Given the choice between recording your next album in a pristine commercial recording facility with a half million dollar console, or a rented house with some good quality desktop audio gear, what would you pick? For P.O.D.'s four members the answer is unanimous. "We'll take the house!." Why? The answer has everything to do with being creative and nothing to do with following the music industry's standard operating procedure.
With the San Diego act's last album costing around $500k to produce, and career album sales topping eight million units, the band clearly has the career momentum to make records wherever they want. But what's truly remarkable is that money had nothing to do with their choice to record of a vacation destination house rather than a Los Angeles studio? One word: "vibe."
"When it comes to writing and recording music nothing matters more than being in a place that sparks creativity," asserts "Wuv" Bernardo, P.O.D.'s drummer. Lead singer Sonny Sandoval punctuates the thought by contrasting their current delight tracking in John Phillips' Palm Springs mansion with former studio experiences. "In studios, you can't stop thinking about the clock. Here, we take a hot tub break at 2 am and resume tracking an hour later. It's just a lot looser so we end up having a lot of fun. That helps the ideas flow."
But what about signal flow?
The good news is that setting up a bedroom control room and living room tracking studio in a day and a half didn't sacrifice audio quality or flexibility, according to session engineer Travis Wyrick. "We put all my tastiest mic pres to work and recreated a large percentage of my control room back home," stated the 30 something Tennessee engineer.
Commanding the nearfield monitor position of the room are two Mackie HR824 Active studio monitors. In addition, a Mackie HRS120 sub located below his desk provides additional low end thump. Why does Wyrick rely on Mackie monitors? "Before I bought 824's three years ago I tried everything. Whether they cost more or less, nothing could beat the Mackies."
Playing mixes he'd done on his trusted Mackie monitors through other systems has made Wyrick even more of an HR824 fan over the years. "They really translate well. I know a number of people who bought Mackies after hearing some of my 824 mixes on their speakers."
P.O.D. frontman Sandoval echoed wyrick's opinion of the Mackie monitors, "I was blown away with how clear and powerful the Mackie's were. We've got a really 'big' sound to our music, and the Mackie monitors delivered this better than many of the studios we've recorded in. Adding the Mackie sub was really just icing on the cake."
This trust made Wyrick's search for a subwoofer a short process, and that addition of the Mackie HRS120 paid off handsomely in his work for P.O.D. "This Is a really heavy band so you have to know what's going on way down in the bottom of the low end. Having the Mackie sub saved my butt, big time," Wyrick stated with an appreciative grin.
New to Wyrick was another piece of Mackie gear, Big Knob. Its ability to quickly monitor between the 824's and the sub or both together was key in getting great tones, particularly on the kick and electric bass. "I must have switched between sub and mains and both a hundred times a day" recalled the exacting engineer. But did any of this obsessing over accuracy pay off in the final product?
For the band, the answer is clearly "yes." Wyrick continually A/B'd a previous mixed and mastered P.O.D. album against their unmixed "house cut" tracks and the superiority of the "house" audio practically jumped out of the speakers. A few wry comments from band members about spending half a million dollars to get something inferior to Wyrick's vastly less expensively attained sound then ensued, followed by observations about the record industry's propensity for wasting money on cookie cutter ideas of what constitutes the "right way" to record.
What did the whole experience teach engineer producer Wyrick, himself a commercial facility owner? "Let's put it this way: great sound is less about pricey tools than ever. Capturing excellent audio is just a small part of nurturing the kind of vibe really creative bands need to make great music. I'm just blessed to have been a part of it. It was a ton of fun too!"