Rehearsals started on Monday, September 15. Everyone came in with instruments: Joe had already set up his drums, and the film had rented a B3 and Leslie for Bernie. Rick the Bass Player had one of his Laklands, Rick Springfield had his Gibson SG, and Meryl had a Fender Telecaster. We had backup instruments, as well, and Danelectro sent us a couple of guitars (more on those later).
Neil, Mark, and I made several trips to the 14th St. Guitar Center to get pedals for Rick Springfield’s setup, and Line 6 sent us a guitar wireless system for Meryl. The premise is that Ricki (Meryl) is trying for stardom and is currently slugging it out in clubs in the San Fernando Valley, playing every Tuesday night at the Salt Well.
Gary Goetzman is the producer of the film, and he led the rehearsals, with assistance from Neil and Mark.
We started with a basic line check; the kick drum was miked with an ATM 250. All the other drums were triggered. Joe has triggers built into his custom Drum Workshop kit, and we just plugged out of the trigger module into my Radial DI boxes. We needed to make sure we had signal; one great thing about recording with PreSonus® Capture™ is that the send is pre-fader, so the fader position on the StudioLive AI console is irrelevant; the recording software uses the input gain level you set on the head amp actuators (trim knobs). It’s a really nifty design because it allows the house mixer to change the fader levels for the live house mix without affecting the recording.
Along the same lines, once we had the guitar amp levels where we wanted them with the Radial JDX boxes, we also took a “clean” feed, plugging the guitars directly into my Radial ProDI boxes before the amplifier, in case Neil and Mark wanted to “re-amp” the guitars during mixdown.
A quick aside: I’ll bring it up again later but I want to stress that Gary and director Jonathan Demme wanted authenticity, and they got it. Every note you hear is what was played by the musicians; there are no overdubs of instruments in this movie. There were a few extra band takes for vocals because of bleed but all of what you experience in the movie is Ricki and the Flash performing as you watch.
It was a treat to watch these professionals at work. Gary took five people who had never played together in this configuration and turned them into a band. Each song got a workout. Gary kept the band focused; they worked on one song at a time until they felt they had it down. From where I sat, it really paid off; by the end of rehearsals, I felt like I was mixing a band, not a loose knit group of musicians jamming, but a real, tight band.