Q: You’ve said, “Getting to the top is hard. Staying at the top is impossible.” What did you consider “the top” at the moment when you decided to become an engineer and have things changed for you or the industry?
A: I wish I came up with that. It’s really just a quote I saw on the internet, but I do believe it. I don’t know what the top was when I decided to become an engineer. I think now the top is simple: be happy, be healthy, and have steady work. Working in the music industry can have very negative effects on one’s mental health. Always remember to take care of yourself first.
Q: You’ve worked on Pop, Rock, Jazz Classical and Hip Hop projects. Does working from genre to genre come naturally to you?
A: Naturally? I don’t think so. But it is always fun to be challenged.
Q: Do you bring techniques from one genre into another, and how might working in one genre affect another?
A: Of course, it’s the easiest way to solve mix problems. If the bass is just not sitting right in this rock record, I’ll approach it from a jazz standpoint. People (including myself) tend to approach mixes from a genre-specific outlook instead of a full-frequency, clean mix. Jazz mixes require getting the very best out of an instrument –– make sure you find it. As for vocals, they need to be treated like an instrument, as well. They are part of a song, not something to be thrown on top of a song. A car with 4 wheels on the roof is technically a car, but a car with 4 wheels attached to the axles and balanced tires make the car function properly. That’s how vocals work.
Q: Speaking of vocals, you’ve just mixed Snoop Dogg & Young Grey’s latest release, “Celebrate”. From Hip Hop to Reggae, Gospel and Old School, how do you approach mixing for an artist who undergoes constant innovation? Are there any references you work from?
A: This record was interesting. It’s kind of an old school track produced by Mr. Choc, with Snoop singing more than anything, so I just kind of went for it. There was no reference I could go to. I really just said to myself, “okay, let’s see what happens” and it worked itself out.
Q: You tracked the album My Mood Is You, by Freddie Cole, that was also up for a Grammy Award this year. Working with a legend whose recording career spans 65 years, what goes on in your mind when you first sit behind that console?
A: This is going to sound weird, but when guys like Freddy Cole walk in the room, it’s a very calming, intense, creative energy that’s flying around. They obviously know what they’re doing and they trust the people on the project to deliver the best version of themselves. There’s a certain point where everyone gives and gets the silent nod and things start rolling.
Q: Can you dive into the gear you used to track the album?
A: For this album we pulled out the big guns. We used a lot of Neumann 107’s, an original [Neumann] u67, original [Neumann] u47, AEA R84s and various other mics, including [Neumann] KM184’s on overheads and Royer 121’s. But for vocals, we used my all time favorite chain –– a Telefunken 251 into a Neve 1073 and then a Retro 176. As for pres on the instrumentation, we used UA610’s, Millennia HV3D’s, Neve 1073’s and some board pres.
Q: Now you’re looking to stay at Teaneck Sound Studio, where Freddy Cole has done his last couple of albums, with a dedicated mixing room.
A: I am. My personal mixing rig is all in-the-box. The new room at the studio will most likely be all in-the-box, as well. I’m a huge believer in UAD plugins, and, for me, they get the job done. I don’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on outboard gear and maintenance, when UAD sounds incredible. The same goes for my monitors. Sure, $10,000 monitors sound great, but are they still necessary? I can get the same mix out of $3000 monitors and correction from Sonarworks.
Q: What can you tell us about some of your current and upcoming projects?
A: I’m working with Peter Karp on his upcoming blues/bluegrass/folk –– I have no idea what to call it ––album. Peter is constantly on the road, so I’ll get an email at 3 a.m. from him with a vocal melody recorded on an iPhone, [which] was his only option, so we make it work. It’s very challenging to get stuff like that to sound right, but that’s what makes it fun! I’m also working with singer/songwriter Jay Mickens on his new album. He’s also a DIY guy when it comes to recording. If I told you I had 17 different solos for every one of his songs I wouldn’t be exaggerating. At least he bought some good gear, so the only struggle is finding the right take, haha.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: Pass on your knowledge to the younger generation. They want to learn. The older workflows still need to be used in addition to the new. This is not a secret society. People don’t get into engineering for fame and fortune. They do it because they love the music and want to be part of it. Everyone deserves a shot if they’re willing to put in the time and effort. Don’t forget that you were new once.