Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
"March of the Divine". This is an album production from Raleigh, NC metal band Agony Divine, which I served as co-producer, recording engineer, mix engineer, and mastering engineer. Drums and bass DI were recorded at Echo Mountain Recording Studios in Asheville, NC. Reamped bass amp, guitars, and vocals were recorded at my home studio in Raleigh, NC. I love the sound we achieved, as the band wanted an analog, 90s type, original sound with drive and punch. Not glossy, just attitude. I think we hit the mark. It is clear, direct, but lush and thick. It does not sound like the cookie cutter, factory line, metal production style in modern mixes; it has life!
What are you working on at the moment?
1. A 15-song album for a Bristol, UK-based recording artist. (producer / mix engineer / mastering engineer)
2. A 14-song album for a poet based in Tampa, FL, who wants her poetry turned into a lyrical concept album (composition / performance / production / mix engineer / mastering engineer)
3. An 18,900 word audio book (voice-over work)
Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
I'm new to Soundbetter, so I'm not sure who I know is on here.
Analog or digital and why?
Both. Tools for the job! Analog has its uses, as does digital!
What's your 'promise' to your clients?
I promise to dedicate my time and skillset to achieving the best sonic representation of your music, given the source audio. I promise to work closely with the artist to ensure their vision for the final product meets and exceeds their expectations.
What do you like most about your job?
I like contributing to the artists' vision, feeling the mix come together...that feeling of the project being completed to satisfaction, knowing, I made that bass guitar sound beastly...something to look back on years from now, and say...I did that. :-)
What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
Q: Can you make my guitar sound like this other album?
A: I can get close. Better yet, I can make it sound like YOUR tone, and one day someone else will ask if they can get their guitars sounding like yours. :-)
What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
That I can make an M-Audio USB producer mic sound good. ;-)
What questions do you ask prospective clients?
Do you have musicians and/or albums you feel is a good comparison to what you want achieved?
What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
Make sure your source audio tracks are not too loud/clipping, with preference to WAV format, 24-bit/48khz. Present your project timeframe, and an open channel for communication.
If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
Distressor, Shure SM7b, Vintech 273, Axe FX II, laptop :-)
What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
I career path WAS information technology. I was a Systems Administrator for many years, while doing audio production and songwriting on the side for 15 years. I have now dedicated my time 100% to professional audio production.
How would you describe your style?
I'm not sure what is being asked? My musical style is metal. My personality is extremely easy-going, but unafraid to speak up.
Which artist would you like to work with and why?
Metallica, so I can give them a decent production sound, which they haven't had since 1997.
Can you share one music production tip?
Gain stage your tracks!
What type of music do you usually work on?
The majority of my past music projects have been metal, from black metal and death metal, to thrash and classical heavy metal.
What's your strongest skill?
Patience and tenacity! Technically, my strongest skill would have to be perception of the big picture.
What do you bring to a song?
Attitude, punch, and vibe!
What's your typical work process?
First thing when approaching a new project is listen to any pre-production material, familiarize myself with the music. If it's just production source material, I listen to each track solo'd, listening for any anomalies, clipping, etc. I then gain stage every track, sometimes gain stage individual lines in vocal tracks. Then comes the fun stuff!
I usually start with drums, dialing in overheads first, then kick, snare, toms, and room mics.
After drums I switch to bass guitar. I usually do a lot of processing on the bass, utilizing multiple signals (Bass DI, bass amp(s), bass distortion), and multiple stages of compression.
When bass is done I switch to guitars. If I'm reamping, I listen to the performance on several guitar amp simulators, get a general feel for the right amp selection and tone. I then either use my own guitar amps, or arrange to rent/borrow amps from colleagues so the real amp tones fit the guitar performance. I typically use multiple mics on cabs, and experiment with placement..I never leave mics on a cab from one session to the next, as I am not a fan of cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all, guitar production. I phase check every mic, make sure mids in the overall incoming signal are even, make sure each mic input is coming in at appropriate gain levels. Once tracked, or no reamping required, I listen to the signal and apply minimum EQ, usually just filtering out unneeded sub bass and high end fizz, sometimes taming the low mid peak resonances or vocal presence range. I tend to use very little compression, if any, on guitars, apart for a narrow multiband compressor applied to lows/low-mids.
If any keys/synth are used, I listen to the performance, determining if a particular part or voicing is to be considered foreground instrument or background ambience. I tend to apply moderate EQ and compression, depending on the voicing of the synth track, basically to help it fit into the limited sonic space of the overall mix.
Vocals I tend to use very little EQ, but heavy amounts of compression in multiple stages. If it is a backing vocal track, I may attenuate the presence range to set the track farther into the background of the mix. I tend to run vocals out of my DAW into my Vintech pre to use the shelf EQs, crank some extra gain for some transformer saturation/warmth, the attenuating the output. From the mic pre, I send the track to the Distressor for the brunt of compression. Depending on the performance/vibe of the vocal track, I may favor Opto-style compression or more aggressive VCA style with faster attack. From the Distressor, I send to my Purple Audio MC77 FET for additional compression, and a touch of color, with super fast attack and release. I then shave any remaining peaks with a very subtle brickwall limiting, only taking off 1db on the occasional remaining peaks.
I tend to like using multiple reverbs within the mix. I'll typically use plate for drums, both room and hall for vocals.
After all individual instruments are dialed in and the mix is there in broadstrokes, I get heavy into volume automation. That's really the key to achieving a great mix. That sense of organic movement, and parts/instruments locked in, regardless of the part of the song.
While mixing, I run the master fader through buss compression with -4db gr, and typically a master limiter aimed at RMS value of -10dbfs. This allows me to perceive how the mix would sound mastered, and mix accordingly. That way, certain transient material will not lose punch at the mastering stage (i.e. snare getting lost in the mix during mastering phase).
Tell us about your studio setup.
Having interned at Echo Mountain Recording Studios, I am hesitant to call what I have an actual studio. I think of it more as my audio production "office", or a simple project studio.
I use the upstairs portion of my house, with the main mix room being a 13' by 25' space, acoustically treated with panels and traps from GIK Acoustics. I have a custom ADK DAW PC, rackmounted, and isolated in another room 30 feet away from my monitoring position, using USB repeaters and shielded HDMI extenders. I use a pair of Yamaha HS8 active near field monitors, as well as Sennheiser HD650 open back headphones for the majority of my monitoring. I also have a pair of Denon AH D700s and Sennheiser HD280 closed back headphones.
My rack-mounted audio hardware consists of my RME Fireface UFX, Black Lion Audio Red Sparrow DAC, Purple Audio MC77, Empirical Labs EL8X Distressor, Vintech 273 mic pre, Fractal Audio Axe FX II, Avid Eleven Rack, and Monster power conditioner.
My mic selection consists of a Pearlman TM-1 large diaphragm tube condenser, Shure SM7b, 2 Shure SM57s, Shure Beta 57 (not the Beta 57A), Sennheiser MD421 II, and a Sennheiser e609.
My guitar amps are a Peavey 6505 120-watt head and 1975 Hiwatt SA212 combo (original Fane loudspeakers). My external guitar cabs are a Bogner Uberkab 4x12 (2 V30s, 2 G12T75s, X-pattern) and Mesa Boogie halfback 4x12 (old style metal grill, 2 Celestion C90 Black Shadows top, 2 EV Black Shadows bottom).
A few loose items and stomp pedals include Radial XAmp Active Reamp box, Maxon OD808 overdrive, Mogami mic and patch cables, Behringer FCB1010 MIDI foot controller, and an American Recorder SPL8810 sound pressure level meter.
What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
For producers and mix engineers: Andy Sneap, Peter Tägtgren, Fredrik Nordström, Dan Swanö
Musicians: Dissection, Emperor, Opeth, Sentenced, Rapture, Testament
Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
Most of my workload consists of full-on producing or simply mixing music for remote clients/artists. For instance, I am currently producing a 15-song album for a UK recording artist, and composing/producing for a poet based in Tampa, FL, who wants her writings converted into a 14-song lyrical concept album.