With no time for the January Blues Adam Goldsmith got nerdy in the studio with his Kemper profiling amp
Traditionally the first month of the year is a quiet time for session musicians, but I was lucky enough to have a week of continuous sessions starting on 2 January, just enough time for the hangover to clear up and to take my mind off the dreaded selfemployed tax bill.
I spent this week in renowned drummer Ralph Salmins’ Bunker studio recording 50 minutes of music per day in every style imaginable, from a tango classical guitar feature to a cover of Metallica’s Enter
Sandman, via The Sound of Music. This was all recorded for a company who sell show backing tracks all over the world, and in order to make it financially viable, we didn’t do more than two takes for anything, and they all needed to be perfect by that second take. The charts were expertly written and arranged by pianist Rob Eckland, keyboards played by the Strictly Come Dancing band and Brian May Keyboard player Jeff Leach, and upright and electric bass by studio supremo Steve Pearce.
It’s not to a lot of people’s taste, but for me being under this amount of pressure and having to concentrate hard constantly is possibly my favourite musical situation. It does require the odd light ale afterwards and excessive use of blood pressure medication, however, it’s very fulfilling indeed when you get things right.
Gear wise there is obviously a requirement for diverse and wellmaintained guitars and amps, so as we were in a medium-sized studio (when compared to Abbey Road Studios where I’m writing this column) and playing many styles, I opted to use my Kemper profiling amp with the very fine Michael Britt profiles. This unit is really the first ‘DI’ style unit, as opposed to a real valve amp, which I’ve felt does a good job of actually feeling and sounding like the real thing. I’ve owned most of them, from the very first Line 6 POD (er, nope!) up to the Axe FX (close but no cigar) and finally I feel confident about using one in professional recordings.
I set the foot controller up with five basic sounds, which as you may know, are all adjustable using the front of the unit itself in an amp style layout. All very acceptable from the point of view of a Luddite technophobe guitar player.
Left to right on the ’board I set up ‘profiles’ of a clean Fender ’64 Deluxe reverb; a slightly broken up Fender Tweed combo; a crunchy Vox AC30; a Marshall (from my memory a JTM45) for most of the rock rhythm; and finally, for the occasional full shred, a Bogner with a boost pedal and some delays. The beauty of the Kemper, as it responds pretty much exactly like an amp, is that if I ever found myself getting stuck, I could simply place a stomp box in between the guitar and the Kemper and my problems were solved.
One of the really positive aspects of working this way is that the sound you get in your headphones is exactly the sound that ends up being committed to tape. With a real amp, the room, the position of the mic and your physical position in relation to the amp are all variable, and often the sound you think you are making isn’t actually the one being recorded. This can occasionally result in disappointment, or at least repeated trips from the live room to the control room to hear how you sound, while everyone else gets fed up with you wasting time.
The final joy for the geeky guitarist is that these units genuinely reflect the sound of the guitar you are using, so my recent acquisition of a ’59 Les Paul Junior (a great way of being able to own a real ’59 Les Paul without having to donate your entire family to medical science) sounded fabulous, especially through the vintage Vox and Marshall profiles.
I’ll definitely be using this unit more on sessions (which, in case you were wondering, was bought and paid for from a shop like everyone else, no artist deal or affiliation here!) now with increased confidence after my busy week.
‘The Bunker’ Studios and its fabulous sounding Harrison desk