Eric Muth: Recording Studio Internship at Bad Racket Recording Studios Cleveland Ohio
Eric Muth Joined us for a good bit of the summer as an intern from Drexel University in Philly. Here’s what he’s been up to!
I joined Bad Racket in July as the lowly intern, prepared to ease into things by assisting James, wrapping cables, and making coffee runs. Instead my training consisted mostly of running around the inside of an abandoned textile factory, so when Thom asked me to engineer the Bros session barely two weeks after I’d moved to Cleveland, I was equal parts nervous and excited.
I’ve learned that most daunting part of working in an unfamiliar studio isn’t learning how all the gear works, it’s learning how it doesn’t work. Every studio has it’s own quirks and faults and broken things, and Bad Racket is no exception. In fact it might be a little rougher around the edges than most professional studios, but therein lies its charm. It’s not a sterile environment, so there’s no holding your breath praying that you don’t knock over some piece of gear that costs more than your car (but please do be careful around the U87), but I was nervous that somewhere in the mess that can be a signal chain, something would go wrong and I wouldn’t know how to fix it, or worse, I wouldn’t even know where to start looking. That’s the worst feeling, the “hold on guys, I’m not getting any signal,” followed by head scratching and the annoyed stares of the band.
Thankfully, that never happened. Instead all of my nervousness pushed me towards excessive caution. The night before our session I spent hours planning out my signal chains and setting up everything I was going to use the next day. This is a luxury I’ve never had at the studios at school, where students book every second of possible studio time and it’s impossible to leave anything already set up. This set up time ended up being invaluable and when the band showed up everything went just about as smoothly as I could have hoped.
Besides the new studio, the other variable that had me worrying was the band. Besides a couple emails I had never spoken to any of them and I had no idea what how they sounded. However I could not have asked for a better group to work with than the four dudes that comprise Bros. Besides being great guys, the two sets of brothers absolutely ripped through nine surfy pop-punk songs, laying down the basic tracks in 10 hours.
My setup for tracking live was similar to how I had seen James do it when I hung out during Annabel’s Live at Bad Racket session that we had done the week before. I used the usual mics on kick, snare, hats, toms, spaced pair overheads, and a couple different mics on each guitar, as well as splitting the signal and taking the direct line from the bass and mic’ing the cab. What I tried to do a little differently was experiment with different room mics. My favorite thing about Bad Racket is the space that we have here. There’s lot’s of it. There’s enough room to spread out and play around in, and it allows for a really natural sound. I tried things in few different spots, but I ended up putting a ribbon mic about 10 ft from the drum riser, the U87 about 6 feet off the ground 10 feet from one guitar cab, and an AKG condenser in the same position for the other guitar. I’m not done with the mixes yet, but so far the bulk of my guitar tones are coming from those last two room mics.
Neuman U87 and Shure SM57
I really like the air and presence of the U87 and the thickness of the ribbon and didn’t want to sacrifice one for the other. The 57 is there for some grit.
The next day consisted of guitar overdubs where guitarists Lee and Sam showed off their surf influences, busting out some crazy tremolos and fuzz pedals. In order to keep a consistent sound I just used the same set up, except I switched the room mics to bidirectional in order to pick up even more of the room. On one song in particular, “Imaginary Step Child,” the room mic picked up this huge rock n roll vibe on the solo. Pay attention when it comes out, I hear this is what the kids are listening to nowadays.
Finishing up with vocals I went with the U87, the same ribbon I’d used for the drum room, and a 57, all at the same time. This is something I’d never done before, but I really like the air and presence of the U87 and the thickness of the ribbon and didn’t want to sacrifice one for the other. The 57 is there for some grit.
Mixing the tracks
The way all these parts fit into the mix is something I’m still working on, but everyone seems pretty happy so far. For this I want to send a huge thank you to Adam Wagner who gave me feedback on a rough mix I sent to him. More than feedback, he wrote me an essay taking it apart and giving me tips on putting it back together.
So there it is, thanks to Thom, James, Adam, and Bros for making my first session at Bad Racket a good one. Everyone involved is really excited for this record to come out, whenever everything else involved with that gets taken care of. If anyone who reads this is interested in interning here, do it. You’ll actually get to make something.