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Citizen Fitz Album 1 Details

July 7th, 2014 by Fitz, Album 1: Citizen Fitz, 0 Comments

All the info and details on the new album including a bunch of recording bits for fellow gear heads.
On sale at: BandCamp | iTunes | CDBaby

Citizen Fitz Album Cover

Track Listing & Credits

  1. Moving Things Around
  2. Can’t Fix Crazy
  3. End of the Day
  4. Still Got Your Picture
  5. Mystery Plane
  6. Cargo Cult
  7. Explore!
  8. Sargasso Sea
  9. Hunting for the Sun

All songs written by Fitz except “Still Got Your Picture” by Fitz & James Ridgeway. All music by Fitz with the following help:

Vocal engineer & recording: Dave Hanbury (House of Jam Studio)
Bass on “Can’t Fix Crazy”, “Cargo Cult”, & “Mystery Plane”: James Ridgeway
Live Drums & percussion: Andy Hamburger (House of Jam Studio)
Mixing Assistance: Jim Ebert
Mastering: Bruce Cane

Album art: Jared Keith Lee

Date Released: March 11, 2014

The Goal & Results

I’ve wanted to make this album for years. A (mostly) synthpop album with lots of ethnic influences and nary a dance track in sight. Drawing from a lot of early 80s music (Toto’s Africa, various Peter Gabriel albums, etc.) I wanted to craft an album with all the exotic textures grounded in solid songs. I also wanted to draw in a lot of the early 70s sound in terms of production. I stuck with plate reverbs, analog delays, and kept the mix a lot less compressed than is fashionable these days. Overall I think it worked. You can hear me fishing around for my sound and often missing it, but in generally I think it sounds about right. I think the next album will sound a lot stronger and more “decided” in its timber.

Recording

The album was recorded over a 9 month period. I would do all the tracks at home and farmed out a few of a bass lines to a friend (James Ridgeway). Once I had everything sounding good I went to House of Jam Studios for vocal tracking.

While I was there the studio house drummer, Andy Hamburger, said he wanted to try a few tracks so I hired him to see what would work. Several tracks REALLY benefitted from his work and I quickly replaced my programmed tracks with his. Others favored the program drums and they stayed.

Mixing & Mastering

I struggled for months to get the mix right and finally gave up and hired Jim Ebert of Cue Studio to give me some guidance. I took my laptop over to Cue and we went thru about half the mixes with Jim giving pointers. It was an invaluable session. I took his suggestions home and was quickly able to get my songs mangled into a pretty solid mixes. In general here was my approach:

My overall mix used pretty standard bracket EQ to carve out bands for sounds, UAD EMT 140 plate for almost all reverbs, and usually a UAD Roland RE-201 for delays. EQ was UAD SSL and compressors were either UAD La2a or 1176.

I used the UAD Studer quite often to provide grit. Anything that sounds vintage or dirty (the delayed Kalimba on Movin’ Things Around) went thru the Studer on a highly degraded setting. It just sounds fantastic and I don’t think the album as a whole would sound anything like it does without it.

The electronic drums proved the most difficult to mix. To get the ethnic drums to blend with the hyper-compressed TR707 I had to create a complicated chain. First I compressed the ethnic drums with a generic Ableton compressor. Then I put a slight EMT 140 plate reverb on both the the ethnic and TR707 drums, then I put a touch of “room mic” using Ableton’s cabinet simulator on them, then more compression on both with a UAD LA2A ,and finally UAD Studer plugin on the whole mess. It took all that to get the sounds to gel!

Vocals were comped together from 1-6 takes per song and invariable processed with UAD 1176 compression, EMT 140 plate, and occasionally UAD Ampex for chorusing. Delays were often just the built in Ableton delay.

I also outsources the mastering to someone Jim Ebert recommended: Bruce Cane. In retrospect I would have had him add more silence between tracks but other than that I liked the sound he got and they way he kept the overall compression light.

Gear

  • DAW & Mixing Plugins: Ableton Live 9, many UAD Plugins
  • Vocals: recorded using a Manley Reference Gold thru a Manley Voxbox. Effects were almost always UAD EMT plate and various delays.
  • Synths Plugins: AAS Chromaphone, Korg Legacy Poly Six, UHE Diva, Camel Audio Alchemy
  • Synths Hardware: Roland Jupiter 8, Dave Smith Prophet 08, ARP 2600
  • Keys: Pianoteq for acoustic piano, AAS Lounge Lizard for electric piano, usually the Jupiter 8 or Prophet 08 for synth comping. UHe Diva for “vangelis” lead lines and small fills.
  • Bass: A live bass player on Cargo cult and Mystery Plane (James Ridgeway). The other tracks were either Prophet 08 (Movin’ Things around), Roland Jupiter, or Korg Legacy Polysix.
  • Strings: Almost always Camel Audio Alchemy but occasional Jupiter or Prophet patches.
  • Drums: Either a weird agglutination of Roland TR 707, ethnic samples, and shakers, or a live drummer (Andy Hamburger).
  • Sound Effects: These were almost always created on an ARP 2600
  • Guitars: none. nada. zip