Neumann, Neve, Saturation, Coffee and Emigration • Recording “Stealing Chameleons” by Kamikaze Test Pilots

I. The Migration

In November I came to Berlin with my beloved woman, and a good ol’ friend o’mine helped us drive all the way to this magic city and we settled in a tiny apartment in Ostkreuz in F’hain, bringing all our stuff like a convoy… We were carrying mostly instruments, preamps, compressors, amps and soundproofing material. Crazy. 

II. God **** the queen!

After a few days tho, actually, we flew to Oxfordshire (UK) where I reached the crazy English/Zimbabwean band Kamikaze Test Pilots to record and produce their album “Stealing Chameleons”, in the beautiful Henwood Studios, filled with beautiful vintage microphones and instruments and a pretty nice neve console. We recorded everything LIVE and LOUD.

III. Harder! Rougher!

One of the cool aspects of recording these guys is that they are not afraid to push it till it sounds rough and basically they like to enjoy being in the studio, so we ended up experimenting quite a bit.
We were basically not only agreeing but also hyped about wanting to try not to edit stuff too much, using as much acoustic sounds as we could, delivering as much as possible the raw energy of their playing.

So we got everything cabled up, a bunch of good mics such as cascade fatheads, neumann u87s, sm7s, md421, all straight into the neve preamps and started recording takes and takes, coffee upon coffee, blasphemy upon blasphemy we ended up having some cool stuff recorded and taped into a massive studer tape recorder, ready to be mixed in my home studio Lullaby Productions in Berlin and to be mastered by mastering wizard Pete Maher.


Emigre’, one of the most beautiful and at the same time experimental tracks of this album, reflects completely this kind of laidback attitude to producing we shared… I ended up playing the accordion on this one, Valeria ended up singing la-la-la…, Ryan singing Bom Bom Bom, and the result is clearly something which goes far beyond the classic rock sound.

Kamikaze Test Pilots – Emigré

When you’re given new shoes they will shine
When you’re given good news you will shine
I know how nice it is
It’s all new, and that’s what it is

When they shout out “non grata!” you must smile
When they shout out nasty things you must smile
I know how hard it is
It’s all new, and that’s what it is

Do these guys rock? 


Digital Archeology: People In My Head – Voices of Industrial Generation (Converted Music, KPH, 2007)

When around 2006 I set up Lullaby Studio in Civitanova Marche, Italy, I made a wall in the garage and separated 2 very small and uncomfortable rooms, a booth and a mixing room.
Among the first albums which were sculpted in that humid cave in 2007 is “Converted Music” by my brother in arms from Salerno Gennaro “Lo Zio” Sica aka Zicka aka Peopleinmyhead. It’s a very experimental LP merging hip hop (mostly sung in a very accentuated dialect of Campania), bass music/dub, glitching samples and industrial electronica.
The mixing was made with a minimal amount of gear and mostly legendary freeware VST plugin suites on an old copy of Cubase Sx 3, and a beautiful example of the big effort we put into it is this long trip called “Voices Of Industrial Generation”.

“When you are young you always end up in doing something stupid, extreme but epic.
In this category fits naturally the mix that Enrico and I made for the Voice of Industrial Generator within the journey that brought to light the Converter Music…
The track pays tributes to the music of Bill Laswell, Eraldo Bernocchi, Almamegretta trying to deliver a diluted dub experience in a distorted environment… Where is the stupidity then?
The track is long I think something like 15 minutes… It is a natural progression of themes, combination of patterns which develop over time.
We used to mix at night at the Lullaby Studio, the first version on this massive valve hifi system made by Enrico’s Father, and mixing Voices was a very long one… 
Enrico, with the patience of a buddhist monk and the craziness of a viking pirate tackled each sound, drum and bass making reality what was the crazyness of the People in my Head.
I was next to him with the classic thinking face which something was switching in amusement with big “ooh” and “uaa”… but it was extremely tiring…
The night after the giant track was there and we kept to coming back to it… In small doses.. Just for not abusing… Sometime was the drums, sometime a little distortion and sometime was for the trip.
We also thought that it was funny to add few minutes of silence to the already long track and hiding a sample from “Back to the future”… Eventually the track was ready for the mastering.
I managed quite well that phase… We left Voices as the last one and when the track started after a couple of bars… I left the studio… My face was green.
I knew that the Viking Monk could finish the job… And in the first light of a morning… Converted Music came to life.”

(Lo Zio aka People in my head)

A very heavy use of free VST plugins from the MDA suite (Smartelectronix), the very old (but gold) TK Suite and from the BRAM goodies was involved for the mixing process. I was learning to have a clear idea of gain staging at the time, and I often used a freeware Vintage Vu-Meter simulator by PSP Audioware.

We used to export songs from FL Studio (at the time, it was our favourite program for writing stuff) and we would mix them in Cubase.

During the making of the album you can tell that we were very big fans of Helmut Haas effect, which I would achieve on every snare drum on this record with the use of delays and filters. But on this particular song, it was used on nearly all tracks, creating a dreamy/unreal big space inside which to float.

Distortion also was a big protagonist. – Any kind of tube or tape saturation/distortion/bitcrushing would be used on almost every track, including the ones which were already distorted. Thus we achieved to create a very dark and grainy sound, which would sonically fit better with the “story” that we were telling. 

I could tell a lot more but I’ll leave you with the quote from the movie 12 Monkeys which was sampled from a VHS and pasted in the middle the track: 

“Proliferation of atomic devices, uncontrolled breeding habits, the rape of the environment, the pollution of land, sea, and air. In this context, isn’t it obvious that “Chicken Little” represents the sane vision and that Homo Sapiens’ motto, “Let’s go shopping!” is the cry of the true lunatic?”