RECORDING TECHNIQUES WITH JIMI LLOYD-WYATT
FIRE SAFETY EQUIPMENT? PVC PIPE? IS THIS A PLUMBING STORE? NO, THEY’RE JUST ITEMS IN THE EFFECTS COLLECTION AT GINGER STUDIOS. BY PETER ZALUZNY
When Jimi Lloyd-Wyatt decided to establish Ginger Studios in Melbourne, he immediately threw himself into the deep end. He hadn’t run a studio before, but a stint with Jonathan Burnside – famous for his work on Grinspoon, Sleepy Jackson and Dan Sultan records – left Wyatt hungry for a space to call his own. He eventually found the ideal location in 2012 and thus, Ginger Studios was born. Since then, artists from every genre under the sun – including The McQueens, Paul Kelly and Tim Rogers – have passed through Ginger’s doors. It may be one of the newer studios on the block, but Wyatt has already developed the kind of unique ear that helps him find guitar tones where others won’t... Like in a fire extinguisher, for example.
Why did you decide to put an SSL Duality Delta at the heart of your studio?
It was the only choice. They sound the best and have a really intuitive workflow, the signal chain through the console of EQ and compression is all analogue, and the DAW control integrates seamlessly with ProTools.
How does it benefit the various guitar-based genres that you work with?
The preamps have a ‘drive’ switch, so the board kind of has three different flavours of mic pre. It means you don’t need a bunch of outboard taking up space and drawing extra power, and you can quickly switch to find one that’s right for the source. For guitars, I like to use the drive switch in, turned all the way to third order harmonics. It’s magic. It isn’t distortion like a stomp box, though – it’s more of a character change that you can make to suit the music.
Any other bits of essential gear that complement the SSL?
The most important thing for recording anything is the environment. That said, I do love my Telefunken mics for acoustics and my SM57s and MD421s for electrics. But the bright orange Augspurger monitors – which were custom designed for the studio – are possibly the most important piece of gear I own. They’re truthful in all frequency ranges, at all volumes and on all kinds of music, and they’re particularly revealing for guitars and any issues that might be lurking about.
And are you capturing your recordings to tape or digital?
I’m a digital guy these days. I don’t have time for tape nor the hassles of it. Who wants to hear, “Hang on to that great idea, Mr. Guitar Man, I just need to spend 30 minutes adjusting the bias on this tape deck to get it perfect for your next take.” I have used plenty of tape in my time, and I really like some of the limitations it imposes on the creative process, but I also like the accessibility of the modern studio formats. I want studios to be inclusive places where young players who have new and inspiring ideas can play on their records, so that their creative expression can live in recordings.
When you’re dealing with heavier genres, rock, metal and so on, how do you bring out that punch without overloading the mix?
Thankfully, the loudness wars are over! All major streaming services have implemented loudness management so there is no point in making louder and louder records. Punch comes from dynamics, without quiet there can be no loud! When it comes to dimension and space in mixes, I like to use the full width of panning available with plenty of parallel compression. It allows me to bring heaps of body to a mix whilst maintaining clarity and depth in the recording so that the song doesn’t get lost in a sea of noise.
Are there any EQ tricks that can help as well?
Giving everything its place in a mix is key. You can’t just chop the bottom octaves off every sound in a mix, turn it up and think you’ll have a great sounding record. That just makes it sound tinny. Emphasise the part that makes it killer. Cleaning up the bottom end so there isn’t any superfluous rumble is important, but if a guitar is working for a track because of its low frequency energy, don’t rob it of that.
How do you go about micing up for a rock session like that?
I love printing room mics – as it can really help to fill in a sonic picture and glue stuff together – but it’s all about Shure SM57s and Sennheiser MD421s for me. I tend to use less mics on a jazz track than a rock track, mainly because I can get a lot of aggression and energy out of the room mics for drums. I’ve done a bunch of Jazz things where I’ve had the piano in the drum booth and the drums in the big room, so I could get the character or vibe the artist needed for their music.
Any other similarly memorable mic setups?
There’s a fire extinguisher in the noise lock where I sometimes stick guitar amps. When you mic it up, you get a really zingy sound that no amount of EQ, plugin or reverb can match. Likewise, a long piece of steel or PVC tubing in front of an amp with a mic at the end can give a really cool sound.