quite well, man. I'm trying to maintain.
you get your start in hip-hop?
a lifelong thing. My first album I bought was Raising Hell in 1985 by
Run-DMC. After I heard Rick Rubin on there I knew that I wanted to do
something in the music industry. Then came The Great Adventures of Slick
Rick and it was a wrap from there.
you get your first engineering gig?
In '96 I
went to the Institute of Audio Research in New York City. I was never
a school person. After two weeks I started knocking on doors and I got
my first internship at Green Recording Studios. They did Public Enemy's
Fear of a Black Planet, Pete Rock, Ice Cube's Amerikaz Most Wanted, Bell
Biv Devoe, Whodini and a few others. From there I never looked back.
official gig came in '98 when I worked at Daddy's House with Puff. I started
getting paid and I was making somewhat of a living doing it.
interviewed Southpaw he said that if you're not a Haitian at Bad Boy then
they have no use for you. How do you feel about that statement?
We both did
different things over there. I was there at a different time. Things really
evolved over there and I would never speak badly about them because we
still have a great relationship. You're definitely dealing with a lot
of egos over there. At the same time, Puff gave me a chance to do what
I do. It's not a place to make a career out of but it's a place to get
your credentials. It's not a bad thing having your name on all those Bad
Boy records either.
are you most proud of from your Bad Boy days?
8Ball and MJG's "Living Legends". They're very professional,
very cool and very not-New York, if that makes sense. They would come
to the studio, get whatever they needed to done and they'd be out. I'm
really proud of all the work I was part of over there because I had a
chance to work at least once with just about everyone.
it mixing TI's "King Back"?
have to thank my man Nastee. Nastee produced "Fuck Jay-Z" and
"Backpack", for Jin. He has also mixed countless classic records.
That came about from our relationship with Just Blaze. We used to all
work together at The Cutting Room. We walked into the studio and there
it was. That's the first song on the album. It was a lot of fun. The mix
took about nineteen hours to do. Most people think mixing is a very easy
process. I'm going to dismiss that. When you listen to the record now,
it was worth it and you can hear all the work that was put into it.
going on in those nineteen hours?
lot of tweaking and a lot of listening in different systems. We're going
into the boombox and making sure the low-end is right. The bass has to
be settling right. One of the things that we had an issue with was the
bass in the sample. What ended up happening was that in the middle of
the mix, Just pulled out a keyboard, sound module, and played the bass
live into Pro Tools. You can't make things too bright or too bottomy.
You have to make sure that when it goes into mastering that they have
enough to work with. It was a big record. There was a lot of pressure
on that one.
on this TI record, I think when you work with a guy like Just, I think
he has more pull than others. I would have to say he would have to approve
it. The label is basically a bunch of puppets anyway. Just would have
more of a say on whether it's a go or not.
Do a lot
of your artists stay involved in the mixing process?
This is a
good time to mention Pen. Poison Pen is probably one of the better artists
in that field. Pen understands the whole mixing and the whole mastering
process of a record. A lot of artists allow me to do what I do just because
of my background. They know that this is what I do. I have a couple artists
who have studios and engineers themselves who record their own vocals.
It takes years to be called an engineer. But when they record in their
own studio, I think they get caught up in their own sound and they want
to go towards that. They don't realize that when you're mixing, you're
trying to achieve something for mastering and that when it's mastered,
it comes out sounding properly. Sometimes there's a fight. Jin is very
good. He allows me to do what I do, as does Pen and Ras Kass. Just allowed
us to do what we do. The good artists allow you to do what you do. Some
are so stuck on "their sound" that sometimes it becomes a struggle,
but I usually win. (laughs)
it working on Ras Kass's Eat or Die?
I have to
thank Pen for hooking that up. That was a major experience. Ras has worked
with Dr. Dre, so knowing that, I obviously wanted to learn a lot about
him in the studio. I know Ras will probably laugh when he reads this,
but I know there were a couple of times when I questioned what he did.
He would sometimes refer to what Dr. Dre does and how he waits a long
time for records to come out. That was him telling me about how picky
I could be. Working with him, he's very professional and he knows what
he wants. He has made some incredible, classic records. Working with him
was definitely one of the better experiences I've had in the studio.
Jin in the studio?
great one. He's very young and he has years ahead of him. He's very open
to what he wants and he's very receptive to taking input from me. I'm
trying to help them do their best on the mic and Jin is very receptive
the differences you have to be aware of when you're recording Pen, Ras
Kass or Jin?
follow the same formula. I think Pen allows me to do more. He trusts me
more. Ras Kass has mixed with some of the best mixers in the history of
music and he's from LA. There are a lot of really good mixers out in LA.
Ras can pinpoint certain things that he wants. Pen allows me to do what
I do and Jin also allows me to do what I do. I think Jin is learning more
and more about the mixing process as his time comes up. That's truly the
difference between the three of them. It's all about what they've done
and who they've worked with.
an artist isn't satisfied with your mix?
my mixes. This is something that I always do. I also give them a window
to make changes. I expect changes and I always encourage them to go to
their home stereo where they're used to hearing mixes and want changes.
Sometimes they're not used to my mixes. I tell them, I know how it's going
to sound when you leave here, but you have to listen to see if you're
satisfied with what's coming out. Usually it's minor changes. Sometimes
they want to hear less reverb or louder vocals. I always accommodate them
and we always end up getting it right.
hear a lot of songs on commercial radio that make you cringe?
I think that nowadays the engineering game is completely different in
the sense that a lot of the engineers coming out now are younger guys.
They really don't understand. A lot of guys are learning Pro Tools at
home. When I was coming up I came up through the ranks and the system.
I watched others working extensively. It's like sitting with Just Blaze
or Dr. Dre for five years watching them make beats. You're obviously going
to pick things up that kids at home with an MPC aren't going to pick up.
I get a lot of phone calls from kids asking me to teach them how to mix.
I'm an advocate of interning. If you want to be an engineer, you have
to go through the ranks.
consistently has the best mixes?
It's Dr. Dre. I think Dr. Dre's ear is impeccable. He hires good engineers
and he understands and he really takes time to listen and perfect that
sound. If you listen to every song he's put out, the sonic quality of
it is incredible.
you think of DJ Premier's mixes?
really comment on anything that's happened recently. I always admired
Premier's mixes, and that's not to take away from any other producers.
There are a lot of producers who understand how to bring out the sound.
As soon as you heard the Premier track, you knew it was him. Obviously
it was the production but it was also in the mixes. You would hear the
crackling of the record. I admire whoever mixed his records.
you think of the mix on Yung Joc's "It's Goin' Down"?
I think it
sounds good. I know whose ear it was because I trained under that person's
ear for a long time. I also think a lot of people are doing things in
Pro Tools now and one of the things I really miss now is the warmth in
the songs. I think the Yung Joc is more on the bright side. I don't think
it's a bad mix. I think it's one of the better mixes out right now.
one of the greatest ears. The reason I wanted to work there and why I
pursued getting a job there early on was because of the way the Bad Boy
records sounded. From '98 to 2000, there was not a better sounding album
out. He had the best engineers. Puffy might not be the guy tapping on
the MPC but his ear is incredible and he knows what to pick out of a record.
the Pro Tools and home studios, can the engineer eventually be phased
I don't think
so. I think it's going to come back full circle. There will always be
a need for quality. A lot of records used to be mixed at The Hit Factory
and now it's closed down. I read an article a few years ago where an engineer
said the future is going to be engineers being able to adapt to any environment
where he could go to a producer's house and do mixes. I think that's where
the quality is going to be brought back. I think a lot of the producers
now are tired of doing things themselves. In the future I think there's
going to be more of hiring an engineer with a good ear to come into their
you use on your mixes?
I'm a big
Pro Tools guy. When I was at Daddy's House and we were working on his
album Forever, we were probably one of the first studios in the country
to decide to go all Pro Tools. I've been using it since '97.
is it to get a good mix off Pro Tools?
ear. It has nothing to do with the Pro Tools. I tell people that I use
the most simple tools in the Pro Tools program. It's all a program. That's
all it is. Everybody uses an MPC, but what can you do with an MPC? Can
you pull the same things out of it that Premo or Dre pull out of it? It
all depends what you do with it. Can you do that? Can you take it there?
a good ear something that comes natural or do you have to work to get
and years of learning and working and watching others. I used to basically
get the studio at night when the sessions were done and I would invite
artists over. Looking back, you think you're doing a good mix, but now
I can see that was the grunt work to get to where I'm at now where I can
comfortably mix a record and know it comes out right. It's about understanding
and knowing the mastering process. Mastering can make or break a record
and it's the engineer's job to get the guy mastering it something good
so he can do what he does. I also want to thank all the engineers I have
had the privilege of working under that taught me all I know. I still
do any mastering?
I have my own mastering guy. His name is Kenny Dykstra. I send all of
my mixes to him and he does what he does. I understand what goes into
mastering but I'm an engineer and people in mastering highly respect what
I do and I highly respect what they do.
the difference between mixing and mastering?
take a good mix or a great mix and enhance it. Mastering gives the song
an overall shine. They compress it for radio. It needs to be at certain
levels for radio. Sometimes they say, How come it isn't as loud as a 50
Cent record or the TI mix? I always explain that that's the mastering.
The mastering takes a five and turns it to a ten.
also worked as a second engineer. What are the responsibilities of the
to make sure that the session runs smooth without the engineer having
to think. Your only job is to make sure the engineer is only thinking
about the song. If you have to retrace your steps on wiring or anything
like that, it can really slow down the engineer and it can make everyone
in the studio unhappy. You are on the client's clock.
artist with a limited budget, is it better to get one song completely
mixed and mastered or record a complete mixtape or album with lower sound
At the end
of the day, labels know what sounds good and what doesn't. You have to
remember that when you're bringing a product up to a label, these guys
are bringing top engineers up there to mix. I've seen a lot of mixtapes
with lower quality. A lot of reviews say that records may have been great
but the vocals were too bright and it sounded like something was distorted.
In this day and age, artists are doing a lot of things on their own, but
if you can put some money aside to mix, that's really the most important
your goals as a producer?
I think there
are a lot of beat-makers out there and they like to jump the gun early.
There is so much more in production than just making a beat. There's a
rock band I've worked with that I've done two records with named Fn-Co.
They're managed by my boy Don DiNapoli. When you do a rock record, it
really gets your feet wet on a different level. Guys like Dr. Dre and
Rick Rubin are on entirely different levels. That's where I want to get
to. I make beats but I can play a guitar if I need to or if I need to
bring in a bass player to recreate a sample, I can do that. I think I
see myself going in that direction and I think the engineering aspect
gave me the knowledge to do that. In the future I would also like to get
more into A&R'ing.
up with your artist, City?
Columbus, Ohio and I've been working with him for about four years. He's
coming along well but I don't want to jump the gun with him. I want to
make sure he gets the right tracks. DJ Static has been doing a lot with
me on the project. He's done a lot of work with Pen and he did Jin's "Long
Winding Road." I'm also working with Playboy Chi. You want to make
sure your artist is writing original songs and not doing what everyone
else is doing. We're basically perfecting what he's doing right now.
recommend audio schools for potential engineers?
I could compare
it to college. It gives you the book smarts about what to do and how to
do it. What you do with it afterwards is what you make out of it. There
are a lot of kids coming out of college expecting to make money. Everyone
expects to make money right away and it's not like that. That's why I
wanted the real-world experience first. I got that by interning. Education
is a great groundwork to start you off and you learn a lot of things there,
but I think the real-life experience will outweigh the school, always,
and it may take a few years to understand that.
your focus now?
on finishing up Pen's album. I'm going to be doing some stuff with City.
There's a lot of things on the table right now. There's so many things
to go through. I've had meetings with other producers about doing work
with them. It's a seven day a week job. It doesn't end, man.
aware of your cult figure status as a result of the Poison Pen Journal?
No, I didn't even know.
you react when Poison Pen fired you?
I was upset
and contemplating leaving the game altogether. Just kidding.
have a little celebration when you got rehired?
Yes. We popped
bottles and all that.
you want to say to everybody?
If you want
to get into engineering, learn the craft. Get into the studio. Now that
the game is changing, you might want to find an engineer with a home studio.
Ask them to work. Don't always look for money. The money will come with
hard work. Stick to your guns and keep your ears open and your mouth shut.
That would be the best advice. Learn your craft and try to develop your
own style. Definitely look out of Westward Productions. We'll be doing
a lot of things in the next couple of years. If anyone is interested in
mixing, definitely feel free to get at me.