Finding any time to speak with The Wild Rumpus is difficult. The band is out just about every week making their way through the mountains of West Virginia for a show. Weather helped us out and we were lucky enough to catch The Wild Rumpus guitarist/banjoist/producer, Allan Sizemore, at home. He was cooking a beef stew to offset the winter storm that was hitting the mountains. While he stirred the pot, Allan told us about recording The Rumpus at Stoned Oak Studios in Sam Black Church, West Virginia where the band is completing work on a new release, Shake Yer Rumpus.
I started Stoned Oak studio originally in 1992 and the gear and methods have changed a few times since then. I recently have been doing another upgrade/redo with Clint Lewis, our bass player. Typically, for last 10 years or so, I’ve been focusing on keeping things as simple as possible. I feel that you get the best out of people if you just try to get the best sound onto tape originally. I’ve never been a fan of “we’ll fix it in the mix” or whatever. Get it to sound good right off the bat; concentrate on that, have an idea of the sound you’re going for before you start.
I like to record the basic tracks, no matter the genre of music, as live as possible. If it’s acoustic, like for The Wild Rumpus, we stand in a circle, mic it up and go for it. Sometimes I might go ahead and play the solos, sometimes I’ll wait to overdub, it totally depends. On our first album there were four of us standing in a circle and we did the main solos live. I went back and overdubbed some dobro and such later, I usually overdub harmonica solos too, depending. I think that helps the music to move a little more. We are a live band and that is where our focus is, so if it’s a little sloppy or slightly off, as long as the feel is good and it’s not glaring, we go with it. We might make four or five passes at it just to have some options. I use some high end condenser microphones and some low end ones, I have a couple of ribbons that I like and a tube one I used on Andrew’s voice on the new album we are working on. I ran it through a tube limiter, because his voice is powerful and it’s hard to capture it right. We master it through some tube EQ’s and a little outboard gear, then onto ½” tape. We then fly that back into my digital mastering for final touches. That mastering process is all new from how we used to do it, and I think the sound is vastly improved. I don’t always use real high end stuff, I actually like MXL microphones and I have some high end Shure condensers, some AT mics, etc. I have some old microphones too that I like to use for certain things. It all depends on the sound I’m going for. On the albums, especially now that we’re a three piece, I mostly laid the guitar tracks down, mostly rhythm, but I also did some of the solos live too. I then went back and laid some banjo and dobro in but we tried to keep this more in lien with what we sound like live. My guitar style is a hybrid of flat-picking and banjo style, with a pick on my middle finger and the guitar tuned so I can do both guitar and banjo runs as needed. It helps fill it up a good bit, and since I am the only soloist it breaks it up some. On the last album, 304, we went in and tracked it out and I think we lost some of our feel in the process. I like the album, but it definitely had a sound which we were going for, but I think we’re stronger when we just cut it loose and go for it. I also go back and add the percussion, whether it be just washboard or on 304, a lot of full drums. The new album we’re releasing in April is mostly just washboard or brush snare for backing, it helps move it along. We never play to a click track either, so we are pretty good with tempo thank goodness.
My recording studio for the last 10 years has been my house. I built it myself, its log with a great room that has seventeen foot ceilings and lots of wood and warmth. It has an amazing sound for recording just about anything and we’ve gotten some really great sounds out of it. I’ve used it for all my Rumpus stuff, solo recordings and anyone else I’ve done in the last 10 years, I love it.