What's your 'promise' to your clients?
I promise to act with integrity and passion to make you sound as great as you possibly can. Your music is your greatest gift, and I promise to always treat it as such. What you write and record is an extension of who you are, and a piece of your life's story. It's my job and my passion to help you tell that story.
What type of music do you usually work on?
I usually work on rock and metal. I was a guitarist long before I was an engineer, and it's still in my blood! I've worked on some electronic music and rap, and I love working on that stuff, but my heart belongs to heavy stuff. Strangely enough, I feel like my rock and metal roots have improved my mixing quality and philosophies on mixing other genres in ways they wouldn't typically be mixed.
What's your strongest skill?
I don't neglect the bass! Especially in rock and metal, I hear a lot of engineers just pump some rumble in the bass and give the spotlight to the guitars. The bass is the foundation of each song, and really creates the tone for everything around it, so I'll spend more time on bass than any other instrument. Plus, bassists love it! The guitar is a midrange instrument, and it's easier to hear, so I feel like it requires less work. As long as it fits in the mix, it'll be heard. Bass and the kick drum are paramount to the tone and feel of the whole song, and I give them priority in every mix. Is that the extent of my skills? No, but I definitely put that at the top of my list.
After that, I'd say my intricate use of distortion to shape sounds in ways that conventional EQ and compression can't. Focusing vocal saturation in the high mids can make it pop and stand out without all the harsh tones a wide bell at 5 kHz brings to the table. Same with guitar, bass, drums, loops, etc. Distortion is your friend!
What do you bring to a song?
Grime and dirt! I've met so many engineers that seem unwilling to use saturation to its full potential, and try to make everything sound crisp and sterile. I feel like it removes the human element from songs. I'm a rock guy, and I love distortion. In any mix, I use some form of saturation on almost every track, and I feel like it creates a ton of character that blows the overall mix up into something more than it would have been without the dirt. I'm not afraid of a little mud either. There are great songs out there that I feel could be a little better with some nuance and useful muddy tones, especially in the low end. I'm not saying the low end should be a garbled mess, but a little grime can really make the bass and kick sounds stand out in ways that a clean, sterile approach just can't. It's just not human sounding to me.
What's your typical work process?
The first thing I do is listen. I'll listen through my monitors, laptop speakers, headphones, and just driving around. I want to know what's needed, what sounds good, bad, etc. Then I use the Matthew Weiss and David Glenn techniques for pretreating tracks, using console emulation and tape saturation to start shaping tracks for mixing, while also creating doubles, tuning vocals, editing and gating drums, etc. Really, anything I can do to get the initial shaping finished so I can dive into the mix. Once that's finished, mixing becomes very streamlined. I fit the tracks together with EQ, compression, and saturation to make them all pop and flow together, creating depth with effects as I go to make it all work together. I sometimes use the "top down" approach, starting from my submaster and group busses to make the overall sounds work before I go to individual tracks.
Tell us about your studio setup.
My setup is modest. I use a TASCAM US-1800 interface, which is excellent for the price. Decent headroom, no noise, and cheap. I've been very happy with it, despite it being a low end interface. My monitors are KRK Rokit 8 powered speakers. I use various AKG, Audio Technica, and Sterling Audio microphones.
I run Pro Tools 11 with a plethora of Waves plugins, as well as some Slate plugins and various others to get the sound I'm looking for. As modest as it is, I believe I get some great sounds we can all be happy with.
What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
Too many! If I had to pick a couple, though, I'd say Butch Vig, Chris Lord-Alge, and Andrew Schepps. Butch Vig is my producing hero. His sound is unique and rare, and always has this feel of being both dirty and polished, which is something I aspire to. Chris Lord-Alge is the King of Compression, and his mixing style blows my mind with each and every album. He just has this way of making EVERYTHING so punchy and in your face, without anything masking anything else or feeling two dimensional or claustrophobic. Andrew Schepps' mixing style, to me, is one of those "simple and sweet" sounds. No matter how it's recorded, he makes everything feel like it was recorded together, in a dimly lit basement, DIY punk style, and that's a sound I'll always love.
In addition to them, I'm inspired as a musician by bands that push their limits and experiment with odd or unconventional sounds. Bands like Thrice, The Dillinger Escape Plan, mewithoutYou, and Queens of the Stone Age never fail to blow my mind. Honestly, though, my list of inspirations could fill an Encyclopedia.
Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
I most commonly mix, be it recorded music or live theater. I don't master music, but I've been really itching to try my hand at it. I do a lot of writing, both music and lyrics, though my skills are a little better in the former. I also help my clients to orchestrate, arrange, and produce their music to help bring their work to its full potential.