BZ Lewis is a six time Emmy Award® winning composer/producer/engineer. His clients are multiple award winning artists and singer songwriters- due in no small part to his professional approach to mixing and mastering. Yet somehow he manages to have a great time, and he makes people feel at ease while working.
I specialize in Mixing, but I often think outside the box... What I mean by that is depending on the project, I'll take on more of a producer role. I'll add other drum sounds, loops if It think it'll make the song "cooler", I'm a multi-instrumentalist so sometimes I'll play another part if I think the song needs it. In other words, I don't feel limited to only using the tracks I'm given to make the song come alive.
I've been in the biz for 23+ years, and I've engineered hundreds if not thousands of songs for bands, singer-songwriters, voice-over, etc. I've won 6 Emmy Awards for my music work, a few Tellys, and a Communicator Award. My clients have won several Independent Music Awards, Parent's choice awards, and the list keeps growing!
In addition to mixing and producing, I also master music in the control room that was tuned by Bob Hodas (Bob is known as the "Room Whisperer" for studios. I have a B.A. in Music from the University of Texas at Austin, and before that I attended a Recording Arts Technology program at McClennon Community College in Texas.
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Interview with BZ Lewis
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: These days the analog modeling is so good, it's hard to argue for analog for a mix. You MUST have analog mic pre-amps. The last big project I did was in an analog studio, but we brought the tracks back to mix in my ProTools rig. It would take an hour to restore a mix to make a change, and we got tired of that very fast.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I love creating something that will outlast me.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: I ask clients to tell me about their project. We need to at least talk on the phone - it's to much to type :) I start by asking the genre, and then I dig further into what are they trying to do. There are also technical things like turn-around time, other artists we need to sound similar to, etc.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: My electric guitar, a tricked out lap-top, my Mackie Speakers ,my M-Audio midi controller, and my Bock mic.
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I've been at this for 23+ years. It's been a long, slow climb with moments of ecstasy. I wrote a book called "How To Survive Owning A Recording Studio" that describes the long journey. I grew up in my father's home studio in a small town in west Texas. I remember being 7 years old and duplicating tapes for my father's daily radio program 'The Sound of Texas', spooling 1/4 inch tapes on an Ampex reel to reel machine. It wasn't long before the studio/music bug crept into my life, and about the same time, I started playing piano and later developed a love for guitar. I attended an audio engineering school in Texas and received his B.A. in music with an emphasis on classical guitar from the University of Texas at Austin where I was honored as one of the best guitarists in the state of Texas by Texas Beat Magazine. I set out for California in '93 to work on a film that launched my career, and in '96 I started recording bands out of my home. The following year I moved the studio to it's current location in Oakland, CA, where I have been the main engineer for 23 years. I started recording demos for singer/songwriters in a suburb of San Francisco. The current Oakland recording studio location, which broke ground in 2007, was designed from the ground up with the help of Chips Davis, (Lucasfilm's Skywalker Ranch) and tuned by Bob Hodas.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: I wish I could say I have an indelible style or a signature mark where people know it's me who mixed the song. but I seem to have a chameleon-like quality where I just sound like the artist I'm working with.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Make it flow between sections.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: I usually do Americana, which can encompass many styles. Folk rock, Rock, something fragile. Always with the vocal as the centerpiece. And then there's the other side of me where I make very aggressive instrumental EDM, which is perhaps to create balance in my musical life.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: I think my strongest skill is adding magic to a song. I can make a song come to life in ways that are beyond what any one person can do.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: I seem to have a knack for making something pop out of the speakers.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: The first thing I do is get the tracks into my Pro Tools HDX rig if it's a remote mix project. Once I get a sense of the song I almost always start on the drums, then add in the basics. Half the time it never really works this way- it really depends on the song. As soon as I can get from the intro, verse, and into the first chorus, the song is 90% there.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: Studio 132 was designed by architects from all over the bay area and tuned by Bob Hodas, featuring a control room (17X 12), a 10 X 9 drum room, a 5 X 4 vocal booth, and even a closet where we often mic an amp. All rooms feature beautiful hardwood floors with or without area rugs, and each room is available for recording and 5.1 mixing. Here is a partial sample of our gear list: Yamaha O2R96 ProTools HDX Mackie HR824 Yamaha NS-10M 4 headphone mixes JBL Sub
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: Guitar-wise, I'm a huge fan of Eric Johnson. Joe Satriani and Steve Vai are also big influences for me. The funny thing is that what I usually play as a session musician is almost never these kinds of styles. But being able to perform at that level definitely keeps my chops up. Production-wise I'm blown away by T Bone Burnett and Trevor Horn. Skrillex is from another world.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Most of what I do is Mixing. Interestingly, I'm also a composer, so I know what it's like to be on both sides "of the glass". I often play guitar/bass on projects if needed.