Multiple Emmy Award-winning composer/guitarist Brian Tarquin embarked on a charity album quest last year, bringing in some seriously legendary guitar talent to help him out on the project.
Since Brian has been a long-time sE fan, he contacted us to talk about this new record - how he recorded it, who plays on it, and what it means to him.
Can you tell us a bit about the ‘Guitars For Wounded Warriors’ album?
My father was in World War II, and growing up in NYC in the 60’s & 70’s I saw so many Vietnam Vets on subway cars begging for money to eat - I felt so bad for them, no one cared at the time. So this is my way of saying thanks to all veterans for letting people like me be free and do music. It’s ironic because during a short period of my time in college I was in ROTC -believe it or not, a 2nd Lieutenant. I even went to basic training at Fort Knox Kentucky in the mid-80’s and got my ass kicked during a hot July summer! I remember us all getting up 3AM and being led to an obstacle course, forced to crawl on our bellies under barred wire while live ammunition was fired over our heads and drill instructors were screaming every possible profanity at us. Needless to say, I eventually bowed out of the military gracefully and went on to music. After this experience I couldn’t watch a John Wayne movie for years, but it gave me a great appreciation for the men and women of the military and what they go through for America.
I specifically had guitarists in mind I had worked with in the past like, Steve Morse, Billy Sheehan, Gary Hoey, Hal Lindes, The Flyin’ Ryan Bros and Chuck Loeb. I would compose each song for that particular guitarist. For example when composing 'Black Hawk', I completely wrote it with Billy Sheehan in mind, as with the song '5 Klicks To Hell' with Gary Hoey in mind. I was very familiar with each of the guitarists' styles, so when composing the song 'Hunting', I knew very well how great Chris Poland’s solo style would come across in the song. And of course there were some last minute guitarists added that I hadn’t work with before like Bumblefoot (Guns 'n Roses) and Reb Beach (Whitesnake) on the song 'Taliban Terror'.
The 'Guitars For Wounded Warriors' album is going towards the Fisher House Foundation, http://www.fisherhouse.org. Approximately ½ of my production company’s (BHP Music) royalties will be donated to the charity. They are best-known for providing homes where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment.
These homes are located at major military and VA medical centers nationwide, close to the medical center or hospital they serve. Since inception, the program has saved military and veterans’ families an estimated $235 million in out-of-pocket costs for lodging and transportation. I did a lot of research on companies who gave back to veterans and the Fisher Foundation seemed to be doing the most good for veterans and their families. Even though they are not as widely known as other charities out there, they were very trustworthy. I really wanted a charity that would give most of the money to the veterans and not be spending donations on administrative costs and salaries.
What was the recording process like?
We recorded the basic tracks for the record at a 200-year-old farmhouse in the Catskills, NY. I used an Ampex MM1200 24-track 2-inch analog tape machine through a Trident Trimix 32-channel console for all of the sessions. It was important for me to use real instruments and concentrate on performance. I didn’t want to do a Pro Tools edit session for each song and use plug-ins for sounds - I wanted it to sound natural. I used Reggie Pryor (David Sanborn) on drums and Rick Mullen (Don McLean) on bass, while I covered all of the guitar rhythm parts and melodies. I used an 8-string Ibanez guitar for some of the rhythm lines to achieve that sub low guitar tone and get a wall of guitars, double tracking all of the rhythm parts and panning them hard left or right. I would then to make sure to leave solo room for the guitar guests. It’s like building a house from the ground up.
I used a lot of guitar equipment during the recording of the album that readers might be interested in hearing about. One of the most important amps I used was a Marshall Plexi with a Mark Cameron type modification with a 1977 4x12 Marshall cabinet. It adds another gain stage and a bass resonance control to the amp; very similar to the EVH 50 watt head made by Fender. The bass resonance knob is place on the back of the amp along with the added gain stage knob. You really feel and hear the largeness of the cabinet in the recordings. I used the 8 string as I mentioned earlier and 3 different types of Les Pauls, 1977 Deluxe, 2013 Budokan (3 p’up) and a 1999 Custom. Other notable amps are, Orange Dark Terror, Tiny Terror, Fender Prosonic, Marshall JCM 2000, Soldano Reverb O Sonic, EVH 5150III 50-Watt, Industrial (with the Cameron Mod) and Mesa Boogie Mark IIB combo. The melodies were mostly played with a Fender Strat with Seymour Duncan Blackouts Single Coils. The most notable microphones were the Royer 101 for the dark tone on the rhythms, the sE Voodoo VR1 ribbon and the sE RT1 Ribbon-Tube microphone. Effects pedals consisted of the Digitech Whammy, Snarling Dogs Mold Spawn Wah and the original Maestro Ring Modulator.
How long have you been using sE mics, and why were they a good choice for this recording?
I’m a longtime sE mic user. I first started using the sE R1 & RT1-Ribbon Tube Microphone when they came out along with the Reflection Filter years ago. They're fantastic on electric guitar amps, capturing really smooth overtones. I just produced a release for Cleopatra Records entitled 'Smooth Jazz Café' and used the Voodoo VR1 on all of the guitar and horn melodies/solos. The way it sounds in the room is what you get on tape - no mushy, foggy-sounding tracks. The Voodoo reveals the real tone from fingers to guitar to amp to final mix! For 'Guitars For Wounded Warriors' I used the sE RT1-Ribbon Tube Microphone for the clean guitar tones. Then I used the Voodoo on the overdrive tones from the Marshall, EVH and Orange.
Do you have any tips for people recording guitars at home?
Yes - read my book “Recording Techniques of the Guitar Masters” - but really, you don’t need a super expensive microphone to record guitar. This is why I think sE is a great choice for the home guys. I prefer ribbon mics for guitars and highly recommend tracking through a good pre amp, especially if you are recording into the coldness of digital. Make sure you play back the guitar tone you are recording before dedicating it to the song. Always try to find that sweet spot on the amp speaker. You may have to move the mic around a few times, but it makes a huge difference. Someone once commented to Rupert that his EQ’s were so popular, and he stated, “I know, that’s the problem!” Meaning that you try not to use EQ after recording - just move the microphone while recording to get the right tone. EQ is one of those things that can be overused during mix down.
Thanks for taking the time to chat, Brian!