I first became aware of Dave Criddle when I discovered the world of podcasts in 2008. Along with Australia's Andrew Brierly, Dave was the co-host of the Home Recording Odyssey. Andrew created HRO to document his own recording evolution and to share discoveries, tips and information. The addition of Dave to HRO brought a deeper level of experience as well as a personality as engaging as Andrew's. Unfortunately, HRO ran its course after 45 episodes, but then Dave moved on to co-host Tony Butterworth's Home Made Hit Show podcast. The HMHS concentrates much more on the songwriting aspect of making music and each week plays several songs recorded at home by listeners.
How did you get into recording?
I was playing in a high school cover band and I was fascinated by recording. Back then I was mostly just laying down 4-track demos of my band, but my friends who wrote songs would always want to come over to my house and record. Once I got into college I was in a band with Jude Hayden, who I'm still playing with in Leisure (formerly The Bees). He had written a whole lot of songs and had done a ton of great 4-track recordings himself. I got really serious about recording in 1995. At that time I was thinking of going into the studio with my band, but then I thought I might as well invest the money into some recording equipment that I was going to hold on to.
You had some pretty good foresight in going with computer recording rather an ADAT like everyone else.
At the time ADATs were the thing to get, which involved buying a lot of hardware. You'd have to buy the mixer, the ADAT, cables, compressors, reverbs. Then a bandmate said, "Why don't you get into computer recording?" I'd never even thought of that because it really wasn't at the forefront at the time. Software Audio Workshop (SAW) was pretty much the only thing they had at the local music store for Windows. At that time Cakewalk was only MIDI and I think Cubase was around, but it wasn't for Windows. SAW actually included some really good compressors, EQs and stuff.
I imagine it was quite a change from your 4-track cassette machine.
Yeah, it was. With 4-track cassette you just kind of do the best you can because you're battling noise and the fact that you've only got four tracks. Even though SAW was only four tracks, you could bounce without losing much of anything. It really was quite a revelation. All of a sudden it was a nirvana of sound quality. I took SAW and my Turtle Beach sound card from the 4-track version to the 8-track version. I was printing all my effects because at the time PCs just weren't keeping up. Once you got eight tracks going it was a little rough.
Sometimes it would trip up the PC?
Yeah. You really had to cross your fingers, close what you could and streamline everything just to get it to chug away. But it worked really well. I have a lot of fond memories of SAW and its sound. Then I jumped over to Cakewalk and used that for a while. But that system would bundle all the audio into one big file — all of your tracks would be lumped together and that was really a pain in the rear to deal with, so that's when I jumped to Cubase and stuck with that for a long time. But now I'm a proud Reaper user.
How did you get into podcasting and co-hosting Home Recording Odyssey?
I was doing some searches on the Web because I figured there had to be a recording podcast out there. I found HRO, started listening and thought I had some input. So I emailed Andrew [Brierley, HRO creator and host]. He told me that I should do a segment, so I casually created what I thought would be a one-off segment for the show. He liked it and I think he talked to Big Al Wagner of the Project Studio Network podcast. Big Al said, "Why don't you have him co-host?" Andrew thought it was a good idea and asked me. I kind of shivered in my boots for a minute thinking about the commitment of a weekly show, but I decided to go ahead and do it.
One of the things that made HRO so enjoyable was the way you and Andrew explained things. It was billed as a show "by beginners for beginners" and you covered a lot of ground.
I love trying to help people out with recording and sharing the little knowledge I have. We would talk about recording guitar, bass, vocals, compression, etc. I think I learned as much as the listeners.
You were really good about playing "before and after" examples after you'd explained a concept, often several times, so the listener could really hear the difference.
Right. That's something I really tried to do. Years ago Recording magazine had a series of cassette tapes that explained recording concepts really clearly. They were worth their weight in gold, because they had audio examples of all this stuff. That really is where the light bulb comes on — when you hear the audio. You can talk about it until you're blue in the face, but...
Hearing a real world example makes all the difference.
Yeah, so I tried to include lots of examples in the show.
How did you develop your knowledge base in order to be able to explain recording concepts on the show?
I've read a lot of books on recording over the years. One was The Musician's Guide To Home Recording by Peter McIan and Larry Wichman. I read that book cover to cover. Plus in recording my band I learned a lot. Every time we'd get ready to record I'd get the books out and read up on how to mic an amp, for instance. You go through recording twelve songs and with every song I got a little better at doing the drums and a little better at doing the bass. On the second album we had ten more songs, so there was a lot of repetition to figure out how to do it. I also had a lot of good mentors over the years. There are some Cincinnati artists like Brian Lovely and Roger Klug who I went to with questions. You know though, you can ask questions, but many times it doesn't help you much until you actually get the experience yourself, until you get that microphone placed just right. You get better and better one piece of experience at a time. So I just recorded with my band and did a lot of studying. Before I'd do a segment (on HRO) I would go out and do some research and re-educate myself — that really helped and maybe made me seem smarter than I really was. With each segment I learned a lot myself.
What happened to HRO? Will we be hearing any more episodes?
We did the show for about a year and a half and as it went on it was getting harder and harder to do. I think Andrew had a lot of things coming up in his life, and I had my first child. We would do HRO over Skype at six in the morning my time, which was 8 p.m. his time in Australia. That was fine, except sometimes I would get up at six and he wouldn't be there — we had some scheduling issues. Plus, after my second child came, Dad making all kinds of racket in the basement at 6 a.m. didn't go over well with the wife. It was a lot of fun to do the show with Andrew. We've been a little out of touch lately. We keep talking about having a reunion show sometime. After HRO ended, there was another show on home recording and songwriting called The Home Made Hit Show that Tony Butterworth did. I had done some guest spots with Tony before, so when he asked me to co-host with him I thought it would be a good fit. Doing the HRO podcast really cultivated my recording skills and I wanted to do the same thing with songwriting. Tony and I basically just chat about songwriting and recording, so it is a really easy show to do compared to all the prep work we had to do for HRO. This show only takes about two hours a week to do, plus it helps that Tony and I don't have a 14-hour time difference. I am thinking about doing some really brief HRO-type segments for the HMHS.
How much are you recording now?
Lately I have been doing a lot of recording at strange hours. Having kids really puts a cramp on your free time. I will get up at 5:30 a.m. and sneak down in the basement to lay down some tracks. I also have a portable recorder I will sometimes use at lunch. Another trick I have is that I record all my songs to an 8 GB USB drive. That way I can add some tracks at home, mix a little at lunch and work on it on my laptop. It is really nice to have all my tracks wherever I go. This has really helped me to be able to do a lot more songwriting. I have written about 20 songs since starting the Home Made Hit Show and this recording flexibility has been a huge part of that. That is about 19 more songs than I recorded the year before.
You mentioned that you're now "a proud Reaper user." Why did you switch?
Basically I was following the upgrade plans with Cubase and it was just getting way too expensive. I just decided that I'd see what else was out there, and I found Reaper. Its price was much more reasonable and I could install it on three or four different computers without any copy protection issues. There are a lot of things I really like about Reaper. It has all the functionality of the more expensive programs. My favorite feature is its Routing Matrix view that makes it really easy to do sends and sidechains and things like that. Reaper has a DIY feel to it that seems to play into the Tape Op aesthetic, to me at least. I've also been using this portable Zoom [H4] recorder a lot lately as a satellite studio. I bought a little (Line 6) Pocket POD and I have my Zoom. You can make some really nice recordings with those. I basically lay some drum tracks down in Reaper and then I transfer them over to the Zoom, and then I'll play the guitar tracks into the Zoom and then fold those tracks back into Reaper again. I'll put that mix back on the Zoom and I'll take that out with me at lunch, in the car or out in the park and do vocals in a place where I can make a lot of noise.
That sounds complicated! But I guess it's a case of doing what you have to. Having a family, it's a wonder you can find time to record at all.
It's tough. I've found sometimes that you just have to make time yourself. Tony of the HMHS seems to be a master of making the most out of a half hour and just saying, "I'm going to sit down and get this done." When I take my recorder to the park I really can lay a lot down in a short time. You just have to stay focused and knock things out. I wake up at 6 a.m. and record for a half hour before work... quietly.
So you're enjoying doing The Home Made Hit Show?
Yeah. It's a great online nurturing environment. It's like an online songwriting club. People get their work done, send it to us, then we play it on the show. Many times when I hear something I think, "Oh wow! Those background vocals were great! I really ought to do something like that." I think we all inspire each other to write more, do better recordings and just push each other. Not all the recordings we get are of pristine quality, but what is important is the genuineness of their creation and the fact that they are making an artistic statement. They're putting themselves out there and I really appreciate that.
What inspired you to create HMHS?
I learned to play instruments in my late 30s, in early 2005. I really only learned to play so I could record songs. I found a great message board that really encouraged people to record and that got me going. I decided to start a podcast on home recording. It's been on since November 2005. Originally the show just played home-recorded music, but when Dave Criddle came on board we expanded more into giving advice.
What's your favorite thing about it?
The conversations with Dave. Sometimes getting it all together can be a grind, but once we're chatting about a subject we both love it's invigorating. During the summer of 2007 I was burned out. Dave got me going again and made it something I look forward to. Also, the emails where people tell us how we inspired them — that's a great feeling.
What advice would you give to the home recording songwriter?
Have fun, take some chances, challenge yourself and then have fun again. If fun for you is recording the same style of music every week then do that. If fun is recording 12 songs a month or one song a year, either is fine. This is all about doing what you want to do. Don't be scared. A number of online friends have been very nervous about some aspects of recording — singing, guitar playing — but once it's out there people appreciate it and you can grow.