Our next DIY Muso Spotlight is pointed at Jake Duffie from The Underground Alliance. They are a house full of Heavy Metal loving musicians based out of Woodstock, NB, Canada. While the other three members are in a band known as MONTEITH, Jake’s main focus has been on the recording element. Let’s find out more…
Spotlight On: Jake Duffie
Name: Jake Duffie
Location: Woodstock, NB, Canada
DAW: Reaper. With Pro Tools always collecting dust as a backup.
Monitors: Yamaha HS5s / Kenwood-JVL pairing for reference
Headphones: Audiotechnica ATH-909 80’s Vintage Headphones
Instruments: Variety of stringed axes, 2 Drumkits, TD-11 V-Drums
Synthesizers/drum-machines: None, unfortunately! Generally kept in the box for synthesizing
Microphones: Shure 55SH, Shure PG81, Audiotechnica ATM-25 have been the workhorses
Who/What are your biggest musical influences?
I really started on the more junk-food modern metal, and moved my way back into the golden 80s, Both with some heavily influential thrash metal inside and out of the big four, Motorhead, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and it is hard for me to stay away from some speedy hardcore punk. I also have a taste for some progressive metal, Mastodon often gets me, Animals as Leaders has been a long time favorite. When I think that Ska is the next on the list, I realize that an upbeat tempo is really the driving factor that keeps me coming to music.
Which instruments do you play (if any)?
As many as I possibly can! I find it an essential part of communicating with the talent you are recording. I play guitar, drums, bass, a bit of keys, and now we have a harp in the house! I can’t with a straight face say that I can sing, but I am getting more and more confident with the metal/punk style of mid-range screaming that I do, with he intent of being at least nearly comprehendible.
When did you first get into recording/producing?
I would estimate around the age of 11-12, I would have been toying around with Apple Loops on Garageband. Still guessing, I think it would have been about 14 that I started tracking some guitar through the mic input on mine or my father’s macbook, and using the FX built into the software at the time to amplify and record over written drumbeats.
How did you get into recording/producing?
Lack of friends? At least musical ones. I always have to thank my mother for her always directing me towards musical pursuits, and learning instruments along the way. So once I had more than one under my belt, and no band to express that artistic drive, it was quick reasoning to just perform my own backup.
What was your very first set-up?
The aforementioned father’s, then my Macbook laptop. It certainly served me well, though I have fallen off with the direction the Mac OSX has been taking. Something as straightforward, and standard for beginning artists really eased the learning curve of music production before I went to school for it. I did, however already find Reaper to be creeping into my workflow before my post-secondary education though.
Could you talk us through your usual recording/producing process?
I have two default plans of attack, generally chosen by the client. One, is to have the band perform in their most comfortable location, generally their jamspace, and make it my job to capture it as accurately, and complimentary as possible. I will often do a lead vocal dub immediately after for sharpness of the mix, and any other necessary overdubs, but the bleed through the room and mics really gives a spatial image of the band as a whole, and if I don’t have to lose that, I won’t.
The second, is to map out some drums with superior, and start laying instruments. Like peeling an onion, but in reverse. Often some double tracked rhythm, then lead, then bass. If we are in a “Rock and Roll” mood, we belt out some vocals and call it a song.
How do you manage your mastering?
EQ to Taste
The tastes and flavors will change, but the general intent of the chain has not! I have toyed with doubling up on the compression with a lightly impacting bus compressor right before the limiter, but just by my ear, it fails the A/B.
There is obviously a little more to mastering than your chain, so a lot of my pre-work is making sure my general levels are the same throughout my EP/Album. I may have to EQ tracks as a whole, if I want to use the same mastering chain on all of my songs. (it really depends on the project, whether I want to master songs with individual chains, or the same chain.) I most often make the call of altering songs to work with the same chain, as I feel it will bring even vastly different feeling songs into a feeling of a bit more cohesion.
Which piece of hardware could you absolutely not do without?
A little broad, but the modern audio interface. There is so very much I take for granted, through the back and forth of “the box”, and what is very much a portable studio. It is an evolution like legs.
Which piece of hardware do you love the most?
I’m a little surprised at myself that I can’t come to a solid answer, after a good two minutes of thinking. I try to keep my process pretty modular, so when something goes out, I am not out of business. I have a bit of techno-paranoia.
The one that comes to mind, I think might net me some hate, but the Pod HD unit. I understand and empathize with every reason people don’t like it, yes, you can just use sims on your computer, yes, it is a little computer in a box with a screen. I have gotten some absolutely fantastic recordings with the tone I get out of that little thing, and I think clients really like being able to knob-scroll through to the tone they are trying to get.
Which plugin could you absolutely not do without?
Superior Drummer 2. I have about 3-5 backups for every plug-in I use except for superior. Even with some of the software like SSD and Addictive drums, the mic mixer, and the raw mic bounce function are just too great for me to fathom losing. The built in plug-in sounds great for the job they are usually doing, though I wouldn’t use them much in any other context.
Which plugins do you love the most?
The JJP and CLA Drum/Guitar/Bass/Vocal/Unplugged collection from Waves Audio are fantastic for figuring out exactly what you want to do with a track, in a simple way. And it usually sounds good enough (though quite colored to the taste of each respective engineer) to keep in the mix. Definitely a cheap way out of some work, if you are trying to work with some speed.
What would you say was the most significant upgrade/addition to your setup?
The Scarlett 18i20. It is nice not to have to worry about having enough inputs. It is nice to have two headphone outs. It is the prettiest piece of gear I own.
What would you say are the most significant recording/producing lessons you’ve learnt up to now?
The social aspect, the mind games, the communication, and the process of working with the client. I don’t mean anything malevolent, but as simple as how to sit down with the client, and get the best take they have in them, for every part, ship to record. In a broader sense, it is getting all of the most crucial information in the clients head about the audio-picture they have already drawn of their music. Most of these guys and gals live, breathe, and LOVE their music. They know exactly how they want it to sound, so it is important to get as close a picture in your head as theirs before starting up.
What’s next for your set-up in terms of new hardware/software and/or upgrades?
More mics. Better mics. An outboard compressor. A different pre-amp for vocals. Oh, the question makes my head spin to 100s of items that I really want, but truly don’t need. I am fortunate to have enough to get the job done. I would say the smart money is on a Sennheiser 421, but we will see if I can hold off my eagerness to upgrade an entire 400 dollars.
What’s next for you as a DIY musician?
Like I am doing here right now, getting my name out there. Getting my name on more projects. Working with more fantastic musicians. The craft of music production, recording, and toying with those tracks is my passion. So my main drive is always to be doing that more often, and with higher stakes.
And thanks to anyone reading this DIY Muso Spotlight, I hope you enjoyed it and found it valuable. Check out the following links to find out more about Jake’s stuff.
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