There are weeks in life that you remember forever. A honeymoon, holidays and for me I will always remember my week at Studio La Fabrique with Al Schmitt and Steve Genewick for Mix With The Masters.
For those of you who are not familiar with MWTM, it is a series of week long residential courses held at Studio La Fabrique in the south of France presented by some of the very finest mix and recording engineers on earth. Recent “Masters” have included Michael Brauer, Andrew Scheps, Steve Albini and last week I had the pleasure of being instructed by Al Schmitt with his assistant (which just felt like the wrong title but hey) Steve Genewick. Some of you may remember that I interviewed Steve for a Podcast Extra back in March 2015. Podcast Extra Interview with Steve Genekick
I am going to present these articles in a kind of diary format. So if I get bogged down in moments of complete joy and you the reader get bored then please feel free to move on to the next day but I just want to pass on the amazing experience I have had and am now trying to “come down” from.
Mix With The Masters - Day -1
The organisation behind MWTM is excellent. You don’t just say “ I want to do this course with so and so Master” you have to apply. I love most, if not all of Al’s catalogue of work and I love his take on recording so I applied and was invited to join the 15 all guys in this case to start the course at 10am on Monday. I decided to travel a day early so they arranged a hotel where some of the other participants were staying (at our own expense) for the night before the course started. I also figured that a night in the hotel bar would be a good place to get to know some of the guys in advance.
Mix With The Masters - Day 1
We were collected by Taxi from the hotel at 10am to travel from Avignon to the small town of Saint-Rémy where La Fabrique is situated. We arrived with coffee and munchies and sat out in the beautiful French sunshine to chill and then be shown to our rooms. The accommodation is simple but comfortable and hey, you only sleep there.
We then headed outside to meet Al and Steve and sit down to lunch. All food and drinks while at the Studio are included.
After a 3 course lunch we headed for the studio. The control room is set out conventionally but with the addition of a massive 5 person sofa and desk space for taking notes (I filled over half my MWTM note box in 7 days).
After a quick intro from Al, Steve and all the guys on the course Steve set up a big band session on the beautiful Neve 88R console. Al explained some of this methods for mic placement and we had a chance to get hands on with the console and get advice from Al and Steve. It was at this point I started 2 lists.
- Gear that I should look out for on eBay or other sites.
- Music I should add to my library.
Both lists would become long and costly.
Mix With The Masters - Day 2
The plan for day 3 was to record a band live in “The Library” one of La Fabrique’s live rooms. We knew the band would consist of bass, drums, acoustic piano and vocals. We spent many hours talking about microphone choice and placement and each came up with a list of mics we would use on each instrument and an arrangement for the studio space.
On this particular course we were very lucky to have Uli Frost, a German drum tuning expert. He took as deep into the world of drum tuning and issues that drums and drum heads have. I have been playing drums for over 30 years and I can safely say that I now have a new approach to drum tuning. In a way this was like a mini master-class in drums and drum recording. Once Uli had tuned the drums it was time to get a drum “sound” into the Neve desk. The band arrived Wednesday so it fell to yours truly to play the drums for Al to dial in the sound. We changed mics a couple of times and added a 2nd pair of overheads to offer the producer of the 4 tracks we planned to record some “flavour” options. Tomorrow would be tracking day. Find out about the rest of my Mix With The Masters experience in part 2.