Studio Talk w/Red Rack’em about his Hot Coins album ‘The Damage Is Done’ on Sonar Kollektiv
I worked on the Hot Coins album on and off for over 4 years. It’s amazing to see it finally get released. I wrote a lot of disco and punk funk influenced stuff around 2008/09 while living in Nottingham. It was a pretty testing time for me as I was working part time as a teacher in 2 different local colleges facing semi delinquent students every Monday and Tuesday after a hard weekends DJing and partying. The inspiration behind the album was the confusion, hedonism and self doubt which I experienced around those times. I wrote the music on a Macbook using Logic 8 and it’s made up from a mixture of samples and live recordings. I was heavily influenced by acts such as Yello, ESG, James White and The Blacks, A Certain Ratio and Material. I really enjoy escaping from my ‘day job’ as Red Rack’em and punk funk, new wave and EBM is something I have developed a real passion for. I am by no means an expert which is part of the appeal.
I played everything on the tracks myself apart from the guitars which were played by Chris Todd (Crazy P) and Paul Johnston (used to produce on DiY as Peej), saxophone was played by Pippa Marland (from folk/jazz band Caramina) and the only guest vocals were by City Haze on the first single ‘Geek Emotions’. Chris and Paul played an integral part of the vibe I was looking for, Chris is an expert rhythm guitar player so I could explain very specific rhythmic rudiments to him and he could totally nail them. Paul played loads of cosmic solos which I panned and reverbed and mixed incredibly quietly as textures in the tracks. Everything else on the album is either stuff which I recorded then cut up and heavily post produced or samples which I either chopped up as audio or put in the EXS24 so I could use midi. I wrote all the tracks as instrumentals but I put vocals on it because I wanted to try to take it to a different level to my previous work. I do vocals on a lot of my Red Rack’em stuff but this was the first time I dared to sing properly. I know I could have done a better job but it seems easier now I have got over this first album hurdle. I have been writing loads of lyrics inspired by Berlin so I am looking forward to recording the next album already.
I am proud that I managed to turn out a proper live sounding album using really basic equipment. I recorded most of the vocals handheld on an SM58 but it didn’t matter as the music is a bit rough anyway. Having said that, when I recorded extra vocals with Axel Reinemer in Berlin last year, I kind of wished I had done them properly. His ten grand Neumann mic sounds pretty sweet.
The album would never have been completed if it wasn’t for the mixing stage which ended up following the traditional rock format by a total accident. I met a group of Austrians at The Garden Festival in Croatia in 2010. The only reason we met was because my friend Andre Espuit (from Masterman) had sung for Werner Freistaetter (one of the Austrians) in the 90s and they bumped into each other at the festival. We all spent the day together on a hidden beach towards the end of the festival and the only significant thing about Werner at that point was he won the lylo race. Fast forward a year later and I am in Werners rural Austrian cellar studio mixing the album on the original SSL 4000 B series desk from the Townhouse Studios in London which was used to mix ‘In The Air Tonight’ by Phil Collins and PiLs ‘Metal Box’ album. Peter Gabriel famously discovered gated reverb on this very desk when Phil played drums with the talkback mic still on and the sound was massively compressed.
It turns out Werner is a highly experienced producer and mix engineer who’s worked with Kanye West, PJ Harvey, The Kills, Depeche Mode and Zero 7 so it was totally amazing to get to mix the album with him. We bounced all the tracks on Logic, put them all on protools and then recreated my logic mixes by a/bing them on the desk. Once I was happy the original mix was back, we then had to deal with quite a few changes in the sound from the SSL. It made things a lot fatter so I think I undermixed stuff like the guitars and vocals in retrospect as the drums and bass were so fat through the desk. The whole experience was amazing – mixing my album in the Austrian mountains in a residential studio, working with a close friend who’s ears and taste I trusted. Apart from the occasional foray into the village schnapps house were were pretty much underground the whole time mixing 1.5 – 2 tracks a day. Werners girlfriend Tina took me out for a run in the mountains a couple of times which was fun but she’s waaaaay fitter than me – reminded me of physical education classes from my schooldays.
After the mixing stage I still didn’t have a home for the album. Fast forward several months and it’s been signed to Sonar Kollektiv and is being mastered by Bo Kondron at Calyx in Berlin. It was more like a consultancy than mastering though as I took in loads of records which had inspired the music and Bo used several of them as references for certain tracks. He gave me a four options for each track which all had a different feel and I was allowed to use their acoustically treated ‘listening room’ to check all the versions and I picked my favourite out for each track. I was really happy with the mastering as it totally retained the sound of my mixes but tightened them up and improved the top end a lot.
So that’s a brief account of how the album was made. Every stage presented obstacles but it always turned out ok in the end. The next challenge is presenting the music live with a full band. Our debut is the album launch party at Renate in Berlin on 16/02/13 and we’ve just been booked for the Garden Festival in Croatia in July so I am really excited about the year ahead.
Here are a few videos about the mixing procedure of the album:
Studiotalk with Red Rack’em aka Hot Coins – MP3 & WAV Downloads:
Spread the word about Studiotalk with Red Rack’em aka Hot Coins – MP3 & WAV Downloads:
- Wheels Of Steel Part 17 by Red Rack’em: For Wheels of Steel this time we have invited Danny Berman, better known as Red Rack'em with his own...
- Studiotalk with John Daly about First Water: Well what else to expect from John Daly but a great new album! Five deep tracks that range from Chi...
- Studiotalk with Lee Jones (Aus Music): Lee Jones' talent popped out of a blossoming electronic music producing generation in 2006 and rele...
- Studiotalk with Dosem: Known by his alias Dosem, Marc is one of the latest emerging figures that the Spanish electronic mus...
- Studiotalk with Toby Dreher about his “Freiluft” LP: My new album is the idea of a mix but made with my own tracks only. To keep a line even when they a...