From goosenecks to supercardioid dynamics, engineer and producer Toshi Kasai knows his Shure microphones
NILES, IL, April 13, 2009 — After almost 25 years and over 25 albums, the Melvins are to sludge metal what Hank Aaron is to baseball, giving new meaning to the genre with their latest record, Nude With Boots (Ipecac Recordings), an album recorded last summer with the help of engineer/producer Toshi Kasai.
The band has been in cahoots with Kasai in one form or another since 2002's Hostile Ambient Takeover. While regular members Buzz Osborne (aka "King Buzzo") and drummer Dale Crover are no strangers to new blood via their various collaborations over the years, Kasai now remains a constant, a family member of sorts, if you will.
"When I was 20, I stopped wanting to be in a band because I liked various kinds of music," Kasai recounts. "But, I still wanted to make music somehow, so I thought being an engineer and producer was the perfect job for me. After I worked at several studios and on a number of projects, I became chief engineer at The Hook studios in LA. While there, I became a good friend of Adam Jones, and he introduced me to the Melvins."
Jones -- who often contributes a second guitar for the Melvins on tour -- served Kasai well with this fateful introduction, unleashing a professional collaboration that continues to bend traditional musical structures with tracks like "Billy Fish," "Dog Island," and "The Savage Hippy," all of which were given life on Nude With Boots.
"The music they create appeals to me, because it mirrors my own taste," Kasai says, explaining his place in the Melvins mix. "We all lean toward being a little more catchy, but still experimental. Despite what you may think, the Melvins' approach is precise in its method. All of their actions lead to a finished product without much waste. I believe that's a better way, as it gives the project more concentration, and lets me focus more as an individual as well."
In the studio with the Melvins, Kasai is a fan of Shure Beta Series microphones, with Beta 56®A, Beta 57A®, and Beta 87A models frequently put to use within his plan. "The great advantage of these mics can be found in their polar patterns," Kasai confides. "Being supercardioid by design, you get great isolation, especially on drums. The Beta 87A is a great high-hat mic."
For frontman Buzz Osborne's vocals, Kasai's choice is always a Shure SM57. "It's able to capture a very aggressive sound," he adds. The mic allows him to feel like he's onstage in the studio, because that's what he uses live."
Beyond the Melvins, one of Kasai's pending projects is with a band called Shrinebuilder, which includes Melvins drummer Dale Crover. Using a Beta 57A® on snare top to once again provide greater isolation and the raw, punchy sound he seeks, Kasai concedes that in these digital days of being able to record so many tracks simultaneously, he often records one source with several mics so that he can place them in different tracks, sometimes with other natural effects.
"I use Beta 98s as my effects mics," he reveals. "I've placed these mics in all kinds of weird places to get what I'm looking for, like inside an empty water tank for example. That turned out really silly but I liked the sound. I also put one into a metal pipe once and recorded drums and vocals. It made a natural flange effect. You can hear the results on Buzz's vocals on the song 'The Stupid Creep' off of Nude With Boots."
Back where it all began, the Melvins took their name from a much-despised supervisor at a Thriftway in Montesano, Washington, where Buzz Osborne worked as a clerk. Perhaps serving as a portent in a parallel universe of musical origins, Kasai jokingly notes that his first experience with Shure microphones was "When I was working at a grocery store in Japan. They had those long gooseneck mics at all the registers. Wherever I've been since, Shure has followed."
Some of the recording sessions leading to the completion of Nude With Boots have been documented in detail by Kasai on a Japanese blog. Onstage, the Melvins closed out a fall/winter touring schedule on December 27th of last year in San Francisco after stops in Italy, Switzerland, the UK, Chicago, and Los Angeles.