I am from Guangzhou, China, a metropolitan city close to Hong Kong where many imports and exports occur. As a child, I didn’t have the luxury of accessing music at the touch of my fingertips, like I do now. I remember going to secret spots on the weekends to pick out records among piles and piles of CDs with broken cases, which were smuggled in from overseas and were damaged by the customs. My mom had a Sony stereo set with a CD player and two cassette slots… it was pretty fancy in the ’90s. I was obsessed with recording my favorite songs to the cassette tapes. And then my mom bought a Walkman with recording ability through its built-in mic—I figured out how to play music in the background with my mom’s stereo and record bedtime stories I wrote. I paid for all of those CDs, but none of the profits went to the creators.
My family wanted me to follow in their footsteps and become a visual artist or a designer, but I was already obsessed with music. I always wanted to play the piano. So at the age of 16, I decided to pursue music secretly. I found two incredible music teachers on the Internet and started taking lessons, unbeknownst to my family. I learned how to read, play, and study music with strict and intense classical training. It was really difficult at the time because I didn’t know if anything would come from it, and I had to make money on the side to pay for the lessons. Looking back, I’m glad I took that risk. It was totally worth it. A year later, I was accepted to the Communication University of China, the best music and technology program in China, to study music. My music career began.
The next part of my journey called for a relocation to the states, so I moved to Los Angeles after college. I started at Paramount Recording Studios and climbed the career ladder there. The learning never stops in Los Angeles; every day I pick up something new and practice until it becomes a habit. I am so inspired by the music culture in L.A., everyone I meet is just so talented, driven and inspiring. You don’t have to learn how to read music to be able to create music. How it sounds and how it connects with people is the most important part of the business.
The PreSonus audio products that I’ve been using are the StudioLive 16.0.2 digital mixer and their award-winning Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software Studio One Professional, which I mostly use for producing.
Its ease of use, flexibility and Macros are among the top features that led me to choose working creatively in this environment. Other DAWs usually require third-party software to program Macros, whereas with Studio One it is integrated natively as part of the DAW workflow itself.
Another particularly useful feature about Studio One that I find useful is the ARA integration (with Melodyne pitch correction) to the Studio One software engine. It saves so much time and I can edit vocal audio clips in real time at any stage of the process.
I love the quick-nudge capability inside of an audio clip. It’s a fast workflow and I don’t have to clean up the edit point or cross-fades every time I make an edit.
In short, Studio One flows really well, it’s quick and intuitive. No downtime for creativity. Truly amazing!
Luke: I’m a producer / composer and mixing engineer best known for my remixes for Kylie Minogue (a Grammy-nominated Billboard #1), The Killers, Robbie Williams, Bob Marley and Amy Winehouse–to name but a few–I just produced Twenty Five Ten, an album in homage to my late mother.
It has sounds for here and now, rooted in decades of influences and experiences.
Featuring successful collaborations with Kevin Godley (10 CC, Godley & Creme), model Roxy Horner, Nick Tart (Diamond Head), Rachael & James Akin (EMF), Lucy Pullin (The Isle of Man, Robbie Williams), Melanie Taylor, Flora, Phat Hat.
My 18-track album was recorded in various places such as Brisbane (Australia), Tel Aviv, Mallorca, Brussels, Los Angeles, Dublin, Katowice (Poland), and Baton Rouge (USA).
Besides my emotional motivation to get this project done, I really wanted this record to connect genres, eras, and mix generations. Somehow connect the dots between timelines in a unified story, with its joyful and bonkers moments, with its own directions and contradictions, or more simply put: my story.
I have a rock-solid PreSonus eco-system based around a Quantum 2, FaderPort 16, and ATOM, nothing superfluous—they all have a purpose. The FaderPort 16 is giving me the gestures I’m used to when balancing tracks on a console; the vibe is based on even relationships between instruments.
It’s a different experience, and the decisions I’m making helped me to assign a more prominent role to sounds buried in a mix, with fingers on all faders I’m sorta painting a sonic picture based on my impression. With a mouse it’s also achievable, but it’s more cerebral; it’s laser focused, and less expressive.
The ATOM is perfect when I want to jam with drums or synth shots. It’s perfect for fortunate accidents! I come up with ideas I wouldn’t get from a keyboard. In some of my remixes I like to slice vocals that I then drop into impact to create what we call “vox lox” to build new lines, for example that was a centerpiece of my Kim Wilde Kids In America remix. The new chorus idea was all done with Impact XT and the ATOM.
Quantum 2 is just brilliant, it’s been my companion in so many tasks, it’s never let me down. As musical director for a Native American show I’m in charge of, I used this thing on stage in large venues with thousands of people, the sound was amazing and so stable. I also mixed a full season series for a TV network; a short film for Disney; sound mix for HBO; my album and remixes—it’s been so reliable and with a constant, pristine sound. It fits perfectly in my backpack, so I’m super mobile.
I usually work from home, and when necessary I just take my laptop to a commercial studio, plug my Quantum 2 to their system, launch Studio One, and I’m set. I can do the adjustments I feel are needed and go back home.
My album was also mastered that way, I’ve had a reliable listening environment there, and all songs loaded into the project page. The big plus was when I felt that I was doing too much tweak, I could just open the song, fix whatever was needed with one click and go back.
Lately besides my remixes, I’ve been asked to mix a couple of original songs from the ’80s/’90s on which I’ve been given the multi-tracks, such as Fine Young Cannibals, Shakespear’s Sister, or Bananarama to name but a few.
I could really set up Studio One to be ready at all time and nicely organized like a vintage console, and now with Version 5 Professional, I can switch between an SSL or Neve sound in just 2 clicks. That’s fantastic.
What led you to choose Studio One?
Studio One is just another part of me, it never gets in the way. It’s a companion standing in front of me that is always ready for war.
The interface is very clean and soothing in a way, it always feels like some quietness before the storm. It also sounds great, fully-featured and with the Project page, you can virtually do anything within ONE app.
These days as a musician you have to wear so many hats that the last thing you want is distractions and learning curves on different apps. With Studio One I can produce, compose, mix, and master with features located in familiar places.
What Studio One features have proven particularly useful and why?
The drag & drop concept, be it for sounds, presets, instruments, or FX. This thing is a home run. When I feel that I’m not going to be in a productive mood, I spend a lot of time organizing all of the above for future sessions.
How does Studio One compare to other DAWs you have used?
They can be the adult in the room in a world where feature lists to sell new major updates are prioritized over the quality of their achievement.
With backward compatibility, if something is poorly implemented from the start, then you’re stuck with it until the end of days. We all love new features, of course, but it shouldn’t come at that price.
So when I see something not yet available in Studio One, I just tell myself: “If you can’t make music with what Studio One has to offer today, maybe you should just quit.” The kid in me is not a fan of that sentence, but it’s a nice motto to move on.
Which Studio One feature or concept doesn’t get enough spotlight (or isn’t talked about enough) in your opinion?
Without a doubt I’d say macros, they can be really powerful, I remember doing one for a friend of mine, he was new to Studio One, he was looking after a way to slice and map samples easily.
So I came up with one that analyzed the loop, detected transients, sliced at transients and sent them to Sample One XT, it was so good that I’ve added it to a shortcut and ended up using it myself. I’m thinking of sharing it with the community.
Any useful tips/tricks or interesting stories based on your experience with Studio One that would be of interest to our user base?
During the lockdown with friends we’ve had some virtual sessions, we were sending ideas back and forth and it appeared that none of them used MusicLoops, they were saving their ideas or overdubs as songs.
I told them that I have a folder called ideas, so every time I try a new synth or jamming with a virtual instrument, I just drag & drop it to that folder, and it then becomes an asset for my future project. Everything is saved in a single file with an audio version, MIDI, presets, and FX used all in one go.
From time to time, I like to browse that folder to see if there’s anything inspiring or useful.
That’s basically the story of the opening track on my album, I’ve had this nasty groove made with Impact XT floating around for some time, and one day it was the right idea for the mood I was in.
Never lose your ideas, phrases and so on, don’t expect to remember anything two years or two months from now with random or cryptic names… Just drag and drop in a place, where you’ll find your sparkles of ideas at all times!
Any final comments about PreSonus and Studio One?
I always found the name intriguing, now that I see how powerful it’s become over the years, and on its way to become the ultimate DAW, I take it that it was not just a name… it was a plan.
The PreSonus family was heartbroken to hear about the passing of our dear friend, collaborator, and long-time partnering artist, Justin Lassen. During his career, Justin worked with such artists as Madonna, Garbage, The Killers, Lady Gaga, Lenny Kravitz, Robert Miles, Nine Inch Nails, Linkin Park, Evanescence, Apocalyptica, and more. A talented presenter and spokesperson for the democratization of audio production, Justin also worked with many high-profile technology firms, including Intel, Sony, and Konami.
It’s the word that immediately comes to mind when thinking of Justin. His love of it. The sounds around us. The noise of the world that becomes music to those willing to listen. Justin had a unique gift for hearing and capturing that music.
As a composer and sound designer, Justin was passionate about discovering unique sounds for his creations. After the release of his landmark sample library of horror sounds, White Rabbit Asylum, which has been used in such films as Underworld: Awakening and I, Frankenstein, Justin went on the adventure of several lifetimes, traveling to more than 22 countries over the course of ten years to create his masterful ambient industrial sound library, Black Fox Society. Using binaural and ambisonic microphones and field recording equipment, he ventured into caves, castles, jungles, shrines, cathedrals, bone-filled secret passages, waded down rivers, trekked over mountains, and even dove underwater on his relentless quest to collect his sounds.
PreSonus was honored to include his piece, Vulpes Obsidian Sanctum, as a flagship demo in Studio One 5. It provides a glimpse into the way Justin heard the world. Justin was a composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and remix artist who worked in film, sound design, and gaming—but most of all he was a friend and inspiring human being who will be deeply missed by all those who knew him.
Listen to Vulpes Obsidian Sanctum.
Discovering new sonic universes to explore is what being a musical artist is all about!
Let’s dive into RMB Justize’s discussion about his worlds of sound, and how he does it all with PreSonus Sphere:
“Versatility and persistence are a deadly combination of characteristics. They are much-needed weapons to have in an artist’s arsenal.”
Based in Chicago, IL with ties to the DMV area… Taylor Gang’s in-house producer Ryan “RMB Justize” Baker grew up in a musical household, his mother being a classical violinist for the Chicago Sinfonietta, exposing RMB’s ears as early as six years old.
“I caught the music bug from Mom, for sure. I remember turning 11 or 12 and having nothing but a voice recorder and a Yamaha DJX keyboard. Skateboarding was the thing back then, with influences ranging from Sum 41 to Incubus to The Neptunes and Noreaga. A couple of years later I finally dove into making music with computers, using every piece of software I could get my hands on until now. But… then came PreSonus Studio One, which changed it all for me.
“The interest came from an artist I worked with at the time—he wouldn’t stop mentioning it! After spending countless months into years on ProTools, FL Studio and Reason, I wanted a program that could do it all. I’m a religious template maker, as most are, so the workflow determines the imagination most if not all of the time and Studio One takes care of the madness with ease. Let’s just focus on the music and pushing envelopes more than finding where to click certain stuff. PreSonus did it right, ranging from AudioBox interfaces I’ve owned in the past, all the way to the new Quantum which gives me more than enough power to control the room.”
Since the premiere of Studio One version 5 in July of 2020, RMB has become a power user… eventually convincing a few fellow producers and artists to try it, if not make a full switch.
“There have been times where I’ve walked into big label studio sessions and people look confused because they’ve never seen Studio One in person! Once I show my way of doing certain things, using certain plug-ins in certain ways, they’re overly surprised. It’s hands-down the fastest program, which lets me flex my mind-work and turn my rough thoughts (even voice notes) into full records. I’ve had people come to my studio for sessions and look surprised when they ask why I use it. You have to try for yourself to find your workflow.”
Honorably noted, PreSonus Sphere has made his processes for online collaboration, recording, mixing, and mastering an album-quality one-stop-shop, helping the migration become a breeze. Especially during times of a pandemic where people can’t communicate like they normally would, it’s a necessity.
“I think all DAWs should have an ecosystem such as PreSonus Sphere, whether you’re just getting started or an A-list musician. The tools available make it seamless to share files and keep up to date on things like deadlines and most recent notes/mixes, rather than scrambling through emails and hard drives (which we can all relate to, I’m sure). Having that system in one spot, one site, one page, actually kept me in line when finishing a label record and staying up to date without confusion.” (Chevy Woods—Since Birth)
Recently focusing more on production and audio engineering as well, the AAF import feature has been a godsend.
“I still find myself walking people through how to convert sessions to AAF rather than tracking out. There is no other program that will line the session up identically with automation and fades, to say the least, which saves more time than I expected. That’s just a small piece of my realization, of how capable this DAW is. Cheers, PreSonus!”
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, RMB’s main focus is to create cutting-edge music, knowing he has the perfect DAW to do so, with no issues.
The performances by Irma Thomas, John Boutte, and Kermit Ruffins were recently tracked live at the New Orleans Center For Creative Arts (NOCCA) by professional recording engineer and faculty member, Steve Himelfarb using the PreSonus StudioLive 32S digital mixer and Studio One DAW software.
Let’s get to know him a bit better and hear what he has to say about integrating Studio One and StudioLive for use in live recordings!
Steve began working in recording studios around Los Angeles when he was about 18, doing the midnight til 9:00 a.m. cleanup shift at Cherokee Studios. As a result, he had priceless experiences including meeting Mötley Crüe (still one of the loudest he has ever heard to this day) when Roy Thomas Baker was mixing their debut record. Another fond memory was that of Ray Manzarek producing X’s Wild Gift during the heyday of the 80s music scene.
“Cherokee was super rock & roll, yet they were very strict with what they wanted from their cleanup people. I was taught how to conduct myself as a young would-be recording engineer,” Steve fondly recalls.
At 19, Steve began working for Capitol Records in the famed Capitol Studios building putting in a solid five years of work. Some of his album credits include Sheila E’s first album, Crowded House’s Crowded House, Bob Seager’s Like a Rock, Dwight Yoakum’s GTRs Cadillacs and Tori Amos’ Y Kant Tori Read. (Fun Fact: Tori and Steve have been friends since high school.)
Steve moved to New Orleans at the age of 25, and the first record he engineered in town was Buckwheat Zydeco’s On A Night Like This, which was produced by Chris Blackwell and nominated for a Grammy. He subsequently bought the studio that he worked at in the late 80s and rebuilt it with a Neve console and Studer tape machine. In 1993, Steve sold that studio and took a couple years off, sort of. To date, he has worked on 15 gold and platinum records and has five Grammy-nominated record credits to his name.
Teaching himself to bake, Steve decided to open a small restaurant in the French Quarter of New Orleans called Cake Café, and became affectionately known as “The Cake Man” in the Marigny district. After 13 years of business (fast-forwarding past Hurricane Katrina to about four months ago), he sold the restaurant and wrote a cookbook.
Incidentally, around three years ago (after encouragement from Tori Amos) he started getting back into recording again and dove headfirst into the world of digital recording using Studio One.
Here are some thoughts by Steve, in his own words:
I really like the workflow of Studio One. It feels like I am working on a console and not a computer. The drag-and-drop integration is such a great feature. The plug-ins are very musical. Lately, my go-to has been the VT-1 on the stereo bus.
Using the StudioLive 32S in a live recording situation is wonderful. In all honesty, this type of setup used to be such an involved task with a mobile recording truck and countless hours of set up. The StudioLive 32S, along with the NSB digital stage box, is such a game-changer. Total set-up time takes about an hour. The sound is clean. I like the Fat Channel limiters. They are kinda my safety net against clipping in dynamic situations. I have used the StudioLive 32S on about eight projects over the past year, and it is truly a sturdy piece of equipment for such demanding situations. In live recording situations, you just need to count on your equipment and the StudioLive has always performed excellently.
I really like how the company has developed the workflow of the recording studio in the current digital age. I could see how, about six years ago, PreSonus was ahead of the pack in their development of studio ecosystems. Now everyone is building small-format consoles and integrated systems.
Developing young artists has always been a large part of the work I have done. Teaching at New Orleans Creative Center For The Arts (NOCCA) is a natural extension of the work I love.
Imagine our surprise when Studio One, a FaderPort 8, and a pair of Scepters are prominently displayed with Taylor’s music in the background. We had to find out more about this project, the studio, the engineers, and how Studio One helped TWO of Taylor’s secret albums come to life, Folklore and Evermore. Here’s our interview with Jonathan Gautier, sound engineer and owner of Sound House Studio in Lakeland, FL.
Give us some background on yourself. How long have you been making music?
I started playing the piano at age five. My parents pretty much nurtured rather than forced learning music, so I latched on rather quickly. From 5th grade to 8th grade, I went to a performing arts school, Rochelle School of the Arts, where my mother taught shortly after we moved from Boston to Lakeland. While there, I played cello in the orchestra and sang in the choir. After middle school, I got accepted into Harrison Arts Center for piano. Throughout this whole time, I was playing in church and playing in bands. After high school, I went to the University of Central Florida where I studied Digital Music/Music Production and later received my master’s degree in Music/Music Technology.
How has the music industry changed since your early days?
I’m 36, so I am not sure if I would be considered “old school,” but I feel like the music industry is changing for the better since I started. More tools are accessible than when I started, and you can definitely make music at a better quality. I started out on the original Mbox and a Tascam 4-track in high school, and now people are making better quality music on their phones than I ever did. I also feel that artists are being more responsible with their songs, especially on how they brand themselves, where they want to record, and how they want to use streaming platforms.
Who has been an influence in your life?
My dad was one of my major influences in my life. He, along with my mother, definitely understood the dream that I had to be a producer and own a studio. My dad always would tell me that the world needs dreamers.
Can you please share with us about the Taylor Swift project?
One of our clients, Rob Hecht, aka “Bobby Hawk,” comes to the studio frequently to record violin for various artists, all of which are not disclosed to us. Not even a day before Folklore is released, we get a text from Bobby and he tells us that we have a credit on Taylor Swift’s new album. It was definitely a surreal experience because it came out of nowhere. I almost didn’t want to believe it and when Bobby sent us the link to the credits, sure enough on the song “August” there it is: violins by Bobby Hawk recorded at Sound House Studios by Jonathan Gautier and Michael Williams! (Michael is our other engineer.) We also received another credit on her sister album, Evermore, which was just released on the song “Gold Rush.”
What was your first PreSonus product? What all do you have now?
I have known about PreSonus for a while now. They were one of the first products that I started to build a studio around. My first PreSonus product was the two-channel tube preamp, the BlueTube, and then I had the Digimax LT that I used for an extra eight channels along with my Digi003 rack. Now I use Studio One for my DAW, a FaderPort 8 production controller, Eris 8s as monitors, and a DigiMax DP88.
When did you first hear about Studio One?
Definitely Joe Gilder and Home Studio Corner even before he was heavily involved with PreSonus. Also, the tech director at our church talked about it a lot.
Any user tips or tricks based on your experience with Studio One?
One of my favorite features in Studio One is the Pipeline XT plugin that allows you to use your outboard gear as plug-ins. That was a game-changer for me. I also think pocketing audio tracks using the cursor and Option-Command to line things up over global quantizing is better, at least for me.
How easy/difficult was Studio One to learn?
Coming from Pro Tools, I felt that the learning curve was easier than I thought it would be. I also love the wealth of online resources there are for Studio One, so I never felt stuck. Since making the switch to Studio One and having other PreSonus gear, I have felt that I have been able to be more productive in my studio than ever before.
Recent projects? What’s next for you?
Well, aside from the Taylor Swift stuff, I produced an album project for my church, Access, and another church, Redemption Church. Currently producing album projects for a few local artists: Hana McCartnety and Giselle Gutierrez, as well as mixing virtual choir performances for schools around the country and live recording and mixing for churches for their live streaming. You can check out our new releases on our Spotify Playlist!
HUGE congrats to Jonathan and Bobby for all their success from everyone at PreSonus… and Happy Birthday to Taylor Swift!
In celebration of our 25th anniversary, PreSonus announced the new River City Sessions performance series earlier this year. The online series features regional artists in the Greater Baton Rouge area performing in PreSonus’ world-class, Walters-Storyk Design Group-designed River City Studio at PreSonus HQ in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. COVID-19 restrictions forced us to close the studio to individuals who are not PreSonus employees, so we decided to take these sessions outside! Our latest session (#11 for those keeping track…) features local rocker Luis Manuel and his band The Hitchhiker performing “Glad it’s Not Her, Glad it’s Not You.” Get to know Luis and watch the session below.
Give us some background on yourself. How long have you been making music?
I’ve been making music for the better part of the last 12-13 years. I learned how to play guitar by ear listening to bands like GNR, Thin Lizzy, The Darkness, ELO. Eventually, I started doing my own acoustic shows, did a few tours around the US with several bands, and then morphed into the Hitchhiker.
How has the music industry changed since your early days?
I’m sad to say it’s changed a lot! It seems like nobody cares about music as much as they care about how to run clout and pander with it. Maybe I’m just old? Could be, but The Hitchhiker boys can still rip after working 40 hours a week and slamming Jäger bombs.
Describe the first time you wrote a song? Produced it?
The first time was probably back in 2008 with my friend Josie. He really got me pumped about doing my own music. The guy is a musical wizard. The song was likely about my second breakup. Pre and post-production is the most fun part for me. I usually take charge, but the dudes always come up with awesome ideas that we always end up using. I usually write the music and the melody first, always based on mood. Then I bring parts of the rhythm section to Mark. He turns it into a juggernaut. Afterward, we collectively go from there, adding layers of cool. Big rocker guys. Great players. Great friends. Love them to death.
Who has been an influence in your life?
I have 3-4 spiritual leaders besides my dad. Oh, and Thin LIZZY.
Have you ever wanted to give up on music? What keeps you going?
Yes. Sometimes it’s writer’s block, sometimes it loses the “fun factor” when your band members have a lot of other important things go around. It can be demoralizing, but we’re big boys now! Gotta pay the bills! What keeps me going is that I can’t stop picking up that damn strat I just bought!
What do you like about PreSonus? What caught your eye?
All PreSonus products are very user-friendly, affordable, up to date and durable. Can’t beat that. The staff is phenomenal, all-around great people. They’ve always considered me even though I can’t sing very well and I’m forever grateful to them for that.
How has COVID-19 impacted your music?
It’s taken money out of my pocket because of lockdowns. I miss live shows, performing, and just enjoying the show! I think everyone can agree about that!
What are your plans for 2021?
Write and certainly release more music with the band. Work my tail off all across the board, be a better man, and love America even more.
2020 has been a year like none other that most of us can remember in our lifetimes. But, we managed to see another Halloween weekend come and go… and true to my own annual tradition, I busted out the Oingo Boingo playlist to honor the songwriting/compositional mastery of Mr. Danny Elfman, along with one of my all-time favorite drummers, Mr. Johnny “Vatos” Hernandez and his quirky approach to propelling all those amazing songs they created in the 80’s.
So, I had the honor of spending time this past NAMM 2020 in Anaheim at our PreSonus Booth with Mr. Bill Jackson, who I discovered was Oingo Boingo’s recording engineer on one of the songs to a hit movie I used to watch ad infinitum back in my youth, Weird Science and all subsequent album releases as well as my go-to end of year holiday film (to this day), Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. We spoke at length about how he’s been using our Faderport line of control surfaces to craft his mixing with total human organic interactivity.
Here then, is what he had to say and much more!
During college, I played guitar in bands and also recorded them, as well as other local artists, with a Teac A3340-S. I had no EQ on my Tascam mixer, but I had a Tapco spring reverb.
My career started at Sunset Sound in Hollywood. I started as the runner, but I was always going in early and staying late. Sunset has 3 rooms, and I would go to each room, before the session started and look at every mic, then follow the path through the console and all the outboard gear. These were great engineers, working on projects like Van Halen, Doobie Brothers, Toto, etc. Eventually, I was able to hang out during some of the sessions and the clients got to know me. That led to me getting thrown into a lot of sessions, including some for a solid month of engineering for Prince, Sheila E., and The Time.
I randomly was selected to be the assistant engineer on “Weird Science” by Oingo Boingo. When they came back the next week, to record the Dead Man’s Party album, the engineer could not commit to it, so he told Danny Elfman to use me. I recorded every album after that, including the final Live Farewell album.
Danny had also started scoring music for films, and I recorded music for about 12 films with Danny, including recording all of the singing voices for Nightmare Before Christmas.
Around the same time that I started working with Oingo Boingo, I had been recording demos with this producer, Howard Benson. That eventually led to recording and mixing about six major-label albums with Howard, including Bang Tango’s Psycho Café. Howard continues to make records that achieve gold, platinum, and #1 status.
I have probably worked on about 200 albums, in some capacity.
Now, I mix a lot of prime-time network television and a lot of documentaries and have created a space at my house for mixing all of that, as well as recording and mixing albums and singles for independent artists.
So, my PreSonus journey actually started with a music editor, Micha, that I was working with. I noticed that he (and other music editors), would bring in a little box, that sat beside their computer. It had one fader, cool transport control buttons, lots of function buttons and a big blue knob. I asked him about it, and he showed me what it could do. (Music editors, as part of their job, have to present Quicktime mixes to the producers, using the music score from the composer, the way it should sound in the finished mix. This helps the producers decide if they want to keep the music, or make changes to it).
NAMM was just a few weeks away, and by chance, I walked in to the entrance where PreSonus was set up. I was immediately drawn over to what turned out to be an 8-fader version of the single-channel FaderPort that the editors were using. I played around with it and asked a few questions, and when I got home, I ordered one of the first ones available.
What drew me to the FaderPort 8 was the small footprint and low profile. I like having it right in front of my timeline monitor, and it doesn’t block my view, as some new controllers can, and its depth is shallow enough that my monitor can stay completely behind it, but still be close to me. I also loved the price. I don’t think there is anything out there that compares with the FaderPort 8 and FaderPort 16, for the price.
What I like the most about the FaderPort series has to start with the amazing transport controls. Whomever designed this transport is a genius. I am all about minimal movement and conservation of energy. My setup has four monitors, and I divide my movements fairly evenly between my right and left hands.
The tactile feel of the buttons, and the precise layout, which matches where my fingers naturally fall, is awesome. Especially if I am recording overdubs and constantly using the transport controls… I don’t have to move the position of my hand or even look at the controls. It is very ergonomic and natural.
Other features that make my life easier, are the big blue knob that allows me to quickly spin to the next bank of tracks, or move 1 channel at a time. I am always spinning that knob to get the channels that I want to be on the surface. In addition to a Solo Clear button, there is also a Mute Clear button, which will clear the solos and mutes showing on the surface in Pro Tools.
I like that the Audio and Virtual Instrument buttons can be used to switch between the Mix and Edit windows in Pro Tools.
Very convenient are the Latch, Trim, Touch, Write, Off and Read buttons, to change the automation setting of highlighted tracks.
Something that definitely should be mentioned, is that I can choose between Studio One, MCU, HUI, and MIDI Mode, when I set it up to use with my DAW.
I also love that I can adjust the fader sensitivity. I have always had issues with moving faders knowing that I am touching them. The Faderport gives me 7 levels of sensitivity to choose from. Level 6 works perfectly for my fingers.
I can also easily adjust the contrast and brightness of the display to work with my viewing angle.
It comes in handy for recording music, especially how the large Select buttons can become the Arm buttons, in bright red. My average tracking session is about 12-14 tracks of drums and the other live musicians (usually playing along as guide tracks for the drummer). Boingo always recorded that way, with everyone playing live, even if we were only going to keep the drums. I still record like that. It helps the band realize that the tempo and drum parts are right.
The Faderport 16 especially shines when it comes to mixing for Television. Here’s the workflow/process:
For each episode, my mix tech, Christina, at Sony, sends me the Pro Tools session, which is made from a combination of my template and my FX editor, Mike’s session, and the audio files folder that goes with it. They both have my template, so this is an easy collaboration. Mike has cut in all of the FX and BG tracks, from scratch, but also includes some pre-mixed 5.1 sounds, that I have made from previous episodes, that I sometimes blend into similar scenes in the new episodes. It ends up being a combination of my pre-mix and his new tracks, for these particular scenes. Mike also includes the Foley, which is performed by Robin and Sarah, the Foley walkers that I love at Sony. I asked for them to be on Madam Secretary, and they also created the Foley for other shows I worked on, such as The Goldbergs, and now The Resident.
What is great about the Faderport 16, is that I can easily grab the eight or so background tracks for a scene, and get a quick balance, then I press the Sends button, and (in this case, select Send C) and grab those same faders to add the ambiance reverb to the BGs that I have selected for that scene.
I then press the Pan button, which turns those same faders into left and right panners, that I use to pan the more specific tracks of the BGs, such as typing, paper shuffling, cars, and sirens. If I am just panning a single track, I may grab the blue pan knob to do a traditional knob pan. Any surround panning is accomplished with a touch screen I have, which mimics the surround panner in Pro Tools. I also use the Sends button to send FX to the subchannel, and any of the other 3 reverbs that I use. Even though I am using HUI control, I am able to do all of this. I also have the input meter turned on, as well as the ability to see the fader dB levels in the scribble strip. I also use the VCA button to show and hide my EQ plug-in. The Shift-Track buttons allow me to display the SMPTE (or BPM) onto the strip.
When I started mixing episodic television at my place, I need to be able to work efficiently and fast. I had used other small format controllers, but wanted something different in price and also features.
Having 16 faders available on the surface. I really mean this, when I am mixing backgrounds, it is nice to have the faders spaced relatively close together. I can work faster, grabbing 8-10 faders, and then switching to Sends mode and grabbing the same faders to add ambiance. This works very efficiently for me.
Seeing the track input levels on the FaderPort, as well as the level of the fader, really help during a mix, as well as the other features that I mentioned.
I would love to have a single button for saving. I am saving my session all the time, and it would be great if I could just double-tap on the big blue knob to save my work.
All in all, I love how you guys took a console for everyone and made it work so well with HUI in Pro Tools.
An added bonus of mixing at Jacksonland (my home studio) with the FaderPort 16, is that I already had a personal mix workflow in place when COVID-19 appeared, and have been able to continue working on The Resident, every week while all of us are sequestering ourselves from each other, since I was already mixing in this manner.
Let’s find out more about them and what’s new in the Pigface camp in these surreal times we’re in:
Martin: I’ve had a long storied career – starting in 1979 when I joined Public Image Limited (the band started by Johnny Rotten when the Sex Pistols imploded) for a 5 year spell that included world tours and their most successful albums. A few years with Killing Joke (who just opened for Tool last year) some work with Nine Inch Nails (appearing on the Grammy award winning Wish) touring with Ministry and founding my own band Pigface – an industrial ‘supergroup’ that has included Mary Byker (PWEI, Gaye Bykers On Acid), Chris Connelly (Revolting Cocks, Ministry), Randy Blythe (Lamb Of God), Danny Carey (Tool), Curse Mackey (Evil Mothers), En Esch (KMFDM), Lesley Rankine (Silverfish, Ruby), Charles Levi (My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult), Bobdog Catlin (Evil Mothers), Bradley Bills (Chant), Andrew Weiss (Ween, The Rollins Band), Greta Brinkman (Moby, Druglord), Orville Kline (Porn and Chicken), Gaelynn Lea, Dirk Flanigan (77 Luscious Babes), Leanne Murray (Beer Nuts), Chris Harris (Project 44), Mike Reidy (Worm), Leyla Royale, Andrew Apocalypse, Ali Jafri, Roger Ebner, Bruce Lamont, Jesse Hunt, Dai, C.A.M., J Lamar, Just Chris (courtesy of Add-2) and Rona Rougeheart.
I started my own label Invisible Records in 1988 and, after a few short years it was obvious I should open my own studio – I bought Steve Albini’s tape machines (an 8 Track ½” and a ¼” machine both by Otari.) As digital started to enter our lives my studio became a hybrid of cool quirky analog, circuit bent pieces, and whatever digital interfaces were affordable at the time.
More and more of my time was spent either in the studio or out recording live events with my band in the US or over in China where I travelled a couple of times. I’ve always been impressed by how supportive PreSonus is to artists– either with no nonsense customer support when needed or by carefully crafting new pieces of equipment that just make sense. I think the piece that illustrated their support of artists for me was the now “classic” Faderport– when most companies were trying to sell multi-fader automation they (and then I) realized that most of us only needed one channel to write volume and pan automation – so, that, I guess, cemented everything for me.
It feels like things are really coming to fruition now, with support from PreSonus and my good friend and audio engineer, Mark Williams. I got to see the StudioLive 64S Series III console mixer in action first at Mark’s studio in Baton Rouge where he laid out all of the tracks, but then we got to work at River City Studio, which is an amazing recording facility, right there at the PreSonus office building. Everyone was so welcoming, people jumping out of meetings to say hi that I had met speaking at PreSonuSphere years ago (you should bring that back!) and I even met the CEO. Mark and I were able to tweak the tracks there and then finish up any tweaks remotely from Chicago.
All of this made the need for a StudioLive 64S console essential for my studio– with so much catalog and multi-track sessions it will be an essential hub of our next few years of activity as a band and as a label. I have the ability to quickly communicate the power of these live shows we have been creating. We recorded many of the shows during our 2019 tour – the line up was just AMAZING and, just be reading through the names you’ll know this was nothing to roll the dice with – the new format allows seamless passing of sessions, follow up tweaks, and easy workflows. Not only has the StudioLive 64S made the mixing of the live tracks from the last tour possible, it’s enabling possibilities of making other shows available for the fans who want more material from us.
Mark: I met Martin the first time in 1993 while working in college radio at the University of Alabama. I worked for him as a field representative for Invisible Records for about 5 or 6 years. Martin contacted PreSonus about one of his ACP88’s and became an Endorser for the company. Throughout the years, PreSonus has outfitted his studio with products including: the ADL600, Central Station, Fadeport, Digimax 96, and their award-winning DAW software, Studio One.
I’ve worked on numerous recording projects and mixes throughout the years with Martin and in November 2016, we recorded the Pigface 25th anniversary concert at the Chicago House of Blues using 2 StudioLive RM32 rackmount mixers and Capture recording software.
In 2019, I supplied Martin with a Quantum interface to record all Pigface live concerts with. The front-of-house (FOH) engineer for the final concert at Thalia Hall sent me all 32 channels of the recording. I synced up the 26 channels from the multitrack with 6 additional channels from the board mix and FOH feed.
Breaking down the 32 channels, 48khz recording down by song was quite an undertaking, as it was a massive amount of data to go through.
Martin flew down the last week of February 2020 so we could mix the album in my studio. The heart of our system was an IMAC with 32 gigs of RAM with a few external terabyte drives, a StudioLive SL64 console mixer, Scepter 8 monitors and Avantone Mixcubes. We went through each song to evaluate what we would use. As we did that, we created template fat channels for each musician. We had 3 drummers, 3 bassists, 2 guitarists, a DJ, 3 saxophones, cello, viola, violin, sitar and more vocalists than I can remember.
Basically we mixed everything “live” using the StudioLive 64S, relying on the console for dynamics processing and effects. We did some simple edits in Studio One. However, to maintain the integrity of the recording, we didn’t repair or fix anything. We used the recording as is in all its chaos and beauty. We didn’t correct any timing, pitch (i.e. no Auto-Tune!). I wanted to stay true to the Pigface form for the live energy.
A couple of days went by of mixing in my studio and then went to River City Studio. I was able to store the presets for the StudioLive 64 on the iMac. We just carried it up to the studio and plugged it in. The scenes loaded up quickly and easily. The transition from my studio to the PreSonus studio was seamless. We were able to get a different perspective in PAE HQ due to the different room and monitoring.
Then, we finalized the mixing in my studio and I uploaded the mixes online for filesharing, as Martin had to fly home to Chicago. He and I tweaked the final mixes over the next month easily to get to the final product that has been pressed to a beautiful Double LP. Y’all need to check it out… click on the link below for more info!
The mix that we did there is what is being used for the live video concert on October 10th.
Around the end of 2019, We Don’t Ride Llamas (WDRL) was introduced to PreSonus by Grammy nominated music producer, King Michael Coy (Dr. Dre, H.E.R, Anderson .Paak, Ms Lauryn Hill, Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg, Bilal, Kendra Foster, Frank N Dank) who has been a Studio One Professional endorser for several years now.
By March of 2020, the group was armed with an AR16c mixer, a PX-1 condenser microphone, the PM-2 stereo pair mics and Studio One Professional DAW software, the kids have been upping their recording game while staying home during the time of COVID-19.
Being the super-duper creative explorers that they are, WDRL has maximized their use of these products in true DIY fashion:
From creating cool voice-overs (did y’all 👀 the trailer video above ☝️ yet?), producing band interviews and promotional videos to the more obvious use case of recording original music and cover songs… the band can now achieve high quality recorded or live streamed audio that kids from previous generations would not have been able to do.
As a matter of fact, We Don’t Ride Llamas recently just wrote a song called “Buddy” that is featured in Welcome To Sudden Death, now streaming on Netflix. You can check out both the “Groove” and “Dance” mix versions on Spotify here!!!
Synecdoche is the long awaited EP that’s on the horizon for release. The recording is an extremely personal project for WDRL as it explores feelings of being displaced, yearning for the future, their general melancholy at the current state of the world and how everything (for them at least) always comes full circle.
Here are a few things they had to say to us:
“We knew that he company has a longstanding reputation for products that are easy to use, sound great and within the budget for most rock bands. These are the reasons we initially were interested in PreSonus. Can’t wait to get our hands on one of those ATOM pad controllers (hint, hint)… :)”
“We love how user friendly and multifunctional everything is! Your products make us feel like sound alchemists even though we’re still fairly new to recording our own stuff at home.”
“The fact that the AR16c mixer is pretty simple to understand and we can just pick it up and go record somewhere is amazing. Also the amount of product videos and training tutorials PreSonus has available online now makes a huge difference.”