Sunday, January 23, 2011

Nathan Dennen

Nathan has been talking to me for years about recording his first album, and now we are in full production for an album that has grown into one of my all time favorites to work on this far. My wife gave me some feedback early on, saying "that sounds great," before we were even close on some rough mixes.

Nathan's approach has been inspirational for me because he takes a very relaxed approach to recording. We tracked bass, drums, and piano in the same room, with minimal isolation. We used the old funky piano in the studio, to get that "bar piano" sound, and instead of bringing a "percussionist" to play along with the original takes, we set Nathan loose with bass drum and tambourine. The bass player and drummer are close friends of his who are in it for the love, I can hear it in the tracks.

We have done overdubs with Cello, Hammond Organ, Rhodes, and even Nathan's infamous mouth trumpet!

This album seems to be made for the old analog outboard gear in the studio, giving a very warm, retro sound to his songs. What I love most is Nathan's raw approach. It's many times a fleeting freedom that many bands have "made it" seem to lose track of after a taste of success. Nathan is fully immersed in his music. It's a gift to be a part of.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Analog Rules: Afro Funk Experience records to 2" tape.

Today, the Afro Funk Experience came to Paradise Recording to start an album. We recorded the band live, to 2" tape. Because the band knows it's material, is full of incredible players, and plays funk music, it seemed more than appropriate to track this album to tape, using our Studer A-800 MKIII.

This was one of my favorite sessions in quite some time. For anyone who has noticed that music doesn't really sound like it used to, it's not hard to imagine that by using vintage techniques, or even better yet, vintage equipment, we can make music today that has an old school vibe. It was so refreshing! We set up the band, got our sounds, and then just started rolling tape. The band sounded great, and there's no "how do we make this sound good?". It sounded good as soon as the band was listening back in the control room. No gimmicks. No plug ins. No re-amping. No auto tune, and no computer.

Unfortunately, there are so many possibilities with digital recording, it's so easy to "fix" music now, many musicians have become lazy, and the soul of music has suffered. "Oh, we can just loop that", or "can you fix my pitch" are just some of the ridiculous questions that have now become all to common in the studio.

The Afro Funk Experience did today in our studio what real music is all about. Many songs were done in one take, and all played totally live together. The end result is simple. Music is supposed to feel good!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Studio Projects 2011

Today, John and I got the Studer MKIII (2" 24 track) up and running, and recorded drum loops for a company named "Future Loops" out of Portugal. Next, we will mix down to the other Studer, the A-80 (1/4 inch 2 track) and bounce it directly to the B2 Bomber. I am in love with the tape sound. I can't wait to get that Mothership for mulit-channel tape transfer! I will post a link to beats by Future Loops soon.

The 24 track is sounding amazing. Some of our next sessions will be with the band  Afro Funk Experience, which will be live, to tape. In addition, I am going to be producing "These Boots Are Made For Walking", which I will record to tape with a live band as well.

Other projects include Emmett Peixoto's new album "Unattainable" which features Emmet on vocals/guitar; Jeff Hayashi guitar/backing vocals/producer, Bobby Hansen electric bass/Hammond Organ,  and myself on drums/keys/engineer. (Rich and I are currently mixing down to 1/4" tape). Special guests included Barry Phillips on cello and Heather Houston on backing vocals.

Naomi Wilder (aka Victory Sweet) also released "Chicky Wok" this last month... check out the video HERE. I am in pre-production for another song for her to be released later this year.

Nathan Dennen is also doing an album... an incredible sounding, piano-centric collection of tunes... I can't wait to see how this turns out.

Happy New Year! 2011 is looking like it will be the best, busiest year our studio has seen!

Paradise Recording Update: January 2011

For the last 6 months, we have been so busy, it's been impossible to find the time to post anything on the blog.

While running Paradise Recording, I have also been working for Burl Audio, as Artist Representative. This past November, Burl Audio presented at Audio Engineering Society in San Francisco. We released the Mothership, a multi-channel converter that we believe will change the course of recording history.

We threw an awesome party at the Great American Music Hall on Friday night after AES's opening day, which many people said was the best AES party, ever.  Since AES, Burl has taken on a tremendous momentum. Poeple all over the world are discovering the sound of the B2 Bomber.

We have also been working very hard keeping the studio in top shape, getting the tape machines working, swapping patch bays, building a computer room, soldering studio cables, producing albums, mixing, mastering... in other words, never a dull moment.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Taylor's New T3-B

Wow! This is the sickest guitar I have ever played. Bob, the A&R guy down at taylor ( has sent SambaDá a pair of brand new Taylors to check out. In about the first month we got this guitar, it has been to New York, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Idaho, and recorded in the studio with me.

The trememlo is BUTTER, and the sounds from the pickups are incredible. I am totally blown away. I was getting sound that I never have heard come from my hands, and the build of the guitar is immaculate.

I HIGHLY recommend you try this guitar before you go out to buy a gibson or gretch... Check this out!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Levy Sisters

I was hired by these girls father to produce 2 tracks for Alex (left) and Julia (right). When SambaDá was in Austin, Texas for the South by Southwest Festival, we had an 8 hour session at 5th Street Studios to record a demo with these girls. (

The song selection was quite last minute as it turned out, and we finally decided on an original tune by the girls dad (Van Levy) called "your eyes", but we took some time to figure out the second song. We wanted to do a cover song that showcased the girls' talent, but also brought the strengths of SambaDá's percussion and funky sound.

A family friend suggested "As" by Stevie Wonder. I don't think they could have come up with a better track. We did the initial tracking that day in Austin, but now I have gotten my hands on it, we have added Tammy Hall on Fender Rhodes, (left) and Reuben Rodgers ( on Electric Bass.

These two musicians are above and beyond. It is honestly a humbling experience working with both of them. I was pleasantly surprised when both of them seem to have such a great time... 

Anne from SambaDá has been an incredible support for me during the process... she patiently waits for her turn to record...  For the Stevie Wonder song, she spent 2 full days in the studio helping out before she got her turn to record. We did most of her tracks in less than 90 minutes, and I think it might be the best work I have ever heard from her! FONKY... that's right, FONKY! To really add the Brazilian flavor, Marcio Peeter from Bahia, Brazil helped direct and record the percussion.

Tonight, I just put the final major tracking down for the song "Your Eyes", which was sung by the younger of the two sisters, Julia. Anne started at 3:00, and we did Bari, Tenor (2 tracks) and Flute.
Then, I decided we needed a little tambourine, cowbell (who doesn't need COWBELL???) and a little shaker (literally, it is a very small shaker)

I am very impressed with these two young girls, and have had lots of fun... I have worked my butt off because I feel that the music deserves it. Ahhh... now to sleep to get ready for another day....

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Next Generation

We were doing a dance workshop in Seattle, WA, and we had 3 little girls who played shaker with us. This little heart-melting darling in the pink skirt turned around to me at one point and asked:

"Do you think that I could be a drummer someday?"

I told her that she could be anything that she wanted... she just has to do it. Then I had her play the drums... She was a natural of course... I love opening doors... Here she is... probably her first time on the drums.

A total natural with a beautiful spirit. Her little sister came and gave me a hug when I knelt down to say goodbye. She is the percussionist in the middle... her little shirt says "Baby Got Barack"

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Soundcraft GHOST mixing board gets fixed at Paradies Recording

The other day I was caught with my pants down (so to speak) when the mixing board in our studio wouldn't turn on. I was getting ready to "build the mix". I had turned down all the channels, and was going to get a kick drum sound, mixing together the two mics... the inside and outside mics, but it was like putting your foot on the gas pedal, with the car just staying put.

I checked the power, and yes, I had turned it on... I didn't know what to do... I sent the musicians home, and called Rich (he was still in Austin Texas). It took some time till he got back, and we pulled the board off the desk, flipped it over and took off the bottom:

I am not going to do this without rich... who is an electrical engineer. Someone once told me "in the old days, and engineer knew how to fix any problem that came up... not just someone who points mics at things and gets a decent sound..."

Rich is a real engineer in this case... I just point microphones. Anyhow, we were able to hook up some meters that had been previously unplugged, and fixed the problem so the board is rocking again. Here it is again last night: fully operational.

While the board was down, I had the unfortunate opportunity to record with headphones for two days... my ears were NOT happy after this... and after I pulled up the mixes into the speakers once the board was up again, I heard lots of things that I would have dealt with had we been listening through the speakers...

This week, I finished an initial mix of "Mare Cheia" by the Brooklyn-based Brazilian American band "Nation Beat". I also made some mixes for the album "Fools Gold", by Jan (pronounced YAWN) Broek, the father of my best friend and first bass player Jericho. I feel that I am paying rent for the year I first started playing drums, and his office and living room were our rehearsal spaces...

Tonight I am going to start mixing vocals for the Banana Slug String Band album, "Only One Ocean" with Jonathan Arthur, who is arranging all the vocals. Jonathan Arthur produced the last 2 albums for the Slugs... it has been nothing but a pleasure to work with such an incredible vocalist. I never stop learning from the old pros around me all the time...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Johnny B. recording for "Chicky Wok" by Nicole Naomi

In another adventure into sound at Paradise Recording: The Rolling Bomber!

Johnny B. is what I call a classic cat. He came into the studio to record bass drum for the track I am producing for his girlfriend, Naomi (more about her later)... Johnny is laid back, and not in the studio to make a scene. Here is johnny in full swing in Paradise:

The drum is called the Rolling Bomber, from the 1940.s. Johhny B says that it's from the era of the WWII metal recall... so the lugs are made of hardwood (rosewood?). This was a BEAUTIFUL old drum. 28" by maybe 12" or so...

We used two D112s, one on front, one on back, and a Neuman U87 to get some of the resonance of the attack head. We got a great sound. The track will be released in a couple of months...