Fab Dupont, aka FabulousFab, has been playing, writing, producing, and mixing music on stages and in studios all over the world in cities like Paris, Boston, Brussels, Stockholm, London, and New York to name a few. Recently, at his FLUX Studios in the East Village of New York City, Fab has worked on tracks for/with/featuring Queen Latifah, Jennifer Lopez, DJ Colette, Isaac Hayes, Lucy Woodward, Shakira, Freshlyground, Santigold, Mark Ronson, Les Nubians, Musiq Soulchild, Toots And The Maytals, Kirk Whalum, Babyface, Brazilian Girls, Nat King Cole, Bebel Gilberto and a slew of other artists. In this edition of Producer's Corner, Musician/Engineer/Producer Fab Dupont shares with us the ways in which he used UA hardware and UAD Powered Plug-Ins while mixing the 2010 FIFA World Cup Anthem.
My friend and studio neighbor John Hill, who co-wrote and produced "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)" with Shakira, was working on the production when he called looking for an African flavor to wrap his track up. I believe the Sony crew tipped him off to this great South African band called Freshlyground, and it just so happened that I was finishing mixes for their new record that day. They had flown in from South Africa to enjoy the last few days of the process. He came up the stairs, dropped off a rough of the track and we went to work on enhancing it right away. We toyed around with different ideas for a few hours old-school style — players feeding off each other in the live room. In the end, the whole band played live over John's rough. Then, I asked Zolani to write a bridge, we did two or three passes and John took the files and went back downstairs to take his pick.
[The UA 2192 Master Audio Interface] is the most musical AD converter that I've heard and used. I love how it just takes the edge off the brightest material without being dull. You can also push it hard and it still sounds pretty.
John's version with the Freshlyground additions became the Official World Cup anthem within a few weeks. Then, I then got a call from Sony South Africa to remix it for the African market, with the mandate to make it more “African sounding” to capture the attention of local radio audiences. I went back to my original sessions and brought back a lot more of the live elements we had cut at FLUX; more of Zolani's vocals, more flutes, more violin riffs, a cool organ part, some percussion, and more of amazing African guitar parts, which sound like there are two guys playing but it's really one guy playing impossible stuff (should be seen to be truly appreciated).
UA in the Mix
We use the UA LA-3A Classic Audio Leveler a lot for tracking vocals at FLUX. We like it because it's easy to adjust the amount of compression on the fly without ruining a take. If the singer starts belting, a quick adjustment of the compression knob sets it right without making a mess of the gain stage. Zolani's voice was tracked through a Bock 251mic with our Neve 55's onboard preamps and the LA-3A straight to Pro Tools.
All my mixes go through a Dangerous 2Bus summing box and a UA 2192 Master Audio Interface. It is the most musical AD converter that I've heard and used. I love how it just takes the edge off the brightest material without being dull. You can also push it hard and it still sounds pretty.
Otherwise, I used a lot of the Pultec Pro EQ on Shakira's and Zolani's vocals, as well as the bass and the intro samples. I also used the LA-2A Classic Leveling Amplifier on flute, Cooper Time Cube MkII Delay on guitars, a couple of Fairchild 670 Compressors here and there. The whole mix is also going through the UAD Precision Buss Compressor.
Setting the Scene
This track was very special because it has a lot of different kinds of bass material. There is synth bass coming in on the second verse, but the first verse is raw and the chorus has a real bass that only plays for that section. I felt that the bottom kind of dropped off when the real bass came in. I used the Cambridge EQ to remove a little bump and high pass the very bottom to make room for a big boost with the Pultec Pro. I was able to match the weight of the synth bass without losing the character of the player and instrument. (Check out audio examples 1&2 below)
Julio Sigauque's live guitar had to be tracked direct because there are seven of these guys and we just don’t have that kind of room. This is Manhattan after all. I used a Pultec Pro to give it more bottom without making it muddy and the Cooper Time Cube to give it space and vibe. The Time Cube is also great for making things wacky quickly. (Check out audio examples 3&4 below)
I really like the UAD Precision Buss Compressor. It's very simple to set up and does the job without getting in the way. I rarely use more than 2 dB of compression on a whole mix; I'm considered squeamish by my peers, but I'm very secure with my "compressionality." Considering the target audience, venues and purpose of the track, I needed to make sure that it was pretty tight and compact, but that the bottom did not suffer from the overall compression. The Precision Buss Compressor’s key high pass filter lets you spare the bass from being squeezed out of the track. I don’t really use presets. I just set it up so it does a little bit of compression and never gets heard pumping. I set it up right from the beginning of the mix session and I leave it there for the duration. It's subtle, but it's crucial to the impact of the song. It’s good glue and it makes the track seem more dense. (Check out audio examples 5&6 below)
The main reverb on the song is the EMT 250 Classic Electronic Reverberator. I have no reference as to what a real one sounds like as they don’t exactly grow on trees—at least not in New York—but I don’t really care; what matters to me is that I can set it up and make it sound good with just three clicks every time. It's not your transparent, liquid, Yanni kinda ‘verb. It definitely has a sound, so I usually use it in combination with something more transparent. Many of the stems I got from the original producer had reverbs and effects printed on them already, so I needed something to make a sort of a sauce like everybody was there having fun making music together. I usually run one EMT 250 and a couple of EMT 140 Classic Plate Reverbs of various lengths to create depth. In this case the stems provided a lot of—if not too much—variety, so I sprinkled various amounts of the EMT 250 on many things to fill in the gaps without sounding wet. It's interesting to hear the whole track with and without that one single reverb. (Check out audio examples 7&8 below)
For a truly universal pop track, this song really has a lot of cool elements, dynamics, and manages to take you from section to section without loosing energy or excitement. I heard it blast-out-loud as hell—many times over—urgent and joyous, from a half-broken car radio driving around Johannesburg a few weeks ago. The combination of John Hill's great track, the smart pop writing, the freshness of the live Freshlyground tracks we did here, the clean bottom of the Pultec Pro and the gentle but effective compression of the Precision Buss Compressor really made the song shine through, despite the lethal broadcast compression. I must say, it felt great to hear it translate so well.
UA gear really helps bring the tradition of classic recording to the modern workflow. It’s a great feeling to know that with the UAD-2 DSP Accelerator platform, I now have access to affordable and reliable tools that repeatedly make my life easier in high-pressure and short-deadline situations.
The UA gear really helps bring the tradition of classic recording to the modern workflow. It’s a great feeling to know that with the UAD-2 DSP Accelerator platform, I now have access to affordable and reliable tools that repeatedly make my life easier in high-pressure and short-deadline situations.
We're now planning to add a UAD-2 QUAD to the other two rooms at FLUX.