RAS MAKES CAMEO APPEARANCE IN EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! (2016)
What a blast being on set with Richard Linklater and crew! It was a pleasure to work with an award-wining director, watching him manage his talent and bringing each scene to life. Playing a punk rock kid at the turn of the decade was wonderfully apropos! An era that gave rise to so many styles of music that's still so influential today. Maybe next time I'll have some lines but it's a real treat to have your mug in a major motion picture anyway you slice it!
RAS TALKS ABOUT THE MUSIC
MAY DAY & THE OFFICIAL ALBUM RELEASE !!!
The Digital Album is on sale now:
*The reason for the pricing difference between vendors is due to the quality of the audio format. iTunes only offers 256kbps MP3s while on Bandcamp you can download FLACs with resolutions equivalent to the Original Masters*
Open Audition for Members
Ras Xix is currently auditioning for members in the Austin area. Please download the role description for details.
Album Production Chronicle
The recording of the heavier tracks began somewhere in the industrial wastelands of downtown Los Angeles with Eddie Alvarez in a converted warehouse space off of Alameda that may or may not still exist. The drums were recorded with a pair of Red12 omni condenser mics for the overheads These are actually made from used 12-gauge shotgun shells and were brought to my attention by my brother, Joel and sound amazing for the cost. SM-57 for snare top, AT4033 for snare bottom, Audix D6 for kick drum, another AT4033 for the room and an assortment of mics that I don't remember anymore for the toms and hats. Preliminary electric guitars were ran through a Marshall JCM 900 into a 1960a 4x12 cab with dual off-axis micing, AT4033 and SM-57. We ran the bass directly into a Presonus Firestudio Project which was chosen for its decently low clock jitter on the convertors.
At my brother's studio in Singapore was where the real magic began, crafting and tweaking each song to its full sonic potential. Here, the drum tracks were processed with some different plug-ins, mostly with stuff in the Waves bundle. Different grouping and compression techniques were employed depending on the song. We replaced the kick drum and layered the snares on some songs for the sake of consistency as well as suitability of drum sounds for each song; the parameters available in Toontrack's Superior Drummer was perfect for these kinds of tweaks and sample selection. We kept the live takes of the overheads, hats, toms and room from the recordings in Los Angeles and the overall drum sound turned out to be quite astounding! Punchy and consistent in parts where it needed to be, as well as being live and organic in the right frequencies. Additional electric guitars were run through a variety of heads including an Orange Tiny Terror, Blackstar HT-1RH and Vox into a 1x12 Blackstar Cab, off-axis micing with an SM-57. These low-wattage heads had a much more "focused" quality compared to the traditionally big Marshall sound and were great for auxiliary parts which required more accentuation. On the electronic tracks, Simulacrum and Nora 5, RMX Stylus by Spectrasonics was employed to generate realtime grooves. It's rather akin to iZotope's Stutter Edit and has something like 20,000 midi assignable/automatable parameters so grooves can be incredibly organic with no discernable repetition while being in total sync, super handy to have for those electro tracks! Acoustic guitars were recorded with a Seagull Original as well as a Singapore-made Timothy S7 which truly exceeded expectations and would stand up to a Taylor any day of the week! The usual path for acoustic guitars begins with an sE Electronics Z5600a-II, as well a Titan condenser, into a preamp module by Seventh Circle Audio, and then into an ADL 1000 Tube Compressor by Anthony DeMaria Labs before hitting hard disk. My vocals were also run through this chain, only a sE ICIS Tube Condenser was used instead, into a more midrange forward A12 preamp module. This chain has proven to be the most suitable for my voice than anything I have used in the past and I've never been more satisfied with the vocal tone (thanks Joel!) In software land, my vocal chain usually begins with an EQ signature of a -5db cut at 5k with a narrow Q and a 3db or more boost at 8k with a medium Q depending on the song. I have a habit of moving a lot when I sing, so to compensate for mic distance discrepancies, automation is assigned at 250hz with a medium Q and is ridden throughout the track. At the end of the chain sits the de-esser and out of all the software ones I have used in history, I find the Waves Renaissance DeEsser to be the most natural sounding with minimal discernible artifacts. So endless hours of mixing and automation ensued in front of a pair of Adam A8X monitors in a room that was superbly treated and after what seemed like a lifetime, all tracks were grouped and exported post-fader, retaining relative automation levels and plug-in processing.. Melbourne bound !
I will preface the final mixdown experience with the perennial "analog vs. digital summing" debate: "All our mixes sound the same! And not in a good way, they all sound a little two-dimensional out of the box." I was initially skeptical about Joels frustrated comments concerning in-the-box summing. I mean, adding stuff is what computers do best right? 2+2 = 4 regardless if it's a pocket calculator, a multi-threaded processor or a Turing machine and defenders of digital will no doubt recommend upsampling and using a DAW with a higher bit rate float point at mixdown for the headroom. There are endless threads on the topic and suffice it to say, I've concluded that it's not so much a question of accuracy but rather one of taste.. and I must say that it's sounding pretty goddamn tasty here at Pughouse Studios, Melbourne !
"I'm pretty intimate with my outboard gear and my setup allows me to utilize them efficiently to color a track in accordance to what it might need." Indeed so. The artistry of Niko Schauble of Pughouse and his collection of vintage outboard EQs, compressors and preamps was exactly what I needed. I figured since I had already put in this much work, Niko's warm boxes would be icing. The exported tracks from Singapore were imported into a ProTools station. Some of the reverbs were replaced with Sony Oxfords and Lexicon Native. Niko's suggestion of using Sound Toy's Echoboy turned out to be what some of my vocals needed for that slight touch of glimmer in the mix. The signal path went from the playback machine (ProTools) through an Apogee Symphony, into a Neumann Vintagemaker Summing Mixer and then out to a second system via an Apogee Duet (which essentially has the same converters as the Symphony) and was recaptured at 24 bit 96 kHz. This process was recommended by Joel and accommodated by Niko who actually went out and bought another Apogee module for my session! On the heavier tracks, we also ran through a pair of Neve 51 channel strips post summing mixer and the cleaner tracks were run through the Earthworks 1024. On the whole, I was pretty ecstatic about how the mixes turned out, punchy on the tracks that needed to be and shimmery on the cleaner acoustic ones. I have always been reticent to use descriptions like "wide" and "deep" but what can I say? The Vintagemaker made my mixes sound "wider" and "deeper" and dare I say, there was a certain "sweetness" that in-the-box mixing does not give you. So the colors available though analog summing did shine through in the end (although mine was more of a hybrid mixing process) and if you've spent substantial time and effort tweaking your mixes as I have, it might behoove you to visit a studio like Pughouse for what I'd like to call "post-processing" before your down mix.
Video Production Log
The single Las Arenas de Cartagena was written along the shores of Boca Grande in Cartagena, Colombia. The video was shot at various locations on the island of Singapore. The White Environment was shot in a work/live soundstage-studio that belonged to my high school buddy E.J. Since this project was done on a shoestring, everyone had to wear multiple hats. Most of the White Environment scenes were directed by my brother, Joel C who did a remarkable job on his debut effort with the framing, angles and close-ups of the shots. Canon 5d Mark IIs were used on tripods for this set.
The restaurant scenes were shot at Tango in Holland Village. We had sought permission to shoot during the off hours from the manager. To our surprise however, in the middle of a scene, we found out that the manager had not cleared it with the owner and were almost made to stop filming. After some pleading, assurances and a great lenient restaurant manager, we got the shots we needed. Initially, a friend of mine, Enrique Caballero was supposed to play the obnoxious customer but he couldn't make it that day and recommended Claude O'Steen for the role who serendipitously turned out to be stellar ! We had to get the slow motion water shots just right and Claude was a sport enough to let us throw water in his face over and over and over... I was particularly impressed by how everyone knew what to do in spite of the loose script. E.J. assumed the directorial role as well as being the DP for the set. I myself contributed to some directorial calls here and there as well as running around co-ordinating the logistics. Canon 5d Mark IIs were used for the slider shots and stationary tripods. We used the Sony FS700 for the slow motion water shots (of course).
The walk of our leading lady started at Gardens by the Bay and ended on the island of Sentosa. The bridge shot was particularly frustrating because it happened to have coincided with some kind of marathon event. It was me with a walkie-talkie and Kristina on one side, E.J. and Joel on the other, waiting for the opportune moment to shoot. After a bunch of false starts and waiting under the scorching sun, somehow, at the strike of 3:00pm, everyone miraculously vanished and we got some really great shots ! I'm glad we waited because the empty bridge translated much better visually and thematically.
The stage scenes were filmed at the beach club, Azzura on Sentosa island. The venue was secured by a good buddy, Spike. These scenes were the most challenging out of all the environments being the most 'uncontrolled'. We scheduled it on Singapore's National Day so everyone would be available. The day started out horrible. Everything that could have went wrong, did. We had to pick up some equipment and were late getting to the location. I proceeded on foot to the venue the moment we entered Sentosa in order to liaise with the manager and handle some setup logistics. Joel was supposed to drive up to the venue with the equipment. After much trouble locating the service road to the venue, Joel was stopped by Sentosa security claiming that the service road was only for commercial vehicles. Haggling and heated temperaments ensued. Fortunately, the grip truck came by (which was a commercial vehicle) and the remaining equipment was transferred over and hauled to the venue. To top this all off, nobody had remembered to bring the MP3 player with the song ! So I called up an awesome friend of mine, Hasnaa. What really took the cake was that Hasnaa's MP3 player chose to break while she was en route so she actually had to backtrack, buy another one and transfer the song ! There would have been no shoot that day, of course, without the song.
By some stroke of the universe and random convergence of events, everyone was equally late, showing up at almost exactly the same time to the venue; and I mean everyone ! Camera crew, lighting, players, make-up, even the director E.J. This was the turning point of the 'bad day' and everything seemed to fall into place after that. Having no budget for extras, we had a contingency plan that if there wasn't a crowd at the venue, we would shoot in a more intimate area and get some good band footage. But as the tides turned that day, Tara and D.K. managed to wrangle some people along the beach and when they heard the song, they started to really get into it and suddenly we had a crowd ! The crane shots turned out to be golden and we were fortunate to capture the crowd at their peak enthusiasm. A prime example of that perennial moral of the story being that you never know what's gonna happen, so see it through ! I myself need to be reminded now and again of how non-linear life can be. We used Canon 5d Mark IIs on a Kessler Crane for the stage shots and steadicam jibs for the in-crowd shots.
The final edit was done by MiMi Othman who had a great eye picking out the footage as well as keeping true to the narrative. Some of the initial editing done by Joel was retained at specific junctures.
Post-production began in Melbourne with initial color grading and correction by Lee Johnson. There is nothing like having a genius physicist-software engineer on the job since it was going to be quite an uphill battle to brave the inconsistencies of the outdoor shots that occurred at different times of the day. We also discovered that the white balance settings must have been different on at least one of the cameras during the White Environment shoot since some of the white tones were noticeably different. This is the price you pay for not having a designated DP to double check everything. This cost us many hours of color correction on the first pass which thankfully turned out to be successful. Lee also got rid of some of the unwanted objects in After Effects like the Citibank logo and the guy with the tiny green speedos. He also did the first half of the work on Optical Flares before his Mac suffered hardware issues from the intense Melbourne summer heat.
Enter Jimi Woo to the rescue ! At WooTown Studios, a second pass color correction was done on specific parts and more Optical Flares were added to the latter half of the video for the beach stage shots. We fine-tuned the details of the effects and churned out a master. Some motion graphics enhancements were also done by Rachel Jones for a specific segment of the beach stage scene. The post-production process was one that I oversaw from stem to stern with each effect done pretty much exactly to specification so I guess you can add the title 'Visual Effects Director' to the repertoire. All in all, the finished product exceeded even my expectations. The trade-off for a shoestring project is, of course, time. But if I had to do it again, I would gladly do so. It has been a great learning process of all the different facets of video production and has endowed me with the insight needed for the next video !