Here's a list of some of the questions I am frequently asked. Before you try to contact me please look over this stuff and maybe save us both some time.
I'm self-taught, like many recording engineers I know. If you have a basic physics/science/electronics background it helps a lot. I do have a BSEE (U of W) which is helpful but doesn't have much direct bearing on what I do now; I majored in electric power, not audio. There are a few good recording schools, but if I was you I would save all that tuition money and use it to buy some good books, a Mac and a ProTools LE rig, a small mixer, good speakers, and some mics, move into a house with a sound-proofable basement, and start learning by doing it. It also helps if you play an instrument, no matter how badly, the more the better. Get in a band. I started out as a drummer, then played bass a few years, then was guitarist in Skin Yard for 8 years. If you're not AROUND this stuff all the time, it's hard to know the best way to deal with each situation - drum tuning, guitar amp knob tweaking, different kinds of speakers, strings, etc: all the hardware and the physics of it. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you are not at the very least a BAD musician, you are at an extreme disadvantage. And musicians instinctively trust another musician, even a bad one, more than some recording school grad!
Once you have the basement-recording thing down pretty good, you can start thinking of working at a real studio - but it's way better to start on your own, no matter how small-scale. NOTE THIS PLEASE: there are very few actual "JOBS" in this business. Almost everyone I know who is a fulltime recording engineer is self-employed, meaning they either work freelance like me, or they own their own studios no matter how small-time. Firing off resumés in the mail probably won't do you much good. That's just the way it is; deal with it.
Me, specifically? OK, I worked at a Naval Shipyard (PSNS, Bremerton, WA) for a few years as a civilian Electrical Engineer (a gratifying, soul-nourishing job... NOT) and saved all my pennies, then quit and took a year off, moved into a rented mobile home in a remote rural area (Belfair, WA) with my 4-track Tascam 3340-S, a 6-channel Tapco board (Greg Mackie's old company!), three mics, a drumset ('67 Ludwig), a Fender Twin, a guitar and a bass. After 8 months I was ready. I moved back to Seattle, set up a $5/hour 4-track studio in my friend Peri Hartman's basement, and eventually co-founded Reciprocal Recording with Chris Hanzsek (known for earlier doing "Deep Six" and Green River's "Come on Down" EP). Then I just starved (i.e. I shared a house with 4 other people) and worked like a madman for several years, until I got good and shit started happening. (YMMV...)
It's important to point out that I had another career to fall back on until I was sure I knew what I was doing...i.e., don't quit your day job right away! (BACK)
Hmmm. Now that would be telling, wouldn't it? OK, here's how I see it.
A prologue: "Producing" can be a bit of a scam. This is why Steve Albini refuses to let people call him one, even though he's obviously more than just an engineer. Maybe we should coin a new word. I too was uncomfortable with it for a long time, preferring the credit "recorded by..." rather than the more unwieldy "produced, engineered and mixed by...". At a certain point other people started calling me a producer because apparently I was doing more than just turning knobs, and it was that extra stuff people wanted as much as my "guitar sound" or whatever. Still, in the punk-rock environment in which I got my start, it seemed ludicrous having a "producer" credit on records which took a week or less to make.
But if you don't take yourself seriously, no one else will for long. People took me seriously as a producer before I myself did, due to the big Seattle explosion. But people liked my records and still do, even the old lo-budget/lo-fi ones. Eventually (duh!) I got a clue and realized that I was in fact "producing". Job offers from around the world (11 countries to date) further beat this into my head. I discovered that what was expected of me, was what I had always done instinctively... just more of it.
So what does this mean, and why the potential for scam-hood?
Unlike most other high-profile careers, there are no formal requirements to call yourself a record producer. Any Tom, Dick or Harry can call themselves a producer, and lots of 'em do, and knowledge or skill has nothing to do with it. An engineer, at the very least, needs to know how to turn knobs; but anyone who can talk a good line can get away with being a "producer" (for a while... particularly in LA). Some people who get their names on records as producers never even set foot in the studio; and then there's those mysterious "executive producers": no one can tell you what they do, but you can bet they're getting paid for it.
A real producer covers four areas: 1) the science of SOUND and ENGINEERING, finding sounds and capturing 'em; 2) broad as possible knowledge of music, songwriting and arranging; 3) psychology, working with people closely in creative situations for long periods of time (and omigod, those people are MUSICIANS); and 4) business, as in the music biz, and also as in self-employment. Lots of us started as either musicians or engineers and learned from there; and of course we were, and remain, music fans first. We're workaholics and will work 14 hours a day to make your record. So what's the problem? It has to do with the nature of fame, hype, and the BIZ itself.
The potential for abuse comes from the insidious idea of the producer as an omniscient, all seeing sage who knows more about what's good for a band's music than the band themselves. Major labels like to promote this view, particularly if the producer is one of their employees or good buddies. And there are plenty of musicians, ripe to be scammed, who in fact want to have a "daddy" holding their hand and babysitting them through the awful, terrible, grueling, emotionally scarring recording process and telling them just what to do. There is even a type of producer who is basically a glamorized cheerleader/psychiatrist/babysitter with a genius for self-promotion. He might be the famous producer du jour, but his real skill may be in hiring the right engineers to do all the real work. Or he might just be another famous musician. Beware hiring this type. It's your money paying him - make sure you know just what you're paying for, other than a famous name on your record.
On the other hand, those who rightfully decry the "omniscient producer" paradigm sometimes make the reactionary mistake of putting their faith in an equally erroneous idea: that of the "omniscient musician". I'm sorry, but the number of ways that musicians can (and frequently do) shoot themselves in the foot in the studio (and elsewhere) are limitless. Knowing how to play your music is one thing, turning knobs and recording sounds is another, but MAKING A GOOD RECORD is something else entirely. As a musician you may make a few records, perhaps five or six if your career is really long. But a good producer may have made hundreds, and has seen and dealt with a lot of potential pitfalls. There is a "punk rock" viewpoint that says that all a band needs is an engineer who should press "record" and otherwise keep his mouth shut; but this seems pointless to me, and is the difference between a "record" and a "demo". Some seemingly mediocre bands may have great records in them because of their ideas, or their emotional intensity, or something -- but it needs help to come out! Even the most trivial suggestions (like "stop, tune that guitar") from an outsider with a good ear can make an enormous difference in the final result.
A producer has to know enough about music, sound recording and the delicate art of MAKING RECORDS to be able to know when and how to tell the musicians that something isn't working as well as it could, in such a way that they MIGHT actually believe him. And when they (even accidentally!) do something brilliant, the producer can call their attention to it so they don't prematurely discard it or go too far down the "perfectionism" rabbit hole. Sometimes, musicians are their own worst critics and can't see the forest for the trees. Constructive criticism is essential, if the musicians are not too arrogant to listen to it. (If they are, why hire you?) How can you help them to get where they are trying to go? You need a big, objective, broad overview of the whole situation, including the band members' personalities and tastes, their past recordings, their live shows, their favorite albums, and how clearly they can articulate just what it is they want. And you need a good overall knowledge of Popular Music History - the Big Picture.
You listen to what they're trying to "say" musically, and help 'em say it clearer. Present them with options to try. Show them possibilities. Be an "objective" outsider when necessary. And yeah, sometimes you have to be a cheerleader/psychiatrist/babysitter... Just make sure it sounds good.
Something else the producer is sometimes stuck with, is being a mediator between band and record label over song choices, etc. If you've come up in the indy scene where labels are more hands-off, this can be hard to get used to, especially if the A+R guy is some fresh-from-college kid who knows less about music than you do. Luckily, most of the label people I've worked with respect the artist and trust my judgement without interfering in the record-making process too much. (Truer outside the US, though.) I always make it a point to find out what sort of record the label is expecting; I'll make both band and label happy if I can. If the band has other ideas, hell, its their record, I'm not going to contribute to all the producer horror stories; but if band and label have drastically different ideas, its a bad scene (worst case: band gets dropped) and you should avoid it like the plague - try to find out this stuff before you take the gig, or you may become a scapegoat. The label is risking their money - the more money, the more right they have to interfere - but if you are an independent producer, you are hired by the band, not the label. Remember however that it IS in everyone's interest to keep the label happy, or the record (and your career?) could vanish without a trace.
I'll add one more bit of food for thought: there are two kinds of producers... the ones who think YOU are the artist, and the ones who think THEY are the artist. There's room in the world for both kinds, of course. I like to think I'm the first kind.
(Note: A great historical view of the evolution of the independent producer can be found in Beatles producer George Martin's book "All You Need Is Ears".) Here's another great book: Confessions of a Record Producer, by Moses Avalon, Guitar Player Books, 1998.) (BACK)
A "recording engineer" is at minimum a knob-turner, and at maximum a Scientist of Sound. He may not yet be good enough to call himself a producer and get away with it. Or maybe he doesn't want to, or doesn't want the responsibility. Maybe he's a specialist, and has found the niche in which he excels. Anyone who knows how to operate the equipment in a recording studio and make a recording can call themselves a recording engineer, but really good ones will find the world beating a path to their door. If they are also producer material, the world will let them know.
I guess for me, being a producer has to include at least a bit of engineering. That was how I, and most other producers I know, started; we are producer/engineers. There are some producers who are not engineers, and lots more who used to be engineers but now hire engineers to assist them, but most of them at least know how to get good sounds. Some very good producers are experienced or famous musicians who've made a lot of records and who know which engineers to hire to be their hands and ears. (But sometimes this type is hired just for celebrity value, getting his name on the record and pocketing a fee, while the engineer does all the actual work.) The engineer is crucial to the recording process, but the Producer gets all the credit no matter how much of a bozo he is. The upside of this for the engineer is that the producer gets blamed if things go wrong. (BACK)
Lotsa people confuse this with "mixing". Mixing is when you think you are "finishing" the record, creating the final two-track stereo versions from the multitrack masters... "mixing together" 24 tracks (or more) of sound into just the final two left/right tracks that people will be able to listen to on their stereos. Mastering, however, is when you actually finish the record. When mixing, your ears and perceptions will change slightly during the course of the project; songs mixed at different times may sound very different in tones or in relative volume from each other. Mixing is a kind of intense and subjective process, and it's hard to maintain absolute consistency through the entire project. Each song may sound fine by itself, but one may be subjectively louder than the next, making the following song seem "smaller" than it should; or your ears may get fatigued and the mixes slowly get brighter and brighter as your ears lose sensitivity to the high frequencies. Enter the elite mastering engineer. His job is to make your CD as loud as possible without changing the sound of the music too obviously: everyone wants to get as close as they can to the maximum digital output level (known as "digital zero") so their music will sound louder than everyone else's on the radio. (I'm not saying this is good, it's just the way it is.) This is a very tricky, exacting job requiring some very hi-powered digital processing gear and much care. Another job of the mastering engineer is to make things sound consistent if that is what is desired (it usually is), both tonally and volume-wise, so a rock song is not quieter than the preceding acoustic guitar song, to take an extreme example; or so one song is not "duller" sounding than the others. Imagine the tone controls on your stereo, but exaggerated into surgical instruments. The mastering engineer has to have a feel for the abstract "ideal average stereo" out there in the real world, and his most important job is to make sure that your record will sound great on the maximum number of stereo systems that exist, not just that crummy 70's-era Kenwood receiver in your bedroom.
Mastering engineers usually have their own control rooms, called "mastering suites", and never work anywhere else, which allows them to really get to know the sound in their room, so they can make decisions quickly and with confidence. As an engineer working in many different rooms all the time, I know how hard it is to always be sure of the relationship of what I'm hearing to the, uh, "outside world", because just about the time I really "learn the room" I'm off to the next job! I deal with this by steering most of my mixing work to one or two studios I am very familiar with, whenever possible.
I do some mastering work myself, mostly for friends on limited budgets, but I'm not efficient enough to want to make this my main gig. To really excel at mastering I would need better/newer software and a dedicated mastering suite. There are two professional mastering studios I enjoy working with in LA (when the budget allows), who have been able to actually follow written instructions and seem to be on my wavelength: Eddie Schreyer at Oasis Mastering, and John and JJ Golden at John Golden Mastering. Scott "Pig Destroyer" Hull (the one from Bethesda MD, not the one who recorded Steely Dan) has also treated me right. Tom Hall is another good one. John Cuniberti is good. These men understand rock. I do not insist on attending distant mastering sessions; the travel and hotel expenses can be a significant addition to the budget (charged to the band, remember) and unless there is a lot of tedious, exacting work for me to oversee, I've found my presence (or the band's presence) there has scant relationship to whether the work is done properly. Instead I prepare detailed, written song-by-song instructions, maintain phone/email contact, and receive reference CDs by FEDEX (or files by FTP). Some mastering engineers I've worked with seem unable to follow the simplest written instructions; but these guys can. Others that I respect are Greg Calbi, Alan Douches, Bob Ludwig, and in Seattle Chris Hanzsek; but there's lots of great mastering engineers, and sometimes what they can do to your record is miraculous. Do not discount this final step, even if you spend almost as much as you paid to record. (BACK)
No, though I was a minority partner in Seattle's Reciprocal Recording for a short time when it first opened in July 1986; I let Chris Hanzsek buy me out so I could go free-lance and not have to worry about overhead, insurance, rent, etc. Most of the studio owners I've since met are pretty nervous people because in the studio biz, you're selling time, and there's only so many hours in a month, so there's a built-in limit to how much money the business can make; and every minute of that time that is wasted is money out of their pockets. I have always successfully resisted the urge to have my own studio, and as a result I have been able to make records in 11 countries. If I owned a studio, I could never leave.
By the way, Chris Hanzsek pulled the plug on Reciprocal Recording in '91 after five years because the studio had outgrown the rather rustic building, and he is now a successful mastering engineer. Since then, that odd triangular building in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle has been Word of Mouth Productions (1991-1993), John'n'Stu's Recording (1993-2000), and more recently Hall of Justice (run by Chris Walla of Death Cab For Cutie).
These days I do most of my work out of a Seattle studio called Soundhouse, although I can sometimes be found at Studio Litho, Bob Lang's, Avast!, Jupiter Studio, Bear Creek Studio, London Bridge, and Electrokitty Studio. Complete info on Northwest studios can be found at Recordingstudiosearch.com. (BACK)
I never really stopped. My first solo record "Angle of Attack" was released by Toxic Shock in 1990. In 1991, as my longtime band Skin Yard was winding down after 5 records, I noticed that the world seemed to want me as a producer more than as a musician. Rock guitarists are a dime a dozen, aren't they? This decision was enhanced by the fact that musicianship had never earned me enough to live on. (On the other hand I never went into debt, and nobody owns my ass. Never had to pay for a producer either...) Nonetheless I can't entirely stop myself; if I don't play a gig for too long I get antsy. So now I do it for the reason I started out years ago, because it's fun to play and make records. (And BTW, I've worn earplugs at EVERY jam, rehearsal, club show, concert and band gig since the 70s, so my hearing is fine.)
Skin Yard folded in 1992; see the Skin Yard Page for the full story and discography. Cruz records released a record for me called "Endino's Earthworm" in 1992, for which I played a few shows. This on-again-off-again band/project managed to come out of hibernation long enough to play a final show in April of '96 and then go into the studio and record some basic tracks; I thought I was making a second Earthworm record, but it stalled. On these sessions were Barrett "The Polymath" Martin on drums (ex-Skin Yard, Screaming Trees, Mad Season, Tuatara, Wayward Shamans, currently The Walking Papers), Rob Skinner (ex-Coffin Break and Popsickle) on Bass, Pat Pedersen (ex-Skin Yard, Sister Psychic) also playing bass on some songs, and yours truly on guitar and vocals/screaming.
My next project was the Suitcase Nukes, consisting of me along with Josh Sinder (ex-Tad, Gruntruck, Accüsed, now The Insurgence) on drums and Alex Sibbald (ex-Gruntruck, Accüsed, now with Toe Tag) on bass. These guys liked to, uh, splatter and thrash a bit more so it was pretty fun. Our first show was Sunday, March 23, '97 at RCKNDY in Seattle opening for (of course) Screaming Trees and Tad. (Another Inbreeding Nite in Seattle!) This was the first, er, "above-ground test" of the Nukes, and was followed soon after by another gig at Seattle's now-defunct Colourbox with Suction opening. I thought it would become a band, but my life got complicated by too many family deaths and funerals, a failing marriage, and too much work; I didn't have the time/energy to keep it going. The Nukes recorded some stuff, but it took me until 2004 to finally finish and mix 5 of the tracks (read on).
In 2000-2001, I played bass with Wellwater Conspiracy for maybe half a dozen shows, one of which was opening for Pearl Jam at the Seattle Arena (Nov 6, 2000), another was Terrastock in Seattle, and another was opening for Guided By Voices in New York. That ended when I was called to Brazil for three months to make my fourth album for the mighty Titãs... on which I ended up playing a lot of guitar and bass, due to a tragic accident that claimed band member Marcelo Fromer just as we started the sessions.
In 2003-2004 I spent much time as on-again-off-again "guest" bassist for Upwell, an excellent band whose debut CD I had recorded, though not played on. I told them I'd play shows with them until they found a permanent bassist, as long as they could put up with my studio schedule, a situation which lasted surprisingly long; now I miss playing with them. (But their new bassist Kirk is way better than me.) We did record one 4-song EP, "Number Nine," during my stint with them on bass. I recently recorded their 2008 CD, "Sell The Sky."
In 2005 I completed my third solo record, "Permanent Fatal Error". It has some of the above-mentioned Earthworm tunes, the five Suitcase Nukes tunes, and some tracks with me playing all the instruments. I picked out the best of it all and somehow, made it into a coherent record. It was released on Wondertaker Records in January 2006, and I did a short west coast US tour with Dirty Power as my backing band.
In 2006 I took the summer off and did some thinking, and one of my conclusions was that I needed to be playing more music. An odd band called Nervous Freemasons (now Red Heffer) drafted me in as a drummer (drums were actually my first instrument), and we played enough for me to get my drum calluses back. In short order I found myself in two real bands: Slippage, as their drummer, and later their bassist, and in Kandi Coded as their lead guitarist. Slippage made a full album, which you can download for free at Slippagemusic.com. Kandi Coded's album "Time Wasted Is Not Wasted Time" was released by Volcom Entertainment in 2007, although I'm only playing on 4 songs.
In 2009, Slippage called it a day, but Kandi Coded's 2nd album "Fell For The Gift" was released by Volcom Entertainment on Feb 2, 2010. I played tons of guitar on it as well as co-writing much of it and singing lead on two songs. It's available digitally (iTunes etc).
In 2013 my fourth solo release, the "Rumble" EP, came out on Seattle's Fin Records. It's all me except for the drummers, who include Barrett Martin, Johnny G from Kandi Coded, and Dana Sims from Witchburn; and the bass on one song is Justin McDonald. The current "live band" are me, Johnny G and Sam M from Kandi Coded, with Chris Johnson (ex-Zeke), and we have been playing shows under the name Endino's Earthworm since April 2013. A full album is in the works.
APRIL 2013 NOTE: I just "reissued" my albums "Angle of Attack" (1990) and "Permanent Fatal Error" (2006) via Bandcamp. You can get them in any file format, with no copy protection, AND you can get liner notes, cover art, and LYRICS (!!!). Angle Of Attack (long unavailable!) has been remastered by me, with three unreleased bonus tracks added, and updated cover art by Jim Blanchard.
And yes, my production career continues full-bore, and I still wear ear plugs at ALL gigs and rehearsals. (BACK)
Easy. Mail a CD, or send me a web link, or send me mp3s. But you better be serious about it; I don't have time to give free demo reviews so people can quote me in their press kit. ("Hi! Check out our songs and tell us what you think!" Nope...) I have a LARGE pile of terrible-sounding, unasked-for demos here, and I'd rather have teeth pulled than listen to most of them. (Anyone at a record label will tell you the same thing, I'm afraid. I don't have a record label, so why do people who don't even want me to record them keep sending me their demos as though I can help their career? I can't; I'm just a studio rat.) Heck, I have records I bought in the 70's that I haven't gotten to yet (some still in shrink wrap). Let me make this as clear as I can: my free time is very, very limited, and I have to spend it on stuff that directly pertains to keeping a roof over my head. (See Contact Info.) If I like your music, we'll talk. Some of my coolest jobs came from mystery tapes I got in the mail! (Hello, Guillotina!) But be forewarned, I'm pretty jaded and I "pass" on tons of stuff. If I'm gonna spend days or weeks (or months?!) with someone's music, noon-to-midnight every day, I better like it a lot. Whenever I have taken a job because, say, the money was good even though the band wasn't that interesting, I have always regretted it. To the continuing chagrin of my management, I am often drawn to the opposite situation.
Important (very) to point out that I'm not just interested in heavy rock bands. I'm good with all kinds of music and always ACTIVELY SEEKING OUT new experiences, hence the 11 countries I've worked in during the past decade. I'm actually a total sucker for good melodies and hooks, which kinda makes me a "pop" guy really. Unfortunately I am still dogged by the 'grunge' stereotype even though most of my best records have nothing to do with whatever is meant by this. ON THE OTHER HAND, I do have a comfort zone and some things are outside it. ("Modern country" or "urban" or "EDM" anyone?)
(NEW) Here's a quirk about my production style you should know about. If you want to make a LOUD ROCK record with me and have your drummer play everything to a click track all the way through every song, please reconsider. Your record is already f*cked before it even exists, and I will work on it under protest. I am 100 per cent, deadly serious about this, though sometimes I feel like the last sighted person in the kingdom of the blind, because you are THROWING SOME MAGIC AWAY. Your drummer should BE the click track. If the drummer's good enough to play to a click track and not suck, he will play even better without it, 99% of the time. (True on 98% of my production discography, BTW, yet everyone still asks me "How do you capture such a magical 'live feeling' in the studio?" Here is the answer.) Partial use of a click or a metronome (a brief speed reference just for the starting count-off of a song, for instance, or in sections with no drums) is fine though; it's how it's used that matters. Maybe just a song or two, OK, fine. I'll bite my tongue and deal. If, for some reason, you are recording the drums LAST, you will definitely need a click. But why not take off the training wheels and allow yourself to play some real music in real time? It's not that scary. Get rid of the safety net. More, MUCH more, on this in a future rant. The short version: click tracks were introduced during the late-70s disco era only for the TECHNICAL CONVENIENCE FOR A CERTAIN KIND OF STUDIO PRODUCTION METHODOLOGY and have NOTHING TO DO WITH MUSIC. Modern hard-disk recording/editing methods have made that production methodology (i.e. forcing human players onto a rigid time grid) vastly easier, yet at the same time, completely unnecessary, but it persists. That production methodology is appropriate for some genres of music (EDM, Hip Hop, slick pop) more than others. If you are a live rock band with a human drummer, think carefully and clearly about what you are doing. Why do you like having a drummer in the first place? Do you use a click track onstage? No? Then why drink this Kool-Aid in the studio? Yes, I know, there's no rules, you can do what you want... but THINK before you throw away some of the potential magic that only happens with a real-time human performance. (Unless you just cannot perform in real time... and you know it.)
My fee? I'm not as expensive as you probably think. It depends. How many songs? How much time do you want to spend in the studio? What's the level of intensity of the work I am expected to do? Do I have to get on a plane? Most important, what's your total recording budget? As these things vary, the size of a producer's fee should vary proportionally. (Remember: if a producer takes too high a percentage of the recording budget as a fee, there will not be enough studio time and it will suck. If he takes too little, it will be hard for him to give a shit, and it will suck.) Remember that anything is negotiable. Assuming I like the music, I'm open to projects with almost any sized budget; in fact, at this late date I view smaller budgets as sort of a pleasingly perverse challenge, as long as I have time open between the bigger jobs. They keep me on my toes. (And I'm still a workaholic!) Note, however, that my days of doing whole albums in 3 days are behind me...I think. Maybe.
I don't do any work "on spec" so don't ask. It's a 99 percent sure way to not ever get paid. I can't believe anyone still does this, but I guess people have to learn the hard way. (Working "on spec" means taking no payment up front, in exchange for a share of the profits down the road. Surprise... there usually are no profits!)
A nice by-product of the music business boom-and-bust cycle in Seattle was an oversupply of studios. As a result, recording costs here went WAY down because of all the competition. Come to Seattle and record cheap!
(See RecordingStudioSearch.com for a complete list of Northwest studios.)
I should mention that there is a management company, World's End in LA. (323-965-1540) who sometimes take care of the wheeling and dealing for me, particularly when larger corporate entities or foreign travel are involved. If I'm out of town they usually know how to reach me. Try to contact me directly first however, because they are busy and are not always quick. (BACK)
I wrote an entire huge dossier on this subject, so you might as well go read it. Aspiring young producers and engineers, you might find this useful to read also, as a possible way of thinking about your own future working methods. (BACK)
Man, this question gets pretty old. But how can you blame people for asking it over and over? I used to ask it myself. After the Nirvana questions this is the most popular. If you're sitting in your room writing songs and dreaming of being discovered, wake the hell up. The music biz in real life is not like that. The people who have gotten indy (or any!) record deals have done it by becoming self-employed, self-sufficient little gigging and touring businesses, shamelessly promoting themselves and playing in public and starving a lot until someone notices them. There are no guarantees even if you are actually good, which you may not necessarily be. I can't help you because a demo alone is worth practically nothing to a record company person (which I'm not), and besides, none of them listen to my opinion anyway. (I have few record company "contacts" outside Seattle. My occasional major label contacts - surprise - always get fired after about a year!) These people want to know that there is a live band they can go and see, or send someone to see. They want their friends to say, hey, I saw this great band the other night; if enough people say that to them over and over, then they may wake up and take notice. Why? Because music that is not specifically designed for mainstream radio can be effectively promoted only one way: through live playing and touring.
If you're a singer-songwriter type (or just a songwriter), and don't have a band, I really can't help you; I've worked with bands (and performing solo artists) my whole career. Please ask someone else what to do!
Remember please: I record records, I don't know how to sell 'em or promote 'em. I'm a freelance studio guy, not a record company guy.
However, I was once in a band and learned a thing or two. Here's some steps a typical 'rock band' should follow:
This is a tough question, because the need for "mentoring" is pretty well acknowledged in this biz. And it comes up often enough that I could have a different assistant every day of the year. These damn recording schools just keep pumping out grads, but the number of studios is not increasing. My answer, sadly, is usually a variation on the following: "I'm sorry, but I don't have a studio, I'm freelance, and my work (and locations) changes constantly. For various reasons, having a sidekick is just not practical... more and more of my work these days is mastering (done alone, late at night) or mixing (not a spectator sport). Go to my studio site: www.recordingstudiosearch.com and start contacting studios... there's about 100 of 'em listed in this area. Some of 'em do take interns."
A more honest response goes like this: "Short answer is no; I'm incapable of delegating and used to working alone. I dislike having people chattering and looking over my shoulder... and especially, bands are kind of weird about people they don't know hanging around. They hire me cuz they know me. Watching a band make a record is a little like watching someone undress. The band will say, 'Um... who's that?' Interns tend to be associated with studios, not with producers. A lot of what I do is pretty tedious like mastering and mixing... one-man jobs with odd hours, at various different rooms. I don't have my own studio, I jump all over the place. Often, I'm traveling. So... I can't really have a 'sidekick'. Good luck in this biz!"
Here's what people don't want to hear: in my circles, everyone is either a self-employed freelancer OR a studio owner, with no "employees" anywhere to be found. Studios very rarely "hire" people. Indy-rock budgets mean indy-rock hiring policies at the indy-rock studios. You gotta literally create your own career out of thin air. See question above: "How did you get started as a producer?"
But if you want to just meet me and grill me about my experience in the biz, see next question! (BACK)
This comes up often, and I don't drink, but I finally figured out how to make it worth my while. It's not that I'm unfriendly, just busy, and I don't owe anything to every stranger who asks for a couple hours of my time. Life is short and I value the time I have left on this planet. But the solution is wonderfully simple: if you just buy me LUNCH, you can pick my brain for an hour or so, my schedule permitting! (Lunch/brunch means I can still have a full day to work in the studio. Dinner is almost impossible to schedule, because I don't pick the time for my dinner breaks, my clients do.) Preferences: Thai, Greek, Chinese, Mexican. Vegetarian OK but not required. Expensive or fancy emphatically not necessary, but no fast food. Gotta have a table to sit down at. Prefer north half of Seattle (Fremont, Ballard). I respond well to food. Feed me, and I'll talk your ear off. (BACK)
Um... no. I'm a busy guy. If you have some SPECIFIC questions, I will try to answer them if I have time. Please start by reading thru this website; you can quote from it if you credit me. (BACK)
Yeah, maybe, if I have time... I deal with these requests on a case-by-case basis. Ask me. See lunch (above) if it's in-person. I like email interviews, but I'm pretty slow about answering them, so you better plan way ahead. I will no longer do phone interviews unless it's for a podcast or web radio thing. (BACK)
Please don't. You are asking to consume some of my life energy and scant spare time. People usually send me stuff to see if I will schedule studio time with them. That's the main reason I listen to someone's demo, cuz it's how I keep a roof over my head. I'm not interested in being a free advice service; it takes time to listen to something and formulate a respectful and intelligent opinion about it... hours, actually. I don't have those hours! In my world, this is just unpaid work. (BACK)
Here's the literal truth: my favorite record is usually the last one I recorded, which is why I got into this biz in the first place, and why I only work with bands I like. If you can't find enough records you like, you gotta make 'em yourself. Being a passive listener is just not as interesting to me anymore as being "inside" a record from the moment the first notes are laid down until the record is mixed. My "stereo" IS the studio control room. (And my Buick.) (BACK)
No, and no. Never did actually work for 'em directly. I'm independent; I work for YOU. Nor can I get you signed to anyone else. Record company people have their own agendas, which usually have nothing to do with how good you or I think your music is. I have yet to meet one who is actually interested in outside opinions, even from someone like me who has been doing this 24-7 for way, way longer than most of them have had jobs. Life is funny sometimes. (BACK)