Lifelong musician and freelance recording engineer of over a decade. Dedicated to the craft of writing music and producing beautiful, engaging recordings. I immerse myself in each project I take on and create to my full ability.
I work out of my personal studio, equipped with Pro Tools 12.3.8, Avid, Soundtoys, and Waves plugin suites. All projects are stored on individual dedicated HDDs and backed up throughout the work process to a private data cloud.
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Interview with Sam Kempe
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: Wieuca's 2017 LP, "Guilt Complex." Wieuca, an Athens indie rock band, was the first full-length album I tracked and mixed and it was a roller coaster ride of a process. I'd only messed with production for years and years before on my own level and this was my first time being the person in the driver's seat of someone else's work. 6 years later I'm honored to still produce Wieuca's work and have made something for them that is totally transformative of our earlier work.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: Tracking Athens folk band Tallulah George's debut LP.
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: I have no friends that use SoundBetter. Yet. This will be an invaluable resource to many musician friends of mine.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Analog is beautiful, but digital gets work done. I prefer both, especially in a large hybrid setup, but if I am limited, I can make a great record digitally. However- this is also thanks to 21st century technology and analog emulation. So I'm completely torn in all honesty.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: To treat your art as if it's my own, while not adding my own creativity to it outside of what processes are required to mix it. I will never add or subtract anything that the creator added to it/never added to it.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: The way that I can never POSSIBLY know "everything." I fully believe that no record engineer will ever come close to knowing everything about this science, no matter how good they get or how long they do it. Over time engineers create their own processes, and you can never possibly know every engineer's process.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: "Can you make it sound bigger?" my answer being: yes, but give me three records to compare to in size.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: Making things louder. Like many engineers, I wish this weren't something that musicians care about.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: Name 3 records that you want your record to sound like. This focuses on the specifics of the record's ambience, stereo presence, and overall loudness. I've had clients pay me to make a record that sounds like it was made in a garage, and I've had them pay me to make something that sounds huge. Its all a matter of how they want the canvas to be painted, given the paint they've supplied.
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Trust every mixing engineer's process more than their equipment. Having great outboard options for mixing is great, but not pertinent, and people can make great records in the box. However, their process must have been refined over years of experience, trial and error. Just because you can make a great record in the box doesn't just anybody with a computer can. You still have to have your process.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: My Fender Telecaster, Fender Hot Rod Deluxe, a Focusrite interface with just 1 preamp, an SM57 and a Macbook Pro.
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: My career path has spanned over many years of trial and error. I began attempting to record my music around the age of 12 upon having played music for a number of years and created songs. However, this was fueled by years and years of listening to recordings in amazement at a young age. I couldn't figure out how they were created, and this bothered me, so I began to discover just how. 13 years later I've come to fully understand the process, worked under engineers whose processes inspired mine, released my share of records that make me cringe when I listen back to them and now continue to add a unique touch to each record I work on. But now they make people happy instead of cringe.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Musically, my style is folk-americana-rock centric. As far as my work ethic, my production style is very intensive upon a song's organic construction, and I analyze this before altering any of the audio. I'm given the pieces to build a house, and I build it in my preferred order of foundation -> rooftop. And I create something that cannot be toppled.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: Dawes. Hardworking, incredible musicians with a down-home sound, yet they're from LA, and their first record was recorded entirely live yet sounds like it was put together piece-by-piece.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Never give up, as your perception of time is likely off-kilter with what experience will bring. Most think they should have achieved.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: I prefer to work on folk, americana, acoustic and bluegrass projects. Anything with a southern vibe or influence, as this is the music I grew up on and know by heart.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: My strongest skill is actually physical work on equipment. I'm very efficient with repairing and modifying physical gear.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: I bring my mixing process to a song, which will glue the tracks together in a creative manner that doesn't add or take away from the original content, but rather translates it into the creator's original intended voice and effectively communicates it to the listener.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: I am delivered the tracks which the client wants mixed via dropbox. I create a special dedicated physical hard drive for your project to be backed up to. This is the drive I will run the sessions off of. I analyze each submitted track; how it was recorded, what external bleed may be present, its frequency range and dynamics, and most importantly: how it is intended to interact with all the other tracks. I then arrange the routing of the session and ultimately run the tracks down to 3 to 5 bus tracks to which they are printed after processing. Each bus has its own processing as needed in addition any previously applied processing to the individual original tracks. This system of routing allows for the ability to ramp up the levels of the overall mix and 'glues' the tracks together. Upon mixdown, I print the buss' to one master buss track through my trusty mixbuss chain and deliver the mix to the client at both 24 and 16 bit, wav and mp3 files.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: I use a majorily-digital studio. I run a 16gb ram Mac Mini with dedicated SSD that allows for running large sessions and utilization of many CPU-intensive plugins. Interfaced with my computer is a Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56, which provides good preamp options for when I multitrack record clients, and the ADAT I/O's of this interface connect to a Frontier Design 24-bit 8-channel converter, which is used for connecting to any analog equipment used.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: I'm inspired by folky-rock artists with a strong DIY ethic and those who've learned by doing.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: I most commonly mix what clients have previously recorded and bring the project to its strongest ability to communicate the creator's intentions.