Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Lantern Sound Recording Rig Philosophy

Mick Hargreaves on the front porch at the LSRR
We do things differently than most studios.
 Three things make us unique:
  1. An incredible vintage farmhouse and the accompanying sonic space we get to create. Picture making a record inside a Norman Rockwell painting.

  2. The vintage gear.

  3. Over thirty years of performing, recording, touring, experience.
The Farmhouse  
  • For their second record, The Band rented a large house from Sammy Davis Jr., nestled in the Hollywood Hills, turning the pool house into a recording studio.
  • For "Exile on Main Street", The Rolling Stones rented a villa, NellcĂ´te, in Villefranche-sur-Mer, near Nice, and turned the basement into a recording studio.
  • Bob Dylan and The Band wrote and recorded a ton of tunes at Big Pink, Rick Danko's rented house in Saugerties, NY. Dylan would later tell Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone, “That’s really the way to do a recording—in a peaceful, relaxed setting—in somebody’s basement. With the windows open … and a dog lying on the floor.”

It is this philosophy of putting the artist in a mode of ultra-relaxation that drives our recording methods at the LSRR. Everything we do must necessarily accomplish that end.

We've been helping artists make records since 2009, and since October 2014, the LSRR has been operating in a 1920's farmhouse on a 40-acre farm in the Long Island Pine Barrens, with very few distractions, a comfortable vibe that is unmatched in the area, and a commitment to doing things differently than conventional studios.

I've worked in some studios that feel like you're in the Emergency Room at the local hospital. We strive to be the polar opposite of that, and artists truly love the vibe here. There's a giant country kitchen, and guest rooms, which artists can always use, at no extra charge. Then there's the sizable main stairwell that can be used as a reverb chamber, or for ambient/drum sounds. We use the house as an instrument. There's 40 acres out back for break time and strolls.

In the end, if the artist does not feel as if we are living, breathing, eating, and occupying their record here until it is lovingly completed, then we have failed. We haven't failed yet.

Full Gear List

Vintage Gear
We recordists, more or less, are all working with the same / comparable gear. As they say, "it's the ear, not the gear". But some the gear we have DOES set us apart from other area studios.

The early 1960's Rogers "Holiday" drum kit (red sparkle, made in Dayton, OH) that records like a dream. It's my Rock (and Roll) of Gibraltar drum kit.

Tom Curiano (Garland Jeffries) behind the Rogers drum kit
Then there's the recently-arrived 1920 Hazelton Brothers baby grand piano in the front parlour, made right in New York City. It's built like a tank, and can handle everything from delicate treatments to rock and roll bashing.

There's an extensive quiver of guitars and basses, shown here in the control room rack, all of which are here for artists to use at any time. There's a 1964 Ampeg B15N bass amp (shown in Iso Closet No. 3, under the stairs) that has been a gold standard of vintage recorded bass sounds in the industry for a long, long time.

Guitar players are notoriously particular about their amplifier rigs, but they just as often use our Fenders and Vox models, some of which are shown (left) in Isolation Closet No. 2, attached to the control room.  

Among the many microphone preamps we have are two channels of Ampex 602's. These are the same mic pre's that were part of the 2-channel portable Ampex 602 tape recorder used by Garth Hudson to record "The Basement Tapes" at Big Pink with Bob Dylan and The Band.

We use the Ampex 602's most often for electric guitar & bass amp DI/mics, but they're also great for vintage vocal sounds, room ambience, and keyboards. They've got an amazing inherent compression quality.
The Ampex 602 mic preamps, pictured in original "suitcase" rack,
which also used to accommodate the two-track tape machine portion.
Full Gear List

Mick Hargreaves

I approach the recording process from the artist's perspective, and always with the artist first in mind. Sometime around 1983, in my first band, we took control of the recording process ourselves, because we had some experienced radio guys in the band, and because doing it ourselves was the only affordable way!  One track reel to reel machines led to two, four, eight track machines, used where we could borrow time on the cheap, and then by procuring gear for ourselves, piece by piece.

Mick Hargreaves in the first floor control room at the LSRR
Along the way, I went in and out of proper recording studios all the time, gaining more perspective and experience each step of the way. In the 1990's I was in The Grip Weeds, who put together an entire studio in a house, where we produced finished records; a big step. Then I slowly began accumulating gear.

A bunch of bands, national and international tours, many records, storage spaces, and residences later... I realized sometime around 2009 that I had the right stuff, and gear, to begin producing recordings by other artists under the "Lantern Sound Recording Rig" name. For quite a while, I had no dedicated space - I'd record wherever possible; basic tracking and mixing in borrowed houses, overdubs just about anywhere, mixing at home in my apartment.

My bass playing is included on any recording that needs it.
Then in October of 2014 an opportunity came to rent an entire 1920's farmhouse presented itself, in the Long Island Pine Barrens. Located on a 40 acre former horse farm, this Norman-Rockwell-type, plaster-and-lath, ornate wood-worked residence was perfect!

MH tracking acoustic guitar in passageway between the drum room and the front parlor.
The control room got installed in a first floor bedroom. This opens onto the main live (dining) room, with wood floor & ceiling, added sonic treatments, an adjacent front parlour separated by French pocket doors, and a large stairwell big enough to use for ambient reverb, and big enough to accommodate a drum kit when we wanted.

All the pieces were in place.
The Lantern Sound Recording Rig had found a home.

Full Gear List
Announcing... New for 2017...

George Howard's 3rd Floor
Analog Mix/Tracking Room
at the LSRR