Recording The Hard Way’s a Cinch!

One of the local mainstays in the alternative rock music scene in Olympia is the band the hard way. They’re led by front man Scott Taylor who plays guitar, sings and the bulk of the song writing. The Hard Way are a four piece alternative rock band to reckon with.

'The Hard Way' 2013 L-R, Me, Luke Ogden (bass), Scott Taylor (guitar/VOX), Skyler Blake (guitar), Dave Wyatt (drums)

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I have the great fortune to record this quality band who have recently signed with local music label Vital Records. South Sound Sound is the main recording facility of the label and the project we’ve embarked on is a five song EP. As I have sometimes done in the past, I decided to record the group at the same time in the live room. I mic’d up both guitar players, bass player and drummer. Similar to a live show, this set up allowed for real synergy of playing amongst the guys, and did I mention that these guys are loud? Pure awesome, feelin’ the power! Since we decided to direct record the bass player Luke Ogden’s Fender Jazz bass, he was limited to hearing the sound of his performance through headphones. The guys were really railing in that room (going to 11 I’m sure) with concert level volumes so I had Luke come into the control room to play where he was able to look through the glass to the guys to get visual cues. This allowed for him to play at a consistent and solid level without distortion or fret noise. We opted for a direct to the preamp approach after some experimentation through his bass amp head and custom DI.

Scott’s Marshall 4×12 stack and head as well as Skyler’s Fender Princeton amplifier received tried and true Shure SM 57 microphones. This gave me a nice cut in the mix for the sound of the classic rock guitar sound the songs. These ran into my Universal Audio 4-710d with 50% tube blend and a touch of 1176 style compression to even out the levels and thicken things up a bit.

Image of the live room during the 2013 recording session of 'The Hard Way' with Scott on guitar and Dave on Drums

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Dave’s drums were mic’d with a myriad of mics: inside kick (Shure SM7B), sub kick, snare top ( Shure Beta 57) snare bottom, hi hat, toms one and two, overhead left, overhead right, room microphone as well as a specially located microphone (AT405LE) placed just above the kick drum and below the ride cymbal, in amongst the drums themselves to give a really interesting smashed sound. With the mic in omni polar pattern, it then went through the dbx preamp and compressor to get signal processed. This sound can be blended to give a pleasing distortion to the drums which thickens them in a mix without having to use any additional plug-ins.

The first day of recording we tracked the five songs with base tracks including drums, bass and rhythm guitars. On some songs Skyler also would cut straight into his lead guitar solo work, a gutsy move that I don’t see often anymore in today’s unlimited track count studio. It was refreshing and I’m pleased to report that he has the chops to pull it off!
That night the band had double duty by heading down to McCoys Tavern to close out Hellbelly’s CD release party show in downtown Olympia.

Scott Taylor from 'The Hard Way' works on their classic Rhodes keyboard during the recording of 'All In This Together'

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Classic Fender Amp is used for playback of the Rhodes Keyboard, mic'd up with a Sterling ST77 LDC microphone

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The next day, Scott and Skyler came back in and we did additional tracking including a fantastically great sounding vintage Rhodes keyboard. It’s built in speaker was broken but painstakingly recreated on a classic Fender Princeton guitar tube amplifier. I mic’d that up with a Sterling ST77 large diaphragm condenser mic placed about 12″ away catching both the subtle chimes and low end bloom of the Classic Rhodes keyboard sound. Finally, we had a chance to make few small fixes- guitar tracks and add additional acoustic guitar. There are still guitars, percussion, horns and lots of vocals to cut on this project, and although it may not exactly be a chinch to record, I know this EP will be worth the effort.
You can find out more about the band The Hard Way here: https://www.facebook.com/thehardwayband
– Jason Suko