The tale of my journey back into the recording studio today begins, as so many such tales do, with a stop at the International Criminal Court building in The Hague.
This is where I meet a friend (Kent) who shall drive we me through Holland to Hilversum and to the world famous Wisseloord Studios.
Kent, however, is nowhere to be seen and so I am left to stand alone in the rain at what must be the busiest intersection on the planet.
Kent tries to call me a few times. I can't hear my phone ringing over the roar of the traffic. But eventually it becomes clear that he isn't about to pull up in his car to pick me up because he hasn't even left his fucking office yet.
But finally we meet and get on the road.
Our session today takes place in Studio 2 of Wisseloord, the layout of which you can see from this map of the entire studio complex.
It was nice of Wisseloord to fit me in today for my little project. The previous occupants of Studio 2 have not yet entirely moved out, as you can see, and their guitars are lying around all over the place.
And who exactly are these previous occupants?!? (You might ask.)
As you can see from this production sheet they are the Dutch band Krezip, who are cool. We just saw two of them having some awesome looking fries in the restaurant on the way in.
Anyone who's been in Holland a while should know Krezip, I think. If not then listen to the following song to refresh your memory:
(Sorry for sharing your music Krezip!)
A excerpt from Krezip's website (in English) has a diary entry from last September telling of writing songs for the new album. I wonder how Anne from Ednaswap feels about everyone in the world taking credit for writing HER song "Torn"?!?
Krezip is finished the recording stage of their new record but still have to mix everything down, of course. Annalies is the only one I really know from the band. She's listed down at the bottom along with everyone else on the track strip above the faders on the mixer (bottom right).
From the Krezip website (www.krezip.com): That's Annalies of Krezip, if I am not mistaken, at work in Studio 2 of Wisseloord.
From the Krezip website (www.krezip.com): Also from Krezip, but I don't know these guys. I recognise the monitor sets, however, from Studio 2.
One of the cool features of Studio 2 is their authentic Hammond B3 organ complete with a Leslie speaker cabinet! Krezip has put it to use, as you can see from it being surrounded with microphones.
This is really vintage stuff. Very impressive.
For those unfamiliar with the Leslie concept I quote from Wikipedia:
The Leslie speaker is a specially constructed loudspeaker used to create special audio effects. Named after its inventor, Don Leslie, it is particularly associated with the Hammond organ. Separate Leslie speakers were a "must have" accessory for all Hammond owners, particularly after its characteristic sound was popularised by such acts as Procul Harum on A Whiter Shade of Pale or the Spencer Davis Group on Gimme Some Loving.
The Leslie speaker consists of two driver units - a treble unit with horns, and a bass unit. The key feature is that the horns of the treble unit, (the treble unit has only one horn in fact but it looks like two because a dummy horn is used to counter-balance the horn that works) and a sound baffle for the bass unit, are rapidly rotated using electric motors to create vibrato, tremolo and chorus effects. It can be switched between its two speeds, fast/slow and its the transition between the two that produces the most characteristic effects. The resulting sound is instantly identifiable as that of the Hammond organ, frequently heard on psychedelic and rock music of the 1960s and 1970s. Unlike a high fidelity loudspeaker, the Leslie is specifically designed to alter or modify sound, not reproduce it, and so faithful reproduction has never been part of its appeal.
While normally used with the Hammond, because it is a separate unit, any musical source, such as an electric guitar, can be played back through it, creating a wide range of surprising and dramatic effects. The classic Leslie is still made and sold to this day, though in modern times similar effects can be obtained digitally. However, the digital emulators fall short of achieving the Leslie magic completely.
Kent does not understand why "digital emulators fall short" and a conversation with myself and my engineer, Arjan, ensues to try and explain why digital just isn't the same.
I end my attempt to ween Kent away from his digital thinking with a nice quotable bit of Iain wisdom: People use digital effects not because they are better, but because they are easier.
And here is the Hammond B3 organ itself. Also vintage, of course. Amazing.
In case there were any doubt as to who was using the studio....
A view from the organ toward its speaker cabinet.
From the Krezip website (www.krezip.com): A member of Krezip in Studio 2. Behind him to the left is the space where the Leslie speaker was set up.
While my tape transfer continues to run we take a look at Studio 1.
As with any of the studios at Wisseloord this one has seen some big names, such as: U2, Frankie goes to Hollywood, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Robert Palmer, Sting, Metallica, UB40, David Lee Roth, Michael Jackson, and Bon Jovi.
Studio 1's is a much larger and warmer space complete with not just one, but two grand pianos. One baby grand Baldwin piano and a beautiful Steinway full grand piano (under the cover).
A view out across the mixing console from Studio 1's control room.
A view of the studio room itself as seen from the control room.
The centre axis of the building is designed to look like a street, complete with streetlights and bus stop sign for the three studios.
I am VERY excited to see that Def Leppard's Hysteria album was recorded here. It is a favourite of mine at a very... I don't know... important time in my life.
And if that's not enough.... The Police also recorded their third album here as well - Zenyatta Mondatta.
Think about that! Don't Stand So Close to Me was recorded right here!
Back to Studio 2 again to check on the progress of the transfer.
Oops. Some notes from Krezip's recording sessions.
Listening to the playback of some earlier Iain sessions from Abbey Road.
Lot of guitars kicking around, huh? I like this shot because it looks like the table is being propped up on the guitar lying face-down on the floor.
Again.... Hmmmm.... I wonder whose stuff all these guitars are?!??
Studio 2 is equipped with a nice Steinway baby grand piano, as you can see in-between the maze of microphones and stuff.
Hey! This is a much better shot than the last one! Left the shutter open a bit longer and turned the flash off.
(I should mention that it's pretty dim in here...)
Low light mode is really working well, except that a tripod (or nearby table) is required.
In the restaurant now with Kent and his beer. Mick Jaggar, a client of Wisseloord, looks down on us. Earlier today Kent spotted the lead singer of De Kast at the bar. I wouldn't have recognised him.
Here's a nice view down along the "street" running through the centre of the building.
Listening to some more playback. The view from the console.
Digital technologies collide. My DA88 digital tapes playing on the left, transferring into ProTools on the computer screen on the right. Sigh. My days of tape may officially end today.
And speaking of technologies colliding.... any great studio invariably has some 24-track analogue machines the size of washing machines sitting in the corners.
I dream of some day doing some analogue recordings, but the tape is so expensive, fragile, and HUGE to carry around.
Listening to the playback, yet again.
More playback... in the background one of the studio people starts to tear down Krezip's equipment.
Kent flips through some music magazines. Krezip's guitars occupy the sofa. A Gibson Firebird and a nice telecaster. Kent wants to play them, but thinks that that would definitely be a breach of etiquette.
From the Krezip website (www.krezip.com): Here we see Annalies at Wisseloord with a Telecaster.... the same Telecaster?!?
The transfer from tape to disc continues.
I try to take some artistic shots as we listen to the playback.
People often find all the knobs and buttons and switches intimidating. But they all do something, really, and it's not as complicated as it looks. Honestly.
At home I crack open my Def Leppard Hysteria CD to see if they mention Wisseloord in the liner notes. They do, of course, as you can see here.
But, it stands a mention that even though the album was recorded at Wisseloord it was actually mixed in London at the also famous Battery Studios. In the case of Hysteria, which was such a produced album (many say OVER produced), the mixing process takes on an extra degree of importance.
And so the short session comes to an end, but with an eye to the future. Wisseloord is a great studio with great people and I look forward to making some music there in the future.
And so, in parting, I leave you with some information from Wisseloord's website about the history of the place:
Number One for 25 Years2002 marks the 25th anniversary of Wisseloord Studio 2 going live. As the concrete mixers still churned in the adjacent studios, the Dutch group Bots recorded their album ‘Wie zwijgt, stemt toe’. A month later, on 19 January 1978 to be exact – our technicians put the finishing touches to Studios 1 and 3. On that very day, Prince Claus officially opened the Netherlands’ most prestigious studio complex. Let’s take a moment to review our rich history.
Internationally acclaimed artists
In 1986, Def Leppard came to Wisseloord Studios to record the album ‘Hysteria’. The project took more than a whopping nine months, but after it was finished Wisseloord’s professional expertise earned permanent international recognition. Word travels fast in the roadies and engineers circuit, and praise for Wisseloord led internationally acclaimed artists including Elton John, Tina Turner, Mick Jagger, ELO, Simple Minds and The Police to make a beeline for Hilversum. Many prominent Dutch acts, too, have recorded their singles and albums in Wisseloord Studios, such as Anouk, Kane, Volumia!, Van Dik Hout, Marco Borsato, Mathilde Santing and Herman Brood. Our name will soon appear on new releases by domestic bands Van Katoen, Racoon and Bløf. The Cranberries, Stereophonics, Noa and Erykah Badu are also currently busy recording new material at Wisseloord.
The secret? What’s the secret of our success here at Wisseloord Studios? Maybe it’s the buildings and the incredible acoustics, which legendary acoustical designers Tom Hidley and Jeff Cooper from Eastlake Audio have achieved. Or maybe it’s our famous hospitality and years of experience with every available analogue and digital recording techniques? Could it be our technicians, who are all top-notch professionals known for their knowledge and accuracy? After all, they know our recording equipment inside-out. No mean feat, considering that in addition to three SSL mixing boards and a wealth of analogue peripherals, we have a fully equipped digital studio (Studio 4) featuring the ProTools ProControl, and mobile ProTools sets, including the latest HD3 192 series. It goes with out saying that our collection keeps growing by the week.
The future sounds like... From technology to catering, and from night shifts to administration, the entire team of 20 works hard to ensure the success of every single recording session and plans to keep doing just that for the next 25 years. Each member of our staff feels a personal responsibility to create the kind of relaxed atmosphere in which every artist and group can concentrate on the reason they’ve come to us in the first place: to capture the best performance possible. This is why we’ve been number one for a chart-busting 25 years!
List of Artists, by geographic origin, who have recorded at Wisseloord:
Afrika Miriam Makeba
Austria Opus, Marque
Belgium Francis Goya, The Establishment, Jo Lemaire, Soulsister, Clouseau, Quadrophenia, Technotronic, Noordkaap, Raymond van 't Groenewoud, The Radio's, T'99, Channel Zero, Toots Thielemans
Denmark Disneyland After Dark
France Gangster DAmour, Indochine, Gheorghe Zamfir
Germany Klaus Lage Band, Axxis, Peter Sarstedt, Victory, Kristiana Levy, Veronika Fischer, Spider Murphy Gang, Peter Maffay, Craaft, Heinz Rudolph Kunze, Roko, Tony Carey, The Scorpions, Klaus Hoffinan, Rammstein, Jule Neigel
Holland B.Z.N., Frank Boeijen, Nadieh, Herinan Brood, Tol & Tol, Normaal, Gerard Joling, The Nits, Harry Sacksioni, Sjako!, De Dijk, Christine Deutekom, Benny Neyman, Andre van Duin, Lois Lane, Laurens van Rooyen, GRace, Hessel, Ten Sharp, Lee Towers, Valentine, Valensia, Piet Veerman, Ruth, A. Rieu, Rene Froger, Laura Fygi, Anouk, Kane, VanDikHout, VanKatoen, Racoon, Opera Spanga,
Ireland Cactus World News, No Sweat, U2
Japan Satomi Matsushita, Justy Nasty, Casiopea
Portugal Dora, Salada de Frutas, Rao Kyao
Spain Paco de Lucia
Sweden Imperiet, Treat
Taiwan Lee Tao Hsiang
U.K. Mike Batt, Deff Leppard, Jeff Lynne, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Go West, Iron Maiden, Mick Jagger, The Stranglers, Elton John, Killing Joke, Magnum, O.M. D., Sade, Saxon, Status Quo, David Sylvian, T'Pau, Paul Young, Clark Datchler, Simple Minds, Judas Priest, David Knopfler, Paul McCartney, Robert Palmer, Sting, Metallica, Sinead O'Connor, Ali Campbell, Ub 40, Beautiful South
U.S.A. Dr. Hook, David Lee Roth, Telly Savalas, David Soul, Tina Turner, Willy Deville, Queensryche, Kingdom Come, Danger Danger, Shirley Bassey, Metallica, Michael Jackson