the duke explains a lot things...


our current stuff:
Computers, DAWs, recording hardware

the duke:
Apple Mac G5 dual Intel Quad core
Apple Macbook Pro 15” 2.33GHz Intel Core2 duo
1TB+ External Hardrive storage
sean:
Dual Quadcore Mac

Consoles, mixers, interfaces
Yamaha 01v96 digital console
Motu 2408mkIII
Motu 128 midi interface
RME FIreface 800 audio interface
LAB Electronics 4x2 passive summing box

Samplers, drum machines, turntables, DJ mixers
Elektron MachineDrum
Homebrew’d PSP running pspKick sequence
Technics SL-1200

Synths, modules, software, plug-ins, instruments
MOTU Digital Performer v5.11
Reason 4
Recycle 2.1
Peak 3.0 / SoundForge 8
Hyperprism (os9 version)
Alesis Andromeda analog synthesizer
Nord Modular (os9 version)
Nord Lead 1
Oxygen 8 controller
Roland VP330 Analog vocoder/synthesizer
4 Yamaha QY70 portable synth/sequencers
Korg MicroKorg
Big Briar Etherwave Theremin
Moog Electric Blue Voyager

Dave Smith Instruments Prophet 08 synthesizer
Moog Minimoog Voyager Solar synthesizer
Roland SH-101 synthesizer
Waldorf Microwave XT synthesizer
Roland MKS-50 synthesizer
Clavia Nord Lead 2
Casio VL-1

Digital Performer
Logic Studio
Machfive2 softsampler
UAD1e x2
NI Pro-53 softsynth
Arturia Jupiter 8v softsynth

Mics, mic preamps, EQs, compressors, effects
Eventide DSP4000 digital fx unit
Lexicon MPX1 digital fx unit
Lexicon MPX-G1 digital fx unit
Lexicon Vortex digital fx unit
ElectroHarmonix NY2A optical tube compressor
Korg Kaoss Pad KP3
Altiverb
Waves
UAD dsp card and fx
Avalon mic pre/vocal chain
Universal Audio 2-1176 compressor
Avalon Vt 737sp mic pre
Brent Averill stereo API 312 preamp clone

Monitors
Adam p33a’s
Genelecs 1030a’s

ADAM P22a studio monitors

Other
various guitars, basses, microphones

current live gear:
Consoles, mixers, interfaces

Behringer Eurorack MX802a mixer

Synths, modules, software, plug-ins, instruments
2 Yamaha QY70 portable synth/sequencers
Korg MicroKorg
Roland AX1 portable midi controller (Keytar)
Roland midi drum/sampler trigger pad
Big Briar Etherwave Theremin
Korg Microkorg synthesizer
Roland AX-7 'keytar' midi controller
Electroharmonix Deluxe Memory Man echo pedal
Boss CE-5 chorus ensemble pedal
Shure Beta 58 microphone (for Microkorg vocoder)
Whirlwind IMP-2 DI box x2

before:
2000 - Freezepop starts with one QY70 and a MAM vocoder. Freezepop Forever was recorded and mixed using MotU Digital Performer with a 2408 mk1, a yamaha 03D digital mixer, lexicon mpx and mpx G2 fx, and genelec 1030 active monitors.
2001 - The MAM vocoder is ditched in favor of a 1979 Roland VP-330 analog vocoder. Another QY70 is acquired.
2002 - A 3rd QY70 enters the mix, and the addition of a Nord Modular for vocoding as well as the VP-330
2003 - Songs for Fancy Ultra*Fresh are now recorded using DP3.11 and an 828. The 03D is ditched in favor of a 24bit/96K yamaha 01v digital mixer. All production being done on a 15" TiBook laptop.
2004 - New songs are being produced on a dual 2.5 G5 running DP4.1 and using a 2408 mk3.  same mixer, fx, and speakers.
2006 - have updated the studio a bit while the new album is underway. here's what i'm currently using: dual 2.5 G5 with a MOTU 2408 mk3 interface and a midi express 128 midi interface. i'm using a yamaha 01v96 digital mixer and powered ADAM P33-A nearfield monitors. For synths i still use the qy70, microkorg, roland vp330 analog vocoder, nord lead1, nord modular, and the newest addition, an alesis andromeda analog synth! i've also been borrowing various synths like the sidstation which has been really fun (and noisy) to play with. for software, i'm running motu dp4.6 and reason 3, along with recycle 2.1, hyperprism gold, absynth2, soundhack, etc. software plugins range from waves to pluggo to the amazing destroyFX audio units plugins. i still have the same outboard fx units, both lexicon and eventide.


the yamaha qy-70 is (was) the centerpiece of freezepop's songs. when we started out, i had been using it for a few months as a song writing tool and soon realized that it was exceptionally well oriented for synthpop music. i thought it would be an interesting challenge to restrict the production of the songs to the qy-70 format and see how much it could really do for a general midi sequencer. it also makes playing shows a breeze since it's hyper portable and runs on batteries.

the current role of the qy70

hello fellow gear-heads and qy70 afficionados,
i have gotten a lot of emails over the past few months about the qy70 and its role in freezepop, and i wanted to write something up to describe how its influence on our music has been changing over time and the future of it helping us create music in the future. for those who are new to freezepop, when i first got a qy70 back in 1998 and realized its potential in making synthpop tunes, i came up with the idea to try and have it be the only piece of gear used to make our music, along sides a vocoder, of course. it was an admirable goal and the concept of working within a confined system that has limitations proved to be inspiration and headache all at once. the early freezepop recordings were very simple, with the qy70 music dumped out as a stereo file and the we recorded vocals and vocoder on top, mixed it all, and had a song. no muss, no fuss. by the time "freezepop forever" was getting wrapped up, i was recording the drums out as its own stereo file, and the rest of the music out as a stereo file. this let me adjust the drum EQ/ Compression/Level separately from the rest of the music. and for "freezepop forever" this method worked great for the minimalistic approach of the songs and mixes. once we started recording the songs for the FIF EP, i was starting to dump the drums, bass, and synths out as groups and the mixes of those songs started getting a bit more complicated as well. this gave me greater control over the qy70 tracks during the mix process. the real issue with the qy70 for me are the sounds. there are just not enough of them. i found myself gravitating to the same sounds over and over because there were so few and i was starting to get irked that each song wasn't attaining it's own unique identity. so last winter when i began recording tracks for our upcoming album, i started bouncing out all 8 tracks from the qy70 individually as stereo bounces. or in some cases, i would record the snare and kick separately from the rest of the drum programming. this let me have much greater control over the qy70 tracks and i began manipulating the sounds coming out during the mix process with plug-ins. all the songs were written solely on the qy70 with no additional gear and all the sounds you'll hear on the cd will have been programmed on the qy70. BUT with a huge amount of post-production processing on the sounds. there are many tracks that if i played you them straight from the qy and then in the manipulated in the mix, they would sound drastically different. so obviously you can see the line is getting blurred here a bit.this also means that we have crossed another threshold as well. the playing our shows live with the qy70 problem. many of you who have been to our recent shows, know that we have been playing almost all new, unreleased material. songs like bike thief and stakeout all came from the qy70 but since there was so much post-production in the mix process, i can't play the tracks right from the qy70 at our shows since the songs won't sound right. so this means that we have been forced to rely on playback for some of these new songs, tibook/ipod seems to be the current method of choice right now. one side effect of this that is good is that it gives me a chance to play my portable synth and add extra vocoder parts live which is great fun. i kind of missed playing my keyboard back in my splashdown days, so now in our shows we mix it up a bit and i get to use the qy70 on some songs and play synths on other songs. so i think it works out in the end. the synths that the other sean uses for our live shows don't get used for the recordings often, except for the vp330 vocoder. the synth parts he plays sometimes never even get recorded and i think they add an extra fresh element to the songs that you can only hear when you see us play a concert.
so i'm proud that 2 full albums and an EP and several remixes came solely from the qy70 but i think you see where this is leading. once this new album is wrapped up (soon), the qy70's role in the band is going to change a bit. i will still do a lot of song-writing on the box, which i really enjoy due to its ease of use and portability, but the majority of the sounds will probably be replaced with other sounds. i'm excited to explore the sounds, both drum and synth, of the nord modular and various other synth and drum machines that i have collected or can borrow from friends. this will most undoubtedly bring new flavors and shades to the freezepop sound that i hope will only make the experience of listening to our music, and seeing us live, be an enhanced and wonderful adventure. and trust me, i would never let my 4 qy70's be lonely. even if it means just spooning with them. i will be the back spoon. remember, the back spoon is the cheatin' spoon.


after some cajoling and prodding by some fpop devotees, i have decided to go into how we capture that classic freezepop sound and bring it to you with such crystal clear quality. all recording and mixing and mastering occurs in the digital realm. the first D/A conversion happens at your cd player!

after the song has been written and we're ready to commit it to millions of ones and zeros, i plug my qy70's mini 1/8" stereo output converted to 2 mono 1/4" cables into my yamaha 01v digital mixer. i add a bit of compression and send that on to a Mark of the Unicorn [MOTU from now on] 2408mk3 hard disk I/O box via SPDIF at 24 bits/44.1KHz. this passes the audio on to my Dual G5 running MOTU Digital Performer (DP) 4.1 software.

i slave my qy70 via MIDI clock to DP4.1 and record a stereo tracks of the drums, synth sounds, and bass synth. this is so i can later adjust the levels/EQ of the drums and synths and bass. it also lets me add different degrees of compression while laying the qy70 tracks to the computer.

next comes the recording of liz. we set up an Audio Technica condenser mic plugged into the 01v, which also gives the mic its needed phantom power. this mic is incredibly bright and sibilant so i roll off a lot of 8K+ and add some compression before sending it on to the computer. i don't isolate the mic in a special room at all. liz is just singing in the same room as me with headphones on. i keep noise down by keeping my computer and hard drives in a isolated closet and mute all spaces between vocal audio tracks when she isn't singing.

all the main vocal melody lines are doubled or sometimes tripled and then we lay down harmony tracks. After this the vocoder parts are recorded. sometimes the main vocal is used for the carrier wave and other times the vocoder part is sung and played in real time.

and lastly, extra keyboard parts are laid down from the qy70, usually playing them live while recording them. Sean and I have been experimenting with using his various synths from clavia, roland, and moog.

now all the tracks i need are in Digital Performer and i can begin cleaning them up and adding effects to them. i use several different FX sources. most of the time i add delays and filter fx using plugins in the computer. reverb and more delays are added also using the 01v's built in 4 FX processors, and for specialized fx, i use a lexicon mpx1 and mpx g2, and an eventide dps4000 which can make some amazing fx that dynamically change based on internal modulators or audio sources.  sometimes i bring tracks into reason to process them through some of reason's fx.

all the tracks are sent back to the 01v digitally via a lightpipe cable to keep everything in the digital realm. most level changes and fx/pan rides of the 01v are automated in DP so that during the final laydown of the mix i can sit back with my arms behind my head in complete assurance that everything is going to sound great!
the final mix goes back from the 01v mixer to a stereo track in DP via SPDIF. the clean up of the final mix along with fades is also done right here.

For the original version of Freezepop Forever and for the Fashion Impression Function EP, the mastering process also was done in Digital Performer as well. i monitor the mixes through my pair of Genelec 1030A active monitors. these are amazing speakers and i highly recommend them! the mastering was done first via a plugin that comes standard with Digital Performer, Masterworks Limiter and Multiband compressor, along with the PSP vintage warmer.

i first check out all the songs through the limiter to see what the peak value and RMS [root mean squared] value is for each track. the RMS value lets me know the apparent overall loudness of the entire track. after mixing the songs [pre-mastering], most of them come out around -17 to -14dB RMS. i then bring each track into the multiband compressor and finesse each up to about -11dB RMS and adjust the EQ curve using this plugin as well. and voila! you got yourself a doozie of a song.

for Fancy Ultra*Fresh, and the re-master of Forever, I went to good friend, and amazing mastering engineer Dave Locke to do the mastering.  I just didn't have the right equipment to do this well, and having his ears on the mixes was really great as well.  For Fancy Ultra*Fresh, we wanted to add an analog element to the mixes.  They were just so digital that an analog pass proved to really warm everything up, and provide a bit of saturation that helped with bass response, and the compression/limiting that was added.  we ran the mixes from protools @ 24 bit/44.1 through apogee dacs to his studur 1/2" 2 track reel-to-reel with some good quantigy tape on it at 30ips. we recorded the songs with the tape machine in record mode, pulled the audio right off the playhead and reconverted back to 24 bits into a sonic solutions system.  Then we added EQ, compression, and limiting (L2) in the digital domain and downsampled to 16 bit.  to remove some of the tape noise, we mastered some small bits digitally and then spliced the sections back together.  that way we got the best of both worlds.  in the pics section on our site are some pictures of fancy ultra*fresh getting mastered. you can see dave in the background hard at work!

so there you have it.... did i put you to sleep? hope so!