Hello peeps,

Another month in sunless paradise. Fletcher Matthews has been at the helm tracking drums amongst other instrumentation for Brisbane band Concrete Surfers. Jake Morton has also spent some time here live tracking an EP for Freckle. We’ve also been working with OJ Mengel and local doom band Ankura. Really captious and demanding sessions that have been a joy to work on. I’m constantly gratified to have a space that has become home to artists and musicians that are real recording nerds and appreciate the fastidious nature of our work ethic. Thank you for your continued support!


OJ Mengel are a 4 piece consisting of Oliver, Fletch, Hayley and Nick. A local band that smears the line of alt-country all the way to 90’s pop rock. They stopped by here for a week to document a couple songs.

We spent a solid amount of time finding the right drums for these songs and eventuated at a thinner shelled C&C kit. A birch bass drum (24 x 18) and floor (16×16) that formed a nice family with both snare drums which were a mid 70’s supra and a Copeland signature. The idea we were shooting for in regards to drum sound was somewhere between Verge Collection and the last couple Real Estate records. The key points of this are a round and interestingly textured bass drum with little ambience. To me this means not a modern scooped sound but also not a completely boomy vintage drum either. Finding that place in-between is never simple so selection and tuning was a huge thing. I’m always favoured to this approach rather than heavy equalization. When I get a session to mix and the bass drum has a huge smiley face EQ on it I’m always troubled, it should be tuned and miked to be sympathetic to your desirable ‘shape’ and equalization should be used to remove particularly troublesome elements.

Something to remark on with this microphone setup was the double miking of hi hat and ride which I never usually do. But the intimacy that was referenced prior to the session really called for this. The M160 is a bit slower and darker (despite being one of the brighter double ribbons currently available) and is hugging the mid frequencies whilst the 4041 is faster and receptive to transients. This is most important on the ride cymbal.

414s as overs, the B ULS versions we have that are slower and also intimate sounding and not facing across the cymbals but actually over the drummers head which I’m not routinely fond of but this arrangement called for it. M380 on bass drum on the outside, also an Al Smith sub mic. I love this thing. Being able to mount a speaker properly without faffing about is hugely helpful. MK012s are becoming my go to for non-aggressive snare miking. Especially with deeper shelled snares that have consistent playing and don’t use Emperor X’s. I also had (not pictured) a stereo microphone infront of the drum set. There were some arbitrary room microphones in odd places.

It was a day of solid state amps, JC120, Acoustic 220 and a Traynor TS50. The bulk of tracking was principally done with the TS50, the Jazz being used for layers. We used a squire J.Mascis signature for almost everything.

We have some pretty epic projects coming up, more podcasts and finally some more Underground Sessions videos.

When to use references when mixing:

There are two types of referencing in the process of mixing people often refer to: creative and technical. The creative side is pertinent to the vibe and mood of something, such as automation and effects. It is usually heavily related to the groundwork that has been put in place in the recording process. The technical side is based on the structure of a mix. For example, some records have little dynamic range and others are more open sounding, some are narrower and others wider et al.

I don’t tend to reference very much in the mixing process if I undertook the recording myself. In most cases if something has been recorded at Underground I will usually have already painted myself into a corner so to speak. Before a band or songwriter even turns up here, we have met prior several times to discuss records they are into sonically and the instrumentation and legwork on my end that is required to achieve an analogous result. During the recording process there is often some note-taking paper passed around with informative details from members of the band over the course of the session. Small minutiae that eventually goes a long way into making the record identifiable. Notes such as “the end of track 3 should have the tambourine through a slapback and plate not dissimilar to The Kills record ‘No wow’”. This is either something I can do in the recording process by printing these effects, or some info to hold onto until the mixing process. This reduces extraneous conversation with the band after the fact.

Ideally, I want to be mixing a bands record without having to reference for creative direction as I should already be on top of the record sonically by what I have to work with or what I know I need to do. I want to be using references for technical direction for the most part.

If you are in a bit of a funk from mixing and unsure where to go with something, consider not listening to anything at all for a good hour (or 3). Its sometimes good after a break to then listen to something thru the same monitors that is within the ballpark stylistically of what you are working on. It all depends on the genre you are with, for pop records referencing a mix for guidance is completely imperative. For unique, noisy and experimental music, referencing to push it in a certain direction would oftentimes cause more harm than good.

The view from the control room