Recently LEWITT microphones has been used at the After Dark Presents Sessions, a series of secret gigs at beautiful hidden places at the Dartington Estate, UK. Writer and composer Daniel Marcus Clark was the curator of the six unique music and event journeys across the Dartington estate for Dartington Arts and we had the chance to interview him.
The event programme included five intimate folk-based gigs, including, alongside Daniel, exceptional acoustic string band, The Mountain Firework Company; a double bill from rising stars Oh Pep! and multi-platinum, chart-topping lyricist, Fiona Bevan; singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and creator of the acclaimed album ‘Homesongs’, Adem; and wildly alternative cellist, vocalist, avant-singer-songwriter, who’s a long-standing member of internationally acclaimed Elysian String Quartet, Laura Moody. Psychedelic neo-classical folk rock collective, The Moulettes was headliner at Dartington’s annual Community Day.
In the Interview Daniel talked about the concept behind After Dark Presents, why he chosed LEWITT microphones, which mics worked best on what aplication and his experiences with the After Dark Sessions.
[LEWITT] Tell us a bit about concept behind After Dark Presents?
[Daniel Marcus Clark] After Dark is a series of events using spaces that usually don’t get used for concerts. We ran six shows in the last season, using everything from hidden woodlands to derelict schools. It’s been an interesting project and all the acts that we picked were artists that used the acoustic performance in an interesting way - acts that could play unplugged or lightly amplified - but using arrangements and songwriting to create something different and unique from that which is generally happening in pop music at the moment.
[LEWITT] How did you came up with the idea?
[Daniel Marcus Clark] There’s a place in Devon called the Dartington estate, a place with a long and amazing history of hosting artists and we were asked to come in and run a series of events there. We (Daniel & Performance maker Becca Gill) thought, rather than just use the traditional venues, how wonderful it would be to utilise the unusual spaces Dartington estate had to offer that no one get’s to see.
The spaces were so alive and characterful we wanted them to influence the kind of acts that we pick. So each event was programmed around the space rather than the space was picked for the act.
[LEWITT] What role did the LEWITT microphones play for the event?
[Daniel Marcus Clark] When we started thinking about the events it became clear that, because of the quality of the acts and the intimate nature of the shows, sound quality was really important. Alongside the live sessions we also wanted to capture each of the acts in some of the more unusual spaces that are too small to have an audience and so we started the idea of the After Dark Presents sessions. When we came across LEWITT microphones we realized they were really the perfect match for us. Their usability meant we could, in a very quick time, get very very good sound and be invisible as engineers and recordists with the acts. Because the microphones had such low noise floor we didn’t have to worry about that and they had such transparent sound that we could just capture the performances as the artists were intending them!
[LEWITT] Why did you chose LEWITT microphones for the event?
[Daniel Marcus Clark] When I started looking around for the right microphones for the event it seemed like LEWITT were using engineering in a very clever way. The first microphone that caught my attention was the early previews of the LCT 640 TS. The ability to be able to really manipulate the sound - just one microphone working in such an interesting way - seemed really appealing. And when we started looking into other bits of gear it seemed like actually all of the microphones in the catalogue had been incredibly well considered. The build quality on the microphones is fantastic - I think pretty much everyone commented on that! They feel solid and you can really use them without having to worry about them! But the main thing is that the sound is so transparent and clean. These microphones are fantastic bits of kit!
[LEWITT] What challenges have you had to face with all those fancy locations?
[Daniel Marcus Clark] Acoustically some of the recordings have been really challenging and sometimes we’ve been dealing with instruments and locations that acoustically don’t necessarily go together. The last session we did was with a band called This is the kit who are a fantastic group from Paris and Bristol. In the recording, Kate, the lead singer was playing a banjo very gently and she had a very sweet but quite quiet voice. She was playing in an acoustically difficult room with a baritone and a tenor saxophone, and all of a sudden we had this kind of session that was acoustically in a room that didn’t make sense - you couldn’t hear the voice over the saxophones a lot of the time. It was a real challenge for the engineer but I think hopefully what we got out from it works really well.
[LEWITT] What recording techniques did you use?
[Daniel Marcus Clark] We made a decision early on that we would use only two mics so all of the After Dark Presents sessions just used two of the LEWITT LCT 550 microphones and we were experimenting with different ways to do that. Be it that each instrument was miked separately; or sometimes the guitar and voice would get miked separately, and sometimes we would using MS recording. So we were kind of using different techniques, based on the acts.
[LEWITT] Please tell us about your experiences with the LEWITT microphones at the After Dark Sessions.
[Daniel Marcus Clark] The sound engineer and I had a lot of fun figuring out the best way to bring the sound out with the limitations of just two microphones. If you see The Mountain Firework Company it was astonishing to me what you can do with just two mic’s. On both The Mountain Firework Company and Moulettes videos we were recording MS and the others were just using one mic or two mics. It seemed really straightforward, pretty quick and pretty seamless. For some of sessions the Mid Side technique didn’t work – mainly for the smaller acts or those in more challenging spaces acoustically, and so we miked them differently like in the This is the kit videos. We really had no problems, because the microphones were easy to work with.
[LEWITT] What microphone worked best on what?
[Daniel Marcus Clark] I know that a lot of the engineers we worked with completely fell for the MTP 940 CM and MTP 740 CM. They were so clear and so easy to work with and give such a true sound - both for vocals but also for instruments. For one of the sessions we miked up a celeste - a struck idiophone operated by a keyboard that has a very gentle, delicate sound and is an instrument that is used in the Sugar Plum Fairy most famously - and that worked incredibly well with the MTP 940 CM - it just gave so much detail and crispness. We were recording the After Dark Presents sessions with the LCT 550 and they were astonishing, because they have this zero db noise floor that means that you can really pick up very very quiet things and when it comes to the mix at the end, all you hearing is detail rather than the sound of the microphones themselves.
[LEWITT] What was the recording chain?
[Daniel Marcus Clark] A lot of the time for the live sessions we were just running straight into a zoom recorder, so it was a very simple chain we were going for and it worked incredibly well. It meant we could turn up in a very remote location and the microphones were powered just by the recorder itself. So that was the setup we quite often used. Then we also tried it with some of the Universal Audio Preamps and that also worked incredibly well. We found that we got a lot more out of the microphones that way, but the versatility to being able to turn up in a space that has no power and no access to power and being able to use two very detailed condenser mics like the LCT 550’s was just incredible.
[LEWITT] Have any of the musicians commented on the microphones or their sound?
[Daniel Marcus Clark] I think all of the artists have enjoyed the sound of the microphones that they’ve been using. I know that Adem, a famous producer and recordist who has produced an album for Philip Selway - the drummer of Radiohead - absolutely loved the sound of the MTP 740 CM vocal mic. But mainly it has been the sound engineers themselves and the people that were arranging the sessions that have being knocked for six by them. We had quite a lot of people asking where they can get LEWITT microphones, because of the quality of them. We had also quite a few sound engineers, who expressed an interest in replacing their SM 58’s with LEWITT microphones, because just sounded so much better!
Daniel asked some of the sound engineers about their experiences with the LEWITT microphones:
[Olly Wickes, DBS MUSIC] The mic's were a joy to use during the After Dark events. It's always a bit of a gamble using something you are unfamiliar with for the first time but I genuinely impressed with the entire range. Build quality was excellent and the microphones seemed very robust. The intimate nature of the events called for honest, transparent and detailed microphones in order for us to achieve fully authentic sound reinforcement of the sources on stage. The detail of the condenser vocal mic's in particular were incredible and you could have heard a pin drop in the room with how silent they were. I was able to achieve a lot of gain before feedback, which really helped with the quality of the recordings whilst not compromising the integrity of the sound in the pa or monitors. I'd happily use these microphones again and would love to see them more widespread in the industry.
[Jimi Stewart - CAPE KHOBOI] We used a pair of LCT 550’s for a bunch of different applications and they sounded fantastic. Warm and clear in every situation from acoustic guitars to tenor sax. Couldn't recommended these any more highly. I can see them becoming a studio staple for years to come.
[LEWITT] Any tips and tricks?
[Daniel Marcus Clark] Just to not be bound by what others have done before and to have fun with your imaginations and see what is possible! In terms of the sound for the events we had quite a lot dreaming time around what the sonic character of each event would be and how they would feel. That really helped I think. But tips for other people - I think the main thing is to allow artists to be able to focus on what they do well and that comes from being invisible and being good at what you do and that was the great thing about working with LEWITT microphones - because we didn’t have to worry about the technology, we could just focus on making the artists feel comfortable.
[LEWITT] Anything else you want to say?
[Daniel Marcus Clark] As well as making great microphones it was such a pleasure to deal with all of you LEWITT Guys and it feels like you’re very open to artists and the artistic journey! The impressions I get is that you are a technical company that are making microphones for people to be creative with.
Outside of the After Dark Presents Sessions I used the LCT 550 for voice overs to try them out and I found they worked incredibly well. They are so transparent and detailed and the clients all came back and were saying how great they sounded and how happy they were with the recordings. I was running the LCT 550 directly into an Apogee Duet and in an Mac.
[LEWITT] Are you planning to continue the After Dark Sessions?
[Daniel Marcus Clark] We’re planning a next season - starting hopefully in the spring.
After Dark Presents: