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Record with your heroes

Seattle band Half Light likes Australian art rock band The Church. Thanks to ProTools and the Web, they were able to get former Church member and producer TimEbandit Powles to mix their latest LP.

Correction: The original post implied that the Church is no longer active. In fact, the band has been touring and putting out albums continuously for almost 30 years, and Tim Powles is still their drummer. Apologies for the mistake.

Modern musical technology makes the world smaller.

Half Light got an Australian producer to mix their last album. No plane trips required. Album design by Megan Bailey

Example: Seattle band Half Light are big fans of Australian art-rock band The Church. [Disclosure: I played bass with another incarnation of Half Light in 2004 and 2005 and am still friendly with the band.] Americans of a certain age probably remember The Church's 1987 hit "Under the Milky Way," but the band is still going on strong and is considered highly influential among a certain class of rock musician. Basically, if you were into guitar music in the late 80s and early 90s but didn't care much for "grunge" or that era's punk "revival," The Church are probably on your playlist.

Anyway, Half Light knew that Church drummer Tim (Time Bandit) Powles operates a production house called Space Junk. Fifteen years ago, it would have been a major effort to have him produce their record--most non-label bands couldn't afford the flights to Sydney, let alone the hours of studio time. But Half Light tracked into ProTools in Seattle, got in touch with Powles online, and hired/convinced him to mix their new record. Everything was done by exchanging data CDs of ProTools files back and forth. I got an advance copy and it sounds amazing--I'm sure the original tracks were recorded well (first rule of recording: you can't polish a turd), but the production's top notch--great tones, perfectly balanced, and some interesting effects and arrangements that sound like they were added in the mix.

My brother did the same thing a few years back with one of his heroes, Terry Brown, who recorded Rush's Moving Pictures and other classic albums. In that case, he had to fly to Toronto a few times, but the majority of the tracking was done in his home town, El Paso, then the individual tracks were transported to Toronto for mixing.