Recording to 2 Inch Tape with Gaba Gavi

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Artist: Gaba Gavi
Album: Temporary Hero
Recording Studio: Fudge Recording Studio – New Orleans
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: Out Now
Engineered, Mixed & Produced: Tom Drummond
Co-Produced By: Gaba Gavi
Assistant Engineer: Jacques DeLatour
Mastered By: Bruce Barielle Mastering, New Orleans

Rhodes Piano
Hammond B3 & Leslie Speakers
Pro Tools HD
Vintech X73 Pre Amp
API 512c Pre Amp
Vintage Neumann U-47 Vocal Mic
Sony C37a Vocal Mic
Otari MTR-90 MKII 2” Tape Machine
Gakken Analog Synthesizer SX150

LISTEN NOW: “Control”

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What was your pre-production like on this project?

On the flight down to NOLA I had my Macbook and a notepad open. I started off with a list of about 30 songs that I was determined to at least halve by the time I got down there. After I arrived, Tom [Drummond] and I spent a week narrowing down the song choices and then working on arrangements. We ended up with 13 songs. We created scratch tracks and then over the following month or so, e-mailed tweaks back and forth to arrangements until we really felt we hit it. But even then, last minute changes happened right before tracking began when Travis [McNabb] came in to session drums.

What was really great about this project was just a new found creativity. The studio had so many toys that I don’t have access to on a regular basis or have even messed with. Like a Rhodes Piano, I’d never messed with one before. I ended up writing a new song in the middle of the week of pre-production that we only got as far as a verse/chorus with no real lyrics, but we knew it was special. That happened a couple of times, and it was that creative and organic flow that really made the project special.

The other thing that was great was that it really let us find out what wasn’t working. There was a song called “High.” It was on the list, and we did a scratch and everything, and after we tracked all the instruments, it just wasn’t there. If we hadn’t spent the time on pre-production making sure we had enough, we might’ve forced it through because we didn’t have anything to replace it.

How does this compare to your last release, in terms of style and the creative process?

The best way to describe it is really like being called up from the minors. I had never been in a studio at that point. This was a totally different approach, and that’s what I wanted. I wanted to come in and really work with someone else, be able to bounce ideas off of someone, and really be open to hearing, “You know what, that sorta sucks.” Not that that happened, but you know, being open to changing what I might’ve had in tunnel vision; which is easy to fall into when you do everything on your own.

The whole process was really organic, and never pressured. We knew that we had time in between sessions, because of financial obligations and other work. It was a week here, two weeks there, every few months. It turned out to be a great process, for me at least, because it gave a lot of perspective to the songs.

Why did you go with Tom Drummond to produce this record?

I’ve known him for a while; we were friends prior to working together on the album. I had always been a huge fan of his band Better Than Ezra, along with the intelligence and breadth of pop sensibility they put out.

After going through a dark year with some personal issues, I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue to pursue music, and I had to make a decision. Was I was gonna put out another record or not? If so, it would be done right. Real time in a studio, working with a producer, real instruments, and everything that came as a result. I wanted Tommy D to produce it. I wanted that influence, the experience, and the candor from someone who knew how to do it and what it took.

BTE (as they’re often referred to) owned Fudge Recording Studios in New Orleans and up until the point when we recorded it had been their private studio. Just before that, Tom and a partner, Jack Miele, bought the studio out with plans to turn it into a public recording studio. I happened to be one of the first projects to work there during that transitional period.

What kind of sound were you looking for on this record?

Big. Polished. Real. We wanted something that was pop as much as it was singer/songwriter, with some rock thrown in there. My first record was done in three days. I’m not saying it was rushed, but it was a different approach and a different sound. I wanted this record to come out sounding like it belonged. I wanted the songs to feel like if you didn’t know better, you’d think you were listening to something on the radio, or in a movie, or on a TV show. We wanted to have this big and vibrant sound, but we wanted every instrument to be heard. I didn’t want just all these tracks and MIDI files and instruments that all took up the same register and you couldn’t distinguish one from the next.

Sticking amps in tiled & mirrored bathrooms, tossing omni (room mics) in all sorts of places that pick up slight delays in sound two, and three times over. It made the tracks have so much more depth and layers to them. For instance, you pick up those phantom snare drum notes that resonate out and aren’t picked up on the directional mic. Besides being a phenomenal musician, Tommy D is heavy into the technical aspect of the process and it really gave the project a versatile and broad perspective.

Not enough can be said regarding mastering. It was something that I really didn’t understand or think could make such a difference. Props to Bruce [Barielle] for making the songs shine without taking away their integrity. Mastering is sort of this magical place where a shot of steroids is injected into a song, and it breathes a new life, but it’s being able to understand that point of not taking it too far, just because you can, or because that’s what everyone is doing. I think we found a pretty good balance.

Can you tell us why you recorded to tape and digitally at the same time?

We recorded everything to 2″ tape as well as digitally. It gave us the ability to really capture the sounds that were coming through. When you record straight to digital, it’s all 1s and 0s. If your instrument peaks, it’s instantly compressed. That doesn’t happen with tape. Tape captures every ring, no compression. What’s nice is sometimes you’re wanting that sound that’s getting some distortion, or that happens by accident, that would be lost if it was done just digitally. But going parallel really allows transfers to be accurate, as well as the obvious benefits of editing. It was pretty great seeing two sets of technologies working together.

What were the toughest challenges you faced?

Timing and confidence. We had two weeks slated for recording all the instruments. It was a pretty dynamic schedule of people flying into town, organizing the order of recording, and making sure it would work. The day before I was ready to head down (which was right at Thanksgiving) I was in a pretty significant car accident. It was a tough call whether or not to go forward with the session, but I knew it would’ve been next to impossible to get all these people around a short window like that. It was tough on me though, I would get fatigued really fast, random headaches, wasn’t sleeping, and just sorta had a feeling of irritation and depression that I wasn’t able to perform like I needed. I would have trouble with timing on both the guitar and the movements involved with playing the piano. Vocally I just wasn’t there. Normally, I would be happy to track vocals all day and night, but I was a mixture of frustration and pain that ended up coming through in the session.

We were able to get all the instrumentation down because of the scratch tracks we created, but it was clear the vocals would need to have a second pass along with some of my acoustic tracks. They weren’t strong. It was clear that I wasn’t fully there, emotionally, vibe-wise, and performance-wise. This ended up pushing the whole project pretty far back because of schedules with Tom, myself, and the studio, as well as putting me in some pretty serious financial stress.

The result is what caused us to re-shift the direction of the project from a full length into a two part EP series, which will eventually combine as an LP called Something’s Wrong With Everything.  The first part of that is what is out now, called Temporary Hero.

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