Grammy nominated Mix Engineer with thousands of hours practicing my craft professionally. Specializing in every genre of sound!
Mike "Pizza" Piazza is a Grammy nominated Nashville-based mix engineer currently working with Claude Kelly and Chuck Harmony as their personal engineer, working with some of the biggest names in pop and R&B (Olly Murs, Ledisi, Daughtry). He currently does all recording and mixing for both major label and independent projects associated with the two.
Mike started his career at KMA Studios in NYC, a commercial facility located in the legendary Brill Building. His time there earned him credits with a wide variety of artists, as well as an extremely valuable learning experience. During his early days, Mike had the opportunity to assist and apprentice some of the industries best engineers; getting the real world experience that would eventually shape his workflow and engineering techniques put into practice today.
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Interview with Mike "Pizza" Piazza
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: I recently recorded and mixed LeAndria Johnson's latest album "Bigger Than Me", which has been nominated for Best Gospel Album at the 2018 Grammys.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: Many different projects, both major and independent.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Combination of the two. I use whatever is needed to get the job done. Analog vs digital does not matter to me if I'm looking for a specific tool to do a job. I generally sum in Pro Tools to allow for quick and easy recalls. I frequently rent gear locally from Blackbird Audio Rentals if there's a sound I need.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: I bring the song to life as you hear it. It's your baby, not mine, and I do whatever it takes to make sure you leave with what you hear in your head. If it's sad, I make sure the listener cries. If there's energy, I bring a some more to the table. My service isn't provided until you're happy.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Everyday is different. It makes it hard to consider it a "job" (even though it is!)
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: "How did you get it so sound like that!?" My answer is generally - "I just slightly enhanced what you gave me, the hard work was done when I got the files!"
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: I'm no longer producing. People outside of the industry think I make the music. What I do is mix; I take what's given to me and bring it to life, while making sure it (technically) will sound consistent over other sound systems.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: Turn around time? Do you have a rough mix or something else I should be listening to? Tell me, in general, about this record- your feelings, thoughts, process, anything that could help me understand and listen to it from the same perspective you're hearing it.
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Communication is key. Generally after the first song or two, I'll have a professional relationship with you which will allow me to understand what you're looking for quicker. I use the rough mix as a guide but nothing is more important than hearing how a song makes you feel.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: Mac Pro, HDX Rig (with chasis,) Ilok, UAD Card, PMC speakers
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I started my career at KMA Studios in Times Square, which brought in some of the greatest names in music. My time here not only gave me credits with the amazing artists, but also an extremely valuable learning experience. During my early (sleep at the studio for a week days) I had the opportunity to assist and apprentice some of the industries best engineers, getting the real world experience that would eventually shape my workflow and engineering techniques I use today. In total I've been working for about 9 years.
Q: How would you describe your style?
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: I've worked with a lot of amazingly talented artists. Honestly what get's me excited today is getting music from somebody who hasn't had their chance yet but has something special.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Less is generally better.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: I get to work on different music everyday. At one point I was working on Ludacris, LeAndria Johnson, and K.Michelle at the same time, while also taking country sessions in Nashville. My goal was to be a versatile engineer. I'm very fortunate to not only have started my career in a commercial facility, but also currently work for Claude Kelly and Chuck Harmony who are known for their skills creating across genres.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: My taste. Everybody can EQ and Compress, its knowing when not to.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: Life. Energy. Excitement. Width. Whatever is lacking!
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: In a nutshell, I listen to the rough, which I rename to REF since this is typically my instruction booklet. Once I understand what the producer was going for, I work on balancing levels before diving into manipulating sounds, as I don't like to turn knobs before I know what's going on. Once I'm confident I know the song I go to work and do whatever feels right first. There's no rules for me. Every song is different so the mix process for each should be as well.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: My tracking and mix room is located in Nashville, TN. Equipped with PMC IB2S main speakers, Dynaudio BM15a, and NS10 studio monitors. The room's revolves around a Toft ATB console (primarily used for recording) and a Pro Tools HDX rig, with an isolated live room next door. The live room, consisting of two pianos, a B3 Hammond, drum set, and movable gobos can be configured for any setup. An old house-turned into office/studio, it's been a place many major and independent artists can come to and consider a " private home away from home".
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: My peers (other engineers) in the industry.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Recording, Mixing, Vocal production (comping, editing, tuning)