Universal Audio gear a revelation for Paul Epworth on chart phenomenon Sam Sparro album
Paul Epworth in his studio with UA 6176 and UA UAD-Xpander
London, UK (April 14, 2008) - Unless you've been living on Mars, you'll have done well to miss the blaze of publicity surrounding the astonishing rise to stardom of Sam Sparro. His debut single Black And Gold was announced at Number 2 in yesterday's Official UK Singles Chart, and is hotly tipped to make it all the way to Number 1. We caught up with prolific UK producer Paul Epworth just as he was finalising five tracks from the forthcoming album.
Epworth has produced some exceptionally successful albums for the great and the good of the British art-rock scene. Included in his role of honour are the likes of Bloc Party, The Futureheads, The Rakes, Maximo Park and Babyshambles. He's also well-known for his dance remixes under the names Phones and Epic Man. More recently Epworth has been applying his talent for production to different genres. Last year he worked with urban acts Kano and Plan B, and in the summer produced the Number 1 Kate Nash debut album Made Of Bricks. And Sam Sparro looks set to be another of Epworth's success stories.
Much of this output has come out of his small studio near London's Paddington. There's not a vast array of gear here. The 'live room' comprises the ubiquitous drum kit in the corner, a couple of guitars propped unceremoniously against the wall, guitar amp, a couple of synths, and a Røde Classic II mic on its stand. The 'control room' consists of an Apple MacBook hooked up to a fully loaded Universal Audio UAD-Xpander, Yamaha NS-10M and Quested monitors, and a small stack of rack units that includes a Universal Audio 6176 channel strip. "Nearly everything I do at the moment starts in this room," says Epworth.
"The UAD-Xpander is a revelation," says Paul. "The quality of the UAD plug-ins means I can get professional-sounding mixes from my laptop. I just wish you could chain these things together – I'd buy another four straight away. I think it's amazing – I use the RE201 Space Echo on every single session, without fail. As far as the SPL Transient Designer plug-in goes, my jaw dropped when I got that. The Xpander allows me to give things character. It sounds like I've put the signal through a piece of outboard gear, so things don't sound static and digital."
Paul has just been working on Sam Sparro's self-titled debut album. "Sam produced the single Black And Gold himself," says Paul. "But the UAD-Xpander's been used on all the tracks I've worked on. You'll hear the Xpander all over the stuff I've done – all over it," explains Epworth with his usual candour.
"Oh, yeah – I use this gear on everything," says Epworth, who seems to prefer a consistent and quantifiable signal path to get the sound down. "Obviously I know the history of UA and Bill Putnam. The 1176 is such a standard piece of kit, so I checked out the UA 6176 and I thought UA mic amp, UA compressor, one unit – boom – sounds amazing. I got the 6176 about nine months ago, and I use it on everything. It does a particular job for me, and the Røde mic's always plugged in to it."
Eschewing high-end classic mics, Paul prefers to use his trusty Røde Classic II. "I've only got one mic stand and the Røde's been on it ever since I bought the mic. I think the Røde mic sounds like an old 47, but with a bit more high-end bias," says Paul. "For the money, I think it's the best thing around. Everything's really good on it – it feels solid and compact sonically," he adds.
Since the original article Paul has gone on to work with even more great artists like Jack Penate, Florence And The Machine, Cee Lo Green and Adele. He told Universal Audio in March 2012 that he is still using his 6176, Rode Classic mic and Universal Audio plugins, indeed the Rode Classic was Adele's vocal microphone on 'Rolling In The Deep', capturing her soulful voice and lyrics perfectly. However the X-Pander has since been replaced by the UAD-2 system, now available for desktops and laptops.
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