Tell us about your studio, please. What were criteria when setting it up and how does this environment influence the creative process? How important, relatively speaking. are factors like mood, ergonomics, haptics and technology for you?
My studio is in my house. I decided to go for convenience even though it may be a compromise in some other areas. Mood is important, in particular the type of lighting makes a big difference. I prefer lamps with conventional bulbs to overhead lights. The centerpiece of the room is a huge ship’s wheel that I inherited from my grandfather.
I try to keep everything mic’d up so I can record whenever I want with minimal setup. I also use software-controlled microphone preamps so I can recall settings quickly. I don’t like spending a lot of time on setup.
Things are pretty minimalist. I want to concentrate on the arrangements instead of the technical stuff. I created a custom built midi controller that looks and feels like a '50s tube console. I use that to control everything within Ableton Live. It’s a great workflow. I label the tracks with artist tape like you’d do on a conventional analogue console. Basically, I like an analogue-style workflow without any of the annoying stuff.
What were some of the criteria for deciding which tools to get and use and how are they influencing your creative decisions? What does your signal chain look like?
I like simple tools. I enjoy working with gear that does one or two things and only has a couple knobs. I use a lot of vintage gear emulations from Universal Audio. Converters are really important. I use a Metric Halo ULN-8 audio interface. I prefer dynamic and ribbon microphones. That helps to get less of a “digital” sound from the get-go.
The signal chain during recording is simple. Instrument to microphone to preamp/converter. If I have a specific vision for how an instrument should sound, I try to get it at the source. I like to print reverb, delay and other effects early in the process. I use lots of saturation and distortion effects.
The equipment-industry suggests that new equipment keeps making productions better. How much do you believe in the idea of progress in mastering? What are areas where you could imagine real improvements?
I’ve yet to find a great one-in-all mastering DAW that has a sensible workflow. I’d like to see a mastering platform that has multi-track capabilities and DDP export. I have to use multiple programs with the workflow I want.
Does your approach to mastering change depending on the format you're mastering for, the imagined listening situation etc?
Vinyl requires some additional audio treatment and specialized file preparation/documentation. I’ve developed a workflow that lets me do digital and vinyl almost in parallel.
The line between production work and composition is blurring. In how much do you feel that these two areas could mutually influence and inspire each other?
I’ve found that while I used to write a song first and record it later, now I’m able to start arranging and recording right at the beginning of the process. It allows me to start creating a vibe right away. It’s easier to determine if a song/approach is going to work. There’s less anticipation in trying to determine if you’re going to end up with something cool.
Budgets for productions are being reduced and more and more people are choosing to listen to music in compressed formats and on low-quality playback devices. In which way is this affecting music and how would you rate the state of production today?
The quality might be going down because there’s more amateurs recording and making music, but it’s also exciting for the same reasons. There’s simply more music being made, which is great.
Most modern recordings sound bad but that’s always been the case. In the past, technology limitations were to blame, and today, the absence of technology limitations is to blame. Kind of ironic!
It has often been suggested that "the future of music is in live”. How do you feel about the ongoing relevance of recordings as an art form? What can recordings provide what a concert can not?
I disagree. As Will Oldham has said, “Recordings are little fourth-dimensional artifacts.” They exist in the past, present and future all at once. They exist everywhere in space. That has tremendous power.
Performances are one-of-a-kind visceral, temporaneous events. That’s exciting. But I’m more excited about creating something that can transcend space and time.
Find TW Walsh online at www.twwalsh.com