President/Editor/Publisher: Kerry J Haps
Vice-President: Michael Kolar
Secretary: Chris Cwiak

Volume 24 Number 7

July 2009

EARS meets at I.V. Lab Studios

4022 N. Sheridan, Chicago

Tuesday, July 28th, 8:00pm

 

Hey Hey!

EARS meets this month at Manny Sanchez's I.V. Lab Studios. PLEASE NOTE THE 8:00 start time.

Manny and co. started the corporation in  Dec. 2004 but didn't open the doors until August 2005. They spent most of '05 constructing the studio in The Vault part of the studio(an old collateral vault built in the early 1900's). They started out with ProTools HD, an Ampex MM1200 16 track and a Sony MXP 3036 console. The studio was very busy from the start and remains booked 1 to 2 months in advance on a consistent basis. They have never advertised and have yet to build a real website, but promise it's coming soon!  (That's kind of the running joke around there, and many places, I note.) Business being so good they decided to upgrade the console and in early '08 received the very first API 1608 console. It has really improved their business as they were still taking most projects elsewhere to mix before the API. '08 also brought on the construction of their overdub suite, The Green Room, a ProTools HD environment with a control room and small tracking space.  They currently have 4 engineers including Manny on staff and Jay Marino also doubles as the studio manager. 

Here's Manny's bio in his own words, though, prone to keep a low profile he begins... "(I hate this part) I started out as an intern at CRC in 1999. I never had any formal engineering training, my degree is in English education. I learned the craft by staying late at CRC and messing with old reels of two inch from their tape archive. I worked as an assistant on the last Smashing Pumpkins recording session before they broke up and became friends with Billy Corgan. He decided to give me a shot when he formed Zwan and allowed me to engineer the demos for the band. It was a learning process but it worked out well as he tapped me to engineer the actual record alongside producers Alan Moulder and Bjorn Thorsrud. I worked with Billy for a couple years before leaving him in search of eventually becoming my own boss. I then worked for a couple years at Gravity before getting the opportunity to start The I.V. Lab. I've been building my own client base since my CRC days and nearly all of my business is word of mouth. My biggest local client is Umphrey's McGee, and we are about to start work on our 6th record together next month. I primarily enjoy working with small labels and local bands, and Chicago is the perfect place for it."


The studio address is 4022 N. Sheridan, Chicago. Its the storefront on the left side of the building as you face it. Street parking is available. Its a block north from the Sheridan Red Line stop. There is a buzzer on the front door. 

See ya there! -KJH

 

 
Recap/Appreciation File

 
EARS meeting at Johnny K's Groovemaster Studios: June 30, 2009

This month’s meeting took us to the near south side, to a large, nondescript building which houses one of the city’s pre-eminent producer/engineers, Grammy nominated Johnny K. For those of you who didn’t attend or are unfamiliar with the man’s work, let’s just go ahead and get some of those credentials out of the way: Disturbed, 3 Doors Down, Finger 11, Staind, Plain White T’s, Kill Hannah, Drowning Pool, Machine Head and Soil, and his work has appeared on soundtracks for Varsity Blues, Little Nicky, Charlie’s Angels, Queen of the Damned and Daredevil. Johnny’s work speaks for itself.

But exactly how does a guy from Chicago just start making records that are million-sellers? Well, Johnny got started by simply going to shows and asking bands if they’d like to record a demo with him. He started demo’ing Disturbed and they got along famously. When they got signed, their record label wanted them to go with a known entity in the control room. Disturbed flat out refused; they wanted their man, Johnny K to handle the duties as he had been. This was Johnny’s first big record, The Sickness. Disturbed was the only band out of three that got huge on Johnny’s demos that proved this loyal. 

Even big names on the Chicago scene have to stop and take a shot of a 
'37 Caddy looking out the 4th floor windows at the skyline... just to check mixes.


The building that houses Groovemaster is fully owned by Johnny, and was purchased with the royalties from Disturbed and 3 Doors Down, both number one records. There are no floated floors yet, but two of them are under construction on the floor second from the top. The second floor, where the main room is now, was originally intended to be the B room, but when Johnny took down the baffles to dust them, he loved the sound of the room. The building itself is solid concrete, as it was built to be a cold-storage facility. There’s six inches of cork in all the walls. The walls and floors don’t really shake at all. Most of the facility is still under construction; the third floor will be the space for a Neve 20 channel sidecar; and the fourth floor will be all decked out to have an old-school Chicago theme, complete with a ’37 Cadillac that will be wired in to the SSL for car listening. Johnny’s control room will face the city’s skyline, so if he really wants to see the performers in the main room, he’ll be installing a camera system. There is a clear line of sight into the large vocal room, though. The sheer amount of work that’s already been done on the building is stunning. Just to bring it back up to code was an enormous task, but they put in all the windows, 84 of them, as the building originally had none! The car was craned into the building, but they took the SSL apart to bring it upstairs. His main room on the second floor utilizes the main tool in his arsenal, his Neve console. When Johnny records in other places, cities and countries, the Neve comes with. He recorded Staind in Aaron Lewis’ barn in the middle of nowhere on the thing. 

A man with Johnny K’s credentials doesn’t come by them easily. He has basically eschewed a personal life for his life’s work, working a minimum of 6 days a week. He works hard at what he does because he loves it so much, and defines himself as very detail oriented, torturing himself over every little thing. He understands why the Loudness Wars have happened, doesn’t like it, but also doesn’t want his records to be quieter because people inevitably like their records louder even though they don’t realize it. He believes that AutoTune is why old songs sound old. Singers would occasionally go a little off-key, and it was no big deal. Now, things are more exacting. He likes aspects of analog and digital and works primarily in 24 bit, 48 kHz. 

A huge thank you to Johnny K. and his staff, including Studio Manager Crystal Olson, for opening their doors to EARS for this month’s meeting. The place isn’t complete yet, but it’s nice to see what’s shaping up. I, for one, can’t wait to be invited back when all the work’s complete. I must mention that for a man whose work has been heard by millions, he is remarkably down to earth and doesn’t seem at all jaded or egotistical. He’s loyal to his work, just as his relationships with certain bands have been those of loyalty, making a win-win situation for all involved. Certainly, that’s a model we can all hope to emulate.

-Chris Cwiak
Secretary, EARS

Johnny K. also thanks EARS for coming out (And what a turnout again; good thing Groovemaster is such a large facility to accommodate all of us!)  He notes that it’s really great to see that EARS is alive and well (He and Harry (MF) Brotman go way back.) and looks forward to seeing all of us again in the near future.


Next Month

Keep that last Tuesday, the 25th of August, open for our annual BBQ, this time at Marshall Terry and Stu Kaletsch's Stereophonic Studios. It's members only, by the way, so plan to pay your $25.00 dues if you haven't already stepped up to the plate. - KJH


In Memoriam: Norman Pellegrini, Legendary Broadcaster and Leading Light of WFMT Radio in Chicago: 1929-2009

Norman Pellegrini, former program manager of WFMT Radio died July 2, 2009. Norm joined WFMT shortly after its founding and presided for more than 40 years as the station's leading light. He retired from WFMT in 1996. He programmed WFMT, acted as a tastemaker, impresario, and booster for bringing classical radio to new audiences. Always treating the audience as  intelligent enthusiasts, he programmed well known works and lesser known ones alongside some challenging musical works as part of the every day listening palette. He called it Fine Arts Radio.

He was considered one of the most important radio people in America. Leontyne Price called him, "Mr. Music," because of his encyclopedic knowledge of the classical repertoire. Wanda Toscanini Horowitz loved Norm for his wonderful personality and musical knowledge. 

One of his hallmark decisions was that "his audience" should always be respected and not be bombarded with crass loud pre-recorded commercials on WFMT. To this day, all sponsorship  ad copy is read by program hosts. Another one of Pellegrini's decisions brought Studs Terkel to the air waves where he maintained a 5 day a week radio program on WFMT for over 45 years.

Under Norm's leadership WFMT was the home of many firsts. Quite a number of these may be of interest to EARS members and the recording community. It was at WFMT that Dolby first presented the use of noise reduction in the United States. WFMT was the first to broadcast in Quad, was the first radio station in the world to broadcast from CD and the first to broadcast from DAT. At one time when I joined the station, virtually every room had at least one Studer tape recorder in it and many had multiple Studer A-80's and B-67's. Al Antlitz, WFMT's technical director recalled that, "Norm and I got along fine--I usually stopped in by his office to talk each morning. He wanted the virtually impossible from engineering and usually we came pretty close."

Norm knew all the leading musicians of his time. He pioneered programs, among them, "Profiles," that gave the audience in depth interviews and a chance to get a real sense of who these artistes were.

It is common knowledge that as other classical music stations started up in the 1960's quite a number of them tried to copy WFMT because it was and is so widely respected.

Norm's legacy will live long at WFMT. His standards of excellence, of expecting full effort from those he worked with, of offering the most live broadcasts of any classical station and for keeping respect for the audience and not dumbing things down -- these hallmarks of his creative genius. 

A legend has passed. Long live his ideas.

-- A Remembrance by Hudson Fair
Atelier HudSonic, Chicago



No one ever completely leaves WFMT, and even in death, Norman Pellegrini’s presence can still be felt. Norman joined Bernard and Rita Jacobs in 1951 at the inception WFMT, and his encyclopedic knowledge of music quickly moved him to program director in 1953, a position he held until 1996.

I joined the WFMT family in 1992 as a kid fresh from DePaul, the university from which he received an honorary doctorate in 1978. I could hardly believe that I had been hired by the station that I had listened to as a music student. I especially loved Norm’s smooth, confident voice delivering the synopsis for the Lyric Opera Broadcasts with Lois Baum providing vivid color commentary. I never thought that one day I’d work there. I started in a modest position I’d call the baby-sitting shift monitoring the Beethoven Satellite Network that fed programming to affiliates across the country. I was the youngest employee at the time, and would remain so for many years. Studs would call me ‘kid’; Norm would simply call me ‘Mary’. His legendary temper preceded him, so I was very surprised when he personally came up to me and introduced himself stating that his door was open. In retrospect, I wish I had taken greater advantage of his offer. However, we did have some detailed conversations on the topics of orchestral recording and how to achieve the best French horn sound.

Ruling the station with a knowledgeable hand and a driving passion, he set a standard and created a sound. He felt that it was not sufficient to simply play classical recordings but interjected a creative mix of not only the finest classical music, but also folk, jazz and live music performance. In his championing of live music programming, he helped create the Chicago Chamber Musicians in 1986 which became WFMT’s resident ensemble broadcasting free public performances over the airwaves. He also supported the cause of the International Music Foundation through his guidance and the broadcasts of the weekly Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts. I took over the engineering of these concerts, per Norm’s endorsement in 1992, and still retain those positions today.

After his early retirement in 1996, he continued as the voice of the Lyric Opera in their opening night broadcast until funding was cut during the 2001-2002 season, but returned to the airwaves in that capacity in 2007. I had yet another opportunity to work with Norman after an unfortunate incident thrust me cold into the opening night engineering hot seat of the opera Eugene Onegin. I had not set foot in that broadcast booth for nearly seven years. Norm assured me that he knew the score would guide me through the mix. The broadcast went through as planned, and he gave me a sincere on (and off)-air thank you.   

Though, I no longer saw him on a daily basis, I would frequently see him at St. James Cathedral as he served as a key advisor to Rush Hour Concerts or strolling with his long time partner Donald Knight along Michigan Avenue. He always had a moment to stop and say hello.

Norm, we will miss your voice, your energy and your enthusiasm for music. Know that you will never be forgotten, because as I said, no one ever completely leaves WFMT. Your sound and your legacy live on.
 
A remembrance by Mary Mazurek
Pegasus Recording & WFMT Radio

 

Where's the Beef? (Where do all the crickets come from, and do they really make that sound by rubbing their legs together? Perhaps more importantly, what's your go-to signal chain for tiny insects?)

Thanks again to Mme et Messrs. Mazurek, Powell, Leake, Terry, Kaletsch, and Fair for their recent submissions and do know that we're glad to receive any content you'd like to offer. -KJH


MT's Magical Mystery Tip

This month, it's MT's partner in crime, Stu, with a bit of a review. -KJH
 
CEntrance AxePort Pro and MicPort Pro USB Preamps

These handy little interfaces from local company CEntrance came to me by way of their Managing Director, Michael Goodman, at a recent EARS meeting. I’m sure he wanted me to put them up against our Digidesign 192 I/O at the studio, but I chose to use them at home. I figured it's where I would be using them primarily, if I were to snag one. I was running GarageBand on my wife's iMac. It took me longer to find the right USB cable (I used one from our camera by-the-by), than it did to get a session up and the interface recognized by the software. Nice! Big points there for ease of use. I did have to restart the computer after switching between the two interfaces, but I hear you can connect both now with the latest drivers. Note that they do ship with the proper USB cable. They’re USB-bus powered (USB 1.1 and 2.0), and are compatible with Mac OSX 10.5 and Windows XP and Vista. I was impressed to see that they’re capable of 24-bit/96kHz recording. I really like the idea of being able to easily transfer files from home to the studio.

The AxePort Pro and MicPort Pro are 4.5” long by 1” in diameter, or roughly 3/4 the size of an SM57. The AxePort Pro has a 1/4” instrument input, and the MicPort Pro has a non-locking XLR input (bummer). Each have a mini-USB and an 1/8” stereo headphone output on the opposite end; the phantom power switch is also located here on the MicPort Pro. When you connect the interface to the computer, the tip of the instrument/mic input end glows courtesy of an LED. Cool touch.

Both have preamp and headphone gain knobs on one side of the cylindrical body. They’re small but pretty decent when you take into account the size of these interfaces. I experienced popping when I turned down the headphone gain knob on the MicPort Pro with a dynamic mic connected, but it wasn’t an issue with a condenser or with the AxePort Pro. It may have just been my unit. (Michael did mention that one of these was a prototype, grabbed from his desk on the way to the meeting, and might not be bug-free.)

I'll give them high marks for portability and layout, too. I had the AxePort Pro resting on my knee (caution - it gets pretty warm) with the guitar plug out the left (I'm a Southy) and the USB and headphone plugs headed right (towards the computer). I used a pair of $10 Phillips headphones without issue, except when tracking bass through the AxePort Pro. I just couldn’t find an optimal level, but that could be an issue with the headphones. Having been on PTHD for a number of years, I forgot about latency headaches (and MOTU nightmares). So the zero-latency monitoring feature was definitely key for making these interfaces really usable in my book. I’ll definitely be laying down ideas at home again.

Here's the skinny (opposite of “Where's the Beef”?!) on the AxePort Pro. I was using my '91 American Standard Strat, a guitar I've owned since it's birth. I've DI'ed it a bunch, through my Manley Tube DI and/or UA 2-610, Eisen 1272-ish, Hardy M-1, A-Designs P-1, and Atlas Pro Audio Juggernauts. This little sucker did just fine in my opinion. It has it's own sound, and it’s own EQ - a bit mid-forward, which is what I'd expect from a guitar-driven DI design. The AxePort Pro sounded really nice with my ‘59 NOS Reissue P-Bass, too. In fact, I think I liked it better on bass. It’s hard to tell with just a few tracks, but they seemed to stack well. In all instances, it did well at translating the familiar tones of the instrument.  

For the MicPort Pro test, I started with a Mercenary Audio-modded SM57 with a custom TAB-Funkenwerk transformer (I highly recommend it for at least one of your 57s). I really had to crank the input gain to get a decent amount of signal out of this already pretty hot mic. The same was true for the Heil Sound PR-40, though the results were more pleasing. I also used my trusty Audio-Technica AT-4047SV to see if the MicPort Pro reacted differently with a condenser. The usable gain range was doubled, and with less hiss than the dynamics. On playback, I was surprised that my vocals came out sounding pretty clear and present with the SM57. The PR-40 track sounded great. The 4047 track was my favorite - nice and smooth, per usual. I could see using this at home for scratch tracks, and maybe some keepers, too.

The AxePort Pro and MicPort Pro are priced at $149.95. CEntrance currently has a limited selection of lightly used AxePort Pros from trade shows on special at their site for $129.95.

- Stu Kaletsch, Stereophonic Studios

 

Suggestions Welcome!

 There are endless good reasons to band together here as EARS. It can be whatever we want it to be. If you have any ideas for the EARdrum, our website, or future meetings, please email us. We still have a lot of great meeting plans lining up, some website plans, and a lot of good fresh energy and hopes for a more vibrant, participatory EARS, so of course we're very interested in your input on everything EARS. Please! :) - KJH
 
 
 
Archives
 
Our Archives are again up to date. Check out the website for that and more EARS info. Also, I'd like to complete our files with the pre-2001 EARdrums. By my calculations we're missing the first 16 years! (Now minus that first one.) I know Timothy Powell has a year or so on his Metro-Mobile website but that still leaves a lot missing. If you happen to have your old paper copies or files you could get to me, I would love to get them online for posterity. Let me know. - KJH

Notes about our Website, and our Logo

We've noticed that the website doesn't auto update in some web browsers. If you're looking for something (such as the latest EARdrum) and it looks like old info, try reloading the page. Also, I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that it's time for a bit of updating. We think EARS deserves a bit of a makeover and can't help but wonder who among us might actually double as a professional designer but with the necessary sensitivity to our audio world. Drop us a note if you'd like to consider helping us out with a new look for the website, logo, etc. -KJH

 

Dues!
 
Thanks to all who support EARS through paying their dues. Just as a reminder, they're due yearly by the October meeting and this is a prerequisite for voting and joining us for the Holiday Party and BBQ in August (and occasionally things like the Grammy Party), but they're always welcome. Dues checks (or cash, but no credit cards) for $25.00 can be made out to EARS and given to any of our officers or sent to the following address:

Engineering and Recording Society of Chicago, C/O Eric Roth, Treasurer, PO Box 98, Highland Park, IL 60035-0098 - KJH

 
 

A (few) (more) word(s) from the Prez...

or “Things they would not teach me of in college”
 
Hey Hey! Alright, first of all, while there's not much that needs adding to the recap, Cwiak doing a nice job once again, I just can't miss the chance to add my own heartfelt thanks to Johnny K for the meeting and all he's doing for Chicago, really making us proud by being such a fine example of what we all strive to be. I enjoyed the night at Groovemaster so much and also the interactions with him and his staff in planning for it and following up. I really do look forward to what else Johnny has up his sleeves both in the facility he's building and the records he's going to make there. 

Speaking of fine examples in our midst, I can't wait to see Manny Sanchez's I.V. Lab Studios tomorrow night. Talk about great timing! I no sooner confirm that we're meeting there and the new Electronic Musician shows up with Umphrey's McGee on the cover. I only hope that Manny himself will be there, as he and his wife are expecting a baby due tomorrow night! If not, Manny's staff engineers will undoubtedly take fine care of us, so no worries, but I do hope the baby doesn't come out with a Mr./Mrs. Punctuality sash as Manny's willingness to schedule the meeting then just makes me want to meet him all the more.

There's a lot of good in our midst, actually, it's all around us. I've been thinking a bit lately about some of the characters in EARS, particularly in our "Old Guard". I generally hate to put people into boxes, but let's play with the idea for a moment. One could easily divide EARS up in a lot of ways. There's the Pros and the Amateurs. There's the Old Guard and the New. But besides the line between those who've been around and really know their stuff and those who are just looking to learn (and I'm assuming that we're all always looking to learn, and hope even the eldest of the Old Guard and most professional of the Pros still realize there are tricks yet to be learned from each other and even the newest of the New - if not, they should get out while they can!) I think there's another more important distinction, and that's the ones who are willing to share. If you ask me - and let's look at the real pros here, the ones that we all look up to, the ones with Grammys on their mantels and stories of stars to brag about, the ones we're amazed to rub shoulders with when we first start checking out EARS meetings, the ones who seem to hear things and understand them while we're still scratching our heads - there are some who know their stuff and have the experience and want you to know that, and then there are those who know what they've got and want to share it. You know who you are. (Or do you?) You're either here at an EARS meeting to "be respected" or you're here to give some respect. You're either looking for recognition of your long and storied career or you're looking to recognize the new up and coming talent and help them avoid the mistakes you made on your way up. It's not that simple, but then again, maybe is. The hard part is the people who are going to just be naturally giving are going to be quite busy! But here's the good news: In truth, even in those who ARE a little hungry for some respect, there can be a lot of good hearted generosity to be found. It's a tricky game sometimes, to know how to handle some people, but it's worth putting some effort into figuring out. You might have to work a little extra hard with some people, putting up with some nonsense, but if you've really come here seeking knowledge, just keep in mind that it might not be handed to you on a plate. As C.S. Lewis so wisely wrote, "The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come." 

And it really is a two way street, of course. Sometimes I like to tell you about the letters I get from young people thinking EARS could be their ticket to success. Just tell them which are the best studios to apply at and let them drop my name. If only... This month I got an email from a young person who appears to have worked a lot of entry-level jobs at various record companies but fancies herself something special and therefore is venturing out on her own as a producer and vocal coach. She seems to like to talk about how most of the recording industry is only "interested in setting up mics, recording and mixing it in Pro-Tools, and collecting their fees opposed to really caring that music, not just sound, is recorded." She's a musician who claims a "special gift when it comes to music". One day she's writing, wanting to join EARS after hearing about our meeting at Groovemaster and then not two weeks later she reads that we're meeting at I.V. Lab Studios, is offended because  it seems inappropriate to her to meet at a place with such a name "after Michael Jackson's death", and wants to be removed from the mailing list altogether. Huh? After explaining to her that I.V. stands for "In Vault" and that the studio is actually in a vintage bank vault, I felt I had to give her some respectful advice: "Good luck Producing/Coaching musicians to not use mics, not record, and not mix - and trying to sell your services to people whose love of music, not just sound, has moved them to so heavily invest in the basic tools of the trade and devote their lives to educating themselves on how to take raw talent and turn it into a finished piece of art. Perhaps if you find some respect for what the engineers contribute, you'll find that they do, in fact, have respect for producers who at least understand and appreciate the important piece of the puzzle that engineering is." She responded that she went into this with respect for engineers, but when they wouldn't buy her services as a Music/Vocal Coach and wondered why they would recommend their clients hire HER as a producer over them, taking away their income, she knew that they had no interest in music. She even reveals that she was allowed into sessions to observe but had to be asked to keep quiet. She goes on to propose it must be because she's young, a woman... and get this - because she has a "special gift when it comes to music". She's thinking of giving up, leaving music altogether. Can you believe this? What a tragedy, that someone with so much to offer (having her entire career ahead of her) is not being totally pandered to, even more. Perhaps someone will step up and recognize that they simply must give her a chance, that they can't afford NOT to be re-taught by this young lady how to run their business, craft, art? Surely someone is interested in her showing them how to make music, not just sound? Oy. And here's my real trouble... I'm going to continue to dialog with her. I'm an eternal optimist, and I'm going to do my best to try and show her that her attitude of entitlement is what's really in her way, that she needs to pay some dues, wait for opportunities rather than demand her right to be respected. At least, having asked to be removed from the list, I can use her story here. See, there's always a silver lining. :)

Now, I have to throw in a couple of little odd things. 

Think we're alone in this world? Worried that tape is becoming less and less available? Well, "Mama don't take my Kodachrome away". Kodak has stopped manufacturing Kodachrome after a 74-year run. The photography world feels our pain. 

But tape's not really gone yet... In fact, I just setup my old STC Stereomatic 9900 8-Track deck in anticipation of the arrival of my new Cheap-Trick 8-Track. [scratches head... wondering if he really just said that]

Well, that's it for me for now. I've got to wrap this up, get it out, and get back to the final tweaks on the album I've been working on for a year and a half so our own Danny Leake can master it for me. Talk about a fine example of a serious pro... Danny's exactly that kind of guy who comes to EARS not just for what he gets out of it, but what he can put in. Always ready to give of his valuable time and energy, he's simply an EARS treasure. Soft-spoken and unassuming, to know him is to appreciate a true gentleman and scholar among us. Truly, there's a lot to learn from him, and not just sound.

So I'll see you Tuesday night (tonight!) at The I.V. Lab, and I'll be looking forward to next month at the BBQ after a much deserved vacation for the first couple weeks of August... 

I'm on a boat! 

At your service,
Kerry J Haps

 

 

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