Artist Feature Friday: Pat Walsh from Chaser Eight
Overall, I find that being able to record and produce my own stuff allows me to have a more holistic view of the songs that I’m making and gives me a lot of freedom to try new stuff.
One of our favorite things to do here at Tone Freqs, is to discover the methods, techniques, inspirations, and stories behind the musicians we interview. Each interview gives us a little peak inside what helps to make that artist or bands sound. Sometimes we found out it’s the gear that makes their sound, other times, it’s something that money can’t buy.
Chaser Eight are an up and coming rock quintet from North Haven Connecticut. Vocalist/songwriter *AUDRA*, and guitarist/songwriter Pat Walsh have been writing music together since the ripe age of 10. Since then, *AUDRA* and Pat have honed their craft and created a sound all their own. From opening for the London Souls and The Radiators to auditioning for Andrew Loog Oldham (Rolling Stones former Manager), Chaser Eight have certainly found a chemistry with each other that doesn’t go unnoticed.
This last October, Chaser Eight came out with their newest EP, “At the 426” which is an homage to their home/recording studio. Naturally, we found it rather fitting to interview Pat Walsh about his musical background, songwriting and recording process, gear, and of course, TONE.
Here’s what Pat had to say.
Can you tell us a little about your musical upbringing and when you started making music?
I have three older siblings who all listened to a lot of music, so I heard quite a bit of stuff around the house growing up – classic rock, grunge, jam bands, some jazz even. I got my first guitar and amp before I was a teenager (11 or 12) from the JC Penney outlet store. It was really crappy equipment, and for the first year or two I mostly just made noise and had little understanding of how to properly write or play music. When I became a teenager, and noticed that some of my friends were much better, I started to get more disciplined and took the time to teach myself how to play properly. Around that time I started playing with other musicians as often as possible. *AUDRA* was certainly my main collaborator, but, I played with a lot of people. Up until my late teens I was primarily just a lead guitarist. It wasn’t until about 18 or 19 that I became interested in songwriting and music production. Since then, those two areas have been my main focus. I don’t practice guitar much anymore but my work as a teenager gave me the foundation.
Both you and *AUDRA* have known each other for a long time. When did you guys start making music together?
Since our early teen years. We were neighbors, and not a lot of people in our neighborhood were all that interested in making music. So, naturally, we bonded. We would both play in cover bands and other bands around the neighborhood. I would also record her stuff on a 4-track tape recorder and play over the songs and experiment with my ideas. I didn’t write much at that time. Then, by the time we were 17, we had a fully formed band playing a mix of covers and originals.
Some of your influences are cited as David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, The Doors, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Killers, and even Lana Del Rey. Have you guys always shared similar tastes in music? Is there one band that has had the bigger impact on you than the others?
I certainly love most of those artists (particularly Bowie!), but I would say that is probably more of a list of artists that our band as a whole agrees upon, rather than a list of defining artists for me personally. Everyone in the band has different influences. For instance, Bill, Aaron and Peter are all fans of metal. I listen to just about everything. I’d say my home base is in contemporary big-tent indie bands like Wilco, Arcade Fire, My Morning Jacket, Vampire Weekend, Susan Tedeschi, etc.
Being that you and *AUDRA* have known each other for so long, can you tell us a little about the songwriting process between you two and how it has evolved over the years?
Well, at first it was almost entirely her. I didn’t start writing seriously until I was in my late teens, and I wasn’t very good for a while. I just kept working at it. I have a hard drive full of my musical attempts over the years. One of these days I’d like to listen back and see what some of this stuff sounds like now. Nowadays, our writing is split more or less 50/50 in aggregate, but we write our songs separately. Usually we don’t make a lot of changes to each other’s songs, but sometimes we do need to make edits. We don’t usually write together either, but occasionally we’ll do a few sessions together.
When/how did you get into recording/producing/engineering music?
I was always obsessed with recording my stuff and listening back to try and find where I can improve. I started using 4-track recorders and a Minidisc recorder when I was a teenager. I then moved on to Firewire and USB interfaces for the PC. Some of the early models sounded pretty bad though! I definitely got more sophisticated and better at recording/producing/engineering over the years. I would pick up tips and tricks from friends, online tutorials, YouTube. It was a lot of trial and error. I have no formal training. Overall, I find that being able to record and produce my own stuff allows me to have a more holistic view of the songs that I’m making and gives me a lot of freedom to try new stuff.
Can you tell us a little about the recording process to “Up and UP”?
At the time I was living in Boston, and *AUDRA* was in CT so we actually would meet up about one or two weekends a month and record. I play pretty much every instrument on it including drums. Some of the drums are acoustic but I also used a bit of digital drums. I primarily used Superior Drummer by Toontracker. We would compare notes via the internet and swap different mixes back and forth. Certainly a 21st century effort.
How was the recording process of “At the 426” different from your past recordings?
By the time we decided to record “At the 426”, I had moved back to CT where we had our fully formed band. Everyone in the band is on that album. When we recorded Up and Up, we didn’t have the fully formed band, so I ended up playing every instrument. So ‘At the 426″ was a much more collaborative effort in that regard.
When musicians record/producer their own work, they end up wearing a variety of different hats. Do you find it challenging to separate yourself as a musician, producer, and an engineer?
The roles don’t generally blur together for me so much. I try to always remember that I am a musician first and if I don’t have honest and compelling music to begin with, no amount of engineering is going to fix that.
Did you find any challenges or benefits to producing an album for a band that you’re part of?
On the plus side, there is definitely a lot of freedom to experiment and try just about anything you want without having to worry about criticism. However, different perspectives are very important to have as no one has all of the answers with this stuff. On our next EP, we are going to use more outside resources to help with producing.
What do you see as one of the most important aspects for new musicians to understand before they enter the studio?
Make sure that you have a very good game plan of what you want to do before you step into the studio. Have your arrangements and production details mostly ironed out beforehand. Some experimentation is definitely a good thing, but if there is a ton of that going on, you aren’t ready to record a final product. If I can use an analogy, a friend of mine lamented that he thought too many indie filmmakers nowadays don’t storyboard their films enough and end up improvising too many scenes. Alfred Hitchcock by contrast would storyboard every shot and knew what he was going to shoot before he turned on the camera. I don’t think one has to be that extreme, but planning definitely helps foster a sense of confidence and also keeps costs down.
Can you tell me a little about your studio setup and the gear you like to use? What DAW do you prefer to use?
We record in the basement that we practice in. We’ve done as much sound proofing as possible and built a little vocal booth as well. I record everything through a PreSonus Audiobox USB interface. I plug it into my Lenovo laptop and my DAW is Acoustica Mixcraft 6. Any strings or synths that you hear on our previous recordings are usually played by me with a MIDI guitar plugged into my laptop. For monitors, I have M-Audio AV-40’s and I also have a bunch of different Bose headphones. I really enjoy listening back on headphones as much as possible.
Do you have specific outboard gear that you like to use with your setup?
I only have two mic pres – The Focusrite ISA 110 and the ART Tube MP Studio. The first delivers a more transparent sound. If I want some grit, then I will use the ART with any number of different 12AX7 tubes which I can swap in and out pretty quickly. PreSonus provides some monitoring software that includes compression, equalization, filters, etc. I use that quite a bit, but mostly rely on VST plugins.
Are there any pieces of gear that you really enjoy using and act as “staples” to your recording process?
Aside from the hardware I just mentioned, I like a lot of the software and plugins from Waves – the C6, Jack Joseph Puig suite, and DeEsser are all staples in my book. I like Soundtoys EchoBoy and Decapitator plugins as well. For mastering I use the Izotope Ozone 5, which I really love quite a bit.
I know each situation has a variety of variables, but do you typically gravitate towards a certain microphone for *AUDRA*’s vocals? What about on Chris Grillo’s vocals?
I only have the Rode NT-1A for a vocal microphone. The way I get different sounds is from swapping my two mic pres in and out and using different software plugins. I plan to get another vocal microphone though (something a little less transparent sounding). The Rode is a solid workhorse, but it tends to get a little harsh from about 2-4k on the frequency spectrum. I often have to use my Waves C6.
I love the guitar work and tone on “Heart to Heart”. Do you have a specific way you like to record guitars?
Thanks! Glad you like it. I use a combination of digital amps and real ones when recording electric guitars. For digital amps, I like the Waves GTR3 and the Shred Amp Simulator that Acoustica provides. I sometimes record through my Fender Hot Rod using a Sure SM57 as well. On “Heart to Heart” I use both methods If I remember correcly. I don’t ever alter the way I record acoustic guitars. I just make sure that I have a good sounding room and stick my Rode NT 1-A about a foot from the 12th fret.
Do you have a specific way you like to record bass? Drums?
For bass I plug right into the DI input on my Focusrite ISA 110. I sometimes will use digital bass amps, but not always. For drums, everything goes right into my Presonus Audiobox. We have a Shure drum mic set and I usually use 8 microphones in total. I find that our basement gives a nice sound to the drums. Not too big or too small. I generally always beef up the snare, toms, and kick with MIDI drums by using a program called Drumtracker by Toontrack. It gives the drums a much more contemporary and punchy sound.
Your recordings have a nice, even, full sound. Do you do all of your own mixing and mastering also? If so, do you have any tips you would like to share with our community?
Thanks! Yes I do it all myself. I’ll provide the community with two tips that I find helpful. First, if you don’t have a good piece of mastering software, then go invest in one. I like Izotope’s products, but there are others out there that will work. Secondly, check your mixes on a variety of different speakers and headphones. I actually like to listen on really bad monitors and headphones because I know that if I can get our stuff to sound good on them, the songs will sound really great on high end speakers.
Do you have any advice for other musicians that are looking at getting into the DIY recording process?
In 2013 it is not especially costly or technically demanding to record and engineer your own hi-fi recordings. All you need from an investment side is a few good microphones, one or two decent mic pres, a reliable interface, and a couple of solid software plugins. The rest is just learning good recording and engineering techniques, which the internet has a wealth of information on. A lot of people are afraid to dig into that part of it though.
What can fans expect from Chaser Eight in 2014?
We will have a new EP out in 2014. We are going to put a lot more time and resources into making it than we ever have before. Right now, we’re writing a lot of material and recording a ton of song demos. The goal is to narrow down to just the 5 or 6 best songs to push forward with for the EP. This time around, we are going to use more studio resources and seek some outside production help. Besides that, we are also planning to play some festivals in New England and also create at least one elaborate music video based around a narrative concept.
If you could have dinner with one musician, DOA, who would it be?
The entire Rat Pack. Not because I am some avid fan, but because I think both the one-liners and cocktails would be stellar! However, if you’re being strict with your rule, then everyone but Sammy Davis Jr. can leave.
As you can see, Pat has certainly helped establish Chaser Eight with a unique and fresh sound. We can’t thank Pat for FREQ’n out with us. We welcome him to the Tone Freq family with open arms. We wish him and the rest of Chaser Eight nothing but the best on their future and can’t wait to see what’s next!
Make sure to stay up to date with all things Chaser Eight with the links below!