Here are the values I strive for:
1. The artist’s needs ALWAYS come first.
This seems obvious, but my experiences as a musician and producer tell otherwise. To ensure that I understand each project, I start by asking questions. I’ve crafted these over time to get to the heart of the music and to understand how it fits with the artist’s goals. I prefer doing this with a phone call, but an email questionnaire works too (if phone is inconvenient).
2. Always strive to create the best sonic presentation of the music, but never forget that the sound needs to serve the music.
My McGill tonmeister training made this a difficult lesson to learn. Breaking old habits can be tough. Sometimes the most “audiophile” presentation isn’t the best one. If the music dictates it, sometimes you have to roll up your sleeves and dirty the mofo up! Mastering comes down to how the song makes you feel. The sound needs to help the music connect with the listener and make them feel something special.
3. Bass, warmth and bottom end rule the world.
4. The best records emerge through collaboration.
Revisions should not only be free but encouraged if it makes the music better. I believe this process gives us the freedom to experiment and push boundaries. Safe is for pussies.
5. Depth is greater than breadth.
By using a hacker mentality, strip everything that is unnecessary — leave only the things that help make better sounding records. Developing mastery over a few select pieces of gear will always be better than being mediocre with a larger selection.
6. Large gear lists and designer studios are primarily about ego.
I could build a larger studio and raid Vintage King, but why? Focusing on these superficial elements might look impressive, but generally do nothing for the music. If anything, they tend to distract the engineer from the task at hand.
7. Train like an elite athlete and treat each session like game day.
Mastering engineers aren’t perfect and I definitely don’t claim to be. This is a lifelong learning process. To ensure that I’m always improving and working at the edge of my abilities, I train at least an hour a day. Sessions are like game days, so I go early to bed, avoid alcohol and watch my nutrition. I want my mind and my ears to be in peak form when I work on someone’s music.
8. Don’t Be Afraid To Fail
Fear of failure is probably the biggest hindrance to creativity. This is another reason why revisions are free. I’d rather fail occasionally if it allows me to knock it out of the park more often. What’s the alternative? Being safe like other studios? Not for me.