Meeting Topic: Working at Smart Studios and Interpersonal Skills in the Recording Environment
Moderator Name: Steve Banik
Speaker Name: Mike Zirkel, Audio Mixing, Mastering, Post-Production Engineer
Other business or activities at the meeting:
Mr. Michael Fleming is now preparing an official motion to present at his next AES meeting. Our chapter is nearly official!
Plans for future presentations include Genelec in October, in November-in studio with Milwaukee Area Technical College Prof. and Producer/Music Composer Matt Smith, and in December or January-Bon Iver's Producer Brian Joseph, at his studio in Eau Claire. Mr. Colson suggested UW Sound Studies Professor Jeremy Morris as a future presenter. As well as Epic, with Grey Reynolds/Gavin.
Mr. Boyle suggested [Shay Mcgilloway], and Dave Hill in Superior (Summit Audio, Crane Song Ltd., Amethyst Audio).
Officer nominations: Steve Banik, Chair; Dustin Boyle, Vice Chair; Lauren Schmidt, Secretary; Greg White, Treasurer.
Meeting Location: Madison Media Institute, Madison, WI, USA
People skills are more important than knowing how to use the equipment. Those skills got him the job and kept him employed. It's about making good impressions, timeliness, and amiability.
In '93, Zirkel scored a two-month unpaid internship at Smart Studios. Prior to his internship, he had been working in Milwaukee as a Live Sound Engineer. He got that gig by surpassing his predecessor in kindness and flexibility. Interning duties were varied and increased over time, starting as a Staff Assistant, moving to Recording Technician and Mixing Engineer.
With no money and nowhere to stay, Zirkel went for the position at Smart Studios anyways. He bartered with local Creature Custard, providing free studio time for living space in their basement....Madison bands in the 90's sought to frighten the audience...
At the time, Mr. Colson (Doug Olson) was one of the main Producers at Smart Studios.
"Engineering is like driving a bus," says Zirkel. A Recording Engineer is an interface between the musicians and the DAW. Most request directions.
Musician/Engineer relationship is very much like a marriage = dependent on listening. It's an energy exchange, keep it happy.
Butch Vig's friendly attitude and persistence heavily influenced the scene, making awful bands sound good. The first record for the band Garbage was loop-based. Vig used a sampler to record a bar of music and punch in on the 2" tape machine. "You should learn to tape-edit, Colson," and "shave," said Vig after he returned from producing L7 in L.A.
Downstairs they recorded through a Trident 80c (not an A-range) and through a sweet-sounding Harrison upstairs. Back then, the gear list was not online and artists would often venture from L. A., mistakenly assuming they had an A-range. This is another instance where social skills altered outcomes.
Zirkel played a piece he produced more radically than most. He says he usually has an idea of where he would take the song, but stays true to the artist's vision. In this instance, he asked the band and they were all for the vocal distortion and breath delays, with ¼ note and eighth note echoes.
Bob Frank and Dustin Boyle mentioned producing songs that "break the rules," and how some artist's want their music to sound abnormal, and to leave their mark on a song. Greg White agreed that it's not the Engineer's job to change the band's preferred settings. It's important to respect the artist's wishes.
Written By: Lauren Schmidt