The Bond Between David Arnold And Mackie Designs

The following Press Released appeared on ProRec.com in December 1999

Grammy Award Winning Film Score Composer, David Arnold, Discusses His History of Working With the Products from Mackie Designs, Culminating in the Writing and Mixdown of the new James Bond film, THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH By Martin Warr December 7, 1999

1997 Grammy Award winner for his original score for INDEPENDENCE DAY, David Arnold first won critical acclaim in October 1993, with his U.K. Top Ten hit, “Play Dead,” written and performed with Bjork. Lifted from his score for THE YOUNG AMERICANS, Arnold’s first major film score convinced filmmakers Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin that he was the writer they needed for their ambitious science-fiction epic, STARGATE. Arnold’s music was no small part of that film’s worldwide popularity and quickly launched him as a highly sought-after composer of film scores.

LAST OF THE DOGMEN, recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra, followed. Reflecting the lush mountainscapes the film depicted, LAST OF THE DOGMEN is among the most personal and sensitive of David Arnold’s works.

As a lifelong Bondophile, Arnold is also the creative force and producer of the contemporary homage to James Bond, “Shaken and Stirred” (Sire Records/USA; East West Records elsewhere). Here, Arnold revisits 11 classic Bond songs in the company of Iggy Pop, Chrissie Hynde, Pulp, David McAlmont, Propellerheads, Aimee Mann and other similarly enthusiastic James Bond fans.

In addition to scoring TOMORROW NEVER DIES and THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, Arnold’s recent credits include GODZILLA and A LIFE LESS ORDINARY.

“When I started in 1985, I was unemployed, and probably unemployable as a composer,” quips David Arnold. After attending college to study Art in Luton, but leaving in 1986 so that he could write more music, David started scoring for student movies. David owned no professional recording equipment of his own, making the task of recording somewhat difficult. Continuing David states, “There were no computer sequencers – only the Alesis MMT8 or Fairlight. So I was going to peoples’ houses, and doing an hour here and there when they were on their lunch breaks.”

Later in 1986, David approached Thatched Cottage Studios, Bassingbourne, England. This now defunct pro audio equipment sales company featured an attached studio whose primary purpose was to demonstrate the items for sale. David says “The owner, Dave Simpson, liked the music I’d been doing. He offered me studio time in exchange for demoing equipment 3 or 4 days a week.”

“During my time at Thatched Cottage, around 1988,” David continues, “The first samplers like the Akai S900 were introduced, so people were in need of a mixer to get all the sounds together. SECK [a UK small mixer manufacturer later absorbed into Spirit by Soundcraft] was the ‘budget desk’ at the time in the UK, but I still didn’t have the money to purchase one. Eventually, around 1990, I got a StudioMaster ProLine 16/4/2, because their offices were just 200 yards up the road from where I lived in Luton.”

It was also in 1990 that David started seeing Mackie mixing consoles turning up. David points out, “No one really knew what they were, but I remember thinking that Mackie always looked so much better than everything else. It was about the time of the Yamaha DMP7, Korg M1 – everything very minimalist – black and with few knobs. Not much going on. The Mackie always looked great against that backdrop of minimalism that seemed to blanket everything else.”

“By 1992 I had an Atari, a Yamaha DX11 and an M1R and needed a monitoring desk – I was sick of listening to everything through headphones.” David saw the keyboard rigs coming through the studio at Thatched Cottage, and they all had line mixers. The keyboard players often insisted that the keyboards be recorded from a stereo submix via their little Mackie CR1604s. Adds David, “Because it sounded so much better than taking the sound direct from the keyboards themselves.”

“My first big film was THE YOUNG AMERICANS in 1994, which I wrote on the Atari and StudioMaster desk… complete with hiss! We went to The Hit Factory Studio in London [now Sony’s Whitfield Street] to record it. A lot of people really dug the title tune for that movie (PLAY DEAD, with Bjork on vocals) and I started meeting a load of people with really serious home studios, and a lot of Mackie 32*8 bus desks. The ADAT thing started happening and I just saw more and more Mackie 8 bus desks everywhere, and I thought, ‘This is real master quality equipment for track laying’.”

So David got his first Mackie CR1604 mixer in 1994. “The very first thing I noticed was how much better everything sounded out of that mixer than out of the original keyboards.”

Over the course of 18 months David bought TWO MORE CR1604s. “They are the ones I still have in the tops of my racks today.” Although he added more sound modules along the way, his basic Atari / Mackie setup remained the same throughout the writing of film scores for STARGATE, INDEPENDENCE DAY, TOMORROW NEVER DIES, A LIFE LESS ORDINARY, LAST OF THE DOGMEN and GODZILLA. David chained together his three 1604s to demo mock-ups to directors of all those movies.

David notes, “Things started to get more and more complex with THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, and I thought I have to get more electronic. All of my Mackie rigs have been transported all around the world and I’ve not had a single crackly pot.” So David moved from the Atari to Logic on a big Macintosh, and trusting Mackie’s proven reliability and sound, he put a Mackie Digital 8 Bus, into his writing room on the top floor of Sir George Martin’s Air Lyndhurst Studio in London. “It’s caused a lot of interest around the studio, and I’ve been very happy with the sound of the D8B.”

David mastered THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH straight to Genex recorders while writing and then proceeded to use two Mackie D8Bs in addition to the 72 channel Neve Legend in the control room at Air Lyndhurst Hall. The D8Bs mixed effects returns and live synth channels. Some of the equipment used during the 6 days of recording and 2 weeks of mixdown included:

2 x 8 track Genex machines
3 x DAT players
2 x 8 track ADATs
1 x Sony 33 48 track
2 x 24 track analogue machines
16 tracks of ProTools
Plus live keyboards and synths going into the mix!!

“There was something like 145 channels going into the mix,” David points out. “I have never seen so much equipment in one studio control room. It’s a great testament to the guys at Air Lyndhurst and to the reliability of the equipment that it all worked. If something could have crashed – and you half expect it to do so all the time – then it would have crashed during THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH mix. There was a lot of timecode flying around – 15 other digital devices – all going full tilt for 2 weeks. There were a load of single shot effects that we used the D8B automation to pan around the five outputs. It was great to be able to automate sends and returns into the mix.”

David sums up THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH mix by adding, “It all sounded great and nothing broke… it was a bit of a miracle really!”

David observes, “A lot of equipment promises a lot, but doesn’t deliver without loads of extra boxes. To be honest, I don’t think Mackie have put a foot wrong. As a manufacturer you should deliver what you promise, and Mackie has done this for me. I can’t believe how good Mackie gear is and has always sounded. It sounds as good as you want it to sound.”

David is really looking forward to working with Mackie’s new HDR24/96 24-track, 24-bit/96k-capable stand-alone hard disk recording/editing system. David’s computer system has a couple of limitations that make hard disk systems look very attractive. The nearest equivalent is many times more expensive, but with Mackie, David is sure he can look forward to it living up to, and exceeding, his expectations. Also, David points out a lot of people (including himself) are very keen on the ‘one supplier’ concept. “Everyone has had trouble at some time with different manufacturer’s equipment not working together properly,” David states. “I am also looking forward to the level of integration promised between D8B and HDR.”

David still doesn’t feel he’s explored all the depths of his Mackie D8B. Using recall and automating elements of a mix are tremendously useful tools when he’s running demos for directors. He might have 25 or 30 different elements in a cue, and the directors are not very good at imagining what they can’t hear.

David offers, “I only get the director for an hour or so, so it’s really great to be able to prepare a load of stuff beforehand and play them back something that sounds really good. I use all the onboard effects, and don’t rely that much on outboard signal processing anymore.”

“Plus, I use the D8B’s graphics screen a lot. I really like that interface, especially the fat channel. It looks like it sounds – old and reliable and sort of fruity!!”

“The other thing is that with Mackie you always feel like the equipment is made by people who care about what you’re doing. Mackie products have obviously been made by and for musicians. It’s a feel thing – I can’t explain – it’s just, like, a warm feeling to it!”

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