What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
I studied music in college, preparing for a career as a symphonic bassist. I did that for ten years, starting in Nashville, (where I developed a love for country music), and then moving to Hong Kong, where I lived for 25 years and played Assistant Principal Double Bass in the Hong Kong Philharmonic. I had a couple of years in a music house in HK after leaving the symphony in 1996. Then I had my own shop for a few years. I ditched it all in 2000, and for the next ten years, I relentlessly pursued my passion for Creative Music (a wide ranging genre, I take it to mean outgrowths from Jazz music. It can be anything though.) Taking bands on tour and recording. Writing for and performing with these bands. I have many recordings of original music from this period of which I am very proud. Also in the early 2000's I built a lovely full service recording studio in Hong Kong and produced a lot of different types of things. Jazz, Rock, Alternative, Audiophile etc. Now, recently returned stateside, I am focusing on balancing my commercial and creative sides. I guess my first orchestra job started in the fall of 87, and I've been acquiring and using recording equipment ever since I started working. So yeah, I've been at this a long time.
What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
Haha, I guess the biggest one that I would get back in Hong Kong was from the Canto Pop music directors. They were really nice to me, I mean we were friends. Maybe they'd see me playing with one of my crazy jazz/experimental groups and or they heard that I played in the symphony and they'd think: "Why would this guy want to play MOR Chinese Pop music.... he's one of those "SERIOUS CATS". I thought it was funny -and a bit frustrating, because I really enjoy doing a job, whatever it is, and giving it my best. Hell, those Canto Poppers please a lot of people every night. It might not be my first choice to listen to at home, but it's definitely a THING, and there are a lot of great musicians who do it. Every time that I did do it, I enjoyed the experience.
Tell us about your studio setup.
My place is a writing/mixing/overdub setup. I don't do drums here.
The room sounds fantastic. Very accurate monitoring setup.
Huge set of plugs. Everything I need. I don't shop for gear much.
Lots of fine outboard gear.
Incredible collection of mics, both vintage and modern.
Beautiful basses, guitars, percussion instruments, synthesizers etc.
Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
I am a bassist, comfortable on electric and upright bass. Started as a symphonic player (tho always played in rock and jazz bands as a kid), moved on to more serious jazz, "creative music", rock music etc. Love all kinds of music, and am happy laying down the bottom so that everyone can feel comfortable.
I write a lot of music. I've done a considerable amount of post-scoring, and now I am concentrating on building a catalogue of music for licensing purposes.
I'm a confirmed (25 years plus) studio rat. I am offering mixing services at the moment.
I also freelance for an audiobook publisher. The work involves audio editing, restoration and mastering.
What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
Please feel free to reach out to me. I'd love to hear about what you are into. If I feel I can help, lets figure it out. If not, I know a lot of great people who do all kinds of things, and I'd be happy to steer to you someone who can do what you need better than I can.
Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
Playing bass on my brother Tony Scherr's records Come Around and Twist in the Wind. Playing with Kenny Wollesen, one of the world's great drummers on these was an honor. And Tony's music is so emotional and strong. They are rock/singer songwriter records. Very durable, these.
What are you working on at the moment?
I play bass a lot, and I'm getting to know some fine musicians in the area with a view towards playing live, various kinds of things.
I'm building a catalogue of music for licensing, getting into writing music for live performance, and looking for bass dubbing and mixing clients. Also my day job at the audiobook publisher keeps me going.
Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
Not yet, new to the area
Analog or digital and why?
I'm a digital baby. I started on 4 track cassette, and then got one of the first ADATS. Then got into ProTools in '94...
These days, just because of the nature of PT HDX, I try to shape my sounds the way that I will want them on the way in with a bit of judicious comp and eq. With a few irreplaceable analogue outboard exceptions (like the TG1), I find that I am very happy with plugins for processing, even on the 2 bus. I've had a lot of experience with the Chandler summing mixer, and that's great, but that thing is in HK and I am here, and I've learned to love what I have now.
I appreciate the flexibility of editing in a digital environment. Not so much to salvage a weak performance, but to use as a creative tool. To re-compose things...
What's your 'promise' to your clients?
I will work until you love it. Period. If I don't think that I'm the guy that can do that for you at the outset, I'll be happy to recommend someone better for your project.
What do you like most about your job?
Being involved with music every day and working with creative people.
What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
Usually there are very practical questions about how long things are likely to take, how much things cost etc.
I try to be realistic and fair. Both to the client and myself.
What questions do you ask prospective clients?
What would you like to do? What do you need? Do you have references? (ref. recordings for style and sound)
If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
Hmmm... 2 mics, a simple interface, a computer (with software) and accurate monitors.
Hey, can I bring mic stands and musical instruments too?
How would you describe your style?
As a bass player, I am looking for a chance to let the notes breathe. Forward motion that springs from intelligent, swinging economy.
With mixing, it's a combination of technique and feel. Never trying to force something to be other than what it is.
Sometimes the client's reference doesn't really relate to their song, and I explain that with the arrangement that they have, it's not realistic to expect that it will turn out like the ref. Maybe they were inspired by this thing, but the song at hand is Their thing.
Once the sonics are in the ballpark, and edits and mutes are done, I find that the song often has a strong pull in a particular direction. (e.g. is it a new sounding thing? More vintage and rootsy? Huge bottom? Or is it kind of thin-sounding and Should be that way, etc.) Happy accidents often turn into interesting "features" for a particular song.
However, it's important to get the best out of the tracks that you are given. Good phase relationships and sensible eq, comp and spatial processing decisions are very important...
As a composer, I am influenced by deep immersion in classical music at a young age, also early exposure to great rock music. I have a deep bag as a writer. I'm into a lot of different things. The music has to serve the project at hand. I find that once I am on the same page with a producer or director during spotting, I start writing from my notes, and if I get a nice vibe going, things are usually going to be alright. Sure, there inevitably will be revisions, but that's to be expected.
Which artist would you like to work with and why?
Hmmm, If I had the chance, I'd give my right arm to produce Jojo Guo. She's an extremely talented young girl who lives in Guangzhou China. Fantastic writer, and absolutely unique melodic and rhythmic language in her singing. Very nice person. Good family. It shows.
Can you share one music production tip?
Music production tip... Hmmm.... It's all about the artist, what they are trying to do.
What is their vision? It's not my thing, it's theirs.
At the outset, if I believe I can help them to get to where they want to go, I'm in.
Sometimes that means setting up the room and not saying a lot, maybe just helping people to know when they are getting tired and should take a break.
Other times, it means helping to enhance the writing, a bit of arranging etc.
Sometimes it means pushing an artist until they break through the wall and get a great take.
Flexibility in approach is important.
Respect is paramount.
Trust takes time.
Listen for excitement, emotion, not necc. clinical accuracy -though people need to be able to play. A bum note doesn't cancel out a great take.
I guess that's more than one, eh? Hell, ask me about eq or something :)
What type of music do you usually work on?
For bass dubbing, I've done many things. Pop, rock, jazz, film music etc.
I work on a lot of original composition, ranging from electronic through rock, singer songwriter, jazz, creative music and soundtrack/orchestral music.
For mixing, I am great on band type stuff, rock and jazz, also country and rootsy things.
What's your strongest skill?
I have a deep skill set, but it all starts with the ability to understand what I am hearing, and the ability to be moved by a lot of different things. A combination of the rational serving the inspirational.
What do you bring to a song?
As a player, I bring a very deep understanding and experience with many forms of music. I am interested in creating supporting parts. They may or may not be interesting in their own right. It depends upon what the client is looking for.
Though I can display flying fingers and all that, I'm more into finding the pocket and letting everything and everyone else feel good. Then I feel good.
As an engineer, I have the ability to understand and enjoy many kinds of sounds. Clean, dirty, old, new. I have a huge bag of tools, and I understand how to use them. It doesn't take long for me to solve the basic sonic issues.
I find in mixing that you get to a point where the song becomes itself, becomes what it is supposed to be. Sometimes it takes a bit of a journey to get there, but I love the process.
I am open to all suggestions. If someone wants to try something that I haven't thought of, the only answer is, let's try it. Never "that's not gonna work". Who knows? Maybe it will be fantastic. Or not. Same goes for my ideas. Just because I spend a bit of time on some idea does not mean that I will be married to it. If it doesn't work, out it goes.
What's your typical work process?
For bass dubbing, I will take the brief from the client (It's good to have a reference to check out for sound and style), listen to the track, follow on chart if provided, and make any corrections or charts necessary.
I'll try a few takes and comp something together for the client to review.
Then with their feedback, I'll make any adjustments needed, and try again. Usually this sorts it out.
For mixing, the process starts with a brief, and a review of the client's multi's. Here, references are also helpful.
Depending on the complexity of the song, I can usually get the initial mix in a half day to a full day. Then back to the client for notes. Then revisions, and approval.
What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
The list is long. A blizzard of fascinating musicians, producers and engineers working throughout the history of recorded music. I am always on the lookout for something new to fall in love with.