Meeting Topic: CRAS Grad Panel
Moderator Name: CRAS Student - Savon Bell-Johnson
Speaker Name: CRAS Grads - Brandon Schuster, Zach Lamb, Austin Love
Meeting Location: Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences, Gilbert Az
CRAS recently welcomed back CRAS grads Brandon Schuster, Zach Lamb, and Austin Love. The alumni answered a number of questions about the road from their internships to where they are now. 12th Cycle student Savon Bell-Johnson moderated the event, starting with introductions from each of the panelists regarding their current titles and places of employment. Brandon Schuster, a recording engineer, works at VSI Group, a post-production studio specializing in English localization for foreign media. Zach Lamb works for Interscope Records as an assistant engineer. Austin Love is currently a freelance mixer, producer, engineer, and songwriter.
Savon asked each of the panelists to describe their experience in the industry since graduating from CRAS. Brandon graduated in 2014, interned at Larson Studios for three months, and endured temp jobs until he landed his first paid audio position directing and recording for audio books. From there, he worked as an edit assistant in reality television before shifting to ADR recording and editing for anime.
For Zach, his internship was with Wil Anspach, aka"greazywil." Unfortunately, this was at the height of the pandemic, so he took a job at Guitar Center for nine months before he was hired by Interscope as a runner.
Austin Love interned with producer Colin Brittain, after which he was hired on for "just under a year." While working for Henson Recording Studios, Austin began to accept freelance jobs out of his apartment as well as live sound mixing gigs. Austin decided to become a full-time freelancer, owning his own studio through Kingsize Soundlabs for five years.
Up next, the panel was asked about their current typical workday. Normally for Brandon, he arrives around 8:15 to set up sessions accordingly based on who the clients for the day are. He then speaks to the director to establish a game plan for the day. Sessions typically run from 9-6pm.
As an assistant engineer, Zach communicates with the technicians each morning to see if there are any issues from the night before with any of the consoles or gear that may need to be addressed. Afterwards, he starts setting up the eight rooms for sessions. Occasionally he will handle tracking if the head engineer needs a break.
Since becoming a freelancer, Austin's schedule varies day by day. He typically tries to have three songwriting sessions a week starting at noon and ending around 8-9pm. Other days, his time is spent building beats, recording artists, cowriting if needed, and mixing/producing songs.
Savon inquired about any times that the members of the panel may have made a mistake during their internships. According to Brandon, "I have to say I was very fortunate that nothing crazy happened during my internship."
Zach recollected when he started his internship that he had a habit of making a clicking noise with his mouth, much to the disdain of greazywil, who began to make him do push-ups any time he would make that noise. Because of this, he no longer makes noises when he is nervous.
The wildest anecdote came from Austin, who told the story of the time during his internship that he allegedly got drunk with his boss's best friend and had the keys to the studio, coming in late and hung over the next day. "I got screamed at for about 30 minutes." This elicited a round of applause from the audience.
Each member of the panel was then asked for the best advice they can give an intern once they have completed their internship and are ready to jump into the industry. Brandon's advice is that whatever you go into, have a passion for it. "It's a long road... Just make sure you love what you're doing. That's the motivation that's going to keep you going."
Zach agreed with Brandon, adding "You're not just going to walk into the room with credits and be the guy on campus, that's not how it works. What makes you tick? For me, it was mixing music. When I mix records, everything else fades away and it's just me. I don't care what I have to do to get to that, I'm gonna do it. You guys should definitely figure out what that is for you."
Austin added that you should try to be employed in whatever industry you are trying to be in. "If you get a job in retail or food service, it's really going to eat up most of your mental energy and you're not going to be able to devote the amount of attention and time that it takes to be successful in audio."
Moving forward, Savon asked each of the panel members to describe what was expected of them during their internships. Brandon replied that most of it was making coffee, preparing trays of food, helping do laybacks from ProTools to tape, doing quality control to make sure there were no dropouts and that sync was ok, and also doing backgrounds on some of the shows to build his technical abilities.
Zach explained that showing up on time is the most important thing expected, internship or otherwise. "I've seen people get asked to leave internships because they couldn't show up on time." Continuing, he encouraged everyone to stay humble and teachable.
The majority of what was expected from Austin was bouncing audio files out of ProTools to be imported into Cubase, on top of cleaning and locking up.
Savon then invited the panel to share some of the highlights of their careers thus far. For Brandon, The first time getting behind the board as a recording engineer at Bang Zoom! was the first moment that he felt like he had "made it." He also mentioned that during the pandemic, he edited the ADR for the Demon Slayer movie completely from a hotel room. "My roommates were uncomfortable because we were in the same room, so I ended up staying for a week at a hotel... During that time from the stuff that I had recorded for the movie I ended up editing the entire movie in a hotel room."
On his first day as a runner at Interscope records, Zach's supervisor asked him to grab a midi controller for studio 4. On his way back, LL Cool J walked past him in the hallway and started making a rap about the "Piano Man." Unfortunately, Zach's supervisor believed that it was him making up the rap. LL Cool J heard Zach getting chastised for goofing off, and came by to set the record straight. "I was like, that's LL Cool J, this is crazy... I'm gonna go take this to Studio 4."
For Austin, the most memorable moment was when the first album that he received credit for, Last Young Renegade by All Time Low, went to number one. On the other hand, he noted that the worst part is having produced and mixed a number of albums without getting credit for them.
The panel was then asked to share any stories about when a job went completely unhinged, and how did they bounce back from it. As Brandon put it, "There was a show when I first started working at the job I'm at now.. I think I had been there two months.. There was a lot of dialogue in the show.. Because I had some anime experience working at Bang Zoom!, my supervisor asked if I could jump in and help out. I ended up having to figure out in two and a half (or) three weeks (how) to come up with 475 loops of walla."
Zach recollected, "I was running a session one time and the artists were under the influence of substances... Trying to keep the vibe in that and keep them happy and keep them recording and wanting to work... Everything just kept going wrong that day.. Wil was also there and he was like dude you're fine, this has been great."
According to Austin, "Back when I was working out of my apartment with local bands in LA, there was one band in particular where the singer was very against computers and quantizing and tuning and things like that. He would give me reference songs where it was clearly quantized and tuned. But if I would try to put their stuff closer on the grid he would freak out... The band ended up splitting up midway through the album. The album never got released. I don't know exactly how you would save that other than maybe sometimes don't tell people that you're editing their audio... A good thing that came out of it is that a few artists that I still work with today were in that band."
For his final question, Savon asked what the proudest moment in each of the panel members' careers was thus far. For Brandon, it was the first time he received a screen credit for foley on a movie, as well as working on the Demon Slayer movie because of the magnitude of it.
Zach said that for him it was the Dreamville Writing Camp he had recently done. They were writing songs for Creed 3. J Cole and Ari Lennox were there the first week, the next week RMR was there. It was 14 tracking sessions running non-stop. Zach noted that during the writing camp was also the first time that he got to track at Interscope.
For Austin, he says there are a few independent artists that he's been working with lately, and seeing their finished products being released is a great feeling.
The floor was then opened for an audience Q&A. One of the questions that was asked regarded any wake-up calls that they experienced upon arriving in LA for their internships.
Brandon explained that the behind-the-scenes stuff that he witnessed was a little surprising, but also a positive affirmation that he was in the right place.
Zach was surprised to find out different ways that ProTools can be utilized, even after feeling that he had a strong understanding of it.
Austin told a story of how on his first day of internship, he walked in the door and his boss told him that he had a client coming in 30 minutes and requested that he clean up the studio. His boss went to grab food, and while he was gone, Austin re-wrapped all of the cables which were in a jumbled mess, fully dusted, and swept the entire studio. When he came back, his boss was taken aback by how much he had done. That day happened to be when the aforementioned All Time Low project was starting, and his boss gave him the keys to the studio so he could stay late to export audio files from Pro Tools to Cubase. So there he was on the first day of his internship... with the keys to the studio.
Another question raised was if there was anything that they were told on campus that clicked once they got into the industry.
Brandon's response: "Use the facilities and learn as much of the equipment as possible because once you're in the fire, you're gonna be tested, so it's a sink or swim moment there."
Zach's: "I heard a lot on campus, one day it will all just click. I've definitely had a lot of those a-ha moments inside the studio..."
Austin recollects, "There are a lot of times that I've kept my opinions to myself that have played out in my favor."
At the conclusion of the event, many stayed to speak further with the three members of the panel.
Written By: CRAS AES Secretary - William Walton