NRG Recording Studios featured me on their “Ask the Artist” series. It was a wonderful opportunity and I am very thankful to have been a part of it. We talked about gear, working in the industry, licensing music, being on youtube, and building an online community. Check out the interview, and if you can’t watch it right now, the transcription for entire video is below.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
I got started because I wanted to be a guitar player. I wanted to be Brian May in Queen. The thing about Queen is that they have a massive complexity of layered harmonies both in vocals and in guitars. So falling in love with that at the age of nine just made me love producing music without realizing it. In retrospect you know it’s music like that, that turned me into a producer.
WHAT WERE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN WORKING IN THE UK VERSUS WORKING IN LOS ANGELES?
Well, when I was still in the UK I was a studio owner. So I was doing a lot of demos and especially demos for bands I was in, and eventually got my band signed. I came to the United States as a musician but I got my band signed by producing and writing the songs with the band. In fact, the first single that we had that charted top 40 I produced. When I moved here I carried on being in a band but all that time I had a studio. I had a three bedroom two bathroom place in Silverlake and I’d record bands all over my apartment. I had a stand-up bass player in my bathroom. I had the drums in the living room I had the vocals in another bedroom, amps in the kitchen and I produced a lot of bands and quite a few of them got record deals.
WHY DID YOU CREATE YOUR STUDIO?
I have always had a studio at home whether it be 2 cassette players, a 4 track, some ADAT’s, or primitive DAW’s. Whatever it was I always had some kind of studio and I got to the point where I was making records both as a musician and then eventually as a producer and engineer in my own right. I was coming into NRG level studios and you’d go in and track drums. But then you would have to do overdubs and doing a vocal at $1,200 to $1,500 a day gets expensive. So, you build a studio out of necessity, and necessity is the mother of invention as they say.
WHAT QUALIFIES AS A 5-STAR RECORDING FACILITY?
Having a tech is one of the biggest assets a studio can have. Especially when you’ve got a vintage console. That for me is a differentiator between a professional studio and a home environment. Keeping the gear running at all times because people come to a room like this because they want the sound of that room through this console. So it’s very important that a professional studio has a tech staff or at least somebody on speed dial that is going to be there in 20 minutes.
CAN YOU BRIEFLY DISCUSS YOUR CAREER IN FILM AND TELEVISION?
I’ve done many projects for film and TV and it’s all been at different levels. Some of it is custom made. For example the Inglorious Basterds movie trailer, I wrote the music for that and recorded it, without sounding pompous, in 20 minutes. Then I’ve written other trailer pieces where it’s taken me three days and they’ve rejected it. So I don’t know what the lesson is there. I’ve got music that I wrote for film and TV and then I also have music that I produced with other bands have had placed. The Fray obviously were huge ones. I mean songs I worked on with the Fray are some of the most licensed songs of all time. Anybody watching this will probably know “How to Save a Life” even if they didn’t hear on the radio, but because it was in scrubs about 4,000 times. It became a standing joke it got played so often.
WHAT IS YOUR ALL-TIME FAVORITE RECORD?
My all-time favorite record to listen to is Queen, “A Night at the Opera”, that is the first rock and roll album I ever heard.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE CHANGES IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY?
I actually like all the changes in the music industry. I like the way things are going. It’s really contentious and other people in my position would scream and shout at me. I like Spotify. Some people hate it but I like it. I like Spotify because it is a reality and we have to stop pretending and screaming and shouting about something that is here to stay. Whether Spotify becomes the only and the most dominant streaming service for the next 50 years or not is up for discussion, but it’s not going to go back to kids buying music in CD form. It’s just not. We’re all kicking in screaming about this platform because it suited an antiquated business model. The antiquated business model was, wait for the phone to ring go in and work for six weeks get paid a huge amount of money and then wait for the phone to ring. Now it’s hustle. Get involved in your artist’s future start caring a little bit more.
Every time you open up Facebook and you hear somebody complaining about something. Recently it was that girl the other day and the only thing on Facebook was that Atlantic had signed this young female artist and everybody was trashing her. Sure go and cultivate a young artist and do something that’s better.I like the Spotify platform because I have independent artists. They own their music 100 percent. So what it means is that they wrote the song and they own the master. One of my artists makes anywhere from fifteen hundred to $2,000 a month off of Spotify plays. But there’s nobody out there who knows who he is. You can be a middle class artist but it takes work.
So it’s up to the artists and the producers and the songwriters and everybody to get in there and really help each other. So I actually like where we’re at. It’s still the wild wild west. There’s still very cynical people cashing in on artists but in general if your motives are pure and you really are looking to build something and make something great. I think it’s a great time to be doing music.
WHAT TYPE OF CONTENT RESONATES MOST WITH YOUR AUDIENCE ON YOUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL?
It’s interesting with the YouTube Channel. I’m always sort of moving between things that I know will do really really well and things that I want to help educate people on. I see some of the guys that are super successful with massive numbers and then I see people that are less successful, but I like their content. So I try to sit in the middle because I think if I did more shock value big statements like “Why you suck as a producer” I would probably get 250,000 views if I did a video called that. But it’s click bait and it’s just not how I want to present myself. So I’d rather have quality over quantity. I’d rather educate people and show them the realities of what the music industry is up to.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE “PRODUCE LIKE A PRO ACADEMY“?
The Produce Like A Pro Academy is kind of an extension of everything we talked about. Most of the stuff that we see that does these kinds of things makes the music industry very competitive. Forums tend to be places where people trash each other as we know and tell everybody they’re wrong and I don’t care for that at all. I care for support. It’s a very, very tough business. So instead of taking it out on somebody in a forum when you’ve had a bad day, go in there and try and find some resolution. The more I help people the easier my life is. The community aspect is huge for me and that’s what the Produce Like A Pro Academy is all about community.
WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR SOMEONE STARTING OFF IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY?
The number one piece of advice I would say is to just do it. Don’t speculate about the industry and where it’s at because it’s very easy for us to think: “why should I bother”. This one of the biggest things for me. I identify with people because I’ve had all those feelings. You know I didn’t produce my own music for the longest time because I was like: “oh nobody is going to want to hear me”. And then the more artists I work with I thought to myself, I can do this I can do that. So it made it easier for me to do things for myself. And as I learned different techniques for recording myself I was able to apply those to other people. So it’s it really is a very important thing to just go out and do it. It’s very easy to be paralyzed and to sit there. But yes you have to work hard. But if you love music it’s really not that big of a deal.