Former NINE INCH NAILS Keyboardist Talks About His Work On The New HELMET CD

Former NINE INCH NAILS keyboardist Charlie Clouser has spoken to the Universal Audio WebZine about his work on the upcoming HELMET album, tentatively due this summer through Interscope Records. The as-yet-untitled effort was recorded by Ryan Boesch, Chris Holmes, and Clouser at Cello as well as Charlie's personal studio, and produced by HELMET mainman Page Hamilton and Clouser.

Asked to describe his signal chain for each part of the HELMET record, Clouser replied, "On the HELMET record, we recorded basic tracks at Cello, using their Neve console's mic preamps and EQs. For drums, I came out of the console, through Cello's silver and black 1176's on room mics and toms, my new stereo 2-1176 on overheads, and a Distressor on the snare into Pro Tools HD3 XL at 96k. No surprise that the original silver-face 1176's that have been in Cello's racks since they were new sounded great on drums out in the Bill Putnam-designed room, and the new 2-1176 fit right in.

"We then took the basic tracks back to my place for replacement bass and guitars. For bass, I wound up recording four separate signals. We used an Ampeg SVT-Classic with two mics: an old Neumann FET 47 through the 6176 Channel Strip, with a little EQ and lots of squash, blended with a little Sennheiser MD-441 through a Neve 1073 and 2-1176, for one channel. The other three were the outputs of my SansAmp PSA-21, SansAmp RBI, and API mic pre used as a DI. On guitars, it was usually a Shure SM-57 and/or Sennheiser MD-441 through the Neve 1073, usually with no compression, although I used a vintage LA-2A on tracking a few times when sounds were a bit uneven.

"The drum sound on the HELMET record is a combination of what we recorded at Cello, mixed with additional layers that I created at my place using stacked and chained compressors and plug-ins, including the new UA TDM Classic Compressors, as well as my UA hardware pieces, and an Alan Smart C2 and Empirical Labs Distressors and Fatso. I kind of did a 'premix-remix', where I built up this stacked sound behind John Tempesta's performance, combining elements and piling on the squeeze until I got a stack that I liked, which I would then print to be used as is in the final mix.

"All but two verses of the vocals on the new HELMET record were recorded through the same signal chain, with the same settings, which were never changed. After a quick shootout of vintage and new mics, we chose a Klaus Heyne modified vintage Telefunken ELA M251 with a very hyped and compress-y sound that complemented Page's voice nicely. This went through a vintage Neve 1073 mic pre, EQ out, and into one side of the 2-1176. Using Jim Scott's recommended 'Dr. Pepper' settings (attack at 10 o’clock, release at 2 o’clock, and 4:1 ratio) with tons of input level on the 1176 resulted in a thickly compressed vocal with tons of texture, and a gain structure that allowed Page to go from light harmonies to full metal blast with no adjustments to mic pre or record level. It was a 'set and forget' vocal sound for the whole album! The only time we had to use another vocal chain was for some whispery verses, on which we switched to the Fairchild 670 compressor, which definitely has gobs of warm creamy gain and sustain, and soaks up whatever hits it."

Read Charlie Clouser's entire interview with Universal Audio WebZine at this location.

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