Cutting & Mixing an Analog Album at Home with Ryan Lee Crosby



What was your pre-production like on this project?

At the beginning, I had a handful of new songs that were written very quickly, in a sudden burst of inspiration. Then, I spent a year teaching myself to play drums and researching analog recording techniques, which I applied over the process of re-writing and re-recording dozens of demos.

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Why did you choose to record at home with analog gear?

I had made a couple of albums in really nice studios before, but for this project I wanted the freedom and flexibility that can only come from owning your own setup. For many years, I had dreamed of having an analog studio in my home and it started with an 8-track Otari MX-5050 1/2-inch machine, which I had to pick up from an island off the coast of Maine. From there, a couple of friends and fans donated an unbelievable amount of equipment and time – microphones, tube preamps, two separate 2-track tape machines, a mixing board, plus guitars, a bass, drums, a Hammond M3 and a Fender Rhodes piano. Everything I needed fell into my lap as I needed it…and it seemed that the harder I worked, the more gear came along. I have been really supported by my community in this way and I feel very grateful.


Can you tell us about the vibe of the album, and how you translated that to tape?

I’d recently spent a couple of years training in a local boxing gym and I wanted the feel of the ring to come through in the sound of the album. So the vibe of the album is very gritty, raw and spontaneous.

The way that I achieved this was by hitting the tape really hard – everything was recorded extremely hot. There’s practically nothing on the album that isn’t in the red. The drums are a big part of this. Despite multi-tracking everything myself, I wanted the album to have the feeling of a band performing live. So, I tried to make the drums very roomy, which I did by using only two mics per take. Usually it was an SM57 on the kick and an MXL condenser as the overhead. Sometimes I used an Altec 633a “salt shaker” broadcast mic from the 1940s as the overhead and I also used a 1960s Electro-Voice 664 Dynamic cardioid on the kick. There wasn’t any close miking on the drums – and I played them hard.

What else can you tell us about the gear?

The main thing is that it’s all analog. I used a couple of custom-built tube preamps; I also had a 1950s Scully 4-track 1/2-inch tape machine that was used as a preamp. I didn’t have much for microphones – just the Altec, the EV664, the MXL condenser and the SM57, all of which went direct to the tape machine.

As far as special recording techniques – all of the drums are doubled. I would record one drum take with two mikes, bounce them down to one track, then record another take with two mikes and bounce that down to another track. Then I panned the two tracks hard left and right.

What about the delay sounds?

All of the delay is real tape delay, achieved by running an aux track off the console to a 2-track tape machine, on which we recorded the track on the repro head and then sent the signal back to a separate track on the mixer. And the backwards guitar on “The Broken Bread” was done by flipping the reel over and recording the leads forwards against the rest of the track as it played backwards on the machine. I think that there is something about the feel of playing against a backwards track that can’t be replicated by playing forwards with a backwards delay effect. I’ve tried it both ways and there is something far more psychedelic that happens when the tape is flipped over.

On “Bygone Blues,” I recorded the basic rhythm tracks with the reel flipped over, then overdubbed the guitars forwards…and then did the final mix backwards, which really made things feel twisted around…

For “A World Under the Influence,” I recorded the drums on the slowest tape speed, and then sped the track up as fast as it could go before overdubbing all the other instruments, which gave the drums a frantic sound. I love the little ways that you can manipulate space and time with the pitch control knob. It changes everything…

What were the toughest challenges you faced?

The main challenge was keeping a balance between the creative side and the technical side. There were some moments of frustration as I got over the learning curve of being my own engineer. It took a little while to get my drum chops together, too… but all of the parts that I heard in my head were pretty straightforward, so once I felt comfortable playing them, all of the drum tracks came very easily.


How did you handle final mixing and mastering?

Mixing was done with Elio DeLuca at the Soul Shop. We went from my Otari MX-5050 through a Neotek Series II console to the Shop’s Otari MTR 10-IIC 2-track 1/4-inch machine. Sometimes we re-voiced some of the instruments through a Fender Vibratone. The album was mixed over a long weekend. I had done a lot of rough mixing prior to the session and DeLuca is a fantastic engineer, so the process was very direct and focused.

For mastering, I took the tapes, along with my own Otari 2-track to Old Colony Mastering and worked with Scott Craggs on a very cold day in January.

What are your release plans?

I’m going to put it out on vinyl, CD and online for a release show at Great Scott in Allston, MA – then there are plans coming together for tour dates throughout the rest of the year, both in the U.S. and abroad.



Album Title: Ryan Lee Crosby

Record Label: RLC Recordings

Release Date: June 12, 2012

Recording Studios Used: Recorded at RLC Studios

Written, Produced, Recorded and Performed by: Ryan Lee Crosby

Mixed by: Elio DeLuca and Ryan Lee Crosby at the Soul Shop

Mastered by: Scott Craggs at Old Colony Mastering



Otari MX-5050 Tape Machine

Otari MTR 10-IIC Tape Machine

Fender Rhodes electric piano

Hammond M3 organ

Fender Vibratone Leslie speaker cabinet

Vintage Electro-Voice 664 mic

Neotek Series II console




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