I’m old enough to have witnessed and experienced the days of analogue recording. There is something about recording on tape. Luckily analogue recording and playback is slowly making a come back these days. Slash recorded his debut album on tape, Foo Fighters recorded their last album on tape. And a lot of bands have their album brought out on vinyl again.
Earlier this year I was lucky enough the have the option to record a demo for my rock cover band Venus Envy on tape. The Minimobile studio where we recorded is still fully analogue. It was a lot of fun after all the digital recordings I did for the last ten years. I tried to keep everything as analogue as possible, using my old Echoplex tape delay instead of digital effect pedals. And my tube amplifiers of course. It made me feel a little bit like I was back in the 60’s and 70’s when my heroes like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin made their records.
Besides the sonic difference, there is a difference to the whole approach of recording. Especially when you have a limited amount of time. There are a lot of advantages with digital recording. It’s easy to fix things, you have an infinite amount of tracks you can record and overdub. You can even quantize or use pitch correct if you really fuck up. Although I like it and have used those tools to have things fixed where needed, there’s nothing like analogue recording. Even without all these options I just mentioned.
I really like the process, you have to be well prepared and rehearsed as a band. You have to be able to play the parts in your sleep. Nothing is more unforgiving than a recording. When you’re live on stage, you can slip or miss a note. It’s gone before you know it. But when it’s recorded, it’s there forever. So you better get it right. Because with analogue recording you don’t have that many options to fix it. And the only way to fix it, is to play it over and over again until you get it right.
We decided to play the rhythm tracks live as a band, it gives a better overall feel to it. Downside is that all the instrumentalists have to get it right all at the same time. There’s nothing more frustrating than playing one of the best takes yourself and than one of the others fuckes up somewhere. Or vice versa of course. Sometimes you can repair it, but it’s better to do the whole thing over again. So because of that pressure, you make sure to get it right. There’s nothing more embarrassing than being that person who doesn’t get it.
You should also live by these rules in a digital recording situation. Although you have all the editing options, you don’t want to spend a lot of time cutting and pasting. The better you perform, the better the result.
With the overdubs you usually have a bit more time, but again it’s best if you know your parts. I like being alone in the studio with only the engineer and lay down the guitar tracks. Because it’s a lot of fun to experiment a bit with different sounds. Try different guitars, amps and mic settings. Most of the overdubs are usually done in one or two takes, so you have that little bit of extra time to experiment with sounds. Unless you’re home recording. Studio time is expensive, so use it wisely.
We have a bit of delay with the mixing of the songs, so you can’t hear the end result yet. But so far it sounds really good. Maybe it’s just in my head, but there really is an audible difference. As soon as it’s finished I will let you know.
For the record, I do like digital recording and all the possibilities it gives you. It’s very easy for me to make recordings at home with just a laptop, a good interface and some plug ins like Amplitube. But there’s nothing like the real deal, so I’m glad with this analogue trend. Hope it isn’t short lived.