Multi‑platinum mixer and engineer Richard Chycki has worked with rock royalty such as Aerosmith, Dream Theater, Mick Jagger, Alice Cooper, Def Leppard and Canadian legends Rush. Asked to dissect a particularly memorable part he’s worked on, Richard details how he got Geddy Lee’s bass sound on ‘Caravan’, from the 2012 Rush album Clockwork Angels.
“Ged’s bass tone on the recording is comprised of four channels of bass. Rather than relying on a single channel of bass and then EQ’ing it and compressing it to achieve the final outcome, the combined four channels act to voice the bass by blending the four bass channels, which sound very different from one another.
“First, Ged’s bass is split using a Radial guitar splitter. It uses Jensen transformers and isolates the outputs from one another without compromising the bass tone whatsoever. The first channel is a clean‑clean track that uses an Avalon U5 DI going straight into a Neve 1073, which feeds one side of a Fairchild 670 compressor and then straight into Pro Tools.
“The second channel is a different flavour of clean; it has a little more bottom end and a little more weight to it. This too goes through an Avalon U5 DI and then through a Palmer PDI‑05 speaker simulator. The Palmer is designed as a load box for guitar amplifiers with an onboard speaker simulator EQ circuit. But because it’s being fed via a DI, the load box portion is not used. The Palmer feeds another Neve 1073 and its output feeds the other side of the Fairchild compressor.
“The third channel is the first of the amp sounds. This is a gritty track: not fuzz, but more of an edgy, brighter tone. Mixing in this track gives us more of the teeth of Geddy’s tone. For this, a rackmount Tech 21 SansAmp feeds a second Palmer PDI‑05. Again, the load section is not used, but the tonality of the speaker simulator circuit shapes the voicing of the SansAmp. The SansAmp feeds Neve 1073 number three, and then to the left side of a second Fairchild 670.
“The fourth and last channel is what we call the ‘stun channel’. This is an Orange AD200 MKIII 200‑Watt bass head that’s cranked to the hilt and going through an 8x10 cabinet. This is miked up with a Sennheiser 421, through a Neve 1073 and into the other side of the Fairchild 670. And those are the four channels.”
Richard Chycki: By simply automating the balance of the four channels, we can achieve some intense voicing changes.
“By simply automating the balance of the four channels, we can achieve some intense voicing changes. For example, if you listen to the track where there is a bass break just before the solo section of the song, both the amp tracks are prominently featured helping to make Ged’s great bass performance pop out of the mix. There are no EQ changes being done on the fly or anything, it’s all just riding the faders to change the flavour according to whether we want to get it pocketed or whether we want it to be featured.”