Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
Earlier this year I recorded, produced, and mixed a country record with Jason Whitton. I had never worked in the country genre before working with Jason. We have a great chemistry together. The actual process of making this album was about 4 years of collaborating and building a working relationship, and a friendship. I learned so much in the process and got to work with some amazing musicians! Jason would come to the studio with his acoustic guitar and a song idea. Together we would whittle each part down until we had the final structure of the song. We'd come up with different vocal ideas and comp them until we had a performance we liked. After releasing an EP in 2014, we decided to take the remaining songs we had and do a full length album. We crowd funded the project through Kickstarter and got session musicians together and made a record! I couldn't be happier with the final result. Here's the link:
What are you working on at the moment?
(As of Sept 2016) I just wrapped up mixing a record (Industria) for Dot Plaza. Dot Plaza is the brainchild of Erich Tomkinson. This was an incredibly rewarding collaborative experience. Erich is a (very humble) musical genius. Not only did he play every instrument on the record, he also recorded 99% of it himself (without any formal training in engineering).
Clear communication and lots of dialog throughout the mixing process allowed me to build up Erich's trust. That trust led to tape-echo layers, crazy effects/transitions and automation that I performed to the mixes to give the songs a sort of sonic ether. He pretty much just let me do my thing and those elements really gave the record a sound and space he was looking for. Any of the mix choices I made, were a direct result of his performances. It made for a great collaboration and an amazing record!
What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
After I graduated high school I really got into playing guitar. All I did was play and record my ideas to minidisc. After about 3 years of recording myself guerrilla style I became even more curious about the recording process and wanted the ability to multitrack. So I bought an Mbox 1 and Pro Tools v5 and started layering my music and mixing it. I had no clue what I was doing, so I decided to go to school for recording.
Shortly before graduating Musician's Institute I started as a runner at the world renowned Conway Recording studios in Hollywood CA in 2005. After a brief stint at Conway I got a job at Lon Cohen Studio Rentals (www.loncohen.com)
For the better part of the next 6 years I setup gear in studios all over LA for clients like Tim Pierce, Greg Leisz, Brian Ray, Mike Elizondo, Ross Hogarth, John Goux, Neal Avron, Joe Chiccarelli, Danny Elfman, Justin Meldal Johnsen, The Conan O'Brien Show's Basic Cable Band, Billy Bush, Robben Ford, Ringo Starr and many more. In my time at LCSR I did everything from cartage and guitar-teching, to amp repairs, to payroll and hiring. I was in and out of every major studio in LA day in, and day out. I really learned a lot in my time there, but engineering full-time was always my focus. At this point I'd only been freelance part-time, slowly building up my gear and clients. I needed to spend more time in the studio.
So, I took on a second part-time job as a tech at an audio engineering school in Burbank. I would work at LCSR four days a week (10 hour days), and on Tuesdays and Thursdays I'd work at the school from 7pm- 3am and 8am-5pm Saturdays and Sundays. This was great, because at an audio engineering school gear is constantly breaking, patches are wrong, computers are crashing, software needs re-installing... This completely prepared me for all the worst-case scenario studio situations. I also did plenty of my own 3am sessions, since most of the students would go home after 1am. After two years of having only one day off a week, I quit LCSR and made teching at the school full-time. This also allowed me the freedom to finish building my home studio and eventually my dream of working for myself became a reality. In 2013, after 2 years, I quit the school. At this point I had managed to build up enough clientele to go out on my own.
Here we are today! This is just the beginning...
What questions do you ask prospective clients?
How did you hear about me?
What made you want to contact me for my services?
What is your project, tell me about it?
What are you hoping to achieve by hiring me?
What is the end result you hope to achieve with your project?
What is your budget?
What is your time frame?
Have you done any pre-production?
What is your recording process, how do you like to work?
Do you have a producer?
Can I hear what you have so far?
Can we meet for coffee or a drink and discuss your project further?
Usually in that order.
What type of music do you usually work on?
As a freelancer I work in every genre. That is a good thing though. Knowledge is power. The more diverse your catalog of work, the more refined your taste will become. Making musical and technical choices seems to get easier as I work throughout genres. That said, I actively seek artists who are honest in their craft. To me, that is where the best art is created. Those are the artists I like to work with.
What's your typical work process?
Every situation is different. I like to meet with my potential clients beforehand and discuss their project at length and find out how I can fit into that process. I'm not trying to "put my stamp" on their art. If I don't feel I'm good for a project I'll try to refer the person to someone who will be right for the project. Without taking the time to get to know someone and why they do what they do, there really is no way I can know how to help them. Getting to know the potential client would be the first part of the work process. Depending on how deep they want to go, this can take weeks, months, even years... Once the actual work is obtained, it can vary from project to project. I like to choose the path of least resistance. Once I know the band or project and what their vision is, I can then choose a process that makes their workflow seamless, and hopefully fun. I will quite often change my studio around to not only meet the needs of the client, but also create a space for them to feel completely inspired.
What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
That what I do is all technical. Recording, mixing and mastering are all forms of art. Engineers are artists.
What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
Pre-production is everything. Being underprepared or unclear about your vision is the fastest way to burn through your budget and waste everyone's time. Have a plan.
Can you share one music production tip?
Don't be afraid to commit. If you don't make any mistakes you'll never get any better.
Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
Many people don't have the facilities to record more than just a single instrument at a time. They may just be in a bedroom, with poor acoustic treatment... So, most of the work I do is recording; drums, string quartets, loud guitars, and things that aren't so easy to record in a tiny space with shared walls. There are so many DIY bands nowadays, that they really want (at the very least) tracking to be done in a proper room, but they usually can't afford a major studio. I have 26 inputs and a live-room big enough to track everyone at the same time with separate headphone mixes. That is where the magic happens. After recording, mixing would be what I do most. Sometimes (especially now) someone in the band "mixes", so all they want is a solid recording. That is fine by me.
Analog or digital and why?
Both are necessary. Whatever feels right for the project. Especially if budget is an issue.
What's your 'promise' to your clients?
I will work tirelessly for you until your vision is complete and you are happy with the end result.
What do you like most about your job?
Collaborating. There is nothing more exciting than making great art with creative people.
What's your strongest skill?
Listening. That's what engineers do, right? Accountability is next. A project has never been held up by me, and it never will be. I do what I say I'm going to do, and I do it in a timely manner, until a project is complete and everyone is happy.
What do you bring to a song?
It really depends on the client and what their final vision for the song is. I have my sonic tricks that I've learned over the last decade of audio engineering, but I approach every song from a perspective of trying to achieve what the client wants. I'll make decisions on how I can reach their goals (sonically) based on what their end vision is. If the artist doesn't know what they want, then they need a producer. If by default I become that person, I'll do whatever it takes to surpass their expectations by working through the song with them piece by piece, until it's absolutely what they want. Sometimes a song can require hiring outside talent to fulfill certain needs that are not achievable by the artist alone. Teamwork makes the dream work!