Jessup, Maryland – March 2009:
Both engineer/producer Warren Huart and the popular group The Fray were no strangers to the great API sound when they purchased one of the first API 1608 small-frame analog consoles back in 2008 to record their second album entitled The Fray. This record has done nearly the impossible for most follow-ups: it went gold in five weeks and debuted number one on the Billboard record charts.
Originally from southeast England, recording engineer Warren Huart recorded The Fray's record from top to bottom. He is currently producing and engineering the new Better Than Ezra album and has worked recently with Sony artists August Ana and Howie Day. Huart comments, "I came to this country in 1995 and in 1999 the band I was in recorded an album with the legendary engineer/producer Dave Jerden at his Eldorado Studios. I loved the sound he got from recording everything using his rack of sixteen API microphone pre-amp cards he had pulled out of a console. He's known as an SSL guy, but he records everything though APIs."
In 2000, Huart partnered up with Phil Jaurigui at Swing House Studios in Hollywood, California. They had another brand of console and, as finances permitted, they started adding modules and more outboard gear to build up the studio's profile. Huart comments, "Our biggest step was to buy a real professional console. We realized it's the only way to break out of the demo studio world. We found a 20-input, 8-bus, 16-monitor '70s era API console and the differences have been enormous! There is a tremendous difference in sound between recording a kit of drums using a disparate collection of mic pre-amp modules, and recording the same kit using a console with its built-in pre-amps."
On The Fray's first album, Mike Flynn asked Huart to record drums on a song called "How To Save A Life." That song went on to be a huge hit with millions of downloads to date. They used the little API at Swing House to record the drum tracks. The Frays subsequently asked Huart to put together a Pro Tools rig to take on the road to record demos in preparation for their second album. Huart continues, "Look, if we're gonna do this, lets buy real pre-amps - not Mickey Mouse prosumer stuff - quality professional gear just in case you record something we'll want to use for the record. So we bought four API 3124 units - 16-channels of mic pre-amps."
When it came time to record the second album and after period of expensive and low productivity at a commercial studio in northern California, it seemed to make more economical sense to record at the band's studio in Denver, Colorado. Huart goes on, "But their studio had no console and I had heard good things about the 1608 - that had been out for only a few weeks - from drummer Hunter Crowley. I had only one question: Does it sound like a classic API console? I mix hot. So when you peg the meters does it still sound great? Well it does and so it was an easy sale."
Both Huart and the band considered buying a vintage model but as Huart says, "If we bought an old board, you're going to put $20K into it to get it usable. With the API 1608, we've got a real recording console with real mic pres, real EQs, bussing, professional monitoring facilities at a really good price. We didn't have cut off an arm or sell one of my kids to buy it. It sounds like my other API or any vintage API console."
The actual process of recording The Fray using the 1608 went smoothly due to Huart's clever use of the entire console. "The artist is happiest when everything is running as seamlessly as possible," he continues, "so I used absolutely every part of that board. There was not a single piece of that console that wasn't being used. We were patching all over the bloody place. I recorded from the direct outs to Pro Tools and I used the sixteen fader input channels to develop monitor mixes - which worked out well for the two producers, Mike Flynn and Aaron Johnson, to work freely on the monitor mixes. Headphone mixes, when tracking the band, were derived from the mic inputs. Those additional API 3124 units came in handy. I connected their outputs to the Echo Return inputs to mix microphones for top and bottom snare, toms and the front and back mics on guitar amps. I had thirty-two mic pre-amps running total and I had all the drum kit mics in front of me on the console where I love them."
If there is one constant in the Warren Huart, The Fray and API universe, it's writing and recording hit records.