You’ve also worked extensively with Hanson. Of all the projects you’ve mixed for them, what was the most challenging one?
Shout It Out was the one that the band wasn’t at the studio for. They very much know what they’re doing in the studio, and I think it was a little tough for them not to be at the mix.
Often on that record, once a song was mostly in order, the notes would be to “dirty it up” in some way, or make it less polished. Stuff that is super easy to address in the studio together, but finding the exact right way to do it can be tricky.
Those guys are total pros, though, and they know the recording process as well as anyone, so it never gets [too] difficult. More like ”Jeez, it’d be awesome if we could all be in the same room”. That comes up all the time these days with everyone’s schedule and mixing. I’ve got a few strategies for dealing with it, but it’s not perfect. Once studios start installing teleporter rooms we’ll be good.
Do you use references at all when you’re recording or mixing?
At least for me, referencing the outside world is crucial. I’m working in different rooms all the time and monitoring is tricky business.
Besides picking CDs and mixes that you know sound good in many environments, you need to match average levels in order to be able to compare the sonics of what you’re working on to anything else. I’m used to VU meters, so I match the levels of my reference track to my current mix on the VUs. Klanghelm make a great—and cheap—set of VU’s as a plug in.
A few years back I picked up Bob Katz’s great Mastering Audio and since then I’ve been holding myself to an 86db level, which is 12:00 on my monitor controller. I’m not sure if it’s that much better than the old way of checking a mix on everything available at loud and quiet volume, but at least it’s a consistent reference in the house.
What suggestions can you give to less experienced engineers for how to take care of their ears and prevent fatigue in the studio?
Remember to take breaks. Computers don’t give you that great 20-30 seconds of silence when you rewind. The trick is to hear it as if you just walked in to the studio. That’s the perspective you want in order to be able to make good decisions.