Studio 11 Chicago : Recording, Mixing, Mastering, And Music Production
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studio11 on 02/21/2017 at 12:53AM
By Dan Zorn
I remember when “KILYO” (Jared Bradley) first contacted Studio 11. He had moved to Chicago from Ohio early in 2016, and was eager to start recording his debut album, Harpoon. After sharing a recorded demo via out studio website chat, I was immediately impressed by the sound of his voice, even on my laptop speakers. One month later, KILYO recorded his first single,“Tetris,” at Studio 11. It wasn't very far in the session when I realized KILYO is a rare talent - and that this is only the beginning of an exciting career as an artist. Since recording “Tetris,” KILYO has spent months with Studio 11 creating his awaited album, Harpoon, expected to be released on December 16th.
What strikes me most about KILYO is his humbleness toward his craft -never once boasting the fact that he really is a one person band . While KILYO has nearly perfect (and I mean perfect) pitch, singing harmonies rivaling R. Kelly’s vocal coach, he is an equally talented producer. After I asked him what DAW he uses for music production, he told me, “Oh, I don’t have one”. At first, I was confused, but he then mentioned he uses a website called Soundation.com. I had never heard of the DAW website before. Intrigued, I began to ask him more questions:
“So, is it a drag-and-drop, loop-based program…(thinking how flexible can a website DAW really be)?”
“No, it's actually quite the opposite!” adding how he only uses stock sounds on the website, manually inserting each drum hit, and penciling in every note (including highly-syncopated , often times quite complex poly-rhythmic patterns). Interestingly enough, KILYO’s compositions are also created with little experience of music theory, primarily done by the training he’s taught himself.
As intricate as his chord progressions and composition skills are, what impresses me most is KILYO’s sonic palette and keen ear for creating unique, original sounds. As a music producer myself, it’s one thing to pencil in notes for a technically good song on paper, but choosing and designing the sounds is a whole other ball park. Many artists lack this creative element. However, KILYO has an in-depth understanding of utilizing exciting sounds: instruments pan around your head exponentially increasing in speed, distorted synth lines dance within the stereo field and shimmer throughout, percussion hits are constantly hand pitched up and down in various ways: all creating quite a dense wall of sound without ever feeling overproduced. The distinct array of timbre lies on top of heavily saturated, analog-sounding chords that one quickly realizes only KILYO could (and would!) compose.
Coming from a background in theater, KILYO is no novice to projecting and manipulating his voice. His vocal range is especially vast, from rumbling lows to ear-piercing high frequencies and everything in between. During one session, Jared was recording ad-libs for the background of a chorus, and he literally glided from a low rumble all the way up to the what sounded like the highest octave possible for the male voice. After recording, me and my assistant started laughing - because it was truly strange to hear this come from a humans voice.
Listening closer, another feature of KILYO’s music is the fact that nearly everything - verses, choruses, and bridges - are sung in harmonized chords. There are very few moments on Harpoon which do not feature four to six harmonies stacked on the lead. In the vocal booth, KILYO would simply sing an initial root note, then hum to figure out what we be the most interesting harmony for that particular part - sometimes a 3rd, 5th or 7th, but often times harmonies for very dissonant chords.
“But I know some artists that can do that,” you may be saying. Well, sure, there are a lot of great artists that can. Yet, KILYO’s harmonies aren’t perfect transposed mirrors of the root note. Many of his harmonies dance around notes nearby (above or below the root note), creating interesting often times jazzy chord textures. Considering KILYO’S limited background in music theory, it’s evident that his effortless chord construction is a natural talent. Undoubtedly, the skill separates his music, bringing it to another level of quality that most artist seem to lack without the help of a vocal coach or additional producer.
Upon listening to the album all together, it's clear that KILYO’s Harpoon has a deliberate mood and purpose. The album embodies an original sound, complimenting well-developed themes and motifs based on the content of the songs themselves. With regard to the title, “Harpoon,” the content highlights various symbols and metaphors of the sea. Pieces entitled “Bermuda,” “Fisherman,” and “Submarine” embark on a voyage through emotional waves. Songs embracing water themes tend to sound more underwater with delays and reverb, in aim to emphasize a deeper, submerged meaning. However as “sea themed” as the album is, it’s not intend to admire the actual sea. KILYO’s Harpoon is full of free-spirited stories, personal hardships, moving on, and self-actualizing. Point being, one learns a lot about himself while lost at sea.
All in all it becomes apparent that no genre can apply to Kilyo. Harpoon encourages an introspective, personal examination for listeners… so dive in!
Behind the Scenes: Recording, Mixing and Mastering Harpoon at Studio 11
We recorded all of Jared’s vocals using an Audio Technica AT 4060 vacuum tube microphone into a Manley VoxBox preamp, which was channeled into Pro tools HD. After initial tracking, I went through a couple session recordings to determine the best overall settings for vocals on the album, and after some experimentation, I finally settled on a plug-in chain that suited KILYO’s voice best. The primary ingredients that really made Harpoon’s vocals pop were the Waves Renaissance Axe, the Waves Lo-Fi saturation plug-in, and the Waves Kramer Tape (yes a lot of saturation and distortion!). I found these all added nice fullness to the vocals, and the Kramer Tape sculpted a smooth, rounded high end. Harpoon’s mastering was done in the box, using plug-ins from Waves.
studio11 on 12/29/2015 at 12:57AM
"WELCOME TO CHI-RAQ"
The term Chi-Raq, now synonymous with Chicago street violence has drenched the media with attention following the December release of Spike Lee's Chicago based film Chi-Raq. The meaning of the word Chi-Raq, the fusion of Chicago and Iraq, may owe its origin to the assimilations the Chicago news media furnished in wake of the Iraq war - comparing war statistics to Chicago crime statistics. Moreover, Chi-Raq could have been born from Chicago gang presence in Iraq. In the realm of street poetry anything is game and it is only natural that these words embrace culture and news media. The word Chi-Raq is the street poet's spin on the news media's representation of the Chicago streets - and the Chicago street's presence in the Iraq war. Could this be a self-fulfilling prophecy? We may never know, but the facts are the facts and one things for sure; the word is old - at least 10 years old. Here's the story of the word of the world of the Dollar Boyz. "Welcome to Chi-Raq".
Let's rewind in time to the year 2005. The Iraq war had been front page news for years. With countless troops returning to Chicago a strong connection between the regions existed. Many soldiers returned to find home in just as critical shape as the war torn world in Iraq. A massive overhaul on Chicago's housing projects forced many from their dwellings, opening a new wave of turmoil in the city. Change is rough in light of city politics, media, and gentrification. The term Chi-Raq was an inevitable conclusion in street rap music, born of the streets of Chicago, and best exhibited by the Dollar Boyz series of albums/mixtapes "Welcome To Chi-Raq" first released in early 2006.
"I remember clear as day the word Chi-Raq spilling out of the microphone at Studio 11 in the throws of the Iraqi war. It may have popped up here and there - as we had a ton of rappers returning home from war at the time, but the real statement came with the Dollar Boyz first mixtape hosted by D.J. Pharris with the powerful 'Welcome To Chiraq' intro. That record is the best early example of the use of the term" - Notes (Engineer/Producer - Studio 11)
In the midst of the recent 'Chi-Raq' clamor we received a call to the studio. "Yo! This is Caine from the Dollar Boyz, we came up with that Chiraq shit in 2005. You guys still got all the files over there?" At Studio 11 we keep a database of almost 20 years of material ranging from analog storage mediums, CD ROMS, DDS tapes, through DVD's - of which total around 7000 pieces. Needless to say, an album is a needle in a haystack. Fortunately, all DVD data is in updated databases. We told 'Caine' we'd give it a look. We had never really considered that the word Chi-Raq had in effect originated at any particular point. But a bit of digging found the earliest Dollar Boyz recordings at Studio 11 to be from 2005-2006. Namely their album/mixtape "Welcome To Chi-Raq" Volume 1 featuring rappers Caine, White, and Cash and hosted by acclaimed Power 92.5 WPWX Chicago D.J. Pharris.
While Spike Lee may have brought the term Chi-Raq to the mainstream in 2015, and King Louie may claim to have coined Chiraq in 2009, the origin of the term Chi-Raq is best exemplified in the Dollar Boyz series of releases, "Welcome To Chi-Raq" Volumes 1-3 stemming from the mid-2000's and the Iraqi war. These volumes are stacked to the CD's edge with hard hitting Chicago beats and street rhymes. At the 74 minute brim of a CD's length they are the reminder that Chi-Raq is about word play and reflection - tales of the world at hand.
Our blessings go out to King Louie in lieu of his recent tragedy. He has been an active recording artist at Studio 11 for many years. We wish him well in his recovery. One of our studio favorites featuring King L can be found HERE. Studio 11 does not condone street violence in any way. Rather we promote artistic expression as the best possible means to channel energy. We wish for a better, safer, and more honest Chicago in the future - clad through constructive, educational, and artistic outlets.
studio11 on 08/06/2015 at 10:30PM
When The Dread emcee Billa Camp hit us up about mixing their upcoming release at Studio 11, We were excited to hear what the new band might have in store. Billa Camp earned his place in Chicago hip hop history as the frontman for the Jazz Funk Ensemble Treologic, whose release "Thank You Lenny" also found it's way onto the Studio 11 consoles for mixing and mastering. Memories of Treologic shows are vivid, highlighted by a 12 piece band laced with Jazz horns, A DJ, and the powerful and energetic lyrical delivery of Billa Camp on the mic. Upon stumbling into Wicker Park's North Bar for a recent show by The Dread, all of that energy was there yielding a powerful and anthematic hip hop vibe. The Dread can best be described as skate music featuring molten distrotions and Billa Camp's poweful rhymes. Be sure to check out The Dread's upcoming performance at Arlene's Grocery in Manhattan, NY.
The Dread Live in New York at Arlene's Grocery (95 Stanton St.). @ . 21+ No Cover
Alex Gross of Studio 11 caught up with Bill Camp of The Dread for a quick interview:
The band seems like a unique cast of characters, what brought you together?
The simple answer is....Being in a kick ass band is awesome! The Dread just naturally happened from us collaborating time & time again. We are Nolan Silias, William Silas, Ruin, DJ Alo, Mikey Lightning, Aven Deese & myself, Billa Camp. Nice to meet ya. DREAD!
How long have you been involved in music?
I've been involved in music since the age of 14 & its definitely shaped the person I am today.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
As a band we listen to a little bit of everything and exclude nothing. Personally my influences change all time from The Dixie Hummingbirds to Blues Magoos. Shit... Last summer It was Luke Bryant & Florida Georgia Line. When I was younger I was influenced by Rage Against The Machine, Mos def, & Nas.
What best describes The Dread's sound?
Our sound is often described as a killer mix tape with a hip hop soul. It's like if Bad Brains & The Roots had a baby, it would be The Dread. Seriously though,we force ourselves to remain open to creating all sounds. If we as artist feel the mood & sound we'll make it. Our music has no boundaries.
I especially enjoy the jam "Permission", What's the inspiration for the song?
Thanks, we really appreciate that. The song "Permission" stands as a testament to who we are as individuals and as a group. We don't need permission to be who we wanna be, live how we wanna live or make the music we wanna make. When it's all said and done, we want to be content with our time on this earth. The song is meant to embody the spirit of a maverick. It's inspiration is the freedom of choice.
What are some of the best spots you've played in Chicago?
We've enjoyed venues like Schuba's, The Original Mother's & Emporium. Honestly, it's all about the crowd's vibe, we've had killer shows all over.
What's in cue for Dread in the near future?
We're performing in New York on August 14 at Arlene's Grocery. Also, we're opening up for TECH N9NE on September 25 in Arlington Heights, IL. at Home Bar. The next album should be out early next year.
studio11 on 02/06/2015 at 05:30PM
BY ALEX GROSS
Some of my fondest Studio 11 memories date back to the late nineties when studio manager Dan Scalpone and I would embark on our yearly trip to Cannes, France to attend Midem, the world music convention. Here we would meet with labels worldwide on behalf of Chicago musicians to sort out licensing and label deals. Notably, I remember meeting with the Donato brothers of Italy in respect to their Full Time music label and catalog. As innovators in the late wave of disco and early house music, they emphasized that there always stood a unique and deep connection with Chicago and Italo music. Kindly, they had gifted us their entire catalog on CD's notably all "The Very Best Of Full Time" volumes. While building the second recording studio at Studio 11 in Chicago we were limited to a CD Boombox on the construction site. Needless to say, the whole Full Time catalog became the music of choice and I recall hearing the classic "Spacer Woman" by Charlie over and over. Upon attending the early shows in Chicago by Studio 11 friends and musical sensation Glass Lux, I was blown away by their supercharged cover version of "Spacer Woman" and thrilled to hear the fabled Chicago Italo connection come back to life.
The latest Glass Lux single "I'm A Machine" was mixed down at Studio 11 in late 2014 as a re-release of the bands original demo release. The song is an infectiously catchy ride through an electronic whirlwind.
studio11 on 03/13/2014 at 11:14PM
Inspired by the rotating flux of Chicago hip hop and rap artists that come into Studio 11, this collection of beats written by engineer/producer Kris Anderson was meant to touch on the sounds of everyday big city and urban life. While the drums for each beat remain street in flavor, what makes this collection stand out is the many music influences Kris incorporates from Dub to Poppy Electro and even Industrial. Whether you are looking for that next potential hit song or the perfect music bed for your commercial or video, this collection will bring the streets to your beats. Also be on the lookout for additional volumes by Kris as well as Studio 11 producer/engineer Alex Gross on Free Music Archive.
studio11 on 01/22/2014 at 02:01AM
As a major contributor to the Studio 11 music engineering team, Steve Anderson has also found time to produce his own collection of top notch tunes. Not only does Steve have a fabulous voice, he is a consumate musical producer as well. Of the innovative collections that Steve has produced, his album "Late Night Girl" best sums up his vocal abilities and production skills.
studio11 on 12/30/2013 at 02:00AM
Accomplished DJ and producer Angel Alanis has been a friend of Studio 11’s for quite awhile. Most anyone familiar with the underground techno scene in Chicago and its raves and loft parties in the 1990’s and early 2000’s can surely share memories of Angel’s late-night DJ sets or a story (or four) about after-partying with him. Studio 11 owners Dan Scalpone and Alex Gross have been duckin’ and dodgin’ with Alanis for about as long as he has been DJ'ing, which is over 20 years! He’s been putting out tracks for half as long and a couple of years ago made a major move from Chicago to Cincinnati, where he has continued to consistently release new music.
Throughout the last 17 years, Alanis has published over 100 eps on labels A-Squared Muzik, Slap Jaxx, Tresor, Thoughtless, Potty Mouth, Greenskeepers, OM, Afro Acid and many more. A-Squared Muzik is a label Angel himself started over 10 years ago to release music from artists that he wanted to provide exposure to as well as release his own original material. As of late, Angel has been working mostly with his own labels and for the legendary DJ Pierre and his record label Afro Acid as manager and engineer. Even with these responsibilities, the in-demand Angel finds time to continually put out new material from experimental to harder edgier techno.
studio11 on 12/10/2013 at 08:12PM
By Alex Gross
Late this year, Studio 11 welcomed veteran engineer Kris Anderson to the crew at Studio 11. Experienced in numerous genres of music, Kris has an exceptional knack for whippin' up thick slamming hip hop beats. I spent many a late night up at Studio 11 helping him to assemble this bangin' free beat set. Kris likes to work in Protools, so most of the beats are rooted from the Protools sequencer and soft synths.
Thumbing through the tracks, "City Scene" has a playful rotating synth and deep island bass sounds. "Military Green" hits hard with a refreshing upbeat clap sound that drives the track. "Shoulder Gold" kicks in with deep bass drive and lush synths yielding a refreshing feel good vibe. "Vunk" hits real nice with an opening marimba sound and some splashy synth runs. "Safety Pins" opens with a bombastic bass and upbeat winding synths. "Striped Umbrella" features a hard driving sensitive vibe highlighted by a soft electric keyboard melody. "Super Swanky" dives deep with a lush pad and a wide pulsing drum sound. "Outfit Game" features huge drums and a funky off beat key comp. "Zillion" lands with a sinister vibe highlighted by huge synth stabs. And lastly, "Plush Toys" features a playful harmomelodic soundset and thick 808 drums.
This is a great mood set for video instrumentals or the basis of vocal arrangements!
studio11 on 12/10/2013 at 07:51PM
As part of the first offering in Studio 11's free beats series we've dug up a selection of beats from our library which happened to appear on Warner Telepictures classic "Change Of Heart" show and other shows in that time. Cleaning out the studio has never been an easy task for us here at Studio 11. In addition to mounds of paper work from days long gone by, we have hard drives and disks filled with droves of material ranging from dance music to hip hop. Seeing that some of the material may have seen its best days, we found no better solution to offer the free beats up via the Free Music Archive and Creative Commons to ensure their lasting enjoyment! In this collection you will find a series of beats that were made in a hip hop tone as backing tracks for television circa early 2000's. You may notice most of the tracks are shorter and tend to "kick" right in. This is preferred amongst video editors for more efficient cuing. The first track "Naturally Smooth" appears on the old production cue sheet above - which we managed to come across while evicting years of paperwork! Fear not! there is more to come...
studio11 on 11/11/2013 at 11:16AM
Accomplished DJ and producer Angel Alanis has been a friend of Studio 11’s for quite awhile. Most anyone familiar with the underground techno scene of Chicago and its raves and loft parties of the 1990’s and early 2000’s can surely share memories of Angel’s late-night DJ sets or a story about partying with him. Studio 11 owners Dan Scalpone and Alex Gross have been duckin’ and dodgin’ with Alanis for about as long as he has been DJing, which is over 20 years! He’s been putting out tracks for half as long and a couple years ago made a major move from bustling Chicago to much quieter and calmer Cincinnati, Ohio where he has continued to consistently release new music.
Throughout the last 17 years, Alanis has published over 100 eps on labels A-Squared Muzik, Slap Jaxx, Tresor, Thoughtless, Potty Mouth, Greenskeepers, OM, Afro Acid and many more. A-Squared Muzik is a label Angel himself started over 10 years ago to release music from artists that he wanted to provide exposure to as well as release his own original material. As of late, Angel has been working mostly with his own Labels and for the legendary DJ Pierre and his record label Afro Acid as Manager, Engineer and Mastering. Even with all of his challenging responsibilities, the in-demand Angel finds time to continually put out new material from experimental techno to the harder edgier techno that he has come to be known for.
Now residing in Berlin Germany, Angel fills us in on his latest endeavors...
Interview with Alex Gross:
When did you start DJing and producing music?
I started DJing when I was 14. It was a time when you had to get turntables and eventually (around 2005) I started messing with machines.
What inspired you to pursue DJing and EDM?
The radio. I was DJing and making electronic dance music way before EDM came about. :-P - for a while I was really jaded by the scene and all of the bullshit and people that came with it… Later there was a woman, Marea who for a little while inspired me to fuck around with other styles and take chances again. Eventually, I figured out that she was just like any other NEW Dj in the scene trying to get a break. Just panders to whomever throws any deal at her and goes where the wind blows. If a huge hip hop / pop producer blew her up right now, she may take the bait. Kind of like a redneck to new money. Anyways, thanks girl… You helped me keep believing. Keep on pushing on. (Wow, that did not make me sound jaded at all)... hehe. Fuck you!!! :-P
Where was your first DJ performance in Chicago?
My first? who knows…. I never really kept track. I was a wedding Dj, and a bedroom Dj for a long time. Then, I met Frankie Vega and his brother. Sooner or later, it must have been one of our shows. We did lots of shows… Then, Frankie did plenty more. Really good people.
What is your favorite place to DJ in the world?
Colombia, and then there’s Germany. People just dance. They don’t hold up the walls if they don’t know the DJ or walk out if the DJ is not that great. Quite different from America. People here expect you to be blasted on RA and juggle while you DJ… Look pretty and dress up.
Of your releases which do you feel best exemplifies your style?
Subconscious Tango - Konsequent
Who are your biggest musical influences?
Dave Clarke, Neil Landstrumm, The Advent anddddddd the list goes on.
As I've heard you recently spent the last year in Berlin, how did you enjoy it?
I loved it. I felt liberated. Liberated from the techno dweebs in America who all own the same records, go to the same shows and have little circle jerk parties comparing notes on the same shit over and over. Not to mention the close and vigilant eye of police at every turn. You can’t go anywhere without some asshole cop checking your plates or making sure you behave. We are little kids being watched and told how to live our lives, and told when to and what to buy. We are sold just about everything and we are eager to buy into anything that gets put on paper. Sheeple. I think that’s what festivals are for. Sell more.
Any recommends for clubs and DJ's one might catch in Berlin on their next visit?
Just go and walk around…. Its not hard to find a sound or a place that you will call home. For me and my wife Maria Goetz, our second home was Tresor. Lovely people, lovely vibe… Just an amazing place.
What are you working on now?
An album and lots of free techno… Lots of collaborations and another album with Maria Goetz. Net label stuff. I am particularly tired of the rat race the stores and top 100 DJs have created. Telling you what you should be buying. This “Techno” scene needs more mentoring and more supportive for the “new guy/girl”. Fuck you and your Beatport sales… No one is there to steal your thunder.