Flea47 @ Real World Studios (Peter Gabriel)

John Willett Richard "Dickie" Chappell

 Why did you choose the Flea47
About three years ago FLEA contacted us via the website to say that they would really like Peter (Gabriel) to try out some microphones. We were happy to do this, but at that time we were in the middle of other things – overdubbing, finding new ideas, grabbing what was available at the time – so it did not feel it was the right time then, but we were still very interested in pursuing the idea.real world 01 We had started a project working with a classical arranger in 2009 which resulted in a record the next year. From then until now we have been working on another similar project with Peter’s songs. We have just done a covers record that was out last year and now, to promote the covers record, we are doing shows based around an orchestra and Peter singing. The first half of the show is the whole of the covers record played in sequence, then an interval, and then we play a whole bunch of Peter’s songs with different arrangements all to orchestra. The idea of the orchestra is that they play like a band, they are playing band type sounds, so it’s not just a pad supporting Peter it’s a whole new interpretation of Peter’s music. We tried a few different microphones in 2009 when we were recording the vocals for that record and were not wholly happy with what was going on. I remembered FLEA and the contact so I contacted Ivan last spring and said “what have you got?” We talked about what was available – we record in a very live room; Peter likes to hear himself a lot when he sings, so we work in a very large space that could for normal engineering be interpreted as not the most practical; but you have to go where the artist is going to be most happy, so we do all the vocals in this large wooden room where Peter can hear himself really well and we work with the monitors on and off quite a lot. So I asked about what microphones they had with a lot of back rejection ’cause I can get a lot of bleed in the room while Peter is trying things out and it would be good to be able to capture it without a lot of spill. So they sent over the Flea47 and the Flea49 and we went straight to the 47. We have found over the years when you get manufacturers in particular and they say for example: “well we have got this piece of gear and it does this and you have to try this and try that2 etc… – We have down time when we can experiment, but when you have an artist in the room there is no time – you can’t stop to compare things. So the 47 went up, we switched it on and Peter started singing, and that was it really. Peter just went “yeah, that’s great”. We have a history of working with 47s, we have had a Telefunken, reconditioned now.
That’s an original Telefunken?
Yes, it’s an original – we have had that for a number of years but when we compared it to the Flea47 there is something about the FLEA, it’s fresher, it’s newer, but there is just something about it that works really well with Peter’s voice. I had heard a lot about the Millenia mic. pre-amps. for a long time and people saying “don’t bother, they are too clean” you know, we are in to using Neves and SSL and mic pres that give you some colour and can give you some response; real world 02but also I was interested in trying the Millenia out, so I started to use them in the Summer when we did the orchestral recording at Air studios – so that was a combination of Neves on the console and then for the ambience we started to use the Millenias and I just was amazed at how open they sounded and how clean they sounded and there was just zero noise being introduced into the recording, which was great. So I started using a solo channel Millenia along with this Flea47 and just found it really complimented it and it sounded amazing – I am not really used to ABing a lot and am just into recording things and capturing performances. I am not really an audiophile, it’s what feels good that matters to me – and there is just something about the combination of the Flea47 and the Millenia that just really makes me stand up and say “wow, that’s fantastic”.
I know the classical people like the Millenia a lot – I suppose really when it comes down to it, it just lets the mic. through without dirtying it or colouring it and you just hear the quality of the voice and the quality of the mic.
Yes, exactly, it’s just lovely and open – there are a lot of people making 47s now and we’ve tried out quite a few of them, but there is just something about the Flea47. real world 03Also about the attitude of the people at FLEA, they really care about it, they are very responsive – not that there has been any problems but they really care – and we really care about things here and it’s good to be working with people that can spend a lot of time making things work.
On another note, we have been doing a bit of percussion overdubs as we go – Peter’s very immediate with the way he works so when he has an idea, we’re off; so when the mic’s live, as it always is, it can be used for anything. So we have been doing percussion overdubs. We work in a semi-home environment where there are a lot of kids instruments around so he has been trying out various things with them.
You are finding the Flea47 good for percussion?
Yes, it’s great – we were trying to do some hand bells and Peter just started playing them. real world 05We recorded two mics – a normal condenser and the Flea47; the 47 was in a normal vocal position but we just loved the way it sounded, it really captured what we were hearing, rather than the condenser which was losing some of the ambience; and a lot more – the pattern was a lot sharper, so it was not working. But there was something about the Flea47. We have got a history of using U47s, I remember when I first came here it was the main mic for everything – it would be set up for Peter’s vocal and then drums come out and we just start recording……
When it was originally designed the 47 was just a good general purpose switchable-pattern microphone, it’s just that people have been using it so much for vocals that they tend to think of it as a vocal mic and not the versatile mic it is and never try using it for other things.
With modern high bit rate and high sample rate recording, do you find the Flea47 is quiet enough?
Yes – no problem, no problem at all. It’s more just about the feeling you get from it and the performance you can capture from it. real world 04Luckily I’m working with a great singer, so there is an argument that if you throw up any microphone you are going to get something good. But there is something about the combination of Peter’s vocal as it has been historically with a 47 capsule and the Flea47 is bringing it into 2010/2011 – it’s just a fresher sound and he is singing better than he ever has. It’s a great tool for capturing that – it’s really really really good and I’m very happy that FLEA contacted us. Although we have other great mics for specific jobs, the Flea47 is also great for general purpose and it just works really well.


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