Lipstick Conspiracy’s Wicked Textures

When you’re a transgender rock band, your guitar tones had better kick enough ass to totally obliterate the preconceptions of, shall we say, “less-than-enlightened” audiences. Not surprisingly, capturing huge guitar sounds was continuously on my mind while tracking the three tranny guitarists of Lipstick Conspiracy as they recorded A Perfect Alibi at my Potrero Post studio in San Francisco. To illustrate the production approaches I used to capture the album’s monstrous guitar tones, I’ll detail the recording of “I Won’t Go.”

Lipstick Conspiracy’s trio of guitarists employ different rigs to drive the band’s ’70s-inspired sleaze rock. Sarafina Marachino plugs a Gretsch G3140 Historic Series into a Carvin SX200 combo, Shawna Love uses a Les Paul and a Fender Super Reverb, and Marylin Mitchell plays a Stratocaster through an ADA preamp, an ART Multiverb, a Tubeworks Mosvalve power amp, and two ADA cabs loaded with Celestions.

I miked Marachino’s Carvin with a Sennheiser MD421 positioned about three inches directly in front of the speaker cone. This produced a very biting, in-your-face sound, so I added a Neumann TLM-103 about four feet away and five feet high to capture some “air” and depth. I used the same approach for Love’s Super Reverb, except that I swapped out the Neumann for an Audio-Technica AT4050 set to an ex-tremely directional hypercardioid pattern to diminish a muddy room sound that was bleeding into the guitar signal. For Mitchell’s stereo ADA system, I positioned Sennheisser MD421s very close to one of the Celestions in each of her cabinets, and positioned the mics off-axis at a 40-degree angle to the speaker cone.

To ensure a merciless on-slaught of raging guitars, I decided to layer each guitar part in pairs, being careful to give each part its own space in the sound spectrum. For example, I used EQ to remove the low end from jangly sounds to enhance the shimmer. I also decided to beef up Marachino’s Gretsch/Carvin tone by having her double her tracks with a Gibson Flying V and a Marshall JCM 800 half-stack. In addition, Mitchell’s tone employed some essential effects that diffused the punch of her rhythm parts, so I asked her to double those tracks with the Flying V plugged directly into the console. The clean, direct sound clarified the impact of the rhythm without detracting from the effects.

It’s important to note that the goal was not to assemble a guitar army, but to make all the guitar parts sound fat and punchy. When we mixed the guitars, the dominant guitar sound was always the original part, and the overdubs were faded in at about 40 percent of the level of the main guitar. The final guitar sounds were big, bad, and quite studly.