Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
I was Eddie Kramer's engineer on Festival Express, a concert film featuring Janis Joplin, The Band, Grateful Dead, and many others. Not only did Eddie do most of the records that got me into music, but some of the tapes hadn't been listened to in 30 years. We were working with a piece of history. The first time I saw it aside from in a control room with the small handful of us, was when it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival with an audience of about 1500. When I saw the reaction of the audience - cheering for each song like they were there at the concert - I knew we did it justice.
Analog or digital and why?
They're different beasts and each have their advantages and disadvantages. I like to embrace both.
What do you like most about your job?
Every project is different. Different clients, different challenges, different genres, different experiences.
And being a critical part of someone else's art. Mixing is a huge creative outlet for me but it's not my record, it's the artist's record. It's my gig to make what the artist hears in their head (or better) come out of the speakers. That's a pretty cool thing to do. My favorite moment is presenting a finished mix and seeing them moving to it as they listen, then I know I've done my job.
What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
When you have someone in mind to mix or produce, talk to them. Reach out. Sometimes there's a misconception that people are either affordable or wouldn't be interested or too busy to take something on. In most cases that's not true. If both sides want to make a project happen, there's always a way to make it happen.
That, and go with your gut. It's always right. If you get a bad feeling from someone, exit stage left. Ask around about them.
What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
Am I pronouncing your name right? haha. It's a silent Z.
What questions do you ask prospective clients?
Before anything else, I want to hear the songs. Everything else can be sorted out....where we're doing it, what the budget is, what's the time frame. But I have to know that I can add something to it. If I'm not the guy for a particular project, I don't take it on.
What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
Professionally for 17 years. I got my start at Metalworks Studios in Toronto, and worked my way to Chief Engineer before going freelance in 2006. It was a great way to start, making real albums with some of the top musicians and producers in the world.
Which artist would you like to work with and why?
I have my wish list, but I keep that quiet as to not jinx anything...
What type of music do you usually work on?
I'm quite fortunate in that I get to work in all genres. I do a lot of work with rock acts and singer/songwriters. A lot of country. Jazz. Hophop. Metal. Name it, I've done it. Having got my start as a staff engineer in a major studio, every project through the door was something different. I got used to that fast. And I'm sure that was part of the draw for the clients, knowing you could throw anything at us and we'd knock it out of the park. Now that I'm freelance it's a great thing to be able to offer, having been working my whole career in different genres. It keeps things fresh for me and lets me bring all kinds of different perspectives to projects.
What's your strongest skill?
Bringing dynamics to a mix. I get really in depth automating. For me, that's how a mix breaths and feels alive, how it get it to take the listener on a journey.
What's your typical work process?
The first thing I do is listen to song. Get a sense of it as a whole. If there's a rough mix that can show me an idea of the general vibe the artist had while tracking, I'll take a listen to that. If not, I'll just put all the faders up real quick and listen to the song down. Just to get an overall picture with everything in before I start.
Then I'll start with the rhythm section. Get them roughed in, and soon after the vocal. I want to make sure that everything going on other tracks works with the vocal as I'm working them into the mix. Then I'll start working in any other tracks, and then just keeping going back at the whole thing, massaging it until everything sits just right.
Tell us about your studio setup.
The centerpiece is a Solid State Logic Sigma with a G series bus compressor. It's incredible. I cut my teeth as a mixer on SSL's, and being able to offer that same sound my own studio has been game changing. Compared to mixing strickly in the box, there's more presence, tighter bottom end, more open top end, and that SSL meat that's legendary. Plus with the small form of the Sigma, recalls are instant and very easy to deal with.
I'm running Protools HD 12 and 10, with a UAD Apollo 16 and 2 quad satellites (giving me 12 cores), with the complete UAD and SSL Duende suites of plugins. I also have an API 5500 stereo eq, Apogee Rosetta AD, Vintech X73's, Lexicon PCM 60, Roland SDE1000, a couple Yamaha SPX90's and DBX160x's.
The room is treated by Primacoustic and translates very well.
UAD, SSL, and Primacoustic have been very good to me.
What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
I'm inspired by everyone who makes interesting records. In any genre. People who push limits and break new ground and the first time you hear their music you think WTF is this!?!?
Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
I engineer and produce a fair bit, but I spend most of my time mixing. That's always been my favorite part of making an album. For me, it's when an record really starts to feel alive. You have these things that have been recorded, and know they have to come together. I like to think of it as part jigsaw puzzle, part canvas for me to paint on.