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New Production: Bahiyyih – Take Me Home

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

In the howling wind, sleet and cold, Bahiyyih and I braved the elements to work in a very cold studio during a relentless winter in 2008 and 2009 to record her album ‘Take Me Home’.

Take Me Home is a spiritually inspired collection of songs to sooth and uplift the soul, taking us back to our true home. Although she wanted a very simple production, there are some diverse instruments such as Celtic harp and Oud.
Bahiyyih has composed some lovely melodies, and her angelic voice lifts the compositions to a truly heavenly place.

She talks more about her album on her blog posts here and here.

You can listen and find out more about the album on her website, and get it on iTunes or your favorite online music store.

Bahiyyih - Take Me Home CD Cover

Bahiyyih - Take Me Home CD Cover

Opening new music studio in Beijing, China

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

As i mentioned in my last blog, I’m moving to Beijing China, and setting up a fantastic, world class studio there.
It will be called Pro Soul Studios Beijing, in affiliation with my record label, Pro Soul Alliance.

It’s large a 3 room facility, professionally built by foreign expertise flown into the country along with specialized materials to soundproof and acoustically treat the rooms properly. It has full false floors and walls with large air spaces for soundproofing, but still lots of light from tall windows.
There’s even a built in guest room and kitchen/lounge in the middle.

Here are a few photos, then I’ll get into the technical details below for the gear heads…

The studio is in a building in an area that is a cool artist live/work residence neighborhood with art studios, restaurants, a French bakery, and a nice lagoon:
Shangri-La Culture & Art Community, Feijia Village

The studio has a funky traditional Chinese courtyard style entrance:

Studio entrance

studio entrance

The largest recording room, Studio B.
Tall soundproofed windows allow lots of light in, but no outside sound.

Large room studio B

Large room Studio B windows

Entrance to control room and studio A

Entrance to control room and studio A

The control room, below, has a custom desk with outboard gear rack panels on the left and right, and a Mackie xBus 200 touch screen console. These photos are old now, fabric on panelling has been replaced:

studio control room

Control room window with Mackie xbus console

Control room window with Mackie xbus console

Unfortunately I don’t have a great photo of Studio A, the main recording room, but it is a nice spacious room with lots of light from windows on one side:

Studio A recording room

The studio even has a guest residence upstairs, a kitchen, and large outside patio if you want to visit China to work on your music project:

Studio guest residence

studio kitchen

On to the studio equipment setup. In addition to my existing range of classic analog and cutting edge digital equipment, the new studio in Beijing will have the following new equipment that will make it the most powerful, highest quality studio I’ve had in my 20 years as a music producer and audio engineer:

  • A Mackie xBus 200 HD touch screen mixing console and computer controller capable of 192kHz resolution, configurable I/O via rear panel cards, penny & giles motorized touch sensitive faders & surround outputs.
  • 2 RME Hammerfall PCI cards allowing 32 channel high quality digital audio /MIDI channels between the computer and the console with zero latency (no delays!)
  • Apple Mac Pro 2.66 Quad Core Intel Xeon computer with 1.5 Terrabyte drive and 8Gig ram
  • 2 LCD computer monitors, 22″ each
  • Enhanced surround monitoring system with new mogami cabling and other small additions.
MackieXbus200

Mackie Xbus 200 mixer console and computer interface

The hardware mentioned will allow an incredible amount of flexibility in input and output routing, monitoring, and expansion as needed.
I’m arranging all the special cabling and other details required, and bringing equipment to Beijing from Canada to get the studio operational in the next 2 months.

I’ve put a huge amount of time, trouble and great expense to make this one of the best, top quality music and sound design studios in Beijing.
It wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support of some of my Beijing friends, you know who you are, Thank you so much!

The studio should be open for production by sometime in August 2010.

I expect to soon be booked full time months in advance in the near future, so please contact me now if you want to work on a project.
Check back here for more details and updates.

New China only music release ‘T. Journey’

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Last year, i had the pleasure of working on quite an incredible Chinese project with the renowned Beijing artist Jin R (pronounced Jing R).
It has recently been released in China, it’s called ‘T. Journey’

T Journey Bath House CD coverJin R is a known world class Chinese chef, restaurant owner, and sublime improvisational Yang Qin performer and artist.
Best known for her Hong Kong and Beijing restaurants ‘Green T House‘, Jin R was recently flown to Vancouver to cook her incredible culinary creations for the VIP guests of the 2010 winter Olympics.
Many attempt to copy hear ideas all over Beijing if not the world, and she truly represents a new era of China.

Last year Jin R developed a new bath house called Green T House Living Bath House & Residence which has already won the Wallpaper* Design Award 2010 – “Best Spa” and “AsiaSPA Magazine Awards 2009 – “Best New Spa Design” and “Best Day Spa”. Jin R wanted to create a unique soundtrack for this spa experience that took you on a journey through ancient to modern China and beyond. She asked me to produce and engineer the album as well as do some sound design.
Jin R playing Yang QinWe discussed what the album would sound like, I played Jin R some sound effect ambiances, chanting, and other musical elements and she eventually became inspired to envision the entire album, with all the performers and instruments she wanted to be a part of the project.
It was quite a diverse selection! I told Jin R, “not only is this not going to be relaxing, but it will be very challenging to make it work musically!”
But she was determined to make it more of a journey, and felt the spa treatments would be relaxing enough, So we proceeded.

Yang Qin, Gu Qin, Chinese traditional opera, Shao, and Chinese percussion, it was an amazing journey for me into Chinese music and instruments unlike anything else I have done before. I blogged more about the production here.
I was amazed at how quickly she rounded up some of the most amazing talent in Beijing, many of which had never been recorded!

Amazingly, it all worked out and it’s an diverse and unique album, another product of the original and creative mind of Jin R.
I owe much thanks to the talented and lovely Elika Mahony for not only introducing us, but assisting us with this project and allowing us to generously use her studio.

You can’t buy this album though, only receive it as a guest of the Green T House Living Bath House & Residence! So make sure you visit when your in Beijing, China.

Jin R’s ‘ancient meets futuristic’ Yang Qin performances on this project reaffirmed that the Yang Qin is one of my favorite instruments in the world.
It’s hard to get a sense of the album from a small part, but you can hear an excerpt of the album below:

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New Music Production: ‘Plaything’ by Laura Harley

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Over the last few years, I’ve been extremely busy with many productions in various genres with different artists. Most of them haven’t been released and are just starting to get out this year, so you’ll see a lot more postings about them here!

I’m excited to share with you my latest production. it’s a song I started many years ago with the talented Laura Harley and it’s just now been completed.

We started with the music bed tracks which I composed and then Laura added vocals and guitar to.
Vocals were recorded in Vancouver, where I also produced and engineered it, except for some mixing I did in China.

To describe the feel of this song, imagine yourself in the year 2020 deep in the heart of India where on a path of spiritual awareness you find yourself in a struggle with the insistence self, trying to escape the grasp of your own ego.

Laura talks about the meaning behind the words on her website…

I think it really turned out well and it’s a very unique from all my other productions including previous songs I’ve worked on with Laura.

You can download it free on Laura’s website now!

Let me know what you think.

My latest production: Elika’s Edge of Forever

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Over the last year I’ve been working on some very exciting new music with Elika Mahony that I have co-written, produced and engineered.
I’ve always felt the music Elika has done in the past has not shown all of her musical potential and talent, it only represented one aspect of her musical influences and interests. So we’ve been on a musical journey to more completely represent and express Elika’s creativity and interests through the music. That journey is ongoing but we have the fruits of our initial efforts in three new songs, Edge of Forever, Missing You, and Listen.
(click on the song links to read more about each song on Elika’s blog)

Each explores different musical styles combining progressive electronic elements with Latin, Persian & Middle Eastern, New Age and pop styles. I think they all merge together very well with Elika’s beautiful voice and pleasing melodies. These songs will also be enjoyable to new listeners who may not connect with Elika’s previous music.

Another goal of these new songs was to convey more of Elika’s feeling and emotion in the vocal performance with more nuances and latent facets of her voice and I think through great effort and striving she has accomplished fantastic results.

We decided to release the songs in batches as an ‘EP’ CD rather than have you wait for the full album to be completed.
Get the full details and links to download the songs online here: www.elikamahony.com/music/edge-of-forever

Let me know what you think. Elika Edge of Forever artwork

New Release: Meditations of the Spirit in Chinese

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

A Chinese CD, ‘Meditations of the Spirit’, which I collaborated on with Elika Mahony, and produced and engineered has just been released and sold out in less than a month!

All the songs are in Chinese with a few bilingual songs.  The lyrics are from the profound and highly spiritual Baha’i writings, and some compositions are translated versions of songs from Elika’s Fire and Gold album.
The project involved highly talented musicians and artists – the very talented Cheng Lin graciously agreed to sing on the CD and Jin R plays her original beautiful Yang Qin compositions.  Phil Morrison and Keith Williams generously added their gift of talent to the CD too and Siria Rutstein, the youngest of the group, contributes her magical voice to the mix.  Jimmy adds a few of his compositions and Flamenco guitar player, Eric Harper, adds to one of  the tracks.  We also have 2 talented ladies singing in Chinese – Zhao Li and Lily, with Elika Mahony singing one of the songs in Chinese and a part in Arabic on another.

You can find more information about the songs here and can order them on that website.
To make orders in North America and other parts of the world, click here.

Chinese CD cover

We’ve been in discussion with the publisher to do another album like this due to the great response, but that is probably a few years off as this was an exhaustive project.

Moving the studio

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

That’s right, after 3 great years, I’m moving my studio to my home next week. I had planned to blog about it much earlier, but then we were suddenly told to drop everything and go to Vietnam to adopt a baby (An update on that & what has happened in my next blog…).

Because I will be doing a lot more work overseas next year, I decided it didn’t make sense to have a separate studio here that is costing me when I won’t even be here! So I’m moving the studio to my home and will be working with a friends studio locally when recording is necessary in Vancouver.Jarome Studio 2006

It was a hard decision, as this was definitely the best sounding studio I’ve had, interesting as it was quite a simple setup, but there was something about the sound in there that gave this lovely air when mixing, and it had a comfy homey feeling when recording.
Had some fantastic times in there working with amazing artists like Elika Mahony, Heather Dore, Laura Harley, and Bahiyyih.

We custom built the studio as a double walled enclosure, and acoustically treated the walls, and put in wood flooring.

It seems every time I build a studio, the time I actually get to use it before something happens becomes less and less… Hopefully my next studio will last more than 3 years! I really thought I would be there and use the space for a lot longer than I did, but life changes.

In terms of how this will affect my work, things will be continuing as usual as far as what I can do and the quality of my work. I’ve made sure those things won’t be affected. What will change is my availability in Vancouver. If you want to work together on a project, make sure you schedule it now, because my time here next year will be limited!

In going through everything I have to prepare to move, I found some pretty amazing memorabilia from my music past… Im going to post some of those things in future blogs, so keep an eye out.

I’m also selling some vintage analog gear as I part with things I don’t use as much to make room for new additions that I need more now with my work and the way technology changes. If your interested in an Emax 2 sampler, Korg SDD-1000 delay fx, Behringer MX 2642A Mixer, or a Symetrix 528 vocal processor/preamp channel strip, then let me know.

I have to say, I’m really looking forward to all the time I’ll be saving not having to commute, and the money that will be saved as well. This has been a really tough year, and I really need a break and to make some major changes in the way I work, badly.

Improving vocal performance

Monday, September 14th, 2009

An important part of my role as a music producer is to get the best possible performance from artists in the studio both technically and emotionally.

I find I often fall short in this area though because unless they are professionals who have done large live performances for many years, most vocalists are often unable to deliver to their full potential. This doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t give great performances, it just means they could have done even better.

This is usually because the vocalist is not in optimal physical shape. Your health and physical fitness level has a huge impact on your vocal performances in the studio, and of course live. Sure, how comfortable you are with letting go and giving your all emotionally in the studio is also very important.  But to get a great performance, you really need to have a lot of power to deliver strong, clean vocal phrases. Without this power and energy, your performances will sound weak and shaky, quivering, particularly on the ends of longer words or sustained melodies and this drastically reduces the quality and impact of the performance.

Studio tools and tricks can rarely correct these problems effectively, so that’s why it’s so important for singers to keep in top physical shape if they want to give the best performance they’re capable of live and in the studio. Eat healthy food that gives you lots of energy, and adopt a regular cardio exercise routine at least 4 times a week.

Another recommendation, in addition to warming up properly before a performance and singing regularly in a choir, is opera training, or a great vocal coach such as Brennan Barrett, to help you get as much power as you can without exerting yourself more than you have to, and to assisting with effective breathing techniques that will give you better phrasing and power in the right places.

A producer can only do so much, and in my case, I can work a lot of miracles to make you sound great no matter what, but ultimately, I can only use the best you give me! Make sure that really is your best, as you never know who will hear your finished performance, or how far it will spread.
Recording vocals in studio

Is professionally produced music important anymore?

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

I’ve had no problem getting work as a music producer, even in a recession. I’m working on 6 albums and keep getting calls for more, but then I’m cheap as far as many music producers go with my experience. Most of my clients hire me because I also compose and engineer in my own studio, so I’m a one stop shop.

This regular work has in no way filled me with delusions about the importance of professionally produced music to the general public though. I have found myself asking more and more, what is the point of what I do for artists anymore? Is there a future in professionally produced music? Do the majority of people care?

Before you scoff at this question, peruse these valid issues that have partially led to it, such as:

  • The decline of record labels and shift of the industry into the hands of DIY artists with limited budgets
  • The proliferation of affordable music production equipment and software allowing artists to Do It Themselves at home
  • The popularity of live, reality ‘Idol’ type music shows and Youtube
  • The proliferation of poor quality music formats like 128 kb MP3 files
  • The popularity of poor quality music playback devices like iPods with headphones
  • The question of the value of music in a world of free downloads

One could argue that people are used to professionally produced music, and so they will still demand it, despite the shrinking budgets for artists and music lovers. There is no question that the world is shifting towards enjoying more music than ever before, and that music is increasing in popularity.

But my most significant argument for the rapid decline in value for the music producer is, given the above, can the average person even tell the difference between music with no producer and that which is professionally produced? Will they be disappointed with acoustic versions of songs?

Tests I’ve done have proven the answer is no. Most listeners primarily want to hear the singers voice, and the melodies sung with simple instrumentation, and everything else seems superfluous.

I think a producer contributes significantly not just to the quality of sound of the music, but to:

  • The performance, emotion, and confidence of the performers
  • The arrangement of the song, including lyric phrasing and song structure
  • The melodies and musical instrumentation of the song
  • The accuracy of pitch and timing and sonic quality of the recorded parts
  • The range of tone across the frequency spectrum of the music
  • The mood, feeling and energy of the song

But of course, I’m biased! And as illustrated, these are decreasing in importance to the general listener.
In industries like film, TV, and advertising, these elements have become standard, so there is no question that they will require professionally produced music.
For music in general though, the question remains, given it is proven most people can’t hear the difference, is there a future for the professional music producer?
Will a shift in the importance of the arts and education in society affect the demand for musical perfection only an experienced producer can provide?

recording in bedroom

New trance/pop production: I know I Should Run

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

I’ve been working on a new trance track for songwriter Deborah Caldwell over the last few months called ‘I Know I Should Run’. It’s about when your madly in love with someone who is totally wrong for you to be involved with and you know it.

Deborah wrote and recorded the song some time ago but wasn’t happy with the style and feel of the song. I redid all the music as a more trance pop dance style at her request, but so that didn’t distract from the well written song, while trying also to enhance the emotional impact of not only the music, but the vocals. Hopefully you’ll feel we achieved that. My role for the track was basically arranging, programming bed tracks, music production, audio engineering and mixing/mastering. I assisted with some minor melody changes as well in some key parts of the song for more emotional impact.

We auditioned a lot of singers to get the right performance and feel for this song, and decided on the talented Isreali singer, Noya. She did a great job of conveying the emotion and was a total pro to work with.
We had a specific sound in mind for the vocals and despite this being different to her typical jazzy style, she gave us exactly what we wanted.

The song isn’t really written specifically to sell to a ‘trance music’ audience, but is more to license in Film, TV, and Ads, or to be covered by another artist.
We’re also working on a slower acoustic version.

You can listen here.

Let me know what you think!