Jimmy LaValle is a member of San Diego's Tristeza, an instrumental band, who have several fine albums out. He also puts out solo records under the name The Album Leaf, which he records on the cheap in various places on inexpensive gear — and they sound great. When he came through on tour I wanted to pick his brain and see how he'd done this.
What kind of multi-track did you record with?
I recorded it all on Vegas.
What kind of computer?
I don't know, just a PC. A friend of mine used to run a business called Musicomputer. So I bought it off of him and they built it for me and installed everything. Basically a no-name brand thing — it came with everything, it was like $2000, came with Vegas Pro, Acid Pro, Sound Forge, Fruity Loops, Rebirth. Completely ready to go.
What did you use for an I/O card?
It was a Wave 8/24 outboard by Gadget Labs. But there are a lot of things you can't do because of it. Sound Forge will freeze on you and the MIDI will crackle if you don't set the clocking. But sometimes I like it and I'll use it. I did a remix for Tristeza and at the end it has that crackle.
What mics did you use?
I recorded most of it straight in.
How were the acoustic guitars done?
There was a 57 in front, and some nasty no-name mic behind me in a big open room. That song "Storyboard" was actually recorded through a Layla sound card. Laylas have a tap thing that will give you your maximum volume on the levels so it doesn't peak. It was recorded in a big empty room with concrete floors and high ceilings and the door to the street had a freeway bridge right there.
What were you running the mics into?
Just straight into the mixer then the mixer went out into the box.
What kind of mixer?
That one was the Behringer MX2004A. I got it for $400. It's basically 1-8 mono and then 9-16 stereo. Standard home mixer, I guess.
What did you mix on?
The computer. Click and drag style.
How many tracks for most of it?
I think the second track had the most tracks on the record, like 16.
What kind of monitors did you use?
I mixed on three different kinds. I mixed on NS-10s. At home I used Alesis M1 actives, which I don't really like. And I also mixed on some JBLs — I don't know the model number. I also did some mixing on my headphones.
Did you mix back into the computer on the two tracks, or did you mix to a DAT or something?
I just mixed straight to two tracks, took it into Sound Forge and mastered it there. The record didn't give me mastering credit but I did master it. And then just burned it to CD.
What different instruments did you use?
Mostly the whole thing was Rhodes, Casio MT45 (an old thrift store keyboard), a Ludwig snare and a rainbow colored bass drum that looked like the shittiest bass drum in the world but it sounds so nice — that's mostly all that I used. The bass I played was a '72 Precision Fender. I did a lot of altered digital sounds. But I'm pretty proud because I don't think it sounds so digital. My main problem with the Rhodes, recorded straight in, it sounded really digital — so a lot of EQing had to be done to it.
Do you use a lot of stompboxes when you're recording straight in?
I don't use anything, really. Some compression on drums, some on bass. But it's digital plug-ins. Honestly, I really don't have much tech knowledge. I actually read your magazine a lot to research. I just want to be able to say AKG 1 blah blah. [laughs] The mic I used on my acoustic on the first track was an AKG C-414. I love that mic. It's got no hiss, although I'm a big fan of mistakes in recordings, and hiss. Have you heard the EP?
The EP sounds so terrible. The first song on that was my first digital recording ever. I worked on that song for probably a year straight trying to get it to sound right. I didn't know that you had to set your channels so that they run mono rather than stereo. I pressed record and had two mics going so it was right/left. And my mixer was set to PFL...