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Session Notes: An Album In 5 Days

The Practical Craft Of Recording
Published May 2018
By Neil Rogers

Producer Ben Nicholls and I working on the initial tracking setup.Producer Ben Nicholls and I working on the initial tracking setup.

Working with a producer and an ambitious timescale, our engineer planned ahead for the best chances of a good result.

In late September last year, I had the pleasure of welcoming Steven Adams & The French Drops to my studio for a week to record their new album Virtue Signals. I’ve worked with songwriter and singer Steven in a few different roles over the last few years, including being engineer, co-producer or mixer for his last two solo albums. Both records were recorded in a combination of home and studio sessions which were completed over the course of several months — and I wrote about recording the first at Steven’s house ( With a settled band on board again, though (see the 'Recorded This Month' box), Steven was keen that the band enter the studio as a group and leave with all the recording completed during a single sitting. Why? Well, it was partly due to the budget and logistical considerations, but there was also a genuine desire to immerse himself in the band dynamic that he’d been beginning to miss after so much time working solo.

The other significant change for this album would be that the band would be bringing along a producer, Ben Nicholls, for the majority of the recording sessions. Ben and the band had spent time together in the rehearsal room, fine-tuning the arrangements and making sure the songs were ready to record before entering the studio.

I was hosting the sessions at my Half-ton Studios in Cambridge, where my role would be that of a recording engineer, working under Ben’s creative direction to help capture the band as he saw best. My job would be to manage the technical side of the project and, when the recording was complete, pass on mix-ready Pro Tools sessions to the band’s record label.

Although I’ve worked in more involved roles with this songwriter in the past, the prospect of working alongside a producer didn’t bother me. I’m usually pretty confident about getting on with other engineer/producer types (I can count on a finger or two the number of times I haven’t over the years!), and I’ve known Steven for a while, and have a great deal of faith in his record-making instincts, so we were able to talk through how we would all fit together before I agreed to take the job. A bonus is that every time I work closely with someone else in this way,...

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Published May 2018