Australian Guitar - - Producer Profile - WORDS BY PETER ZALUZNY.

Track­ing down Aus­tralian stu­dios with a leg­endary Neve con­sole has be­come a bit of a thing in this lit­tle col­umn of ours.

They’re ex­tremely rare nowa­days, and they’re al­ways filled with amaz­ing sto­ries. Of course, Craig Harnath’s 8024 – which cur­rently calls home to Hothouse Stu­dios in St Kilda – is no ex­cep­tion.

Rock‘n’roll roy­alty has pumped through its veins since 1974, and that con­tin­ues to this day with the likes of You Am I, The Liv­ing End and even Franz Fer­di­nand lay­ing down tracks with the Neve at Hothouse.

But as Harnath is keen to ex­plains there’s much more to th­ese con­soles than mere his­tory.

The big draw­card of your stu­dio is the 1974 Neve 8024 con­sole. How did you get your hands on that?

It’s had a colour­ful life. It started out at Al­bert’s in 1974 with [Harry] Vanda and [Ge­orge] Young in the big chair. Air Sup­ply, The An­gels, Bon Scott and The Divinyls are among those that used it. Then it landed at Fairlight CMI, where it went hand‑in‑hand with the ARR1 that ar­guably gave birth to elec­tro and made BladeRun­ner cool.

At some point, Billy Fields took pos­ses­sion of it at Par­adise Stu­dios, and he left it to lan­guish for years in a ware­house like the Ark of the Covenant. Then one day, I saw a tiny ad for it in an au­dio rag, and was toss­ing up be­tween it and a 48‑track Tas­cam in Mel­bourne. In the end, some­one much wiser than my­self said, “Would you rather a new Com­modore, or an old Mercedes?” So I bought the Neve – the Red Vi­o­lin of desks.

And what unique char­ac­ter­is­tics do the board – and its 1073 mic preamps – bring to a record­ing?

The Neve has been used on so many great al­bums that you kind of know the sound. There’s a tonal weight that it does so well – drums get big­ger, gui­tars get fat­ter, and vo­cals get more tex­ture with­out tak­ing up any ex­tra room. They’re full, fat, and rich with­out having to do any­thing.

Also, any acous­tic stringed in­stru­ment tends to sound less glassy and more tex­tured when it’s played through the Neve preamps. You keep the warmth with­out los­ing any of the def­i­ni­tion. You were lucky enough to record a track with Franz Fer­di­nand a while back – “L. Wells”. There’s a lot go­ing on in that track, in­clud­ing some very well de­fined, jan­gly acous­tic gui­tar. How did

you keep ev­ery­thing so crisp amongst all the ac­tion?

That was a fun cou­ple of days. Franz came in to do a fan club song and ended up do­ing two oth­ers as well. The acous­tic was recorded though a Neu­mann KM84 and U47 mics. We used a Urei 1176 com­pres­sor, Uni­ver­sal Au­dio LA2A and Em­pir­i­cal Labs Distres­sor as well. Mi­cro­phone place­ment is still the key to good acous­tic tones, but a good room doesn’t hurt.

Yeah, that U47 is a bit of a Holy Grail among stu­dios, isn’t it?

It’s my go‑to vo­cal mic, and it sits beau­ti­fully with the Neve. All gen­res ben­e­fit from the range and warmth. It loves a good screamer, the clar­ity works great for hip hop, and it brings the best out of softer vo­cal­ists like Penny Ikinger or Ro­drigeuz. It’s just in your face – no ef­fects needed. A vo­cal client once asked me if I could make him sound like Mor­gan Free­man with big­ger balls, and I’m pretty sure I did.

Speak­ing of scream­ers, you’ve got a few loud bands in your clien­tele. Are there any tricks that can make the mu­sic seem louder and much more in­tense with­out turn­ing up the vol­ume?

Just jump­ing over to a dif­fer­ent amp or cabi­net can open up or close down a gui­tar tone. It only de­pends on what you’re look­ing for.

There are a bunch of vin­tage ‘70s amps at Hothouse, in­clud­ing a 1974 Or­ange, a JMP Mar­shall and a Sound City 102R, along­side over thirty ‘70s and ‘60s gui­tars to choose from. The tone palette is al­most end­less.

Plus, the Neve doesn’t mind be­ing ham­mered with loud things. You can rat­tle the hinges at Hothouse and you’ll still get a sound that doesn’t suck. You just have to be care­ful not to do it to ev­ery­thing in your mix, or clar­ity goes out the win­dow.

Are there any EQ tricks that help to re­tain clar­ity at higher vol­umes?

I like to high‑pass the things that don’t need any bot­tom end on the way in, just to im­prove clar­ity. EQ is job‑ and in­stru­ment‑spe­cific, but that top end knob on the Neve EQ is very en­tic­ing.

The Neve may take cen­tre stage at Hothouse, but are there any other bits of gear you can’t live with­out?

My box of crazy ped­als, which in­cludes a few spe­cial ones made by my in‑house tech, Richie Blackam, and my Log­itech Track­man Mar­ble. RSI is a bitch when you’re work­ing 12‑hour days [ laughs].

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