Mix Engineer, Session Musician
I'm a Musician & Producer working out of two studios in Belfast. One is Sonder Sound, built by myself and Aaron Black from my band R51, I'm also a freelancer at Start Together Studios. We've worked with lots of artists in Ireland & the UK both in person and remotely, our work has reached Radio 1, as wells being featured in TV across the world.
I've been really lucky to have worked with awesome artists to make some great tracks. Our band's love for dream pop and shoegaze has caused us to hoard Vintage guitar cabs, amps, pedals, tape delays and even the odd 60's Fender and Teisco guitars. We mix on an AMEK-Neve Scorpion ii 32:4:8 console with Avalon, TL Audio and other gnarly outboard stuff.
Our love for Alternative Rock has caused us to be fans of real, live drums, bleed, roominess and to honour both denseness and dryness when its FOR THE SONG.
We don't hyper-sample, we don't fuck about with pretend drum sounds, and we are always about the song.
I'd love to hear about your project. Click the 'Contact' button above to get in touch.
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Interview with Jonny Woods
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: I wrote, recorded and mixed "Pillow Talk" and "No Chill" EPs by R51. I'm immensely proud of what we made.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: Tom rolls for a film. New R51 (I always am). Possibly a new Pinner record.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Both because we spent 50 years trying to get rid of noise and now everyone wants it back in.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: I won't fuck you about, and I will be honest.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Finished products being pumped through speakers really loud.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: Q: Can you quantise my drums? A: Yes but I'd rather not Q: Can you put this sample on my snare? A: Yes but I won't do it.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: That I am really picky or finicky about really polished production or hi-fi. I don't really like to talk tech too much and most certainly its not an artists job to worry about what EQ or compressor I'm using. I'm much more interested in the song.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: What do you want to come from this project? Where were you in your head when you wrote this stuff? What do you want to say in how this is presented?
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: For mixing: I'm perfect if you have tracked something somewhere but the mixes are getting a little false and sterile. I'll inject life back into them. If you and/or your band are just starting out and have tracked some lo-fi stuff you love but needs polished and balanced, with the chaff cut out, I'm your man. For producing: If you and your band are on fire in rehearsals and can play amazingly, I can track you being you, and craft it into something awesome in stereo. If you have written a banger of a pop song that has all sorts of live and electronic stuff combined, I can glue them together pretty well.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: Food, water, a phone, and a ticket home because being outside is shit.
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I started out recording to cassette tape in my early teens. I put cardboard over the erase head of my grandmother's tape deck on her hi-fi and overdubbed guitar parts until I wore out tape. I started a punk band that turned into silly shred metal, all of which I recorded on Sony Acid pro on windows xp. I met some amazing people and started a band called R51 and made really arty and lush pop songs that had crazy fuzz guitars and we toured the UK and Ireland. To date we've played Reading and Leeds festivals, we were broadcast live worldwide at a sold out show at The Ulster Hall on a celebration of a BBC radio show in Ireland. We've released two EP's and two Singles and Supposed Feeder, Soak, Divine Comedy, Therapy, Lonely the Brave, among many. Aaron and I from R51 started a recording studio in a space we rent in a mill, where we recorded everything that caused our band to do the cool stuff we did. Arguably i've been recording bands for 15 years but I was only an adult for 10 of those.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Lush and a bit ugly. Lots of character and a bit brave.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: There are more than I can say.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: No replacement snares.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: Alternative Rock, Gaze, Dreampop and some Electronic. I'm really interested to work with Hip Hop artists and I'm convinced I could put together a ballsy Metal album given the right band willing to not sound like the shitty modern metal that gets palmed off on us.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: I think I have a good ear, I'm confident in my mixes, but I'm a far better guitarist and i'll be pretty attentive to guitar sounds and pitches as a result.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: Contrary to what some critics have said in reviews about my work, although my work sounds pretty polished and "well produced" i'm far more interested in the song and less about production. I'm pretty straight talking and I've been in the position of having songs that just don't feel right and nobody is able to say what it is, I'll have a pretty good stab at pointing it out and fixing it. However, If someone in your band isn't playing for the song I will tell you. I won't fuck you around with putting in pretend noises like fake snares and MIDI. You as an artist are having a snapshot taken of you at this point in your career and it has to be a real one, people can see through it if its fabricated to look better than it is.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: For mixes, I'd like to have a proper conversation with the artist. From an inspiration standpoint as well as what their tracking workflow was. I then do digital reference mixes, where I'll mix entirely "in the box" - if the artist digs it, it goes through the desk in stereo pairs where i'll add a little icing to the EQ and balance, then I have Mastering engineers I recommend an artist moves on to. I fundamentally believe that a mix engineer should avoid mastering a project as they are too close. I can master, but generally believe its a job/speciality in itself.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: I work 50/50 analogue/digital. I have a 1989 Amek console that I do most projects on, both live tracking at the studio and mixing. Not having recall, I tend to have to do a lot of note-taking of where things are at, and so alternatively I am a freelancer at Start Together where I have access to an SSL G4032G with recall that makes life easier. I generally spend most days at the studio doing *something* - as noted above, I do lots of varying jobs there and my setup is very versatile. It's a massive room with massive amps and I can make it sound as such.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: Alan Moulder, Flood are two producers and mixers that I have mountains of respect for. I'm a big fan of The Smashing Pumpkins, as well as MBV. Am a very big fan of Deafheaven but I love a lot of Hip Hop and am a big Beastie Boys fan as well as old school Sabbath.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Mostly Mixing, but only just. I spend a healthy part of my day also tracking and producing bands that I like, as well as recording as a session player on instruments i'm good at for other musicians sync and releases. (I'm mainly a guitarist but am a decent drummer, too.