Jarmo Nikku: “The Sound Felt Natural (After Quite Some Time)” – Case Study Seniors Clearwater Revival

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On a Sunday evening in February a group of Finnish top musicians arrived at Astia-studio. The plan was to record five songs in a day on tape with me. This time you’ll get to join us and prepare to get surprised about their tape-praising comments. So let’s hear it from Masa Maijanen, Harri Ala-Kojola, Patrik Eriksson, Jussi Turunen and Jarmo Nikku: “The Sound Felt Natural (After Quite Some Time)” – Case Study Seniors Clearwater Revival.

By reading this post you’ll learn how even in a day your can get excellent results and why a #fullanalogexperience aka full-analog tape session makes the top musicians to return to Astia-studio.

Case study Seniors Clearwater Revival: Jarmo Nikku

Jarmo Nikku: “The Sound Felt Natural (After Quite Some Time)”
– Case Study Seniors Clearwater Revival

I was greatly delighted when my dear brother-in-arms Mr Veli-Matti “Masa” Maijanen associated Broadcast and Hector among many others contacted me about a tape recording session. The plan was to record songs by Creedence Clearwater Revival or CCR as they are shortly known. The top Finnish musicians formed a group called SCR and would use it to advertise their live-set.

Previously I had only done digital sessions so I was  curious about recording on tape.
Jussi Turunen, guitar

We reserved the first of two days for recording and the 2nd for both mixing and mastering. It doesn’t take long with the professionals to play their parts. And then again the tape sessions are known to be very fast and pleasant to mix as well.

Our idea was to record live and try to make it sound as identical as possible to the original CCR recordings.
Patrik Eriksson, vocals

Creedence Clearwater Revivalin Cosmos Factory -vinyylilevy Astia-studio A:n tarkkaamossa

Sunday evening demonstration

The members arrived at Astia-studio on the evening before the session. We first packed into the studio’s living room where I go to share with them the latest version of the demonstration between analogue and digital audio.

The analogue “comes close” and you can feel it in your body, while the digital stays within the speaker. The analogue fills up the spectrum and sounds both more complete and rich.
Harri Ala-Kojola, drums

Masa Maijanen and Jarmo Nikku were both familiar with the earlier versions, yet this time I had added cool new features. When comparing 20 year old MP3’s to the current ones, it seemed to raise a lot of eyebrows and questions. The latest addition caused a lot of amazement as I showed then the huge difference between VHS tapes and the current tv & streaming service quality.

I’ve participated several times on Anssi’s demonstration about the difference between analogue and digital. They are always interesting, yet the VHS part on the latest “updating education” opened my eyes enormously.
Masa Maijanen, bass

You too might have wondered why the tv and radio volume needs to be pretty loud to make any sense of the spoken words. My demonstration explains the phenomenon and the positive news is that there’s nothing wrong with your hearing. Without exception, everyone who has experienced the demonstration in its latest form is both astonished and relieved. Their fear of deteriorated hearing turned out to be irrelevant.

Anssi’s demonstration was highly informative and even astounding. The proximity and warmth of analogue sound was clearly observable.
Jarmo Nikku, guitar

It was awesome to witness how enthusiastic top musicians were loving the Pink Floyd live performance on VHS tape. On request we enjoyed one more song from the original vinyl record and then headed to the studio to set up the gear.

Among other things, we listened to the title track from Dire Straits’ legendary album Brothers in Arms, and I’m convinced that I speak for the whole band when I say the result was:

  • Vinyl (analogue) – Mark Knopfler and the band were in the living room with us
  • Spotify – Mark Knopfler and the band were outside in the front yard

Patrik Eriksson, vocals

Read more about the huge difference between formats:

Case study Seniors Clearwater Revival: Jarmo Nikku

Check-one-two

On some sessions just to set up a drumset can take several hours. But this time wasn’t like that at all. The professionals are highly efficient and in no time their gear was ready for the microphones.

The expectations were really high.
Patrik Eriksson, vocals

An A/B comparison is the best way to learn what works especially in the studio. So we ended up comparing a digital bass amp to an 80’s Mesa/Boogie tube amplifier. It’s always good to compare if the result was different this time. Yet, despite being compact and all, the tube amplifier was our weapon of choice.

Capturing the bass on tape transmits a great amount of dynamics forcing the bass player to play a whole and solid track. Challenging yet fun!
Masa Maijanen, bass

Case Study - Seniors Clearwater Revival: Masa Maijanen, Jarmo Nikku ja Jussi Turunen

The headphone monitoring system in Astia-studio A is full analog and it has no annoying delay. Also the members of SCR, who’d gotten used to the digital systems, immediately noticed the difference too.

The monitoring system was great! Easy and fast to adjust. Sound was pleasant.
Harri Ala-Kojola, drums

 

This was a great experience. I usually spend quite some time setting a good vocal sound up, but now it was immediately good. I only adjusted the levels between my voice and various instruments, which took approx. 1 minute and then I was good to go. Of course it didn’t hurt to sing into Pave Maijanen’s old legendary Neumann U67 tube microphone from the 60’s either.
Patrik Eriksson, vocals

 

The new headphone system at the Kippoland was very pleasant and user friendly.
Masa Maijanen, bass

Patrik Eriksson Astia-studio B:n lauluhuoneessa

Seniors Clearwater Revival members were baffled by how authentic their instruments sounded when captured on tape.

Exactly as it sounds when listening to it from the amp and there didn’t seem to be any need for processing the signal during mixing.
Jarmo Nikku, guitar

 

On tape the guitar sounds remarkably natural. It’s like standing next to the amplifier.
Jussi Turunen, guitar

Both guitarists seemed to like the sound that I captured using a Shure SM58 microphone with the grill removed. Our instrument cable of choice on this session too was Vovox. Jarmo and Jussi needed no cable demonstration as they both use Vovox and know how much the instrument cable affects the sound.

Check out the video where Jarmo Nikku and Jussi Turunen demonstrate the difference between regular and Vovox instrument cable.

Astia-studio imports Vovox products to Finland and you are warmly welcome to test them at our facility. To order them, please click this link and let’s continue from there.

The goal is to record five songs in a day

Five songs in a day could sometimes mean sloppy first takes with lots of mistakes. This time we captured most of the songs on the first take and the instruments were perfectly locking-in. I often describe this by saying that the gear wheels are perfectly in sync as everything is in perfect harmony.

I think the reason why a band grooves is because they swing together when they play.
Patrik Eriksson, vocals

Case Study - Seniors Clearwater Revival tarkkaamossa: Jussi Turunen, Masa Maijanen, Patrik Eriksson ja Jarmo Nikku

Professionalism was present in every detail throughout the session. After each take they didn’t arrive in the control room to listen as we simply moved on to the next song. The professionals know when you shouldn’t take no breaks. This is exactly what I recommend; do not go and listen after each take, but rather play several songs straight.

As things were coming along great, we decided to record seven Creedence Clearwater Revival hits instead of five. If you prefer heavier music and are not familiar with them, you should know that bands like Children Of Bodom have made cover versions of their songs. The inspiration for them came as we watched the awesome movie Big Lebowski on VHS maybe a few times too often…

What I think is important when recording so much music during one day is that all musicians have done their homework properly. When the recording technician presses REC you have a couple of takes and that’s it.
Patrik Eriksson, vocals

Case Study - Seniors Clearwater Revival: Jarmo Nikku fiilistelee

No try only do!

It’s unfortunate how often I hear: “I’ll try” or “Let’s see if I’ll manage” during the session. I think the starting point is already wrong as it rarely leads to the captured-on-the-first-take type of activity. Yet, this session was something completely different including the comments. It all starts with the attitude so pay close attention to what you say out loud.

When Mr Jarmo Nikku exited the control room I heard him say humble yet confident: “I’ll go and do it”. I asked the other members if they’d noticed the excellent phrasing used by Jarmo. It’s unfortunately rare to hear such an outstanding comment. The attitude is highly important and both you and me have a lot to learn from Mr Nikku. So do your best not to try and let’s start doing. Always. And with everything.

Case Study - Seniors Clearwater Revival: Masa Maijanen, Jarmo Nikku, Harri Ala-Kojola ja Jussi Turunen

Let’s continue the attitude talk

Another cool observation was when we moved from a calm piece to an energetic rock song. Until this moment Mr Harri Ala-Kojola was calm and pretty quiet behind the drums but that was about to change. I flinched as he started shouting: “ONE, TWO, ONE, TWO, THREE!!!!” and once again there’s an important lesson to learn for all of us.

It doesn’t matter what instrument you play, yet on the inside you need to feel the mood of the song. Don’t start looking for it when you play as you should do so before you start. When performing a calm song be calm. With more energetic songs you need to feel that energy and anger to deliver the best possible take.

I loved Harri’s count-in so much that I wanted to share it with you with permission from the band of course.

Case study – Seniors Clearwater Revival, Harri Ala-Kojola ja Masa Maijanen

Seven songs in a day

When you record live, things get done pretty fast. And Jussi for example sang the backing vocals during the live track recording. Jarmo and Jussi both played the acoustic guitars and double solos simultaneously. We tracked vocals live too, yet as the time for overdubbing was more suitable for the vocalist, we managed to capture even better performance by the awesome vocalist Patrik.

During an easy-going studio day we managed to capture seven CCR classic songs on tape. So let’s hear how the members liked the session and what the #fullanalogexperience made them feel.

Case study – Seniors Clearwater Revival: Jarmo Nikku ja Jussi Turunen

Am I going to do more tape sessions and  do I recommend them to others? The answer to both questions is: Definitely!
Harri Ala-Kojola, drums

 

I unquestionably plan to do tape sessions in future always when the opportunity comes. I recommend and encourage others to try this too.
Jussi Turunen, guitar

 

Absolutely! I recommend all fellow musicians to give it a go. It’s a great experience.
Patrik Eriksson, vocals

 

I’m going to do tape sessions in future as much as the budget allows. I’ll also recommend it to those who know how to appreciate it.
Masa Maijanen, bass

 

Yes if possible and I both sincerely and warmly recommend it. I also think that it will be a growing trend as awareness spreads. In a way the circle can close.
Jarmo Nikku, guitar

Case study – Seniors Clearwater Revival: Jarmo Nikku ja Jussi Turunen

Mixing and mastering

Unlike in most studios, I recommend the band to stay in the studio during mixing. As both Jussi and Patrik live and breathe music, they drove 200 km to Helsinki to perform several sets live. The band was too busy to stay for the mixing so I ended up doing it and mastering by myself.

Before the mix I checked the original CCR vinyl records to have the right approach with the balance and effects. The goal was to have as authentic sound as possible and I think we succeeded pretty well.

The latest session at Astia was extremely easy-going and went very smoothly. It is always as pleasant to return to Astia-studio.
Masa Maijanen, bass

During recording I had a mild touch of compression only on the bass (LA2A) and vocals (2 x 1176). I left all unnecessary compression out when mixing and added just a slight touch of parallel compression here and there. The vocal processing was as authentic as possible; the reverb was an EMT-140 mono tube plate from the 50’s and a Revox B77 1/4″ stereo tape machine delivered the delay.

Things were done firmly and remarkably fast.
Jussi Turunen, guitar

For a couple of years I’ve been mixing without a master compressor and this time was no exception. Tape compression is my friend.

The tape session after a long pause felt great and I was already familiar with the studio. Great band, a great spirit and the ease of working with Anssi made these studio days very nice indeed. The quality is always excellent.
Jarmo Nikku, guitar

Case Study – Seniors Clearwater Revival tarkkaamossa: Harri Ala-Kojola, Patrik Eriksson, Jussi Turunen ja Jarmo Nikku

One day was exactly what it took to make both mixing and mastering to seven songs. This time I didn’t cut the master tape with a razor as only the digital version is needed. Then again, despite all the incorrect assumptions you can clearly hear the benefit of a tape recording and mixing even when listening to it from a stereo file.

The mixes sounded very natural. The sound was enjoyable, wide and “big”, and there didn’t seem to be any need for doubling etc.
Jussi Turunen, guitar

Harri Ala-Kojola ended up praising the interrelationship between the bass drum and bass already during recording. So I left them as they were during mixing. When using a full analog signal chain in summing both the frequencies and instruments seem to nicely blend together without a fight. This may be one of the reasons why mixing is so pleasant and easy.

The session was both pleasant and smooth. Good musicians, a good engineer who knows his studio and equipment. The result is that everything flows without any unwanted tension.
Harri Ala-Kojola, drums

It was a huge honor to be a part of the Seniors Clearwater Revival session and to remind them what the magnetic tape captures. If I’ve understood their comments right, I think I’ll be seeing them again and again.

…to have the opportunity to sing in such a fantastic studio with such competent musicians and a technician makes the whole experience even better.
Patrik Eriksson, vocals

Patrik Eriksson Astia-studio A:n tarkkaamossa

Case study Seniors Clearwater Revival

Thank you very much for your interest towards tape recording and how these awesome musicians experienced it at Astia-studio. It was a great pleasure to share with you this session and their comments. I would love to hear your thoughts about this post so please leave them below.

The sound felt natural (after quite some time).
Jarmo Nikku, guitar

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Are you eager to have as awesome session experience as Seniors Clearwater Revival? Contact me privately by clicking here and let’s continue the discussion. Thank you very much and all the very best!

Read also these blog posts about sessions at Astia-studio:

Case study Seniors Clearwater Revival: Jarmo Nikku

Astia-studio is a full analog recording studio located in eastern Finland with over 25 years of experience. Bands and artists from all over the world including USA and the furthest corner of Russia, Vladivostok have arrived to us for tape recording sessions.

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