Rack-N-Roll Audio is a company that is all about putting the listener in the best seat in the house!
We recently invited the company owner/producer/engineer Rob Dennis for a chat and to learn the important tools of a truly complicated trade – live recording. Along with a Grammy award for his work with the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Rack-N-Roll Audio’s most recent credits include Carrie Underwood, Nathaniel Rateliff, Zac Brown Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sirius XM,PBS, and Kings of Leon.
Tell us a few words about yourself. What are your most recent projects?
I’m a passionate music fan! I started Rack-N-Roll in February of ’97 as a pro audio rental company. Over the years we grew into pro audio sales, rentals and mobile recording. Because of my former career as a touring engineer, I’m very comfortable interfacing with the touring side of the business. Anywhere there’s great music being played to a live audience I want to record it. I recently received a Grammy for working with the oldest roots gospel singers in the US – the Fisk Jubilee Singers. I worked on their album “Celebrating Fisk! The 150th Anniversary Album”. It was recorded in Nashville at the historic Ryman Auditorium, with guest appearances by Cece Winans, Ruby Amanfu, Keb’ Mo’, Lee Ann Womack, The Fairfield Four, and many others.
What does your current rig look like?
We are very methodical when it comes to doing a live capture. For recording everything is at 96k using an Antelope Audio 10MX atomic clock. Our Main rig includes a Galaxy 64 giving us 64 analog inputs as well as 64 MADI or Dante inputs that are being fed by 64 inputs of AMS Neve OPX mic pre’s for a total of 128 mic inputs. We hope to add a second Galaxy 64 to it later this year. Our B Rig currently features two Orion 32HD | Gen 3 audio interfaces and two of the MP32 mic preamps. All this gives us a total of 64 analog inputs. This is the same rig we used to record the Fisk Jubilee Singers as well as Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds, Brothers Osbourne, Carrie Underwood, Sam Hunt, Kings of Leon, Lynyrd Skynyrd and others.
What is your history with Antelope Audio?
Years ago, I started using the MP32 and the Orion 32HD | Gen 3 due to their physical size and clean and accurate sound. A 1U rack with 32 I/O of this quality makes these boxes very practical to put on a flight when traveling around the states for recordings.
A while back we purchased the 10MX atomic clock for a rental for a Stevie Wonder live show. After the show, we decided to try it and see what the fuss was all about it. The 10MX turned out to be a big upgrade for us. The sound quality of the rig was subtle, but pleasantly better. If better is better, it’s got to stay.
Are there any rules for live recording that you stand by?
My ultimate goal has always been to place the listener in the best seat in the house. I always try to capture not only what happens on the stage, but also the room and the audience. I consider these individual aspects of the show to ensure they are captured at the highest level possible. I also pay attention not to just the sonics, but the relationship of the music being created on stage between the musicians. Hopefully I never lose the perspective of simply being a music fan.
Do you stick to one brand when it comes to microphones?
The great thing about owning a rental company that is linked to recording activities is that we have lots of gear to pick from. From newer stuff like DPA to all of our vintage inventory, like Telefunken ELAM 251’s, Neumann U-47’s, M-49’s, U-67’s, AKG C-12’s we are not afraid to use whatever is best to get the job done. I think I used a pair of 251’s on the audience at the Ryman for the Fisk project, and a pair of AKG C-12’s for the choir.
Miking can be a real challenge when doing live recording’s. How do you take on this challenge?
We like to have options. The room mics could be hanging from the ceiling, flying from the bottom of the PA hang, etc. My audience perspective happens from the stage with a combination of Earthworks Omni’s, Audio Technica 4050’s and shotgun mics, as well as a few Crown SASS mics. My goal is to capture that sense of space and translate it into the mix. We have even reserved one of the best seats in the house and placed a Holophone surround mic (Robert Cray-Cooking in Mobile) to capture a more realistic representation of the ambience the audience was hearing.
What are you most looking forward to in the future of your business?
These days Atmos is moving forward with a great pace, so that is certainly a direction we are also going to go. The Galaxy 64 unit appears to be perfect for such a transition and I am looking forward to what the future holds. We are certainly living in exciting times, and we always stay on the cutting edge of technology and music production.