Live mixing & production
After 10 years as studio engineer, I needed to go back to my original passion...so I've been mixing live sound for major productions, festivals and international artists now for over 30 years. Music is made of 7 notes, but the main challenge is getting those notes to everyone's ears and matching the listener's taste.
Born and based presently in Italy, dual citizenship and 100% fluent in Italian and English. Experienced FOH sound mixer and team leader. Advanced skills in live concert production planning, operations and crew management.
I started mixing live for club bands, which brought me touring with the late Italian pop artist, Pino Daniele. This made me believe I could make a career out of this experience, so I enrolled in the Recording Workshop school in Ohio to see what this job was really about. Thanks to this short, but intense experience, I was soon hired as resident engineer in one of the best known recording studios in Naples, Italy for almost 10 years, getting to know many top ten artists and musicians, some of whom I would soon be touring with, after leaving the studio in 1991. Between 1991 and 2004, I found myself involved in multiple festivals, tours and live productions, always behind the FOH mixer.
Since 2004, I've been primarily involved as FOH engineer and Production manager for Nile Rodgers Productions, touring the world with CHIC feat. Nile Rodgers. I work on production advances, contacts with rental vendors and overall show planning, with promoters and clients.
I collaborate with a trusted team that contributes to my success, made of monitor engineers, spcialized backliners, video and lighting operators and designers.
A member of DOC Servizi Coop.
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Interview with John Ryan
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: I am proud of all the productions I've been on, but since 2004, my primary project is production management and mixing for the Chic Organization, led by Grammy winning and multi talented producer/musician, Nile Rodgers.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: Digico SD7, SD5, SDTen, Yamaha PM1D, PM5DRH, AVID Profile. Adamson Y-Axys, E12, E15, T21, E119 Funktion One VERO
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: Max Carola started turning knobs with me, both of us as amateurs and music lovers. Our careers have led us to different paths and cities, but I know that he is a very successful producer and engineer. Ciao Max!
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Analog when I have time....digital when I need consistency in my mix. I sometimes don't have the luxury of sound checking, so loading a previous show file is the only way to face 50,000 people waiting for their band to perform.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: I don't make promises. I do my job and if you trust me, we're on the same page.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Every show is a new show, with different venues and acoustics and different ways of looking for the ideal result.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: Q: Can you add some high end to the hi-hat? A: I suggest you have your ears checked. Q: Why don't I hear the same low frequencies when I record the show with my cell phone? A: Ever thought of using it as a cell phone? Q: This is a promotional tour to sell the record, so we need to ask you for a discount. A: Once the show is over, the artist earns royalties on record sales, while I'm home not earning anything. Q: Why can't I hear my boy friend's viola in that orchestra? A: Go and ask the other 79 musicians to shut up.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: There are many...I've been asked to make an out of tune vocal sound in tune, to add very low frequencies to a female soprano and other things. One thing some people don't understand is that the sound engnieer's job is to reproduce and balance every sound source coming from the stage. The secret to balancing multiple instruments and sound sources is that the sound sources need to be consistent in volume, in tune and tailored to the song arrangement.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: How long is the tour? What are travel and hotel arrangements? Who is the primary audio vendor? Can I suggest my preferred vendor and production team?
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: My potential customer only needs to worry about transferring the money to my account. I make myself responsible for delivering the artistry the audience expects. I am not interested in dealing with customers who put most of their budget into departments other than what the audience is there for....a great sound.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: My Audix D6, a Reference Laboratory RMC01 cable, a small analog mixer, my wife and pets.
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I started mixing in clubs, where I would meet professional touring and session musicians. These musicians have been the ones that got me attracted to the business by starting on a national tour, which led me to think that I should learn more about what I was doing. After a short, but intense, sound engineering course in Ohio, I was lucky to immediately find a job as resident engineer in a studio in Naples, Italy, where I sat at the main chair for almost 10 years. One of our clients asked me to go on tour with him after doing a short studio session, after which I dedicated my entire career to going live. I've crossed the path from analog to digital mixers, mainly because of the amount of on-board features digital mixers offer, as compared to analog mixers, with which you need racks of gear and extensive patching. Most of the times, I don't have time to patch and start from scratch, hence a digital mixer allows me to be consistent on every show I mix.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Clean...easy...not too much processing. The musical source is the origin and most important part of the entire signal path and if what comes out of the speakers is close to what you would expect the source to sound like, the job is done. Using the correct mic placement, with the right cable is the "secret" to the result I expect.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: I've only actually "wished" working with one artist in the past...Giorgia. I saw and listened to her when she first appeared on the Sanremo festival, many years ago and my first impression was, WOW! I immediately wished I could work with her and after a few years, I was called by her musical director who asked me if I was available...and BAM! I mixed Giorgia live for a couple of years, after which I have been involved in other major productions, including the most recent experience with Nile Rodgers, but I would be happy to work for her again.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: Any style...I love music, not specific types of music.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: Rhythm section and female vocals. I also work to keep the production team happy and friendly. A happy team is a successful team.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: I have a past as a non-professional musician, so I use my personal taste when mixing, but always in mind that every person in the audience has their own personal taste and way of interpreting what they hear. I observe the audience closely during the show and if I see they are enjoying what they hear, this means I'm on the right track.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: I am introduced to either the client or the production manager, with whom I advance my artist's backline requirements along with all the audio/lights/visuals equipment my team needs to deliver the show. This scan happen months before we actually show up on stage, but it pays back when you find that planning ahead is always best.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: I don't own a studio setup, but I do occasionally remix our live performances when one of our shows is needed for broadcast. It's basically an iMac and a pair of inexpensive monitors, with anything that is on board of the software I use.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: I am always interested in meeting other professionals and seeing how they mix. This is a job where you learn every day and to share mixing techniques and methods with other colleagues is better than what you can learn in any school. The road has been my school.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: I curate all technical production advances, including the Artist's production rider and all that concerns the band's backline requirements, as well as programming production schedules, set up and sound check times. The easy (and most enjoyable) part is mixing the show.