These two creative individuals talk about their collaboration and the part that Merging RAVENNA interfaces play in the production process.
Music inspires passion as we all know, but sometimes you encounter enthusiasm so infectious that you cannot fail to be sucked into another world. And what a world we have here! As Stefan Eichinger explains, over the years the business has grown to encompass composition, recording, mixing, mastering and Neuronavigation and will soon include Dolby Atmos output.
Stef´s Mixmastering studios have always been a place where the analog world meets digital.
Gerd Janson, Head of Running Back Records and a world-renowned DJ, asked him some years ago to setup a vinyl cutting and production studio in an old factory south of Frankfurt. Stefan Eichinger’s current activities also include composing film soundtracks with his own publishing roster as well as an eclectic selection of other music, from folk to electronic via classical, jazz and pop.
Gerd runs one of the most desired record labels and travels the world as a DJ. He has remixed and edited songs for the finest names like Pet Shop Boys, Gibson Brothers, Leon Vynehall or Christine and the Queens…
Their studios and the Running Back HQ are both situated in the Southwest of Germany between Frankfurt am Main and Heidelberg, an area known for cutting-edge science and a famous university, as well as a film-making community that is not afraid to travel to remote and exotic locations. Stefan has captured location sounds from remote places like Mongolia and Ethiopia.
Having started in the late 80s with composing and recording, a steady business had been built up doing tape copies, recording bands, and cutting the first 12” vinyl in 1995. In the early 2000s, his LOPAZZ clubtracks like “I need Ya” on ND Baumeckers label gave Stefan the push he needed, and he found himself touring the world. As a result, Gerd being a journalist for Groove magazine turned up to interview Stefan. The two saw they had common interests, not the least because Gerd’s night job was as a DJ and record-label-maker. Gerd was also doing projects with the Red Bull Music Academy that was very active at that time.
As well as working flat out for clients internationally not just in Germany, Gerd’s arrival about fifteen years ago triggered a collaboration with the Running Back label which has really taken off.
Gerd Janson acquired two cutting lathes to handle the resurgence of the vinyl format.
There is the ubiquitous Neumann-Flokason being suitable for the more energetic music of the day and there is also a vintage Scully lathe he bought in Los Angeles that is under restoration but will be ideal for their Jazz and Folk customers. The Scully is by no means the only throwback to a bygone era.
In the mixmastering studios there is a beautiful collection of microphones, guitars, amplifiers, drum machines, synthesizers and outboard gear from the 1960s through to the MERGING+ANUBIS and MERGING+HAPI products of 2021, while Gerd´s production studio is focused on drum machines, synths and effects from the 1970´s - 2020´s era. Despite his leanings towards classic gear, Stefan is quick to embrace new technology and having held off buying the Anubis until the Music Mission was available, he is full of praise for the product as it is now. “It not only solves so many issues, but it’s also so easy to operate. The Music Mission is what I was looking for and the Anubis has got to be one of the best pieces of gear to be introduced in the last 10 years. The RAVENNA network is now handling 108 analog channels so I am really glad I discovered the ‘Expert Mode’ on the Anubis!”
All the while the technical facilities expanded to keep up with the volume of work and now occupies three floors of the Running Back building. Stefan has mastered and produced more than 60,000 songs for clients all over the world. Gerd’s Running Back walls are lined with albums, tapes, and other testimonials of the output over these years. [ www.discogs.com/label/9291-Running-Back ]
It is the physical evidence that is the big motivator and gives opportunities to work with other creative people doing artwork and design as well as other engineers in the chain. Digital is obviously essential but is more difficult to relate to and is lacking some of the craft. It is the haptic experience and teamwork that is the thrill. “Nowadays with the energy/CO2 crisis, we are aware of issues that come along with producing records, running studios, etc. Anubis is the mainframe for my modular setup", Stefan says. "I don´t wanna have a huge console that´s on 24/7, eating power all the time. In both studios we have modular setups, so we just switch on the machines we need. With Anubis I could just use our Neumann U67 and do overdubs with the guitar or I could play the big “analog gear orchestra” with the Hapi peered up. It´s so versatile and it sounds amazing.”
There is no doubt that there is an increasing momentum for Dolby Atmos for Music with the number of adopters growing fast and fortunately there is sufficient space to modify the existing rooms to cater for immersive productions. This will come along as soon as supply limitations are overcome. The current shortage of lacquers and replication plant capacity makes this an ideal time to get the cutting lathes refurbished by their Swiss expert. Meanwhile, work continues at a pace producing masters for a huge breadth of musical genres. Neuronavigation or Neuronavi as they like to call it, is an important subject in its own right, so all will be revealed later.