Snowmine’s Gear: Fender Mini Tone-Master

” I use a Fender Mini Tone-Master. It’s a small solid state practice amp, and I put literally everything through it. “

Like many contemporary Brooklyn based artists, Snowmine (featured on the cover of the summer 2012 issue of our sister site/publication The Deli) is very interested in the creative possibilities offered by the recording studio, but the results we hear on record showcase a band that masters the production process like few others. We took the time to ask them a few questions about this.

How much of your recording is done at home versus in the studio?

A lot of the recording is done at home. We call it batcaving.

If you use a studio, what do you record there and what do you record by yourself and why?

We record basics (drums, bass, rhythm guitars) all live for the sake of the personal interaction. It helps to be able to float off the grid and focus on the performing with each other. I do textures, found sounds and vocals at home. The space to get in your own head and nitpick can only appear without the pressure of the space you’re paying for…

What are the pieces of equipment that you find particularly inspiring when recording at home? (Please mention the brand and model name and say why you like it)

I use a Fender Mini Tone-Master. It’s a small solid state practice amp, and I put literally everything through it. Almost all the tracks for remixes and otherwise go through it, either for grit and gnarly speaker distortion or darkening. I then take the 96k, sparkly hi-fi tracks and balance them against each other. I think it’s cool to automate between two sounds that are hi and lo-fi — adds another sense of dimension.

I also use a tiny compressor called the “RNC” or “Really Nice Compressor” before I get to the amp. It’s no frills, but I push it on synths before the amp, so I can hit it with variable attacks. You can get some interesting results for sure. It also has a “Super Nice” mode, which I can’t exactly figure out, but I think the name is rad.

My choice mic is the good ol’ SM7. You know what they say: “If it ain’t broke, don’t get gas.” (That’s Gear Acquisition Syndrome.)

What one piece of hardware/software would you most like to add to your recording setup (cost not an issue)? Why?

The Nagra IV. I know it’s not exciting, but I’ve had some great times cutting up tape and I want to do it more at home. I currently use a 2-track 1/8-inch, which is super dirty sounding, but the noise floor is way too high to overdub too much with.

Do you expect your next record to be self-produced, or would you like to work with a producer? If it’s the latter, who would you most like to produce your band, and why?

We’re self-producing this record. The tiny details just feel too precious to surrender, especially when that’s most of the fun. But we’re super excited to be working with Jake Aron and Yale Yng-Wong for all engineering and mixing. So far, it’s been a great dynamic.

Do you use rack effects or guitar pedals to forge your own sound? If you do, please list the ones you use the most and let us know why you love them.

The only rack effects used consistently across most everything are Apogee converters, 1176 and NEVE eq (pretty common chain). All else is guitar pedals. We have far too many pedals. If we melted them all down, I bet we could build an airplane. And then fly to a place where we could buy more pedals.

We dig the “WMD—Weapon of Mass Destruction” Bitcrusher, the original Memory Man, The Boss DD6 with warper, anything harmonizer and the awesome Diamond Memory Lane 2.

Do you have a particular recording style that you aim for? What techniques do you employ to recreate it?

Not exactly. We aren’t a lo-fi band, because we value color too much and hi-end is a whole different kind of it. This isn’t to say we want it smashing loud and bright like Top 40. The sound you’ll be hearing on the next record will most likely be clean and spacious, but dark around the edges.

Who determines the direction and style of your recordings?

I tend to take the lead stylistically, but it’s totally a collective process.

Is there a person outside the band that’s been important in perfecting your recorded or live sound?

No, not really.

What other artists would you say have had the biggest influence in your approach to recording? Why?

Although our music doesn’t sound the same, Björk has been a major influence in the way I approach recording. She has always held proper mixing at a premium, giving due attention to both squishy, lo-fi tape sounds and brighter compressed drum textures. The mixes always made Björk’s records some of the most enjoyable I’ve ever heard. Oh, and she’s also my hero. Love B.O.C., too.

Would you say that your live show informs your recording process or that your recording process informs your live show?  Both?  Neither?

I’d say we’re transitioning right now to the former. During the first record, we’d had little experience performing the music at all. It came together all behind closed doors. The next album will have been almost entirely assembled in the practice space, so bringing it to the studio will be the end game.

Is there a piece of equipment that you find particularly useful on stage? (Please mention the brand and model name and say why you like it)

Because we don’t use laptops or click tracks, we use the Roland SPDS a LOT. It’s perfect for sample cueing and drum triggering. This allows Alex to map different sounds to his drums and keep the performance real. We also use the TC Helicon Voicetone stompboxes quite a bit. It makes going between small club systems less stressful. Calvin and Austin each use their DigiTech Whammys a ton as well, taking advantage of the crude digital pitch tracking in close intervals to create weird harmonies and unpredictable ring mods.

With bands doing more of everything themselves these days (recording, performing, self-promoting, etc.) and the evermore multimedia nature of the world, how much effort do you put into the visual component of your band – fashion, styling, photography, graphic/web design, etc.?  Do you do these things yourself or is there someone that the band works with?

We put a lot of effort into our graphics. Our close friend and partner in crime, Jesse Corinella, is sort of our sixth artist member. He’s a creative powerhouse, and whenever we have a new song, remix or something needing attention to design, we sit down and talk about the meaning of it and come up with a real purpose for the artwork he’ll be developing. In addition, we’re lucky to have been involved closely with a lot of different types of artists, so we have a lot of friends who are working on amazing projects. It’s much easier to get things done when everybody is excited about making something together and not signing a contract for a one-off work-for-hire. We didn’t make a video for Laminate Pet Animal we’re saving up for a big project on our next release.

What do you find to be the most challenging aspects of the recording process? On the flipside, what aspects are the most rewarding?

The most challenging part is letting go. The time when you say, “this is done and my hands are off,” is torture! (All puns therein fully intended.) The rewarding part is every second leading up to that moment.

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