How we recorded Don’t Forget To Breathe

Since we do our own recordings there is no way to steer around the fact that we to some extent (some of us than at others) are gear junkies with an unhealthy interest in recording technics and similar, to the rest of the world utterly boring, subjects.

Still we know that some of you that follow us share that interest so we thought that a post on how we recorded the new album could be in some order. So if you don’t care about why things sound as they do (and there is no real reason you should, as long as you know if it sounds good or bad) you can stop reading here; this post is going to be very boring and a waste of your time. For the rest of you here we go.

The Studio

Everything except the vocals for No Summer Without You and the bass on Diamonds In the Sky (they were recorded in Germany and Canada respectively) was recorded at The Bus Depot. In 2006 I renovated a small outbuilding at my home and converted it into a small recording studio.

It’s not large, actually  it’s rather tiny with it’s 12 square meters of space. Still it’s got what you need to make good recordings and there is even a baby grand piano, though I mainly use it for songwriting.
Over the years I’ve been upgrading the studio and today it houses a fairly good selection of microphones, instruments and other sweet sounding equipment. There is no reason to blame the studio for a badly sounding recording anymore, rather it’s me and Pär who are the guilty ones in that case.

The Setup

The audio setup is centered around a quad-core i5 custom built PC running Windows XP where every component was chosen and tweaked for it’s low noise properties. It cost a bit extra to put it together but it has been well spent money; you can barely hear it running, even close up. It’s in the same room as we are recording in, but noise from fans and hard drives has never been a problem. Then two 1600×1200 monitors are connected providing as much desktop real estate as possible.
The audio interface is a Focusrite Liquid Saphire 56 connected over FireWire. It sounds great and the software is brilliant when you have climbed the steep learning curve. Everything is then recorded into Cubase 5.1 and stays there until mix time.
To help with the processing there is also a UAD-2 Quad and a TC Electronic PowerCore Firewire card. Most plug-ins I use run on those two.
The main monitoring is done with a pair of Mackie 826 and there is also a pair of Yamaha HS-50 for more precise mid range precision. I used to like the Mackies a lot but over the years my opinion of them has changed, and now I think that they may be the weakest link in the Studio. But really good monitors does not come cheap.


All drums on the album, except tambourines and percussion, is done with the help of the Superior Drummer. Superior Drummer might be described as a drum machine and sample-player plug-in in one, but that does it a bit of injustice, since it’s gives you almost too much control. It’s like having a virtually recorded real drums with access to all microphones, just like on a real recorded set. For most songs the Custom & Vintage sound library was pushed into duty but both the Avatar and Roots Brushes were also used on a few songs.
As a stering point for programming the drums I used real drum performances captured to midi files. I then tweaked and edited them to each song’s need.

Very little processing is done on the drum tracks. There is some compression on the kick and usually a bit of high pass filtering on the hi-hat, overheads and room microphones. I also favored a little parallel compression on the drum buss as a whole thru a UAD-Dbx 160 to put a bit of a bite to the sound.
And ,with the exception of No Summer Without You that has a little plate reverb on the snare, there is no additional reverbs or similar room treatments on the drums more than the natural ambience picked up by the overhead and room microphones.

A last word on the drums, of course it would have been nice to have real drums recorded for the song,s but space, time and money wouldn’t make it possible. Still we tried hard to make them sound not too artificial and unmusical.


Nothing really thrilling to say about how the bass was recorded.  I used a Squire JazzBass set up to run thru a Pod X3 Pro simulating an Ampeg SVG with an Ampeg 8×10 cabinet on most tracks, even though there are other combinationas of amps and cabinets too. I’m not sure that I generally like the Pod, there is some sort of not pleasing fuzziness to the sound. I seldom use it for guitars anymore except for a few selected sounds, but on bass it does a decent job. And bringing in a proper bass rig was not an option.
In the mix the bass is then treated with Universal Audio’s emulations of first the LA-2 to add character and then the 1176LN to even out the volume. Lastly it’s was shaped with eq to fit in with the kick and the rest of the instruments.
One day I will get a better sounding bass. That day I will hopefully be a better bass player too.


My basic setup for the electric guitars is either a 1997 Anniversary American Telcaster or a Mexican built Stratocaster through a Vox AC-4TV with a Vox V412 speaker cabinet (see the picture). It looks a bit akward and you could easily think that such a small amp would sound a bit boxy but with the 12 inch cabinet it just opens up. It’s a combination that sounds absolutely fantastic. It’s got a sweet clean tone that breaks beautifully into some really lovely well defined crunch. Add to that two stomp boxes, first a T-Rex Comp Nova for a bit of compression, mostly used on clean to medium crunch tones, and then a Radial Plexitube for those moments where a more heavy Marshall like sound is needed.
It was then recorded with a single microphone, a Microtech Geffell M92.1S, slightly off axis with either a Focusrite Liquid Saphire 56 (on the Neve 1073 setting) or a TL Audio Fat Track acting as preamp.
All electric guitars on for example Easy, Diamond In the Sky and No Summer Without You was done with this setup and also many of the guitars on the other songs.

Nowadays I try to steer free from amp simulations, both hardware and software. Sure, they are easy and fast to work with but does not (yet anyway) match up with a really good sounding amp. Still some of the older recorded guitars are treated with the GuitarRig II plug-in and I’ve found a really good preset in my Pod X3 Pro simulating a Mathless 30 together with a Boss Chorus. The latter can be heard picked in the verse on both Let Us Light a Fire and Say You Will.


Keyboards are perhaps not the prominent feature of our sound, still they are there, and they are important. They usually fill the low mid part of the frequency range bringing warmth and punch to mixes. For electric pianos I usually use a Lounge Lizard’s Wurlitzer patch or some sampled piano found in my Emulator-X libraries. Electric pianos are always treated with UAD’s wonderful Roland Dimension D chorus. One of those plug-ins that, on electric piano, just adds s lot of magic.

And if you hear a pad somewhere in the background now and then, it’s usually some tweak in Steinberg’s Embracer synthesizer.


One of the challenges when recording the album was, despite of having seven different lead singers, to try to get all the songs to sound like a band, to make it sound like Bus Stop Dreams’ album, not just a compilation of different songs. So in an effort to minimize factors I decided to use the same setup when recording all the vocals, instead of trying to optimize for each of the singers. With the exception of No Summer Without You and Diamond In the Sky where the vocals was recorded by Chris Simon at Twin Music in Germany, all the vocals were recorded the same way, with the same microphone (a Microtech Geffell M92.1S), the same pre-amp  (a Focusrite Liquid Saphire 56 on the Neve 1073 setting), and processed in similar ways during mixing.
A typical channel strip looked something like the following:

Only two send effects were used on the main vocals. It’s always the UAD EMT-140 plate simulation or the UAD RE-201 Space Echo Tape Delay or a mix of the two.

And yes, I think we succeeded to make all our singers voices to blend into something that can be called a Bus Stop Dreams sound.

Mixing & production

We try to keep away from having rules for how things should be done, how things should sound. Rules are boring, and make you boring too. But when it comes to mixing and producing we have one, and that is that it should be made by both of us together. Following that all the mixing was done by me and Pär together.  Over the last year we’ve had a number of mixing sessions. Pär has jumped on the train to Stockholm  for a couple of days, and then we’ve locked ourself up in the studio carving out mixes.
All mixing were done in The Bus Depot. The setup when mixing is a bit more complicated than when tracking. Mixes are not done in the box, instead everything is routed from Cubase to four analog stereo outputs summed through a TLAudio Fat Track tube console before being brought back into the computer and recorded to disk. The reason for this is the tube warmth and sheen that the Fat Track adds to mix making it sound bigger and better.
Except for the the ones mentioned elsewhere the following plug-ins were used on a regular basis when mixing  the album:

Waves IR1 Convultion Reverb – Great natural sounding ambient spaces.
Waves Doubler – For fattening up pads and the likes.
TC Electronic Dynamic EQ – For kick and bass management.
Sonnox Oxford Inflator – Loudness magic.


Mastering was done by Thomas Eberger at Stockholm Mastering. We didn’t hit the mixes too hard with compressors and limiters. We still like when there is some dynamics left after mastering. They are still pretty loud but hopefully not usable as an argument in the ongoing “loudness war”.
Since Thomas is a man who is never satisfied until it sounds perfect he had set up a 2-track Studer B-67 tape machine that all the mixes went through. It added just that extra soft and silky fealing to the high mids that we were looking for.
Overall the mastering did a lot to bring the songs together and made them sound like something in a greater whole. Just the way it’s supposed to be.


Are we pleased with the result? Yes we are, we are actually more than pleased. We think the album sounds really good, and we also hope that all our efforts has been directed to serve the songs, making then stand forward and bringing out the best in them. It certainly feels that way.
But ultimately it’s not for us to judge, that part is up to you. And while you’re at it we’re going to record a few more songs.


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