Engineer/producer Warren Huart
used the API 1608 console to
record the Fray’s second album.
Jessup, MD (April 1, 2009)–Engineer/producer Warren Huart and The Fray were no strangers to API when they purchased one of the first API 1608 small-frame analog consoles in 2008 to record their second album, The Fray. The eponymous release went gold in five weeks and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
Originally from southeast England, Huart recorded The Fray’s record from top to bottom. He is currently producing and engineering the new Better Than Ezra album and has worked recently with Sony artists August Ana and Howie Day. He comments, “I came to this country in 1995 and in 1999 the band I was in recorded an album with the legendary engineer/producer Dave Jerden at his Eldorado Studios. I loved the sound he got from recording everything using his rack of 16 API microphone preamp cards he had pulled out of a console. He’s known as an SSL guy, but he records everything though APIs.”
In 2000, Huart partnered with Phil Jaurigui at Swing House Studios in Hollywood, California. They had another brand of console and, as finances permitted, started adding modules and more outboard gear to build up the studio’s profile. Huart comments, “Our biggest step was to buy a real professional console. We realized it’s the only way to break out of the demo studio world. We found a 20-input, 8-bus, 16-monitor ’70s era API console and the differences have been enormous! There is a tremendous difference in sound between recording a kit of drums using a disparate collection of mic preamp modules, and recording the same kit using a console with its built-in preamps.”
On The Fray’s first album, producer Mike Flynn asked Huart to record drums on a song called “How To Save A Life.” That song was a hit, with millions of downloads to date. They used the little API at Swing House to record the drum tracks. The band subsequently asked Huart to put together a Pro Tools rig to take on the road to record demos in preparation for their second album. Huart continues, “Look, if we’re gonna do this, lets buy real preamps–not Mickey Mouse prosumer stuff–quality professional gear just in case you record something we’ll want to use for the record. So we bought four API 3124 units–16-channels of mic preamps.”
When it came time to record the second album and after period of expensive and low productivity at a commercial studio in northern California, it made sense to record at the band’s studio in Denver, Colorado. Huart goes on, “But their studio had no console and I had heard good things about the 1608–that had been out for only a few weeks–from drummer Hunter Crowley. I had only one question: Does it sound like a classic API console? I mix hot. So when you peg the meters does it still sound great? Well it does and so it was an easy sale.”
Both Huart and the band considered buying a vintage model but as Huart says, “If we bought an old board, you’re going to put $20K into it to get it usable. With the API 1608, we’ve got a real recording console with real mic pres, real EQs, bussing, [and] professional monitoring facilities at a really good price. We didn’t have [to] cut off an arm or sell one of my kids to buy it. It sounds like my other API or any vintage API console.
“The artist is happiest when everything is running as seamlessly as possible,” Huart continues, “so I used absolutely every part of that board. There was not a single piece of that console that wasn’t being used. We were patching all over the bloody place. I recorded from the direct outs to Pro Tools and I used the 16 fader input channels to develop monitor mixes–which worked out well for the two producers, Mike Flynn and Aaron Johnson, to work freely on the monitor mixes. Headphone mixes, when tracking the band, were derived from the mic inputs. Those additional API 3124 units came in handy. I connected their outputs to the Echo Return inputs to mix microphones for top and bottom snare, toms and the front and back mics on guitar amps. I had 32 mic preamps running total and I had all the drum kit mics in front of me on the console where I love them.”