In any industry, getting inside the minds of those who’ve made it to the top is one of the quickest ways to forge your own path to success, and the audio industry is certainly no exception to this rule.
In fact, given the infamously cutthroat reputation that the audio industry has cultivated over the years, learning how to gain your foothold has become more important than ever in this breakneck-paced profession!
Getting Down To Business
Listed below are links to interviews and additional relevant sources that I’ve compiled for this article.
Above each link, you’ll find a brief synopsis of the interview that highlights the topic and subtopics as well as specific methods, trends, or experiences that the audio engineer and the interviewer discuss. So without further adieu, enjoy!
1. Steve Albini – Sound Engineer Extraordinaire
Even though this interview was published back in 2005 on the Sound On Sound website.
To this day it stands as a testament, a battle cry for audio engineers who proudly swear by analog recording techniques and objective, egoless perspectives that preserve the creative direction and drive of the bands they record and serve.
Unapologetically, Steve Albini cuts through the BS and condemns practices that have become pervasively commonplace over the years. In response to engineers and producers having influence over a band’s sound, he quipped, “It’s none of my business.
If the band has decided to do something, it’s their record. I think it’s rude for an engineer or producer to say ‘You guys are wrong about your own music.’ I think that’s almost unforgivable. It’s like saying ‘Here, let me show you how to f**k your wife. You’re doing it all wrong.’ It just seems crazy.”
In another vein, Albini is also loath to charge an arm and a leg for his services, especially when bands run out of money and can’t afford to finish the session.
So if you happen to live in Chicago and are part of a band, you should definitely look him up!
There is also a video interview of Albini on YouTube in which he explains his approach to recording in a very straightforward, clear-cut fashion for those who are truly committed to pursuing a career in the audio industry and honing their craft.
2. Joe Chicarelli – Production Wisdom And Technique
As one of the music industry’s most accomplished and seasoned engineers, Joe Chicarelli has worked with:
- The Killers
- The Raconteurs
- The White Stripes
- Frank Zappa
- Café Tacuba
and many others, as described in a biography on Studio Expresso.
In an interview with Universal Audio, Chicarelli discusses his workflow, the experiences and smart practices he’s gained from the artists he’s worked with.
How much he’s come to rely on the the UAD-2 Satellite as his go-to toolbox for all the UAD plugins he enjoys using. In the article, he mentions the Teletronix® LA-2A Classic Leveling Amplifier, 1176 Classic Limiter, EMT 140 Plate Reverb Plug-In, Roland RE-201 Space Echo Tape Delay, Roland Dimension D, and the EP-34 Tape Echo as his favorites.
3. Lee Francis – How To Be An Audio Engineer
Graham Martin of The Recruitment Guy interviews Lee Francis, a live sound engineer at Maddison Media. They go in-depth about the challenges and opportunities that are available in the live sound industry as well as practical advice about how to get into the live sound industry and work one’s way to the top. This video is definitely a must-see if you’re interested in live sound as a potential career!
4. Q&A with Tony Maserati – Pop Music’s Favorite Engineer
With a discography that pretty much the “who’s who” of the music industry such as Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Jason Mraz, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, and the Black-Eyed Peas, Tony Maserati has set the bar time and time again for commercially viable, industry-standard audio engineering practices.
Gearslutz takes to the task by eschewing the traditional interview for an organic Q&A in which users from all over the globe have posted questions ranging from how to create in-depth mixes without live instruments to applying effects like reverb and distortion tastefully.
Bearing the mark of a true professional and excellent teacher, Tony responds to each question asked and generously allows participants from all over the world to gain a sneak peek into his methods and thought processes that he engages in during a mix.
5. An Interview with Engineer Jim Pavett
Having gained interest in audio engineering at a young age, Jim Pavett was one of the first engineers to pioneer digital recording once digital technology was capable of recording and outputting high-quality signals equivalent to prevalent analog hardware standards at the time.
As the owner of Allusion Studios, which is based out of Arizona, Pavett has worked with a wide range of artists including Alicia Keys, Beyond Words, and Megadeath.
In an interview by Björgvin Benediktsson, Pavett answers a wide range of questions regarding the state and usage of digital technology in recording as well as his educational series, which is aimed towards helping aspiring audio engineers gain a more thorough understanding of effective audio engineering practices.
In the series, he stresses placing less emphasis and importance on the equipment and software used in the recording and mixing processes and more emphasis on establishing a goal-specific mindset for achieving a stellar-sounding end result.
6. Elvis Presley’s Sound Engineer, Bill Porter
With the advent of digital technology these days, catching a glimpse into the not-so-distant past of the audio industry reveals just how much more difficult it was to actually make it as an audio engineer before you could count on the benefit of hitting “undo” to fix a critical mistake.
Yet, audio engineer Bill Porter proved to be one of Elvis’s most seminal engineers in his entire career. Micheal Fermer published this rare interview on the Elvis Australia fansite in 2012, two years after Bill Porter passed away.
7. Joe Mabbott, Engineer and Instructor at McNally Smith
As a lifelong drummer and performer since the age of two, Joe Mabbott was destined to become an audio engineer. Having matriculated at the The Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Phoenix, Arizona, Mabbott relocated to Minneapolis, Minnesota after graduation to pursue a career first as an assistant engineer at Trail Mix Studios, and then as a freelance engineer.
In this video interview, Mabbott shares his story and walks viewers through what it takes to become an audio engineer and become successful at it.
8. Jim Scott – Building Success The Old-Fashioned Way
There isn’t really ever any clear-cut path to success in the audio industry, but Jim Scott had the innate knack and golden ears for good audio that sprang from a lifelong love of music.
After he went to college to study drumming and found out that he wasn’t really cut out for it, he started hanging out with other students who had formed a folk-rock band.
Before he realized it, Scott started working with the band as their live sound engineer without realizing that he was working as a live sound engineer. To find out how he took his passion and made it into a successful career from there, click here to read the whole interview.
9. Q&A with Live Sound Engineer Simon Kasprowicz
Simon Kasprowicz delves into the everyday life of a live sound engineer and goes into the realities of what those interested looking forward to a career in live sound can expect.
As revealed in this interview, Kasprowicz has a lot to say about how interpersonal and social skills are just as invaluable as knowing how to ride levels and properly set up microphones, prep the mixing board, or prevent feedback loops and clipping.
10. Tom Dowd – Recording Layla With Cream
As an inductee in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, Tom Dowd played a critical role in the recording industry not only as an incredibly talented musician and audio engineer but also as an innovator with vast academic and wartime experience as a degreed nuclear physicist who had a hand in developing some of the first atomic bombs used during WWII via the Manhatten Project.
In this special video interview, Dowd and legendary guitarist and songwriter Eric Clapton go into the thought processes, influences, and all-around interpersonal magic that contributed to the making of the hit song “Layla” by Cream.
11. Chris Conway
As the engineer behind Eminem’s “Marshall Mathers LP” and many other hip-hop albums, Chris Conway has had a decisive hand in shaping the sound of hip-hop as well as rock, R ‘n’ B, and pop. In this interview, published on Othersounds.com, Conway reflects upon the path his career took and how he became the go-to hip-hop engineer for many a rap artist.
12. Butch Vig
Renowned for producing the diamond-selling album “Nevermind” by Nirvana as well as a drummer and fellow producer for Garbage, a Winconson-based band, Bryan David “Butch” Vig made music history by recording Foo Fighter’s 2012 album, “Wasted Light”, in frontman Dave Grohl’s garage using nothing but analog recording equipment.
13. George D. Graham
Not all audio or sound engineering takes place onstage or in the recording booth. George D. Graham, who was one of the original founders of WVIA-FM, which hosted a popular jazz program called “Mixed Bag”, shares his story about how he got his start as a broadcast engineer.
14. Bruce Swedien
Having mixed many chart-topping albums for the late “King of Pop”, Michael Jackson, as well as other household names such as Paul McCartney, Jennifer Lopez, Herbie Hancock, and Barbara Streisand, Swedien is one of the most highly lauded and respected audio engineers in the music industry to this day. In this interview on Tape Op, Swedien delves into how he got his start at recording at a very young age.