Below is an interview conducted in 2006 with Jeff Geerling, the audio engineer for the Priestie Boyz' Lost in Ecstasy album.
PB: How long did it take to record the CD?
JG: Recording the CD was about a six month labor of love. We started recording in December 2005, during our Christmas break, and worked on different parts of the CD until early June.
PB: Where did you record the CD?
JG: We recorded almost every sound you hear in 'klm studios' in Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. Basically, that means we went down to the Seminary's auditorium and used the sound system there, which was great because of it's layout; there's a control room, a stage, a ton of microphone connections between the two, and a great sound mixing console. If you ever get a chance to visit, check out the Seminary's auditorium—it's one of the nicer, but underappreciated, areas of the Seminary.
PB: What kind of microphones did you use?
JG: We used a ton of different microphones for our recording. I'll list them here:
- Shure KSM27: Lead and backup vocals, electric guitar ambience, acoustic guitar mic 1, conga distance mic
- Shure SM57: Electric guitar close mic, drums (Toms & Snare), acoustic guitar string mic, conga close mic
- Rode S1 (x2): Drum overheads (cymbals)
- Shure Beta 52: Kick drum
Basically, the Shure KSM27 and SM57 were our workhorse mics - we used them on almost every instrument! The KSM27 is great for picking up a clear, crisp, and natural sound, so it worked very well for what we needed - and it could even be placed close to the electric guitar amps without distorting! The SM57 works just about anywhere, but is best when you need a mic to be placed right next to something that makes tons of loud noise (such as a tom, snare, or guitar amp). We used SM57s on most of the instruments as well. The Shure Beta 52 performed really well picking up the low-end bass/kick drum, and the Rode S1s were very easy to use for overheads, and they picked everything up pretty well.
PB: What other equipment did you use?
JG: We used a Behringer Eurodesk 2442FX 24 channel mixer to keep all the tracks in line. We took the four subgroup outputs from this mixer and plugged them into two Griffin iMics (which were tethered together through Apple's Audio MIDI Setup utility on an iBook G4 Mac laptop). To keep our drummer in line, we sometimes would use a Boss DB-90 'Dr. Beat' metronome (otherwise, we'd use the recording software's built-in metronome). For a few vocal recordings, we ran the Shure KSM27 through a Behringer Tube Ultragain T1953 mic preamp to give some more warmth. For monitoring, the band members wore Jeff's Audio-Technica ATH-M30 headphones.
PB: How did you learn to use all the equipment?
JG: Trial and error (lots of error).
Seriously - it took a long time to figure out how to use all the equipment. I've worked with typical home stereo and home theater equipment since I was a kid, but I'd only really started working with pro audio gear when I joined the Seminary and was asked to help with our annual seminary production and with the Priestie Boyz. I read tons of material online, bought a few books (such as Yamaha's excellent 'Sound Reinforcement Handbook') and read them once, twice or three times. I talked to as many other sound engineers and musicians as I could (including many who are linked to from the Priestie Boyz' website), asking about what their favorite mics and gear are, and how to best record different instruments.
But the most important instruction was through experience - learning by trial and error. Plug things in and go! See what works and what doesn't.
PB: Did you have any help with the recording?
JG: Yes - we borrowed the Shure Beta 52, the Rode S1s, and the drum mic kit from Matthew Baute, and the rest of the microphones were either borrowed from the Seminary or from D.Mike Bauer. And we had some help after we had finished recording a few of the songs from Joel Stein, C.W. Dent, and others who gave tips on how to make our sound a lot better.
PB: What computer and what software did you use?
JG: We recorded everything on my iBook G4, running Mac OS 10.4, using the free GarageBand 3 software that came with it. Using GarageBand allowed us to record up to 8 tracks at a time, and it allowed us to do most of the effects and editing we needed to do. Best of all, it was free!
PB: During the mixing of the songs, what effects did you use?
PB: Is there anything you would've done differently if you had the chance?
JG: If I had the chance (and the money—our budget was $0), I would've liked to have bought professional audio interface for my computer and used Apple's Logic Pro or Logic Express to do all the recording. The first few months of recording were spent trying to get two separate audio interfaces to work together seamlessly. What seemed easy at first turned into a small nightmare. Luckily, we only needed to record four tracks simultaneously for the drums; the rest of the instruments and vocals only needed one or two tracks.
PB: Do you have any suggestions for someone new to sound recording?
JG: If you do nothing else, talk to other sound engineers and audio guys. Their experience can help yours. After that, try things out. If you don't have the best equipment in the world, don't sweat it. If there's one thing I learned while recording the CD, it's the ability to overcome problems using tools or software that wasn't necessarily made for the purpose you're using it for. Definitely try to use the best equipment you can find, but if you can't, learn to work with what you have.