LOS ANGELES — Although he may be most often recognized these days as Guns N’ Roses’ keyboardist and effects man – not to mention one of the group’s principal songwriters and co-producers for the past ten years – Chris Pitman is an adept multi-instrumentalist, engineer and producer that has lent his talents to Tool, Failure, Lusk, Replicants, ZAUM, Blinker The Star and Medicine, among others. Along with celebrating the recent release of GNR’s long-anticipated Chinese Democracy, Pitman has also just unveiled a debut album by SexTapes, a side project he fronts as lead vocalist. According to Pitman, both albums made considerable use of his sizable collection of studio tools from A-Designs Audio.
Pitman first came in contact with A-Designs at NAMM several years ago. “I was passing by their booth and ended up meeting Peter [Montessi, A-Designs’ president], who introduced me to his gear,” he recalls. “I was impressed with the ATTY passive stereo level control and he also showed me the MP-1 tube mic pre that was going to be released later. Being a fellow gearhead myself, we were talking about tube designs, transformers and so on, and his was based on the EF86 tube, one of my faves, so I was really eager to try it out.
“I ended up ordering the ATTY because I was in dire need of a volume control to go from my converters to my monitors, and I didn’t want anything to alter the sound, as with active electronics. This being a passive attenuator was a direct link and perfect solution. Then I found I needed more of them to use in front of mic pres, output devices and you name it, so I got the rackmount ATTY2’D.”
That simple “fix” ended up being the hook that would ultimately spiral Pitman into full-on addiction for most of A-Designs Audio’s product lineup. “Now, practically every time I hear some new device that Peter has come up with, I end up buying it!” Pitman laughs. “First of all, it just always sounds incredibly unique and hi-fi in my environment, and everything is enhanced by it being in my studio, so I just won’t let it go after that… no way! I have a nice little museum now that includes ATTYs, an MP-1, the Pacifica, several EM-Blue pres, the HAMMER EQ, and lately a pair of REDDIs… and I’ll probably have his kitchen sink here soon, too.”
Basic tracks for the self-titled new SexTapes album were laid down in one night at The Pass Studios in Hollywood with the whole band playing together, focusing on capturing the best possible drum sound. “The Pass has one of the greatest live rooms you’ll ever hear,” raves Pitman. “We used a pair of A-Designs EM-Blue mic pres on Ryan Brown’s kick and snare, and a Pacifica for the room mics, which was essential to preserve the dynamic live sound of a drum kit going 90 miles per hour.” He also notes that the signal from bassist Marko Fox’s SVT was directly inserted into the MP-1 for the direct output.
Like classic records of the past, where everything was recorded through the same kind of mic pre, Pitman chose to follow that route by limiting himself to using the Pacifica as much as possible. “So when we came back to The Pass to record Kelly Wheeler’s guitar tracks, we used the Pacifica for his Marshall cabinet,” he shares. “And I used it again when recording all the vocals in my own home studio. My signal path was a U47 to the Pacifica to an 1176 to a Lavry converter, and it was the best sounding chain I’ve ever used for my vocal. I tried several other tube pres, including a Neve and Telefunken, but they just didn’t have the kind of presence and range I was achieving with the Pacifica.”
Pitman also reports that his A-Designs arsenal was equally well represented on Guns N’ Roses’ new album. “On all the tracks I did for Chinese Democracy, whether we were recording keys, bass, vocals or whatever, everything would pass through some A-Designs device or another,” says Pitman. “And we did use some of the 500 Series pres for recording guitars at times. Guitarist/writer Paul Tobias even bought quite a bit of gear from Peter for his home studio, he liked them so much. They made the guitars sound really beefy with a modern edge to it, quite unlike anything else.
“Again, I can’t stress enough the fact that when you can fuse together a classic design with modern components like Peter has, and gather all the information and feedback from musicians and engineers, and then tweak that musicality into the device… well, it really can’t get much better than that. I’ve always told him that once people hear these things in their own studios, this zhit’s gonna blow up! Bottom line: if you’re wanting top notch recording gear to enhance your sex life, go buy A-Designs gear!”