Hot off the release of the A Tribe Called Quest record, We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service, artist/producer Q-Tip reached out to Vintage King about purchasing a new console and selling his vintage API 3288. The desk, which was originally housed at the Radio City Studios in New York City, has belonged to Q-Tip for five years and was used during the production of the final Tribe record.
Teaming with Vintage King’s Darrin Fendley, the duo began searching for a new console to replace the API, as Q-Tip’s sonic ambitions for his next project called for something different. “Tip is very focused on all parts of the creation process. He's not one of those guys who throws sound quality out in an effort to ‘get the idea down’ as quick as possible and you can hear that in his work,” Fendley states. “I've never worked with him in the studio but he seems like one of those producers who has a clear idea of where he wants a track to end up before he gets started.”
We sat down with Q-Tip to talk about the important influence of vintage gear on his sound, how his production work has changed over the years and his beloved API console. Continue reading to learn more about the storied desk, including the incredible track record of albums that have been recorded on it and what made it Q-Tip’s secret weapon in his studio space.
How long have you had the console and what are some of the records you’ve worked on with it?
I’ve had it for about five years, but I’ve only had it set up for about three years. The thing that drew me to it is that sound. I like the combination of the rock and roll sound and the R&B sound. I used it on the Tribe album, I did some Mariah Carey stuff, Pusha T, I did some stuff for [Lady] Gaga and Kendrick [Lamar].
Why do you prefer vintage analog consoles over the digital options available to you?
It’s just a tangible sound. Depending on the craftsman who designed it, it has very specific sound from desk to desk and it presents you parameters to work within. With digital, you have so many different options that you get lost in the options and become less focused on your work. I like to have parameters that I can contort and twist, rather than having everything at your disposal.
Has working on vintage gear always been a part of your workflow in the studio?
Yes. Vintage gear has always been a part of my style. I like the equipment that offers people’s different design perspectives. Roland had a different approach to synthesizers than say Oberheim, Oberheim had a different approach to synthesizers than say Moog. I like that you can get all these different colors. You could very easily get a plug-in that can replicate it and it would sound pretty darn good, but I’m old school. I like to actually have the equipment because there is a slight difference in the sonics of it and when you are dealing with binary codes, it’s never really yours. It’s all just zeroes and ones. I like to deal in the tangible rather than the abstract.
What’s your secret weapon in the studio?
I think it’s the API, you know. The circuitry, the way it was designed, the EQs are very concise and exact. You get a real sharpness and there is a clarity to it. You can hear the difference. I’m not trying to brag or nothing, but when you hear this album and you compare to all the other popular music out there, there’s a certain warmth to it. It has a certain declaration of sharpness. I think the thing about that board is the high mids, the mid thing on that board is really, really great. We dealt with a lot of guitars, a lot of keyboards and a lot of vocals on this record, I just love how it honed in on those frequencies. It has a nice punch to it. It really kicks you in the face. Guitars sound fucking great on it. Keys sound amazing. Drums have a real attack on that thing. That’s my secret weapon, it’s the board.
How has your production style changed from the first Tribe album to the latest?
My production style has changed because I play more. I played a lot of keyboards. I do program still, but I play live. I sit down at the piano, I play keyboard, I write stuff. It’s changed in that my production approach has gotten more expansive. That’s just because of the times.
I don’t want it to look like I don’t work on Pro Tools because I do, but I use it for what it is. It’s a place to kind of like replace tape, but I also have a tape machine, so there’s that. The thing about Pro Tools is that you can be a little more malleable with it. So my style has expanded, but I love keeping the analog operating in my modus operandi because I like the sound that I get back.
If you could pick where this console was going to go, who would you want to see it go to?
I would like to see it go in the hands of someone who is going to use it and not let it sit and relic, someone who is going to make good music on it and take care of it. I hate to see it go, but the only reason I’m getting rid of it is because I want to go a different route in the sound, otherwise I’d keep it. I would like to see someone take it because The Ramones made their first couple records on it, Blondie recorded their first album on it and now the Tribe album. I’d like to see somebody take it who is going to continue that.
If you're interested in learning more about purchasing Q-Tip's vintage API 3288 or having Vintage King broker your console's sale, you can contact our team of Audio Consultants via email or by phone at 888.653.1184.