Was Peter Gabriel's "So" recorded digitally

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Slipperman87, Jul 3, 2009.

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  1. Slipperman87

    Slipperman87 Active Member Thread Starter

    I know Security was, but am unsure about SO
  2. Meddle_Guy

    Meddle_Guy Forum Resident

    Woodland Hills, CA
    I remember reading that supposedly Classic Records used the original analog tapes for their vinyl issue. I have the Classic pressing, and it does sound very nice, much better than the CD versions I've owned.
  3. I'd heard that it was digitally recorded except for the vocals, which were analog. (Same as ABC's How To Be A Zillionaire album.) Frankly, I'm not sure what that means, or how you'd use some tracks analog and some tracks digital. Just repeating what I'd heard years ago.

    There is a metallic-sounding quality to the vocals on So, though, which I've never been able to figure out.
  4. TLMusic

    TLMusic Musician & record collector

    According to the Classic Records website:

    "The Classic Reissue was cut from the original 1/2" 30 ips analog master tapes on the Classic all tube stereo cutting system at Bernie Grundman Mastering by "The Wizard" Bernie Grundman himself."

    http://www.classicrecords.com/item.cfm?item=PG 7-200G

    By 1986, many aspects of recording involved digital equipment, so it's doubtful that every note of "So" is pure analog sound. Parts could have been recorded on digital recorders, and then finally compiled onto analog tape reels. Of course digital effects were already becoming the standard by 1986--you can bet you are hearing digital delays and reverb, and digital keyboard samples on this album.
  5. christopher

    christopher Forum Neurotic

    I recently found a Geffen LP of SO for, like, $2 and it sounds wonderful. Deadwax reads that it was mastered at Artisan and pressed at Specialty.

    later, chris
  6. Ere

    Ere Forum Resident

    Silver Spring MD
    David Bottrill assisted in the engineering of So at Gabriel's Ashcombe Hosue, and then stayed on to do the full engineering of Passion. He said later in an interview that when he arrived:

    “Peter had an SSL desk* and two Studer A-80 [24-track] machines. One [of the Studers] was customized with electronics built by Colin Broad. It could have been a revolutionary machine except for the fact that it didn’t work very well. Like an SSL, you could set up a gate on the output of every channel because each channel had one built in it.”

    I may have some more details tucked away specifically from '86-87, will check.

    *Gabriel later bought controlling interest in SSL.
  7. Stefan

    Stefan Forum Resident

    Montreal, Canada
    This reminds me of the Jennifer Warnes Famous Blue Raincoat discussion. The original LP I own clearly states it was recorded digitally, yet the reissue on Cisco is billed as an "all-analog remastering by Bernie Grundman."
  8. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Lodi, New Jersey
    Maybe digital multis (at least for the instrumentation), and mixed to analog?
  9. jojopuppyfish

    jojopuppyfish Forum Resident

    Does the classic reissue have the original order or does it have In your eyes at the end?
  10. A.G. Pennypacker

    A.G. Pennypacker Forum Resident

    Portland, OR
    Don't all of the remasters have photos of the spines of the tape boxes on the back of the rear tray insert? If it's a digital recording, what are those photos of? The tape boxes for the vocal tracks? Analog backups? I always wondered about that, especially on Security, which originally had the "Full Digital Recording" banner at the lower right corner on the CD booklet.
  11. Andrew T.

    Andrew T. Out of the Vein

    Digital tapes?
  12. waynenet

    waynenet New Member

    Was digital recording done on primitive hard drives in the early days of digital recording? Was it a stand lone recording system that was not compatible with any other system?
    I have always wondered what the early ones looked like...were they recorded as .WAV files that could be reformatted in Protools now?
  13. Ere

    Ere Forum Resident

    Silver Spring MD
    from: Jock Baird, "Peter Gabriel's Tickle Therapy," Musician, June 1989.

    The main room at Peter Gabriel's Real World studios sports an SSL SL40006 console and Otari MTR-90 and DTR-90 multi-track tape machines. There's also a A-820 and A-802, the latter for mastering. Main house amps and monitors are by Boxer, while Quad amps and ATC speakers are also used. Heavy digital firepower comes from the WaveFrame and Fairlight III workstations, parked next to an ordinary Roland D-50. And E-mu Emulator III is in use in another studio room. For drums, Gabriel's now using the Roger Linn box from Akai as well as two Wendell Jrs. Gabriel's fave mike has always been the Neumann valve U-47.

    There are stacks of outboard gear. The digital effects include lots of Lexicons (a 480L with Larc, PCM-70 and two PCM-42s), Yamahas (a Rev5 and three SPX90s), some fancy AMSes, and old Quantec, a Roland DEP-5 and an lbanex SDR-1000. (And don't forget Hugh Padgham's ancient Boss CE-300 chorus.) Compressors are by dbx, Urei, Klark-Technic and BSS, with EQs by t.c. and Klark-Technic and noise gates by Drawmer and BSS. A Sony DAT deck is used for premixes.

    Over in Gabriel's cottage sit a Korg SG-1D piano, an Akai S1000 sampler, TOA D-4 and D-4E mixers, another SDR-1000 reverb and a Shure SM57 mike. An H&H V8000 powers Yamaha NS10Ms.
  14. PhilBiker

    PhilBiker sh.tv member number 666

    Northern VA, USA
    Ha! Hard drives! No hard drives of the day could begin to hold this much information. Even the most robust hard drives probably couldn't work fast enough to operate on digital audio files. Tape was the only medium possible. There were stand-alone machines that worked like very high priced analog machines. Often they used what we would consider very strange parameters. Flim & The BBs ground breaking (and wonderful) "Tricycle" was recorded at 50.4Khz! I can't even imagine what it must be like to remaster these oddball early digital recordings.
    No. .WAV wasn't even a dream back then. I share your fascination with early digital recording. :)
  15. Ere

    Ere Forum Resident

    Silver Spring MD
    from: Maureen Droney, "Kevin Killen: On Recording Peter Gabriel, Elvis Costello, and More," Mix Online, May 1, 1999

    But even before you got established in New York you found yourself back in the British Isles.

    Yes, Daniel Lanois was to be producing an album for Peter Gabriel. They were going to record in what was actually a cow shed on Peter's property near Bath, England, and originally Daniel thought he'd bring an engineer in for the mix. He knew I'd up and come to America, so he thought I had the courage to tackle the task. Once they got going on the project they called me to come over and help record as well.

    A cow shed.

    Yes, the worst thing is that it really was very cold.

    When I arrived there were two analog 24-track machines, a Studer A80, and a Studer A80 shell that had been modified by a local electronics wizard, with its own audio cards and transport controls. A month before I arrived, as Dan explained it to me, and the day before the band arrived for basic tracking, Peter had installed a synchronizer to link the two machines, and somehow the two machines weren't talking to each other properly. The stock Studer had an FM card and the modified Studer had a DC card, and the synchronizer thought they were both FM cards, so there were incorrect pulses being sent to the second machine. The way Peter was working, he had a demo of each song with piano, maybe a Prophet pad and a Linn drum machine, that he would put up on the B machine, which was the modified machine, and he would play that to the musicians in the studio. They would then play along with that in their headphones, and record all their parts onto the A machine. They'd also copy some parts across from the demo to the A machine. They'd do a couple of takes, say on "Sledgehammer," and instead of leaving the demo reel up on the B machine they would take the first set of performances and put that bit on the B machine, so the musicians could then hear that in their headphones along with the demo rhythms-all that information was getting transferred across to the A machine along with the second set of performances. And they kept doing that, so they could constantly reference quickly back to a part they'd just played.

    They were recording new takes while hearing the previous ones, and running two machines all the time.

    Yes, and what happened was that the two machines were slipping ever so slightly. With each pass the problem got compounded, so that when you took tape one, and locked it up to tape six, they drifted. Add to that the fact that Studer A80s are notoriously unreliable at the front and back of the reel, and it made for a real mess. There were parts of each performance that you simply couldn't sync together.

    But they had all these great performances, and it became my job to corral them together. Dan and Peter sat down and built up lists of what they wanted to get, say from tape six to tape one on the same song, and we planned to somehow edit these pieces together.

    I arrived around the end of May, and the first part was getting familiar with the songs. There were musicians coming in during the day, and Peter was working on vocal ideas, so we had to try to isolate a performance that would be the master track of the song, and somehow keep tracks open so that we could edit in the pieces that we wanted from other takes. Late at night, after Peter had left, we'd work on retrieving the tracks we needed.

    The musicians were overdubbing to parts that weren't final?

    Yes, but with Peter-and this is probably true to this day-you're never really sure of what the final part is going to be, because he's constantly writing the lyrics, and seeing what will work. Sometimes he'd come up with a great lyric, and there'd be some part that didn't work with the vocal-so we were constantly changing.

    Finally, I decided the best way to proceed would be to edit the multitracks into a more structured form and put it on one tape machine that we knew was reliable. In New York I'd used the Mitsubishi 32-track, and I proposed that we should get one. Then I set about editing whatever needed to be done-if there were four reels per song, I would have to do the same edits on each reel and hope they all were good. The process of getting stuff back from slave reel number five to master reel number one involved sometimes lining up the 2-inches and flying between them manually, bit by bit. In July we got an AMS sampler with 14 seconds of sampling time, so we could actually sample four or five measures of music and fly it in that way, which helped. By September we had everything over to the 32-track machine.

    But when you mixed you ended up locking three machines anyway.

    Yes, Peter felt that some things sounded better coming off the analog, particularly certain percussion elements, and he was right. But then, we never really sat down and mixed, you see. Most records get broken down into periods-pre-production, tracking, overdubs, the mix. With Peter, we never really entered into those phases. We were always mixing. So by October, we'd put up a mix, with whatever overdub had been achieved that day, and I would always store the mix on the SSL and take down documentation. Then, at some point we'd decide, "That's a really good reference for that track," and from then on we'd always reference back to that particular mix. So, if all of a sudden we were having background singers come in, we'd recall the mix and do all the patches, crosspatches, etc., so that they would hear the best possible interpretation of the song. By the time the album was "mixed," the mixes had already been going on for three or four months. And, of course, the patchbay was a mess. You couldn't see anything.

    Do you remember how you recorded Peter's voice?

    We used a tube 47. Peter always maintained that he'd used a handheld 57 in the control room on his previous records. Dan and I were skeptical, so we did a test. We set up a bunch of mics, and we blindfolded Peter and had him sing into each and tell us which one he liked the best. It came down to one, and he was sure it was the 57. When we took the blindfold off, of course it was the 47.

    But there was a funny sound to that 47. It had much more air than you would normally expect-very pleasing sounding, but not as much bottom as you'd expect. We had our maintenance guy, Neil Perry, take a look and it turned out that one of the cables had a little nip in it. It wasn't getting full contact on the shield, and when he reconnected it back up it sounded much fuller-but the presence that we loved was gone. So we rigged up a system where we plugged the output of the mic into the patchbay, and we took the shield off a regular patch cord and used a mult of the two things; we brought the mic up on two faders to duplicate that sound-the regular 47 and the dropped shield version of it-and we'd balance between them.

    What about the rest of the chain?

    Peter had an old Decca compressor, kind of like an LA2A, very smooth, very slow. I set it up for a minimum amount of compression. I chose not to use a lot of EQ, mostly because I knew we'd be dropping in lines further down the road. We'd have EQ on the monitor side.

    What outboard equipment did you have?

    We had an AMS DMX1580 and an RMX16, an EMT 140 plate, and we used the studio as a chamber. I recall a Sony DRE1000 reverb unit, four Decca compressors, a couple of LA2As, and tape slap. Not a lot of outboard-we printed effects as we went along. The console was very small; I think just 56 in. We only had six echo sends, because I was using so many of the small faders for tape returns, and we had to constantly figure out different ways to get into devices. We would often chain effects together-send a signal to the AMS for delay, then out of that into another delay, like the Deltalab DL2 with the extra delay module that gave almost a second of delay time. We'd do a lot of things that would shimmer back and forth, then come out of that and patch into a reverb: By sending one thing you could get three effects.

    Did you know you were working on a great record?

    We knew it was good, but I don't know that we knew it was going to be one of those hugely successful records, because it took ten months and by the time we were finished we were just relieved to be done.

    I sent a copy of the record to my friend Randy Ezratty in New York, and after he listened, he said, "You're going to get so much work from this, you have no idea." And he was right. The So record was very pivotal for me. I'm sure without it I would have had some success, but that tended to put me in a different place. Since then I've gone through periods that got a little dry, but for the most part people say, "You've done that record and you've done this record, therefore there's a level of consistency between all your work." Which is really what you want people to look at-you want them to judge you from your whole body of work, as opposed to just the last record that you did.
  16. TLMusic

    TLMusic Musician & record collector

    Thanks for all the great information!
  17. andyinstal

    andyinstal Runner for Others

    Allen, Texas
    Thanks for that info! This is one of my favorite albums!
  18. curbach

    curbach Some guy on the internet

    The ATX
    Yes it does. Mine has Greg Fulghiniti's initials in the deadwax IIRC. . .
  19. Gems-A-Bems

    Gems-A-Bems Forum Resident

    The Duke City
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