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Michael Benjamin Lerner

Musician (Telekinesis)

in mac, musician

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Michael Benjamin Lerner, and I make records under the name Telekinesis. I am born, raised, and currently still live in Seattle, Washington.

What hardware do you use?

My microphone closet isn't the most extensive in the world, but here's a list of what I have currently:

Pacific Pro Audio LD-1 and LD-3 MKii Tube - these microphones come from a local audio retailer in town, called Pacific Pro Audio. I've been using the LD-1's for years, and have been used on virtually everything, even making it onto the Telekinesis records. They sound super great, and are only $99, which is an absolute steal. I use them for drum OH's all the time. The LD-3 MKii Tube microphone is also a cheap, but rad microphone. It's only $250. I use it for vocals all the time.

Beyerdynamic M160 - this is a fantastic little ribbon mic. It's super versatile, but sounds best to me on electric guitar.

Shure SM7b - such a workhorse. My brother in law, who also owns and operates a great recording studio here in Seattle called Hear Me Shimmer, told me this is one mic he couldn't imagine not having around. I totally get why. It's so good on everything. Snare drum, vocals, bass amp. Pretty great.

I've also got some sure Shure SM57's and a Beta52 for kick drum.

For microphone preamps, I use a Great River MP-2NV. It's basically a Neve 1073 clone. It is my vocal pre amp, and electric guitar pre amp. I've also got the ART ProMPA II. It's super cheap as well, but it's an excellent sounding tube mic pre, with tons of features. I also use the ADAT outputs on my recording interface with a Presonus Digimax D8. It's 8 channels of preamps, that are connected via ADAT on my Universal Audio. I use these for drums, and miscellany.

The only outboard compressor I use is the FMR RNC 1773. It's a totally great sounding tiny little 2 channel compressor. I use it on drum room mice, amongst a bunch of other things!

For weird things, I have a Wollensak mono tube tape machine, that accepts mini 1/4" reels. It also sounds great as a bass or guitar amp. But, I mostly use it to capture acoustic songs or ideas. For other ideas, or a different sound, I have a Tascam Portastudio 424mkii. It's a cassette 4-track, and it's a ton of fun!

For monitoring I use Dynaudio BM5A MKii powered speakers and a various smattering of headphones.

For drums, I mainly use a custom C+C Drum Kit (26x24x18x14). That one is in all white, and looks totally great on stage. It's my touring kit, mainly. I also have this incredible vintage Ludwig (26x18x14) kit that my dear friend Gregg Keplinger gave to me. It's from the late 80's I think? Lastly, I have a killer old Ayotte (22x16x13) kit. It is pretty rad, for tight punchy drum sounds.

For cymbals, I use Paiste Giant Beats (24, 20, 18, 14).

The guitar amps I own are few, but totally work for me. I have one of those Epiphone Valve Jr tube guitar heads, and the 1x12 cabinet as well. It's only 5 watts, but it totally has that super fuzzy warm tube guitar sound. I love it. I also have this Califone turntable. It has a microphone input on it, and it just screams as a guitar amp. I use these super old Kodak Projector Speakers with that. It sounds really bratty, kind of like the Kinks.

For bass, and other electric guitar sounds, I'll mostly use the emulators built into Logic.

For electric guitars, I have a new Epiphone Casino. It's super dreamy. It has two P90 pickups, and totally does that super distorted thing that I just love. It's my favorite guitar, by far. I also have a newer Gibson Melody Maker that I retrofitted with a new Lollar P90. It's totally a punk rock kind of guitar, and works perfect for power chords.

For bass, I'm borrowing my dad's new Hofner Bass. I put some flat wounds on it, and it totally has that sound. It's plunky and very bright and so much fun to play. For bass distortion I use the Vox Ice9 Joe Satriani Overdrive pedal. It's totally the worst design, and really cheesy, but it is just perfect for bass overdrive. It doesn't eat up any of the low end, as some pedals tend to do.

And what software?

For my very modest home studio, I use a MacBook Pro and Logic 9. To me, Logic is the best sounding DAW I've ever worked with. I just cannot wrap my brain around ProTools, which seems to be the industry standard. It has more of that 'tape' vibe. Like, you can hit Logic hard and it reacts in a much more pleasant way. ProTools sounds very harsh to me.

As an audio interface, I am using the Universal Audio Apollo. It is absolutely the perfect device for my laptop recording setup. The wonderful thing about this, despite it sounding very good, is that it runs all of Universal Audio's plugins, and I can print them to 'tape'. This is great, because all of the processing for the plugins is handled by the UAD card inside the box itself, rather than my laptop. Printing to tape, which is destructive, is also totally awesome because it forces you to work much like you would have to on a tape machine. Committing to things in the moment, I am a very big fan of that.

Some of the plugins I have bought are:

Studer A800 and ATR-102 tape emulators - These are absolutely dreamy. I've never, ever heard a plugin sound so much like tape than these. It's actually totally and completely bonkers. Inserting the A800 on all of my drum channels is awesome, because it gives it that tape vibe, which I just totally love, but can't afford for my home studio. And the ATR-102 is just brilliant for a final mix plugin. It just glues everything together, exactly like it does in the real, analog world.

Cooper Time Cube - The real version of this is completely amazing. It was basically a garden hose delay. Like, seriously. It was made from a garden hose. It's a super quick style delay. Awesome for vocals, or just when you need a tiny bit of space. That acoustic guitar on Fleetwood Mac's 'Never Going Back Again' is the Cooper Time Cube at its most glorious.

EMT 140 Plate Reverb - This is an emulation of the classic plate reverbs that many high end studios of yesteryear would have had for reverb. There is quite simply, nothing that sounds like it. And I can attest to the plugin sounding genius because I've had to distinct pleasure of using a real one as well. The emulation is so super good.

1176, LA-2A, Pultec EQ - These are my workhorse compressors and EQ's. The 1176 is so versatile, I use it on almost every single instrument. It's so great with all the buttons pushed in for drum squash, or for a super good vocal compressor. It also works wonders on smoothening out a bass track. The LA-2A is an emulation of the classic big tube two button leveling amp. It works wonders on vocals and piano, and just really makes anything sound better really. And the Pultec EQ's are perfect for vocals, and guitars. They just have this magic that my other EQ plugins do not. I love it.

I also use my iPad for some synthesizer stuff. I downloaded the Korg MS-20 app and it sounds just amazing. Also, the Mellotron and DM-1 Drum Machine.

What would be your dream setup?

As I've mentioned, I absolutely love recording on tape. Unfortunately, it's just really expensive. But if I had my choice, I'd have an Ampex MM1200, and use that with an old Neve Console.

I have also had this crazy dream idea of creating a tiny little studio in a vintage Airstream trailer. Not sure how that'd work out, but I think it'd be so cool to have a mobile or stagnant studio. Like, you could take it camping, and write and record whilst out camping. That sounds pretty dreamy.