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Larry Van Fleet - Getting the Led Out

Larry Van Fleet explains his techniques for recording "D''yer Maker"

Guitar Studio When putting together the Guitar Masters series, I discovered a terrific unknown guitarist from the Midwest by the name of Larry Van Fleet. He had a song called “Hummingbird Rag,” which showcased an incredible acoustic fingerstyle. As it turns out, he had done a fair share of gigging, as well as studying Master Classes with Miguel Rubio and Charlie Byrd (which explained his flawless approach to guitar playing). Unfortunately, the lineup was already filled for Guitar Masters, but I knew he would be perfect for another CD I was producing called Get The Led Out! A Led Zeppelin Salute. He agreed to do a song for the compilation and delved into the project immediately, resulting in an amazing instrumental version of the song, “D’yer Maker.”

What was your recording setup for “D’yer Maker”?
I recorded my interpretation of Led Zeppelin’s “D’yer Maker” on a ‘79 Gibson ES-347TD. All three guitar tracks, rhythm, slide and lead went through a Line 6 PODXT via USB to a Carillon AC-1 PC. The PODXT is equipped with the Effects pack, Bass pack and the FBV Shortboard pedal controller. I recorded the bass track using a Peavey Millennium bass also through the PODXT.

What’s your studio like?
Karaya6 Studio is a small den in my house in Omaha, Nebraska. The room is 9’x11’, carpeted, with bookshelves and no acoustic treatment. “D’yer Maker” was recorded entirely within this studio using the PODXT into the Carillon AC-1. I mixed the tracks on a pair of Alesis M1 active monitors and A-B’d the mixes with my car stereo and an old component system at home. Since this recording was digitally “in the box,” I had the advantage of working late at night or during the day without household and neighborhood noises destroying takes. I recorded without headphones, referencing the tracks through the M1s. Later, I checked the tracks and mix with a set of Sony MDR7506 headphones. I used drum loops from Siggi Baldursson’s “Drum Sugar” (Sony-Acid Loops). A particular intro loop caught my ear and the rest of the groove had the feel that I was looking for.

How did you record the guitars?
The PODXT lets me dial in every parameter of a particular sound and in the end gives a pretty convincing impression of a mic’d amp. I have several user-defined presets that I tweak and save, which generally helps me to overcome my audio engineering limitations and proceed with the music. For this track, I modified the presets for each of the three guitar sounds. I had intended to use a Hamer, but it was in need of adjustment at the time of the recording so the Gibson got the call. In the end I was pleased with the warm, attractive tone it imparted to the mix.

How did you plan the sound?
I was attracted to the song “D’yer Maker” by the slightly reggae vibe and the over-the-top delivery by Zep. Basically, the song is a ballad, and they sing and play it as an angst-ridden parody. I liked the tongue-in-cheek approach and the groove. Since I couldn’t get lost in the arrangement, and being a firm believer in the happy accident, I laid down the drum loops, bass and rhythm guitar and got my slide out.

The 347 is unadjusted and in standard tuning for the slide track. I used a slap back echo with flange and threw caution to the wind. The one plan that I did follow was to have the slide guitar “reply” to the lead in the B section. I wanted to use the volume pedal on the lead guitar, but once I played with adjusting the auto-swell, I was hooked on the way it made me phrase the lines and I just let it flow.

What’s on the horizon?
Recent projects from late-2007 and early-2008 included two pieces recorded for Bohemian Productions: a Jeff Beck tribute for which I interpreted “Water Down the Drain” from the ‘69 release, Beckola, and a Jimi Hendrix tribute where I caught up with “You Got Me Floatin” from the ‘67 Axis: Bold as Love. I make ongoing contributions to [film music libraries] Spider Cues, Editor’s Choice and DSM Producers of New York, and was recently featured in two independent films by D. Sawatski, The Grove and Running.

A Gibson 347 was a terrific choice for the song; I never would’ve guessed that he used a semi-hollowbody on the track. Coming from an old analog dog, it amazes me that artist like Larry can make a simple den into a functioning recording environment with just a computer and software. It’s just a sign of how far we’ve come; musicians can now create and record their ideas and tracks on such a full palate of options. Check out some great performances from Larry on the Led Zeppelin Salute CD, Get The Led Out! and the Jeff Beck tribute CD, El Becko from NuGroove/BHP Music on Sony distribution.

Brian Tarquin
Emmy Award Winning Guitarist Brian Tarquin scored a Top 20 hit in the 90’s with “The Best of Acid Jazz, vol. 2” on Instinct Records and enjoyed several top 10 hits on the R&R charts. Founder of the rock/electronica band, Asphalt Jungle and has scored TV music for such shows as CSI, Smallville, MTV, Alias, 24, All My Children and many others.