Mike Hallenbeck

Mix engineer

Mike Hallenbeck on SoundBetter

If your work is a bit off the beaten path, if you have a singular vision that's maybe a little quirky/ unusual, and if you're motivated by passion and collaboration, but are responsible and committed, I want to work with you. Some music I've mixed: https://soundcloud.com/coolcataudio/sets/musicmix-samples

I've composed, arranged, edited and mixed on a wide variety of music projects, whether meant for plain old listening pleasure or crafted for such diverse destinations as film, animation, advertising, games, and multimedia.

Whether your music is destined for CD, a streaming platform, a film, a production music library, or just your fans’ earbuds, I'm here to shape it to match your vision. Please get in touch, and let's make something awesome together.

Contact me through the green button above and let's get to work.

Interview with Mike Hallenbeck

  1. Q: What are you working on at the moment?

  2. A: As of this writing I'm ramping up for a podcast put together by the artistic director of an experimental performance company. The scripts, to be articulated via voiceover, will describe performances that literally could not be executed in real life. The underscoring will take the form of integrated naturalistic backgrounds and elegaic original music, which i'll be composing. The possibilities are endless. Really psyched for this project.

  3. Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?

  4. A: This is probably the most important question in this interview. Look for someone who prioritizes your vision, and what it is you want your music to do and be. Someone who "gets" what you're doing, and knows how to make it happen. Beware the engineer who tries to dazzle you with their gear list. I mean, if they insist on doing that, try and suss out some way to figure out if they know how to use it. If they do, great. But that still lands you back at square one: do they understand your music, and are they the right person to steward it?

  5. Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?

  6. A: I'm not sure what anyone hopes to learn from this question. Seriously, who cares? I mean, I'll take my two ears and my skills. And some music to listen to. The rest is gravy.

  7. Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?

  8. A: My story is as tedious as it is hackneyed. I played in bands for a long time, became the guy who accumulated the gear to make a demo whenever a demo needed to be made, watched and learned from the folks who engineered the albums I played on, started making my own albums, decided I could do work for other people, set out to start my own business doing just that, and here we are. I currently run a sound house called Cool Cat Audio, where I indulge in pretty much every kind of noisemaking task there is.

  9. Q: How would you describe your style?

  10. A: I would describe it as a filtering of your style. If I had to choose a single word, I'd choose "empathetic". In case that's a cop-out... If a client wants something clean, neat, and tidy, I'm happy to provide that. But when left to my own devices, I like to try pushing things a bit past where they're "supposed to be", just to see f there's something to be found there... many times there isn't, but sometimes you can find that special little niche just by doing something a little bit "wrong", since nobody else will be thinking to look there. Rules made to be broken, etc.

  11. Q: What's your typical work process?

  12. A: First of all, I want to get to you know you, your music, and your vision a little bit. I hope you'll be willing to meet up in person somehow, either in real life or via Zoom. If you don't want to do that, we don't have to. But it'd help! I want to make sure I can attain the intimacy with your material to the point where I can deliver the mix you're looking for. I'll send you a template of exactly what I need in terms of stems. You'll cancel all reverbs, dynamics processing, EQ, etc before you export. And I'll take it from there. I hope you'll also send a rough mix, and if you want to send a set of "wet" stems that you've already processed, that might be helpful too. We'll go into this in more detail. Every project is a little different, so we'll discuss.

  13. Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?

  14. A: As of this writing I'm ramping up for a podcast put together by the artistic director of an experimental performance company. The scripts, to be articulated via voiceover, will describe performances that literally could not be executed in real life. The underscoring will take the form of integrated naturalistic backgrounds and elegaic original music, which i'll be composing. The possibilities are endless. Really psyched for this project.

  15. Q: Analog or digital and why?

  16. A: I hate them both. Haha.

  17. Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?

  18. A: I will show up, and I will honor my commitment to realize your vision.

  19. Q: Tell us about your studio setup.

  20. A: I'm wary of the whole gear discussion, to be honest. What matters is the skill set. Suffice to say that I've amassed the gear I need to get the job done, and that my most valuable tools are 1) my ability to listen, and 2) the experience set needed to act on what's there to coax out the most pleasing sound possible. I think translation is really impotant, so a major part of my process is listening back on as many systems as I can, from the highest fidelity available to the crappiest phone speaker. That's a crucial part of the process. (And by the way: whether you hire me or anyone else, my advice to you is that if someone thinks you should hire them just because they have this or that piece of gear, that's a red flag imo. A good mixer is a good mixer. It's the skills that count, not a certain rack unit or plug-in. Seriously.)

  21. Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.

  22. A: I'm well versed in a variety of processes, from editing to comping to final mix. Every project is different; I'm curious to hear what your particular needs are.

  23. Q: What do you like most about your job?

  24. A: I'm incredibly lucky to be able to do something I love, and grateful for the opportunity. My favorite aspect is the opportunity to have conversations-- both literal and figurative-- with other creative people, to collaborate on something that's greater than the sum of its parts, something that's better than it would be if we were only working by ourselves.

  25. Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?

  26. A: That's up to you. What questions do you have? I'm looking forward to answering them.

  27. Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?

  28. A: That I can make bad music good. I can make things sound better than they sounded before. But the true quality of music comes from the writer and performers. When I listen to recordings of Ma Rainey or Sister Rosetta Tharpe, I'm not sitting there thinking "Wow, the fidelity on this is just perfect, and that's why I'm checking this out." I'm listening to it because the songs, the performance, and the passion blow me away. The production stewards the music quite well, and when production can "get involved" and do "cool stuff" in a mix, that's great, but none of that means anything if the music isn't worthwhile in the first place. John Lennon's solo acoustic demo of "Strawberry Fields Forever" is just as moving to me as the finished piece, and I love them both dearly. But the inspired composition and passionate performance is what drives the song, despite how one chooses to present it.

  29. Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?

  30. A: What's your story? Where have you been, and where are you going? What are your goals? What's your objective for these recordings? Which artists have inspired you, and which recordings would you like yours to sound like? What do you feel like you've mastered, and what do you feel like you need help with? What do you want me to explore, and what do you want me to leave alone?

  31. Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?

  32. A: Joe Meek. Just to see how he did it.

  33. Q: Can you share one music production tip?

  34. A: Sure! Approach EQ as more of a subtractive process than an additive one. How's that?

  35. Q: What type of music do you usually work on?

  36. A: That's a difficult question to answer, since my work has traversed so many genres. I suppose I can answer the question in reverse by saying that what I *don't* usually work on music that's intended for the pop-chart rat race. My projects are usually a bit more niche than that, more vision-specific. Having said that, I suppose what a lot of my work has in common is that it's somehow functional-- much of it is intended for a film score, or a game, or a production music library, or a dance production. So it comes back to an understanding of intent as far as that goes, and that ties back to internalizing the vision of the original creator/ composer.

  37. Q: What's your strongest skill?

  38. A: I hope my strongest skill is aesthetic empathy-- the ability to understand your vision, and to help you articulate it. That's what I'm here for.

  39. Q: What do you bring to a song?

  40. A: My aim is to download your vision into my own consciousness, add my own skill set to the process, and take your music where you want it to go. Back when I hired people to mix my music, I looked for someone who understood what I was trying to do, and knew how to take it further. That's what I hope to bring to your project.

  41. Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?

  42. A: As far as current artists: St Vincent, The Flaming Lips, Janelle Monae, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Metric, Nick Cave, Apollo Sunshine, Mogwai, Odesza, Lizzo. All-time, as far as sound goes: Bowie, Neil Young, Prince, Joy Division, The Beatles, Public Enemy ("Fear of a Black Planet", specifically), Pink Floyd, Butthole Surfers.

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Gear Highlights
  • Mostly in the box. DAW: Nuendo. Plug-ins: plenty of izotope
  • Waves
  • and Valhalla. Lots of cables
  • black boxes
  • and blinking lights.
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