IN THE STUDIO

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IN THE TRENCHES WITH RECORDING ENGINEER DAVE RIELEY

dsc_0192For those who missed it, here’s the most recent studio stories column profiling Dave Rieley:

The assistant engineer in Studio 10 has been repeatedly getting barbed with a line from the movie Planet Of the Apes, “You damn dirty ape.” He just did a bad patch, and the line was delivered courtesy of recording engineer Dave Rieley; Planet of the Apes is one of his favorite movies. Dave has been working a three-week long stretch at Chicago Recording Company (known as CRC) on the forthcoming record from the alternative rock band Kill Hannah. This is going to be one of the last sessions for Dave at CRC as he is moving to Los Angeles in a few weeks. He is certainly a busy man these days, in addition to engineering and producing his client’s albums, he’s also handling live recording duties for festivals at Coachella, Bonnaroo and Pitchfork. The extra work doesn’t bother Dave; he’s just as at home in the recording truck as a recording studio control room. His formula for success has been to embrace studio challenges with a robust sense of humor. With a long list of clients including Skillet, Jarvis Cocker, Dionsaur Jr. and Ramsey Lewis, his formula has been working well.
A lifetime music fan from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Dave decided to get serious about engineering six years ago. After studying with Dan Harjung, formerly the owner of the legendary rock studio Royal Recorders, he set out to work at the biggest studio in the Midwest. After looking around at his options, he eventually landed an interview at Chicago Recording Company. The studio manager, Chris Shepard spent an hour trying to talk Dave out of working in recording business. When he realized he couldn’t be dissuaded, Chris hired Dave as an intern. At the very least, he would have some free labor around the studio. After paying his dues for a year as intern, Dave proved to be a quick study and landed his first break. His colleague was hired to work as an engineer on Elvis Costello’s Deliveryman record and asked Dave to be the assistant engineer.
The Costello sessions were recorded at Sweet Tea Studios in Oxford, Mississippi with Producer Dennis Herring. Unlike many of the artists Dave had recorded previously at CRC, Costello had a more elaborate tracking scheme in mind for the record. He wanted to track to 2-inch tape for its sonic character, then tracks were to be transferred to Pro Tools HD for editing and finally, the tracks were transferred to a Radar system where it could be mixed through a Vintage Neve 8038 console. The hours Dave had spent practicing editing 2-inch tape in preparation came in handy as the sessions proved to be a high-pressure affair. Costello wanted spontaneous feel for the recording and would unexpectedly launch into a song at any given moment. One of these moments was as Dave was changing a 2-inch reel. As he threaded the tape and hit record, Costello shouts, “Go! Go! Go!” Dave captured it and after hearing it back, Costello decided to leave it on the record. The sessions were an important learning experience and influential for Dave’s future projects. He notes “Elvis was a consummate professional and working with him made everyone on the session raise the level of performance.” The production was a good warm up for the next major artist Dave would work with the following year.
Dave had been tapped to be the assistant engineer for Billy Corgan’s solo record, The Future Embrace. The record’s production was to be a departure from the big guitar and drum sound of Smashing Pumpkins by implementing a mighty arsenal of analog and digital synths. The sessions were unique because the featured five individual Pro Tools HD rigs set up so the composers at each station could simultaneously write music. All the Pro Tools HD stations were mixed through the SSL. Adding another dimension to the project was integrating the production work of Bon Harris of Nitzer Ebb. Bon would reprogram keyboard parts created with soft synths on a large modular synths. The Corgan sessions, “were a massive learning experience,” said Dave, “it was awesome to be a part of such a unique collaboration of such talented composers and engineers.” With all the composers, instruments and musicians involved it was a relief to find Corgan to be “very respectful” of the engineers on the project.
After several years of experience on sessions with major artists, Dave had become a favorite engineer among CRC’s clientele and was recruited to engineer for projects in Nashville and Los Angeles.
Recently, Dave was back in the studio with singer songwriter, Ted Wulfers. Dave had previously engineered his double album, Driving Barefoot. For his upcoming album, Dave joined Ted at Six Ton studios in Nashville. The studio features a one of a kind Inward Connections Tube console. The signal path of Class A tubes and Cinemag transformers proved to be perfect for capturing Wulfer’s Americana styled music. After working with Wulfers for several years, Dave has developed microphone techniques for best capturing his guitar. Dave uses a Mojave MA200, A Sennheiser MD421 and a Royer R121 through the pre amp on the Inner Tube console. The combination of microphones brings out specific characteristics of the guitar tone. Wulfers remarks about the sessions, “Dave truly knows how to get killer guitar tones and capture the perfect performance, his knowledge and skill shines through with his microphone placement and pre-amp, compression techniques. It made the guitars on this record sound huge – just like you’re standing next to the speaker.” The record is slated is set to be released this fall.
Between producing and engineering gigs, Dave can be found in the American Mobile recording truck at various music festivals around the country where he’s is the Live Mixer. He records the feed from stage to a Pro Tools HD rig. With more variables that could go wrong, live recording poses a different set of challenges. “It requires a different mindset, a heighted awareness and a lot of caffeine,” Dave says. “At any moment, something could go wrong that’s not in your control”. Luckily, he can rely on having great gear in the truck. Dave is especially fond of the 96 channels of True System Precision 8 Mic Pre amps, to which Dave remarks “the Precision 8 mic pre amps are exceptional for documenting live performance.”
As his own personal gear collection, Dave uses assortment of classic studio equipment. He has a small home studio which is mainly used for editing and overdubs, although sometimes uses his rig for mixing. As a longtime Pro tools user, Dave faced a decision whether or not to invest in a Pro Tools LE or HD system. The HD system was significantly more expensive but offered the scalability and higher resolution convertors needed for many of his projects. After comparing mixes through each type of Pro Tools system, he was surprised to find that he liked the sound of mixes from the LE system. Dave couldn’t believe his ears but was reassured after conferring with legendary engineer Richard Dodd. He pointed out that LE systems have lower harmonic distortion rates due to the floating point processing.. For monitors, Dave needed an accurate, reliable set of speakers which would translate on a wide variety of systems. After testing different powered monitors, Dave went with the classic pair of Yamaha NS10M and a Bryston 4BSST power amp. To augment the limited low-end response of the speakers, Dave found a rare Yamaha NSW10 Subwoofer (originally manufactured in the late 70’s) on EBay. The sub integrated perfectly NS10s. For compression, Dave has been using a Universal Audio Limited edition 1176AE compressor. He particularly fond of SLO feature (with the ratio set at 20:1) which he finds perfect for controlling dynamics when tracking vocals, “it has this ‘thing’ it does that nothing else does,” Dave says. Assisting him with his gear purchases is GC Pro. Having a GC Pro account manager at his service has been a big plus for gear purchases, “they always pick up the phone, if I need something – I get it right away.”
Through his diverse experiences with artists large and small, Dave has proved himself invaluable to his loyal clients. As Kill Hannah singer Mat Devine points out, “Dave is an extremely fast and professional engineer, with the deadlines we have, we couldn’t have finished the record without him.” With several projects lined for the summer in LA, Dave will have very little time to settle in, not that he’s complaining. Its proof positive that even in the changing times of the music business, there will always be a demand for first class engineering.

For more info on Dave Rieley – check out www.godaveygo.com

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