Prince Fatty - Gear, Recording Techniques + Production
We sat down with the historic dub and reggae producer and engineer Prince Fatty, in order to delve into how he achieves his sound - alongside the process behind the engineering, production and arrangement of his new track with Shniece McMenamin - Black Rabbit.
A real journey of a record, ‘Black Rabbit’ features 60s mind bending guitar, plenty of delay and reverb with a heavy pounding hypnotic backbeat. With Shniece’s vocals taking on the melody, this is euphoric dub at its finest. On creating the record, Prince Fatty added:
After Breaking Bad and Grey's Anatomy, Hollywood got to know about the Prince Fatty sound. All was quiet for a while until I got a call from a sync agent asking if I had any psychedelic “Free Love” era songs in my style for a pitch. I had to admit that I didn’t but it got me thinking which songs could be converted. A selection was drawn, and ‘White Rabbit’ by Jefferson Airplane stuck out. A masterpiece of course and quite a challenge as the vocal is so skilfully delivered.
Eimear O Sullivan, Musicngear: There is a really nice warmth to Black Rabbit - what was your signal chain for recording each of the vocals, drums, keys and guitar?
The instrumental track was recorded in my old studio using an old 70s beaten up BBC console and Ampex tape machine. I built the live room so the sound was set for dub. The drums were 70s Rogers with 24” inch kick and Ludwig snare. Shniece recorded the vocals herself with her vintage Ampex AM10- Mic Pre and a valve Groove Tubes mic in her apartment during lockdown.
The lead guitar was done by my guitarist Kash in his own studio, I believe he has an API and SSL X-Desk set up and owns a vintage Neumann U67 and valve amps - Kash is also a great engineer. During lockdown I was in Thailand mixing at Jah Dub Studio, so we were working online and remotely. The SSL X Desk is crazy good for mixing sound, as it’s such a simple circuit - the less electronics involved the better it sounds.
MnG: The guitar and keys have an eerie, psychedelic quality to them, injecting the dreamlike unease from Alice in Wonderland perfectly - what did you use in order to achieve this effect?
It’s all in the chords and the space. The lead guitar hook in the original is very technical and classic; and once Kash found a way of adapting the phrase it all fell into place. I know Kash and Shniece did many takes to get it to the standard you are listening to. The spring reverbs add vibes and the use of ribbon microphones keeps the sound open. The organ is a B3 with a Leslie speaker - on a fast setting the rotating speaker has a dreamy tremolo effect.
Feel is everything in music, and it takes time to understand and many hours of listening to start to understand the building blocks.
MnG: What DAW do you mainly work in?
I use Avid Protools as my main DAW, SSL plugins by SSL are my favourite so far. I use Geist for beats and occasionally Ableton Live. The latest version of Protools has many cool features. I love the vari-speed function as it works like a tape machine. Speeding music up and down can yield interesting results.
MnG: The vocals on this are spectacular - what did you use for mixing them?
Thank you, Shniece has to take credit for that as her voice records well, even with a cheap dynamic mic! For mixing vocals I use an EMI TG compressor and limiter. Channel 1 is set to compress with a slow attack, and then it’s fed into channel 2, and set to Limiter with a fast attack time.
I use SSL X desks and X rack with a 4 band e.q. for a gentle eq. The sound of the Ampex preamp Shniece uses has a nice quality and distorts just enough. Reverb wise - I am using an Orban spring reverb with a delay on the input with no feedback and a TC one reverb.
MnG: For someone who is eager to start out producing reggae and dub, but doesn't know where to start - what would you recommend as a good starting point?
Listen to early Prince Buster and the Skatalites and start your learning in a chronological order. If you listen to Blue Note jazz and 60s soul music by the likes of Sam Cooke and the Impressions you will start to understand the vocal influences.
Listen to the Meters and Al Green if you want to understand early Lee Perry for example. It’s obvious to me that Bob Marley was a big fan of Curtis Mayfield. Sound wise - the best JA sound engineers were Errol Thompson and Sylvian Morris for the old school sound. These guys knew how to cut and manufacture vinyl and were used to recording live and often to only 1 or 2 mono tracks. The dub mixes done by King Tubby and Prince Jammy rule supreme but let’s not forget the recording engineers and master musicians that helped create the dimension! Feel is everything in music, and it takes time to understand and many hours of listening to start to understand the building blocks. Start now with drums from HorsemanDrums and make reggae music!
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