Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
I travelled to central Illinois to record a band in the middle of winter. I was going to be there, in state anyway so I thought it would be cool to work a day. I brought a MacBook Pro, Apollo Twin, ADA8200 8 CH Interface, and a bunch of dynamic mics. We knocked out a 3 minute rock song in a day for a compilation. Recorded, Mixed, and Mastered on the road. I've done some higher profile stuff but just being able to take a duffel bag of equipment on the road and make a professional audio recording was very exciting.
What are you working on at the moment?
Working on finishing the next World Underground documentary about punk rock in Asia.
Analog or digital and why?
Digital audio at the front end is as good as analog ever was and in some ways its better. I have a hybrid studio - Analog outboard with Digital conversion. I talked to Steve Albini about this and aside from the storage of analog tape, digital is just as good as analog recording. Analog is back in style and everyone has a tape machine - but who among those who work on tape now will still be working on it 5 years from now?
What's your 'promise' to your clients?
I always promise that I will be an active and intent listener, I will commit myself to their vision, and my work is guaranteed.
What do you like most about your job?
Flexibility, travel, collaborating with people from all over the world.
What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
What kind of setup do I have. I just tell them what I wrote above.
What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
That its easy. Its not easy. It takes a lot of practice to be a good mixing engineer. It takes a lot of patience and time to be a great mixing engineer.
What questions do you ask prospective clients?
How long have you been making music, what music do you like, how did you get started, do you have a theme overall for the album or song, what is the music about to you, where do you want to take the music, where do you want to take the listener, where do you want to go inside the music?
What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
Passion is sometimes more important than credits. Commitment is more important than having a name brand mixer. Patience is more important than getting it done RIGHT NOW.
If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
MacBook Pro with Ableton Live, a pair of Royer NT5 condenser mics, Apollo Twin with all UAD plugins, Guitar, MIDI keyboard. Every sound I would ever want to make could be used with all of that gear.
What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
I interned at a local studio in my hometown for a few years then started doing freelance recording while I worked in IT for 7 years. In the last 5 years, I have made it a point to work and learn at an accelerated pace. This has been my full time job since 2009. I joined AES and went to Mix with the Masters with Steve Albini and since those things happened I've been getting more work and the studio keeps growing.
How would you describe your style?
My style is modern. I live in a modern home with lots of odd angles and every room is a different height. No two rooms here are the same size. It was designed like this to have the most amount of difference when recording. Personally, my music taste is Rock, Metal, and Electronic. Clean lines but who knows where they go? Theres a lot of room to explore.
Which artist would you like to work with and why?
I would love to work with Richard Buckner. His full band albums have always made me think of T-Bone Burnetts best americana albums. I would love to work on something with ROOTS. Son Volt, Garrison Starr, or Wilco.
Can you share one music production tip?
There are no rules. If someone tells you something is wrong, musically - either they are wrong or its the wrong context. Crank up the guitars or record 40 quiet guitars and layer them. Multi-band split the bass and eq each range separately. Listen for tone and timbre. Pay attention to dynamics. Is the music better at one volume or should it ebb and flow dynamically? Draw someone in. Write music for other people.
What type of music do you usually work on?
I've primarily worked on Rock or Electronic music - Imogen Heap, Windmills, and Lostwars all rock and some with electronic elements. I've also worked on Bluegrass, Acoustic, and Classical music.
What's your strongest skill?
My strongest skill is being able to mix elements together into something brand new. I have taken songs and arrangements and flipped them on their head when IT NEEDED IT. I know when to back off when it doesn't. We don't want cookie cutters here.
What do you bring to a song?
I bring 2 decades of intensive study of music as an active listener. 2 decades of being in rooms with musicians, arranging, composing, making mistakes, making raw emotional creative decisions - knowing when to push and when to pull. I bring a sensibility about the creative process that I believe makes me easy to work with but focused on results. I've dedicated my life to this pursuit, and I am not an island - I have many friends, engineers, and producers I look to for inspiration to help create the best audio possible.
What's your typical work process?
For mixing I import the project into ProTools and organize elements : Drums, Guitars, Bass, Keys, Strings, Percussion. Then I listen to a rough mix. I look over notes given to me by the artist. I take into consideration the artists tastes, the trends in the genre, and my own emotional reaction to the music as I begin to put things together. It depends on the song and my workflow - but this is generally how I start.
Tell us about your studio setup.
My front end is a UA Apollo Quad and Twin connected to a Hexcore 64GB RAM Mac Pro via Console 2.0. That gives me plenty of I/O and tracking with these plugins is a dream come true. I also have quite a few mic pres from Neve, API, Warm Audio, and some I made myself from DIY Recording. My favorite gear is probably my Warm Audio Pultec Clones or the Wooly Mammoth Quad which is a 4 channel color box. It uses 3 different transformers and two transistor stages to colour sound in a particular way. I either use it for mixing to add punch to stereo mixes, or I route plugins through it to get something special that may not be possible without it. My monitors are Neuman KH120s which work perfectly in my room. I also use a pair of Equator D5s in "NS-10" mode which also sound great in here. Otherwise its all Guitars, Drums, Pedals, Keyboards...
What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
First, I'd have to say Steve Albini. I have a opportunity to work with him for a week last year and it was one of the most educational experiences of my career. From him I learned how to listen with intent. He is not only an amazing recording engineer, but because of the sheer number of albums he's worked on - he also has an encyclopedic knowledge of rock. He can take apart a production and describe and analyze with extreme clarity. Another professional who inspires me is Michael Beinhorn. His work as a producer I feel aligns with my philosophy. I am here to support the artist. I am here to light the path. I am here to help production fly.
Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
I am set up for Mixing and that is what I am most passionate about. I've mixed records for local acts which allows me to really collaborate creatively to help execute someones vision - but I've also worked with bands where maybe a producer or label was involved. I've also recorded bands and artists in my space and on the road. In fact, on of my favorite projects was recorded in a house with no recording equipment other than a few mics, a MacBook Pro and an Apollo Twin. In this industry you have to be creative on many different levels, almost clever. I love that theres something different every day.