David M Turner Esq

Music Producer, Engineer, Composer

All the Gear and Some Idea

I have a love hate relationship with recording technology - as I think so many engineers and producers have.

Technology is supposed to make our lives easier and by and large it does. Anyone who has ever used Pro Tools may beg to differ.

I go through phases of gear lust and obsession to gear revulsion and a fuck it punk D-I-Y attitude.

I know engineers who are passive about the gear they use, and engineers who are obsessed to the point of dominance by it. I would say that I can be both.

Finance plays a massive role in what gear we have access to. A rule of thumb: the more expensive the studio, the more expensive the gear.

The question in our days of credit crunch is this: do the results of the expensive gear justify the costs, and is that “cost” delivered to the audience.

In the age of mp3 and poor quality playback medium the expense is hard to justify to the consumer. To the audio-savante however the top 5% is what we are consumed by. The difference between great and timeless.

There are non-negotiables: good microphones and preamps for instance. Good converters. But these are no more important than high quality playback amplification, speakers and media. Why the fuck are we still listening to mp3s?

What is so often overlooked in the world of middle-class engineers in the prosumer world is the value of an amazing room. The acoustic space we live and record in is integral to any sense of originality and character in our recordings that the space often trumps the capture device. Does this sound familiar to anyone with a cursory knowledge of photography or design?  

I am reminded that some of the best work I have done was on a Digidesign Mbox through Behringer Truth speakers with only a Shure SM57 at my disposal. To those of you who aren’t engineers everything just mentioned is “budget” gear. Sometimes I actually long for that creative restriction.

Tchad Blake makes a great case for “working the medium” in his various interviews. He loves the tape sound but is realistic about it’s application today and thus has “learnt” to make digital sound great.

One thing is for certain: gear has character. Every piece of equipment colours the sound. The imperfections are sometimes desirable and variety is truly the “spice” of life. I like to push gear to it’s limits, find out what it’s made of and create something with it.

Like any artists I am bound to flights of fancy and rapidly changing mindsets and I very quickly get bored of doing things the same way twice.

Do you need great gear to make great records? Definitely not. Does it help? Sometimes. Does all gear have a place and a purpose? Absolutely. 

A band I’ve been working with at my new studio, Los Bomberos, has released their debut track below. It’s a great homage to an era of music I am most fond of. Check out the official release information below. 

There’s more to come soon… 

“Into The Light” is the debut 2013 single from cosmic surf bad boys Dumb Blondes,
featuring Jordan Malane (Bleeding Knees Club) and Nicholas Futcher (Kite Club).

Produced by David Turner at Los Bomberos Studios.
Mastered by Jack The Bear Deluxe Mastering.
Design and layout by Adrian Joel Turner.

www.facebook.com/dumbblondesband
www.twitter.com/dumbblondesband
www.triplejunearthed.com.au/dumbblondes

Mastering....the Dark Arts

The unknown soldier. The mysterious method behind the last glassy touch. 

I had the pleasure of having 2 unique mastering experiences this week.

301 Sydney’s Oscar Gaona lectured at the SAE in Melbourne last week (where I now work), and shared some MASSIVE secrets with the group.

And like anything, the more light he shed, the more apparent it became that the rabbit hole was deeper than I ever imagined. A fan of MS processing (car of his desk from Abbey Road), and an avid tape fan, he had some great ideas, and was a man who knew his stuff…. 

Over the weekend just gone I had the enourmous pleasure of sitting in with Jack the Bear of Deluxe Mastering in Melbourne, during the Jimmy the Saint and the Sinners Sessions. 

Jack had done a fair amount of ground work before I arrived, but there were tweaks we were making during the day to the songs. Overall we added more sparkle and grit, crunch and dirt, and tightened up the bottom end.

Using an array of ultra expensive gear set to do “Not Much” the sound was exploding from Jack’s enourmous Duntechs. These speakers hold nothing back, and every bit of beautiful engineering shone through, as well as every dud note and distorted subgroup! Ouch! A Fan of running the mix in stereo, Jack loves only one kind of music: Good Music. 

As the day progressed I realised that the truth in Mastering is letting your mixes go to someone else’s ears and ideas. The technical aspects, fixing bottom end, sybillance - they are a given, and in the end the mastering engineer will change the mix to what they believe makes it better. The trick is to find the guy that works for you. 

As Jack said, “there’s no law saying you need to master your stuff”… But for me, it’s necessary, the last glassy touch between the record and the listener.