Billboard : Greenpeace puts solar power behind benefit - U2 France
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Billboard : Greenpeace puts solar power behind benefit

samedi 12 février 1994

Source : Billboard

From Billboard :

Greenpeace puts solar power behind benefitBy Paul Verna

NEW YORK—Leave it to the folks at Greenpeace to pioneer the practice of recording with solar power.By attaching a roving, solar-powered generator to various mobile recording units, the Washington, D.C.-based environmental action group was able to tape live performances by some of today’s cutting-edgemusical artists.

The resulting project, titled "Alternative NRG," was released Feb. 1 on Hollywood Records. It featuresalternative rock icons (and longtime Greenpeace supporters) R.E.M, U2, and Midnight Oil, plus risingstars like Sonic Youth, Soundgarden, P.M. Dawn, the Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy, Yothu Yindi,Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E., and L7.

With the exception of an Annie Lennox song, every cut on the disc was recorded and mixed usingGreenpeace’s generator—which it calls Cyrus, after the Greek Word meaning sun.

For most of the recording and all of the mixing, Cyrus hooked up with Guy Charbonneau’s Le Mobilestudio at designated concert venues. The Los Angeles-based mobile unit is fitted with a Neve 8058 consolewith Flying Faders, two Studer A800 24-track recorders with Dolby SR, two Studer A810TC two-trackmachines, customized JBL cabinets as main monitors, KRK and Minimus near-field monitors, video gear,and a full complement of outboard equipment, according to Charbonneau.

The other mobile units used for the project were the Record Plant remote truck, for R.E.M.’s track ; theRover Remote, for Yothu Yindi and for a Pearl Jam cut that was scrapped ; and the Design FX unit.

Additionally, KRK, BASE, Ampex, and Tim Jordan Equipment Rentals donated equipment and servicesto Greenpeace for the project, according to Greenpeace spokesman Bill Walker.

The album’s producer, Bob Margouleff, says of the project, "Creatively, it was one of the greatest challengesI’ve had in my career of 25 years. To be able to raise my eyes above the console and reach up and touch thesun in the most literal possible way, that’s something that’s genuinely cool for the planet."

Margouleff and the other participants in the project unanimously extol the virtues of solar energy. BrantBiles, Margouleff’s partner in Los Angeles-based Margouleff Biles & Associates and engineer on"Alternative NRG," explains that the 28-foot-long Greenpeace generator uses photovoltaic cells to convertsolar energy to direct-current (DC) electricity, which is stored in a series of batteries. The output of thebatteries then goes to an energy inverter that converts DC to alternating current (AC).

He says the steadiness of solar power makes it a cleaner, safer, more user-friendly format than electric current,which is subject to irregularities caused by power fluctuations, natural disasters, improper grounding, etc.The sun is also superior to other non-electrical power sources, like diesel generators, which are commonlyused for remote recording, according to Biles.

For some of the artists involved in "Alternative NRG," the allure of using the sun to power their recordingswas such that they overcame major obstacles in order to cut their tracks with Cyrus. Midnight Oil recordedat Le Mobile’s parking lot when its gig couldn’t be recorded, and Soundgarden hooked up the solar generatorthrough the lines that otherwise power the jacuzzi in its Seattle studio, according to Margouleff.

Despite the success of the Sound-garden experiment, the practicality of running a full-service studio entirelyon solar power is questionable, according to Biles. "As a cost-effective thing, it’s not really there yet," hesays. "But this is a demonstration that it is a viable option."

Charbonneau adds that a studio might use solar packs to power a portion of its equipment, like the airconditioners and heaters, or the audio gear alone.

The "Alternative NRG" project was born during the Persian Gulf War, when Dave Wakeling, a Greenpeaceactivist and former member of the English Beat, and Greenpeace Records president Kata Karam were"sitting around very depressed that the world was fighting a war for an energy resource that in itself wastoxic to the planet," says Karam.

Wakeling and Karam—who worked on Greenpeace’s 1987 "Rainbow Warriors" album, the first record byWestern artists officially released in the U.S.S.R.—contacted artists and various solar-energy specialists:panel manufacturer Siemens Solar Industries, engineering firm Energy Transfer Systems, consultant SolarElectric Specialties, sine-wave inverter Advanced Energy/Skyline Engineering, and coach-builderWolverine Western.

Walker says a percentage of proceeds from the album—24% in the U.S. and 16% overseas—will go directlyto Greenpeace. The organization plans to tour the U.S. with Cyrus to demonstrate its various applications,musical and otherwise. The truck is available for other musical projects.

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