Meet Sean Gould, engineer and producer with credits on albums ranging from Katy Perry to Hollywood Undead.
How did you get started in the business?
– I think I started out like most people – playing in bands and going into recording studios to make demos. Along the way I realized that I enjoyed the studio more than the touring and focused more on the production side of things.
Is there a specific moment or project that helped push you on to the next level?
– I don’t think there’s one specific event that I can point to. I think it’s a culmination of a lot of different things that happen along the way that lead to where you end up. You can always look back and say, “Well, maybe if I had taken opportunity A as opposed to opportunity B I would have had a very different career”, but at the same time I think it’s important to not get too bogged down in the past and ‘what ifs’. You just keep moving forward and stay open to any possibilities that come your way.
In a mix, where do you usually start: the drums, guitars, vocals or something else?
– I’ll usually get a very basic mix of the whole thing then start pruning from there. I’ve found that soloing out instruments or focusing on one thing too early in a mix can lead to painting myself into a corner real fast. Also, I find it hard to make any critical decisions about a particular instrument or sound when it’s not in relation to all the other elements. That being said, probably the first thing I’ll really start paying attention to once everything is sitting pretty well is the rhythm section and the low-end.
Is there any instrument you generally struggle with more than any other in a mix?
– No, I struggle with them all equally! (laughs). Dave McNair, a fantastic mastering engineer and good friend said to me a long time ago, “The low-end is what separates the boys from the men.” And I think that’s true. It’s the hardest thing to become good at mixing.
All producers have their unique methods of getting artists to perform to the maximum of their abilities. How do you approach this and what’s your secret?
– It depends on the artist. Some need very little help and then you just try and stay out of their way. Some are very open to feedback and being pushed but I’ve always found that if you don’t establish trust from the get go it’s very hard to build it. So when I work with someone new, I always save any type of opinion until I know it’s one that’s a slam dunk.
You have mixed, engineered or produced a wide range of different styles – anything from Tom Jones and Katy Perry to Hollywood Undead. Is there a difference in techniques as to how you approach different styles?
– That’s a really interesting question. I think your technique is fundamental to who you are so I’m not sure how much that changes from artist to artist. What I would say is that it’s important to be able to adapt what you do to the conditions that are set before you. So everything from budget and time constraints to how an artist feels most comfortable working would be taken into account. For example, you could be working with a singer that likes to sing the whole song all the way through even though it’s easier for you to get a few takes of each section, one at a time as you go. But if they’re uncomfortable doing it that way you have to conform to them because you’ll never get good performances otherwise.
Which Toontrack products do you regularly use and where in the creative process do these come into play?
– Superior Drummer 2 s the main one. And I love the The Rock Warehouse SDX drums. Lately, I’ve been using the Southern Soul EZX expansion as well. But everything starts with Superior Drummer 2. When I’m writing with an artist I can make great sounding beats quickly that they find inspiring. If I’m having trouble finding inspiration, I’ll use EZKeys and audition some of the loops. A lot of times it’ll lead me to a great idea that otherwise I wouldn’t have come to on my own. Also, EZmix 2 is great for times when I’m mixing that I know I need some interesting effect but not sure what kind. I’ll just throw on an instance and start scrolling through presets to see if there’s anything that does the trick.
Name a few productions from your catalogue that you feel particularly proud of.
– A good example would be Hollywood Undead’s last record “Day of the Dead”. We started out with the intention of replacing all the drums with a live drummer after the writing process, but everyone thought the drums sounded so good already that we ended keeping all the Superior Drummer 2 drums from the demos.
Name a few all-time favorite albums that you did not work on where performance, sound and feel all come together in perfect balance.
– There are so many that it’s hard to think of but the first one that comes to mind is the Beatles’ “Abbey Road”.
If you did an album that you couldn’t mix yourself, who’d be the first name on your list for the gig?
– Without a doubt Andy Wallace. That guy is the best mixer on the planet.
Finally, any tips to those looking to make a career in music production/engineering?
– I would say to just start. Just look for any opportunities to get into a studio to observe, assist, etc. Offer to record for friends. If it’s what you love to do you’ll figure out how to make a career out of it.
SOME OF SEAN’S WORK.
HU – Day of the Dead (Warehouse Drums)
We The Kings – Friday Is Forever (Hit Factory Drums)
Stop Motion Poetry – Dead Rose (Southern Soul Drums)