British producer / mix engineer based in Los Angeles.
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Interview with James Gordon
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: I have just co-written and produced a great track for LA band, RKCB: https://soundcloud.com/rkcbmusic/future-being I have a half dozen other artists I am working with here in LA, and remotely I am working for some British acts. I also produce music for brands / tv commercials.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Mostly digital; plug-ins (especially Universal Audio UAD) are fantastic these days. I use a mastering engineer who has a combo analogue / digi set up, and using his analogue options for the final stage of the process adds any final sparkle and magic that might have been missing in the process up to that point.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: You will be happy; because I will work with you / make changes for as long as it takes to get the best possible result.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I get to hear a lot of great, new music. I am optimistic about the music industry, and I think there is just as much talent out there as there has always been. It's wonderful and inspiring to hear.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: Mostly, I get asked 'how soon can you get the job done'; and I answer by asking 'when do you need it by'. I will always attempt to work to a client's timeline. I understand that music moves very fast nowadays / bands are frequently writing, recording and releasing music in a matter of weeks; so it is important to move 'with the times'. This is another reason why I opt for a mostly 'in the box' set up, so that I can quickly recall and make changes to any project in a very short space of time.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: What is it that your music really NEEDS right now? Very often I get sent tracks to mix that I feel aren't ready for mixing. Similarly, songs can be put forward for production, when really the song isn't really finished / good enough for that part of the process yet.
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Always listen and do extensive research into any material that you can find the producer / service provider has been associated with. It is easy for people to create a facade on the internet of the type of experience they might have had. Usually, the product will speak for itself.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: My UAD Apollo; Maschine; Juno synth; and then I guess my Mac and a mic!
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I started out in bands, always playing a 'producer' role for the most part. The first band I toured with was back during music college in the UK. More recently, I came to the US with the British band, Until The Ribbon Breaks. I am focusing more on production and mixing over here; and finding LA a great place to do that.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Listen to everything - all the best albums in all genres; and always only follow your instinct. If you have a good understanding of the building blocks of music, 'production' is just following your gut. Anything formulaic or artificial / disingenuous is probably not worth associating with.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: Every album or track is different. I work in many different genres, with artists and bands. I like to take anything on, especially when it comes to mixing. I find obscure genres challenging and an opportunity to improve myself. I once mixed a Russian rap / metal track - it sounded bloody great.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: I am a people person, and I like to talk through and become comfortable with clients and projects before any work is done; and similarly, it is important to me that clients and collaborators feel like they can approach me and ask me for anything at any time during the process.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: I like to think my sensitivity to music itself (I am classically trained) brings a discerning ear to the production and mixing processes. I also pride myself in delivering a consistent final product - I almost always insist on a project being finalised by the mastering engineer I have used for the last 10 years. I know how he works / he knows how I work; so we can always come to a finished track or album where everyone involved is very happy with the result.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: This depends entirely on the project, and on what my specific involvement is in any given situation. For example; if I am collaborating with a band or artist on a new track, I have a specific order of processes that I will usually follow: often starting with a beat of my own, layering up melodies, creating arrangements, recording guide vocals... all the way to final tracking and mixing. On a mix job, I like to 'prepare' my session as much as possible, tidying track names, checking audio files for errors, and general pre-mix housekeeping. Then, before I jump in, I will normally group and set up different busses / parallel compression routings according to processes that I know work from previous experience. However, every track is different, and therefore my 'process' differs, or rather shapes itself, around the material every time.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: Nowadays, I run a fairly 'in the box' setup, using a Universal Audio UAD Apollo Quad for the bulk of my processing. I prefer this way of working in this age of recall; being able to make changes for a client quickly and easily is very important to me (and the client!). Also, my setup is therefore somewhat mobile; I can take my rig to any studio, and have all the plug ins and effects available to me that I know I love the most. For monitoring, I use Eve speakers for nearfield detail, and large KRK's for comparative listening. My DTLA loft / studio space works great for both creative / writing sessions, and more in-depth mixing work.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: I love attention to detail; I get inspired by records that sound like they have been cared for from the very start of the process, right up to and including mastering. I have a lot of time for musically sensitive and technically proficient mix engineers, like Andrew Scheps. For energy, experimentation and innovation, I have respect for Nick Launay, Brian Eno, Geoff Barrow, Nigel Godrich, Flood... and many many more.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: I mostly work with artists and bands in both technical and creative capacities, providing anything from co-writing and engineering, to production and engineering.