VIP Client Story: Rik Simpson - Coldplay
Rik Simpson is a Grammy Award-winning music producer, sound engineer, musician and songwriter. He is most recently recognised for his production work with Coldplay on A Rush Of Blood To The Head, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends and Mylo Xyloto. He has also gained much critical acclaim for his work with Jay-Z, Portishead, Kasabian, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and PJ Harvey among others. As well as the technical sides of recording and mixing he often contributes musically, playing and singing on many of his productions. He is also one half of production duo The Darktones, with Coldplay bassist Guy Berryman. They have recently completed the The Pierces' album, You & I, released on Universal Records. His latest project Coldplays's Mylo Xyloto charted at number one in thirty-four countries and has sold over 6 million copies worldwide to date. The album was nominated for three Grammy awards, which is nothing new to Coldplay who have sold over 50 million records worldwide and received seven GRAMMY® awards and 20 GRAMMY nominations thus far in their career making them one of the most celebrated bands of this generation. To find out more abut what Rik has been up to lately please visit his sight
How important is having access to a quality reverb to your work and production style?
Reverb for me is invaluable, it covers such a vast area of sound production. It can be a huge cavernous effect that stuns you with its drama or it can unobtrusively set instruments deeper into the "picture" you're listening to. Most reverb never gets heard, it just separates instruments and makes your music more 3D.
What are some of your favorite reverbs, hardware or software, that you have used throughout your long career? Do you still use any of these?
Hardware-wise I love Eventide reverbs; the H3000 and now the H8000 have some amazing spaces (their new plugin emulations are also pretty special). While I am a great admirer of Lexicon, there was (for me) something of the cheesy 80's thing contained in the sound of their reverbs (in todays context not a good thing!). I love the Bricasti M1, it's taken that Lexicon thing into a modern, expensive sounding realm. Software-wise Universal Audio have a great verbs (EMT 140 & 250 ) and, dare I say it, their Lexicon 224 (It seems crunchier than I remember the real one being!). Altiverb is classic too, I love the dedication the developers have shown by travelling around the world to record reverbs for it. I'm loving 2C Audio's Aether and Breeze too of course! I think it's great that a small company is taking on the big boys and beating them at their own game.
Any general tips for younger producers on effective reverb use or secret recipes you care to share?
When you're starting out it's easy to drench everything in reverb and get carried away. As a rule I'll dial the effect in until I can hear it and then back it off. Also, don't be scared of EQ'ing reverb, roll some top and/or bottom end off it to make it less dominant. The idea is generally to set the instrument in it's own defined space without losing too much of the punch of the dry sound. Oh yeah, two more things: these rules are made to be broken and don't smoke weed when applying reverb (and for that matter delay), the results can be disastrous...
Any cool upcoming projects coming up that you care to share with our readers?
A few things but unfortunately I'm not at liberty to divulge any details yet...
What hardware, OS, and host application(s) are you using with our software?
Protools is the hub of the studio (with Apogee converters and a big Mac running OSX and a UAD Quad card). There are a few laptops dotted around, mine's a powerful MacBookPro running OSX Lion with Logic Pro, Ableton Live and Reason on it, all great programs that do different jobs for me.
What do you find most unique or inspiring about Aether as compared to other competitive products?
I love the fact that Aether has so much character sonically, it's also incredibly easy to mess with very complex parameters because the GUI is so good.
Do you tend to use Aether for extreme FX oriented presets, or more subtle and traditional reverb needs, or both?
I tend to use it to make big statements. It enjoys standing proud doing things that not many other reverbs (particularly software ones) are incapable of.
How many instances per project do you typically use?
It depends entirely on what the song dictates it wants
What kind of source sounds do you usually use with Aether?
Guitars, synths, vocals
Do you find yourself designing your own presets on a regular basis?
Afraid not, I always start randomly and then season to taste..
Could you name some of your works in which you have actively used Aether?
"Mylo Xyloto" (Coldplay), "You & I" (The Pierces), "The Robot Heart" (The Robot Heart)
What was your involvement in the Mylo Xyloto album and the previous Coldplay albums?
I see myself as a conduit for the band's recordings. I sit at the desk console and make sure everything sounds good on the way into the computer. I also help with creative decisions; both sides of my brain tend to get used very intensively, both the artistic and technical sides, it's taken a while to find a happy balance between the two...
Paradise is such an epic track. What kind of various reverb and effects did you guys use on it?
Most of the reverbs on the record are real. We have a great space here in London where we recorded pianos and most of the track although I think the drums were tracked at Electric Lady Studios in New York. We use a lot of effects on guitars and other instruments both through amps and in the box. I use Universal Audio, Eventide, Sound Toys, Waves and of course your guys stuff
When you record the live elements such at the GTRs and drums, do you often include a lot of the room sound into the recordings? How do you balance it with the added algorithmic reverbs?
I try to catch you as much room as possible in the recording stage, this is where the real life and character of recordings lie for me. Anyone can record a good sounding guitar now, even using plug-ins in the box, the trick lies in creating a space around it that is emotive. Of course rules are made to be broken and sometimes an algorithmic reverb will work just as well if not better.
We understand Aether was used a lot on synth material on the album. Did you play live into it? Did you find it inspired the compositions or performances in any way, or was the material already written before Aether was applied?
I am afraid there is no easy answer to this one, there're so many different ways to gain inspiration from a sound. I generally find that music finds its own path. By this I mean you start down the path not really knowing where you will end up and by the end of the recording or writing you've found yourself at your destination. Isn't really a cognitive act, it's almost as if some other force takes hold and you're just a host to the spirit. I am aware how pretentious this sounds but it's the simplest and most direct way I can convey the feeling. Going back to your question you can see that every situation will be different, sometimes its's tracked live with an effect, sometimes it's not. I to be depends on what feels best at the time. One final thing I'd like to add is that time is definitely always an issue. When someone is ready to record a part it's often best just to get that part down wasp before the feeling is lost rather than spend hours trying to find a technically perfect sound and then be left with a clinical recording.
Anything we could offer or do better to fit the needs of the next Coldplay album?
Keep up the good work!! You guys are doing great work at the moment and it's good to see the new kids on the block have so much to offer!!