Australian Guitar - - Producer Profile -

Chad Blondel is a man of many tal­ents. He’s worked with bands across al­most ev­ery genre you can think of out of his stu­dio in Perth; he’s worked out a few lit­tle tricks that can make a su­per shiny pop-rock gui­tar fill ev­ery inch of the mix, and he even knows a thing or two about record­ing to tape. But the most in­ter­est­ing item in his long list of ac­com­plish­ments is his sup­ple­men­tary stu­dio called Fox­hole, which op­er­ates 24 hours a day, seven days a week... Oh yeah, and that’s with­out a sin­gle staff mem­ber. Fox­hole stu­dio is a re­ally in­ter­est­ing con­cept. What was the idea and in­ten­tion be­hind a 24-hour un­manned stu­dio?

It bor­rows a lit­tle from the 24-hour gym con­cept, as well as the shared econ­omy of Airbnb, to pro­vide pro­fes­sional stu­dios for mem­bers to start cut­ting records with­out the huge in­vest­ment in­volved in hir­ing com­mer­cial stu­dios, or set­ting up one of their own. Quite a few bands use it to track a record and then send it to me to mix, which gives them the free­dom to ex­per­i­ment and take their time dur­ing the track­ing phase. But we’ve had a lot of pro­duc­ers and en­gi­neers use the space to start track­ing bands as well. As far as I can tell, there isn’t any­thing ex­actly like Fox­hole in the world. The idea seems to re­ally suit Perth’s eclec­tic mu­sic scene. There’s a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing in that city, so I imag­ine you’d need ver­sa­tile gear. What kind of equip­ment is set up in the main stu­dio where you work?

I track through API and Neve preamps, and with an out­board EQ rather than through the con­sole. The API preamps are re­ally ver­sa­tile, but I par­tic­u­larly love how they cap­ture rock mu­sic. They’re re­ally fast, and you can push the in­put stage to dial in a lit­tle crunch. For the mix phase, we’ve set the con­sole up in a Michael Brauer and CLA fash­ion, with the A, B, C and D mix busses go­ing to out­board EQ and comp chains. And the Sound­craft 6000 [con­sole] def­i­nitely adds some magic. I re­ally love the rout­ing ca­pa­bil­ity, es­pe­cially at 48 chan­nels. You’ve got a two-track Otari MX5050 reel-to-reel ma­chine in there as well. How of­ten to bands ask to record to tape?

We use the tape ma­chine quite a bit, but we usu­ally end up send­ing au­dio out of Pro Tools into the tape ma­chine, and then print­ing to a new track in Pro Tools. That way, we can con­trol how hard we hit the tape if we want to EQ or comp the source be­fore it hits, and we can mon­i­tor if we hit a dodgy bit of tape. The Otari has a gritty sound to it – it’s es­sen­tially a har­monic dis­tor­tion tool that you can run re­ally ag­gres­sively, or back it off for sub­tle en­hance­ment. It’s also great for fat­ten­ing up vo­cals and gui­tars. Also, run­ning beats from hip-hop sam­ples can be a great way to dirty up a loop and give it a less ster­ile feel. For peo­ple that can’t ac­cess the real deal, are tape em­u­la­tors up to scratch these days?

I def­i­nitely pre­fer the hy­brid sit­u­a­tion we have to­day, work­ing in a dig­i­tal au­dio work­sta­tion and print­ing through out­board gear to get the mojo. Per­son­ally, I don’t think you can beat the real thing when it works the way you want it to – but tape, or at least my ma­chine, is in­con­sis­tent and some­what un­re­peat­able from day to day, so I use a lot of em­u­la­tors too. The Kramer Tape plug is great, and from a tape har­monic dis­tor­tion side, the Decimator from Sound Toys and iZo­tope’s Ozone are great tools. Amongst all the gen­res that make their way through your doors, your work with pop and pop-rock gui­tars is re­ally im­pres­sive. How do you give some­thing so bright and shiny pres­ence and dy­nam­ics in the mix with­out over­do­ing it? Get­ting a gui­tar to sit in a mix starts with pick­ing the right gui­tar and amp for the job, and then play­ing the part with in­ten­tion. But a big ‘ah ha’ mo­ment for me was re­al­is­ing that a good mix is not some magic com­bi­na­tion of fader vol­umes, but that each track should have a re­la­tion­ship with the others. So the snare should ef­fect the rhythm gui­tars, and the kick should ef­fect the bass; the el­e­ments of the song should breathe to­gether. Par­al­lel, side chain com­pres­sion and multi-buss com­pres­sion is a big part of how we get the el­e­ments to sit to­gether more co­he­sively and en­hance their ex­pres­sion, es­pe­cially in rock mixes. And how do you build that sound into some­thing grand?

For me, if you want a big mix, you’re go­ing to want a big room sound. The room breath­ing is what fills the gaps and makes it feels ‘big­ger’ or more ex­pres­sive. In the mix phase, I find that the multi-buss tech­nique is cru­cial to pulling a big, ag­gres­sive and pump­ing sound. If your gui­tars are get­ting lost, send some to the drum buss so they crunch to­gether. Vo­cals get­ting swamped? Send them to the bass buss or the drum slam buss. This is where the tracks start to ef­fect each other via the com­pres­sor they’re run­ning through. It’s an ef­fect that can’t be achieved through bal­anc­ing faders on their own.

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