Gear Rundown: producer and ambient composer Dan Frizza aka Mittere

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Gear Rundown: producer and ambient composer Dan Frizza aka Mittere

Dan Frizza Mittere
Words by Mixdown Staff

A chat with Sydney based Producer/Engineer/Musician, Dan Frizza about his musical project Mittere.

Mittere is the musical project of Sydney based Producer/Engineer/Musician, Dan Frizza – whose stacked resume boasts the likes of King Princess, Tones and I, Turtle Skull and Flyying Colours.

The project is a sprawling, cinematic exploration into the world of ambient electronic infused folk music. Mittere showcases Dan’s skill at creating moving soundscapes, whilst utilising noise as an instrument to adapt all facets of his studio and musical knowledge that he has gained over the years in the industry.

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On his new release ‘Gone’, Mittere dives back into his childhood and how one small fleeting moment can influence someone’s entire trajectory in life. Sonically, the track is reminiscent of ambient heavyweights of the likes of Washed Out and Sigur Ros, combined with a taste of minimalist psychedelia such as Spacemen 3 in the layered, heavily affected guitars and ethereal, emotive vocals. This single is also accompanied by a spellbinding short film made by Marguerite Lorraine, which follows the emotive and personal narrative of the song. It’s the perfect visual companion to absorb as the lush and immersive soundscape washes over you.

Mixdown recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Dan to chat all things gear-nerd, his preferred workflow and how his background as a producer and engineer has informed his work as an artist.

To start things off, I’d love to ask about how your journey as a producer and engineer informed the sonic palette you were working from when you began writing and recording this body of work? What most inspired you? What was the vision?

I guess you could say I always had an interest in finding strange and intriguing sounds. Sometimes I would be inspired in a moment to come up with something sinister, other times there might be the need for an ethereal natured sound, or anything in-between.

For me it’s always about helping express the feeling that needs to be conveyed in that moment. When I started writing and delving into my own music, I found different ways to express those feelings, through noise, feedback and all kinds of weird ways utilising different machines to create unique sounds on a particular feeling. My first song ‘Fool’ began one afternoon when I finished a client’s mix earlier than expected, I had something I wanted to try and figured that this was a good time to do that.

I had a good friend/colleague (Miles Thomas) come and play drums for another project the next day. I got him to stick around and play on the track. Once I heard back what we could do in terms of rhythms with the song – I was in, and realised this experiment’s going to work. From there I wanted to create a full body of work and designed the album from start to finish as I intended it to be, writing songs based on what the last chord of the previous song would end on and use that to start the idea of the next song. Because of this, I was able to create a free-flowing record that naturally ebbs and flows between each song – the vinyl listen will be heard in this manner which I’m pretty excited for once they arrive!

Inspiration wise I just looked to anything Sigur Ros, Alex Somers, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, My Bloody Valentine, Autolux or any other artist in that circle would do. They always had a special part in my musical sphere and now I could directly reference them to inspire my music.

Tell me about your songwriting process – Is it ever a collaborative affair, do you tend to tinker alone and build from those skeletons, or is it a combination of both?

I tend to just start the beds of the tracks off alone to piece the overall idea/theme together. Sometimes I just end up with a vocal and a synth by the end of the first initial session, other time’s they’re almost fully formed pieces. I try and just go until I have completed the idea, I do this as I tend to not be able to come back to it easily – if the entire form isn’t put down in the one sitting, it usually means that idea disappears forever.

At that point I look to good man Miles Thomas to come and throw down the rhythm tracks. I tend to cut a bit of a basic/weird beat together for most things I do as I try and inspire him. When he sits down to play to the track, he will usually bounce off of that, and in turn it means I end up keeping a blend of live and electronic drums, which I think is kinda cool.

From there its usually fully formed or close to it and I just go and tie up the loose ends. Probably worth mentioning: I record and write all of my final vocals at the same time, which is usually during the demo phase. I have a process that only makes sense to me, my writing inspires my delivery, which inspires the message – I guess it’s kind of a prolific way to do things, to start recording final vocals as I’m figuring out vocal melodies. It seems ludicrous, but it makes sense to me which I guess is all that matters. In turn I would probably otherwise never be happy with it if I had too much time to lament on that side of things.

Talk me through your recording workflow from demo to track completion. Do you begin in the bedroom or head straight to the studio? Any preference of DAW/special demo set up that goes the extra mile?

For this first album ‘Boy’ I didn’t put anything down until I was in the studio, but my more recent albums, I’ve found a good process from home. That process in the studio was pretty cool – I set everything up as if I was in a session and aimed to keep everything as final as possible, even if it was the first time penning the idea.

A little bit of a decadent way of doing things – I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to utilise a large format studio in that way (thank you, Anthony Garvin & Forbes Street Studios!).

But generally, what I’ll do is piece the bones together with the idea to potentially keep everything I’m putting down. I’ve got some real nice guitar, synth and vocal chains I’ve developed over time. I’ll get into specifics of those later on.

At home, I’ve found designing some DAW templates can really help get a quick flow happening in the moment. I have a setup of a few VST’s along with a heap of different FX busses so when I start putting down ideas, I can quickly build a sweet little vibe from. Once they’re in my DAW, the sounds might stay as they are or they might completely change as time goes on, but as long as there’s something that’s exciting happening in the moment, I can work on the fine tuning later on.

Which pieces of equipment are the most integral to the essence of your project? Is there a stark difference between what you like to write and record with?

I think the instruments to me are the tools to the sounds created, these tools can be used in many different manners to create sounds outside of the orthodox approach, and I feel the hardware serves to embellish those sounds and, if you’re lucky – put you in new territories.

I’ve found particular instruments useful for particular situations/sounds, and although my instrument list is narrow (I own 4 x guitars including my bass & a couple synths), I feel I’ve learnt how to conjure different sounds out of those instruments. As soon as I pick up a guitar it automatically puts me in a space that I wouldn’t get from another guitar. These instruments have no boundaries to me, my motto is – if it sounds good, no need to fix it.

Sometimes I come back to those instruments at the recording phase to elaborate on them, refine the part or make sure the sound is as focused as I can get it. I find a lot of the time the parts or sounds I come up with in the demo phase are broad strokes of ideas. By the time I come around to finalising the part, the idea has been refined naturally over time and perhaps I’ve thought of a more interesting way to put it down.

Are there any pieces of gear you’ve acquired, be it something cheap that punches massively above its weight, or a less-wallet friendly splurge, that have tangibly influenced the way you write and record music to this day?

Absolutely! Pretty much everything I own comes with a short novel story about the journey with them, and how I’ve come to work them into my process. All these instruments have so much personality that I find them hard to part ways with once they become part of my setup, like a little collection of family heirlooms.

One of the more recent acquisitions I can think of that does this for me is my Revox A77 tape machine, I bought it off a friend real cheap and in disrepair. I refurbished her back to life, since then I’ve been making fun little tape loops and saturating everything I can get my hands on through it.

Recently, I was working on a record with an Australian band called Skunkhour, the vocalist Aya Larkin, had an idea to experiment with tuning down the song, to then pitch it back up to the original key and find fun little tones and artefacts that made the vocal (and basically everything we did it with) sound unique, whilst creating different tones and perspectives we may not have otherwise found.

We ended up tracking the vocals 3 x steps down from the original key, whilst doing this we decided to tune the synths down, to then speed them back up, but instead of using Ableton, we did this via the varispeed on the tape machine! As that process was all analog, there was no accurate way to tune it back up, aside from using my ears, so it took some finessing but the results were quite interesting and just how I had hoped – that ‘je ne sais quoir’ which helps these machines stand the test of time.

Another piece of gear that’s kind of my secret weapon, is my Electro Harmonix Memory Man, not sure how old it is but probably 90’s-ish, this thing is a bloody ripper, I basically use it for the chorus setting, I can’t quite put my finger on why I love it so much or why it sounds sooooooo pleasing to my ears but it’s constantly engaged when I’m recording any synth parts and most of my guitar parts.

What are the visual mediums that you find best allow you to express yourself as an artist outside of music – is it important for you to be able to display your creativity in every aspect of this project’s output?

I felt it was always important to have a visual aspect for these sounds I create, it seemed to just make sense for them to go hand in hand with each other. I’ve recently pieced together a film clip for my latest single ‘Gone’, turned out it was more of a short film at 9:06mins long and a hell of a lot more work than anticipated!

The final outcome of that was incredibly inspiring – to have the landscape to explain and transfer a lot of those feelings and stories from the song with a more direct manner. I think having the visual element has a sense of full circle for me in a lot of ways, with the story being told via picture and having these long form shots that I always imagined to coincide with the musical side of this project, seemed to just kind of make sense to me and perhaps fell into place in a lot of ways, but sometimes you don’t know if its going to work until you actually just do it.

Don’t get me wrong, there was definitely a lot of stabbing in the dark for me and I had to forgo a lot of control of the project at that point, which I think is an important aspect for anyone of any project to have the heart to do, as I didn’t have any experience or understanding as to how or why things we’re needed and taking place for the visuals, but thanks to amazing Director/Friend/Co-conspirator Marguerite Lorraine – I was able to rest in good hands. Looking back I’m very proud of what we ended up with. Although there was a large element of unknown for me throughout it, it paid off taking that leap and the outcome to me was a big confidence boost – this is the right way to go about making this art, a little light bulb moment watching the first draft of ‘Oh this is actually going to work”.


How do you recharge your creative batteries? What in your life inspires your music that isn’t music? It could be as logical as watching a film or listening to records, or as obscure as gardening or taking a long walk.

So when I was a kid I was introduced to 2 life changing things, first was music, the second was surfing, growing up near the beach and having a surfing obsessed father – it was just part of day to day life, naturally, in my adulthood my obsession for surfing has only grown and I’ve found it to be a great creative outlet, sport, balanced lifestyle and just all round healthy activity to have in my life. That’s my full therapeutic recharge right there.

When I was writing my second album I figured out a process that after I had begun writing something, I would get in a groove and usually conk out or hit a creative wall around 4-6hrs later. Which I would break up by heading to the beach, it was funny because I always found that while listening to the track on the ride to and from the beach, or sitting in the ocean thinking about the song, I would always find a solution to whatever hurdle I had, and usually by the time I got back home. It was a great teacher in that perspective is an integral part of this process and helps maintain that healthy insight for the best way forward. It can be so inspiring to have that element, in the ocean, sharing your early morning rituals with nature to then go home and start creating something, whatever it is you might do for a living – this way of starting or breaking up a day can only be a positive thing!

Gear Rundown

Space Echo RE200

This thing is a little different to the usual 201 version, not sure why – I think it’s just a different era of space echo, early to mid 70’s I think! Anyways, it’s just a great little unit, a go to for my synths and something I just like to pass the signal of the guitar through before I hit the amp. Another way I’ve been using it for a while is that I pass a split of my vocal mic through it, so I have a little Y-split cable that comes off my mic (usually an sm7) and one side goes through my vocal chain (I’ll explain in abit) and another goes through the space echo set to a slap back delay, I record both signals simultaneously and it creates a real cool tone while tracking vocals.

Universal Audio 610 mkii – 1176LN

This is my go to chain for vocals and bass, I have marked settings for both on the preamp depending on which I’m recording, I love the tubey goodness of the 610 and having the optical compressor to garner a little control on the signal pre hitting the 1176LN feels like I’ve got a cheat LA-2A compressor before it gets into the 1176, which again, I’ve got some nominal settings figured out that I know sound good through it and just adjust how much I push things into it. Generally don’t need to move too much on that, it just adds the right amount of body to the signal, it can take off quickly but rarely am I compressing more than – 3dB in any moment.


Yes, arguably not a piece of gear but you did say key components of my rig and I think this little guy qualifies as one! Its something I picked up on while doing some meditation classes on focusing, I was taught to find an inanimate object and learn to use it as something to focus with, which might sound a little mystical or whatever, but basically the idea is when I’m working on something and my attention starts to waiver I can look (focus!) at this shell and if we train our minds in the right manner – it will help bring us back to whatever we’re trying to do in that moment, a really powerful tool to help keep focus and productivity in a world full of distractions! (especially when there’s a deadline!)

Neon Egg – Planetarium II 

I just got this recently (after waiting 12 odd months!) and boy was it worth it, such a versatile little unit. It’s got an inbuilt chorus, delay, reverb and compressor with sidechain (which you can pleasantly distort!) I use it as a send in my DAW, I then record the sounds I find intriguing back in when mixing. I’ve been using it for anything from really long verbs to these weird distorted, chorus, short-room-delay things that kind become part of some vocal sounds I’ve been working on. A fun little tool that just brings instant feel if I’m searching for something with a little more character, or maybe just some inspiration.

Neve 1073dpa – la4’s

Kind of like my universal audio vocal chain these 2 units pair together so nicely for me I never find myself separating them, again I’ve found some pretty great sweet spots that work really well for me on these units and only really need to adjust them slightly depending on what I’m working through it. My absolute go to pairing for guitars; I remember borrowing the la4’s from a friend when I was contemplating buying them, I patched them over my guitar mic preamps and then forgot about them for weeks, when I realised – it was only because I was so stoked on a guitar sound I was getting, once I doubled back and checked through my chain, I realised these la4’s were a big part of that sound, they just added some sparkle-y goodness that I cant quite put my finger on, perhaps those giant transformers in them, I don’t know, anyways, I immediately called up my friend and told him he had a sale on his hands! This chain also works really great for my synths, especially my juno106, those 1073dpa’s to me are exactly how I remember the Neve pre’s sounding on those 8068 boards I had the honour of frequenting for many years.

Reslo RV Ribbon Microphones

I got introduced to these microphones a while back from a studio I used to work from, the owner (Richard Belkner) gifted me one and I have since acquired 3 more of them, I absolutely love these on guitar amps, close mics on drums (that I usually purposefully distort) and on vocals – they’re an old BBC made ribbon microphone, I think there’s footage of the Beatles using them in the studio somewhere in the ether. They’re just another one of those little magic machines that I’ve found a sound with in my travels, and excites me. Not only do they surprisingly capture some serious low end, they also saturate the sound in a way that’s reminiscent of an old gramophone record being run over by a semi trailer and distorted through some old Grateful Dead sound system, if you can imagine that! A kind of nostalgic feeling that, if you’re lucky – you can get from music sometimes. Anyways, great little cheeky piece of gear that one!

Keep up to date with Mittere here.