Climbing the Ladder
Let me just quickly review kind of where we've been going we started out in our internship we've had a clear path all the way of what we want to be doing we've gone through the brutal aspects of being an assistant we've learned our where in being an assistant we've learned not only our technical skills and how to get things done in the control room but howto act right in the control room howto measure the temperature of the room howto interact with people so at this point you're ready to have a career so what's in this segment is going to be how you stay fresh um how you stay relevant how you keep people how you keep up with the very very the changes in the trends of music trying figure out a way to word that the changing trends in music that change very very often and you have to be able to stay on top of that so you are now in the shark tank you are with other people that have been just as driven as you have worked just as hard as you have to get where they're at everybody at this po...
int has worked their ass is off and has given up so much and sacrificed so much and has been obsessed excuse me so now you're on lee around people that are obsessed you're only around other extensions of yourself. So this is when the competition gets really tough because you're now the ability to outwork people starts getting tough because you're around other people that have made a living out working their competition. So you're trying to outwork people that are pretty obsessed, just as obsessed as you are. Um, and this is where things mentally start to get challenging, because not only your competing with your peers and other newcomers that are other ninjas that wanted cut you from behind. But you may be competing with your heroes 00:01:59.489 --> 00:02:00. now. No 00:02:01.87 --> 00:02:03. people that you've looked up to since the day you 00:02:03.73 --> 00:02:04. got to recording school and 00:02:06.07 --> 00:02:08. the records that you listen to when you're a kid. 00:02:08.01 --> 00:02:11. And when you we had aspirations to be an engineer, 00:02:11.79 --> 00:02:14. you like man who recorded this, or who makes this 00:02:14.77 --> 00:02:17. well, now you could be competing with that person 00:02:17.19 --> 00:02:18. for the get next gig 00:02:19.37 --> 00:02:23. and that. Mentally. I know this because it's, I still 00:02:23.7 --> 00:02:25. experience this, and it is something that could be 00:02:25.96 --> 00:02:29. challenging. T get a mental grasp on that. 00:02:31.27 --> 00:02:33. You know, when you started out the tunnel and the 00:02:33.42 --> 00:02:35. and it seems so far and so unobtainable, 00:02:37.12 --> 00:02:37. ah, 00:02:38.57 --> 00:02:42. and so impossible. And so pipe dream ish, which probably, 00:02:42.32 --> 00:02:47. in a word. But you guys know what I mean? What? Now 00:02:47.82 --> 00:02:50. you've gotten there, and you're competing with the 00:02:50.61 --> 00:02:52. people that you aspire to be like. 00:02:55.47 --> 00:02:58. So how would you react if you were asked to collaborate 00:02:58.43 --> 00:03:02. on a project with your childhood hero, be it a producer, 00:03:03.17 --> 00:03:04. a musician, 00:03:05.97 --> 00:03:09. an engineer, a mixer, an artist? You know, I just 00:03:09.69 --> 00:03:12. kind of want to get the temperature of how what would 00:03:12.1 --> 00:03:14. be as you are right now, 00:03:15.87 --> 00:03:18. if you're a person you looked up to was, like let's, 00:03:18.65 --> 00:03:21. get to work and let's work. How would you feel about 00:03:21.47 --> 00:03:24. tells you that person has to? Sure, yeah, let's, do 00:03:24.34 --> 00:03:29. that, this royal williams respectful. Definitely the 00:03:29.2 --> 00:03:31. first thing I work with pharrell he's, one of the 00:03:31.49 --> 00:03:33. nicest guys I've ever worked with. 00:03:34.4 --> 00:03:36. I worked with him on the despicable me sounds a couple 00:03:36.81 --> 00:03:37. years ago. Nice. 00:03:41.15 --> 00:03:44. About that, right? That we, they know who he is. 00:03:46.23 --> 00:03:49. Or else you know, tim armstrong from rancid, 00:03:51.23 --> 00:03:54. attentive. If I had the opportunity, I wouldn't be 00:03:54.56 --> 00:03:56. on social media. I wouldn't care what's going on outside 00:03:56.87 --> 00:03:59. of the room. It would be all about working with him, 00:03:59.59 --> 00:04:03. and they're professional, right. Be professional that's, 00:04:03.34 --> 00:04:04. what we're about at this point in our career, we're professionals. Once somebody pays you to do something, you are no longer there is no longer your hobby, it's, your job, and even whether it's, you know the kid that just got his first placement, or it's farrell it's your job, so you have to treat it with same professionalism in the same respect, help where it gets tough mentally, the humility aspect of it, where you're like. I can't believe this, but I have to maintain and not kind of crumbling under that moment. Anymore I got to work with carly simon out the humility pieces first thing that came to my head when you asked the question just be in humility but also no not in so much shock and awe that keeps you from being able to do your job so it's you have to enjoy it I have five course have fun and enjoy I mean like this is this is a blessing right I mean like you get to work with pharrell oh my this is a blessing I can't believe this come to stay grounded treat it like it's any other gig but at the same time live in the moment and have fun doing it because you've come a long way since staking out the restaurants around the studio you've come a long way since re conning the control rooms while you can while you're cleaning them you've come a long way since routing cables through stressful stream section in recording sessions you've come a long way and don't I don't want to use the term you've made it because the beauty of this business is you never truly make it because it's always changing and the second you master something or you think you master something overnight it's completely different and all of a sudden you have to learn all over again so stay a student of the game you know um the same way you re con when you can never stop doing this you can never stop your ninja mentality. You can never stop learning like, um, I've come across. Some people that came have come out of recording schools that really think that they know a lot when they get out of school and they get to the studio, when really, the recording school is the womb. You're not born until you actually get into the studio, because real life sessions are much, much different. What? And the technology. The technology moves so quickly and changes so quickly. If you don't stay up to date on it, you can get left in the dust. Come, you know, don't be the guy that falls behind times. You know, I've seen it happen to engineers, even great engineers that I grew up respecting where they kind of become irrelevant either a because they're so stuck in their ways that they don't want to change be. They don't like modern music. I mean, there's, modern music that I absolutely love there's, a modern music that I don't like so much. But again, you're being paid. You are a professional. It stems back to what we were talking about, where no wind to give your opinion and how to say it when you, when they do, ask for your opinion. If you don't like music, you can turn down the gig, or you could find something about it that creatively is cool and exploit it and find a way to like it. You can work for a living or you can only take the gigs that you like but you're not going to be eaten as well when you only take the gigs that you like because you're in our professional being paid to deliver a product yes sir is it hard for you because those like you have worked with a ray of different artists and is it hard for you to switch gears from say like justin bieber like snoop dog can? It can be because a lot of times what I'm doing is day to day basis like one day I could be doing you know, I mixed this album for this band called semi precious weapons and they're like a kind of a glam e pop rock group kind of like a modern day motley crew you could say and then the next day I'm doing like dance pop from europe and the next day I'm doing like jason mraz like singer songwriter type of gig it can be challenging but it's also what makes it really fun it's what makes it never get old because every day is a new song it's a new toy I guess you could say that you know, like good it's a hole you wake up every day with a fresh new approach it you never get bored or stuck in your ways because you know you wake up every day you're like oh, you go to the same office he'd do the same thing every day well I go to the same office but what I'm doing in that office is very different every single day and the record is so based on birth baking records is so based on vibe and feel that you kind of have to live in the moment each day so if I'm doing working on a record for snoop I have to feel like I wanna listen this new you know there may be things going on in the room you know? We all know what's new likes to do there may be things like that going on the room to get you in this new vibe if I'm mixing dance music I'll probably listen to it really loud for a while because I want to feel like someone who's going to be listening to that style of music will be listening to it if I'm mixing something acoustic I'm probably not going to play it at one hundred twenty deby because who listens to that kind of music that loud nobody so whatever you can do to put yourself in the vibe to deliver the best products um and it's challenging at first because it's there so different approaches are so different the techniques are so different but again once you develop that mental roll index that you know you're developing and you've learned as an assistant as an assistant you've probably seen you know snoop maybe in one day and then the next day. You have metal band the next. So you seeing the different techniques you've ninja engineers and being like, okay, okay, so that's, how we get that clicky metal kick drum sound okay? Like you, you've learned all these techniques by watching other people. So now you implement that into what you do and you never stop doing re kon you never stop your ninja mindset you're now you're applying these techniques that you've learned the little thousands of things that you stolen from a thousand different places from a thousand different people and now you're starting to implement your own musical taste on it like ok, well this guy gets this clicky drum sound with this compressor well, what would happen if I used this other sound and blended it with that what could I get from that? Well, you're taking two different stolen techniques from two different places and making it one technique so that's how you're taking techniques stolen from other people and making it your own it doesn't mean you're copying what someone else already did yes, I know that your know how full your schedule is you really don't have a lot of downtime so how do you find time to experiment with new toys in the middle of a session that doesn't have a lot of room to spare my budget time into part of that? You know where I was talking about you know the difference for how long it takes me to do a mix you know, a couple hours compared to a couple days do I experiment every day? Of course I experiment, but I've been doing this long enough now to have an idea a pretty good idea of getting things in the general vicinity of what's going to work and what isn't gonna work no so if I am experimenting with something it's like I said it's a combination of several things that I know have worked in other places and it's a question of whether if I combine them it's going to work for this come and a lot of times in the beginning when I'm working on the song I'm moving very quickly you know I throw a mix of the song within five or ten minutes so I've kind of already I'm already deciding what I'm thinking maybe working together or what might not be working together so once I've done that and I feel like I got the record in a good place I'm always listening to the rough mix or the rough idea that's been given to me and following that as a guideline of how the record is supposed to feel once I feel like I've achieved that to me it's kind of all downhill from there and now it's just okay I've given I've made the record cohesive is how it needs to be which can happen and maybe just a couple hours one or two hours and now I will spend the rest of the time putting my musical taste on it and that's what the experimenting comes in what would this vocal sound like? You've had this kind of harmonic distortion on it or you know what would this kick drum sound like if I added some kind of sub sine wave underneath that to kind of give it the bottom you know if there's just as long as it's not fighting with the base or or what would this bass sound like if I duplicated and and made like a really distorted and p sound on top of it like these the experiments that you do to kind of implement your own taste on the record that's been given to you and once you get to this stage of the game that's when you start doing things like that that's when it becomes acceptable kind of what we're talking about give your opinion on lee when you know your ass and when you are asked be careful we're the responsible now people are starting to pay you for your opinion for what you think something should sound like and again you're still a hairstylist you can't stray away you can't completely change the song and make it like an unrecognizable song but you could be like you know what I tried this out I thought this maybe could give a kind of a unique sound that wasn't there before and what's the worst that can happen maybe they yeah I don't know but can we try something else? Sure it's gone let's move on but a lot of times they do your confidence starts getting bigger and starts growing when people like man like you made it sound like how I never could imagine the song could have sounded and that's by giving them that was those little extra that little extra bit you know let me ask you a really specific question I think you might have actually worked on this song do you know the katy perry song wake up are wide awake yes I didn't work on that okay well you know there there's like sort of like a like in the beginning of it there's like a high pass filter or something like that that opens up things like that is that something like who drives that? Is that the sort of thing that a mixer established mixer might say like hey you know what? Maybe in the intro of the song let's try this or does the producer drive that are it's both it could be both I do stuff like that all the time and because I've kind of I kind of have a bit of a reputation and I pride myself in this of doing mohr than what a standard mixer does which is you know, balance everything nicely e q everything I mean I'll be the first one to say that some of my mixes that are the best because I've done like the jews aren't perfect but that's what's so cool about them because they're unique in the way they sound and I do stuff like that all the time where I'll completely change the sound of an intro or do something like a filter I kind of stopped doing that because he got so used to me like because in dance music there's a filter every eight bars just like you know if I hear one more side changed I I swear like I'm gonna mute it in the song but you know so but absolutely all the time and I get sessions from producers that have done that to the song all the time it's just it's completely different if a producer is giving me a song that has a lot of stuff like that in it I probably won't put anything in it because it's already there if I get an arrangement that to me is just kind of boring and plain and it's the same dynamic he's looped all over like I going to do drops all the time like okay I think the drums should drop out for eight bars here or I think you know there should be a silent you know one bar mute going into each chorus just to make the course explode a little bit more come I pretty much on almost every song I mix I ride the master of the song up a dvd or two in the course justo very subtle just the d b to d b even probably too much like a dv maybe even if it's the same beat with maybe just a extra instrument or extra background vocal parts just giving it a lift in volume will give the illusion of energy change one of the biggest things you have to think about when you're mixing is the energy of a song like what is how does it feel like what is the energy like is it mellow? Is it supposed to sound stadium rock ish? Is it supposed to sound huge? I do anything I can to make what I feel like is a better song whatever I can do to make the song better if that's drops a music out in a certain part I'll do it if that's the filter a certain piece of music or a certain vocal part the way that the way that I think I could make it a better song I'm going to do it does the producer always like it? No do they tell me to take it back to how it was sometimes yes, but I'm always the type of engineer that has always prided myself in I'm going to give you I'd really give you mohr ideas to select from the not enough you know I'm gonna give you a bunch of stuff and you may not like all of it I'm a give you ten ideas and you only want to use one but it goes back to that haircut thing like I'm gonna put a bunch of extra stuff on your head and we could always take it off and put it back, you know, chip away at it I'm trying to give you lots of ideas and then we pick away the ones that you, the producer you think is unnecessary. And then just those one or two little things that we left in. There can really change the dynamic of a song. So some guys will just give you whatever you give them they're just going toe blend it and give it back to you lot of guys were amazing at that and they do it better than anybody does I can't do that I'm I'm too I guess my mind wanders too much to scatter brain to just fix things like that I'm always going to try to hear something my own way or try to add some kind of special spice to a song come so I guess that's a longwinded answer to your question no that's great because you know this is a good example of why creative lives schools because you know I always wondered that and it's not every day you get to talk to somebody might actually have worked on that song on that understands these things all right yeah that record I think came out on it was one of the ex traditional songs they added to the re stripe of the album so we didn't actually work on that record but I mean we spent almost a year on those katy perry songs just doing different styles of production you know doing one with big live drums one with smaller program drum sound like like ten to twelve different versions of every song alone you know recording different parts different melodies different it so stuff like that absolutely would be done by the producer or the engineer or people I know who hate pop all love that album. So it was a really good album. Yes, sir. He did work on that album. I'm guessing you had some contact with max martin or dr luke a little bit with max. So, did you close your experience with him? And, uh, did you find that a humbling experience? What was? Oh, of course. Um, you know, those I've never actually met dr lewis. I have tons of colleagues and friends that were closely with him. And I mean, those guys were true, amazing professionals. And, you know, max has been doing pop hits for decades, so he's a pleasure to be around and he he's it's pretty almost that makes you angry how good he is and how effortless it is. You know, because these guys they been doing it for so long, so it does come natural and easy to them. But but it's like these guys just write a song in five minutes and it's just like, okay, that's better than anything. If I spent a year trying to write a good melody, it wouldn't be that good, and this guy did it and didn't even try, you know, it's it's very humbling. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, where we are the trends. I was kind of, ah, touch on that little bit. Study trends in music again, what are we doing? We're preparing like peyton manning, pairing for a defense. We're preparing for changes in music. Obviously, you just don't know. I mean, nobody is psychic. They can't just see the future, but start what I what I kind of feel like it's happening music right now is kind of what happened, where it was in the nineteen fifties, where everything was singles driven. Excuse me, dry throat. Right now, I mean, you still have albums being released. But they're not being marketed or pushed a cz much in the album since it's. Pretty much a singles driven market. So that's, where you want your head wants to be. You want to be thinking about singles. Come now, when I say, study the transit music. If you look at this chart and you try to be like, okay, I need to sound like what's on this chart your behind, because a lot of these records that are on this chart we're made five months ago, four months ago, six months ago. So what you want to do is study patterns um as you can if you look at this chart maybe a year ago two years ago you probably wouldn't find records like this or even records like this you would be finding mohr this is kind of a mash up this is ah a kind of ah dancey with like a country feel to it which is something you wouldn't have found on the charts a year or two ago no, you would be finding a lot of up tempo dance four on the floor type of music things are slowing down right? I mean, it seems like they are this is a great record kind of slower, you know? So is you know, both both of these records are and one of one of my good colleagues actually mixed both these records there you have to study these trends but not as if you're trying to copy what's on the chart right now. Study what's on the chart now what was on the charts six months ago? What was on the chart a year ago? What was on the chart five years ago? What was on the chart ten years ago? You're looking for long pad term patterns here you're not looking for just what was this week what was last week because you're far behind at that point and what you're trying to do is be first to the next thing you're not trying to copy what's already out, because by the time it gets to the airwaves, it's going to be old. You're trying to study patterns, study trends and create something new. Okay, well, man, like the dry, the dry sound of the nineties hip hop, those really loud snares and vocals that are right in your face and bone dry that we haven't been seeing a lot of that lately. Let me let me try that or men, if I hear one more ada, wait. You know what let me make the eight away a little less relevant in this song let me make it more about this musical part is the producer going to not like it may be but these are things you're collaborating with that you're not just making these decisions in your mind at this point your state this stage in your career people are valuing your opinions your musical opinions we should try this let's try this so in this sense you're almost thinking like a producer um if you are a producer than absolutely this is your life if you're mixed engineer or an engineer you have to start carrying the mindset that a producer would have not because you're going to gangster somebody's record and think you're going to reproduce it but because you have to be in the same head space is them to be closely collaborating with the producer you have to think like a producer um so by studying the charts and studying, you know there's things like beat poured and there's you know there's all kinds of information out there about what people in the world are listening to look overseas where people listening to overseas america has a trend of stealing the sound from europe you know the the gm dancy sounding music was being done in europe ten, fifteen years ago and it made its way over here and everyone you know, I was like oh it's a new sound well, no it isn't it's been over there for years, it's, just new in america, the more information, the more wreak on you, khun d'oh, about what people are listening to. I know this is getting a little off track, but I mean, think psychology, like looking study patterns and what people listen to and take all of this information and try to think creatively. Okay, how can we create something that's never been done before, but make it sound like something that's always been there? That's. The key to writing hit is innovation, but it can't be too different, because it will throw the listener off. It has to sound. Common enough to where it's catchy and it is it's something that the listeners can get into but make it different make it unique and the way you do that is by taking information from his many places that you possibly can my friend tonight for that we say classic with a twist yeah, sure classic with a twist why not anyway that you can try to distinguish what you want to do from what someone else wants to do you know, as an engineer you want to try to be unique because that's what's going to set you apart from other people you know, if I even though I worked closely with dave for years if I just wanted to sound like dave prince otto why would they hire me? They just hire dave you know no because he has the reputation and he could do his own thing way better than I could do a cheap imitation of what he does. All I can do is learn the techniques that he taught me and learn the techniques that I learned from other people by re conning and being a ninja and apply it to my own musical taste and try to create something that's my own based on what I've learned which is what exactly what you're trying to do and these airways to help you try to find ways to get sounds to inspire you it's hard to just sit there in your car in your control room and just spontaneously, oh, I just came up with the latest greatest thing. Like pete, you need inspiration, so you find it by digging and finding. What are people listening to? What can I do to kind of shock a listener? Um, but not too much, you know, make something different. That sounds like something that's always been there.