Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
My all-time favorite project was with an electronic artist named "Oslo". He has a track that I recently mastered for him called 'Drown', which was an amazing mixing experience. Each sound within the song was so distinct, and the song itself is a view into Oslo's emotional state of mind when he wrote the song. It was an absolute pleasure to master.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment, I'm working as the lead recording engineer for a local Pittsburgh alternative-punk group named Lost In Site. After we finish up the recording process for the album, I'll be mixing and mastering it, and then marketing it.
Analog or digital and why?
They both have their upsides and downsides that make one or the other better in different situations. However, when recording, it's always to beautiful to use good analog gear; it has a sound quality that is so naturally rich and organic compared to the digital counterparts.
What's your 'promise' to your clients?
I promise my clients that I'll always take a track to completion, and never half-ass it.
Let's say, for example, that I work out a deal for a single in which the artist pays me $50 for my mastering services; I assume this will take me under 3 or 4 hours if I work incredibly efficiently. If I realize halfway through the master that I need to redo the entire master or I need to take it in a different direction, even if I need to put 20 hours of work in to perfect it (making me an average of 2.5 dollars per hour), I'm going to bring it to completion without complaints and without raising the price for the artist.
What do you like most about your job?
I love working with the people. I enjoy being able to better understand the emotions and thought processes of a person by hearing their music and their opinions of their music.
What questions do you ask prospective clients?
How did you record your music? What mics and preamps did you use? If you're writing electronic, what software or synths did you use? If recorded with mics, what environment was it recorded in?
At the end of the day, I can only do so much for my clients if their original recordings/tracks are recorded poorly. As the adage goes "garbage in, garbage out". I will not work with an artist that doesn't have a certain level of musical integrity. However, if you're an artist reading this, don't overthink whether your music is good enough for me to take on! It's most likely great!
How would you describe your style?
Creative, impactful, rich, and organic. My goal in a master is always "how do I make this song impact the listener?" (whether that be emotional or sonic impact).
Can you share one music production tip?
Always try to understand what the artists' goal is with a song or instrument. Once you understand the artist from an emotional point of view, you can efficiently accentuate this in the master and make the song have a true emotional impact.
What type of music do you usually work on?
I do my best work on electronic or clean sounding pieces. I also do very good jobs with tracks that have very well-defined instruments.
What's your strongest skill?
My strongest skill is being able to pick up on subtle cues on the artistic "goal" of each sound in a track. These "goals" may even not be realized by the artists themselves. Thus, I utilize this effectively to make tracks that have artistic integrity. You take the most important characteristics of each song or instrument and you accentuate them to make more of an impact on the listener. Have a crunchy synth? Make it slightly crunchier, or brighten it. Have a low pad bass? Automate stereo widening effects to the pulse of the music. There are so many options once you can pick out what gives each instrument its identity.
What do you bring to a song?
I bring creativity to a mix. It's easy to think of audio mastering engineers as just machines that finalize EQ'ing and compression and making the mix loud; however, there's so much more that one can do if you think outside of the box and don't stick to a formal list of rules of "how mastering is done". Rules are arbitrary at some level, and thinking outside of the box is essential to standing out as an engineer.
What's your typical work process?
I set up the project in Pro Tools, organize everything by color-coding and grouping like tracks into stems. Organization of the project from the very start of the job is essential to being able to work efficiently and not make silly mistakes later on. From there, I work track-by-track doing baseline-level work (EQ, basic compression, etc.). Then I organize the stems and work stem-by-stem making sure each one sounds good in the mix and making sure each instrument within a stem is well-defined and doesn't mix badly. From then on it's basically a iterative process of working on instrument-level changes, group-level changes, and then back to instrument-level changes.
Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
My most common (and also favorite) type of work is mastering songs.