To celebrate the opening of our new PMT Cardiff Music Shop, we've been talking to some movers & shakers in the Cardiff music scene. We now interview Romesh Dodangoda, local producer who've worked with bands such as Motorhead, Funeral For A Friend, Bullet For My Valentine and Bring Me The Horizon.
Wales has a fantastic musical heritage, and Cardiff in particular has a vibrant music scene. It's a true honour for PMT to open our new Cardiff music shop, so we decided to take our time to talk to some of the people who help making this city such a great place for music. After our interview with up & coming band Houdini Dax, we now talk to one of those sometimes unsung heroes of any music scene - the record producer.
Romesh Dodangoda has been a producer / mixer for the past 15 years, and his list of clients is more than just a little bit impressive: he's worked with Motorhead, Funeral For A Friend, Bullet For My Valentine, Bring Me The Horizon, Twin Atlantic, Kids In Glass Houses and many others. Romesh specializes in Rock/Pop and Metal, and owns Long Wave Studios, one of the best and most impressive in Cardiff.
How did you get into music production?
I was in a band a very long time ago but enjoyed recording with them more than playing. I started to take a big interest in it and slowly built up my studio back in 2000. I was really interested in songwriting and how songs I loved were put together. I’d spend hours playing with guitar sounds and trying to get the sound I wanted to come out of the speakers and I guess it all started there, really!
You’ve worked with quite an impressive list of big Heavy Rock acts… what attracts you to the genre?
I just love really big sounds and making everything sound as wide as possible and it's a genre you can really do a lot of that with. I love the sound of big drums and guitars and it’s a character with rock music. I also love a lot of rock bands so it was quite natural for me to want to work mainly in that genre.
Are there any tips & tricks you could share with us, for recording this particular musical style?
It’s a classic tip but it starts with the player. Make sure the player is playing the right part and playing the instrument in the best way possible. With drums, spending time tuning them really helps. I think if you get the drums sounding great, thats a big part of the production, the rest will fall into place. If the drums sound bad, you will layer so much on top of them because they sound bad and it can lead to too many parts and an arrangement without any focus.
With guitars, if you’re mic'ing up a cab, get a friend or band member to move the mic around the cab and find the sweet spot. Moving the mic a couple of centimetres will totally change the sound, so play around with it. Be careful tracking lots and lots of guitars, sometimes just two guitars can sound clearer and bigger than a wash of 8 of them.
How much creative input should a producer bring to the recording session? Is it easier or harder to work with musicians who want to have more input as producers, too?
It depends what kind of production approach you’re taking. I like to be quite hands-on with the artist and help look at the songs before we even walk into the studio. I like to work with the musician, not against them, so if they have input, that is great. I think it can get hard if you have a musician who only wants it their way, but most of the time, people are open to my ideas. I’m the first person to say if my idea is not good, but it’s all about trying things out !
Tell us a bit about your favourite pieces of gear? What are your favourite mics, preamps, etc?
There’s too many favourites! I really love my Chandler TG2 preamps. I have 5 channels of it and I think they sound brilliant. My favourite mic is my Flea U47. It just sounds amazing with minimal effort. It’s my current go-to vocal mic. I also love things like the Empirical Labs Distressors and Fatso’s, 1176 and LA2A’s, all the classics! With all the expensive gear in the world though, sometimes you just can’t beat the trusted Shure SM57 !
We’ve noticed that alongside old classics such as Marshall, Mesa boogie and Orange amps, you got quite a few Blackstar amps, too. Over the past few years they seem to be getting quite popular, especially amongst the hard rock guitarists… what do you like about them?
I absolutely love Blackstar Amps. I have a lot of Blackstar in my studio and they all sound fantastic. I actually use the Artisan cab and Series One cab almost on a daily basis. If I am travelling somewhere else to do guitars, I’ll take those cabs with me, they are my favourites. The Artisan amp they do is probably one of my favourite clean guitar sounds. The amp has got so much headroom and with the Voice feature, you can really change the character of the amp. The Series One 6L6 is also a great amp for heavy tones. I used this in the studio with Funeral For A Friend for a few songs and it sounded great!
We’ve also noticed you have a lot of Faith Guitars in your studio...
I have three Faith Acoustics which all sound so different but brilliant. My favourite to record with is the Hi-Gloss Jupiter I have. If I’m looking for a balanced and big sounding acoustic for recording, thats one of my favourites.
What advice you’d give for younger producers setting up their first recording studios/ project studios, who may have a limited budget? What should they concentrate on, first: Getting a great mic and a so-so preamp? Invest on a OK mic and get the best possible preamp/ interface? Spend time & money with acoustic solutions and a good pair of monitors? Think this way - if someone had no more than £500 to sort out a project studio, what sort of gear / approach would you recommend?
I think my main advice would be to try and treat the acoustics in the room you’re working in first. If you’ve got problems with the room, then you need to deal with that before you put microphones up, otherwise the mics will just be capturing the bad sounds of the room and you’ll just be listening to things which aren’t there.
A good pair of monitors is a very good start also. You need to be able to hear what you’re doing accurately. KRK do some affordable budget monitors which may be suited for a room at home. Try not to get monitors that are too big for your room or you may just end up with a lot of bass problems. A good dynamic mic like the Shure SM57 is great for electric guitars and is used in the professional world as well. For vocals and everything else, a good quality condenser microphone should get you on the right track! I think Audio-Technica do some great mics and you can’t go wrong with the condensers they do, I use them a lot. Focusrite do some great interfaces at a good price which should be plenty for the home recorder to get started.
What do you think of the Cardiff music scene? Was it a factor when deciding to set up your studio there?
I think it’s great. There’s a real sense of community here and all the bands know each other and help everyone out. When I work with bands from outside Cardiff, a lot of them have said they wished they lived here, because of how well all the bands get along! I think we have, and have had, some great bands over the years and it’s nice to see the newer ones working hard to get to where they want to be.
Are there are big names you dream of working with?
Give me a call, Noel Gallagher! I wish…
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