Monday, December 14, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Gussie Miller is one of many home studio owner/operators in SoCal, but possessing high-end recording equipment and knowing how to use it doesn't necessarily pay the bills. Consequently, this 44-year-old single father of two has been “out there doin' it,” seizing every opportunity to make use of his wealth of technical knowledge and “schoolboy tenor” with its four-and-a-half octave range. That's nothing new for the Columbus, Ohio, native, who came to L.A., like so many others, for the myriad opportunities the showbiz Mecca has always dangled so tantalizingly.
Back in Columbus, Miller was a local TV celebrity at age 12, and started singing jingles in a local studio soon thereafter, where he caught the tech bug at the first sight of a Neumann mic. He's been bouncing between these two overlapping realms ever since, getting his music and vocals into several TV series while doing tech support and sales for companies such as Tascam and Westlake Audio. But his momentum was interrupted 12 years ago by a bizarre accident. “I was drumming in a Lion King event at Disneyland,” he recalls, “when I got crushed between a parade float and a fence and nearly died. My back was messed up, and I started my studio with the workers' comp money.”
Along with running his West Valley studio, Ars Musicai — outfitted with a G4 and a Focusrite ISA 110, running Nuendo 3 and Reason 3 — Miller has made use of his expertise to snag gigs like helping bring Mike Post's private studio in Burbank back online, while assisting on projects for Post and Aussie band Sick Puppies, while continuing to serve as Marcus Miller's go-to tech expert at the bassist/producer's Hannibal Studios on the West Side. Since Marcus Miller heard Gussie's glass-shattering voice, he's made use of it for the CW animated series Everybody Hates Chris, the Chris Rock film I Think I Love My Wife and the bassist's upcoming album.
Gussie is working on a solo album with writing and production partner Alex Alessandroni, which will feature contributions from Marcus Miller, David Sanborn and other high-profile players with whom he's crossed paths during the years. Along with a number of “irons in the fire,” as he puts it, Miller has been chosen as a contestant on the NBC karaoke reality series Singing Bee. “The prize is $100,000, and brutha needs funding for his record,” he says with a laugh.
In the Studio: Marcus Miller
Marcus Miller is as versatile as he is virtuosic. Though he’s best known for his otherwordly mastery of the bass, he’s also a stellar bass clarinet player, a sensational saxophonist, a soulful singer, a prolific producer. He has toured the globe, written scores for television and movies, played with the world’s preeminent musicians. And he’s also a maven of Logic Pro — he produced his album “Silver Rain” from start to finish with the application running on a Power Mac G5 and a PowerBook G4.
“I can count the crashes I’ve had last year on one hand. It’s kind of a drag because I used to use the post-crash reboot time to practice my bass. Now I have to find separate practice time.”
“I was on tour when I started the album,” Miller says. “I’d start with some ideas and simply develop them in Logic.” He held impromptu recording sessions in hotel rooms in Europe, laying down the basic tracks on his PowerBook G4 that would eventually end up on “Silver Rain.” The album was later assembled and polished at Miller’s Hannibal Studios in Santa Montica, California, and released in 2005.
Since then, Miller has used Logic Pro for nearly every music project, such as composing music for Chris Rock’s hit TV series, “Everybody Hates Chris,” and for his upcoming album.
“I choose Apple because it’s so cool,” says Miller. “I’m in my hotel in Europe, working on a tune in Logic, sending files through iChat back to a movie director in L.A., checking out possible album cover photos that the photographer sent me in iPhoto, and messaging my daughter about her homework — all at the same time. When I’m done, I pack up my PowerBook and split.”
Miller needed a powerful, portable, and rock-solid, all-in-one system that could handle the rigors of travel and the studio without glitches. “Apple/Logic is very stable,” he says. “Logic uses Core Audio, which is at the center of the Apple system. You no longer feel like you’re working at the periphery of your operating system. I can count the crashes I’ve had last year on one hand. It’s kind of a drag because I used to use the post-crash reboot time to practice my bass. Now I have to find separate practice time.”
His system has allowed Miller the freedom to write, record, and mix music anywhere from London to Paris to Tokyo. The resulting tracks sound great, he says, no matter where they’re recorded: “My music sounds more natural because I don’t have to redo a lot of things in order to improve quality. The quality of the things I record at home or in the hotel are so good that they end up on the record.”
The path from dabbles to demos to record release is long and fraught with twists and turns. By the time a composer reaches the end, the original tune could get lost along the way. “With Logic, that’ll never happen,” says Miller. “You can keep everything right at your fingertips, switching between versions whenever you want. The self-contained keyboards like the ES1, Clavinet, Rhodes, and the sampler allow you to have every instrument you need. And now, when you record guitar or bass, there are amp simulators so that you don’t have to live with a dry sound.”
When Miller needs backup vocals or recording equipment advice, he turns to singer, producer, and technological whiz Gussie Miller. Gussie Miller worked with Marcus Miller on “Every Body Hates Chris” and many other Hannibal projects. He runs his own recording and production company, Artis Musicai, in Los Angeles.
Logic Pro gives both Millers the freedom they need to stitch together some groundbreaking music. “The new sound processing apps are really revolutionary,” says Marcus Miller. “I remember having to wait to hear the sound in my head until I got to the studio or until I could buy a certain piece of gear. I don’t have to wait anymore. If I have a few hours, I can create pretty much exactly what I imagine. And forget editing. I do things now that I would never imagine doing before. It allows you to be so creative. And you can always undo if you hate what you did. I can’t put into words how important that is.”
“Using logic has really opened up a lot of doors for me creatively just because I don’t have to depend upon external reverbs, external equalizers, anything beyond the program at all,” says Gussie Miller. “I haven’t found anything it can’t do.”
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: Gussie Miller is one of those amazing people who are equally talented on either side of the microphone. With the ears of a musician and the ears of an engineer magically merged, the singer/songwriter/engineer/producer brings a unique sensitivity to his projects. He understands, better than most, how a musical performance will translate through the recording, mixing and mastering stages. On the flip side, he understands, again better than most, that some gear fights against the musicality of a piece, whereas other gear enhances it. It is with these subtleties that Miller often finds himself turning to Metric Halo's ChannelStrip plug-in, of which he says - in a charming lilt that only a professional vocalist can deliver - "it's all about the algorithm!"
Based in Los Angeles, Gussie Miller is the vocal talent that jazz master Marcus Miller frequently turns to, and is the featured vocalist on the Chris Rock movie "I Think I Love My Wife." Over a career that spans decades, he has worked with a rich cross-section of contemporary music's prime movers, including Lavern Baker, Seal, and Cher. He is currently working on a solo release, "Forever Plan," and the music for Jonathan Lewis' forthcoming indie film, "Darkness of the Night."
Miller also runs Artis Musicai, a music production company specializing in pop, jazz and R&B songwriting, artist development, and production. Notable recent projects include the production of dance artist Lance Todd's crossover to pop and the debut effort of Lindsay Douglas.
A self-avowed "native proponent," Miller is good friends with many of the leading engineers at Mark of the Unicorn and Steinberg (Nuendo). He was first introduced to Metric Halo software while working in the sales group at Westlake Audio. "I've always been sensitive to how software sounds," he said. "There are huge differences among the platforms and huge differences among the plug-ins."
But going back even further, Miller cut his teeth behind the massive and unabashedly-analog SSL E-Series, G-Series, and J-Series consoles at The Soundtrack Group Boston. "To me, ChannelStrip embodies the classic SSL sound," he said. "It's musical and smooth, but it uses surprisingly few resources. I can run a tremendous number of instances, even on my older G4. It's all about the quality of the algorithm; the way it does the math. Metric Halo has it right!"
Miller turns to ChannelStrip to sweeten just about anything that needs sweetening, but it's most often inserted on vocals. "Contrary to popular belief and anything you might read on the Internet, my solo album is not completed," he laughed. "ChannelStrip will be used for guitars, bass, and, of course, my own vocals."
In addition to ChannelStrip, Miller frequently turns to Metric Halo's other flagship software, SpectraFoo. SpectraFoo contains every piece of analysis that an engineer could ask for, including level metering, high-speed, high-resolution spectral analysis, correlation metering, triggerable waveform display, power balancing, and a variety of power, envelope and spectral histories and phase analysis on any number of input or output channels. "I'm a visual person," Miller said. "Seeing what's going on is a great help!"