Local Artist Studio Highlight - Redshift Headlights

Local Artist Studio Highlight - Redshift Headlights

The Fox Valley is full of talent around every corner. You can see incredible musicians playing almost every night from Green Bay to Fond du Lac. The talent around here is so good that we wanted to do occasional features of the best local artists we can find. In today's article and our first Local Artist Highlight, we are featuring Redshift Headlights! Redshift Headlights is an indie rock group based out of Oshkosh, WI. Stephen McCabe has a long history of mind-blowing shows in the local area. Steve had put together a 6-man group for the band's sophomore release, Oshkosh, which will be released September 22, 2018 at Gibson Music Hall, our friends from down the street. Make sure you check it out at 6:30pm. Here at Pixel Pro Audio, we specialize in recording gear and techniques. Steve let us in on what happened during their recording process and the gear they used so we could share it with you! He went into great detail, and you should definitely check out their superb new album to see the gear in action.

Recording Overview

Part of making a great recording is starting with the end in mind. You've got to know what kind of sounds you want before beginning tracking or you will go down tons of rabbit holes. Redshift Headlights recorded at their practice space in Oshkosh which is a former salon. See below for a full list of gear used on this recording as well as a song released from the album!


Drum tones essentially are the foundation of a record and will ultimately determine what type of music goes with them (i.e. roomy drums aren't associated with metal and super tight, in-your-face drums aren't associated with jazz in most cases). Before starting the album, Oshkosh, Redshift Headlights knew they wanted a tight, yet roomy sound to their drums. Steve tells us, "We wanted to get a lot of room sound, but we also wanted a pretty dead drum sound. The Salon (as we call the space) has low drop ceilings, so there weren't a lot of hard surfaces for transients to bounce around, resulting in a pretty tight, punchy drum sound across the board. This was aided by the 1979 Yamaha M916 we used and it's limited but useful EQ section." Compression on the way in consisted of a DBX 160X on both kick and snare. Each compressor was only taking out a max of 3dB somewhere between 2:1 and 3:1 ratios. The DBX compressors do a great job of adding a bit of punch in these areas which is great for tracking. It's good to have a sound close to what you want on the way in, but it's best to not overdo it just in case.


Bass was tracked through a Traynor tube head and a 15" cab using a Sennhesier MD421 and taking out about 5-6dB at about the same ratios as before. Dynamics in a bass guitar vary wildly due to the massive frequency differences among the strings. Lower notes have a lot more energy and compressing them with a DBX 160X will make them more even with the higher notes. Taming peaks like this will keep converters from clipping and will allow a hotter signal into them, thus reducing noise.


The songs on this new record are pretty dense. Steve tells us about the arrangements and how the guitars played into it, "We have six members in our band and we really sort of write our parts independently, which tends to create pretty chaotic arrangements, so we just started putting all these parts down with the plan to cut parts out that didn't work, then doubling the parts that did with other instruments. So, we were still arranging the songs while we were recording them. In some instances, really good performances also dictated the arrangement decisions we made. At this point, we had at least 30 tracks of instruments down, including these rich textures of 2, 4, 6, or even 8 tracks of Jay's spacey reverbed and delayed guitar."


The vocals on this record were done in two different places. Initially, they had cut a few layers of demo vocals using Cascade Fathead IIs ribbon microphones and really pushed the M916 preamps hard for some grit. The ribbon microphones also have a natural distortion and midrange push which sounded cool for the demos. When doing the "real" vocal tracks, Steve went down to Jeff Mitchell in Milwaukee. Jeff's setup for this vocal chain consisted of an ADK TC-47 mic into an AEA RPQ preamp into a Manley ELOP. For saturation and EQ, they used the Overstayer MAS and a Warm Audio EQP-WA. These vocals turned out much clearer, but when blended with the demo vocals, gave lots of space and dimension to the songs. Most of the original demo vocals ended up being used in the final mix which resulted in needing almost no reverb. This kind of mixing trick adds the depth of reverb without the cloudiness of it. The release show for Oshkosh is tomorrow night (Saturday 9/22/2018) at Gibson Music Hall in Downtown Appleton. We'll see you there! Here is "Long Life" from Redshift Headlights:

Gear List

As promised, here is the gear list that Steve sent us: MICROPHONES:

Kick Drum: AKG D112 Snare Top: Shure SM57 Snare Bottom: Audix i5 Rack Tom: Audio-Technica ATM250 Floor Tom: Sennheiser MD421

Drum Overheads: Cascade Fathead IIs Ribbon Microphones (funky, soft highs, muted transients, so we could mix the drums louder using these and get more room, less shrill cymbal

Guitars: We usually used a Sure SM 57 right on the cab at 45 degree angle, just off the edge of the speaker, and a condenser microphone in the room, usually about 15 feet away from the cabinet.

Bass Cab: Sennheiser MD421

CONVERTERS: Lucid 88192 for recording and Apogee Symphony for mixing INTERFACE: M-Audio 2626. We used this to get the digital signal into the DAW at 96khz. PREAMPS:
  1. 1979 Yamaha M916 consoles. A console used in theatres with direct outs. Steve drove to Peoria to pick this up the week before we started recording. We wanted this console to introduce a little analog grit and “vibe” to the recording, as it's known as one of the last Japa-Neve lines of consoles that Yamaha over-engineered in the 1970s.
  2. Two Golden Age Pre-73s. These budget Neve preamp clones are pretty cool and we used them for a lot of the stereo tracking on the record, such as Justin's Moog synthesizer, Roland Juno 106, Paul's vibraphone, and marimba.
  3. Chameleon Labs 7602. Another nice Neve preamp, which we used for most of the main mono tracks during tracking. It's really transparent and has a nice eq section.
COMPRESSORS: Two  DBX 160x compressors was all we had for recording. We definitely plan to pick up a couple of nice compressors from Pixel Pro for the next album. VOCALS: Recorded/produced by Jeff Mitchell in Milwaukee, WI Microphone: ADK TC-47 Preamp: AEA RPQ Limiter: Manley ELOP Harmonics Processor: Overstayer MAS EQ: Warm Audio EQP-WA  

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