The Making Of: Big Boy Bloater & The LiMiTs – It Came Out Of The Swamp
Today I’m going to briefly run you through the creation of one of my favourite tracks that I recorded, mixed and co-produced on the latest Big Boy Bloater & The LiMiTs album, Luxury Hobo. I’ll go into detail on certain elements of the mix, and a brief background on the recording.
The track is ‘It Came Out Of The Swamp’, and from listening to the early demo’s sent through from Bloat, it was one of the ones that excited me most and got my creative juices flowing when it came to the recording and the mix. It’s a swampy and stompy track which has this awesome repeating bass line (played by Steven Oates) that drones along in the background and some great drum work from the drummer Matt Cowley, and there are other elements in the form of keyboards and piano added by Dan Edwards that flow throughout the track with the monstrous growl of Big Boy Bloater’s voice sitting atop the track along with his guitar work on the Bloatercaster. The track is posted below – which comes complete with a fantastic stop motion lego animation from Bloat himself!
The track was recording at Bucks New University Studios in High Wycombe. The setup in there was a Pro Tools 11 HD System, with Focusrite ISA Preamps and a D-Command Control Surface. It was then mixed in my home studio on my Genelec system using my UAD Apollo interface and DSP system.
We set out with a very clear mindset from the beginning of the album, and that’s that we wanted to track as much live in the room as we could. The band are incredibly tight and made up of very talented musicians, so there really is a great vibe and magic when they play together – and it was really important to get that energy to translate onto the record. This was possible for the majority of the rhythm. We tracked all the drums live alongside bass which I DI’d and took a mic feed out of an ampeg amp to add a little warmth. Ontop of that, the keyboards were recorded using stereo DI’s. Sadly – the guitars couldn’t be tracked live. This was because of Bloat’s Fender amp – there was no gain control! Just volume, so to get his tone the amp was incredibly loud, so to keep the vibe we took a feed from his guitar pedal and laid down a guide track and guide vocal which went back into everyone’s headphones. This meant the band were playing live together and I really do think we managed to capture that vibe. We went in later and recorded the guitars, lead vocal and additional sections.
On the drums we had close mics on the entire kit, with 2 u87s as top overheads, and 2 ribbon mics as room mics about 5/6 feet from the kit at a height of around 4 feet. We also places a large marching drum in front of the kick drum and recorded that to capture some extra boom, however the majority of the kick drum tone came from an internally mounted Audix D6.
On vocals I used a really great SE z5600 valve mic, which gave a fantastic and rich warm tone with a tad of distortion on top.
As previously mentioned, we had a DI line as well as an Ampeg amp in the room.
Again, we used the DI and the patches within the keyboard. I believe it was a Korg – but it sounded fantastic and had some great patches. We also recorded a melodica in this track, using one of the u87s.
We later on went and recorded an old clunky piano at Bloats house. The tuning wasn’t amazing, but it added a great vintage edge and vibe on top of the song.
There was tonnes of additional percussion on this track, with rain sticks, claves and other weird and wonderful items which created an awesome atmosphere on the track.
The guitars were mic’d with 2 SM57’s, and an AKG C414
In this section, I’m going to run down a few key mix elements.
So – the bass distortion was one thing I think is pretty important in this track. I bussed out the clean bass DI Track and with this I ran it through the standard Pro Tools Sansamp amp sim, a Bomb Factory 1176 style compressor (I really love the bomb factory version of this plugin! To me it’s different to the UAD and Waves equivalent – I use all three at different times), then a 7 band EQ, some Pro Tools Saturation using the Lo-Fi Plugin and then finally the Slate virtual tape machine. This gave a really thick bass tone, which was then blended with the clean signal to get the fat sound you hear on the end track. The clean bass tone just used a Waves Q10 EQ, and then the BF- 76 again. You can see the plugin settings below. Blending the two together, gave us the perfect tone for the track. Initially, we were going to record in with a clean line and a line through a Big Muff pedal – however the noise from the pedal was too much and we just couldn’t hit the sweet spot.
One thing I really loved about Matt Cowley’s kit was the Audix D6 that was mounted in his kick. For me it gave a really full and punchy kick sound and it was pretty easy to mix. I heavily gated it firstly which is a technique I’m moving away from more and more. Nowadays, I just think it may clean it up, but I do feel that the actual instrument does loose some of it’s character. However, from there I went through a BF-76 and then the 7 Band EQ, again – this is shown in the picture below. I then blended this with the other microphones on the kick (Sub, Sennheiser Evo Kick Mic and the 2nd drum mic), and sent all the drums through a Slate LX480 reverb. I managed to really emulate the sound of the room through this plugin, and I think it aided to a really natural sound to the record. I kept the whole kit very subtle with the verb though – it makes it breathe and gives it depth without becoming a massive feature of the mix.
On the Snare, I made great use of the BF-76 again, with a slow attack on the top to give a really full, snappy snare sound , with a bit of the softube saturation knob plugin to give it a bit of bite on top – and again on the bottom to fatten it up with a faster attack and release.
The other key section to the drums was the ribbon mic room mics. While I had most of the close mics on the kit heavily gated to pick up the transients of the instruments – making full use of the room mics and overheads meant we got the whole natural tone of the room and the drum kit in the final. It resulted in a really full, punchy and modern sound.
Bloat was really keen on having a thick and dirty tone on the vocals. I messed around with a few ideas on how to do this. At first I was keen on using the Softube Saturation knob plugin, but I felt that that sounded a little bit too artificial. I also tried a tape emulator – however, that was a little too subtle – so In the end I used the UAD UA 610-B preamp emulator and drove the input and dropped the output to get a really vintage creamy distortion. Following running it through an EQ, I then heavily compressed it using the UAD Teletronix LA-2A compressor. I LOVE that compressor – and it put Bloat’s voice right to the forefront of the mix. I then bussed it to a further tiny bit of distortion as well as some plate reverb and a slapback delay to make it as big as it could be.
The guitar mixing was really quite simple. The tone we got in the studio was fantastic – and it needed limited adjustments in the mix to get it to where we wanted it to be. On this track, there was just a simple EQ on each of the mics, which just brought out a bit off the mud in the 400hz area. Each channel was panned left and then was duplicated to the right, and then there was a 1200 sample delay added in to get the guitars sounding really wide. Finally, it was all bussed to one channel, where I ended up adding the Waves EQ10 to clean up the overall sound of the guitars.
So that’s the rundown of some of the key elements of this mix. It was a joy to work on this entire album, and this track in particular, and I hope it’s been interesting to read about some of the elements of the track. Any questions – feel free to comment or email – and if you like what you’ve heard from the track – please go ahead and buy the record! Link Below