Notes From the Edge
Home Recording Visits:
Trevor Rabin
by Tim Morse
from nfte #243

Although he was the guitarist/singer/songwriter for Yes for over a decade, Trevor Rabin has now become known for his soundtrack scoring. He has scored major blockbuster movies over the last few years including such films as CON AIR, ARMAGEDDON, ENEMY OF THE STATE and most recently DEEP BLUE SEA. Since 1988 any project Rabin has done (including his session work, i.e. Seal's CRAZY) has been recorded at his home studio The Jacaranda Room.

Trevor's home recording started with a two track Revox that he would use as a songwriting tool by bouncing tracks back and forth. After a while he graduated to a simple four track set-up that was common for the time. When the Yes album 90125 sold millions of copies on the strength of the hit single "Owner of a Lonely Heart" Trevor was able to build a professional studio in his house. He equipped it with a 24 track MCI and a 56 channel Soundcraft board (as well as outboard gear like the first digital Lexicon). It turned out to be very convenient to bring the 24 master to his studio to work on the next Yes album BIG GENERATOR and Trevor decided that future projects would be recorded at home.

Digital Perfomer All of the tracks for his solo album CAN'T LOOK AWAY were recorded at Jacaranda as well as the four songs Rabin contributed to the Yes UNION album (including the AOR hit "Lift Me Up"). It was about this time that he started integrating the computer in his work; he has always used a Macintosh with Mark of the Unicorn Performer software. Inspired by the creative control available with the computer he decided that the Yes album TALK would be completely recorded onto hard drive. He purchased a "magnificent" DDA Profile board and synced together four Macs, connecting them to over ten gigabytes of hard disk drive. The recording was a frustrating eighteen month odyssey for Trevor, but the sonic clarity that resulted was well worth the trouble. After the Talk tour was completed Rabin decided it was time to leave Yes and pursue film scoring.

The Yamaha O2R Mixing console His studio is like stepping into a 20 x 30 music shop with racks of gear and hundreds of keyboards and guitars just waiting to be played and as he says, "It's very inspiring just walking in!" Trevor has five Yamaha 02R consoles (he uses four and keeps one in transit, using 160 channels).

Although he doesn't need many effects right now Rabin thinks one of the best toys for "screwing up and squashing sound is the DynaMite - a very good, but harsh compressor." With the advent of hard disk recording Trevor got rid of his digital multi-track and now the only tape machines left in the studio are a couple of Panasonic 4100 DATs. He admits that he likes to stay one step behind new technology, because he doesn't want to be the guinea pig, "I keep very up to date with what is happening, but I don't necessarily use it. Once I feel that it is ready then I'll use it. For example I'm still using a G3 and I've got 25 gigabytes and it is easily enough to hold a movie." He has hundreds of midi channels, including an entire orchestra palette for his scoring work which he uses very specifically, writing for first violins, second violins, etc. like a traditional orchestra.

When it comes to monitoring Trevor confides, "I have what I consider to be the best speakers on the market today, bar none and it's the best kept secret, they are unbelievable. They're called MNK's (Miller and Kreiger) and they'll blow you away."

Rabin finds he gravitates towards Neumann microphones, although occasionally he use an Electro Voice. In most cases he'll use a Neumann 89 for vocals, acoustic guitar or percussion. Generally Rabin uses drum samples, but there have been sessions where he'll have his drummer Lou Molino set up his kit at Jacaranda. Sometimes he will actually just set up one mic and record the kit in mono, but he admits that Molino's amazing drum sound helps facilitate the process.

Trevor uses Korg keyboards and feels they always come up with exciting technology and sounds. He uses a T2 as his controller, but the studio is filled with other Korgs like the O1, T1 Trinity, SR, Wave Station and an EX8000. The rest of the keyboard gear is Emu (including 13 E4s and "a load of E3s").

Although Rabin's guitar collection numbers around 80 guitars and basses, he usually records with his famous Strat and his signature model Alverez. When a nylon string sound is required he uses a gut string Alverez and a Tobias acoustic baritone guitar. He also has a Young Chang concert grand that he describes as "magnificent" and he records with it quite often.

Obviously when Rabin needs to record a full orchestra they go to another studio; usually the orchestra is recorded at the new Warner's Clint Eastwood stage or the ToddAO. He has always mixed his electronic scores at Jacaranda and he recently made the jump to mixing an orchestral score (for the Disney film WHISPERS) at home. For that project he recorded everything including the orchestra into Performer and as he says, "it worked great. It's one of the clearer sounding scores that I've done." The final mixes for movies go down to sixteen tracks and are transferred for the sound editor (usually into Pro Tools).

In contrast to the massive orchestral score for DEEP BLUE SEA, Rabin's latest film GONE IN SIXTY SECONDS, "Is a very experimental score, very electronic mixed in with thrash and metal." Trevor describes film scoring as intense, but enjoyable work saying, "The main enjoyment for me is the initial writing music to the picture. You should always keep in mind that the score serves the picture." He is pleased to hear of interest in his studio and relates, "Sometimes people hear things I've recorded and say, 'Where was that done? We should use that studio for our album.' I've had those calls and I tell them, 'Well, it's just a big room that's been slightly acoustically treated with gear in it.' However, that's always a nice compliment!"

From Notes From the Edge #243

Tim Morse is the author of "Yesstories".
His new book is "Classic Rock Stories".
Visit the Yesstories section on YesNet Sites

The entire contents of this interview are
copyright © 2002 Tim Morse and Notes From the Edge

Tim Morse

© 2002 Notes from the Edge