Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
My roommate's record, which we are in the final stages of mixing is probably one I'm especially proud of because it was the first full-length record that was produced and engineered almost entirely at home (since my early days of mackie mixer into the 1/8" jack of my computer into audacity!). It sounds remarkable and I'm very proud of what we were able to accomplish in a basement and living room.
What are you working on at the moment?
Several projects, including mixing a record for my roommate, which has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I've also started writing a lot of music for (potential) film and TV, as well as consulting on studio build-outs.
Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
I'm relatively new to SoundBetter, but I have a few friends who are studio vocalists who use SoundBetter that I'd happily refer for work. I also recognize a lot of the engineers simply by their credits and would happily refer someone more experienced than myself.
Analog or digital and why?
I don't really care about this debate because it's completely dependent on someone's workflow. I like analog gear a lot, and I don't mind committing things like compression and EQ on the way in. However, I work in digital because most people I work with don't like the restrictions of tape, both philosophically and financially. I'll happily rent a place with a Studer machine and a console if someone wants to stay all-analog, but I find that it rarely happens.
What's your 'promise' to your clients?
I have three: I'll work until we're both happy, I'll tell you if something's wrong, and you'll never regret a taco.
What do you like most about your job?
To me, mixing is zen. Being in my dim, quiet room and piecing together someone's art is maybe the most at-peace I ever feel.
What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
I get asked a lot why I don't mix on a console, or use much/any outboard gear in a mix. Those answers have a lot of parts but the main reason is cost prohibition. I'm not ashamed to say that I can't afford a console that would be beneficial enough to replace my current in-the-box workflow. Maybe one day, I'd love to work on an old SSL G series, but I think clients would not notice enough of a difference to appreciate the increase in cost just based on my electric bill going up! Nowadays, there are a lot of incredible plugin options available, and while a Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor might sound better than it's plugin counterpart, it doesn't sound $6400 better. I think a lot of artists would be peeved if I spent my money that way.
What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
This may be too technical, but I think a lot of clients don't understand the physics of headroom in digital. Soundbetter actually has a wonderful disclaimer about loudness which I hope most people read. However, I find that often the most disagreements I'll get into with artists is when they'll send me notes like "Can you make the drums louder? Also, I feel like the guitars, bass, and vocal could be louder". At a certain point, there needs to be a better reference for what louder means. If everything is louder, then technically nothing is louder, and there's just less headroom. You can only push that so far.
What questions do you ask prospective clients?
I ask prospective clients a lot of things: their budget, what their musical vision is, who their favorite artists are and why, what their favorite records are, and what feelings they'd like to invoke with their music.
What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
Know that I'll work hard for whatever you ask me to do, but I'll have no problem asking questions, making suggestions, or countering something I think is an objectively bad idea. All in, I'll do what you ask me, but I feel like I'd be doing any client a disservice if I didn't speak-up if I think something could be done better.
If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
I guess if we're including the digital pieces, a laptop, a good interface with a lot of pre's (like the apogee ensemble), a pair of monitors, and (do I get two more?) maybe two hugely 'workhorse' mics. Like a Coles 4038 and a FET47.
What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
I've been recording bands since 2004 (not well). I eventually went to college in Nashville for Audio Engineering Technology and have been working through that entire time. One of the first real records I made was for a dorm-mate my freshman year. It sounds bad, but I still listen to it all the time.
How would you describe your style?
Maybe exaggerated. If a drum is trying to sound big, I try to make it sound monstrous. If a guitar is trying to sound thin, I'll make it emaciated.
Which artist would you like to work with and why?
Pretty much anyone on the Sargent House label.
Can you share one music production tip?
Don't be afraid to do anything in digital. Take advantage of your "undos" and learn/explore.
What type of music do you usually work on?
I've worked on a wide spread of musical genres. Most of my clients fall within the "Indie Rock" or "Singer-Songwriter" category, however I've recently started to garner a lot of Hip Hop and Pop clients as well a few in the heavier genres.
What's your strongest skill?
My strongest skill is probably my irreverence for a track or sound. Speaking again of an artist's vision, I have no problem mangling a sound however I see fit to achieve whatever sonic result they or I desire. I also have a very strong understanding of distortion and drive that I'll often use in ways that bring out sonic characteristics otherwise unavailable through traditional compression or EQ.
What do you bring to a song?
As a mixing engineer, I'd like to think that I both bring everything and nothing to a song. When a track is well-crafted, and a song is well-written, very little needs to be brought to mix other than balance, and a respect for what the song wants to do naturally. However, my approach is typically to push a song in its autonomous direction, so I suppose what I bring is a new perspective. I will do my best to meet an artist's vision, however, I have no problem bringing a mix suggestion to the table if I feel the song would be better served otherwise.
What's your typical work process?
Typically after importing audio tracks, I spent a good amount of time organizing my sessions using certain templates that I've found useful for my work-flow. I have several variations on a mix template that I'll import session data from, depending on the song. I am typically listening to a rough-bounce of the song the whole time I do this, in iTunes on repeat, to get an idea for the arrangement of the song and to connect dots between musical cues and any notes that have been sent by the client. Once my session has been set up, I typically start with a drum-vocal balance and work inward from there.
Tell us about your studio setup.
My main workflow is inside the box. I am back and forth between a few computers and new, fast laptop. I convert through a 32 Channel Antelope AD/DA, which receives from several outboard pre's I use to record here at home. I monitor through a PreSonus Monitor Station v2, and listen through a pair of Focal Twin 6be's. I use a JBL subwoofer on a C-channel to check low-end. My control room is in the basement of my home, on a non-resonant concrete slab, treated with home-made panels made with Owens-Corning 703.
What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
I am often inspired by music non-professionals. People in the DIY community who make beautiful, emotive sounding records in their basements have always charmed me, and my goal has always been to aid those musicians and producers polish their work. Outside of that, I love certain producers for their specific sound like Danger Mouse and the footprint he leaves on his work, or conversely, Steve Albini for the transparency he has with his clients in a 'documentarian' sense.
Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
Typically I've worked as a producer or mix engineer for clients (or both). The time I spend personally with my artists is more fruitfully spent honing their sound and creating a sonic vision for their project.