September 30, 2016

Studio Life: Racks, Kempers and Preamps!

So, I had a plan to improve my day to day set up.

I decided I needed an extra rack mount with two more more preamps, a kemper and a power conditioner. I did a little doodle…

2016-09-01-16-15-50

First off I bought two Golden Age Projects 73 microphone preamps. I already owned one, which I loved, but I was sharing it between vocals, acoustics and guitar/bass DI. This involved lots of faffing and changing levels whenever a new instrument was needed that wanted to use the 73.

I already have lots of inputs on my Focurite Pro 40 interface, all with pretty good mic pre’s , but this is a specialised ‘coloured’ preamp, designed to sound just like the legendary Neve 1073.

It ended up being a bit of a nightmare as the pre’s a ordered ended up in Japan by mistake, then turned up damaged, but I eventually worked it all out with the seller and got a replacement for the broken one, so all’s good now.

Now I have one dedicated for Vocals (with a Neumann TM103), one for Acoustic Guitar (with a AKG c414) and one for Bass/Gtr . Much better!

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Then I got a second rack mount and added the Kemper Rack and a Furman power conditioner.

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The kemper is mindblowing to be honest. Maybe the best piece of Studio gear I’ve bought in years.

If you’re a studio user and/or a guitar player who records and you’re not sure what the kemper is or does, please google it. It’ll change your life.

Basically, in the past,if you wanted a decent guitar sound on record, you had to get valve amp, crank it and stick a mic in front of the speaker. Valve amps are incredibly loud things, it’s possible to have them set quiet, but everybody agrees, they only sound really fantastic when you crank them right up. They just don’t sound that great quiet. To capture that great tone, you ideally want them turned right up, almost at the point of feedback.

This lead to lots of producers and studio musicians using guitar modellers and reampers to get around the issue. One one hand it was great, you could usually get a pretty good guitar sound at a manageable volume without upsetting the whole neighbourhood, but it still wasn’t amazing. You still missed the ‘really’ great tones, but it was close enough to make lots of people want to compromise.

Like many others, I was getting a bit frustrated with my recorded guitar sounds. I owned several quality Fender and Marshall Valve amps, but was using reampers in the studio, mainly because it was quieter to record, easier and quicker to set up.

I heard about the Kemper Amp Rack online, and was intrigued. The Kemper isn’t a modeller, it’s a profiler. Basically people all over the world ‘profile’ their real life amps and save the profile to their Kemper. ie: Someone in NYC hooks up their Marshall JCM800 stack to their Kemper and ‘captures’ the profile. The next time they record, they don’t even have to turn their amp on, they just plug into the Kemper and the exact same sound is all there, fully customisable and perfect, even at low volumes.

The best bit is, they can then share their recorded profiles with other Kemper users all over the world. You get to download them all for free. The Kemper comes loaded with hundreds of profiled Fender, Marshall, Orange, Vox, Blackstar..you name it. They’re all there, but if you need more or different profiles, either profile your own amps or just download new ones (for free) from the rig manager.

It’s blown my mind how great it sounds. My Fender Valve amp was on sale on eBay within hours of me hooking it up. It’s that good!

So, if you get me to record any bass or electric guitar for you from now on… it’s more than likely to be played through the Kemper. The best bit is, you can ask me for any amp sound in the world and I’ll probably have it.

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September 30, 2016

Song Production: ‘European Song’ by Steve Stroud

Lavalamp Album

 

So, Brexit happened. That was a big deal right? Jesus. I voted remain, but rather than moan and fight with everyone on social media, I thought I’d be better off writing a song.

I wrote and recorded this and ‘Just a Boy’ in a frenzied week of politically charged activity. Poor Cubase didn’t know what hit it.

Anyway, the song that came out was just a stream of consciousness, obscure, semi cathartic shout . It’s nice, quite a lot of people got in touch to say they like it. Thanks! x

D.J. Waters, an Australian Fine Art Photographer who’s based in Germany, asked if he could use the song on his latest promo video. I was very pleased to say yes. I took out the kids voices on the coda for him, but other than that, it’s the same. You can watch and listen to it below

D.J. Waters Fine Art Photography Video

by the way, he take beautiful pictures, is a wonderful guy and I urge you to visit his website here http://www.djwaters.de/startseite.html

Back to the music, here’s a link to the whole song. See what you think?

Written by Steve Stroud © 2016

All instruments and vocals by Steve Stroud

Acoustic Guitar: Gibson J-45
Electric Guitar: Fender Stratocaster & Gibson Les Paul
Bass Guitar: Gibson EB14
Piano: Steinberg The Grand 3
Synth: Steinberg Retrologue 2
Drums and Percussion: Fxpansion BFD3
Strings: HALion Symphonic Orchestra
Vocals: Neumann TLM 103 through PRE 73 MK II

 

Written by Steve Stroud © 2016
All instruments and vocals by Steve Stroud

Produced, Arranged and Mastered by Steve Stroud using Steinberg Cubase 8.5 Pro at Big Cloud Productions March 2016

Produced, Mixed and Mastered by Steve Stroud

Recorded at Big Cloud Productions in March 2016

September 30, 2016

Song Production: ‘Just A Boy’ by Steve Stroud

Lavalamp Album

I wrote this song for the Lavalamp album a few months ago.

I was getting concerned with the amount of pressure my 6 year old son was being put under at his infant school. I didn’t blame his school or the teachers, but the Tory Government, who under the then Education secretary Nicky Morgan were hell bent on STATS for little kids and other pressurised measures. (It’s now since moved on to being all about Grammar schools.)

It’s pretty simple really,  just some acoustic, bass, drums , with a little bit of jiggery pokery.  Oh and Jesus Gonzales lent me his Kazoo.

It was recorded really, really quickly and dare I say it, a bit shoddily, but the general feel is about right. It reminds me of my son whenever I hear it, so that’s nice x

See what you think?

Written by Steve Stroud © 2016

All instruments and vocals by Steve Stroud

Acoustic Guitar: Gibson J-45
Electric Guitar: PRS S2 Semi Hollow
Kazoo: on loan from Jesus Gonzales
Bass Guitar: Gibson EB14
Piano: Steinberg The Grand 3
Electric Piano: Steinberg
Synth: Steinberg Retrologue 2
Drums and Percussion: Fxpansion BFD3
Strings: HALion Symphonic Orchestra
Vocals: Neumann TLM 103 through PRE 73 MK II

Written by Steve Stroud © 2016
All instruments and vocals by Steve Stroud

Produced, Arranged and Mastered by Steve Stroud using Steinberg Cubase 8.5 Pro at Big Cloud Productions March 2016

Produced, Mixed and Mastered by Steve Stroud

Recorded at Big Cloud Productions in March 2016

June 1, 2016

Song Production: ‘Dreamclouds EP’ by David Barker

David Barker - Dreamclouds EP

Another 3 song EP completed for an unsigned singer songwriter who is hoping to get his songs heard by a wider audience.
David travelled all the way from France to Liverpool to record this EP of original songs.
The session went very smoothly and David who is a lovely man, was very easy to work with.
We recorded all his vocals in one day. I then built up the tracks with additional instruments and then we had a second day of editing and mixing.
The resulting EP has some lovely Beatle-y moments (with strawberry fields style melotron on ‘Dreamclouds’) and David will hopefully be back soon to record more great tracks.
A full LP of original songs is on the horizon, so keep an eye out for that.

Steve

If you’ve got a musical project you would like me to help you record, please get in touch HERE

 

 

Song Production: ‘Dreamclouds EP’ by David Barker

1.Dreamclouds
2.Take Me Back
3.Why Can’t I?

All songs written by David Barker ©2016

David Barker : Acoustic Guitar and Lead Vocals
Steve Stroud : Acoustic Guitars, Electric Guitars, Bass Guitars, Piano, Keys and Synths, String and Brass Arrangements, Percussion, Backing Vocals and Drum Programming

Produced, Mixed and Mastered by Steve Stroud at Big Cloud Productions in Liverpool

Big Cloud Productions

May 9, 2016

Song Production: ‘The Original Maids Of Honour EP’ by Bernz Jüngboi

It’s been a real pleasure to have Bernz Jüngboi at the studio over the last few weeks. He’s been here tracking 3 songs for his new release, ”The Original Maids Of Honour EP’.

Using only a korg kaossilator and a handful of effects. His three electronic songs are powerful  and something really different.

I’ve got to say, I’ve really enjoyed working on such a different project. I primarily deal with classic singer songwriter styles of music, so working on this, mostly instrumental, electronic EP was really refreshing.

Bernz would play his loops and rhythms on the Korg and I  would multitrack, EQ and Compress and add any effects as necessary. We played around with some Vocoders in the KORG itself and also recorded externally through Cubase with Plugins.

The Original Maids of Honour song is  my favourite, a cinematic 10 minute epic, almost psychedelic song, touching on scott of the antarctic’s journy to the south pole, with his supporting characters like jimmy pig making an appearance. It’s so experimental, artistic and yet still accessible if you open yourself to the journey. This has the most vocal work out of the three.

Sunshine is a lovely, positive, 90% instrumental track. It’s a blisteringly upbeat 5 minute shot of serotonin. There is a Vocoder which comes in at the end with the ‘Blackspot’ refrain.

Ghostwalk is another beautiful and this time slightly sinister instrumental track with brave pregnant pauses and some really cool sound-effects weaved throughout the song.

Bernz Jüngboi is currently updating his online presence (soundcloud/bandcamp etc), so I’ll share all his links with you when I have them. I think he’s coming back to record some more cool stuff in the future, so be sure to check him out.

Steve

If you’ve got a musical project you would like me to help you record, please get in touch HERE

 

Song Production: ‘The Original Maids Of Honour EP’ by Bernz Jüngboi

1.’The Original Maids Of Honour’
2.’Sunshine’
3.’Ghostwalk’

All Songs Written by Bernz Jüngboi ©2016

Bernz Jüngboi : Korg Kaossilator, Samples and Vocals
Steve Stroud: Keys, Drum Programming
All Songs Produced, Mixed and Mastered by Steve Stroud at Big Cloud Productions in Liverpool, May 2016.

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May 6, 2016

Video Production: ‘The Only One’ by Desert Fathers

I completed work on a Video project for ‘Desert Fathers’ today, a great 2014 track they had already recorded. I actually feature on the track on Electric guitar (I did some session work for them at the time.)

We used bought some stock timelapse footage and set up the text as per Tim and Graeme’s request. I think it looks great and it’s a beautiful song. See what you think?

 

‘The Only One’ by Desert Fathers
Written by Tim O’Neill ©2014

Lead Vocals / Electric and Acoustic Guitar – Tim O’Neill

Drums / Bass / Keys – Graeme Lycett

Violin – Simon Jones

Guitar – Steve Stroud

Music Produced by Graeme Lycett

Timelapse Video Footage by Randy Halverson at Dakotalapse
Copyright ©2016 DAKOTALAPSE

Video produced by Steve Stroud at
Big Cloud Productions in Liverpool

https://www.bigcloudproductions.com/

Visit Tim O’Neill’s website to discover more genius stuff
http://buoyantsmokeorange.co.uk/

Our Pages
https://www.bigcloudproductions.com/
https://www.youtube.com/user/bigcloud
https://soundcloud.com/big-cloud-prod
https://www.facebook.com/bigcloudprod
http://twitter.com/big_cloud_pro
http://instagram.com/bigcloudproductions

April 7, 2016

Song Production : ‘At The Door’ by Tim O’Neill

Big Cloud Productions

Yet another fantastic solo track by Tim O’Neill.  We recently finished the ‘Tincture O’ project ‘Needle Change X’ together with Lisa Von H and we were really pleased with how that turned out.
This particular track, called ‘At The Door’ was less of a collaboration than Needle Change X, as Tim had the song already written in full when he first came into the studio. In fact he first played it live, here on the Big Cloud Podcast. Have a look below.

 

So we set about recording it again, but this time after discussions with Tim, I added some extra Acoustic Guitar, Drums, Bass, Slide Guitar and a picked electric guitar part, Piano and Organ.

To be honest, we probably tracked too many different ideas to begin with. The fantastic, sparse and intimate track was in danger of getting lost under the weight of too many instruments.
Sensing danger, we decided to pull back a bit and we ended up with a simpler, but much stronger arrangement.

Tim and I both preferred the stripped back version to the ‘kitchen sink’ mix, so we were back in business.

I really love this song. It’s now stripped back to just Tim’s vocals, his acoustic guitar part (great btw) with me accompanying him on Bass, Drums, Organ and Slide with some backing vocals.

Here is the finished mix of our studio version Produced by Steve Stroud @ Big Cloud Productions.

 

Song Production : ‘At The Door’ by Tim O’Neill

Written by Tim O’Neill ©2016

Lead Vocals / Acoustic Guitar – Tim O’Neill

Bass Guitar / Organ / Slide Guitar
Drum Programming / Percussion
Backing Vocals – Steve Stroud

Produced / Mixed / Mastered – Steve Stroud at Big Cloud Productions in April 2016

Visit Tim O’Neill’s website to discover more great work from him
http://buoyantsmokeorange.co.uk/

And if you’d like to work with us here at Big Cloud, you can pop round to our liverpool Studio if you’re local, or if you’re further afield or even overseas, we’ve successfully worked with lots of international clients in the past. You can just send us any vocals etc through the dropbox and we can do the rest from here. Just click the links below and get in touch to find out more.

Song Production Service

Contact 

March 23, 2016

Song Production: ‘Lavalamp’ by Steve Stroud

Lavalamp Album

I wrote this song Lavalamp a few months ago, recorded a basic demo with just the ‘rock’ bit and I quite liked it, but could never get it sounding quite right, so kinda shelved it for a while.

I recently revisited it and wanted to add another part to the song. I came up with the slower middle bit, just some acoustic, some slide, bit of cello and wrote some lyrics. Piecing it all together was a bit of a trip, but I got there in the end.

There’s parts of this song that I really like. I enjoy the guitar freakout bit at the end most of all.

See what you think?

Written by Steve Stroud © 2016

All instruments and vocals by Steve Stroud

Produced, Mixed and Mastered by Steve Stroud

Recorded at Big Cloud Productions in March 2016

 

March 20, 2016

Song Production : Needle Change X by Tincture O feat. Lisa Von H

Liverpool singer/songwriter Tim O’Neill came into the studio recently to work on a new project.  He wanted to record a new song he’d written and produce a music video for it also. I’ve done some video work last summer on the big cloud podcast, so I was happy to give it a go.

We recorded the song first. A fantastic, textured track which lyrically spoke about the greed of the western political systems. The track was rich, but seemingly open to a lot of experimentation. Tim already had the basic song, chords, lyrics and melody written before he came into the studio, but he wanted me to create some kind of intro and coda to help frame the track.

I recorded some vocal lines, reversed them, then looped them over the radio static and the specific audio samples that Tim had already suggested.

I then added guitars, pianos, synths, bass and drums before writing and arranging a string and brass part which I then reversed on the breakdown at the end of the choruses.

Tim also had the great idea of accentuating the verse with dramatic stabs of strings. I added an overdriven guitar to these parts too.

Once the song was almost complete, Tim decided he’d like to have some female vocals on there too. There’s really nobody better than Lisa Von H for this and we were both really pleased when she agreed to contribute a vocal to the project. She even graciously agreed to send us some footage for the video that was still yet to be made.

It goes without saying she did an amazing job as always. Her previous work with us on another one of Tim’s songs ‘Honey’s Dead’ remains one of my favourite production moments.

Once the track was complete, we recorded some footage of Tim in the studio for the video and he also recorded some himself at home. That, along with Lisa’s footage and some visual samples Tim suggested made up the bulk of the Video. I just added the old, black and white footage, the eye shot and then pieced it all together.

Tim graciously offered me a co writing credit due to the work I did on the intro and the outro and the rest of the song, I really appreciated it, but I must say the bulk of the song was already written before I even touched it, so it was very generous of him.

Finally he wanted to call the project ‘Tincture O’ rather than release it as a Tim O’ Neill solo record as I think he felt it was a more collaborative project, with Lisa and Myself’s input.

So here is the finished video and song. Please let us know if you enjoyed it and get in touch if you would like to be a part of a similar project.

 

‘Needle Change X’ by Tincture O feat. Lisa Von H

Written by Tim O’Neill / Steve Stroud ©2016

Lead Vocals / Electric and Acoustic Guitar / Audio Samples – Tim O’Neill

Lead Vocals – Lisa Von H

Acoustic Guitars / Electric Guitars / Bass Guitar / Piano / Synths / Organ
Drum Programming / String and Brass Arrangements / Backing Vocals – Steve Stroud

Produced / Mixed / Mastered – Steve Stroud

Here is the audio only version.

Visit Tim O’Neill’s website to discover more genius stuff
http://buoyantsmokeorange.co.uk/

Visit Lisa’s pages to hear lots more brilliant music from this prolific artist
https://soundcloud.com/lisavonh
https://twitter.com/LittleLost_Soul
https://www.facebook.com/LisaVonH

Our Pages
https://www.bigcloudproductions.com/
https://www.youtube.com/user/bigcloudproductions1
https://soundcloud.com/big-cloud-productions
https://www.facebook.com/bigcloudproductions
http://twitter.com/big_cloud_pro
http://instagram.com/bigcloudproductions

 

January 11, 2016

David Bowie (1947 – 2016)

This hopefully isn’t going to come across as a bandwagon jumping post made in the vain hope that a great man’s death could benefit my seo ratings.  That said,  things are emotional around here today and this may get slightly cathartic,  so you’ll have to bear with me.

I just needed to acknowledge that without David Bowie,  there would be no Big Cloud Productions.

Now, in the grand scheme of things that’s not such a big deal at all,  but in my little corner of the universe,  that would be a very big deal indeed.

And that’s what Bowie was all about I think.  Making your secret little corner of the universe your own and not being scared of being different.

I was talking to a fellow producer and musician today who feels as deeply about David Bowie as I do,  we made the observation that public holidays are suggested and observed for the death of privileged royalty,  warmongering politicians or even fictional religious figures,  but a person like Bowie who will have genuinely impacted the lives of millions of people with nothing but great art and positivity deserves all that and more.

His passing seems to me like it should be marked with more than a silly blog update or even the dubious ‘honour’ of trending on Twitter for a few days,  but I guess we’ve got to start somewhere.

His legacy won’t be a statue,  a memorial concert or even a national holiday.  Outside of his immediate friends and family (who it must be remembered are actually grieving for a man they loved,  unlike us fans who are grieving the death of an idol who didn’t know we even existed),  his spirit will live on, in the hearts of complete strangers who were touched by his music and if any of them are ever moved to create songs or stories of their own,  then with a bit of luck,  the magic cycle will repeat.

I doubt it will ever repeat quite so brilliantly or stylishly again though.

David Bowie is the reason I’m a musician today. Now he’s gone,  I’m much sadder than before,  but more determined to live my life devoted to whatever talents I may have and,  like he did,  create music right up until the day I die.

Musicians of the world,  it’s over to you/us and we’ve got some pretty enormous shoes to fill.

RIP. Whatever that really means X

Ps. If you really want to honour David Bowie,  don’t just play the old hits today,  listen to the incredible Blackstar album.  It’s his unbelievable farewell note to the world and it’s just sitting there waiting to be discovered.

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