September 7, 2012

Summerfest Sessions: Whiskey of the Damned

Hailing from Milwaukee, WI, Whiskey of the Damned bring an eclectic mix of old Irish Celtic music with a punk influence. Frontman Eoin McCarthy, percussionist Jay Wolf, and bass player Matt Schuetz all double as sound engineers and stage workers when they aren’t performing their brand of alternative folk. With so many influences it’s difficult to lock these guys down into a particular genre but however you describe their sound, it’s clear they like playing music and working with other musicians when they are not performing themselves. These three members of Whiskey of the Damned were running their own stage at Summerfest which had seventy plus artists performing. While it may have been a smaller and more down to earth stage when compared to the bloated arena style stages, it was actually the best place to be during the day with a nice cool breeze coming off of Lake Michigan.

For the vocals we used the Sennheiser e935, and for the acoustic guitar we used the e914 microphone. For this recording we also used the Sennheiser e901 “Semi” – cardioid condenser microphone into the percussion player’s cajon. All of the microphones were running into the Presonus StudioLive 24.4.2 FireWire interface and live sound mixer. The StudioLive was then routed to Pro Tools 10 via a single FireWire cable. Within Pro Tools 10 we used their extensive sets of plug ins but generally stuck to their phenomenal reverb plug ins to bring out the sounds of the acoustic guitars and vocals.

Check out the full interview below:

So let’s start with introductions.

Jay: My name is Jay Wolf from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and I play percussion.

Matt: Matt Schuetz from West Bend, Wisconsin. I play bass.

Eoin: Eoin McCarthy, I play guitar and sing.

So what are you guys doing here in Milwaukee?

Jay: Well we live here but we actually just came off a tour. We actually run a stage here at Summerfest, the world’s largest music festival. We run all local bands. We do 77 bands throughout this and we’re kind of just taking a break here to relax and record with Taylor and Sennheiser.

You guys all come from different places. How did you all get together?

Eoin: I moved to America I got a visa and I came over to play some music and then decided that I wanted to start a new band over here. I met a bunch of friends, musicians, like Jay here and Matt and we started Whiskey of the Damned. Started touring almost immediately and we’ve been on the road ever since.

If you had to describe your sound to someone who’s never heard you before how would you describe the sound?

Eoin: Celtic, gypsy, punk, bluegrass, rock. It’s a weird mixture of Celtic music, American punk, Gypsy, whatever we can put in. Lots of jumping around, lots of energy, lots of blood and guts on the stage.

Jay: We usually have two other musicians, we have a full kit drummer and we also have a fiddle player who plays with us as well. We’ve sort of dumbed it down to a three piece for this.

Matt: And plus we have no idea where they are right now [laughs].

Eoin: We spent the last year on tour and this is our two weeks at home, which we actually spent two weeks playing more shows and we head off again in another couple of weeks. Then we head off again for I think a year. We just live in a smelly van together.

Jay: We have a booking agent who says show up at this time and we drive the van then hopefully it doesn’t break down.

What do you guys do to prepare to record in a studio?

Eoin: I think if you’re going in to record you need to be a well practiced and well ready band. Don’t go in and try writing in the studio because it’s way too expensive. Know what you like mic wise before you go into a studio. That usually helps out an engineer.

Jay: Know what you’re going to play for a solo.

Eoin: Yeah, know what your solo is going to be, know all your parts, know your harmonies, and that kind of stuff. Other than that it really depends who you’re recording with. If you’re recording with a bunch of friends in a garage somewhere, don’t expect a bunch of quality from it. You’re going to get crap, but, you get what you put into it.

So what do you think about our UniqueSquared Mobile Studio?

Jay: It’s all in one room so basically everyone is on the spot. Instead of going into the individual rooms I like being able to hear the natural sound of Owens guitar and percussion so obviously there’s not a lot of drums going on and cymbals.

Matt: I’ve always enjoyed too having everyone in one live room, because you get the actual full band experience rather than having everyone sectioned off.

Jay: We really are a live band. The recordings are alright, but you have to come see us live.

Eoin: It’s much easier to feed off of each other when you’re sitting right next to each other instead of in your nice own booth and expect the guy in the headphones to know what he’s doing.

Jay: We’ve been coming to the Sennheiser bus for a couple of years now, and we’re shocked to find out there’s a studio back here, it’s really cool.

Eoin: I kind of just want to sit here all day and play guitar.

Jay: This beats most studios I’ve been in, real studios.

What do you think about the Taylor Guitars?

Eoin: The Taylor T5 happens to be my dream guitar. I’ve loved the T5 ever since it came out. I might just steal the one on the bus. I love the Taylor T5. One of my favorite guitars ever.

You guys are also involved in sound engineering. Tell me what you think about Sennheiser’s gear?

Eoin: I have been using the Sennheiser E900 microphone for the past year and I have not run into a problem with it whatsoever which is kind of weird. I mean the way we pack up our stuff, we’re pretty rough on our equipment. That thing has held up for a year and that is a lot longer than any other mic that we’ve had. I’ve been using a lot of 58′s before that and they get dented, the heads break off, they pull out from the bottom, and they just get ripped to pieces. But the Sennheiser I have not had a problem with whatsoever.

Matt: I’ve found a lot of versatility from the Sennheiser because I am typically used to drum mics, and then just then throw it on guitar or vocals and it’s still good for a usable take at worst.

Eoin: I like the high end out of the 900. It is still really crisp and usually that goes away within the first two months and then it just turns into a really bassy mic. But the Sennheiser has just kept it at the tip top.

Jay: The wireless is really good. As you know we run sound for stages so bands come in and bring their wireless mics. Those mic setups, the fact that there are 12 stages here, tons of frequencies going around ,and to be able to lock in that one frequency and block everyone else from stealing your frequency is a really great thing to have.

To find out more about Whiskey of the Damned go here:

To pick up the gear used in the session go here: