John Cuniberti – Remastering Giraffe

The Re-Mastering Of Giraffe’s The Power Of Suggestion and The View From Here By John Cuniberti / 2012

Kevin’s Mixing and Editing:
Kevin didn’t have any recording console automation to help him do complicated mixes. He had to mix his songs to the stereo two track recorder in sections and then edit the parts together. As an example: Kevin would work perfecting the mix on the intro of a song — moving faders, flipping mutes on and off, adjusting effects and sometimes panning. Once he learned what he needed to do he would record the intro mix onto the two track recorder overlapping a few seconds into the first verse on the song. Kevin would then work on mixing the first verse and print it to the two track recorder, making sure to start before the verse and continuing into the next section of the song or the chorus. Then he would mark the tape with a grease pencil on the downbeat of the verse at both the end of the intro and the beginning of the verse section. He would then use a razor blade to cut on those marks and then apply splicing tape to connect the two pieces together. This process would continue through the entire song. In some cases 20 or more edits were made. This is how all records were made before there was console automation. I used the same method on Joe Satrian’s “Surfing with the Alien.” It is a painstaking process and if the artist decides, three days later, that the mix needs more bass, then the engineer gets to do this process all over again, time permitting.

The Tapes:
Both records were mixed to 1/4” analog tape by Kevin. “The Power of Suggestion” at 15ips and “The View From Here” at 30ips. The 25 year old tapes were not playable without being heat treated. Heat treating (baking) is done in a convection oven at 125º for 8 hours for 1/4” tape on 10” reels. In this case, I use a scientific oven at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley that has precise temperature control. The process rebinds the tape’s delicate magnetic surface to the tape’s backing, which, over time, separates due to moisture infiltrating the two layers. This is a common process for certain analog tape formulas produced in the 70’s and 80‘s, mostly Ampex 456. Without heat treating, the tape would shed its magnetic coating during playback thus destroying the recording forever.

The Transfer:
Although the tape was heat treated, most of the edit splices were coming apart during the initial playback. This required me to gently pull off the old splicing tape and reattach the two ends of the tape with new splicing tape. Each song was edited in sequence on two reels as side A and B. Once I had the edits secured I transferred each reel in one pass from my Ampex ATR-102 two track recorder to ProTools via Prism 2 A/D converters at 96k / 24 bits.

The Mastering:
It was no surprise that the analog tapes were far superior in sound quality than the original CDs. If fact, they sounded like they were recorded yesterday. Kevin was a very good mixer and the mastering was a straight forward process. I used very little EQ and only a slight amount of limiting to balance the songs’ overall presentation. In the early 80’s, digital conversion from analog was still in development. Most engineers would agree it didn’t really start to sound as good as the source material until twenty years later. Since then it’s been refined to the point that it’s impossible to hear the difference between the analog tape and its digital clone, especially at the sample rate of 96k. For the first time you will hear what Kevin heard in the studio when he and the members of Giraffe made these two amazing albums.