Planet Gear: Butch Vig on recording The Emperor’s of Wyoming's debut album
Butch Vig, best known as the drummer of Garbage and producer of albums such as Nirvana’s Nevermind, has a new project – The Emperor’s of Wyoming. The band comprises not only Vig but singer-songwriter Phil Davis (Fire Town), movie director Franklin Lee, and his brother Pete Anderson. The story starts in Madison, Wisconsin in the late 1970s. The four Emperors – Vig, Davis, Lee and Anderson – are playing in two different bands. They all know each other, but for one reason or another never join forces as a four-piece. By 1980, as things will have it, they all go their separate ways. Fast forward to January 2009 - Davis, a singer and songwriter, is talking to old band mate guitarist Frank Anderson: Hey, let’s make a country-rock record. A folk-rock record. Frank goes, Great idea, let’s go! Brother Pete goes, I’m in on bass. And Vig, living in LA, just coming off a two-year stint producing Green Day goes, “Cool. Need some drums and stuff?”. So there you have it. Back together again, for the first time. Here, Vig talks us through The Emperor's recording gear....
Trailing Edge Recorders is the personal basement home studio in Fitchburg, WI, of EOW singer-songwriter-guitarist Phil Davis. “It’s somewhat of a ‘floating’ studio design with no walls touching the basement walls and two layers of sheet rock and eight inches of insulation above them for the ceiling. It’s fairly isolated sound-wise from the rest of the house. I would often record vocals or acoustic guitar early in the morning when the rest of the family on the second floor was asleep and they never heard anything.”
Davis recorded everything using a Dell Inspiron laptop, a Seagate external hard drive, and a Lexicon Lambda interface using Multi Track Studio (MTS)Pro Plus. If you look closely in the studio photo, on top of the KRK speakers are Trailing Edge’s twin guardian angels—Elvis Presley and Colonel Sanders.
“I’ve gone through six of the top DAWs but MTS is the most stable, easiest, most intuitive recording program I’ve ever used, as close to a Portastudio cassette as digital gets. It was developed by Giel Bremmers, a software designer in the Netherlands, and if you have a problem he emails you directly and immediately with solutions. Unbelievably customer support in this day and age! I exported all my tracks as .wav files to be imported by the other guys in Pro Tools, and I converted them to .mp3s for emailing, so when it came time to mix we always had the originals, which were recorded 24/44.” We also uploaded everything to a file sharing site, so we had reliable back up. The recording chain for all my lead and harmony vocals was a Rode K2 Tube mic through a Presonus Eureka preamp into the Lexicon Lambda. Using low priced, basic gear was always my governing aesthetic, and in the beginning I was using an SM58 for vocals. Butch thought I should upgrade the vocal chain and set me up with the Rode K2 and Eureka. He was right, of course. Acoustic guitars were recorded with an AKG small condenser Perception 150 mic through a Joe Meek Three Q Studio Channel. Any electric guitars I recorded were always mic-ed, never amp sims, using an SM58 through the Joe Meek into the Lexicon.”
Trailing Edge Recorders
From Frank Anderson:
I played a 66 Gretsch Rally, a 1970 ZB double neck pedal steel, and a custom 8 string Lap King Rodeo Grande steel guitar through a Peavey Delta Blues amp. No pedals. The microphone was a single SM57 which I ran through a pre-amp and from there to a M-Audio box and into Pro Tools. I played accordion, banjo, hammer dulcimer, some acoustic guitar and cornet live in the studio using the same microphone. My room is very alive and not at all soundproof. If you listen closely to some of our songs you can hear birds outside, trains and cars going by, neighbor stalking, lawn mowers and other great distant sounds. I love that.
Frank Anderson Studio - Wowsville
From Peter Anderson:
Every song evolved in a different way depending on who threw out the first ideas. Some were very raw and changed considerably -- others, were more polished and complete. Butch and I worked a lot on bass and drum lines but everyone voted on the basic way the song would go. Many times I woke up with a riff in my head from a track that one of the guys had sent the night before. I used my studio, which was a basic Line 6 unit, mainly for sending rough ideas. When I needed to lay down a final track, I would make a short drive over to Matt's home studio where he made the final recording very easy.
From Matt Pedri:
For Peter's tracks the channel would start with a Universal Audio LA-610 as a DI and then into Pro Tools 9 by way of an RME Multiface II for conversion. Peter would monitor with the Fender Bassman model in Pod Farm while tracking. Knowing the project was going to span a good chunk of time and that we would want some consistency with the bass tone, we chose to go the Pod Farm route so we could recall the settings when needed. We spent a few minutes getting the tone close to Peter's actual Bassman and in the end we thought it was pretty hard to tell one from the other. Those settings were saved and we would always start there with a new song and usually wouldn't have to tweak it too much. Of course sometimes we would throw it out the window and start from scratch.
Initially there might be several quick takes with the P-bass, Hofner or other guitar and maybe even variations on the baseline that would go out to Frank as mp3’s while songs were being constructed. After a track was approved we'd re-amp the DI track using the model and bounce out both tracks as 24/44 wavs and send them to Alex for mixing via Frank.
Equipment used by TEOW for the making of their debut album:
Drum Workshop kit and hardware
22” Kick Fet 47 into Helios 500
13” Rack Josephson e22s into Chandler TG2
16” Floor Josephson e22s into Chandler TG2
14 x 6 ½ snares (DW, Dunnet, Yamaha “Gish”)
Zildjian Cymbals, 18” K Medium Dark Crash, 16” K Medium Crash, 21” Sweet Ride
Various percussion instruments, shaker and tambourine.
Fender Telecaster and 12 String into Matchless amp
1967 Gibson J50
Epiphone Firebird Studio
First Act ME 501
Peavey Vypyr 30
66 Gretsch Rally
1970 ZB double neck pedal steel
Custom 8 string Lap King Rodeo Grande steel guitar
Peavey Delta Blues amp
Butch Vig DW Kit
Top snare mic: Telefuken M80 into API 512c / 550b into Chandler Lil’ Devil Comp
Bottom snare mic : Josephson e22s into Helios
OH mics: Audio Technica 4041 into API 512c/550b
Mono room mic: Bock 507 into Chandler LTD-1 into Soundtoys “Decapitator”
Buss compression: Roger Meyer RM58
Rode K2 Tube mic
Presonus Eureka preamp
AKG small condenser
Perception 150 mic
Joe Meek Three Q Studio Channel
RME Multiface II
Pro Tools 10 HD
M Audio Trigger Finger
Fender Bassman model through Pod Farm
The Emperors of Wyoming is out this week on Proper Records.