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Behind the Scenes With Daniel Schlett Of Strange Weather Studios, Brooklyn

API: Please describe the project you worked on with TEEN and the API BOX.

DANIEL SCHLETT: We did a live recording session in Riverport, Nova Scotia with a four piece band (TEEN) composed of three sisters and their very good friend. First of all, making the record was a blast. We brought up a ton of gear and cut it like an old-fashioned record. I don't think it sounds acoustic; it's kind of like R&B new wave if that makes sense. There's all this built in harmony and rich music, because their mom is a folk musician and they're really into gospel, but then they like berserk synth sounds. Teeny (vocals, guitars) loves singing with all these pitch shifters on her voice and she sounds like a total freak.

The band got a Canadian arts grant to record and part of the stipulation was that the money had to be spent in Canada. The girls actually grew up there with their parents. We found a bunch of great places but they were in the cities and they weren't the vibey-ist; we'd call and ask about booking a whole month but they'd give us eight hour days and require we had an assistant. We wanted free reign over the studio for a month solid.

Then we found this kooky place out in Riverport, and the girls went and checked it out and they loved it; it's a giant beautiful theatre building called the Old Confidence Lodge, and this guy Diego kind of turned it into a studio. It was very cool, and we were up there for a month from August 1st to August 30th.

API: What made you choose the BOX for this project?

DS: I don't know how to do my job without sitting behind the 1608 in this really fancy Wes Lachot room here at Strange Weather. I started talking with Diego and realized there wasn't really a lot of professional stuff at Old Confidence Lodge. The original console there was some totally modified digital desk with no mix buss, no master output; you'd have to monitor through two uncalibrated, unbalanced busses and I was afraid of coming back to Strange Weather and having it be a disaster because I'd have no idea what I'd recorded.

So I called API and asked if there were any preamps to rent or a lunchbox® or something. Instead, API was kind enough to offer me a BOX console for the whole month. They were like 'here, put it through the paces, see how you like it'—it was the amount of channels I needed AND some. The BOX console was like a mobile Strange Weather rig—this is essentially what we would have at the studio, so it was my perfect solution.

API: I understand the final product was actually a "second round" of sorts. Can you describe the circumstances that led to that situation?

DS: Last year we tried to do some writing and recording demos in a cabin in Woodstock to keep the band moving forward. When we went there it was literally a house, not a studio, and the equipment was minimal.

We wound up having to record the band track by track and it was a disaster. The tracks had no vibe, no one liked what we were doing. The girls are really charismatic when they're playing together—they sound like a band and they play like a band. All four of them sing, they all harmonize, and that's what we knew we wanted to get out of the record. Teeny plays guitar and synths and everything goes through tons of pedals. She alone would be like six or seven inputs. Mixing an awesome keyboard through like a $50 amplifier is just counter-intuitive. So we knew we needed to get them into a place where everyone was recording together on one track.

API: So you gave up on the Woodstock recording and tried again in Riverport. Obviously Riverport was more successful?

DS: At Woodstock we recorded in ten days and then spent 22 days mixing, it was really counter-intuitive. In Riverport we cut the band live with everybody singing into one mic pretty much, which worked because TEEN is a group of amazing musicians. Then if they were tired we just went to the beach and came back to do it after resting. It felt very musical, very alive.

Recording everyone together, and having monitoring in a situation I could really trust, having a headphone mix that wasn't muddy or mixed down to mono made a huge difference. We needed good monitoring and good playback and needed to hear the song so we could say 'hang on someone's not modulating or there's a bum note'. When we got to mixing on the BOX it was just a matter of pushing the faders up and hearing what we got.

API: Any features of the BOX stand out in particular?

DS: Oh man those 527s—love 'em. They were game changers, and when I started playing with them I was just like blown away. The 527s weren't a one-trick pony, either; they were great for smashing stuff, and great for transparency. I didn't want to destroy the vocals while I was tracking them, I just wanted to make sure they didn't peak and hit them through with a little more metal. I could just give them some more shape and they really popped.

Back at Strange Weather I use the 550As and the 512cs every day, so when I ran the drums through the BOX console I wasn't surprised, I was just like 'yep that's what they should sound like'. I was so pleased that I could have two or three people singing through one mic and tracking—the flexibility and versatility blew me away.

Also, I don't know if this is a feature or not, but I really loved having the whole thing set up in 20 minutes. I carried the BOX up the stairs, by myself, and it was really convenient—you could do this anywhere, you could roll up to a church or bring it to a show and record the show. It was just like 'boom boom boom, cool, done'. It made me feel really comfortable and really at home.

The centerpiece to everything I do at home is the 1608, and the BOX console has the same mix buss and the same layout. It was totally intuitive and it never slowed me down. If the band is sounding hot I can't have technical issues slowing me down—and that's where the API kicked in.

API: How did your work on the road compare to your work in the studio?

DS: Well, to be perfectly honest my workflow didn't change that much because the BOX was as close as I could get to my setup at home. I used smaller versions of the monitors I have at Strange Weather, and running the API through those speakers I was like 'cool I know where I am here'. When I got back to the studio to mix it, nothing was really a surprise—I even had the flexibility that I like having at the studio.

API: How would you specifically compare the 1608 to the BOX?

DS: The 1608 has MORE. When I talk to API all I do is ask about the Legacy Plus, because I always run out of space and busses and sends. That's the only difference between consoles in my opinion. You're getting the same mix buss, you know that it's clean and balanced. It's just a question of how flexible you need your machine to be—if you need 24 busses and 12 auxes then get the Legacy Plus. If you just need some monitoring, then that's the beauty of the BOX. It's everything you need and then just go up from there.

API: Why do you think API was the right choice for this project?

DS: In my opinion it's the right choice for every project I work on. I've done records on all the other big consoles and to me API is the one that does everything. I can do wooly and over driven, or clear and no attachment to the ground. There's like a secret filter switch on the EQs that no one seems to know about. It doesn't really tell you much of anything but I use them on every channel, they make a huge switch and help me make a decision about what's going all the way to the bottom and what isn't.

API is right for me because it's a sound that I know and it never forces my hand. The consoles are so fat sounding and punchy that they're never slowing me down. I can slow it down with old tube compressors but the console is never getting in the way of me. The BOX console is new, but it seamlessly fits in with the antique gear that I'm obsessed with. That's what makes it the right thing to have in the studio. It doesn't make one distinct sound either, not everything that comes out of Strange Weather is going to sound the same. You need to be flexible and accommodate what comes through the door.

API: Anything unusual or funny happen on the road?

DS: Canadian people would just come in and be behind me while I was working in the control room—which was weird for me because my New York instincts kicked in. That was like the weirdest one.

API: What are you working on now, or what's coming up for you?

DS: I am mixing a record for a group called Ex Reyes, really fun music all over the place, lots of fun sounds. I'm also doing the next Arto Lindsay record with this amazing Brazilian gospel guitar player. We've got an Andndunes record coming down the line; that oughta be really fun. Liz, from TEEN, and I just finished mixing her solo record—I guess an EP—it's got five songs. There's so much stuff coming up.

API: Daniel, thank you so much for your time.

DS: It's been a pleasure.