Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
I had a lot of fun producing and engineering Lukas Grant's "Apartment 43". The album was on a very tight budget, so we had to be creative about where Lukas was going to see the most impact for his money. We did drums in a living room, Lukas recorded many of his own guitars, and I bused back and forth to his home studio to help with production and arrangements. I then mixed and mastered the record in Montréal. For an album that was pieced together in so many locations with so many contributors, we ended up with a really great sounding final product.
What are you working on at the moment?
Just finished up piano for a new EP by Eleanore Altman. The rest of the sessions should unfold over the summer. Continuing to compose instrumental music for licensing placements.
Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
If Josh Mosser or Jay Ruston are on the site, absolutely!
Analog or digital and why?
There is really no right answer to this question. A good engineer can make you a great recording on either. Analogue equipment contributes a very specific character to audio, but we know how this character happens. It's no longer a mystery, and there are excellent pieces of software to provide these kinds of character manipulations. I've recorded extensively on both, and I would challenge any of my clients to listen to the results and pick out which projects were all analogue, all digital, or a hybrid.
What's your 'promise' to your clients?
I will be the best price point to quality ratio you will find in an affordable home studio. My mixing and mastering work competes with large commercial studios costing many times as much. And you won't find another engineer with my musical expertise.
What do you like most about your job?
The ability to meet and interact with musicians from around the world. The satisfaction of taking a client's song from a skeletal demo to a fully realized arrangement.
What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
Usually simple questions about time management and budgeting. I always say to budget 12 hours per song for a mix and 1 hour per song for mastering. That way if it comes in a little less than that (and it often will), everyone is happy.
What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
The amount of time involved. Novice musicians are always shocked to learn that a full day could be spent mixing a single song.
What questions do you ask prospective clients?
Project goals & budget. If the client has any engineering experience / their own home rig. References of artists and recordings the client likes and wants to emulate.
What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
Decide on project goals and budget in advance, and make sure to discuss with your provider if these goals are realistic. You want to spend your time in the studio getting the best sounds possible, not worrying about how to shave off a few dollars here and there. If you're on a limited budget, discuss with your provider where you're likely to find the biggest wins for the smallest investment. A proper drum session, with overdubs done at home? A nice mix? A vocal producer?
If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
My laptop & software, a nice recording interface, a 57 with windscreen (I'll be on an island, right?), monitors, and a nice acoustic guitar. I guess I can't bring headphones, that would be 6. Oh well.
What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
I'm coming up on 20 years working in music and audio. I started as a guitarist and singer, and became interested in the technical side of things through being in studio working on my own music. This led me to Berklee to cement my knowledge, where I ended up unexpectedly finding a job in live concert production and mixing thousands of shows over several years. The live sound experience proved invaluable in refining my studio skills. Nothing strips away preciousness and hones a focus on what really matters like performing complex concert setups, live mixes, and changeovers under intense time pressure.
How would you describe your style?
I'm pretty laid back in session, and like to maintain a friendly, lighthearted vibe with clients. We're making music, not performing heart surgery, and the mood should reflect that. I will, however, express strong opinions about arrangement and mix choices when needed!
Which artist would you like to work with and why?
Mark Berube is one of my favourite artists from here in Montréal (he recently moved to Berlin). I'd love to do a project with him.
Can you share one music production tip?
Pre-production. I think that says it all.
What type of music do you usually work on?
It's a really mixed bag these days. My work in film & TV licensing could have me doing metal one minute, delicate acoustic guitar the next, and electronic action film trailer another day. I'm pretty happy working in all sorts of styles, be it the avant-jazz pop of Eleanore Altman, the indie-folk of Lukas Grant, or the 50s rockabilly of Ed Bentley.
What's your strongest skill?
Probably my background as a musician, singer, and composer. A close second would be my ability to coax classic analogue sounds from in-the-box projects.
What do you bring to a song?
I have extensive experience as a performing singer and guitarist, so I'm able to bring that perspective to my work with artists. I also have an in-depth knowledge of music theory and arrangement, so I'm able to communicate with musicians on a level beyond a typical engineer or even producer. My clients will often hire me to fully flesh out their songs from the demo stage, writing vocal harmonies, basslines, drum parts, and so on.
What's your typical work process?
Again, it really depends on the client. In projects where I'm involved from the beginning, we'll spend lots of time in pre-production working on performances and arrangement ideas, in order to make the best use of time when we finally hit "record". I'm pretty flexible as far as workflow, and am happy to adapt to a client's budget and needs. I've done remote sessions in people's living rooms and closets, hired a drummer after piano was already recorded, and sent revisions back and forth with creative directors at video game studios and ad agencies. There's no one way to accomplish a project, and I try to do whatever it takes to carry out a client's vision on time and on budget.
Tell us about your studio setup.
I run a Pro Tools 10/11 co-install with all the usual plugin bells and whistles, as well as a few surprises. I work from a home studio in Montréal with a selection of monitoring options (Yamaha HS-5, KRK Rockit 6, typical computer speakers with subwoofer, etc) that I reference mixes across to ensure the best possible translation in a wide variety of listening environments. I have a variety of small and large diaphragm condensers, workhorse dynamics, and a selection of acoustic & electric guitars. I have a wide ranging collection of software instruments and sample libraries. But most importantly, I have the experience of coming up in analogue environments in the late 90s, so I know the sounds I'm looking for and how to coax them from digital gear.
What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
I spent time working on my music with Jay Ruston when he was still in Ottawa, and that was a huge education in recording and production practices. At Berklee I was mentored by great engineers like Leanne Ungar and Jeanine Cowen, who were very influential in the development of my philosophy and approach. I also continue to be inspired by the work of some people I went to school with, including Josh Mosser, Matthew Scheiner, and Kazuri Arai.
Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
I do a lot of remote work for clients around Canada and the US. People will hire me to mix or master a track, provide some consulting, or even just make commercial-length edits of existing tracks for film and television licensing. Sometimes I'll be called on to add a guitar, bass, or vocal part, or provide production/arrangement ideas for someone's music. Ad agencies will hire me to deliver music for commercials or corporate videos. Sometimes a video game dev will have me compose and mix music or create original sound effects. It really depends on the client, but if it involves music or audio in any way, I can usually help.