This is the fourth in a series discussing choices of keyboards, software, and acoustic instruments in the creative process, and in the recording of Roger Powell’s third solo release Fossil Poets along with the joys, trials and tribulations.
Pieces of The Puzzle
The Analog Stuff & Hardware used for voicing parts
Roger used a superb sounding analog synthesizer, which he built from MOTM kits from Synthesis Technology. The MOTM was utilized both for textures and as a voice for sequencing. Roger used a Korg Electribe EA-1 and a Kenton MIDI-CV converter to control the MOTM modules. He said it recalled his early experiences with analog step sequencing modules.
Additional hardware synths were employed. Roger owns a Moog Voyager, an Alesis ION, a Nord Lead and Nord Modular. The Nord Electro provided the Electric Piano, Clavinet, and some of the organ sounds. Currently, Roger keeps the Voyager, MOTM and Triton Extreme ready to record at any time in his home studio. He’s also recently added the new Moog Little Phatty to the arsenal, which he tells me was “love at first touch— it sounds amazing and is streamlined for live work.”
Roger used a variety of music software on this album. Much of the original material was developed in Sony Acid which was used as a quick idea scratch pad for developing core rhythms and structures. He would then move that material into Cubase SX for further development using soft-synth plug-ins such as LinPlug’s CronoX, Albino and RMIV drum box which are among his favorites.
I used Propellerheads Reason for voicing some rhythm track loops and Garritan Personal Orchestra for strings and French horn sections in Delayed Reaction. A vintage Moog Source (which I rebuilt from scrap parts) was used for inserts of sound design elements just to give a track some additional character when needed or for retro variations in the sound elements used in the basic tracks. The drum tracks for Osmosis were creations from drummer’s recordings I’ve kept in my library. These are actual live drum patterns that I pasted together (in ProTools) to create a seamless drum track.
To balance the electronic with the organic, we recorded Roger playing flugelhorn, Native American flute, accordion, and mandolin. The record just wouldn’t be complete without Roger on piano, so there are two solo acoustic piano pieces, as well.
Not wanting the album to go in purely an electronic direction, we thought this balance of old and new was important. We came up with a phrase to describe what we were trying to create: It’s “retro-futuristic”. As a result it has a lot of true analog, analog sounding, plus acoustic sounds. Both Roger and I wanted the album to have a lot of groove elements, which is something he said he had actually tried to do on Cosmic Furnace (Atlantic), but in 1973 that was before the idea of programmable drum synthesizers even existed!
Well Traveled Rode
The Rode NTK tube mic in Roger’s studio is a gorgeous, smooth, warm sounding piece – an all around workhorse. With Roger not having the need for a lot of fancy mics, The Rode was used for all acoustic recording that was performed on the record. This large diaphragm condenser sounded great on the accordion, flute, tin whistle, mandolin, flugelhorn and piano.
Outboard or Inboard
Roger’s studio in California is based on a ProTools system with a Digi 002R. This Firewire interface has four high quality microphone preamps in the box. All four of these have individual switches for line/Inst or mic input. The flugelhorn and all other acoustic instrument overdubs were recorded into a Pro Tools session with the Digi 002R. Software plug-ins where used for virtually all the effects on the recording. Though it was a relatively straightforward signal chain, we were both quite happy with the quality of those pre-amps on the Digi-002R. These are great sounding pre’s to my ears, having plenty of dynamic range without coloration.
Originally posted 2009-01-31 00:38:14.