Into the Mix: Ghislain Brind’Amour

Logo Gee finalApproximately one year ago Ghislain “Gee” Brind’Amour was called up to record and mix a session for recording artist Xavier Gauthier who is under Akon’s Label Hitlab. I was able to sit down with Gee as he explained the process of mixing this record.  Gee isn’t a stranger to Modern Mixing, I actually interviewed him about 2 weeks ago on his psychological approach to mixing.

To contact Gee go to his website or follow him on twitter

THE SONG

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Song: Woo Hoo
Artist: Xavier Gauthier
Producer: OC
Label: Hitlab
Directed by: Ben Marc & Akon
Mixing: Ghislain Brind’Amour
Mastering: Gene Grimaldi (Oasis mastering)

THE PRODUCTION

Upon First listening to the track it sounded very edgy.  I asked Gee if that was the sound he was going for or if the producer conceived it that way.

“It was definitely by design.  If you hear the rough mix of the beat, it’s pretty dirty, kind of distorting in a cool way.  It was always part of the charm of the beat so I didn’t want to lose that dirty vibe from the track.  Funny thing is initially the radio tracker at the label thought the song was way too aggressive [laughs].  He wanted me to change it but the artist told me not to.  Apparently Akon agreed, he thought it was perfect the way it was.”

Producer OC sent the stems with all his processing on it.  After working on a lot of projects with OC, Gee knows what to expect when receiving files from him.

“there’s that comfort level there and we don’t really have to have that conversation”.

He does stress that OC normally has good sounds to begin with so he isn’t that adamant about getting files unprocessed.

THE RECORDING PROCESS

In the studio, Xavier was playing a few ideas for Gee that he recorded in Garageband.  While listening, Gee was trying to catch a vibe, looking for anything that stood out.

“He eventually stopped at a part that had a ‘Woo Hoo’ over the chorus.  I was like, dude that’s amazing, that’s what you have to do.”

With the Autotune cranked, Gee was literally recording the hook vocals within minutes of that revelation.  The entire recording process seemed to flow naturally and the two finished the song shortly after starting.

“The song just fell together.  I think we finished recording the whole song in like 2 hours after that.”

MIXING

It’s not unusual for an engineer to spend a good amount of time tweaking a record in order to get the right balance and emotion.  This situation was no different; Gee mixed the record in one day but admits it was not like every other mix.

“This mix in particular was a bit different then most because I was part of the creative process from the beginning.  I was able to make sure that everything was right from a vocal stand point and that made things easier when I got to mixing.”

Often times there’s one sticking point in a mix, something that seems to challenge even the most skilled engineers.  I asked Gee if he came across any situations like that in this mix.

“There was actually two things that were a bit problematic with this track.  The first was the Woo Hoos and the process of getting them to sound the way they do.  It might not seem like much but it was really hard, I actually had to restart that blend process several times.  I knew the sound I wanted, but to get to that point was a challenge.  The other thing was the impact of the chorus.  We wanted to get that lift but it just wasn’t happening.  The problem was that the kick sample in the chorus was out of phase with the main kick of the song.  So the kick was getting lost when the chorus came in.  The second I flipped the phase on the second kick drum, the kick became monstrous.  Even the producer was like ‘Dude, what did you do on the chorus?’ So that is a good lesson for new engineers, to check the phase relationship on the drums, even if they are programmed.”

 

Session Layout

BIG EDIT WINDOW

The session was mixed at 24 bit/44.1 kHz and contained 52 tracks of Audio.  As for labelling the tracks, Gee tells me that his approach is pretty straight forward.

“drums go like Kik, Snr, Clp, HH, Shkr, perc, open, etc.  The synths were labelled pretty well so I didn’t rename them”

The colour coding and routing is as follows:

  • Drums (Red) > Drum Bus > Master Bus
  • Bass (Turquoise) > Bass Bus > Master Bus
  • Synths (Green) > Music Bus > Master Bus
  • Vocals (different shades of brown depending on their role) > Master Bus
  • Fx (Yellow) > Master Bus

At the bottom of the session window is all the FX tracks, Master Buses and Print Track.

At the top of the session window there was a rough mix and a commercial mix as reference

“In this case I used Flo Rida’s Good Feeling which doesnt really have anything to do with the track I mixed but I liked how it sounded”

 

Drums

[accordian] [toggle title=”Kick Drum” open=”no”]

I have the Slate VCC on Neve Mode, it adds a bit of bottom to the source which is cool.  I EQ’d the kick afterwards, boosting a little bottom end and upper Mids.  I also cut around 800 Hz because it had a little “honk” in the sound that I didn’t like.  The Waves RVox was used to help level out the sound.  What I’m doing is flattening out the transients a bit because I didn’t like the attack.  I then added the SPL transient designer to help it pop out a little more.  Basically I wanted to recreate the envelope of the kick to fit better in the track.

[images lightbox=”yes”] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Slate.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Metric-Halo.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/RVOX.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/SPL1.png” alt=””] [/images][/toggle] [toggle title=”Kick Drum (Parallel Channel)” open=”no”]

I also have a parallel channel set up for the kick drum, knocking off about 10 dB with the Waves SSL comp.  The release is pretty fast on it.  When you compress a kick that much what happens is you tend to gain some ‘pop’ but you also lose the bottom end.  To make up for that, I’m cranking the bottom on the waves Puigtech Plugin.  I added the SPL Transient Designer to it as well because it was a bit flabby

[images lightbox=”yes”] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/SSL-Comp.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Puigtec1.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/SPL-Trans.png” alt=””] [/images][/toggle] [toggle title=”Kick Drum (Chorus)” open=”no”]

I’m using the Slate VCC with Neve Mode engaged as well.  I‘m cutting out some low sub stuff; I already have plenty of that on the main kick.  Next, I dialed in the SPL Transient Designer to make the chorus kick fit better with the main sound.  I also side chained the kick because I was having a bit of a problem with the attacks of the 2 kicks, so this helped out a lot.

[images lightbox=”yes”] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Slat-VCC.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/EQ-3.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/SPL2.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Elysia.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/API1.png” alt=””] [/images][/toggle] [toggle title=”Clap” open=”no”]

I EQ’d the clap in M/S so the middle part got processed differently than the sides.  I used the LoFi Plugin to add some white noise, which is a cool way of getting high’s on your clap without cranking your eq. I also added a little reverb to the clap.

[images lightbox=”yes”] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/H-EQ.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/API-550B.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Lofi.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/SPL.png” alt=””] [/images][/toggle] [toggle title=”Clap (Parallel Channel)” open=”no”]

The clap also has a parallel channel set up, compressing with the focusrite d3 plugin.  I think I stole that one from Dave Pensado [Laughs].  I EQ’d in some beef but I really pushed the highs because I wanted the clap to rip through the speakers.

[images lightbox=”yes”] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Focusrite-D3.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/aPI.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Puigtec.png” alt=””] [/images][/toggle] [toggle title=”Drum Bus” open=”no”]

Everything is routed to a drum bus that has a bit of limiting, EQ and distortion on it.  The Decapitator adds a little “grit” to the sound.  Love this plugin!! I also have the “Thump” engaged which gives some extra saturated low end.  The mix knob is set pretty dry as its easy to get carried away with this plugin.  The limiting helps the drums stay loud and in your face while the EQ brings back some low end lost from limiting and also adds some mid range presence.

[images lightbox=”yes”] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Slate-VCC.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Soundtoys-Dec.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Massey-L2007.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/API.png” alt=””] [/images][/toggle] [/accordian]

 

Vocals

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We already had a vocal sound the artist liked using the Waves RDesser, the Waves SSL E Channel and the RVox.  But when I was building up the mix the vocals didn’t really fit. So instead of re starting the whole thing, I just added to what I had.  I dropped in the Slate VCC before everything and that helped bring it up a bit in the mix.  I then boosted the vocal with Massenburg EQ. Boosting gave me a bit more gain to the vocal but I was mainly amplifying the aspects that I liked from the original vocal tone.

[images lightbox=”yes”] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Slate-VCC1.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/RDesser.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/SSL-E-Channel.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/RVox.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Massenberg.png” alt=””] [/images]

I added the CLA-76 in blue mode.  I’m not compressing much but the settings for attack and release are quite aggressive.  This was to amplify the performance.  I also used the C1Comp-sc from waves.  I found that the 1k area was a bit aggressive so I wanted to round out that area a bit.  This Plugin works wonders for that.  If a particular sound is not cutting through, instead of just dialing up an EQ to push it up, I sometimes prefer to side chain that frequency.  It allows you to attack an area without compromising too much of the original sound.

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Next I added the Maag Eq4 to sweeten it up a bit and finally the limiter is there just to lock it in place.  Xavier really wanted that vocal to be in your face.  I think we got it!

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There’s also a parallel channel that’s overly distorted, that helped get the vocal to pop out a bit more.

If I look at the vocal track for the verses, there’s a delay and nothing else [laughs].  I used a ¼ note delay that’s pretty low on the send.  It’s there just to give it a little space and movement.

[/toggle] [toggle title=”Chorus Vocals (Woo Hoo)” open=”no”]

Each channel has a bit of processing like EQ and some compression.  All the vocals were sent to a bus where they were processed further.  First I used the Waves C4 Multiband Compressor mainly because of how wildly different the takes were.  I followed that with some more EQ using the API 560.  This was used just to attack the problem areas, frequency wise.  I also added some stereo widening and finished off the chain with the Soundtoys Decapitator. I drove the Decapitator pretty hard but the Mix Knob is pretty dry, I just wanted a touch of distortion on it.  The gate is there to cut off that hissing noise you get from the waves plugins when Analog Mode is on.

[images lightbox=”yes”] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Waves-C4.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/API-560.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Waves-CEnter.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Soundtoys-Dec1.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/waves-gate.png” alt=””] [/images]

The space around the chorus vocal was created with a delay of 109 ms that was heavily filtered (cut) in the bottom end.  I’m also sending the vocals to a ¼ note delay panned a bit to the left and a ½ note delay panned a bit to the right which has a Waves S1 Imager on it that I’m cranking.

[images lightbox=”yes”] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/109-Delay.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/QTR-Delay.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Half-Delay.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/S1-Imager.png” alt=””] [/images]

Reverb wise I’m using the ValhallaRoom Reverb with a decay of 4s and barely any pre-delay.  This one is cool, it has a space to it, and you can kind of hear the 4 walls.

I also created a harmony from the original WOO using the Antares Harmony efx.  I put a 3rd on the bottom, it sounds fully synthesized and it’s just adding some meat to the vocals.  I’m EQing it pretty heavily, taking a lot of the mud out.  A lot of times when you create harmonies the low-mids tend to get really messy so I’m scooping a bunch of that out.   I also added a Waves Metaflanger to give them some width.  Then the harmonies go through the same Bus as the main vocals and I’m just blending it in lightly.

[images lightbox=”yes”] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Slate-VCC2.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Antares.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/McDSP.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/MetaFlanger.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/RVOX1.png” alt=””] [/images][/toggle] [toggle title=”Vocal Bus” open=”no”]

Not much going on here.  I used the Slate VCC in trident mode (it’s a bit smoother than the other ones) and the ML4000 to keep any inherent peaks in check.

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Instruments

[accordian] [toggle title=”Lead Synth” open=”no”]

The sound was pretty cool when I got it.  I’m just adding some EQ and doing a little harmonic stuff on it, nothing out of the ordinary.  I have the Izotope Ozone 5 on it with the EQ, Harmonic Exciter and the Dynamics sections all engaged.

With the EQ I’m boosting the mid range about 3 dB which, for me, is quite a lot, The Exciter is working mainly on the highs, it starts at about 2 kHz and it goes all the way to the top of the spectrum.  I’m cranking the Amount by 11.8.  The Dynamics Section is to keep it in check a bit.    Other than that, everything else you hear was built into the sound.  I’m also doing some ducking on the overall song and that definitely helps get the vocal to come through a little bit.

[images lightbox=”yes”] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Slate1.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Ozone.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Lead-Synth-Ozone2.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Lead-Synth-Ozone3.png” alt=””] [image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Elysia1.png” alt=””] [/images][/toggle] [toggle title=”Bridge (Dubstep Section)” open=”no”]

I didn’t really do anything on this section.  I literally set all the faders to zero and it sounded really good.  The only plugin I used was the Slate VCC and there was an instance on every track.  I then bounced that section to a 2 track (stereo mixdown) and stuck it in my session.

[/toggle] [toggle title=”Music Bus” open=”no”]

I’m a big fan of width [laughs].  I’ll throw in doses of flanging and chorusing to help it reach the edge of the speakers.  The Brainworx Bx1 EQ in particular is very cool and has some very handy stereo options.

Here I’m using the Brainworx Bx1 EQ and I’m EQing the middle signal differently than the sides.  In the middle I’m cutting out a bit of low end rumble to leave room for the bass and making a dip in the Mids so the vocals can cut through.  On the sides I’m boosting those same Mids to keep them present and I’m also pushing the stereo width a bit.

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Master Bus

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I have the Slate VCC in SSL Mode and cranked on the drive, +6 dB to be exact.  In fact every channel has the Slate VCC on it and there’s drive on pretty much everything.  I wouldn’t say they are all cranked but I’m definitely using the drive.  Again we wanted that edgy feel to this record so that was part of it.

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I definitely keep loudness in mind when I’m mixing, at least apparent loudness.  I’m not sure if that’s unfortunate or not but everyone wants to hear it loud, so you have to get it there without ruining the song and the sonic landscape.  You know keeping it punchy, in-your-face, loud, big and still making sure the bottom is where it needs to be.

I try and make it feel like its louder then what the VU’s are reading.  I achieve that with saturation and/or pushing the mid range around 800 Hz – 2 kHz.  I usually have an EQ on the Mix Bus to help bring the mix forward a little bit but in the case of this song I didn’t.  It sounded good so I left it alone.  I go through fazes on the mix bus where it’s either loaded or not loaded, that’s the best way to describe it.

Also before this record went to mastering I gave the artist the mix with a limiter on it.  In this case I’m using the McDSP ML4000.

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