Hutchison - 2001
By Andy Craven
AN EXCLUSIVE INSIGHT INTO
THE CREATION OF "FLYING BEYOND THE 9" FROM THE ALBUMS
MULTI INSTRUMENTALIST AND ENGINEER.
did you first hear of James Byrd and his music?
I first heard of James Byrd and his music a few years back through
a friend of mine who was playing on the same label James was on.
How did you hook up with James for 'FLYING
BEYOND THE 9'?
I met James at a local music store, where a mutual friend was manager.
We met to talk about his project, and decided to start working on
How did James present the material to you?
One of the amazing things about James, is that he has all of these
musical works completed and stored in his brain, for recall at a
later time. What he did to present it was play each part on his
What were your first impressions upon hearing
I thought it was great! I was thrilled about working on FBT9 and
couldn't wait to start.
I believe the majority of the album was recorded
at your home studio, what kind of equipment was used for the recording
and in what order were the instruments recorded?
Yes, initially we worked quite a bit at Byrd's home studio during
the writing phase. Using an MMT8 sequencer and an Alesis S4+ sound
module for reference, we laid out the parts one at a time usually
starting with some chords on an instrument such as piano or strings
along with a click track. Then added the other parts one track at
a time. At my home studio I have 24 tracks of ADAT and a PC running
Cakewalk Pro Audio 9.3 with a Gina sound card having 8 analog outs
(added for the lead guitar tracks was a Lucid D/A converter from
the Gina's SPDIF outs for a total of 10) and it's all locked to
SMPTE. I have 2 MMT8's and I would leave one (along with a sound
module) at Byrd's so he could review the songs as they progressed.
The original audio tracks were printed directly from the sound modules
to ADAT with some compression used for vocals and bass/drums. The
vocals were recorded using an ADK A-51 microphone. I have a collection
of Neve mic pre's and other tube mic pre's and optical, tube, and
FET compressor limiters, which help get the front end solid. Once
my instrument tracks were recorded, the vocals came next. James
worked with Michael so that he could convey the melodies to Michael
and develop harmonies. Lastly, James would do the actual recording
of the guitar tracks. He decided to keep the recording chain simple,
recording the pure sound of the amplifier/ guitar rig using a single
How was this worked out in regards to different bass lines, drum
tracks etc, was it all James' ideas or did you get to throw your
suggestions into the ring?
For the most part all of this music was as I said, pre arranged
in Byrd's head and he would just recite it to me. I would play things
on the keyboard, and if James heard anything he thought was cool,
we'd use it.
With the complex symphonic backing on the
tracks its must have been difficult to achieve a good balance between
all instruments, how did you get the album to sound so good with
the perfect balance of instruments on playback? Sonically it is
Thank you! The instruments were many, so we would record them as
if they were instruments being recorded in a live concert setting.
We panned the instruments as they would appear on a stage, and in
the mix process used Cakewalk Soundstage plug-in to process each
instrument section individually whenever it was called for. This
is a very cool little program that allows one to place a sound source
anywhere within a user determined space, and what you hear after
placing it is the resultant pan, distance, and ambience of that
space. Much more realistic than just a reverb. We also developed
most of our own presets to use with it. That, combined with careful
choosing of sounds that blended well together helped achieve this
Did you give any suggestions to the 'symphonic' backing or where
they all entirely from James' ear?
James had done his homework pretty well in regards to the symphonic
backing, and we wanted to create a stage of instruments as one would
usually hear them. We stayed pretty structured throughout the project
with the "stage" concept.
Which was the hardest track to record and
Oh, probably Avianti Suite, if only for the sheer amount of things
going on in that piece. It's easy to take that one for granted because
James makes it sound easy, but if you listen you'll hear that almost
all of the guitar melody lines are being doubled by the strings
and orchestra. Add to that all of the other parts, and it gets pretty
What were you aiming to get out of Byrd during
the recording of the tracks? Did you have to push him to get the
best take out of him?
No, he recorded the guitar himself. He puts a lot of time into perfecting
his takes, and I had no doubt he'd be pushing himself hard enough.
The only thing I wanted from him was some amazing playing and I
think he came up with the goods!
James' guitar sound is the best its ever been on FBT9, did you have
any impact on his 'new voice' so to speak?
Well, not so much his "new voice" as much as just trying
to reproduce his real voice as it should be represented. In other
words, he already had his "voice", the Super Avianti sounds
great through his Marshall! We just worked on getting that voice
captured best we could.
You run/own the microphone manufacturer ADK,
I presume these mics were used exclusively on the album, would you
like to tell the gear heads here what you think makes your mics
unique and what has your company set out to achieve?
Yes, my partner Larry Villella and I started ADK [www.adkmic.com]
with the intention of putting good microphones into the hands of
the many talented people that in all honesty can't afford to go
out and blow $5,000.00 for a microphone, vintage or not. There are
specs on the website if anyone's interested.
Can you give us an insight into your musical
upbringing? You play a multitude of instruments on 'FBT9', how did
you learn all these instruments, who are your primary influences?
I am self taught on all the instruments I play. My influences are
many, from Beethoven to Hendrix and the Beatles. I love all kinds
of music and I find that it all influences me to some degree. My
house is filled with musical instruments from all over the world,
and I'm fascinated with them in general, as well as their origin.
I would imagine 'mix-down' would have been
pretty intense with all the different tracks, what do you think
you personally gave to this phase of the album and what was your
main role during this time?
BWe had things laid out pretty well, all I had to do was simply
be there to help engineer and mix.
Have you got any favourite performances or
favourite songs on the album?
I really like "Unity". Its odd time changes make it a
fun song to listen to. FBT9 gave me a little freedom to experiment
and was fun working on also. "All of Me" is one of my
favorites. Its beauty is in its simplicity. A lot of people comment
on this song. Byrd seems to have pulled this one out of his heart
more than his head, and it is self evident.
Finally how would you sum up your experience
working with James and Michael Flatters on FBT9 and would you do
it all again? :)
I would sum up my experience working with James and Michael as educational,
exhausting, and gratifying. I would do it again.
Thank you Brian for your time, it is truly appreciated.
Totally my pleasure Andy, thank you, and God bless.