What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
I started out as a guitarist, but quickly realized that I love engineering after being accepted into the Berklee College of Music in Boston. I ended up getting my bachelors degree from Berklee in Music Production and Engineering, with a Minor in Acoustics and Electronics. While finishing up my degree, I began working with Oscar award winning sound designer, Jeff Largent. He started me out on live sound, and I quickly moved up to doing large recordings of the Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra, and even Rockapella.
Just four days after graduating, I started my internship at the legendary Avatar Studios in NYC. The internship lasted three months, before they hired me on as a paid staff member. I continued to work at Avatar doing session setups for some of the biggest names, including Paul McCartney, Josh Groban, John Mayer, and more. In 2014, I began to work freelance, and moved to California. After a while of working freelance in California, I got a job as Jefferson Starship's Production Manager. I now engineer out of OwlCove's mix suite and Fantasy Studios, tour with Jefferson Starship, and teach music mixing at San Francisco State University.
What's your typical work process?
For mixing, which is the majority of my work, I start by organizing my session. Organization is key in any mixing environment.
I try to listen to the tracks as little as possible during the organization phase to avoid ear fatigue, and to make sure that I can fix the problems that I hear immediately.
Once the session is organized, I have my aux sends set up for subgroups, reverbs, delays, etc, I adjust the clip gain of everything so that I can start off with decent levels. It is always good to mix with reasonable levels. Once things get too loud, you end up with a lot of problems.
After I have everything at decent levels, I listen to the producer's mix provided, along with any reference tracks that i may have. This lets me get an idea of what I want the mix to sound like.
I then go for a levels, panning, and EQ only mix. I include EQ in that, because the EQ can drastically change how much of a certain track I want to hear.Once I am sure that those elements are right, I will automate any levels that I see fit, add compression, and then effects. I tend to sit back, and listen for the problems, and fill the holes. Once all of the "holes" are filled, I take a break, and come back and tweak anything that I don't like, and add more creative elements. I then repeat the break and adjustment steps until I feel it's done.
At that point, I bring in producer, and former Jefferson Starship Lead Vocalist, Rachel "Lightning" Rose, to take a listen and let me know what she thinks. We don't release a mix until both of us agree on it.
Analog or digital and why?
A combination of both. ProTools makes automation and editing so much easier, that I think it is ridiculous not to utilize it. That being said, I have paid a lot of money for plugins, and have never found them to sound anything like the real thing. My studio is based around a Slate Raven MTX mkii console, and a ton of outboard gear, which I find gives me the best of both worlds.
As much as I was rooting for plugins, I tend to have my processing 99% analog outboard gear.
Tell us about your studio setup.
My private mix suite is comprised of a ProTools HDX system with Avid HD/IO converters, and lots of analog outboard gear. The centerpiece is a Slate Raven MTX mkii, which I find gives a superior workflow.
For playback, I first treated the entire room with the "Live end, dead end" technique, and tweaked it until it sounded perfect for me. I use Focal Twin6 Be's (paired with a Focal Sub6 for low end reference) for my mains, NS-10M's for my Alt1's, and Avantone Active Mix Cubes for my Alt 2's. All monitoring goes through a Dangerous Music Monitor ST. I also check my mixes on ATH-M50 headphones, and Apple EarPods.
I hand wired the entire studio with Mogami cabling, and Neutrik gold connectors. I found that using 110ohm cabling with analog signals gives a much more open high end.
All drives, converters, power supplies, and power amps are housed in a Sound Construction IsoBox, to insure accurate ventilation, and a quiet mixing environment.
My media drive is a LaCie mirrored RAID set, so there is always a backup of the session files. All files are then backed up two more times to separate drives every day.
All computers and drives are on a battery backup in case of a power outage.
What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
I learned a lot during my time working at Avatar Studios, so Roy Hendrickson and David Kahne pretty heavily influenced me technically, and working with Paul Kantner up until his death made a giant impact on me both personally and creatively.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment, I am advancing backline contracts for Jefferson Starship, and mixing a track for a client. I'm not at liberty to say who the client is though... ;)
What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
That someone who has $5,000 of equipment in their bedroom is an adequate engineer. I have a $250,000 audio engineering degree from one of the world's most elite music colleges, years of professional experience in some of the world's top studios, and over $200,000 of equipment in my mixing space, and yet I have the same job title as a kid with a laptop and microphone. Do your homework on who you are hiring!
Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
Robert Smith is an incredible Producer, Mixer, and Engineer. I would recommend him to anyone, any time.
What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A professional atmosphere, and a great sounding recording.
What do you like most about your job?
Making things sound great. I love to make people happy with the recordings I make.
What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
I usually am asked to hear examples of my work. That is usually a tough one to answer, because nothing is going to sound like what I do to your recording. Every artist and recording is unique.
What questions do you ask prospective clients?
What do you want your song to sound like? What artists do you enjoy listening to? I use this to get a better idea of where their minds were at when writing and recording their songs.
What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
Don't go record in somebody's bedroom. Pay a little more, support the industry, and save yourself some money in the long run by not having to re-record it later. There is nothing quite like well-recorded tracks.
If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A Telefunken 251, an SM57, a computer with ProTools, Avid converters, and an API Legacy Plus console. Is that cheating? ;)
Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
One of my favorite projects to work on was for the lead in Broadway's production of Wicked, Christine Dwyer. We released a single called "Mangifera" on a Friday the 13th in 2015, and I got to have a lot of fun with that one. I engineered the instrumentation in Boston, and the vocals were finished up at Avatar in NYC. I was on my honeymoon at the time of the vocal sessions, but the incredible Robert Smith took care if it for me. When mixing it, I got to use a bunch of tape, play things backwards, and insert phasey effects to try to creep the listener out. I had a lot of fun with it.
How would you describe your style?
I would like to think that I don't work for people, I work for music, and that I will always do what it best for the music. That being said, I will inevitably have a "sound" to the things that I am a part of. I don't know that I would be able to tell you what my sound is however, because I just hear it as "right". haha
Which artist would you like to work with and why?
I would love to work with Sara Bareilles, because her songs are great, and her voice is a producer's dream. In college, I engineered a sound-alike of one of her songs, and it was some of my favorite sessions to work on.
Can you share one music production tip?
All that matters when creating a track is where you are right now. It doesn't matter if you spent two weeks and $10,000 getting that drum sound, if it doesn't work, change it.
What type of music do you usually work on?
Most of the music that I work on is Pop, Rock, R&B, and Jazz.
What's your strongest skill?
In my opinion, my strongest skill is the ability to coax out great vocal performances.
What do you bring to a song?
When I work on a song, I don't just try to get the "best" sounds, I try to get sounds that WORK with the song. The best recordings have a sound of their own, and I do my best to create recordings that will emotionally grab people, rather than impress an audiophile.
Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
Most commonly, I am mixing and mastering in my private mix suite, or at Fantasy Studios.