Tell us a little bit about yourself: Where are you from? What do you study? How did you discover your passion for audio?
Hello, my name is Martin Denda. I am 29 years old and I’m currently studying Electronics - Audio Engineering at the Technical University of Graz. I just finished my master’s thesis, Development of an Active Noise Cancellation Headphone based on a DSP Chip, so this is actually my last semester at university.
I’ve been listening to music all my life. When I was about 14 I became a big fan of rap music. After a while, I developed an interest in making my own beats, starting with Fruity Loops and an old Boss hardware sampler. A friend of mine who was also into rap had a microphone so we started recording our own songs. From that point on my interest in the technical part of music production grew rapidly and I started searching for bands and musicians to work with.
Currently I am a freelance audio-engineer. I like being in the studio as well as engineering live concerts. I also started working as an acoustic engineer for ams AG nearby Graz.
Do you play any instruments yourself?
I’m a classically trained clarinet player.
Tell us about the production of your submission. What is the story behind it? How long did you work on it?
The song I submitted “Oe Bukura moré” is part of the album “Po Tu Cuntu” of the Sicilian band Vucciria. The band members live in Graz, where the recording and mixing took place. The album consists of 12 songs and we recorded it towards the end of September 2012. I think we spent about 16 days in the studio. I started mixing the album in January 2013 and it took me about a month to finish.
It’s a purely acoustic album of classical Sicilian folk music. The song “Oe Bukura moré” is the Harbreshe version of an old traditional Albanian song. The Harbreshe are Albanian people who escaped to the south of Italy in the year 500. There are still some small villages where the old Albanian language is spoken. For inspiration, the band showed me some old recordings of traditional Sicilian folk music, as well as some modern folk music recordings.
What was your most significant, funny or inspiring experience in your time as as an audio engineer?
Two years ago, I was on tour with an Austrian Rock/Pop band across Austria and Germany. We played a big open-air concert in our hometown Graz. Everything was going perfectly: a huge stage, nice equipment and a lot of people. After 20 minutes, the bass player decided to stage dive. The crowd was cheering at him, and I am sure they would have caught him, but right when he jumped off the stage, he slipped on an XLR cable on the edge of the stage. He failed to clear the gap between the stage and the crowd and crashed into the solid-steel barrier in front of the crowd. For a second I was really scared and worried about my friend. We actually had to stop the concert.
The next day, I visited him in the hospital. Luckily he had only broken 3 or 4 ribs - nothing too serious. I asked him, “For god’s sake, why did you do that?”, and he answered: “ You know, 10 Minutes before the concert I got a message from my girlfriend that I am going to be a father. I had so much energy in me and I had to release it during the concert.” About a month later he was on stage again. We had bought him a helmet and some fake wings. You know… Precautionary measures.
Accidents happen: What was your biggest mistake in a production and what did you do to redeem the situation?
I think my biggest mistake happened during an album production, where I might have been overambitious. I was very disappointed as I realised the band members (or the manager, the producer or co-producer; I don’t really know) had changed their minds after about 1 month work and didn’t want my mixes on the album anymore. I learned that honest and direct communication is one of the most important and rare things when working with other people.
What’s your advice for engineers who are just starting out?
Before I start with a mix or a recording I always ask myself “What is the goal I am trying to reach? What should the result sound like?” I am listening to a lot of different styles of music. It helps me to expand my “imaginary sound-pool”. When I have an idea of the song, I work until it sounds like in my imagination. I think it is important to have a clear goal in mind. Otherwise it is very easy to lose yourself in details and make random decisions.
Tech talk: What are your favourite pieces of equipment?
As condenser microphones I like the Neumann U87 and the Schoeps MK4. Both are very versatile and always easy to handle in the mix. My favourite dynamic mic is the Shure SM57. I cannot remember a single production not using at least one of them.
In terms of outboard gear I like the Bricasti Design System 1. It’s the best reverb processor I have ever heard. Particularly the small room settings sound very sweet.
On the software side of things I like the hardware-emulation plugins from Universal Audio, in particular the Fatso Jr, the Studer A800, the EMT reverbs and the 1176 compressors. I also use the Brainworx bx_digital V2 equalizer a lot because it has some really handy features like built–in mono summing and M/S processing.
What is your favourite recording or production?
I listen to a lot of different styles of music, so I don’t have a single favourite. I love most of Norah Jones’ albums. I think John Mayer’s “Continuum” sounds fantastic. I really like the “Tetra”by C2C. Ah yes, I think the new Daft Punk album sounds very impressive too - Mick Guzauski is killing it!
What do you like about the AES?
I like the conventions a lot, because gives students the opportunity to talk and listen to many experienced and outstanding personalities like Georg Massenburg or Jim Kaiser. One can learn a lot from these people.
Tell us about your favourite experiences at the 134th AES Convention in Rome!
Winning an award in the recording competition, of course! Receiving honest feedback from the judges is invaluable.
What is your favourite frequency?
I love them all!
What do you do when you’re not in the studio or doing anything music related?
I spend time with my girlfriend, my friends and my family. I go out. I like running and snowboarding – and just enjoying life.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Behind a big SSL desk in my own studio somewhere in the Caribbean, recording multiple-platinum albums in the morning, going surfing in the afternoon and drinking cocktails with my friends and family in the evening. Anyway, should I not make it there, I hope that I’ll always be able to stay in contact with audio engineering, learning and exploring new techniques every day. I love to be in the studio or at the Front-of-House desk - I think it is the best job in the world!
You can listen to Martin's submission here.
If you want to contact Martin, just send him an e-mail.
Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2013