Justin Vernon (Left) & Brian Joseph

Brian Joseph is a Grammy Award-winning mixer and recording engineer based in northern Wisconsin who has worked with the likes of Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens, Phox, S. Carey, The Fray, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Kathleen Edwards, and Givers. Joseph works mostly out of April Base Studios and his own personal studio in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. In addition to making records, Joseph does a fair amount of mastering and live mixing with bands he has worked with in the studio as balance to his “desk job."

Volcano Choir’s Repave came to us fairly realized from the band members, so it was up to co-mixer BJ Burton and myself to push the energy and make the landscape in front of us move and breathe. While working on this record presented many unique situations, one I had never encountered was to record the drums last

The band’s drummer, Jon Mueller, is such a unique and recognizable part of Volcano Choir’s sound, I am going to focus on the drum character we captured and further sculpted using UAD Powered Plug-Ins on the track, “Byegone.” 

Volcano Choir — drummer Jon Mueller is far right.
Volcano Choir - Byegone


Taming Treble Information

The drums were tracked to tape before making their way into Pro Tools. Their overall levels — especially the overheads — are a prominent feature on this track and needed to be far forward in the mix, without sounding shrill and taking up too much high-end real estate.

Here are the overheads without the UAD plug-ins.

OHs - Dry

Although they were tracked to tape running through a pair of hardware dbx 160 VU compressors, the overheads still needed some saturation as well as some high- frequency cuts. So once in Pro Tools, we inserted the Studer® A800 Multichannel Tape Recorder Plug-In and the Harrison® 32C / 32C SE Channel EQ Plug-In. Here are the overheads with the Studer and Harrison UAD plug-ins.


The UAD Harrison and Studer really smooth out the tone, softening up the cymbal hits so they could be cranked in the mix without being painful. This treatment also had the benefit of leaving the guitars a little more space to sparkle. 


Enhance Tone and Space

Once in the box, the use of parallel compression on the kick, snare, and toms using the SSL G Series Bus Compressor plug-in filled out the sound niceley. In addition to the bus compression, I used a light amount of dbx® 160 Compressor / Limiter plug-in and a heavy dose of the SPL® Transient Designer plug-in on the kick, an EMT® 250 Classic Electronic Reverb plug-in on the snare, and an 1176LN Classic Limiting Amplifier plug-in on the room mic.

Here are the drums without any processing.

Drums - Dry

And here are the drums with the UAD processing on the individual tracks and drum bus.

Drums - UAD Wet

The SSL on the bus added an even greater sense of urgency to the performance by lengthening the waveforms between hits, while the dbx and SPL thicken the kick’s overall sound, attenuates a small of amount of its attack, and lengthens the sustain.
The snare sound greatly benefited from the 250, as we had it pretty tightly gated, and it was in need of a clean sounding space without all the bleed from the rest of the kit.

Lastly, the room mic received a liberal amount of coloration and compression from the 1176LN plug-in. Since I hesitated to get aggressive enough with our hardware 1176 on the way in, using the plug-in version brought the grit and dirt it was missing.  It makes a pretty drastic difference when placed in the mix.


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