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Muppet Labs Studios

...and you thought Exile on Journal was a bit much...


When the time came in 1997 to record the monstrous epic that would become Concealed by Shadows, AoY had several options... pay big bucks for a real studio recording, do the DiY route again with cassette four-track and professional mastering, or some combination thereof. The quality of Leave Bronx was good but not phenomenal, and repeating that chore was not appealing. A move to eight-track became the consensus; but upon discovering that TASCAM's 488 cassette eight-track had no XLR inputs and could indeed record only four tracks simultaneously put a damper on thoughts of attaining a more live sound.

Enter Neal with the idea of the year: digital.

Immediately the budget swelled and burst, but the idea was the best one; the Alesis ADAT-XT offered eight tracks of digital audio and was available for rent at a very reasonable price. Next we would need microphones, a mixer, a monitor, and a place to put everything...

The latter was easily solved, as Scott and Andy had just moved into a nifty little house on the corner of Waller and Crescent, with plenty of living room space --- infinitely more than in Exile on Journal. ...And thus was born the new Mecca of AoY recording, Muppet Labs (named so well after the fact). In this comfortable --- yet un-air-conditioned environment -- we had Scott's 80 watt Sony home stereo as the studio monitors, set up right next to the ADAT-XT from the DooWop shop and the Berhinger 16-track recording console rented from Carl's Music Center.

Right next to this stack of equipment sat Neal's drums, from which he had a clear view through the archway into the front room of the house, where almost 90% of the live guitar tracks were recorded. A few feet away was the kitchen and its bright, hard-walled “breakfast nook,” where we recorded Neal's drum tracks on “High Tide, Lower Tide,” as well as Kristian's guitar and Andy's mandolin on “Walk Away,” and Scott's guitar leads on “Put Me Right” and the unreleased “Lies.” (The lead on “Put Me Right” was actually recorded at 3am, at lower than conversation volume...)

Yet another asset of the house is the hardwood flooring in the bedrooms; this adds a natural room sound to the pretty G chords ditty (track 6 on Concealed by Shadows) and the tremolo guitar track on “105 More of Me.” Speaking of bedrooms, Andy tried recording a few bass tracks with his amp lying on his waterbed...

The house's situation on a thoroughfare also contributed to the ambience of a few tracks. The railroad tracks lie less than 50 yards from the house, and a train whistle makes a cameo in “Drift Away,” as well as the un-released “Words and Lines.” In “Never,” you can hear traffic driving by on the wet pavement of Waller Avenue (if you know what to listen for) mixed in with the bright sound of the front room's hard walls; Kristian and Scott recorded this track live in the living room at 1am, with four microphones (three room mics and one close mic for the guitar), and Scott's mics pointed at the front window.

We're still waiting for pictures of this transient studio. The Recording equipment is long gone, and no shots were snapped then (a real shame), but someday we might have a nice shot of the house itself. It's probably better that way, the house was a horrible, un-navigable mess for the whole month of recording!