Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
I produced, tracked and mixed the first The Morning Sea record. Even though it's the first record I ever fully did, and it's got its little clinks throughout, I'm incredibly proud of it. It was something that was spoken about between two friends that materialized into 7 songs that brought a lot of people together. We went through pre-production for weeks just to find the right players for the core tracks on the record, figuring out the right song order, and tons of other obstacles that were met because we were that excited. That feeling of getting something done is intoxicating.
What are you working on at the moment?
I'm currently mastering two records. One is by Audio Underground from New Jersey and the other by As Seen On TV. I'm also about to start working on a hip hop record for one of New York's own.
Analog or digital and why?
Honestly, I think digital is the way to go. If I hear the words "analog warmth" one more time, I might just scream. Analog was cool to work with when it was the only thing to work with, but it was also a pain in the ass. Think about it. After you were done with a session, another band might've come in to record their record, which meant that you had to recall everything when you came back to track your songs. That alone took 4 hours to do. Then you had to align tape machines, or clean them, or align them again...you get the idea. With digital, I can bring up my session right where I left off. Plugins also sound excellent these days, and, many of the top pro mixers are now FULLY in the box. If it's good enough for engineers who work with Beyonce or the latest Broadway musical soundtrack, then it's good enough for me.
What's your 'promise' to your clients?
I promise to pour my heart and soul into your mix. I literally work on an artist's track for hours until I feel that it's doing what I think it's meant to be doing. I don't use a 'cookie-cutter' method to my mixes, so each one is it's own thing. You'll walk away with something you'll feel proud to sell at your shows.
What do you like most about your job?
I like that I get to work on many different genres of music. I've been in lots of bands over the years. Metal bands, punk bands, Americana bands...but with mixing/mastering, I get to work with just about anything. It makes the job challenging, which I find fun. I would hate to do the same thing every day, and every mix is different from the last.
What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
"Why do you charge so much?" is a common one, which always makes me laugh. I know Mix Engineers that get paid anywhere between $500 to $3000 for a song mix. One...song. My answer to this question is two-fold. One, I point out that I am providing a niche service, and two, if they want to work with someone that charges $20/mix, then they should. That's a bargain, except that anyone who's charging that little is getting a lot of tracks to mix, which means that they can't give each track the attention it needs. When I work on your music, all my focus is on that one track. One of my mixes will take 5 - 10 hours to complete, and with that amount of time, I will be able to get results that sound professional and can compete with other pro tracks.
What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
Probably the biggest misconception people have about what I do is that I just turn knobs and move faders, and they're both right and wrong. What I'm actually doing is listening to the song in detail. I like to compare what I do to photography. You're bringing me a picture, and I'm using techniques like color correction and exposure to make your photograph as amazing as possible.
What questions do you ask prospective clients?
This is a great question, because I firmly believe that working with no clients is better than working with bad clients, and believe me, they're out there. Here's a list of questions I tend to ask:
1. Are you making music for fun or to shop it to labels?
2. Do you have a steady income that will allow you to afford this?
3. Are you looking to have a single mixed or a full record done?
4. Is it easy for you to communicate your ideas when it comes to your music?
What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
You need to find someone that you can work with. Not every mix or mastering engineer is going to take your project on. We do say "no" on occasion when it doesn't feel right. If you're a hip hop artist, find someone who's generally into the same sound you're into, or can produce the sound you're looking for. Also, don't work with someone who charges by the hour. They will never be able to give you a direct approximation for the cost of your record. I charge a flat fee to keep it simple.
If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
Only five pieces? That's simple. I would take my Macbook Pro, a pair of Sony MDR7506s, a Focusrite Scarlett 6i6, a pair of Adam A7X monitors, and the Fat Bustard by Culture Vulture. The Fat Bustard sounds SICK!
What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
I started out my mixing career at a Brooklyn studio called Shabby Road. The owner, Roger Greenawalt (Ben Kweller, No Doubt, Bruce Springsteen, The Pierces), was looking for an intern to help out in the studio, so I went to meet with him and got the job that same day. I spent the following year and a half at the studio, sitting in on sessions and driving the board as well. I felt that there were still things I needed to learn, so I put myself through audio school. Seven years later has found me working with bands in both Europe and The States, playing on the latest The Morning Sea record, and successfully running my own business, TL Audio Mixing & Mastering.
How would you describe your style?
I'm all about warmth when it comes to my tracks. Fat bottoms, delays, and very little reverb. I think I have a modern sound with a bit of analog noise thrown into the mix.
Which artist would you like to work with and why?
I would drop most anything to work with Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros. I fell in love with their album Up From Below simply because each track is its own baby, but they all get along so well together. Kevin Augunas did a great job of mixing that record.
Can you share one music production tip?
Get it right at the source! If you're tracking yourself, be incredibly mindful of where you're placing your microphone in your room, because your mic is essentially an EQ that's used right from the start. If you're too close to the mic, proximity effect will make your recorded sound boomy. Too far and you get most of the room. If your mic is facing a guitar and a closed window, guess what? You're going to get outside sounds blended with your guitar track. Try different mic spots when tracking, and get the sound you're looking for from the start. It makes the end result SO much better, and it's easier to work with. Never say, "We can fix it in the mix." That way of thinking will hurt your record.
What type of music do you usually work on?
I usually work on rock music. I myself come from a rock and roll background, so I love mixing guitars, bass, and drums. I've also been given electronic tracks to mix, which I really enjoy. I produced a track for a band called Loving You that started as a vocal/cello track, but by the end of the mixing process, I had added synth bass, strings, and extra guitar parts. That track is going to be released soon on their upcoming record.
What's your strongest skill?
My strongest skill is my Music Producer's approach to both mixing and mastering. I know the tech side of it all, but I choose to mix my tracks so that they move people. Anyone can memorize settings for plugins or frequency response graphs, but it takes a musician with a true musician's ear to be able to understand where the artist is coming from, and make it even better.
What do you bring to a song?
I bring balance with a keen sense of musicality and emotion to the song. Most mixing engineers that I've had the pleasure of meeting who have heard my tracks tell me that they sound big, fat, warm, and balanced. I'm also not afraid to record a part for the song if I feel it absolutely needs it. It's never anything distracting, more like a piano to go under the bass, or an octave guitar part that I feel will bring out another part better if it's blended in. It's these minor additions that make me valuable to a mix because I'm approaching the song like the extra member of your band. If you don't like it, it's gone. If you do, cool!
What's your typical work process?
When I receive tracks for mixing, I generally spend about 20-45 minutes just listening to the track that will become the album's single from start to finish. I'll take notes on things that I feel the track needs on a technical level. More importantly, I'm looking for ways to bring emotion out of the song. Once I've figured out what the song needs, I get to work. After I've gotten the track to where I think it needs to be, I send it to my client for revision. If they like it, I'll then ask if they'd like me to create a template of the track to use for the rest of the record. This is for cohesion purposes.
Tell us about your studio setup.
My studio is fully in the box. I haven't really seen the need to work on a big console unless I'm tracking a band, in which case I'll usually find myself working on an SSL, Neve, or Mackie 8Bus. I use Waves plugins as well as McDSP, Slate, izotope, and stock Pro Tools plugins. I also have a Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 for remote recording.
What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
My favorite engineers are the ones that can tackle all genres without breaking a sweat. I'm currently into Frank Filipetti (Korn, Elton John, Foreigner), Stu White (Beyonce, Nicky Minaj), and Music Producer Tony Visconti (David Bowie, T Rex, Coheed & Cambria).
Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
Probably what I'm most asked to do is mix full tracks for my clients. Whether it's rock, metal, punk or electronic, I get in there and sculpt the best possible song I can from what I'm given. I'm also consistently asked to play on the tracks I work on, as I can play guitar, bass, drums, and synth.