How did you get started in audio production?
-Haphazardly! I made the decision to switch from university studying geology to music after like, a year. I had wanted to be geologist since I was 9. I was listening to this one record on repeat on my drive to uni and I started to really wonder how they were getting those sounds, what made them write that waynitnwas just so different from thestuffninhad grown up with. I was doing demos, and writing with my buddy and found an audio school in Vancouver. I knew the only way my folks would let me drop out was if it was for another «school» so I said «hey I wanna move to the city and do this completely different thing that I’ve never mentioned before, is that cool?»
After a little bit back and forth and convincing I ended up moving and starting school in front of an SSL 4K and knowing nobody there, I literally went up and the down the streets looking for buskers I liked and asking if they wanted free studio time.
How would you describe your personal approach to making music?
— I always try and focus on keeping things as authentic as possible for the artist and the song. I want to make sure the emotion is right for what we are doing. Like if it’s a super personal ballad the performance has to come through the same as a hype party track covered in autotune. People can tell when you’re phoning it in.
What studios were you working at when you were coming up?
Oh man, all kinds! I interned for a terrific producer named Howard Redekopp for awhile and with him I got to work out of The Armory Studios, and Monarch as well as his own awesome home studio. For my own sessions I was mostly working out of weird hole-in-the wall studios with names like Ampersound and Sugar Tits. Mostly referred to as Sugar Ts. Occasionally I was able to afford to do some records at bigger rooms like GGGs Richardson’s The Farm Studios and Greenhouse. But I would record anywhere, at one point it was an impromptu performance from a band on top of a ferry. I had all my gear with me as I was coming back from a prepro session. I got my mic, laptop and Mbox set up in like 5 minutes and got a half hour performance recording out of them.
What led you to start building out the Vibe Cave? What kind of projects was it meant for? How did you want it to be different from other spaces you worked in?
-Necessity more than anything. I was starting to max out on my upstairs neighbors patience with me making records at home. I can’t blame her. I got a call from my buddy Matt Roach who was engineer at Greenhouse Studios and basically said «Hey, there’s a studio space available in the complex next door to Greenhouse! You don’t suck, want to share this space together?» We had a day to decide to take over the lease.
I borrowed some money for a few months of rent and jumped in. We ended up splitting the space into dual control rooms and I found another friend to help split the rent in my room. All of a sudden I was working a full time job and running a small studio!
Originally it was kinda meant for anything! I was still pretty early in my career so i was just taking on all kinds of projects. Now it’s meant for rapidly switching between Mixing, programming in the box and recording just about any instrument but drums. I was getting really tired of having to do major change overs or setups in different rooms so this space is built for super fast creative moves. The biggest difference is that I absolutely refuse a booth or separate space for vocals. We have one, but vocals are always done in the room with me. I have a deep hatred for TalkBack buttons and I want to make sure I know exactly what headspace my artist is at, at all times. What better way to do that than have them right beside me?
Talk about the basic workflow of the studio space and walk us through your gear set-up.
-I’ve taken bits of my favorite setups and integrated them like Joe Barrisi and his pedal wall for mixing. Howard had an excellent iso room with permanently miced guitar cabs in another room for tracking. So I built myself a version of that with some Dakine pres permanently set up for that job. I have a section I call Synth Island that all mixes down to an old 16 channel rack mount Roland mixer so when I’m sound designing I can blend 6, 7 different synths and just patch flip and tweak. Printing to a stereo track in Protools and commiting to the sound right there. I find it way more creative than opening up a bunch of Serum or Phase Plant instances and doing the same thing.
Everything is built around the UA Apollo with an Antelope Satori monitor controller. A Dangerous AD+ is on its way though.
I’m sure you hit on some of them above, but what are some of your favorite pieces of gear in the studio and why?
-The Sonic Farm Creamer + is still my desert island piece, however I have this old Roberts reel to reel tube preamp that was modded and it just has an incredible tone for guitars. It sounds like a micd amp! The way my tech described it, one of the tubes is acting like a compressor section so it has its own squeeze effect. I Love it on room mics and it has a beautiful VU.
What made you decide to pick up a microphone from Soyuz?
I had heard a few things recorded with the 017 and I was pretty blown away. I was also looking for something a bit different from the usual fare that most other studios or producers had in the area. Love an 87 a 251 or a 414 but there’s more sounds out there and I want to find them. I’m also a big fan of Sylvia Massey, her digging them might have influnced me a bit.
What do you like about the 017 FETs sound? What does it bring to your mic locker?
-its super smooth in the ranges I always deal with sibilance. I would also describe it as a very «rich» mic, meaning like I love using it as just a solo mic for a Vocal and Acoustic performance because it just has a great picture of what’s in front of it.
It’s a whole new color on the pallet for microphone choice. Even amongst my other Fet mics.
I’ve noticed you using it a lot on vocals. What’s your favorite signal chain for the microphone?
-Depending on the vocalist it’s either a Maag PreQ or the Sonic Farm Creamer Pre. The Creamer can run pentode or triode so it just gives any mic a huge level of flexibility.
Then it’s usually hitting my Distressor before going into the UA console for a bit of Pultec- EQ if needed, a bit of 2K control with the Precision De-Esser and a touch of limiting with the UA LA2A or CL1B.
I know you’ve used our other microphones as well. What do you think of the 023 Bomblet and 013 Series? What applications have you used those microphones for?
Both are fantastic! We actually have two sets of 013s between mine and our large format partner studio Rain City Recorders (Formerly Greenhouse). Those are all over OHs and Acoustics. Love them on our upright piano. We have a few other sets of mics that are sitting around much more often now.
Straight up, The Bomblet replaced our Fet47 on Kick Out for me, which is usually a permanent staple.
For anyone who is looking to build out their own studio space like you have, what are some tips for success that you may have?
Invest in the tools that consistently make your job easier so you can focus on the performance and your workflow. Use hammers, not swiss army knives to build with. Also, consistently do a good job and don’t be a prick to work with.
What’s a special trick you use in your music production, whether it be recording, mixing or mastering, that you love to show other people?
When I’m dealing with a very emotionally charged song and a vocalist I like to do two quick things before we start to actually record, this is after I’ve dialed in their mic and headphones. I ask them what their favorite color is and then switch the studios lighting to that and then I get them to explain the lyrics or meaning behind the song or what lead to then creating this track. I find it helps them slip back into the headspace they had when they originally wrote it and my whole job gets 60% easier because they are already where they need to be mentally.
What’s next for you and Vibe Cave?
-Sync! All I truly care about is making great records but I’m building a part of my business out to deal with sync opportunities. I end up with writing splits on most of the records I produce, and a lot of bands don’t want to deal with the paperwork and buisness side that comes with the job. So I’m making an in house Library from music so I can represent the artists without an additional cut from any of their Writing, Master or Pub.