Spoon’s Jim Eno talks about recording “Lucifer on the Sofa”
Austin, TX (October 7, 2022) – When Spoon drummer and co-founder Jim Eno began planning his new immersive mixing room, he first thought he would set it up in the space of followed by Public Hi-Fi, the recording studio he has owned and operated in Austin, Texas since 2006.
“The problem is that my live room isn’t huge,” says Eno, “so whenever I needed to do a follow-up session, I had to put that Atmos system aside.” This was not going to work, as it would obviously mess up the tuning and calibration of the system. “Then Gerardo Larios, who’s Spoon’s guitarist and keyboardist and my best friend, said, ‘Hey man, I’ve got this place outside my house. Why don’t you settle there? »
The room now features a Kali Audio speaker system, comprising seven IN-8 models on floor stands for LCR, sides and speakers, four IN-5s mounted on a pair of trusses above and a pair of WS12 submarines. “It’s a really good system and it was really reasonable,” Eno reports, also noting that the room was calibrated and certified by Dolby.
Eno built Public Hi-Fi to replace its previous location, a room-to-room construction in its two-car garage. This original studio had served the band well for their early album sessions, but Eno was ready for an upgrade and had also thought about going commercial: “I was watching what would happen when I toured. Having a studio that would appeal to other engineers and producers was an idea I had for a long time. I liked the idea of having a diversified portfolio.
The new ground-level construction, two stories with floating floors, featured a tracking space designed with the help of Austin architect Mark Canada and clad in adobe brick, an idea borrowed from the electrical audio installation of Steve Albini in Chicago and historically appropriate for Texas. , sure. For the control room, Eno brought in famed Nashville designer Steven Durr.
The original garage studio, completed in 1998, housed an Ampex MM1200 16-track tape recorder purchased from John Vanderslice and a Trident 24 desk. Then, a few years before building Public Hi-Fi, Eno found a Neve 8016 console in England made circa 1969 or 70, which he had restored.
The Neve was equipped with 24 channels of 1064 mic pre/EQ modules, but that’s no longer enough for today’s average project, Eno comments, so he started looking for an alternative. “I was talking with [former AMS Neve engineer] Fred Hill in Nashville,” Eno recalled. “He said, ‘I have the old Leon Russell API in my shop. We could remove your patchbay and I think I could integrate 24 channels of its API into your console. So he did, and it’s totally transparent. If you want something soft and warm, you have the Neve. If you need something punchy with those transients, you’ve got the API. And it’s also a great mixer.
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Eno and Spoon co-founder Britt Daniels (vocalist and lead guitarist, and bandleader and lead songwriter) have long engineered, produced and mixed their own albums, but “we always bring in another producer to help us, from another perspective”. says Eno.
Producer Mike McCarthy worked with the band for five albums, Dave Fridmann was on board for a few, and Joe Chiccarelli and Jon Brion also earned co-production credits with the band. Spoon’s latest album, Lucifer on the couch, released in February, was overseen by co-producer Mike Rankin, known for his Grammy-winning work with Adele. Fridmann and Justin Raisen co-produced one song each.
“Britt and I have an idea of what a Spoon record should sound like, but a producer and the other band members are always coming up with other ideas,” says Eno. “We are always listening to ideas and trying different things. That other perspective helps, but in the end, it will still sound like a Spoon record.
While Daniels writes for the band’s next project, Eno enjoys keeping himself and the studio busy. Public Hi-Fi has certainly attracted a lot of business. give me fiction, Spoon’s fifth album, was the first of the band’s projects to be recorded there. Outside clients have included Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Roky Erikson and Arcade Fire. Eno has worked on countless tracks for a long list of bands for Public Hi-Fi’s Spotify sessions, and he has put his considerable engineering and production expertise to good use on projects with !!!, Heartless Bastards, Poliça and The New Pornographers. .
A Grammy mentor, Eno was horrified when he read USC Annenberg’s “Inclusion in the Recording Studio?” report.
“He said producers and engineers are only about 5% women,” he says. “I thought, ‘How can I change this number?’ So I started Project Traction, a mentoring program for
female and non-binary musicians to help them establish themselves in the production and recording fields. I’ve identified eight women I’ve worked with before, and I work in partnership with each one. That’s basically what I spent a lot of time doing. »
Eno works with each woman to choose a group and songs and works on pre-production. “We do about three days of recording in my studio and then I mix. They work in a great studio,” says Eno, and they each get co-producer credit on a song released. It’s a way to help correct the imbalance between the proportion of women in the studio and those of the American population, where they are the majority: “It is an evolutionary and concrete way to modify this percentage and to try to obtain 51% of the producers who are women.
As for his new room Atmos, Eno, currently on tour in the United States with Spoon, only had the chance to work on the Lucifer album. Eno mixed three of the 10 songs on the stereo album. McCarthy, Fridmann, Chad Blake and Andrew Scheps also have mixing credits. The transition to immersive mixing was relatively effortless compared to stereo mixing, says Eno, where he typically uses reverbs, delays, EQ and panning to make everything coexist across two speakers.
“One of the things I really love about spatial mixing is that when you go from verse to chorus you can expand the guitars and have this movement that goes way beyond left and right. “, he adds. “I’m thinking specifically of ‘The Hardest Cut’, which has a lot of big guitars. I can get them out and then come back and focus.
That said, “Our philosophy is to stay true to two-track mixes and get a bit of movement to add to the excitement of the mix,” he concludes, “but we don’t change the vocals or anything like that. You have to be very careful that it doesn’t sound like a bunch of disconnected instruments and parts. You have to try to develop a glue. I love mixing in stereo, but then you’re listening to an Atmos system, and, wow , you’re not as confined. It’s like the Wild West; it’s really fun right now.