The release of Archive Collection Volume One came about as the direct result of the rediscovery of various vintage recordings in Ant's archives, some of which were long thought to be lost. Those rediscovered tapes included the demos that Ant and Mike Rutherford recorded of their songs in September 1969, alongside some of Ant's earliest solo demos. Following on from these initial discoveries we've been transferring many of Ant's original tapes to a digital format and at the same time cataloguing their contents.
This work has brought to light a number of interesting recordings which in turn have become the basis for Archive Collection Volume Two. However, in addition to transferring 2-track stereo masters we've also started to spread the net a little wider by looking through some early 4 and 8-track multi-track masters. This in turn has provided two possibilities - of accessing the multi-track recordings of existing pieces (which then allows for re-mixing) and also finding other recordings of which no stereo mixes are know to exist. This second process has also provided some material for Archive Collection Vol. 2 as well as some potential material for album re-issues.
Accessing these multi-track tapes presented an initial challenge - Ant did not have tape machines on which to replay the original tapes. So the first step was to locate the required equipment in working condition so that we could start to check through the relevant tapes.
When Ant and Mike Rutherford made plans to start recording The Geese & The Ghost in 1974, they decided that it would be feasible to record the album (or at least the basic tracks) in Ant's existing studio at Send Barns in Surrey. Charisma Records provided an advance which Ant and Mike used to buy some recording equipment. This included two TEAC A3340 4-track tape machines, 2 dbx 155 noise reduction units and a mixing desk.
The initial tracks for The Geese & The Ghost were recorded in this format but as work on the album progressed and plans were made to add overdubs of further instrumentation, Ant and Mike felt that it would be better to use an outside 16-track studio to complete the tracks. The bulk of the remainder of the album was therefore subsequently recorded at Tom Newman's studio in London.
TEAC A3440 4-track recorder
Ant used this equipment for many recordings between late 1974 and late 1979, although Wise After The Event and Sides were of course both recorded in outside studios.
The recording format used on the machines is ¼" tape, usually running at 15 i.p.s. The machine being used to transfer Ant's original tapes is actually the A3440 which was the model introduced after the original A3340 but it is very similar. The output of the recorder is routed through a 4 channel dbx 155 noise reduction unit to decode the dbx noise reduction (type 1) used in the recording process.
In late 1979 Ant upgraded his equipment and replaced the two TEAC recorders with an Allen & Heath Brenell Mini 8 tape recorder, which used 1inch tape. He was not the only one to do this - Phil Collins, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford also had these tape machines in their home studios and the basic tracks for Face Value, Hello I Must Be Going and The Fugitive were all recorded on this format. The basic tracks for 1984 and Invisible Men were also recorded on the Mini 8, although the recording of both albums were completed at Atmosphere Studios in London on 24-track equipment.
Ant has some interesting stories about some of the quirky things his Mini 8 began to do before it was replaced. One evening he was in his studio listening with Richard Scott to some tracks, when he noticed an interesting pattern of dancing shadows on the wall. Wondering what could be the source of this, he turned round to see that the dancing shadows were in fact flames coming out of the power supply unit!
Brenell Mini 8 8-track recorder
The machine was repaired but it's days were numbered and Ant replaced it in 1988 with a 16-track Fostex recorder.
Although advertised as "The World's Greatest Little 8-Track", this machine is heavy and it also has an external power supply which is equally weighty although overall it is considerably more compact than some other 8-track recorders that use 1inch tape.
Recordings from these original 4 & 8-track tapes are currently being transferred onto hard drives which allows them to remain accessible in a multi-track format.
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