I'm obsessed with books, podcasts, interviews, etc about the creative process. Anything from articles on sleep habits, chemical consumption and other commonalities in creative people though the ages, to artists like Jack White discussing the benefits of intentionally imposed limitations, actor and comedian round table discussions, etc. Anything where the focus is on the journey and the intellectual and emotional tools of creation. Questlove has put together a great one here.
My first "studio" recordings were done using two stereo cassette decks, bouncing back and forth and adding takes with each pass. Moved on over the years through 4 track cassette, 6 track cassette, 8 track 1/4”, 1/2” 16, 1” 24, 1” 16, 2” 24 and probably other formats that I’m forgetting. That being said I’ve never had a particular allegiance to analog tape. I recognize the things that are good about it, but also that the mythology around tape spans from the well informed all the way to downright nonsense. I spend a lot of my spare time experimenting with gear and techniques, including a lot of blind testing to separate the useful from the fallacies. One area of the analog world that I do still find a lot of value in is recording and mixing with analog effects; tape echo / spring reverb / plates / physical space re-amping, etc. The built in inconsistencies, randomness, and tactile nature of a lot of these can add something really special. Once you get to know the way the knobs on a Space Echo or a particular spring respond it starts to be like an instrument in itself. And something about that process can steer you into making more defined choices and sticking to them.
This is the first album I ever purchased (back when Meijer Thrifty Acres had a record department). My musical knowledge up to that point pretty much consisted of my parents record collection (The Beatles, Helen Reddy, Nat King Cole, Nancy Wilson) and the mix tapes I made listening to KC Casem’s weekly top 40. If you’ve ever recorded vocal harmonies in the studio with me there’s a good chance I placed this glorious gatefold on a music stand in front of you as a part serious / part tongue-in-cheek source of inspiration. Most people see a track labeled "BG vocals" and assume that means background, but deep down I know what it really stands for.
Scanning around the studio today and musing on which gear gets the most use here. While it doesn’t seem like a particularly exciting piece, this is probably near the top of the list: The FMR Audio A.R.C. Much like a cutting board in the kitchen, It’s a simple utility piece that does what it’s supposed to do perfectly. Transparently keeps peaks under control so that you can keep whatever amp or other pedals are in the chain within just the right sweet spot of saturation/ distortion / etc without having to get the musician too inside their own head trying to stay within a dynamic pocket. Some players are very good at doing this on their own, but it’s a tricky line. Simple level controls and solidly built, and great big knobs.
We have a particular affinity for vintage Ampeg gear here at RR, and the collection currently includes three different eras of B15 PortaFlex amps (early 60s, late 60s, and 70s), a 60s Gemini, and a 60s B-12X. The B12X is a pretty unique beast, with a fantastic tremolo and a small satellite "echo" (reverb) speaker that can be mic'ed separately for tons of sonic fun.