Heavy Guitars, Tight Drums & and an Unreal Vibe!
Nested in the heart of Greece, in Athens, Alex runs his sessions from Unreal Studios - a facility built from the ground up, initially as a private rehearsal space, now one of the leading recording studios in Greece.
Can you share with us what you're working on at the moment?
I’ve just finished recording a dual drum setup for a blues/soul band. One room had a more huge/roomy drum setup (premier signia/resonator drumset) and the other room a more hip hop/tight/ specific sound. Today I'll be mixing a math metal band, followed by a female fronted rock band and recording a punk rock/electronica band. Fun times – we like to keep our work varied here at Unreal. Speaking of variety, we’re also in the process of finishing a flamenco album.
How did Unreal Studios come about?
I was young and we started building the studio for fun – we had a band and needed somewhere to rehearse, so we decided to build it. The process was linear, and before we knew it, we had made Unreal. It's been almost 14 years now, and for the life of me i don't know how we got to where we are now, but I’m very happy that we did.
What's your favourite stage in the music production process?
As an engineer, my thing is getting sounds, regardless of the instrument. Capturing and sculpting a sound feels like playing 100 chess matches at once. You have so many options – a feeling which i actually enjoy – and the whole process makes me feel like a kid in a huge science lab where everything is possible.
What's your favourite piece of gear you've used recently?
I’ll give you three: the Maag EQ 4, the Yamaha Phoenix drum kit and the No Hype LRM2 mic.
Let's talk influencers. Which albums are inspired by and why?
Ok – you’ve asked for it.. here goes:
Strapping young Lad - City/Alien
That is what ’crazy’ sounds like. For me, these two albums encompass the effects of all instruments and sounds creating an impact, an emotion. Its not about hearing things clearly, the result just grabs you by the neck.
AC/DC - Back in black
An album that really stood the test of time. Still sounds fresh, still has you wondering how they got those sounds. If you don't nod along to the groove you are surely clinically dead.
Oceanographic records - Modular
Type O Negative - October Rust
80s-like impressive qualities. Big and wide, it gets you air drumming/guitaring in a matter of seconds
Genesis - We Can't Dance
The type of album that you don't even listen to the production. It's so good it becomes invisible.
Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92
Lo fi to a whole new level. If there was a thing like Lo Hi fi, this would be it.
Honorable mention: Devin Townsend - Accelerated Evolution
This is what all snare drums should sound like, regardless of genre. Fullstop.
How did you start engineering music?
My father is a piano tuner/tech. He got me into music from an early age and taught me electronics – the two go well with one-another. One thing I’ll add is that I am not a musician that had an interest in engineering, I actually wanted to become an engineer (and probably still do, to this day, heh).
Name your bucket-list piece of recording equipment
An in-line large format console – We use the Raindirk Symphony LN2 and we love it. If you want to track fast and sound good, a console is still unbeatable in my opinion. Accurate monitoring, roomtreatment and good conversion make everything that much easier down the road. Oh and of course, a good selection of mics and stands is paramount. Add these all together and you have the basis for a great recording.
What's your favourite technique you use in the studio?
Parallel compression – it’s very easy to implement with analog gear and a console. No latency issues. You can use busses and have everything available at the press of a button. Trying this in the analog world opens up creativity, I found. My usual suspects are Ridge Farm Boiler , Valley People 610, Tubetech CL2A and Shadow Hills Dual Vandergraph.
Finish the sentnce: if I wasn't engineering, I'd be...