News From The Woods - December, 1992


By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published December, 1992

"Zero Defects"

I'm sitting here at the word processor about to write about a recent session. There's nothing unusual about that except that in this case the session is still underway. How is this possible? Well, this is one of those rare cases where the clients wish to set up and mix the final product themselves. The band is Spiders and Snakes from Los Angeles. Frontman Lizzie Grey is no novice at the music biz. His songwriting partners include Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue), Izzy Stradlin (Guns 'n' Roses), Fred Coury (Cinderella), and Blackie Lawless (W.A.S.P.) Assisting Lizzie at the console is Dennis Stone. I have watched Dennis grow up in the music business, literally. His latest band, Great Southern Railroad, recorded some studio tapes produced by Dennis.

Most of the time I won't book the session if the client wants to engineer it. For one thing, it's more expensive to the client because it takes longer. Also, I can't guarantee the finished product if I don't have control over it. But if the client has engineering experience and shows good sense at my gear (and he's willing to "pay to play"), I will consider the project. This may sound extremely self-serving, but it is my studio and gear and I will not allow equipment abuse.

Concerning the question of what I would call poor mixing judgement, if the client arrives at roughly the same audio result I would have, but took 40% -- 60% longer to produce, I don't mind being paid for the extra time in order for them to get hands-on time. If the final mixes are less than I know I can do and the client prefers their version, I just request that the studio's name not be credited on the product. It's the only way I can guarantee that when you see a Cedar Crest Studio credit on a product, you know it's one that I am proud to call an example of our work.

The reason for all this quality control is simple. We know that 90% of our new studio business comes from clients who hae heard "some other guy's tape" and called us for a session. A business man might call this "zero defects."

So how do Spiders and Snakes wind up here? Band manager Donnie Frizzell, who has offices in both Fayetteville and Little Rock, recommended us to Lizzie, who needed immediate studio time to demo some songs to a label. Donnie introduced Lizzie and the band to Dennis and when Dennis also recommended us, the deal was done.

This is actually kind of unique to me and kind of fun. It's nice to be able to sit here and hang with the band while someone else is slaving over a hot board. I still get called into the mix to assist setting up delay times, reverb settings and other tech tricks. I'll also maintain sonic integrity to tape when we finally roll the stereo master.

Cutting the tracks with the band went very smoothly. None of these guys is what you'd call a slouch. Drummer Timothy Jay and bassist Vince Votel kept a hard, tight rhythm; Lizzie played most of the guitars, assisted at times by Dennis. The five rhythm tracks took only seven hours. Guitar overdubs took another seven hours. Lizzie's vocals, synth overdubs, and backup vocal tracks took eleven hours. Mixing all five songs took Lizzie and Dennis ten hours, making a total of 35 hours in the studio to produce five songs for the demo session, which is not bad. I might have saved them four or five hours by mixing it myself, but they logged some valuable hands-on mix time. Plus, Lizzie was very happy with the product and that's what counts.

In other studio news, we have completed sessions with Cold Ethyl from Dallas and Rich Jones from Eureka Springs. I also managed to fit in a cassette release for a barbershop quartet and a new video for Randy Keck (aka Whiplash Gumbo). In the next issue of Nightflying, I'll report on the Cold Ethyl and Rich Jones sessions.

The studio really has been hoppin' lately and I am certainly thankful we are getting closer to the California trip and we're paying off as many bills as possible so when we return in March we won't be starting out behind.

Thanks to all of you reading my column and sending in cassettes of your music. I really have been enjoying them and will respond to your letters and tapes as I can fit that into my schedule. It never fails to amaze me how much talent there is around here. Of course, you already know how I stand concerning Bill Clinton. Now that he is President-elect I guess we'll find out if my already published theories about Arkansas will come about only time will tell

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