THE PARKER MERIDIEN

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The Parker Meridien: Bandcamp

1. First off, who’s in The Parker Meridien and how did the group come together?

Nathan Hubbard: Parker Edison and myself first worked together on the live video for his “Apefood” single. After that, he contacted me about putting together a group to perform music from his release “The Parker Meridien” EP, and Parker Meridien is the resulting group. Currently the lineup is Parker Edison on vocals, John Rieder on bass and myself on drums and production. As we rehearsed and performed this music, I started throwing hooks and music at Parker, he wrote verses and more hooks, and we started adding these to the set. So we ended up with a set that is one-quarter tracks from the EP and three-quarters original material. We spent most of 2017 working on recording this material, and the release date of our new album “Fists Like Gotti” on Nov. 1 [the record release party will be Saturday, Nov. 4, at Til-Two Club] will be almost exactly 24 months since our first gig.

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2. Give me a rundown on your equipment? Was this the primary gear used to record the album?

After writing and performing this material many times, we decided a recording was in order, and decided to keep it “in-house,” so to speak, so we recorded the entire thing at my house. We recorded on an old Mac G5 using Pro Tools and an Allen & Heath board for the preamps. I had recorded all the samples, keyboards and background vocals when we were writing, so with those in place, we started by tracking drums in the garage. Rafter Roberts came over and gave me a few cool micing options, and I spent a bunch of time getting specific sounds, changing snares and hi-hats depending on the track. We used a 24” ‘60s Slingerland kick, a bunch of vintage snares, and hi-hats ranging in size from 12″ to 16”. I would like to say that a personal goal for me was to make this record with no quantizing/beat detective/sound replacing on the drums — an honest take on how I play. So there are two tracks that are loops of my playing, and all the rest is full performances – if a take had problems, rather than use digital editing to fix it, I would just do another take. The only exceptions are “Someway About It,” where we punched in the double-time section with a smaller drum-kit, and I did move one kick drum hit over a bit in “No Sequels.”

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Next we moved inside, tracking bass via a DI – no amps were used for this recording. John has a cool take on effects, so we spent some time getting specific sounds for each track, using a Moog FreqBox and Lo Pass Filter, a Zvex Wooly Mammoth and my old green Electro-Harmonix Big Muff. We did a bit of double-tracking the bass, either octave doubling or doubling with different effects, or in the case of “Someway About It,” we beefed up the Freq Box track by layering in a bass-ier sound underneath it playing a condensed version of the bass line.

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Vocals were all tracked in my backroom; we built a little blanket isolation booth, and used a couple microphones – a hi-fidelity condenser for most of the tracks, a beat-up dynamic with a bit of squashed frequency range for “40 Foot Tall” and all the background vocals, and a homemade telephone mic for “New River” and “Dirty Blvd.” Parker has a strong, rich baritone range — so depending on the track, we used different mics to either amplify or modify those characteristics. From there, I mixed and cleaned up all the samples, layering in field recordings and re-tracked some the keyboard parts for a more unified sound across the record. I also added vibraphone and glockenspiel to several of the tracks. I wrote the track “No Sequels” specifically for Rebecca Jade to sing the hook and the ballad middle section, so the last step was getting Rebecca in to sing. Thanks Rebecca! From there, we made stems of the audio and took it over to Rafter Roberts to master.

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3. That outer kick drum is massive. Give me the lowdown on why you’re using a setup like that?

After tracking drums for a few weeks, I wasn’t getting the kick sound I wanted on a few tracks, so I switched out the 24″ for a smaller 20″ Ludwig bass drum. That drum sounds great and is a bit more punchy, but lacked a bit of bottom, so I placed a 28″ Ludwig Scotch bass drum with no muffling in front of the other drum and placed a condenser very close to the front head. By blending the two mics, I got the punch from the 20″ with more sub-by bass from the 28″. You can hear that drum on “40 Foot Tall.” On a nice sound system, it pushes some air.

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4. WTF is that weird can-looking mic? Never seen anything like that before.

The chili-can mic is a microphone from an old analog telephone; I wired it to an XLR jack and melted a garlic-chili hot sauce can to hold the diaphragm. I also modified an old mic clip to fit the can. It got used all over the recording, we used it as a hi-hat mic on the drums, on the piano for “No Sequels,” and most notably on the vocals for “New River” and “Dirty Blvd.” It has a super squished frequency range which really blended well with all the samples, making the vocals really settle into the mix. It has become such a defining sound of the group, we’ve been using the microphone on live performances.

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5. Talk to me about the Moog FreqBox — what did you use it for?

John Rieder: You’ll hear the FreqBox in conjunction with the Moogerfooger Low Pass Filter on “Someway About It.” The FreqBox is kind of hard to explain. It’s not a typical synth pedal that processes the signal of the guitar but instead uses the input signal to trigger an internal oscillator. The result is very frenetic, and a little unpredictable, synthy goodness. I selected a sawtooth wave shape on the FreqBox and then ran this into the low pass filter pedal. I have an expression pedal controlling the cutoff frequency on the filter pedal, which helps me attain all the vintage Mu-Tron-type filter sweeps that you hear.

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6. What’s a track off the new album that you’re particularly stoked on?

I really like the track “40 Foot Tall.” It was a hook I started singing to myself in the car driving somewhere, I sang it into a recording app on my phone, took it home and lined it up with a few samples, brought it to rehearsal and we jammed on it, realized we could go back and forth between the main groove and the more rocking half-time groove, and built it up from there. For me, it’s the track where we found a portal to what the possibilities for this band were: “Are we a hip-hop band? Are we a live funk band? Are we an over-driven rock band? F it, we are all of those things and more….” This was also the hardest track to translate our usual “sweaty, all engines on go” live performance into the sterile microscopic recording studio situation.

7. Aside from the record release show on Saturday, Nov. 4, at Til-Two Club, anything else coming up soon?

We have a 360 video of our full set from an AC Lounge performance a few months ago coming out via local production company Audioscope Radio. [Watch it here] This is a cool experience, with a phone or tablet you can turn the viewer to see both the band and the audience. With virtual reality goggles, its super intense, like you’re floating above the audience. Beyond the release concert, we’ll be performing in San Diego and surrounding areas well into the spring to support this album.

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MICHEAL ALAN HAMS / HILLS LIKE ELEPHANTS & BOTANICA CHANGO

Hills Like Elephants: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / SoundCloud

Botanica Chango: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / SoundCloudBandcamp

Brian Ellis Group: Facebook / Twitter / SoundCloud

1. You’re a drummer, what band(s) do you currently play in? 


Currently, I’m playing drums with Hills Like Elephants, Botanica Chango, and the Brian Ellis Group. I also do session work and pick-up gigs for a number of different musicians in town.

2. What’s the set up that you use most often?


I like to build my set to fit the sound of a specific engagement: for Hills and Chango, I love using my Premier kit with a Pearl snare; with the Brian Ellis Group, I typically use my ‘70s blue sparkle Slingerland kit. If I’m recording, then everything is an option, and I’m definitely a fan of the Frankenstein approach. As far as cymbals are concerned, I have a few Zildjians and Sabians, but my favorites are a bunch of Butterfly cymbals that my uncle, Michael Ranta, gave to me.

3. What’s the last piece of gear you acquired, and why did you want it?


Well, I’m always building something, or reworking something to fit the timbre I’m looking for, and don’t often find myself waiting in line to buy a piece of percussion. However, there are definitely items that are outside of my skill level in craftsmanship…one of those being my Premier set, which I bought last year. I knew I needed a bigger sound for certain gigs, and as much as I love my Slingerland kit, sometimes you just need the Beef, you know?

4. In terms of equipment, gear, or instruments, is there anyone you look up to or admire?


My first, and still my biggest inspiration is my uncle, Michael Ranta, who is a percussionist living in Koln, Germany. He actually lived here, in San Diego, back in the ‘60s, as a member of Harry Partch’s ensemble. Both of those two have been instrumental in my own journey through sound. I love composers and performers who are adventurous in the tonal spectrum: Hermeto Pascoal and Nana Vasconcelos from Brazil; Evelyn Glennie, a deaf percussionist who is one of my musical heroes. Glenn Kotche, Joey Baron, Brian Blade. Locally, there is Nathan Hubbard; and now formerly local, David Hurley, who lives in Detroit.

5. What do you have in the works? 


I recently released my own solo album, Knockout Bell, at Verbatim Books in North Park (I’ll be releasing it online too). The album is the audio version of a story I’ve been writing for awhile, but…music comes quicker to me than fiction, so I’m not rushing that version of it. I’m almost done with the first draft, though (just a few more pages…), and plan on obsessing over it for at least a few months, haha…it’s getting close, but still needs a pretty thorough editing. I’m moving to New York in a couple days, and am very excited to get into the jazz scene there, as well as the more modern, avant-garde music that has such a strong presence on the east coast. I have about a dozen stories and film ideas that I plan on exploring, it’ll be interesting to see how location plays into that process. I’ve also been writing a series of percussion music, both structured and improv, that I will be finishing once I get to Brooklyn, and then hopefully I will find the musicians there that can help bring it to life.

Hills Like Elephants play their final show — and release their last record, “Tacet” — on Friday, August 26th at the Whistle Stop, with Botanica Chango. The show is free. Get more info here.

Many thanks to J. Smith (of NBC SoundDiego and Parker & The Numberman) for this interview.

 

NATHAN HUBBARD

Nathan Hubbard: Website / Instagram / Bandcamp

Passengers: Website

The Scorpion Decides: Website / Bandcamp

toques: Bandcamp

Ogd_S(11) Translation Has Failed: Website / Bandcamp / YouTube

1. Tell me about your current rig: I don’t have a current rig, I use different equipment for different gigs. In general, I like oversized cymbals and older drums, and usually default towards simple setups. The musical situation will determine what size bass drum I use, if I need tom toms, what kind of snare I think will work, etc. I also build and modify instruments, so if the situation warrants it, I love finding something that will give the song or piece a stand out, whether its a shaker stick, a weird lo-fi snare, or an extended sound like a garbage can or hubcap. My collection has been years in the making; I try and be honest about if I am using a piece enough to warrant owning it, and sell things that I don’t use or doesn’t work with what I am hearing in my head. The best parts are the stuff that doesn’t require much upkeep and doesn’t break on gigs. The worst part is the fragile stuff (gourds, ceramic instruments) that break every time you move them.

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular style? Not sure I have a “style,” I’ve always tried to fit into the musical space while still retaining my own identity. Two recent pieces I have particularly enjoyed would be the toques track “1_0,” which has a fairly lo-fi drum sound with me playing in and out of a homemade loop, and the Hexa track “Chloe,” which has a super dead drum sound and a nice lilt to it.

3. If money was no object, what’s the holy grail piece of gear you’d buy? I spent most of my time in college playing classical marimba, which is hilarious because I don’t even own one these days. At some point it would be great to have a Marimba One low C marimba, but honestly we don’t have the room for it.

4. What’s the worst or weirdest piece of gear you’ve ever bought or used? A few years ago I picked up a Quijada, which is literally the jawbone of a mule, it’s a Peruvian instrument that you hit with the palm of your hand to make the teeth rattle. The vibraslap is the modern equivalent. It’s definitely not for vegans or anybody that is squeamish.

5. What do you have coming up that we should know about? New toques recording out now, and a new Skeleton Key Orchestra double CD will be out in May, just in time for a huge (24+ musicians) 40th birthday concert for myself at Bread and Salt on May 21st. A Thousand Butterflies is at Dizzys on Saturday, March 19th.