I am a reggae instrumentalist and engineer for hire. I've spent 20 years specializing in roots Jamaican styles of ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub, and lovers rock. I'm available to you for all elements of production: session bass, guitar, keyboards player, mixing, mastering, dub version mixing, drum editing and production.
Reggae is my occupation - I perform reggae music around the world and produce my own releases (as Wise Owl) as well as music by Penny Reel, Black Market, Smoke & Mirrors Soundsystem, Rian Basilio and The Roosters, and my services are available to you.
Tell me about your project and how I can help, through the 'Contact' button above.
Interview with Brandon "Wise Owl" Niznik
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: I'm currently working as a session player on upcoming releases from Black Market and Smoke & Mirrors Soundsystem, and producing a series of reggae versions of classic songs called "Wise Owl Sings His Favorites".
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: Brian Wallace is a consummate professional and has been my mentor throughout my career.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: For me, it's bookends: the *first* and *last* stages should be analog. When recording inputs and "getting the sound" of the instruments, that's analog. The last stage of outputting the mix to tape and mastering is analog. Everything in between -- editing, mixing, shaping, blending of parts together -- is digital.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: I promise you will get the same level of quality from me that I give to my own music. Why? Because my tracks in your songs ARE my music!
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: There's something really special to me about listening to the finished product on a streaming platform after it's been released while I'm grocery shopping. In that moment, I'm completely happy with myself.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: They ask me what parts of the song I can hear myself playing or replacing (the bass, piano, organ, guitar, etc.) and I always say "all of it!"
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: The biggest misconception is that reggae is simple, or easy to play. The second biggest misconception is that any musician can play it. The truth is that it's easy to make weak, inauthentic, groove-less reggae, and there is a lot of it out there. Don't be one of those artists who is putting more watered-down versions of culturally rich music in the world. The real sound requires human beings who have spent years getting the authentic nuances into their bones.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: How did you come to be working on this project? Is this a style of music that you've got a lot of background in? Is it a style that you're still learning about? What aspect(s) of the finished product is it that you're looking for another person to bring? What part(s) of the finished product is it that you think need to come from someone else, i.e., it isn't going to come from you? What part(s) of your vision for the project are currently missing, lacking, or aren't there yet? What track(s) inspired you to go for this kind of vibe/sound?
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Speak or message with the vendor first, and see if you can tell if you've found a person that can personally "get" your vision of your project prior to beginning work. All the vendors are outstanding professionals and good, eager people. However, not every one of us will really "get" the spirit behind each artist's individual project.
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I've made my living exclusively as an audio engineer and musician for 15 years, from the age of 20. I started out at the largest rehearsal studio in the US, and mixed and worked with people like Stevie Wonder and Prince. I got to get acclimated to that environment of making music at the highest level of integrity.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: A modern, progressive sound that knows its history.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: I'd like to work with whoever mixes for the New Zealand reggae bands Katchafire and Black Seeds. They have some secret of getting 10% more fatness that I want to see!
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: There is no shame in using presets, young grasshopper.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: Reggae, dub, ska, rocksteady, and lovers rock.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: Writing authentic reggae basslines that fit and complement the melody.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: I bring an authentic and three-dimensional Jamaican feel to your music. After two decades of playing alongside great reggae musicians, I'm able bring that rare depth of authenticity that cannot be imitated.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: I will bring the tracks of your songs into my DAW and begin with a few listen throughs, at first without taking notes, then while jotting down any early inspirations or ideas that stand out. I will be in communication with you throughout the early stages, asking you questions until I'm sure that I'm confident that we are both sharing an understanding on what is wanted for each song. Next, I'll quickly learn all the OTHER parts of the song so that I can clearly see where my part belongs, and where I should stay out. I'll record tracks while checking them for how they sit in a temp mix. After I'm satisfied with the quality of my tracks, I'll send them to you and guarantee at least one round of changes without charge.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: I use the DAW Reaper, and all my inputs go through my high-quality Allen & Heath console. I use real spring reverb and real tape delay for a classic, authentic sound.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: I'm inspired by the great Jamaican session players like Flabba Holt, Robbie Shakespeare, Family Man Barrett, Leroy Sibbles, and others. As I was growing up, I was greatly influenced by legends of the Los Angeles reggae scene like Brian Dixon, J Bonner, Chris Murray, Scott Abels, and others. In terms of engineering, mixing, and production, I'm inspired by the great dub engineers like King Tubby, Lee Perry, and Scientist.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: My clients are most often people who hire me to play the bass, guitar, and/or keyboard parts on their reggae music they are producing and releasing.