s release. The song is also their highest-charting single since 2004’s “Ch-Check It Out”, peaking at #1 on the Nielsen BDS alternative rock indicator chart. The song appears on the soundtrack to the videogame Madden NFL 12.

Inside Track – Secrets Of The Mix Engineers

Feeling that something was missing from their latest album, the Beastie Boys decided it needed remixing — by a “crazy Frenchman”.

By Paul Tingen
When it came to making this record,” says Mike D, one third of the Beastie Boys, “we had a few different concepts. One was to have a bunch of short songs packed with lots of things going on. In the past, we’ve made records with very specific guidelines and rules, like it only being instrumental, or we were going to play everything, or whatever. On this record we wanted to combine everything. We wanted to have samples, programmed stuff, play and then sample what we played, and have it all living together, very interwoven, layered densely on top of each other. We also wanted to enjoy ourselves. We didn’t really have a mission beyond that. And I guess we’re happy that the result, now that it’s out there, makes a lot of other people happy.”

The album Mike D, aka Michael Diamond, is referring to is the Beastie Boys’ eighth album, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. Released in May, it has been a hit both with critics and the record‑buying public. It’s brimming with ideas, both musical and lyrical, and reflects the band’s punk origins in its wild energy and omnipresent distortion. At the same time, the trio tackle with remarkable candour both the fact that they’ve been at it for 32 years and are no longer spring chickens, and the health scare experienced by MCA, aka Adam Yauch, who was diagnosed with cancer two years ago.

Tracking Hot
As the name suggests, the Beasties had originally planned to put out two Hot Sauce albums, back in 2009, but postponed the release because of Yauch’s illness, and ended up releasing what had been Part One under the name Part Two, with a small change to the original track listing! Whether and when the original Part Two will be released is as yet unclear. What is known is that the material for Hot Sauce Committee was recorded at Oscilloscope Laboratories, a facility in New York set up by Yauch in 2002. It’s billed as a “three‑headed dragon” with one head handling film production, another film distribution, and the third head being a state‑of‑the‑art recording studio featuring a vintage 28‑channel Neve 8058 desk. The studio has a web site showing pictures of the Neve, as well as some very obscure outboard, and has clearly been fitted out by someone who loves analogue equipment. Analogue and punk aesthetics also clearly emanate from Hot Sauce Committee Part Two.

“Yeah, it’s Adam Yauch’s studio, but when we work on a band project, it’s ours. We engineer ourselves, but for the new record we also worked with Oscilloscope’s engineer, Andre Kelman. Sometimes he recorded things, sometimes we did. It’s a collaborative process. The studio has a lot of analogue gear, because we’ve long been in love with older things, in terms of how they sound. We often used old synthesizers, old drum machines, old whatever, on our records. But like everybody, during the last few years we have been seduced by the convenience of digital technology in general and Pro Tools in particular. It’s great in what it enables you to do, but perhaps we lost a little bit of the beauty of the analogue thing in the process. This was one reason why we asked Philippe [Zdar, of whom more in a moment] to come in for the mix. So we started the record in the analogue world, then went digital, and then Philippe had the vision to take it back into the analogue world. That was a really good combination.”

The recording of Hot Sauce Committee Part Two apparently began as far back as 2008, with then assistant engineer Jon Weiner. Mike D: “The way things go down, when we are recording is… first off, we come in hot! We like it raw. When we first started listening to hip‑hop, we felt that it wasn’t that different from punk rock in energy and spirit. It felt like hardcore. A lot of hip‑hop has become more slick, even punk has become more slick, but we will always like that kind of raw energy. When we come in one of us will bring in a specific idea, which may be a keyboard line or a guitar line, perhaps recorded on a phone or an iPad, and he’ll say: ‘It sounds more or less like this,’ and that would be a jumping‑off point. But most of the time we write in the studio. We write the music first, always. I play the drums, but everyone does the drum programming. Sometimes we play and chop things up. A lot of the time we’ll record our own sounds and program those, often in Reason. We used quite a few analogue synths, like the Moog Prodigy for the keyboard bass in ‘Make Some Noise’ which was recorded through a pedal and an amp, but we also use soft synths quite a bit.

Andre Kelman elaborates on the writing of ‘Make Some Noise’, the album’s opener and first single, as well as some of the gear used in the recording. “’Make Some Noise’ came out of a jam that Mike and Adam [Horovitz] were doing, and they sampled and looped a part of that jam session. Then they overdubbed to that, adding samples and densely layering the track to make it sound exciting. They mostly use Reason for sampling and drum programming, which is then recorded into Pro Tools via Rewire. They might also sample stuff from vinyl records, or YouTube or whatever, and that stuff will go straight into Pro Tools. With regards to the actual recording, we tended to keep things pretty straightforward, just a few mics on the drums, for example, like the D112 on the kick, and they also had a couple of laptops, like the MacBook or MacBook Pro, and used the built‑in microphone and recorded on these laptops. The files were then bounced into Pro Tools and that was used as a drum sound.”

The Crazy Frenchman
Hot Sauce Committee Part One was completed early in 2009, earmarked for release in September, and then put on hold. A year later, the Beastie Boys decided to release it as Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, with a slightly changed track listing; they also decided it should be remixed by Philippe Zdar. On Anglo‑Saxon shores, the Frenchman is mainly known as one half of the electronic music duo Cassius, for his work with France’s most famous rapper, MC Solaar, and recently for his production and mix of French rock band Phoenix’s album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, which won a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album in 2010. Among studio cognoscenti, Zdar has a reputation as someone who pushes the boundaries in mixing and in the gear he uses, but he’s hardly a household name, let alone an obvious choice for mixing HSCP2. So why did the Beasties want the album remixed, and why did they choose Zdar?

Mike D: “By the time we felt ready to release the album, and went back to listen to it, we all agreed that we liked it a lot, but that it came up short in the way we wanted it to sound. There was a kind of disconnect there. It did not measure up to what we wanted it to be. Initially we thought of simply remastering the album, but then we decided that we wanted someone to remix it. We thought of Philippe, because we were familiar with some of his work, but we had never met him and did not know whether it would work. So we initially invited him over just to try a few things, and well, eh, the first couple of days were a disaster! He nearly blew the studio up! Smoke was coming out of the speakers…”

To understand how the Beasties and Zdar found themselves in this potentially calamitous situation, we need to go over to Paris in 2009, where, after nearly a decade of hard work, Philippe Zdar had finally opened his own studio in the Montmartre area of Paris. Called Motorbass, after a band he once was a part of, it’s a state‑of‑the‑art facility, sporting his favourite E‑series SSL 4000 desk, and filled to the brim with outboard by Neve, Pultec, EMT, Lexicon and so on. Zdar explains that he has Pro Tools, but also an Ampex two‑track and an MCI multitrack, and that he’s about to acquire Endless Analogue’s Closed Loop Analog Signal Processor (CLASP) system for integrating Pro Tools with his MCI. Zdar prefers to work in his own studio, but logistics — not least the fact that some of the Beastie Boys have children — meant that the decision was taken to do the mixes in New York.

Zdar: “We looked at the remaining SSL studios in New York, and found two, the Power Station and Electric Lady. We chose Electric Lady because it was not far from where they lived. We had considered mixing in their studio, but although their Neve is great for recording, it’s not good for me to mix on. When you do a mix, you have to be the boss of your own decisions, and I knew that if I agreed to do a test mix at their studio, the mix wouldn’t be very good. I’ve been a fan of the Beastie Boys since 1987, and I really want it to work out! I told them that I want to mix on an SSL, so we went into Electric Lady, and I hired a lot of additional outboard. Many of the Neves and Pultecs and Ureis and Fairchilds and EMT reverbs arrived with dust on them, making me realise that people don’t work like this any more. The Electric Lady studio assistant was pulling out his hair when I was installing all the extra outboard, because I was doing all sorts of unorthodox stuff, but he was also fascinated, because it has been a long time since he’d done a session like that.

“Electric Lady also had a lot of outboard, and the Beasties brought some great cheap spring reverbs that you can’t find anywhere anymore, so in the end I had a great setup. But when we started to work there was a big problem. I’m used to slamming my E‑series very, very hard, so much so that I have to set the two‑track tape recorder I mix to ‑7dB, so it can handle the level. I did the same at Electric Lady, and we found that we had this 4Hz frequency going through the mixes, that we could see the waveform of, but could not hear, of course. But it did seem to affect the way the ProAc monitors were handling the music. For two days, we didn’t understand what was happening, and in the end we called in an SSL guy, who couldn’t understand what I was doing and was probably thinking something like ‘crazy Frenchman!’ The atmosphere was a bit charged at this point. In the end he told me that the ‘J’ is not like the ‘E’ and that I can’t overload it in the same way, so I took the input down a little bit, and then the 4Hz sound disappeared. He eventually realised that I did know what I what I was doing and why, and we became good friends. The Beastie Boys were also wondering, ‘Whooaa, what’s going on?’ and for two days it was a little hairy.”

Sexy Distortion
According to Mike D, working with Zdar subsequently was like “we’d worked with him for years. It was very comfortable. And Philippe went into each track and opened it up. On the one hand he has his technical method, on the other he sets out to go to a certain place, capture a certain feeling, but a feeling in sound.”

Zdar explains further: “When Adam Yauch first called me, he said that he’d been listening to the Phoenix album, and liked that it sounded really solid, and at the same time very wide and airy. That’s exactly what I like to get in my mixes: lots of bass, lots of width and lots of air. He also said that the album was not tiring to listen to, whereas many records since 1995 and the loudness wars are very tiring to listen to, because they have been over‑limited. Yes, the material the Beastie Boys had recorded was distorted, and I added some more distortion, because they are a punk band, and I originally also come from punk. But it’s a kind of gentle distortion. I wanted it to be the kind of distortion that girls will also love. So it’s not distortion like Slayer. I didn’t want the sound to be too man‑driven, but instead have a more sexy distortion. I don’t know how else to say it. I wanted there to be a kind of beauty.

“We talked a lot about how we wanted to do things, and of course they have their ideas, and I have mine. But we were completely on the same wavelength, apart from that they asked me at one point to make it less hi‑fi and more lo‑fi. I was perhaps going a little bit too much in the direction of heavy rock. I often went for extremes, like in the song ‘Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win’ with Santigold [a track with a dub feeling], I wanted it to sound like a very old cassette that belonged to your sister who had already listened to it 200 times. The track reminded me of when I went to Barbados when I was young, and I came back with loads of cassettes that I listened to hundreds of times. I wanted that same tired cassette feel, and so I did submixes, splitting the main sound three times and then putting a Massenburg EQ on one split, leaving only super‑low bass, and compressing that with a side‑chain, and then I had another split on which I left only the mid‑range, and I side‑chained compression on that so that it was really bubbling [makes sound of engine revving], and I did the same with the high end. While doing this you have to really take care of the phase relationships, because you can have lots of phase problems if you treat the same sound differently.

“After that, I put everything through reverbs and delays and stereo effects like the AMS Harmonizer, using only the return, and I ended up with something really special. It was a lot of work, and I mixed these effects in subtly, so you don’t hear it very prominently, but you’d notice if it was taken out, because the song would suddenly sound very normal. There’s a lot of reverb on that song, there’s a lot of reverb on all the songs. In fact, it’s been a long time since I used so much reverb when mixing an album. One of the main reverbs was the EMT 140 [plate], which belonged to Electric Lady. I used it a lot, but you have to EQ to make it sound magical. I also had an EMT 250 [early digital reverb], and I used the AMS 1580 [digital delay] and RMX16 [reverb], both of which I love. I also used the Beastie Boys’ obscure spring reverbs. All the reverbs were very old. The Beastie Boys were super‑happy when they saw me using the old EMT 140s. They’re super‑intelligent, and super‑cultured, and they’re all really into equipment, and really into the sound of analogue.”

Too Comfortable
Considering how Zdar treated just this one track, the Beastie Boys may have been forgiven for carrying the thought ‘crazy Frenchman’ beyond the first two 4Hz‑dominated mixing days. The Frenchman acknowledges that his cultural outlook may have something to do with his approach; anarchy, chaos and danger are, arguably, more highly regarded in the French way of looking at life. Zdar comments: “Probably. When I was a tea‑boy at Marcadet in Paris, I never looked at the way people were working, I always listened for the end result. Also, I believe that comfort is the cancer of every artistic expression. If there’s an artist whose work you love, and suddenly you don’t care for what they do so much anymore, you’ll find out that they most likely had become too comfortable.

“It’s one reason why I prefer to work in the analogue domain. I’ve seen a lot of friends getting great results in the studio, and then, after they got a digital desk and DAW, they were doing really shitty stuff. They tell me it’s better, because they can do recall and they can do this and they can do that. But it doesn’t work for me. The problem with Pro Tools is that it’s easy to forget to take risks. But you have to take risks. I say to the record company and artist: ‘If you work with me, I don’t recall the mix, except if I made a big mistake. So you have to make decisions while I’m working, and you have to take a risk in the moment.’ I love that, and I hate the comfort and the safety net that digital provides. This is one reason for using outboard: I can’t save the settings, so it forces me to have a mindset of taking decisions in the moment. Working with outboard is also very fast: I touch it with my hands, I set it and it’s working. Plus I don’t have to watch a screen. Finally, and most importantly, digital doesn’t only sound like shit, it also makes everything sound the same. Young artists and producers should really get into the gear and make their own sounds and develop their own ways of working, but that’s not happening enough.

“For all these reasons I rarely use plug‑ins. I sometimes use the Izotope de‑esser, because it works really well and there’s no analogue one that’s better. There are other good plug‑ins, but I don’t use them, because I have all the hardware compressors and equalisers that I love, and if I want, say, distortion, I’ll plug in a [Thermionic Culture] Culture Vulture or a guitar pedal. If I want something really specialist, I may use a plug‑in, like I have used Melodyne to tune a bass guitar, but that’s it. I like to record my drums on analogue tape: it sounds so much better than recording it in Pro Tools that a kid can hear the difference. I will then dump the drums into Pro Tools. I like to mix from Pro Tools, because of the speed and the fact that I often need to do edits and make some loops, which is a lot more convenient in Pro Tools. But I always mix to analogue two‑track. My tape machine in Paris is the Ampex ATR102, and in Electric Lady I used the Studer A820, with RMG 900 tape, which I really slammed. Mixing is a controlled performance, and digital takes the performance out of mixing. This is why I don’t use it. A tightrope walker who has a net is not interesting, because there’s no performance. But if there’s no net, it’s fantastic. Mixing in the analogue domain is like that.”

Written by Michael Diamond, Adam Horovitz, Adam Yauch
Produced by the Beastie Boys
Make Some Noise
Philippe Zdar: “The beginning stage of a mix is always the same for me. I set up the desk, including the inserts and the sends. I will have inserts on every channel, between the Pro Tools outputs and the desk. For example, the bass insert will have a Neve 1073 EQ, a Pultec EQP1A, a Massenburg 8200 EQ and a Neve 33609 compressor. It’s a lot, but I need it. The Pultec gives me the big EQ outlines and the tube sound, I use the Neve for mid‑range and highs, and the Massenburg is the best EQ in the world, you can do everything with it, from surgical detail to more general Pultec work. With three EQs, I can’t really go wrong. Everything is split out over the desk. On some tracks, I had 80 channels on the desk, with 60 channels with inserts and 20 channels of effects. This is also why I need a whole mountain of gear!

“After I’ve laid out everything on the desk, I’ll start by working on the most important instruments. If the bass drives everything, I’ll start with the bass, if it’s a riff, I’ll work on the riff. On the Beastie Boys track ‘OK’, I began the mix with working on the synth. But I’ll almost always begin with the beat, so usually the drums and bass. I’ll bring the vocal in very quickly, and will set it against the drums and bass to make sure that it fits. After that, I’ll take the vocal out again, and bring in the other musical instruments one by one, and when I then add the vocal in again, it’ll sound great. This is how I start and mix. It’s like a puzzle. After four hours or so, I’ll have a solid sound coming from the desk, and I’ll go over everything again, and make the mix more precise. I get it more precise at every stage.

“I have so many channels on the desk because I want everything separate. If there’s one scratch from a turntable, I will still give it its own desk channel. Because of all the compressors on the inserts, I don’t want to have to do any volume automation in the computer [ie. in Pro Tools]. If I raise the volume in the computer, the signal will hit the compressor harder, but it won’t actually be much louder. I need to be able to affect the levels after the compressor, and this is why SSL automation is vitally important for me. I spend a lot of time on the volume automation during the mix, because I use it to make the music come alive. If I have a drum track that’s a loop or that comes from an MPC or SP12 drum machine, it will never sound like a real drummer. So I do lots of volume rides to add a live feeling. I also do this with live players. If the drummer plays with more energy in the chorus, I’ll emphasise that, probably by riding the overheads. I emphasise every natural move the drummer makes, or create emphasis in drum machines. Not too much, but just enough. There already was a lot of energy on the Beastie Boys recordings, so I was careful with how I manipulated that in the automation.

“I love using the SSL automation in this way. It’s the difference between a mix that’s very alive and a mix that sounds a little bit dead. I recall one of the Beastie Boys saying to me: ‘What you’re doing looks crazy, but I sure like it!’ I normally mix at a very low volume, but at some point I’ll have a glass of wine, and with a small buzz from that I’ll push the volume up very loud, and then for five or 10 minutes or so I do a lot of automation, and when I listen back 10 minutes later, everything sounds much more alive. This is what really excited me about mixing: I spend hours preparing everything, and when it’s ready, I go into the automation, things become super‑alive and the track suddenly sounds exponentially better and sounds like a record. The whole process usually takes a day, and the next day is for everyone to listen at home and give me feedback. But some mixes take more time. The mix you hear on the album of ‘Make Some Noise’ took just three hours, but I had spent three days on a mix of that track that just wouldn’t work. Nobody was very happy about it, and then one night at 12 o’clock we decided to scrap everything and start from scratch, and do something very simple. After that a new mix came together in three hours.”

Bass, drums & loops: Neve 1073 & 33609, Pultec EQP1, Massenburg 8200, SSL desk EQ, API 550.

“I already mentioned what I had on the inserts on the drums: Neve 1073, Pultec EQP1, Massenburg 8200, and Neve 33609. I added 100Hz with the 1073, and boosted around 30‑60Hz with the Pultec, and then will also have used SSL EQ. I had the same effects on the kick, except for the Pultec. For the snare it would be similar, although I may use an API 550 instead of the Neve 1073. I love API on snares. Sometimes I use my Helios EQ on snares. The snare tends to vary a lot. There’s no recipe. They’re a punk band, so the live drums would have been recorded on just four or five tracks, and they made loops of their live drums. I also added what I call the ‘Kikoo’ to expand the bass drum, which is a process that is based on using the old AMS delay to sample sounds to replace original sounds with. (Together with Gabriel Andruzzi from the Raptures, I’ve developed a similar process for the bass, and called it ‘Bassoo’). It’s a long process to make the Kikoo stick to the live kick. With regards to the compression, I compress in different stages, but always aim to keep some air. I never compress for technical reasons and never slam things, because I want to keep the dynamics.”

Vocals: Neve 1073, Urei LA3A, Universal Audio 1176, API 550, AMS 1580, Roland RE201, Thermionic Culture Culture Vulture.

“The insert chains on the vocals were similar to those on the drums and bass. I’ll always have the 1073, or the 1066, both of which I love. I don’t use the 1084, because it has too many possibilities. Then there may be a de‑esser and I put a compressor at the end of the chain, which could be an LA3A or an 1176. I tried to distinguish the three vocals as much as possible in the mix, and this meant that one insert would have a Neve and an 1176, another an API and an LA3A, and so on. They’re small differences that together created large differences.

“After that, I worked on the crazy stuff. There was a lot going on with this album in terms of reverb and delay sends and so on. We had many sends for each of them, one going into a delay, one into a reverb, one going into something else. The reverbs usually were the EMT, and for the delays I used the AMS and the Roland Space Echo and the Roland tape delay. The Beastie Boys had already created a lot of distortion, but I did use some Culture Vulture to add more. I also did some harmonising with the AMS.”

Sample & keyboards: Urei LA3A, SSL desk EQ.

“The main thing with the sample is always to make it fit with the rest of the track. I will always put it through an EQ and a compressor, which is the LA3A. For some reason, that works great on samples, I don’t know why. I can’t recall what EQ I used on this track, but it will have been a Neve, API or Urei. I also can’t recall what I used on the keyboards, but it would have been the SSL EQ, and some outboard EQ and compressors, plus lots of movements in the automation.”

Mixdown: Fairchild 670, SSL desk compressor

“I had a Fairchild 670 over the stereo bus, and I sometimes used the SSL compressor to have some very fast compression before the Fairchild. Mastering was done by Vlado Meller in New York at Universal Mastering Studios, which was new for me. I always use the Exchange in London, where they have EAR EQs and things. Vlado may have over‑limited a little, but we were all trying to push him not limit things too much. We came with half‑inch tape and he respected what we wanted.

“The whole process was exciting. I’m always excited by mixing, because I don’t have a recipe. I never exactly do the same thing twice, so I never get bored. It’s always an adventure. It is important for me that everyone gets excited by the mix: the artist, myself, assistant engineer, even the guy who brings the tea into the room. In the end the record sells to people, and they need to be excited. The taxi driver needs to be excited, your girlfriend needs to be excited, the kids need to be excited by the music. Too many people are focused on just making the artist happy, or the record company. But everyone should be happy!”

Zdar and the Beastie Boys certainly appear to have succeeded in this aim.

Trade Secrets
One distinctive aspect of Hot Sauce Committee Part Two is the distortion that’s on the vocals and many other instruments. When Mike D and Andre Kelman are asked about this, they suddenly become all coy and tight‑lipped. Apparently, the Beastie Boys use one obscure old mic that rather distorts the vocals, but no‑one is willing to say what it is. Here’s what Mike D was prepared to go on record with: “Yes, I admit, we have to take the hit for the distortion! [laughs uproariously]. How did we achieve that distortion? Well, it’s different. I don’t really want to give up any trade secrets now! But I will say that we’re not beyond any and all techniques to get distortion, whether by using certain amps, preamps or microphones. We are open to and engage all methods, even plug‑ins sometimes [laughs again]. I cannot divulge the vocal mic we use, because it’s a secret weapon. I should not even talk about it. It’s in the arsenal and actually safely locked in a safe right now.”

Kelman adds: “The vocal chains were just some SM58s and a couple of dynamic handheld mics that I can’t say more about. All vocals went through an eight‑channel PreSonus mic pre, nothing fancy. The reason for that was that the PreSonus would be right next to the guys, so they could control the gain and built‑in limiter and how loud they wanted it to sound. The music was all tracked through the Neve desk. The keyboards went through the Synth Driver. The distortion on the album comes mostly from a pedal or outboard, sometimes a plug‑in. On the vocals the [Tech 21] Sansamp plug‑in was sometimes used, and their special microphone.”

A Zdar Is Born
Philippe Zdar was born Philippe Cerboneschi, in rural mountain country in the Alps. In the late ’80s, aged 17, he moved to Paris, where he became a tea‑boy at Marcadet Studios, and gradually worked his way up to become an engineer. Around the same time, he met Hubert ‘Boom Bass’ Blanc‑Francard, with whom he worked on the first MC Solaar album, Qui Seme le Vent Recolte le Tempo (1991), as well as on subsequent albums by the rapper. During the ’90s, Zdar realised his ambitions to be successful as an engineer/mixer, producer, DJ, and musician, in the groups Motorbass, and, with Blanc‑Francard, Le Funk Mob and most famously and still ongoing, Cassius. His credits as an engineer, mixer and producer include MC Solaar, Phoenix, Daft Punk, the Rapture, Beastie Boys, Kindness, Naked and Famous, Cut Copy and Chromeo.

Zdar: “I started playing drums as a kid, so I play drums the best, but in fact I play everything badly. I’m an electronic musician, so I play guitar badly, bass badly, and drums badly, but I’m quite good at programming. All my activities, studio, DJ, musician, are completely related. When I produce a band, even a rock band, I bring my expertise and sounds from my DJ experience. I DJ maybe three times a month — producing and mixing takes the most of my time. But DJing is very important for me, because it keeps me at the cutting edge. With many producers, their musical references stop at a certain point in time, and they end up always referring to older records. But when I’m DJing I listen to a lot of new records, and that updates my musical skills and outlook, and also gives me a lot of energy.”

Phoenix in Studio with Philippe Zdar: Great insight into process and production

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Hopefully, you will enjoy these as much as we did.
This album is a masterpiece!  Yes, you guess right: Wolfang Amadeus Phoenix! They made one video for each song on the record–one video narrated by Phoenix, another by the producer and sound engineer Philippe Zdar.  Great insight into process and production with a very talented band and producer.

Wicked studio too, ha!  Gearspotters will rejoice.

Enjoy! ~ AA

I could listen to Philippe Zdar talk about music all day. Join him in his studio, Motorbass, where he discusses the processes behind tracks from Phoenix’s ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’ album.

Phillipe Zdar on the making of the Phoenix Album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Published on Apr 19, 2013
Future Music visit the incredible studio of Cassius member and production genius, Phillipe Zdar. Watch as he breaks down tracks from the Phoenix Album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.

The story behind Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Musicvision concept and interview by Guillaume Delaperrière. Phoenix at work directed and edited by Pascal Teixeira.

VIDEOS for each album song

Phoenix – Lisztomania / Commented by Phoenix (1 of 9)

Phoenix – Lisztomania / Commented by Zdar (1 of 9) In French with English subtitles

Phoenix – 1901 / Commented by Phoenix (2 of 9)

Phoenix – Fences / Commented by Zdar (3 of 9) In French with English subtitles

Phoenix – Love Like A Sunset / Commented by Phoenix (4 of 9)

Phoenix – Lasso / Commented by Phoenix (5 of 9)

Phoenix – Rome / Commented by Zdar (6 of 9) In French with English subtitles

Phoenix – Countdown / Commented by Zdar (7 of 9) In French with English subtitles

Phoenix – Girlfriend / Commented by Zdar (8 of 9) In French with English subtitles

Phoenix – Armistice / Commented by Zdar (9 of 9) In French with English subtitles

Vive La Ressistance! Philippe Zdar: The Mastermind Producer behind Cassius

From The Creators Project: More than just one half of DJ duo Cassius, french producer and sound engineer Philippe Zdar talks about what it’s like shaping some of the best records of the last 20 years with Phoenix and Kindness weighing in on working with the hi-fi master.

To our readers – We thought we’d share this one. But first, let us introduce Philippe Zdar. Zdar is a well known producer and trained sound engineer from Paris. He’s also a member of the French musical duo Cassius that records and releases music in the house music, indie dance and synthpo  genres.

A Zdar Is Born
Philippe Zdar was born Philippe Cerboneschi, in rural mountain country in the Alps. In the late ’80s, age 17, he moved to Paris, where he became a tea‑boy at Marcadet Studios, and gradually worked his way up to become an engineer. Around the same time, he met Hubert ‘Boom Bass’ Blanc‑Francard, with whom he worked on the first MC Solaar album, Qui Seme le Vent Recolte le Tempo (1991), as well as on subsequent albums by the rapper. During the ’90s, Zdar realized his ambitions to be successful as an engineer/mixer, producer, DJ, and musician, in the groups Motorbass, and, with Blanc‑Francard, Le Funk Mob and most famously and still ongoing, Cassius. His credits as an engineer, mixer and producer include MC Solaar, Phoenix, Daft Punk, the Rapture, Beastie Boys, Kindness, Naked and Famous, Cut Copy and Chromeo.

Zdar: “I started playing drums as a kid, so I play drums the best, but in fact I play everything badly. I’m an electronic musician, so I play guitar badly, bass badly, and drums badly, but I’m quite good at programming. All my activities, studio, DJ, musician, are completely related. When I produce a band, even a rock band, I bring my expertise and sounds from my DJ experience. I DJ maybe three times a month — producing and mixing takes the most of my time. But DJing is very important for me, because it keeps me at the cutting edge. With many producers, their musical references stop at a certain point in time, and they end up always referring to older records. But when I’m DJing I listen to a lot of new records, and that updates my musical skills and outlook, and also gives me a lot of energy.”

So, Zdar definitely knows his stuff. He knows it so well that he no longer listens to engineers who tell him what he should do to play by the rules.  He was also featured on Future Music Mag # 221 for the interview and producer masterclass feature.

Now, when expressing yourself in a foreign language you may come across as arrogant, or may not get your point across really well. But Philippe is not arrogant at all, and he knows his stuff just as good as or better than any other good engineer. In my opinion he’s one of the best French sound engineers, and has a great studio – Motorbass. When I visited his studio in 2010, surprise surprise… Pultec’s, Urei’s, big SSL, AMS, AMT Lexicon, reverbs, AMS delays. Neve preamps, totally cool gears. CS80, OBX, PPG, good stuff. So, for those who criticize harshly Zdar calling him “arrogant”,  and a “rebel” of  “flagrant ignorance”: Can you tell me a little about your philosophy on compression? In French please?

I believe the SP1200 was the weapon of choice of those guys back then before they started using computer sequencers e.g. Logic. I read an interview of Alan Braxe saying how much he loves that particular machine, and that he produced Stardust’s Music Sounds better with  you using only the SP, a small mixer, and some cheap 8 track recorder.

We’re including in this post the text of an excerpt from a lecture/interview given by Zdar in Rome, Italy, and a video of the full lecture/interview, thanks to Red Bull Music Academy. We hope you enjoy! ~ AA

Phillipe Zdar (Phoenix / Daft Punk / The Beastie Boys / Kindness / Naked & Famous…) interview on compressor & french house sound

Excerpt
Interviewer: Torsten Schmidt, Red Bull Music Academy

RBMA: »Were most of the records, that were coming out of Paris at that time, being mixed in the same place, or by the same people?«

Philippe Zdar: »No.«

RBMA: »Because there were certain, well, if there was one common thing it was that ‘whooom’ sound.«

Philippe Zdar: »Yeah, the compression. In France we are really into compression and after it was, for example, Daft Punk, who completely made a beat, a sound that everybody tried to emulate. So that was really funny because they are doing a sound and three months later, everybody was buying the same compressor because everything was to do with the compressor. The basic rule about compressors is to trust your ear, to have some taste, you must have some taste. Me, I don’t even know what a compressor is! I don’t know how many years, like 15 years that I’m doing this and I still don’t know what is a compressor. I know what it’s doing and I’m touching the buttons, but when I like it, I keep it like this. When I started there was some sound engineer coming in the studio and he says: “Are you crazy?” The errr… what do you call it (makes flickering dial motion with his hand)?«

RBMA: »The meters?«

Philippe Zdar: »”The meters are going too high! The meters supposed to be on the left.” And I say: “But when I hear it, I like it.” And he says: “But it’s not possible.” And I’m like: “Leave me alone.” (applause) I think it’s the key for you all, although you don’t need to learn it, you know it already. Everybody’s learning by his own way, so when you’re at home, you’re listening with the ears. I like it when it goes in the red, if it starts to do ‘skkkkskkkk’ (makes grating noise), you notice it and you take it a little bit down, but there’s no theory in music for me. Everybody who comes with a theory, you can keep your theory – probably it works for you, but for me it doesn’t. So the compressor’s secret is to trust the ear and another secret for me is the meter, it has to move a lot. If the meters like this (makes feeble motion with his finger), it’s not good.«

VIDEO
Lecturer: Philippe Zdar
Interviewer: Torsten Schmidt, Red Bull Academy
Lecture: Philippe Zdar (Rome 2009)

Philippe Zdar’s quotes:

I believe that comfort is the cancer of every artistic expression. If there’s an artist whose work you love, and suddenly you don’t care for what they do so much anymore, you’ll find out that they most likely had become too comfortable.

Young artists and producers should really get into the gear and make their own sounds and develop their own ways of working, but that’s not happening enough.

[The Beastie Boys] They’re super‑intelligent, and super‑cultured, and they’re all really into equipment, and really into the sound of analogue.”

A tightrope walker who has a net is not interesting, because there’s no performance. But if there’s no net, it’s fantastic. Mixing in the analogue domain is like that.

The only secret I have about compression is to trust your ear. Have some taste.

When I was a tea‑boy at Marcadet in Paris, I never looked at the way people were working, I always listened to the end result.

The problem with Pro Tools is that it’s easy to forget to take risks. But you have to take risks. I say to the record company and artist: ‘If you work with me, I don’t recall the mix, except if I made a big mistake. So you have to make decisions while I’m working, and you have to take a risk in the moment.’ I love that, and I hate the comfort and the safety net that digital provides.

Digital doesn’t only sound like shit, it also makes everything sound the same.

Mixing is a controlled performance, and digital takes the performance out of mixing. This is why I don’t use it.

The ‘French Touch’ thing happened mainly because, in Paris, we love Chicago.

To make a place for the bass is very easy – you just take out bass from all the rest.