Jessup, Maryland - March 2013:
The original plan was simply to upgrade Sammy Hagar's project studio — Red Rocker — so that he and his super group Chickenfoot could deliver decent-sounding demos, but in consultation with his engineer, John Cuniberti (Stevie Wonder, Dead Kennedys, Joe Satriani), Hagar ended up purchasing a 16-channel API 1608 analog console. They recorded Chickenfoot's first demo on the 1608 several years ago, and, owing to the magic of a few takes and the sonic integrity imparted by the 1608, several of those demo recordings made it to the album. Inspired by what they could accomplish at Red Rocker, they did the entire recording for the ironically-named follow-up album, Chickenfoot III on the 1608. Currently, Hagar is tracking on the 1608 for an as-yet unnamed solo project.
"We're an old school bunch, it's true, and we wanted the feel and sound of an analog console for Red Rocker," said Cuniberti. "We weren't going to go so far as to roll in a two-inch tape machine — we're not that old school! We appreciate the virtues of digital recording and editing when it's handled properly. But a nice analog console would tie things together with a workflow and a sound that we were all comfortable with."
Cuniberti has spent over three decades behind vintage consoles of all stripes. "They have their charms, of course, but they're also a pain in the ass," he said. "You really need full-time maintenance. I didn't want to burden Sammy or myself with that level of investment. We wanted something new, and I was therefore happy that API released the 1608. API is one of my favorite console manufacturers of all time, but I don't think we could have justified the jump to one of their large-format consoles. It turns out that the 1608 was an excellent choice. In four years, we've never had a single issue with it — not even a burned out light! Having spent so many years dealing with unreliable vintage consoles, it's nice to know that when I show up to the studio, everything will be working."
Cuniberti finds the sound of the API 1608 meets the high expectations he had from his previous work on other large API consoles. "It's classic API," he said. "It has clarity and punch, and it's very pleasant sounding. I don't want to say it's transparent; I just want to say that it has a great sound. It passes signal like nothing I've ever heard. It has tons of headroom. You can abuse it and it still sounds great."
The 1608's architecture allows Cuniberti to maximize his productivity with just sixteen channels. "API worked hard to optimize the flexibility of the 1608's signal path," he said. Its modular design allows one to swap 500-series processors to suit the needs of a project, and Cuniberti replaced the four stock API 560 graphic EQs with four API 550b four-band sweepable EQs. Because it's been such a pleasure to work on, Hagar and Cuniberti are currently contemplating adding a 16-channel expansion unit for their 1608 to bring Red Rocker up to 32 channels.