How did you get started in the business and how come you ended up behind the console as opposed to on stage?
I started out recording my band on a four-track cassette recorder with a live mixing board and live outboard gear in the early ‘90s and kind of felt like I had a knack for recording. After my band’s attempts to record with other local engineers with less than desirable results, I decided to buy some ADATs and pair those with my live PA’s gear to do some better quality recording for my band. After my band released the records that I did, other bands started asking me to record them. I started recording bands on the side in like 1996 until my band decided to stop pursuing a career after some major record label deals fell through due to 9/11 2001. I then I bought a Pro Tools rigs and have recorded full-time ever since.
In a mix, where do you usually start: the drums, guitars, vocals or something else?
I usually start with the drums. I get those sounding in the ballpark of what I think the client would like and then add in rhythm guitars and bass (if I’m doing a guitar-oriented rock or metal band). I then work to get the drums, bass and guitars sounding satisfying with the client’s direction/references. The rest is add-on top and/or around the drums, bass and guitar mix from there.
Is there any instrument you generally struggle with more than any other in a mix?
I feel that I get good sounds overall. I still feel that I have room to improve on pretty much everything, haha… One of the more difficult things to mix for me is real performance snare. I still feel that I don’t get what others have gotten in the past the way they do or something, haha… I like what I get often time, but it’s usually not exactly what is common. I tend to prefer a more natural snare sound but many like the more compressor effect sound and I can’t seem to ever get that just right without negatively intruding cymbal bleed and such. Every once in a while, I get a great played snare drum performance that allows me to do what I want compressor-wise and I can get close to it. It just seems like I don’t know something the old -schoolers knew about the snare processing thing. I’ll have figured it out one day. Probably right before I retire, haha.
Which Toontrack products do you regularly use and where in the creative process do these come into play?
Superior Drummer. I often mix projects that have EZdrummer or Superior Drummer tracks provided. If they supply MIDI only, I use Superior Drummer as my actual audio for the drums. Although, Superior Drummer and the expansion packs have great sounds that I often use, I too use a hybrid of my own sampled sounds or even full kit recordings and Superior Drummer. My personal recording space is just a small project studio in the basement of my home so I don’t have a large drum room which can be ideal for some desired drums sounds. I’ll often use the drum rooms from Superior drummer only. I’ll basically program what’s been played on the drums so use just the drums room sounds in the mix. It’s a great way to get some size and depth when it’s not naturally there in the recording.
Name a few productions from your catalogue that you feel particularly proud of (and why).
I really dig my production on Tommy Rogers of Between the Buried and Me’s latest Thomas Giles record “Don’t Touch the Outside.” His records tend to have a lot of different vibes, so we were able to use various tones with each song. I know Tommy uses EZ/Superior Drummer on some of his tracks, as well as the EZkeys libraries. We were actually able to just leave the drums at default settings on some stuff, which is a testament to how good it sounds right away. It’s just really fun to work up sounds from different eras and genres and this record required it. I get to flex my knowledge and creativity a bit and have fun with his stuff, haha
Name a few all-time favorite albums that you did not work on where you think performance, sound and feel all come together in perfect balance.
That’s tough as there’s many great-sounding records. One that I can think of off-hand is “The Resistance” by Muse. I just love the way that record sounds.
If you produced an album that you couldn’t mix yourself, what would be the first name on your list for the gig?
Another tough one as there’s many great producers whose work I love for many reason. But personally, probably Andy Wallace is one of my favorite masters.
Best studio moment ever?
I can’t think of any specific ones, but I think it’s always best once a record all comes together and I am personally happy with the result. At this point, it’s usually all just a bunch of work up until then but there’s a good feeling that washes over me every time I listen to a final product that the client’s preferences didn’t make it sound in a way that I dislike, haha
Worst studio moment ever?
I had a drunk client that came in with a band that didn’t want to record with me. His band did and convinced him to come record, but he wanted to record with a friend that had a Roland 1680 which is ridiculous as most of you reading probably know. I got in an argument (near fist fight) and kicked him out due to his disrespectful/redneck attitude. That happened over 12-15 years ago but It still ticks me off to this day.
If you weren’t producing records – what would you do for a career, you think?
Probably some sort of restoration work. I love old stuff and making things they way they should be in my opinion. The whole making things that way that they should be is part of what got me into mixing/producing music.
Finally, any tips to those looking to make a career in music production/engineering?
It’s easier to record and do production than ever before with the technology (like the Toontrack products) and info out there, so you’re pretty much going to have to master audio production to have any chance of making music production/engineering a career. There’s loads of competition out there so you’ll have to be able to provide top-notch product/service and then get lucky and record some influential bands/records on top of that. I know many great engineer/producers that still have to work jobs elsewhere and do music on the side as there’s just so much competition. Many are recording/producing themselves, so focus on learning and developing high level production editing, programming, mixing and mastering skills to stay in the game. You’ve got to be able to do something for people that they can’t do for themselves and probably do it cheaper than they can get it elsewhere. At least until you have industry name drop credit, haha
SOME OF JAMIE’S WORK.
Through the Eyes of the Dead and “Bloodlust” (2005)
Between the Buried and Me “Colors” (2007)
For Today “Portraits” (2009)