We talk to Metal Producer / Engineer Chris Rakestraw (Megadeth, Danzig and Parkway Drive)
Working his way up from a studio intern, Nashville-based Producer / Engineer Chris Rakestraw has worked with some of the biggest metal acts around - Megadeth, Danzig and Parkway Drive to name a few. When we heard Chris uses Revoice Pro 4, we got in touch right away to find out more...
How did you get your first engineering gig and how did it go?
If we're talking very first first, like right out of recording school, I interned by helping an engineer in Los Angeles. I'd just show up and help do a little of this and that, every once in a while, bring donuts to a session, stuff like that. Sooner or later, he introduced me to a songwriter, who I worked with for a few months in a home studio environment. That was right about the time that Protools 5.1 came out, when you still had 16 bit 888's. I remember watching the Protools guys that he would hire sometimes, and picking their brains about how they worked so fast etc.. I had a big book of hotkeys written down, and I'd make notes on mics and stuff. Kind of childish looking back, but was helpful then. Shortly after that, the same engineer introduced me to the guys over at Pacifique Studios in Studio City. I came in, and they (the owners, Ken I think) were very nice to me, and sat me down and showed me the SSL J and K. I think they had one of the first K's in town, so it was pretty lucky dropping right into that. I remember how confusing the 4 Channel Pan thing was. I also remember that I don't think anyone actually ever asked me to set it up again in my life. Haha. Anyway, I'd say Pacifique was my real first "Engineering" gig, as an Assistant Engineer.
Was it easy to make the transition to producing records from being an engineer?
I don't know, I don't have anyone else to compare to. But for me it seemed natural. Lots of guys probably sit in the back of the room and have ideas about what someone should be doing or not doing. I guess at some point, I wanted to shake off the quiet unopinionated engineer role, and actually help the process. I definitely grew up in the structured studio environment before that, where unless you are the producer, you don't have an opinion. As for the transition, building my own studio Sunset Lodge Recording back in 06' was the catalyst for that being able to really happen.
Do you think engineering metal vocals has changed much in recent years? What are the main challenges?
Probably more lo-fi recording spaces. Meaning spaces where the vocals are recorded. Like home studios, bedrooms, or whatever. I've done a fair amount of that, and guess what, doesn't matter at all. If you've got a shitty space, just use an SM7B, and get on with your work. If your in East West Studio 2, use a big fat sexy mic. For me, I care about the singer being able to get hyped on the work, and all the nerdy stuff comes after that. My advice, get some gaffer tape, and packing blankets, and you're good.......oh, and a rewarding singer.
Which DAW(s) do you use and why?
Pro Tools, used it forever, and it seems to work. Sure it's clunky for some things, but as a simple professional tool, it ticks most of the boxes.
You're a Revoice Pro user, can you give us a recent example of how you used the software?
I love that auto tighten doubles thing. I use that a ton. I like being able to set how tight the doubles are, since you don't always want extremely tight etc.. Plus, editing doubled vocals the old way, it's just antiquated at this point. Just tighten the stuff up and get on to the more creative stuff. I don't think anyone got into this profession to brag about how awesome they are at editing doubles. Just get it done.
What do you think is unique about Revoice Pro?
The auto spot direct transfer thing you guys have going. I don't have to play the take into your program like I'm on tape. (Yes I used to work on tape.) People might not think that's a big deal, but when you get a session with a bunch of tracks, that linear real time transfer stuff eats up a lot of time.
Oh, and not to be understated, I like the tuning algorithms. They sound better than others I've used. I can go way more undetected with Revoice Pro.
Do you have a favourite record that you’ve worked on and why?
Probably, but I can't think of it right now. My favorite is probably whatever is next, whatever that is.
Any great studio stories that you'd like to share?
I worked with a singer once, when I was an assistant early on, who liked for me to sit in the vocal booth and just chill while he did vocals. Every once in a while, he'd open the door and make a crazy dolphin sound then come back in. Just another day of, no judgement, do what you gotta do to get there. That might not be a great story, but it's the first thing I thought of.
Is there any advice would you give to aspiring producers / engineers?
Yes, get some thick skin, don't react to everything, you're gonna make bad decisions and bad music at some point, don't dwell on it. Also, learn and grow at your own pace, there's no rush, and don't compare yourselves to other people, especially all the internet people.
You can follow Chris here - instagram.com/yeoldraker / @yeoldraker