Artist Interviews


Railroad EarthOver the past few years Railroad Earth has carved a path wide and deep throughout the American roots music scene. From their first gigs in May 2001, to their most recent shows for legions of loyal fans, Railroad Earth has been an undeniable force whose superb songwriting, singing and performances have made them one of the most talked about bands to arrive in years. With well over 500 shows and tens of thousands of road miles behind them, Railroad Earth has become a staple on the national touring and festival scene.

The bass player for Railroad Earth, Johnny Grubb, has been using the E-MU 1616M Cardbus Digital Audio System to record the band's live shows while on the road. An E-MU enthusiast, Johnny shares some thoughts on the 1616M Cardbus Digital Audio System:

How is Railroad Earth using the 1616M Cardbus Digital Audio System in the live setup (what is the signal chain)?

Railroad Earth's 1616MWe've been making four-track recordings of all of our shows since we got the 1616M. We'd previously been using a variety of different methods for archiving all of our shows - all of them tracking to DAT. I'm 28, so virtually all of my recording experience has been with computers, since I was probably 14 or 15 with my parents' PC in their office and the Wave recorder in Windows 95 or Windows 3 or whatever it was called back then. So when I got a laptop and the 1616M (that I'd been coveting since I first read about it), I sort of slid into the role of live recording engineer. Of course, Mike Partridge, who has been our live engineer from the get-go, and I work together on it, since I've got my hands busy at show time. We still track to DAT as a backup, since things can happen from time to time. Our signal chain is this - Matrix or Tape Out from the sound board into an AMEK 2 channel mic pre as a line stage. From the AMEK into the DAT deck, then into the 1616M via S/PDIF. The DAT deck that we're using is a Tascam DA-45, which is actually the only 24-bit DAT ever made, but we run it 16-bit these days, for safety's sake. One of these days, I'll buy the right cabling to go into the 1616M first so that I can run true 24-bit recordings. The other tracks are from our Soundfield microphone. It's a really expensive, esoteric surround microphone which has four capsules in it that can be decoded to 5.1 if you have the right gear. We only have the stereo decoder, but it's still an outstanding mic source. We just run that straight into the mic pres on the 1616M. Tracking in Cubase SX, though I'm now motivated to learn to record the four tracks in Wavelab 6 - a recent acquisition. We mix the four tracks in post.

What had you been using before - what are the differences to using the 1616M?

Well, stand any board tape next to a board/audience matrix and be blown away by the difference. We had been using a setup at times in the past involving a Mackie 1204 and a Rane delay unit to mix the two signals before it hit the DAT. Of course, you're only in the ballpark with the delay time at best. The most revolutionary aspect of mixing the signals in post, for me, has been to REALLY be able to dial in the phase of the two sources. It's truly amazing, and since someone's shown me the right way to do it, it's really cut down on my use of EQ and raised the bar for my mixes several notches. Not to mention that just due to the hassle of setup, we'd stopped recording matrix a long time ago, and had just been archiving our board tapes.

What else are you using the 1616M for?

Well, my wife and I only have one car, and she has an actual job, so she's got dibs. It's been awfully handy putting my laptop and the 1616M in a backpack and biking up to rehearsal. We've made some unbelievable rehearsal tapes that way, using the good old 2-track board feed and a mono room mic. I'm really into that rough and roomy sound that's so en vogue today, I must admit, and the barn that we rehearse and write in has a great vibe and a great sound to it.

Johnny Grubb of Railroad Earth For more info, check out Railroad Earth's website at