Big Merino-Sweet Little Angel SMH Review

Entirely Recorded, Mixed and Mastered at Damien Gerard's by Russell Pilling and Andrew Beck

It has long been an orthodoxy that second albums are more problematic than debut offerings. Here's the exception. If Big Merino's debut, Suburban Wildlife, was scattergun in its approach, this is a tour de force of, for want of a better term, classy adult rock, funk, soul and pop. It's the kind of music Jo Camilleri and Van Morrison see as their bailiwick: a clever and sophisticated blend of heart-stopping gospel-style harmonies (I Watched the Light), and classy lead vocals (courtesy of Stuart Davis, a long-time member of Sydney-based choral masters Cafe of the Gate of Salvation).

Instrumental features include beautiful interplay between acoustic and electric guitar (the title track is seductive); searing guitar solos from Alex Craig (I Lay Me Down); delicious horns courtesy of James Greening (Satellite) and some pulsating funkiness on This Song and Living in the Past.

Oh, yes, and there is an astonishingly good reading (with blistering guitar solos) of Neil Young's Ohio. The result is a deeply satisfying collection of songs which, while they defy any easy categorisation, sit happily at the richly mature end of popular music. Hear them at Marrickville Bowling Club, July 27. Bruce Elder

Tape Restoration

A ftting image of DG's Studio A Circa 1985 when some of these tapes below were being created - Current Owner/Director Marshall Cullen on the board in his Early Studio Engineer days.

Theres been some next to impossible restoration jobs recently that actually came off in the end against all odds. A bunch of Glide 2” tapes for a documentary project had to be baked and transferred, but having been labelled, recorded, and stored properly from a professional studio it went without a hitch.  The restoration is mainly for a new doco which will pay tribute to one of the countries much loved bands sadly cut short by William Arthur’s passing. see preview here

Secondly a 30 year old ½” tape we were told was 8 track, but ended up being 16 track, no other details. After baking and finding a machine that would play it that’s now safely loaded up onto HD as Wav’s. Then the next one really was an even older ½” 8 track. Nic Dalton of Half a Cow kindly hired us his machine and again after some serious baking work and masterful patient engineering from Andrew Beck this one came up well. What we didn’t expect at the time was an old 120minute DAT to be done at the same time. It jammed in one of our decks, which had to be dismantled to get it out, and ended up with our baking guy. After a long bake(3 days) and some painstaking work cleaning DAT heads after each song he got it done.

The client had this to say 

“just writing to send my appreciation and thanks for helping me rescue these old recordings. You and everyone else involved have been awesome, thanks again!”

We are currently transferring a bunch of 80’s cassettes, they seem to be the most reliable thing so far and have’nt needed baking. Just goes to show those old tapes can be worth hanging onto and saving now the tech is there to restore them into the digital realm.


Rusty's Tips for Mastering in 2019

These days i do a lot of mixing. With the advent of DAW's and of course recall people seem more and more to be asking for every tiny 1/10th of a db adjustment to be made in the mix with no accounting for the fact that once the track goes to a good mastering guy things like hearing different frequencies popping out on different speaker systems will often be smoothed out. Theres a very good reason mixes need to be Mastered before release and this is one of them. Same goes for overall levels between different songs.

There' so much mis-information online i wanted to clear up that simple fact. Number 2  - the ref mixes i send to people are just for listening - they are in no way meant for release or even online promo, they should be deleted once the proper masters come back.

Read more: Rusty's Tips for Mastering in 2019

In The Studio Focus Steve Kilbey and Gareth Koch

Heres a Q N A article all about this recent collaborative effort bewteen Steve Kilbey(The Church), Barton Price(The Models) and Gareth Koch(Ex Classical Guitar World of the Aria Winning Saphire)  courtesy of The Music.
Big Thankyou to Tony Mott who snuck in on the day in his usual casual rock n Roll fashion and took some amazing behind the scenes pics.

Answered by: Gareth Koch

In what studio did you record your most recent release? Damien Gerard Recording Studios, Sydney.

What made you choose it in the first place? Damien Gerard Recording Studios is owned and managed by one of my oldest friends, Marshall Cullen. So in many ways Damien Gerard was the obvious choice. Coincidentally though, the studio was once owned by Steve Kilbey!

When anyone with a computer can record something of studio quality, what made you still go into a studio? I recorded the instrumental parts in my home studio. But all my mixing is at Damien Gerards. However it was great to come together with Steve, Barton Price (drums), Russell Pilling (engineer) and the analogue desk!

Was there any piece of equipment or instrument in particular that the studio had that you enjoyed using? Loved the analogue desk at Damien Gerards.

Who was working with you on the recording and what did they bring to the table? It was great working with Russell Pilling and observe his seamless flow when recording/mixing/editing. A joy to watch and I learnt a lot re: my own home studio work.

Did you record pretty much live to tape or did you use some studio trickery? Yes, all live. Steve Kilbey is an experienced veteran when it comes to recording. All instruments were recorded by me back in Tas. So vox, drums and some backing vocals were all we needed.

Do you aim for perfection in the studio or more feeling or vibe when deciding to use a take? Hopefully both! It's great to have whole takes to create a realistic phrase. It's also great to have a pure take in terms of execution. The recording process allows for both. Energy matters most though.

Do you prefer analogue or digital? The analogue desk at Damien Gerards sounds amazing. While home recording offers incredible results, the sound of a great desk is special.

Did you run into any musos while you were recording? Did you swap stories/talk collabs or anything like that? Great meeting Barton Price, who I would love to work with again. Amanda Kramer from Psychedelic Furs also came to play keys.

Rusty Tip Of The Year

File Preparation and Delivery

I see a hell of a lot of files come in on a weekly basis (especially with so much mixing going on now days and last minute parts may be added in a home studio or elsewhere). Since a lot of the time the work may be from interstate or the client is working during the day I find myself mixing away solo and sending off ref’s at the end of each day. So more than ever its absolutely crucial to have your file naming and also your delivery method consistent and reliable. I use the same system for naming mix files so I can keep track of revisions and I use both dropbox and wetransfer for delivery. So start a system for your audio files and set up folders to keep track, Pro Tools does a pretty good job internally as long as you name as you go along and you know for sure what directory you are writing to!!
Wetransfer is great because you can see the other party has downloaded but unless you want to pay for a pro account it will expire. I use dropbox when a file needs to stay up indefinitely (eg a Final 24bit Mix) as the whole DG’s Server is a cloud based dropbox.  So I’d recommend these two over all the others I see. Recently we had a lot of problems with a client trying to deliver parts via soundcloud – I would advise against that strongly, its really not set up for it in the first place and just creates confusion.
Also if its an albums worth of tracking to be mixed there’s nothing wrong with delivering or mailing a small portable HD or stick – 100gb or so can be a real pain to upload/download and often prone to errors. So check with me first – please!! The Urban Geurilla's pictured certainly did and a seamless session was had by all.

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