Name: Drew Fulk (a.k.a. WZRD BLD)
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Link(s): @WZRDBLD (Instagram)
How did you get started in the business and how come you ended up behind the console as opposed to on stage? Was recording music always on your radar?
I started off playing drums in a punk rock band that kind of sounded like a mix of Alkaline Trio and No Use For a Name. I think it was fairly clear when we recorded our first EP that I was into the studio vibe more than the stage. After making a few EPs and LPs for my own band I just decided that’s ALL I wanted to do and then made the transition.
Looking at your discography, your started writing for albums, then added pre-productions which in turn lead to producing vocals and ultimately producing, engineering and mixing full albums. Did you grow organically into the role of producing/mixing/engineering?
I started as a studio engineer in North Carolina and slowly people would ask my opinions on vocal melodies or on this or that. I loved that part of making music so I focused on becoming a helping hand as much as I could for artists when they wanted it. Surprisingly enough, a lot of the metal and rock bands I worked with did want help refining their ideas on vocals and arrangement so I put my efforts there wholeheartedly. I was able to be a become sort of a “vocal guy” in that world. I grew up listening to country and pop so my melodic ear mixed with heavy music has been a really fun ride.
Also when looking at your discography, it seems like you jumped in to the big leagues right away. The first record you wrote for was Motionless in White’s “Infamous”. From there, you have worked in different capacities with pretty much only “A-list” bands. Tell us more about your journey!
I had been producing bands in NC for a label called Tragic Hero Records because one of my early bands was signed there. The owner, Tommy LaCombe, was kind enough to let me work with some of his signings and I was able to build a small regional discography. My manager at the time reached out to Fearless saying if they ever needed someone to help on stuff, that I would love to take a swing. It just so happened, the person at Fearless was Motionless in White’s A&R at the time and I was able to throw a vocal idea over what became “Devil’s Night” that Chris liked. From there Chris and I became really close over the years which is why we’ve worked together on every release since then. I can say for sure that Chris Motionless is a big reason why I was able to start working with more established artists, so…thank you Chris!
In the beginning of your career, you operated out of North Carolina but relocated to Los Angeles in 2014. Was the move a necessary step to further your career?
Absolutely. Career-wise it’s the smartest thing I’ve ever done. Hardest AND smartest I guess. I always say that Los Angeles isn’t evil or good, it’s just that everything happens faster. The good things happen faster and the bad things happen faster, so it’s like getting used to living life at 90 miles per hour. It’s hard, but worth it if you really want to go for it.
In 2018, you have been involved in almost a dozen productions, either as producer, engineer, mixer or writer (or in some cases – all of the above). How do you find time, motivation and energy to work with massive productions back to back?
I literally love what I do. There’s no other less cliché way to say it. At times things feel like work sure, but 95% of the time I just feel incredibly blessed and happy to get to wake up every day and work on music. It’s easy to stay motivated and find energy that way.
If you weren’t producing records, what would you do?
If we’re talking outside of the music business, since I majored in economics I would have ended up working in the financial world. I still follow it at some degree and love learning when I have extra time (surprise: I have no extra time).
In a mix, where do you usually start: the drums, guitars, vocals or something else?
I’m like a kid in a candy shop. I just follow whatever grabs my attention. I have an incredible team-mate on almost all my mixes, Jeff Dunne, who usually collects / sets up all the files, gets them into a session with an initial balance, and makes it easy for me to sit down and be creative right off the bat. Having someone who helps do the logistical side (importing, loading in, cleaning up) is a game-changer. I’m able to jump into a song and start bending / molding whatever grabs my attention.
Is there any instrument you generally struggle with more than any other in a mix?
I don’t feel like there’s a single thing in particular that feels cumbersome, but I would say usually my least favorite part to mix is the guitars. Jeff LOVES guitars, so again – he’s a fantastic team-mate.
Which Toontrack products do you regularly use and where in the creative process do these come into play?
I use Superior Drummer on just about everything that doesn’t involve real drums, especially in writing sessions. The Avatar kit sounds great for quick writing, it’s a life-saver. Writing music is all about emotion, so getting stuck dialing in drum sounds can ruin the vibe. Superior Drummer has helped me write better songs just because it’s usable as soon as I open it.
Name a few all-time favorite albums that you did not work on where performance, sound and feel all come together in perfect balance.
My favorite mixes of all time are “Can’t Stop” by Maroon 5 (Eric Valentine) and Black & Yellow by Wiz Khalifa (Phil Tan). I think my favorite albums overall as a music lover are probably the self-titled Third Eye Blind album (again…Eric Valentine), “Take Off Your Pants & Jacket” by Blink 182 (Jerry Finn RIP), and even recently I really think the new Post Malone album, “Beerbongs and Bentleys” is just phenomenal and the Gone Girl soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is just beautiful dark and twisted. It’s unreal.
If you produced an album that you couldn’t mix yourself, who’d be the first name on your list for the gig?
Manny Maroquin for anything pop or hip-hop related. Eric Valentine for anything rock related.
Best studio moment ever?
Anytime you get that unexplainable feeling that a song is a winner. You can’t quantify it, but you can tell when a song is REALLY great. It’s electric like a drug.
Worst studio moment ever?
Anytime that you bang your head against the wall trying to make a bad song less bad.
Finally, any tips to those looking to make a career in music production/engineering?
Focus on your craft and work harder than the people you’re going up against.