Guitars, amps, mics and three different studios: how Ace recorded tracks for his latest.

The JCM900 SL-X and 5150 II in the control room.
On Anomaly, Ace used several engineers, since the project spanned a long period of time. Jay Messina (Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, Kiss, Peter Frampton) tracked the drums and basics at Schoolhouse Studios in NYC to get things started. Then the drives went home to Ace In The Hole studios in Westchester, NY. There, Alex Salzman and I finished off most of the overdubs, along with Tim Hatfield. In L.A., Ace tracked “Fox On The Run” and mixed the project with Marty Frederiksen and Anthony Focx.

I kept thorough notes on what mics, amps and preamps were used on each song (as well as taking pics), so that if we came back to a song a month or more later, we could remember the setups. For most of the electric tracks, I used a Royer 122V tube ribbon mic or a Royer 121, along with either a Sennheiser MD 421 II or the classic Shure SM57. At first, we also used room mics, but they were rarely used in the mix, so we eventually just settled on close mics. Ace liked the mics to be right up on the speakers, which does provide some proximity bass and a very up-front sound.

Royer 122V and Shure SM57 up close on a Marshall cabinet.
The variety of amps included a Marshall JCM900 SL-X, Peavey 5150 II, Vox AC15, Fender Princeton, Twin Reverb, Bassman combo, Mesa/Boogie MK IV, and several others. Preamps were a mix and match of Universal Audio LA-610, Avalon VT 737sp, Earthworks 1024, and Focusrite ISA428, as well as some others.

When cutting acoustic parts, I’d use a variety of mics, from AKG 414s and Earthworks QTCs to a single AKG C 12 VR “The Tube” with a modified capsule. That was the primary vocal mic used on the record as well. We also used the DI output on any acoustics that had one, just to have the extra sonic options later.

Ace’s selection of ‘bursts.
For acoustic guitars, Alex used an ADK SC-T mic on the neck, with the AKG 414 on the body. He also used an esoteric Chinese Stellar tube condenser, as well as a Tech 21 SansAmp acoustic DI. He used mostly the Focusrite ISA428 and the UA 610 on the amps, capturing the sound with a pair of SM57s—one straight at the cone and one at a 45-degree angle next to it. The Peavey 5150 II was the primary head he recorded Ace with, but he also used a small Peavey Bandit amp for certain overdubs with a 57.

Alex also recorded two tracks of drums with Anton in Ace’s live room. He used an AKG D 112 on the kick, a pair of the ADKs as overheads, an AKG 414 on bottom of snare, an SM57 on top, as well as Sennheiser MD 409s on the toms. He also tracked vocals with the AKG “The Tube” and a 414, using mostly the Focusrite ISA 428.

The AC15 used on “Genghis Kahn.”
I asked Marty Frederiksen how he hooked up with Ace for this project. This is his reply: “Me and Anthony Focx were mixing songs for the Guitar Hero: Metallica and Guitar Hero: Aerosmith games and David Iscove told Ace about us. He said, ‘You should have Marty mix the record,’ and Ace was out in L.A. and came by a few days later. That’s how it all happened.”

I also asked Marty how the record was mixed, and how they did the guitars on “Fox on the Run,” and this is what he told me: “We mixed it all in Pro Tools, with things like the URS and SSL channel strip plug-ins. You know, we used all the good stuff that’s available out there! The whole approach was that he wanted to keep it as old school as possible. The fact of the matter is we ended up tightening a few little things, but it was pretty much all there. We didn’t put everything on the grid, but like most records, if something just needed a nudge here and there, we did it.

We used drum samples with the real drums, just to give it a big sound. That also helped tie up a long recording process of his and make it sound like one record.

“For ‘Fox on the Run,’ we went DI, using Digidesign’s Eleven. I played a little on that track as well, some rhythm and some bass, and Brian Tichy played drums. We really knocked that one out and did it in about a day. Overall, it’s a heavy, riff-based record with some great songs. He got to lay down some killer parts on all his songs without anyone telling him what to do. We kind of cleaned it up a bit, killed a couple of guitars if there was too much going on, but it’s all Ace. He’s a guitar hero, and I just felt we could help him tie it all together to make a cohesive- sounding record. It came out great.”

The emotional wallop of the acoustic guitar sometimes flies under the radar. Even if you mostly play electric, here are some things to consider about unplugging.

I have a love-hate relationship with acoustic guitars. My infatuation with the 6-string really blasted off with the Ventures. That’s the sound I wanted, and the way to get it was powered by electricity. Before I’d even held a guitar, I knew I wanted a Mosrite, which I was sure was made of fiberglass like the surfboards the Beach Boys, Surfaris, and the Challengers rode in their off time. Bristling with space-age switchgear and chrome-plated hardware, those solidbody hotrod guitars were the fighter jets of my musical dreams. I didn’t even know what those old-timey round-hole guitars were called. As the singing cowboys Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey strummed off into the sunset, the pace of technology pushed the look and sound of the electric guitar (and bass) into the limelight and into my heart. Imagine my disappointment when I had to begin my guitar tutelage on a rented Gibson “student” acoustic. At least it sort of looked like the ones the Beatles occasionally played. Even so, I couldn’t wait to trade it in.

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