My name is Diego Hodge. I'm an engineer and multi-instrumentalist from Los Angeles.
I started recording music around 2007, I got a multitrack recorder and jumped right in. I didn't have any formal training, so I experimented a lot with different sounds and since I didn't know how to use any effects after tracks were recorded, I focused on getting sounds right before they got to the microphone. My songwriting wasn't that good, so I learned how to make songs more interesting by adding layers and additional instruments. It was always a means to an end until about 2015 when I recorded an album with a band I was in and realized how much a liked being in the studio. Since then I shifted my primary focus to recording and mixing, but often times I co-produce with the artists that I'm working with. I built and run a small studio, Valley Crest Recording, located about an hour north of the San Fernando Valley, where I record and mix the majority of the projects that I work on. I love creating an memorable experience in the studio, so I experiment and I encourage artists to experiment as well. I let artists run wild with ideas, and I try to never discourage an artists' creative output based on my own bias or expectations. I specialize in trying to create a comfortable and creative environment and an overall positive experience for the artists that I work with.
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Interview with Diego Hodge
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: David Badstubner
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Always allow the artist the freedom to try an idea, no matter how much you think it won't work. And if you still hate it after its recorded, but they still like it, sleep on it. 90% of the time, the idea that I didn't initially like becomes a staple of the song for me.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: I try to give artists as much creative freedom as they want, but also try to manage the time to keep budgets within reason. I try to tailor the workflow and the experience to each individual artist so the work process changesut I always put an emphasis on performance, and feeling, rather than perfection. Often times I get musicians to play off of each other instead of a click track. I like to have at least a scratch vocal early on in the process to build the arrangement around. I like to experiment a lot.
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: I helped my good friend Billy Giaquinto write and produce a song called Trees Breathe. He had most of the song written, but I added a few small things. He wanted a Tom Waits type feel and I had a lot of freedom to add instruments. It's available on bandcamp under the artist "Slav Squad Jazz Band" and it was also the first song to be recorded in my studio.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: I'm currently working with an 18 year old songwriter on his first full length. He's an awesome musician and person and I'm super excited to be a part of the project!
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Both, analog for workflow and creativity, digital for convenience. I hate having to scroll through menus and open plugins to change a parameter with a mouse, I much prefer being able to lean over and turn a knob, so I've been adapting my workflow to use more outboard on the way in and less plugins, treating the computer more like a tape machine.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: My promise to clients is that I will work as hard as I can to help them capture the sound in their head.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I love starting each day with a new idea, and getting to the end of the day with a piece of music to show for the day's work, often times much different from my expectations. It's so cool that I can pull up a song and listen to it on my phone or in my car when that song didn't exist yesterday, it's literally making and cataloging history. No matter how significant, it's just such a cool experience and it keeps the work fresh.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: The biggest misconception is that the timeframe is determined by me and not the artist. A lot of artists ask me how long is it going to take to record their 10 songs or whatever it is and my answer is always the same, it could take a day or it could take a year, that is completely up to the artist's skill level and the desired end result. Obviously I get details and try to give them a reasonable quote, but ultimately, it's completely in the artist's hands.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: What services do they need me to provide, what is the time frame, what is the budget, can you send me demos, am I going to be involved in pre-production, how many songs are there, what is the instrumentation, do you want to record to a click, do you want to record live off the floor with minimal overdubs, do you have reference tracks, do you need me to play any instruments, all of these and other questions are dependent on a lot of other details that might have already been discussed with the band.
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Clearly communicate what you're looking for and be aware that you can only get out of this process what you put into it. A good song and a good performance are the key to everything.
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I have been actively working towards a career in engineering and producing since 2017.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: I'd like to think that my style is adaptable to the current artist or project that I'm working with, but there are certain elements that I seem to choose as a gut instinct. I love spaghetti western film scores, so I fall back on tremolo rakes, baritone guitar melodies and trumpet melodies a lot, I love the sound of slide guitar for atmosphere and melody, I like reverb and delay. I like to experiment with weird tones and sound effects.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: Really any artist that has songs and performances with an emotional impact.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: I mostly work on indie rock and folk based genres, I don't have much experience with country, hip hop, or metal.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: No matter the project, I try to bring positivity and make the artist as comfortable as possible, from climate to snacks and drinks to the overall atmosphere of the studio, the artist's comfort is top priority. As an engineer and/or producer I don't like to overstep my bounds so communication is key. I establish early on my position in a project and whether or not the artist wants me to give feedback. I try to maintain objectivity with my feedback and avoid my own bias, unless it's more of a collaboration. I'm a multi-instrumentalist as well so sometimes I end up playing guitar, bass, drums, percussion, keys or writing and singing harmonies.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: My studio is a 16' x 20' single room with a 15' ceiling peak and an 8' x 16' loft. My approach to building the room was live end dead end, so I have a fairly dead mix position under the loft and the rest of the room is more live. I always have a drum set, a guitar amp and a bass amp mic'd up and ready to go. I have an upright piano, a Hammond M2 organ, a Nord Electro 3 and a whole bunch of other instruments from synths to mandolin to kalimba. I try to have enough available that I never have to rely on virtual instruments.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: Too many to list, but Dangermouse, Sylvia Massey, Steve Albini, Joe Barresi, Jacquire King, Bosco Mann, Warren Huart, Modest Mouse, The Flaming Lips, Man Man, Gorillaz, Radiohead, Foxygen, The Lemon Twigs, Daft Punk, The Shins, Steely Dan, Fiona Apple, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Andrew Bird, Spoon, Cake, Sparklehorse
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: I'm not always a part of pre-production, but I usually co-produce, engineer, mix, and sometimes master the projects I work on.