What are the most important bits of gear that you use in the studio?
I’m not heavily driven by gear to be honest. For mastering I use some digital (outboard and plugins) and some analogue gear. My Focusrite Blue Mastering suite which includes a very nice EQ, My Tubetech 3 band valve compressor and my vintage Tannoy Gold monitors are probably my most important. They’re built into the studio are extremely handy, but crucially, my espresso machine.
How has the Loudness War affected the way that you go about your mixing and mastering?
With some projects I think it is an issue but it depends on what genre. For me, I try to make most of my masters loud enough to stand up to other tracks of a similar style whilst keeping the punchiness and dynamics that are in the mix. Or better still improving these. Loudness has been an issue all along; in vinyl days (the old vinyl days) it was just as important and cutting engineers were always trying to get more level on disc.
What project are you most proud of?
The Deep Purple Made in Japan 1972 remix and remaster.
What is the most difficult part of remixing an old recording like that?
Remaining sensitive to the material and the importance of the work. Trying to create a new and different version, one that sounds as good, if not better than the original. Otherwise, what’s the point? Making it loud enough to stand up against modern material in a playlist and yet trying to keep the openness and dynamic range of the original. Obviously, the dynamic range part shouldn’t be a problem as the digital formats now have way better signal to noise than the original analogue formats.
What do you prefer to mix on DAW software rather than on an analogue console?
I think it’s incredible what you can do now in the box. The plugins are amazing now and the control you have over the automation is much better than in analogue. Back in the day we would often spend 15 or more hours on a mix in one hit. It had to be finished in the one session because there was so much equipment involved. Yes you could take notes about all the settings and try and recall it all another day, but it never really matched up and you would spend hours trying to get back to the same mix before you could move on. Now you can work on many mixes at once; do a bit of work on one, move on to another, come back to the first one knowing that in seconds it would be recalled to exactly the same point you were at when you left off.
The danger with mixing (or recording) in the box is the temptation to over-process. The temptation is to make everything too perfect. When you auto-tune or time correct too much you remove the character of the player. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to certain genre but imagine if they had beat detective in the 70’s. How would Keith Moon’s drumming sound if some engineer had gone in and moved all the drums around into his version of in time? It just wouldn’t be Keith any more.
How do you see the landscape for mastering changing? How does running Edensound now differ from the operation of Edensound fifteen years ago?
Who knows what will happen in the recording industry in the future? Apart from the technology, the main difference from 15-20 years ago is that back then, pretty much everyone I worked with was a professional, they were making a living out of music. Now, that is just not possible for so many musos. Most of my clients these days may
be excellent musicians, they may be playing 2 or 3 nights a week live but they need day jobs to support what has now become a hobby.
The fact that people are listening mostly on inferior systems like ear buds, mainly when they are on the move, has meant that there’s less importance to the quality of music. Yes, some people are aficionados and will play an album
from start to finish on a high quality stereo but these are in the minority. We’ve now got on-line mastering services that use algorithms instead of human ears to put the crucial final polish on your music. If you compare one of these masters with one done by a pro mastering studio they really don’t sound good. Does it matter? I’d like to think so. I still want to believe that it’s important to make music sound the best that we can. Maybe I’m old fashioned!
For more information about Martin, or to learn more about Edensound Mastering, head to www.edensound.com.au.