Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
Definitely. Ken "Pooch" Van Druten is fantastic. I know Pooch through his live sound work, but he is equally adept in the studio. You'd be hard pressed to find a nicer and more talented guy. Yoad Nevo is another. I don't know him personally, but his work speaks for itself.
Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
There are too many to pick just one. I really enjoy the new William Wild EP, Steady Now that I mixed. Great songs and heartfelt performances. I also mixed a record by a band from Philadelphia called The Lawsuits that's just killer. Super fun stuff and I think it came out sounding really nice. Ugh, there's just too many.
What are you working on at the moment?
I just wrapped up a new album by Seattle band, Duke Evers. I'm really proud of the way it came out and am anxious for people to hear it.
Analog or digital and why?
Why not both! They are both just tools at my disposal, each has their strengths and weaknesses. I use both freely and wouldn't want to be limited to either one. My motto is, "If it sounds good, it is good.".
What's your 'promise' to your clients?
To always treat their music with the same care and attention that they do. I treat it as if it was my own and never cut corners or rush through the process. I approach each mix to make it the best I've ever done, regardless if it's for a major national act, or an artist just starting out with their first recording.
What do you like most about your job?
I love music, and I love being able to use my experience and skill to help musicians see the vision of their art through to completion. Mixing is the stage where you really get to hear what all of your hard work and dedication to a project has lead to, and I take great pride in being a part of that process.
What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
I often get asked if I also do Mastering. Although I can certainly "fake" a master with plugins and limiters, I am by no means a Mastering Engineer, and prefer not to even attempt it. I always encourage my clients to get their mixes professionally mastered. In my experience, it is an invaluable part of the process that adds that finishing touch that can take a great song and a great mix to another level.
What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
That I can make any song sound like any other song. Each song, recording, and production is unique, and created under unique circumstances. The mix should reflect that and serve that individual song. I think references are really important, and a great starting place to get everyone on the same page. But, I think if you try too hard to make your mix sound like something else, you can loose what makes it unique and special in itself.
What questions do you ask prospective clients?
Some general questions would be, "What is your vision for this song?", "Tell me a little about the process of making it?", "What other things in your genre do you really like the sound of?", "What is currently working or not working for you in the song at this point?", "What are some of your influences?".
Usually a few questions in that direction will open up the conversation so I can get get a solid picture of what the artist is looking for and how I can help them get there.
What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
I think there are two really important things to do when hiring a mixer. First and foremost, is listen to their work. Find or ask for examples of things that are similar to your style. Listen to as much as you can to get a feel for their approach. And second, have a conversation with them. You should be able to tell in a 10 minute conversation if they are the right person for the job. They should understand your vision and be easy to communicate with.
If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
Hmm, tough one. Probably the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor, Great River EQ-2NV, Retro 176, Retro 2A3 EQ, and my Neumann 120a Monitors.
What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
I started out as an intern and eventually assistant at Memphis's House Of Blues studio in about 1998. It was a great place to cut my teeth. It was pre Pro Tools, so it was all tape there. It was a real education in traditional recording of real musicians playing together. I moved to Los Angeles in 2000 and got a job as an assistant at The Record Plant. This is where I really got a serious education working with some of the biggest names in audio. By 2003 I was working as an independent engineer in L.A. working with artists like Eminem, Missy Elliot, and Kanye West. I spent two years working for famed Japanese Producer Tetsuya Komuro travelling the world mixing several number one records for his Sony imprint label. I spent some time as Pro Tools operator for Grammy award winning mixer Ed Cherney working on several surround sound DVD packages for The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac and The Doobie Brothers. I also did about a dozen projects recording and mixing the exclusive iTunes Sessions Live for artists like Ray Lamontagne, Norah Jones, The Pretenders, The Shins, Fanfarlo and many more. I took some time off in 2008 to spend some time on the road as lead guitarist for Billy Bob Thornton's band, The Boxmasters. In 2010 I relocated to San Diego, where I tapped into the budding local music scene. In 2012 I helped build The Lost Ark Studio, which is my home base. We launched the Lost Ark Studio Compilation Series where we invited nearly 100 bands to come record a song for free that I would then mix and release online. In 2015, I helped launch Randm Records, an independent record label focusing on great emerging talent and artist development.
How would you describe your style?
I would say I take an organic approach to mixing records. I want it to sound larger than life and have a big impact, but I still want it to remain sounding like real people making real music. In the end I don't want the listener to hear the mix, I want them to hear the song and have an emotional reaction to it.
Which artist would you like to work with and why?
Oh, there are too many to pick just one! I would love to mix a Jason Isbell record. I love his songwriting and there is such an honesty in the performances on his records. There are a bunch of artists I feel that way about.
Can you share one music production tip?
The most important thing for me to remember when I'm working on something is to always try to serve the song. Sometimes it's super fun to put on 10 guitar overdubs and layer stacks of vocals, but I always ask myself, "Does this serve the song, or is it just serving me in this moment?"
What type of music do you usually work on?
I listen to and have worked on all types of music, but primarily I work on Americana, Indie, Country, Blues, Bluegrass, and Rock.
What's your strongest skill?
I think any mixers strongest skill should be strong communication with the artists. It takes a tremendous amount of trust for an artist to hand over their art to someone, and without proper communication, that trust can't be there.
What do you bring to a song?
I really try to find the heart of the song. The place where the most impact and emotion is coming from, and build the track from there. I work to preserve the dynamics and nuances while still having plenty power and energy. I try to let the song and material dictate where it wants to go and never paint every song with the same brush. I want what is unique and special about each song shine through.
What's your typical work process?
First thing is too start with a conversation with the artist about what they are looking for. We might talk about a specific direction or influences or references from other songs. We may get specific about effects, etc. and if there is a rough mix, I'll listen to that to get a perspective of where it should go. Once I get a feel for what they are looking for I'll dive into the mix. Typically I mix a song in a day. Once I feel I've got in to a place I'm happy with, I'll send it to the artist to get their feedback. If I'm on the right track, I'll do revisions based on the artists notes and deliver final mix versions once the artist is completely happy.
Tell us about your studio setup.
I am incredibly fortunate to call The Lost Ark Studio my home base. It has an amazing collection of vintage and modern analog gear with a workhorse 32 channel Pro Tools 12 system with Lynx Aurora converters and just about every plugin under the sun. An SSL Matrix is at the heart of the studio to handle summing and DAW control. Some of my favorite outboard gear for mixing includes a Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor, API 2500 Compressor, Retro 2a3 Stereo tube EQ, and a Mara Machines 1/4" two track for certain types of mixdown. There's also an MCI JH24 2" tape machine that I will sometimes use to transfer tracks from Pro Tools and back to add a bit of tape saturation and warmth to certain tracks.
What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
So many! I am really inspired by anything that evokes a feeling or energy. I'm a huge fan of producers like T-Bone Burnett and mixers like Tchad Blake for their innovative approach to making records. I also really like the work of the new breed of producers like Dave Cobb and Blake Mills.
Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
I have experience as a producer and tracking engineer, but my primary focus is on mixing.