I'm a freelance audio engineer with direct connections to half a dozen New York City recording studios of various price points and in various locations. My career passion project has involved binaural audio with my VR audio expertise lending itself to the New York Times' 'Seeking Pluto's Frigid Heart' hosted by the 2016 TriBeCa Film Festival.
My extreme attention to detail and ability to communicate with engineers and artist saw me rise to a managerial position at multi-room music and audio post facility in NYC's Financial District. I've since returned to freelancing to further expand my studio connections to better serve my clientele. As an engineer, I've specialized in the tracking, editing, and mixing of music; voice-over recording and editing. In a more production-oriented role, I make every effort to ensure that my clients are able to work as encumbered as possible while maintaining the requisite amount of focus and organization in an industry of shrinking budgets. I assume the sonic quality of my work, and so my focus is on providing my clients with the options, organization, flexibility and attentiveness that they deserve.
I do not consider myself an artist, I consider myself a craftsman; dedicated to realizing the vision of those who hire me in the highest quality possible in the most painless and least frustrating manner possible.
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Interview with Stephen Kurpis
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: A mid-2010 Mac Pro with 32GB of RAM; a RAID 0 SSD Boot drive that interfaces via the PCIe bus; ProTools 12; A UAD Quad core card with the majority of their compressor emulations and about a third of their total plug-in stock; several thousand dollars worth of native AAX licenses for plug-ins; a pair of Dizengoff 864 Federal Limiter clones (excellent distortion units); a heavily treated room in a quiet neighborhood (roughly 112 sq. ft. of acoustic absorption and 60 sq. ft of diffusion); a pair of Avantone MixCubes (for the nasty), Genelec 1030a (for the precision) and Rockit 8 (for the boom-boom) monitors; my ears; my workflow.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: Pre-production on a pair of Indie Folk projects. Both could be classified as length EPs or short albums (roughly 40 minutes of music) and will have full studio production.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: I do generally prefer digital workflows due to their ease of recall and the stability of the media. That being said, certain steps of the process, such as recording with certain processing applied can only be effectively done with analog gear due to the limitation of even the most advanced of computer systems (namely latency...).
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: That you will never regret hiring me
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Is it too cliché to say 'just about everything'? It's true...
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: Overwhelmingly in regards to rates. I then spend the time explaining all the various non-billed items that I include in the delivery of their project and why they are useful.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: Beyond the typical budgetary and scheduling concerns. I ask for recording references, the meaning of their art and what the sentiment they wish to express with it; I believe every sonic choice I make should be absolutely subservient to the will of the client in expressing themselves.
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Take advantage of my willingness to chat at great lengths about your project prior to it's beginning. I've worked that into my rates and you'll only benefit; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of medicine.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: My computer, my UAD card and licenses, my Genelecs. That's three choices, my other two will be reserved for ensuring I have a great acoustic environment; that's worth more than anything.
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: 6 years
Q: How would you describe your style?
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: I would be thrilled to engineer a session for a T-Bone Burnett production. He has an immaculate sense of storytelling with every sonic choice.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: The art is in the editing
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: Primarily rock, folk, and jazz; some classical, hip-hop, and RnB.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: This is strongly linked to my interest in spatial audio (specifically the use of binaural 'head' microphones), but I pay an extreme attention to sonic image. I view a great recording as being a painting made of sound, visible even by the blind.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: Organization and focus on the goals of the artist are the traits what I bring to every project.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: I'm a firm believer in the pre-production process; it's extremely valuable communication that ensures the maximum quality for the minimum of hassle (thus ensuring repeat business). I ask the client for numerous commercial references that are directly linked to the project and then contribute my own; gauging their feedback and building further discussions. From there my focus in the earliest stages of the project is based upon creating meticulous organization schemes and ensure that all data is labeled and presented in a fashion that will facilitate faster workflow over the course of the project; or, if receiving data from elsewhere, I ensure that the data is of an appropriate standard of preparedness before beginning the work in proper. Creation of a specific session setup, if my heavily tweaked templates prove less than absolutely appropriate, with careful consideration placed at the beginning stages to the client's preferred deliverables (specifically in terms of alternate edits and stem mix material). Mixing proper with plenty of ear breaks to ensure the efficiency and quality of my work are then followed by a mild mastering job applied to the individual song to give the client context for the revision stages. Upon project being approved, all mixes, reference pseudo-masters, alternate edits, stems, etc. are prepared for final delivery to the client in a precisely labeled fashion; invoices of the project are also included to flesh out the client's records. A follow-up e-mail explaining all the deliverables, their location, their purpose, etc. is then provided to the client; this e-mail is also included as a Word/PDF document in the project delivery proper.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: T-Bone Burnett; Daniel Lanois; Tchad Blake
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Tracking, editing and mixing of music.