From Producer to Mixer
Some projects you worked on you only produced, and some you started to mix as well. How long were you mixing for the project out of necessity, and then, how did that transform into being a mixer?
I don’t know if I can come up with a particular album where the tide started changing. I don’t think there’s been that many times, maybe once or twice, where I’ve produced something that I haven’t mixed. Most of the time people hired me to do both from the outset. But if you look at the total number of albums that I’ve been a part of as either a producer, mixer, or both, probably the highest number would be in the mixer–only category at this point.
Was there a specific point where you started mixing only?
I would say it’s been an evolution over the last ten years. It wasn’t a dramatic, “I’m not producing anymore.” It was just that mixed in with some of the producing gigs were these gigs where people were just saying, “Well, we already have a producer, but we want you to mix because we like this record you did as a producer and a mixer, or just as a mixer.” And it just was one of those things where it snowballed a little bit on its own.
I actually really liked that because it was a nice change from the longer time commitment of producing a record, where you really have to go in there and join the band for a few months.
And I naturally gravitated towards mixing a wider breadth of music, different genres, basically, whereas I might not be completely comfortable producing more of a straight-up pop album. I actually really enjoy mixing it because I enjoy listening to stuff like that, but in terms of getting into the writing of it and executing the production style of pop with the artist, I might not be the right guy for it. But mixing it, I can really sink my teeth into it. And it’s less of a time commitment per project, so instead of producing one album in two months, I can mix three albums in two months.
That coincided with the evolution of how records are mixed these days, which is they’re not necessarily mixed in $2,000-a-day mix studios in Hollywood anymore because mixing inside-the-box has become so good, sonically speaking, that I could mix from my home studio and have a little bit more personal time, whereas producing a band — I prefer to be in a nice, full-service studio if I’m producing a rock band. And those hours tend to be long because people want to get the most value out of the studio.
Are there studios that would emerge as personal favorites to work in over the years?
What is it about those studios that make them emerge to you as favorites? What were they getting right on a consistent basis?
It’s mundane, but the answer is “maintenance.” I mean, that’s a big deal. You’d be walking into a room and having pretty much everything working, it’s a nice feeling. Some studios, they can’t afford to have a full-time maintenance person or even a part-time, so you come into a studio and a lot of things aren’t working, and right off the bat you’re having to do a lot of workaround, and it sets a bad tone right off the top.
So I always appreciated those studios because they were booked all the time, and they reinvested in the studios by having good maintenance and good technicians that, if something went down, they could fix it in the shop and have it back to you quickly.
Flying the Red Swan
Today you do most of your mixing today out of your personal facility, Red Swan Studios. Tell me about how it’s set up to serve your needs as a mixer.
Well, it’s boring now, because my mix studio’s gotten extremely pared down to just some Pro Tools hardware and my speakers. It’s crazy. I have a lot of outboard gear, I just don’t use it when I’m mixing. I use it when I record.
The last Failure record [2015’s The Heart is a Monster] I busted out all my equipment and set it all up and used it all. But when I’m mixing now, I’m mixing in the box. So all I need is a room that sounds decent and has the speakers I’ve been using for 20 years now, which are Genelec 1031As. And a powerful computer because I like to have no limit on plugins and processing, so I have a newer trashcan Mac Pro and it’s got a lot of RAM — I’m able to run a lot of tracks and plugins on it.
As time has gone on, I’ve had a lot of different incarnations of my studio in different spaces, and most of it’s in racks that are on wheels so I can transport it easily. But as time has gone on, it’s gotten whittled down to almost nothing now.
You’ve been mixing out of Red Swan for several years now. What do you feel are some of the more memorable mixes you’ve executed there?
Well, off the top of my head there was the last Failure record I did in my own spot, as well as Paramore’s eponymous album [2013’s #1-charting Paramore]. The Beck single “Timebomb” from a few years ago turned out really well, some M83, plus the latest Jimmy Eat World album, Integrity Blues.
I’m really proud of the way Integrity Blues sounds. It was recorded really well. A lot of the records that I work on these days are self-produced because budgets have gotten smaller across the board, so artists have had to tighten things up. But that was a record where the band valued the old-school work flow: They had a producer, recording engineer, they went to good studios, and it really showed in the final output of that record.
Landing Stone Temple Pilots
How did your mix career lead you to working with Stone Temple Pilots on their upcoming album?
The DeLeo Brothers, Dean and Robert, did another band that they were in, Army of Anyone, that wasn’t Stone Temple Pilots. They had Richard Patrick singing from Filter, and a different drummer [than STP’s Eric Kretz], Ray Luzier. I mixed their self-titled album in 2006.
So when they were working on this latest album, Dean called me up and said, “Hey, what are you doing? We’re getting to the mix stage of this album and wanted to see if you were interested.” And I said, “Of course!” And now, I’m doing it. I had already mixed the first single [“Meadow”], which was an audition to get the whole album.
They partnered with Sirius Radio for this album, and I know that they did a live concert where that song was recorded. So that might be out there also.
Why was it a no-brainer for you to say “Yes” to mixing the record? How would you characterize Stone Temple Pilots as a band, their sound and everything about them?