Microphones’ ability to handle high SPLs and sharp attack transients
prominent among key attributes
Known for his tenor saxophone playing that follows in the traditions of John Coltrane, and Albert Ayler, jazz saxophonist, composer, and bandleader Kamasi Washington recently released his debut album, titled The Epic, on the Brainfeeder label. The album—with a whopping 172 minutes of music—has received critical acclaim. Microphones play a crucial role in the capture of the album’s various performances, and to ensure the most musically rich and detailed acquisitions possible, microphones from the catalog of Burbank, CA-based Mojave Audio were placed into service.
Producer, Engineer, and Drummer Tony Austin played a central role in the production of The Epic.
Known for combining the artistry of drumming with his vast knowledge of sound recording and music production to make him a preferential component in numerous musical projects, Austin has performed, recorded, and collaborated with a wealth of talented artists including Gwen Stefani, Willow Smith, Jon Brion, and Kamasi Washington. Not only did Austin play drums on The Epic, he also engineered the recording and, in the process, used Mojave Audio’s MA-301fet, condenser microphone, MA-300 multi-pattern large diaphragm vacuum tube condenser microphone, the MA-200 vacuum tube condenser microphone, and MA-100 condenser microphone. He discussed his fondness for Mojave Audio products.
“Four years in the making, The Epic was recorded at KingSize SoundLabs in Los Angeles,” Austin reports, “with most of the tracking taking place in December 2011. I used the MA-301fet on Miles Mosley’s bass amp, the drum set toms, and a Hammond B3 Leslie cabinet. I also used the MA-300 as a stereo room mic for a lot of the ensemble string and choir sessions.”
Many of the live sessions Austin recorded for The Epic featured The West Coast Get Down—a collective of LA-based musicians including bassist Miles Mosley, trombonist Ryan Porter, pianist Cameron Graves, drummer Ronald Bruner Jr, and keyboardist Brandon Colemen in addition to Kamasi Washington and himself. There was a lot of equipment on these sessions, including two full drum sets, two bass players using both DI boxes and cabinets, acoustic piano, Hammond B3 organ, a Rhodes electric piano, Clavinet, three vintage Moog synthesizers, four horns, plus vocal.
“Recording that many instruments all at once was extremely challenging,” Austin explained. “I had to get creative to get everything sounding right. While setting up for our first session with two drum sets, I ran out of the mics I would usually use on toms. I had an extra pair of Mojave MA-301fet’s available, so I put them on the rack and floor toms from the kit I was playing. I placed them so that the mic’s diaphragm was just above the rim pointed towards the center of the drum. I was immediately surprised at the clarity in tone, the ‘punchy-ness’, and the low-end definition I got from those mics right off the bat. They sounded awesome! I didn’t even have to EQ them. They have since become my ‘go to’ mics for toms.”
During a session Austin did for his YouTube duo project with Miles Mosley called BFI (Brute Force Intensity), Austin used several Mojave mics on his drum set and Miles’ bass cabinet. “I used four MA-301fet’s on the toms, two MA-300’s as overheads, and an MA-301fet on the bass cab,” he said. “The mics went straight from the pre-amp into Avid’s Pro Tools, with no compression or EQ. When we listened back to our first take, I was literally jumping up and down about how sonically rich and aggressive everything sounded.”
When queried about those attributes that make the Mojave Audio microphones so well suited to his studio endeavors, Austin offered the following thoughts, “Being a drummer, I tend to choose microphones that can not only handle high sound pressure levels, but also clearly pick up the sharp transients that come off the kit, without blurring or distorting them. Mojave Audio microphones not only do a great job handling high SPLs, they also have a ton of definition and body. I bring them to every session I work.”
For anyone involved in music production at this level, the ability to receive accurate and timely support when questions arise is crucial. In this regard, Austin gives Mojave Audio high marks. “I always get a warm ‘family’ vibe from the technical and customer support crew at Mojave,” Austin said. “Everyone there is so down to earth and passionate about what they do! I always feel super comfortable whenever I call or go down there, and Dusty Wakeman, in particular, is a great supporter of artists. I wish more pro audio companies were as personable as everyone at Mojave Audio.”
With The Epic now shipping, Austin offered these final comments, “As an engineer who records a lot of acoustic instruments, I am extremely critical when it comes to recording gear. I ignore the hype and let my ears judge which recording equipment I use and purchase. I can’t offer enough positive remarks about Mojave Audio. Their microphones come up in a lot of my conversations. There’s no need for hype when it comes to Mojave Audio microphones. They are truly is an excellent company that makes excellent products!”
For more information about Kamasi Washington’s The Epic, go to http://www.allmusic.com/album/the-epic-mw0002838338. For additional information regarding the services of Tony Austin, visit www.tonyaustindrums.com or www.sbmusicmanagement.com.