Our recipe - How we recorded Hot Chocolate Songs

Our Recipe:
Scott’s story of how we made Hot Chocolate Songs

Hot Chocolate Songs was recorded in Hemmle Recital Hall on the campus of Texas Tech University (our alma mater) in three weekend sessions during September and October of 1997. A mentor of ours was a professor there and allowed us to sneak in and record between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. Friday through Sunday. It was grueling... We’d carry the gear in after each night’s recital, set it all up, and record all night long. Then we’d pack up and have all the equipment out before people arrived early the next morning. Then Amy would go home to care for our infant daughter while I would teach all day at Brandon Guitar Studio (I feel so sorry for the students I had during those weekends... I was delirious due to sleep deprivation!). But the pain was worth it to get to record on an amazing Steinway grand piano that sounded like absolute magic!

We didn’t have any money and barely had any gear, so I studied how records were made in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s when they didn’t have the unlimited possibilities of digital recording software. We tracked everything very old-school... good microphones (a pair of 414s and a hodgepodge of Audix mics) into our preamps (believe it our not, we used 2 channels of Manley and had 2 Mackie 1202 mixers for everything else!), and then straight to analog tape on my Fostex E16. No EQ or compression was used during the tracking sessions. We just moved the mics until we got what we heard in our hearts.

I recorded several takes of each piece then edited everything with a razor blade and splicing block. We tracked overdubs and vocals at our home. We even recorded “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” on a battered old Fender Rhodes (I traded a student lessons for it) right in our living room. That Rhodes eventually became Amy’s main keyboard during the 100 Love Sonnets years.

I mixed the album in our spare bedroom on a Mackie 8-buss console. I borrowed a buddy’s live house rack for compression (mostly inexpensive Behringer stuff), and recorded my mixes to DAT.

When it was time to master the CD, I discovered that Ty Tabor of King’s X fame owned a mastering studio in Houston. Amy and I were huge fans of King’s X, and I decided to see if Ty would master it for us. We had met him after shows on several occasions, so I called him up. He remembered us and agreed to do the job. He told Amy recently that he loves the album and still listens to it every Christmas. Pretty dang cool.

Here’s the low-down on who did what:

Produced by Scott and Amy Faris

All songs arranged by Amy Goode Faris

“Hot Chocolate” and “Mama Says Now Go To Sleep” written by Amy

Engineered by Scott, Gary Kent and Matt Quick

Mixed by Scott at the Amusement Park Recording Studio*

Mastered by Ty Tabor at Alien Beans Studio

Photography by Russell Hall and Scott

Art by Scott, FarisWheel Productions

Recorded at Hemmle Recital Hall, Texas Tech University

Additional recording at the Amusement Park Recording Studio*, Lubbock, TX

* At the time we recorded Hot Chocolate Songs, the Amusement Park Recording Studio was just a hodge podge of old gear Scott would pull out of the garage and set up in our home. Nowadays, it's a full-fledged recording studio. Take a look! We’ve come a long way... Scott’s now a full-time record producer and web designer. To learn more, check out ScottFaris.com.

Hot Chocolate Songs - a jazzy little Christmas CD by Amy Goode Faris