Chris Herb – Oktan

Just before embarking on Daughtry’s Europe/UK tour in March 2014 (the first of two European trips in this touring year with the band), Erik Emil Eskildsen suggested that while I was passing through Köln, I should try and meet with one of our peers; a young German touch-style guitarist by the name of Chris Herb. I had heard of Chris in relation to a record he put out called Death to False Techno but that was about the extent of my knowledge of him. I told Erik I’d give it a shot. Then, as anyone who knows Erik would have predicted, our conversation immediately turned to discussing guitar effects pedals 😀

A few weeks later I found myself at The Live Music Hall in Köln on a show day and was able to spend some down time by meeting with Chris Herb for a coffee a few kilometers away from the venue. I had no real expectation of his personality since I hadn’t actually corresponded with him much. I think we got along well. During our meeting we discussed music production and various projects we had in the works. I mentioned to him that I’d be happy to help if he found himself in need of any assistance I might be able to offer on his upcoming projects.

About four months later while still on the road with Daughtry (though back in the States in the midst of a three-month summer tour with the Goo Goo Dolls), Chris Herb contacted me about co-producing his next EP. I was delighted with the invitation and began working on it during a short break from the tour in July 2014.

This record was the first time I was able to work with my Kemper Profiling Amp in a re-amping/sound design application. I also decided to work within Ableton Live for this project. I typically record and edit in Logic (though I love using Live for other applications!) but since Chris was already working within Live for his session files I felt like this would be a good opportunity for me to dig into Live 9 a bit more than I had at that point. Working completely within Live was a great experience. This record was also the first time I’ve worked on an album strictly as a co-producer and not a mixing engineer. Quite a strange distinction for me to make since I usually mix everything I am involved with on the production level.

I was able to find my own line between being a producer and being a mixing engineer in order to determine my approach to production on this album. I found that simply manipulating the existing material by creating treatments and making arrangement adjustments was all I needed to do to get Chris moving in what I felt was the right direction with what was already strong material.

My main concern (which likely comes from the viewpoint of being a mixing engineer) was that I felt the existing tracks should sound just a bit more like they had an environment. As this music is somewhat stark in being firmly rooted in EDM, it still is being created organically with Chris’ touch-style two-handed tapping technique with his Touch Guitars U8. It was important to me to generate a sense of space in my approach to creating treatments. Other considerations were to create harmonic beds for some parts to lay over by extracting and manipulating harmonic content via use of Melodyne (software generally aimed at pitch correction but also very powerful as a sound design tool). Some transition sounds and sequences needed a bit of massaging but the source material was mostly there from the start.

In October 2014, Daughtry was touring the UK and several of us in the crew and band had a week off in London while Chris Daughtry and his acoustic trio band/crew performed in Singapore before we were to all meet in Tokyo to continue the run in Japan. During this break, I flew straight to Berlin the morning after the gig at the Roundhouse in London. I spent time with Alex Dowerk and his girlfriend Annika (I had mixed an EP for her band Count Count a year before but had not previously been able to meet her in real life). I worked with Alex on another record during this visit and Chris Herb was able meet me at Alex’s place for a day to go over all the treatments I had done and finalize any arrangement decisions for the songs. We got a lot done. It was great to have an opportunity to do that work in person so that we could develop a shorthand for future projects together. That evening I also seized an opportunity to cook for the three of them (I love to cook and this is one of the things I miss while doing tour work on the road). I made a vegan shepherd’s pie in accordance with some of their dietary restrictions. There were no leftovers!

Over the next couple of months, Chris and I went over his mixes several times until they felt like they were in a good place to begin mastering. Lee Fletcher handled the mastering and did great work as usual. This was a very enjoyable record to work on and I look forward to continued stylistic exploration with Chris Herb.

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