Author Topic: Help the playwright do some research  (Read 5935 times)

Hypnagogue

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Help the playwright do some research
« on: February 07, 2008, 11:55:51 AM »
So maybe an ambient discussion forum isn't the place to ask a question about recording technology during the hair-metal days, but I know there are some folks here within my age demographic who may have, in their day, slung an axe with great sonic force while wearing spandex--for which they may be forgiven--so maybe one of you will have an answer.

In a piece that I'm currently working on, the main character had been in a fledgling metal band in the early 80s. (Think Ratt, Poison, Cinderella.) The band was offered a recording contract by a very small, extremely modestly funded local record label. A master was cut for an album. Here's where the questions come in...

At that time, for an outfit that probably couldn't afford the best of the best in recording equipment, what would the recording/storage media have been? Would the master be cassette, reel-to-reel, very early digital? How many tracks might it have been? 16? 32? (I'm thinking 32 might actually be too high for the type of operation that's in my head.)

In essence, the main character ends up in possession of the master--in whatever format--and has been keeping it hidden for 25 years, working on it here and there. So I need to know what it is he's got.

Any takers?
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mgriffin

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Re: Help the playwright do some research
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2008, 12:10:06 PM »
I'm picturing one of those 8 track Foster reel to reel things that Loren and Forrest probably did a bunch of recordings on at some point... they were sort of the budget studio precursor to the ADAT.
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mgriffin

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Re: Help the playwright do some research
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2008, 12:15:46 PM »
And yes, in the early 80s, people on a modest budget could only dream of 32 track recording.

This is the Fostex I was talking about.

http://www.chookfest.net/emil/gear/r8.html

There might be something a little more ambitious & expensive than this, like I think there was a bigger 16 track I saw here & there, that might have been near $5,000.
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LNerell

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Re: Help the playwright do some research
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2008, 12:20:01 PM »
I worked in studios just like this back in the early 1980s. I would say 1" 16 track machine would be the top and probably a luxury for most small local labels. Most small time bands recorded on 1/2" or even 1/4" 8 track machines. Here's a pic of what I use to record on:



I still have that machine, its sitting unused in my garage. Mixing was probably to 1/4" two track reel-to-reel or maybe an old PCM F1 recorder which recorded everything to a video tape. Here's a picture of a PCM F1 with matching video deck:

Take care.

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Re: Help the playwright do some research
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2008, 12:26:16 PM »
I'm picturing one of those 8 track Foster reel to reel things that Loren and Forrest probably did a bunch of recordings on at some point... they were sort of the budget studio precursor to the ADAT.

Yeah I recorded a few things on that make of Fostex, mostly Djam Karet's 2nd and 3rd albums because they bought one and wanted to record in their rehearsal studio instead of in a proper studio. They were the budget machine and didn't sound that great. Small tape witdth and slow speed meant lack of bass and no real highs. The studios I worked out of had a 1/2" 8 track or a 1" 16 track with dbx noise reduction. Much better quality but cost quite a bit more to buy at the time.
Take care.

- Loren Nerell

Wayne Higgins

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Re: Help the playwright do some research
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2008, 12:46:58 PM »
Don't forget to have them plaing in small rooms separated and the monitors keep going out.  Heavy metal prima donnas screaming about rustic conditions in sound proof rooms where no one can hear them would make for good funny scenes.
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jblock

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Re: Help the playwright do some research
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2008, 12:54:48 PM »
I've got to agree (1" reel-to-reel, 16-track), but they probably would've scrapped together as much money as possible and gone into a studio, so 32 track is not out of the question. From 1984-86 I worked as a writer for a number of heavy metal magazines so I was exposed to many of these types of bands and the way they operated. I wasn't into heavy metal, but I did get to tour with many of the big bands at the time (Iron Maiden, Dio, Ozzy, etc.). It's a long story. Those bands hit it big more in the mid-80s than the early 80s but I don't know if that has any bearing on the crux of your story.
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Hypnagogue

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Re: Help the playwright do some research
« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2008, 01:55:06 PM »
This is perfect, folks. Perfect. You're a blessing.

peace & power,
js
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mgriffin

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Re: Help the playwright do some research
« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2008, 02:30:18 PM »
I've got to agree (1" reel-to-reel, 16-track), but they probably would've scrapped together as much money as possible and gone into a studio, so 32 track is not out of the question. From 1984-86 I worked as a writer for a number of heavy metal magazines so I was exposed to many of these types of bands and the way they operated. I wasn't into heavy metal, but I did get to tour with many of the big bands at the time (Iron Maiden, Dio, Ozzy, etc.). It's a long story. Those bands hit it big more in the mid-80s than the early 80s but I don't know if that has any bearing on the crux of your story.

Wow, Jonathan, you were almost famous!
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LNerell

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Re: Help the playwright do some research
« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2008, 03:30:29 PM »
I've got to agree (1" reel-to-reel, 16-track), but they probably would've scrapped together as much money as possible and gone into a studio, so 32 track is not out of the question.

I have to say 32 tracks is highly unlikely for a couple of reasons. Back then studios had 8 tracks or 16 tracks or 24 tracks. If you wanted more tracks you had to gang together machines and they were almost always of the same format. A studio that could do this (it required a lot of technical stuff to do and in the process meant you lost 2 tracks per deck to get them to sync) usually had enough money for 24 tracks. So if more then 24 tracks were required then you usually ganged two 24 tracks together giving you 44 tracks. Ganging two 16 tracks together gave you only 28 tracks so in most cases you would move to a 24 track machine instead.

Another reason, these studios were expensive. I've been in a lot of LA studios back in the 1980s from some of the biggest to the smallest, and only the big studios were setup to do multiple machines at a time. And these studios where $150+ an hour in 1980s money. Compare that to 16 track studios which cost between $25-50 an hour. And 8 tracks were even cheaper.  ;D

Also the cost of tape, 2" reels cost about $100 and you got about 15 minutes of time. Ganging two of these machines together meant 200 bucks ber song just in tape alone, a standard album length project could easly cost $2000 just for the tape. 1" tape was about half the cost and 1/2" was about half of that.
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jblock

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Re: Help the playwright do some research
« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2008, 03:34:25 PM »
I have to say 32 tracks is highly unlikely for a couple of reasons. Back then studios had 8 tracks or 16 tracks or 24 tracks. If you wanted more tracks you had to gang together machines and they were almost always of the same format. A studio that could do this (it required a lot of technical stuff to do and in the process meant you lost 2 tracks per deck to get them to sync) usually had enough money for 24 tracks. So if more then 24 tracks were required then you usually ganged two 24 tracks together giving you 44 tracks. Ganging two 16 tracks together gave you only 28 tracks so in most cases you would move to a 24 track machine instead.

This would have been on the East Coast, but I get your point, it was probably 24 track. I just know so many bands that got together every penny they could to get a professional sound from a NYC studio thinking that would be the ticket.
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Re: Help the playwright do some research
« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2008, 03:34:59 PM »
Wow, Jonathan, you were almost famous!

Unfortunately, it wasn't really like the movie.  ;)
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mgriffin

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Re: Help the playwright do some research
« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2008, 03:44:43 PM »
I knew guys in bands in the 80s who would all save up for like 3 months, just to go into a crappy little studio for a 6-8 hour session to record a 3-4 track demo.  It used to be a really big deal for a band to be able to say they had a demo!  The great majority of bands just rehearsed and played a few shows, but had no recordings to speak of, other than stereo cassette "audience recordings" from some of their gigs.
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