A house engineer at the renowned Premier Studios in Times Square, Gold Studios in Soho, MixxCity in Brooklyn, and formerly 300 Entertainment, my experience as both a mixing engineer and recording artist has helped me bring a personal sonic touch to my extensive list of both celebrity and indie clientele.
With over 6 years of audio engineering experience, including a degree in Sound Engineering from Oberlin College & Conservatory in Ohio, I have worked my way up to ladder in the industry at only 25. I have worked on a diverse catalog of genres from EDM to bebop, from hair metal to trap, from orchestral works to singer-songwriter ballads, in both the analog and digital domains. I have extensive training on an SSL 9000J, which is where I do most of my mixing, as well as a multiplicity of analog processors that I have access to, such as vintage Pultec and API EQs, Manley VariMu compressors, and of course classics such as the Teletronix LA2A, UA 1176 and Neve 1073. I am fluent in ProTools, Logic Pro, Ableton, and most other DAWs, so I am comfortable working with session files as well as stems. I have recorded, mixed and mastered both major label records and indie projects. And I treat each mix and master the same way: with the utmost attention to sonic detail, no matter who the artist is. My background as a jazz pianist, percussionist, and bass guitarist makes me comfortable in songwriting and arranging, and I have also produced several songs that have amassed over half a million streams and views across various social media platforms.
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Interview with Cole Lumpkin
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: Fetty Wap's comeback record. I had the pleasure of engineering several songs, including the hyped-beyond-belief hit "KEKE" with Tekashi 69, and recording and mixing the single "Love The Way." I have always loved Fetty's vocal style, as it permeated my senior year of college. Working with him was unreal and an honor.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: Three EPs at once: a trap pop singer, a country album, and a Frank Zappa-inspired prog pop venture.
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: I'm new here! I'm sure there are some incredible engineers on here though :)
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Both. Analog gear motivates me to mix more with my ears, and is easier to "feel" (manipulate in a tactile way). It also sounds incredible. Digital is essential to music creation in the modern age. Instant recall, backup, profound track counts, and speed and efficiency make it the most important milestone to music in my lifetime.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: Major label-level audio quality.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Working on other peoples music! I love hearing a song come to life through the mix.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: Can you make the bass hit harder? Yes. As hard as you want.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: That volume equals quality. The difference between blasting the song and slapping on a limiter plugin to satiate someone looking for volume vs. mixing the song in great detail is extraordinary. Mixing a song is actually an incredibly intimate and dynamically rich process most off the time.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: What element of the song do you think defines it? What is a record with an audio quality that you find outstanding? Where do you find yourself listening to it the most and what about it excites you sonically? What kinds of things in a mix do you prefer/turn you off from listening further?
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: It might sound obvious, but investing in a good mix is integral to a songs success. The detailing of a songs arrangement, despite it's best efforts, can fail if lost in an amateur mix. Vocals can fail to cut through. The volume of certain elements can be uneven and distracting to the listener. A great mix ensures the time and care one puts into creating a song will be preserved on all mediums that one can listen on.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: To record? Mac computer, Tubetech CL1B, UAD Twin, API 3124 Pre, ProAc 100s To mix? Mac computer, Waves Mercury Bundle, iZotope Ozone 9, Manley Massive Passive, ProAcc100s
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: After graduting with a degree in Sound Design, and having completed several internships in New York at places such as Eastside Sound and Room 17 Studios, I knew I would have to climb the ranks and earn my stripes in order to secure my future as an engineer. A full year of sleepless nights and 36 hour shifts interning, and I finally got my break assisting, and then engineering, for Fetty Wap. After that, I became a house engineer for the next three years up until now, and was even hired by 300 Entertainment as one of their house engineers at their midtown studio.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: I strive for spectral balance: polished and excited midrange, silky highs, and balanced low end. Forward lead vocals, stereo expansion, and mystical reverbs are also consistently in my vocabulary.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: I would love to work with Jon Bellion. His passion for music, ear for instrumentation, and attention to detail across the whole project is inspiring. I feel like mixing a Jon Bellion track would be a blast.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Great sounds are integral to a song's success. So many times issues in the mix are a result of a poor kick or snare sample, or hastily recorded guitar take (i.e. clipping, bad DI). The dry, unprocessed playthrough of a song should already grip the listener from start to finish, and the mix should essentially elevate that, instead of try and correct it or re-produce it.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: All kinds.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: Compression. Understanding it, and using it tastefully.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: An ear that is not only trained as an engineer, but also as a musician. This helps me blend instrumentation together more cautiously, and make space for details like harmony, dissonance, and sound design.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: I typically start with an element that either the client or myself determines is something standout: a drum groove, a vocal sample, or a bassline. Obviously the lead vocal is the other priority so I build those two together and then start adding in all the other elements. Sometimes I'll stem mix to navigate songs with a lot of sections.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: I work in a combination of the analog and digital domain. Analog processing, in tandem with the SSL Channels, and then everything back into ProTools for mix buss processing and mastering. Oftentimes I'll route the stereo sum of the mix back out into the Manley hardware for EQing and peak limiting/compression.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: My greatest two inspirations in terms of audio engineering are without a doubt Manny Marroquin and Serbban Ghanea. Upon hearing Bruno Mars' "Locked Out Of Heaven" for the first time in college, I was blown away by the sonic adventure Manny mixed: three diverse musical sections glued together through masterful EQ, buss compressor, and rich, creative effects. Of course, Serban, who is known for his pristine work in the digital domain on incredibly enormous records like Imagine Dragon's "Believer" or the Weeknd's "Can't Feel My Face" is also a huge inspiration. As a musician myself, I am most inspired by Frank Zappa, John Mayer, Jacob Collier, Jon Bellion, and Bon Iver.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: As a house engineer, the work I do is either seat-of-the-pants or entirely methodical. There will be times where I client wants to come in out of the blue and record an entire song in 4 hours, mix and master included. Then there are times I end up working with an artist for 2 or 3 EPs worth of music. In the industry, adapting to the demands of any client with a clear cut mantra that there has to be sonic perfection from start to finish, is an experience that being a house engineer has taught me well. Whether it's tracking a vocalist through a 1073 and Tubetech comp over a beat, or mixing an orchestra on the SSL, the quality control must be acute or consistent.