Name: Will Putney
Location: Belleville, NJ
How did you get started in the business and how come you ended up behind the console as opposed to on stage?
I was interning at The Syndicate, the marketing and radio promotion company. I was just trying to get into the music business, I didn’t know a thing about making records yet. And The Syndicate shared the same building that the original Machine Shop was in. I had met Machine (producer, Lamb of God, Clutch, etc.) once before, he had a kid and needed someone to babysit a band at the studio while he went away and did baby stuff. I was hired as an intern, and it turned into where I am now.
Your coming up on your twelfth year producing records. Pretty much right from the start of your career, you’ve worked with established acts and have continued doing so since. How did you get a “foot in the door”?
I was able to use the studio in downtime to record local bands, so I basically just lived there, lots of nights sleeping on a couch. I’d work for Machine 10-12 hours a day, then work on my own projects at night and on days off. I probably put in 90-100 hours a week for three years engineering/assisting Machine and producing my own records. Eventually, I started to pick up my own label work, and I became my own guy.
How do you find time and energy while still maintaining your own bands (Fit for an Autopsy, END)?
My own bands are my creative outlets for the type of music I like to play, with no outside expectations or pressure to achieve anything but exactly what I want. So they come together pretty naturally and effortlessly, it doesn’t feel like work at all.
If you weren’t producing records, what would you do?
A decade ago I had the choice to either finish my last semester of college and become a biomedical engineer, or bail and become a record producer. So if you’d asked me that question then, that would have been my answer. Today if I didn’t produce records, I would be interested in graphic design, video production work, animal rights work and charitable work.
In a mix, where do you usually start: the drums, guitars, vocals or something else?
I start with everything at once. Top down, I try to balance all the tracks together. Combining all the elements lets me design the vibe of the mix, then I go back into individual drums/bass/guitar/vocal tracks and fine tune.
Is there any instrument you generally struggle with more than any other in a mix?
The snare and guitar sound is always the never-ending obsession, they’re the two major defining points of a rock/metal mix, so it’s a constant struggle.
If you had to pick a few highlights from your in-studio career up until now, what would these be?
I’ve gotten to work with a lot of bands that as a kid I really looked up to. Poison the Well, Misery Signals, Every Time I Die, Darkest Hour, Gojira, etc. Bands that shaped my tastes in music when I was in my teens, fast forward almost two decades and we’re working together as peers. It’s a very humbling experience for me, I don’t take that for granted.
Name a few productions from your catalogue that you feel particularly proud of.
This is a really hard question for me, because it’s very rare that I listen back to any of my records and can’t see past it’s flaws. I think it’s just the never-ending quest to grow and improve as a producer, but it ruins my back catalogue for me. I’m always proud of the records that impact the fans of the bands. When a kid tells me a record I produced is his favorite record of all time, or the best sounding record he’s ever heard, then the work pays off.
Name a few all-time favorite albums that you did not work on where performance, sound and feel all come together in perfect balance.
I’ll cap this at 5 because I can do this all day:
Thric “The Alchemy Index” EPs and “Vheissu”.
Queens of the Stone Age “Songs for the Deaf”.
Murder by Death “Who Will Survive and What Will Be Left of Them”.
Karnivool “Sound Awake”.
If you produced an album that you couldn’t mix yourself, who’d be the first name on your list for the gig
Eric Valentine is the guru. Andy Wallace isn’t too bad either, haha.
Best studio moment ever?
Man there’s so much ridiculous stuff I wouldn’t even know where to begin. One of the best takeaways from this job is the connection and friendship that you make with the artists you respect. There are dudes in bands that I’ll be growing old with, sending pictures of grand kids to, telling each other stupid jokes until we’re dead.
Worst studio moment ever?
I’ll keep the bad ones to myself, don’t like to air the dirty laundry. I’ll just say the records that are the greatest struggle and inevitably don’t connect stem from artists being close minded, or refusing to accept the concept that maybe their idea isn’t necessarily the best idea.
What are your thoughts on Superior Drummer 3?
It’s a well-rounded and extremely efficient drum library. Whether you’re songwriting, mixing, programming drums, etc. it’s got you covered with good sounding, easy-to-dial drums.
Finally, any tips to those looking to make a career in music production/engineering?
One foot in never works, you either do this or you don’t. Find a way to strike the balance between life and work so you can dive into this career full on, or go to do something else. If making records is really what you want to do, it’s ALL you want to do.