LAMC: Music Industry Tips #2

Tip #2: Exposure is the name of the game.

The conversation at LAMC panels moved into licensing. If you are interested in licensing your music, it will help to have a more complete picture about how that world works. Getting your music into the hands of licensing companies such as DMX or Lovecat Music is only one part of the puzzle. You may also have to make changes to your music to fit into a scene or rerecord a song on spec, without guaranteed pay.

Mary Nuñez of Sony Latin urged artists to always prepare instrumental tracks for use (read: master your instrumentals along with your main mixes), and keep your stems ready to hand over to the licensing companies as well.  You never know what element in your song matches a scene in a commercial or film and what will need to be pushed or downplayed in the mix. 

Nic Harcourt of KCRW agreed: “younger artists who are growing up in a different world from legacy artists, are a lot more hungry and realize that getting their music placed in TV commercials, movies, games, whatever, is probably the only way they’re going to make a living doing music right now.”

Randy Frisch at Lovecat Music and Anita Benner at DMX were particularly encouraging of artists submitting their CDs; they’re always looking for ways to bring new artists into the fold.

Regarding getting picked up as an independent Latin artist, Anita Benner said that with the growth of the Hispanic market in the U.S., clients are starting to appropriate more and more Latin music. “So, anywhere from a jewelry store that targets girls, to hallmark stores in middle America, Champs, every major fashion brand that you can think of, Victoria Secret, Best Buy, they’re all starting to incorporate Latin music in their programming. It’s really a tremendous platform,” she said, “simply walking down the street, you can’t escape us.”

DMX reaches almost 200 million people a day through various marketing venues, and as an artist, it can be a real boost to have such exposure, especially since radio play for independent artists is practically impossible.

Nic Harcourt hit the nail on the head when he said: “whether it’s placement in a commercial, or a major band that get’s their music in a TV show, or in VH1, exposure is the name of the game. It’s really frightening that the outlets and TV commercials still are a way, in some cases for breaking a band.”

The process at DMX is fairly simple: you fill out the contract in ten minutes, send in a CD and it takes up to two weeks to get into the system and then 30 days before you’re in rotation. “It’s a novelty,” says Benner, “to be able to walk into Nike or Puma or West Elm and hear your song playing.” And apparently it goes further than that. Some shoppers have turned into music bloggers who, through guesswork, post unofficial playlists for stores like Abercombie & Fitch. Within the microcosm of the shopper’s world is a growing online music community, another potential audience pool.

Josh Norek of Nacional Records recounted his surprise at placing Nortec Collective (pictured above) on a 30 second spot in a scene where Anthony Bourdain is eating tacos in Tijuana. The day after the show aired, all four of their albums were on the iTunes Latino Top 20. “And that surprised me,” said Norek, “because its a foodie show. I’ve had examples with shows like Breaking Bad, where we had a really good sales bump, but I wasn’t expecting a food show where it was just brief use. So I felt a little less bitter about the small licensing fee, because we saw a reaction where people liked the song and went on iTunes to find it.”

As an independent artist, try every route to get your music heard, because you never know what the outcome might be.

Masterdisk Presents: First You Get the Sugar

Masterdisk Presents First You Get the Sugar Graphic

First You Get the Sugar is an exciting young band from Montreal who are building an impressive career through sheer hard work, talent and positive energy. Their first, self-titled album was mastered here at Masterdisk by Andy VanDette last year, and it’s a powerful, polished statement of power-pop and classic rock intent. Not “classic rock” so much in terms of the genre, but “classic” in terms of offering those key elements we all look for in great rock: excitement, hooks, and maybe a touch of danger. The band made a big impression on us here at the studio not only through their music, but by their friendliness and positive attitude. Since that first album, First You Get the Sugar recorded three songs at the Converse Rubber Tracks studio in Brooklyn and brought them to Andy for mastering — all in a whirlwind three-day period. One of those songs is attached below. I hooked up with the band’s drummer, Daniel Moscovitch, on Facebook to discuss the band’s career so far. If you’re in Toronto for NXNE you can catch the band tonight at the Wrongbar.

Dan, thanks for taking some time for the Masterdisk blog. OK, let’s go through some basic dates… when did the band form & how did you meet?

Photo of First You Get the SugarAdam [Kagan] and Mick [Mendelsohn] formed the band in 2007. I answered a Craigslist ad, and it turned out that it was posted by their temporary lead guitarist at the time who I was actually good friends with, so I went to see them play at a club here in Montreal. By the end of the next week, I still had some of the hooks stuck in my head, so I went in for a meeting and right away we all knew it was a great fit. We spent the next year or so honing our sound and looking for a permanent lead guitarist, and that is where Alex [Silver] came in. He was actually a fan of ours, who we hung out with. We brought him in for an audition in January ’09, and we’ve been family ever since.

When did you make your first recordings?

Right after Alex joined us we knew it was time to make an album. One of my closest friends and long-time musical colleague of mine, Adam Stotland, came on as co-producer. He had just finished building a studio in his house, so the timing was perfect, and in April 09 we settled into his studio and hit the ground running.

What was the studio setup?

It was very simple. Good mics, through a very transparent Allen & Heath board into Samplitude. Most of the guitars were amped with a Fender Concert 4×10 cranked for natural breakup, and we also experimented a lot with a sweet vintage Leslie cab. We did a lot of layering, and luckily had all the time we needed to develop parts and build the songs from the ground up.

How long did you take to record?

Recording went through until about January 2010. At that point, we spent a lot of time making sure every second of every song was arranged the way we wanted it, and were looking for someone to do the mix. We finally decided on Glen Robinson, who splits his time between Montreal and NYC. He’s a truly amazing engineer with a custom gear list that is basically staggering. Fully customized old-school Neve comps and EQ’s, UA limiters, basically a dream setup. We had done zero mixing on our own before Glen got his hands on our work, so when we got the first ‘balances,’ our minds were blown by how much life Glen was able to breathe into the recording with his skill and gear.

With the mix in hand, I consulted a heavyweight producer in L.A. who I had become friends with over the internet. He was the one who recommended Andy VanDette for the mastering of the album. This was a no-brainer, and in August 2010 our debut album entered Masterdisk for 5 hours, and left ready for the world.

What kind of pre-production did you do, if any?

For our first album, pre-production was really centered around arrangement. We worked at our rehearsal space to get everything tightened up so we could be super-efficient when we were recording later. We did that for the Rubber Tracks recording as well, and it was even more important because of the way we recorded there compared to our first album. I have a nice little project setup at home with an M-Audio Profire 2626 and we laid down the tunes with a drum machine and recorded all the parts one by one into Ableton Live on my computer. It was very bare-bones. From a personal standpoint, it was that pre-production process at my house in 2009 that really gave me the bug to want to learn all I can about mixing, mastering and production in general.

How did you guys hook up with Converse?

When we released our album, we did all we could to publicize it. Converse Music Blog heard our album and decided to do a writeup on it and an interview with Mick from the band. When it was published, and I went to read it, I noticed on their site all the ads for their brand new recording program at Rubber Tracks in Brooklyn. I clicked the links and ended up signing us up an a whim. I specifically remember saying to the guys that I signed us up for this thing that would be amazing, but it’s probably a massive long-shot. Which it was, because a TON of artists signed up for it. When the email came in saying we were accepted, we just could not believe it. We’re always working on new stuff, so we had great material ready to go, And not only that, they were bringing in CNN and MTV to follow us through our 2-day session at the studio. [Check out the Converse video story at CNN/Money.]

What was the recording experience like there?

As far as approaches to recording goes, this experience at Rubber Tracks was a complete 180 degree turn from how we recorded our debut album. Our album took about a year-and-a-half to track, mix and master. At rubber tracks we had 2 days to record and mix 3 full songs. An ambitious endeavor to say the least! We put most of the music down live off the floor on the first day, and got all the vocals, guitar solos, and mixing finished on day two. This studio that Converse has is as world-class as it gets. Brand new API console, Fairchilds, Neves and all the goodies anyone could ever dream of. Tons of incredible instruments to choose from thanks to Guitar Center. Our engineer was Grammy-winning Geoff Sanoff, a real heavy hitter, and he is someone we would want to work with again any day. He really understood what we were going for and has the coolest and calmest demeanor, absolutely necessary for the pressure cooker we had been thrown into. Aaron Bastinelli is Rubber Tracks’ in-house engineer and a genius in his own right, and he acted as Mr. Sanoff’s right hand the entire time. Between him and Mr. Sanoff, we were in insanely capable hands, and we could really just focus on performance and leave the production to the masters. We left Rubber Tracks and came straight across town the next day to have Andy VanDette perform the mastering duties. Recording, mixing and mastering in the span of 3 days was a thrill of a lifetime. Definitely unforgettable.

Back to your first album — did you do the promotion yourselves or did you have help?

PR is a tough game. We hired the best publicist available for the budget we had at the time, and she turned out to do an amazing job. I’d recommend this approach to anyone. The press contacts that I have made over the years are great, but we’d have never come close to the same reach without some professional 3rd party help. The expense paid for itself and then some, to say the least. Of course, there’s never a guarantee of success when a publicist is brought in, so we were lucky that we had great songs that were recorded mixed and of course mastered to a level of world-class sound. All of this can be daunting to a band doing this for the first time, but if you dig really hard then affordable solutions are always waiting. My mantra for finding the right people to work with was this: irrespective of budget, start at the top and work your way down until you find someone that fits your budget. That way you’l get the best people to work with possible without selling yourself short. You’ll always be surprised by the amazing people that will come to your aid if you have the balls to ask.

Have all of the Converse tunes been released now?

So far, we’ve released two out of the three songs we recorded at Rubber Tracks as digital singles (on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, etc). We released “Pearson” in January and “Hannah” in March. The third single is called “No Surprise” and we’re going to put it out sometime soon. We have very cool ideas for the third release, which will most likely include a physical manifestation but the plans are still under wraps. I definitely know that when the time comes, you guys will be the first to know.

Excellent! Well, my final question is about the future of First You Get the Sugar. What are your plans?

The part of this job that I love the most is that in the spaces between our deliberate plans, amazing surprises pop up. All along with this band, I’ve found that if we keep pushing forward with baby steps, we keep growing. Especially looking back on the last year, we have made amazing strides, so many great things have happened that I could have never predicted. It’s really exciting to think about the year ahead and all that it might bring with it.

Tell me about your upcoming gigs.

We’re playing this Friday, June 15 at the NXNE festival in Toronto. Our set is at 8pm as part of the Converse City Carnage Showcase series at The Wrongbar. It’s going to be an insane night, we’re sharing the bill with Uncle Bad Touch, DZ Deathrays, the Death Set and Bass Drum Of Death.

In the Fall, we’ll be back in Toronto for Indie Week, and we are really hoping to be a part of CMJ in New York this fall too. Somewhere along the way this year, it would also be great to get back into a studio and record all the new material we’ve been working on.

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Masterdisk Presents: Electric Teeth/Ghost Leg

Header graphic for Masterdisk Presents Electric Teeth aka Ghost Leg
Masterdisk Presents is a blog series spotlighting some of the incredible artists we work with. Note: Since the release of Meeting My Ghost, the Electric Teeth have become known as Ghost Leg.

I cued up the Meeting My Ghost EP for the first time, at home on a gray Sunday afternoon in late November. It is the most recent release from the Nashville-based band The Electric Teeth/Ghost Leg, a 5-selection record mastered by Drew Cappotto at Masterdisk. I had listened to the band’s previous release, a 10-track album, and maybe that’s why I found the new EP so surprising.

Photo of Electric Teeth aka Ghost Leg in concert

The leaps a band takes from one release to the next speaks volumes about the musicians’ visions, ambitions, and interpersonal development. Too often we see bands releasing monumental debuts, with disappointing follow-ups – the Sophomore Slumps, as they’re known. But on the lucky occasion that we find a group or artist that releases consecutively developmental recordings, that consistently pushes their own creative boundaries, we pay attention. We offer our support by going to their shows and buying their records, and we become invested in the music because we have experienced the musicians’ growth along with them. Like cliffhanger at the end of a chapter, we can’t stop reading – we need to know what happens next.

The Meeting My Ghost EP has a dark and spacey vibe, perfect for a mellow weekend or morning subway ride. Think of Portishead meets Placebo… in a dimly lit dive bar with Joy Division on the stereo. But, despite the group’s identifiable sound, this band cannot really be reduced to easy comparisons, for a simple reason – they are continually developing. It’s easy to hear, when comparing the first LP against this new EP, but even more apparent when speaking with the band’s song-writing duo, Nathan Goodwin and Taylor Lowrance, who have an eye on the future and further experimentation with their sound. Taylor tells us, “Being from Nashville, there aren’t a lot of bands around here that sound like us, and we want to keep it that way… We aren’t interested in being cool, we’re doing exactly what we want.”

So as the first track started, and I settled into my chair, I couldn’t help but feel some excitement. From the top, this EP is nothing like the Electric Teeth’s first album. Sure, you can hear the band’s roots in the winding guitar countermelodies and Taylor’s mournful, gravelly voice, but there’s a sense of depth to Meeting My Ghost that was missing before. A feeling that the band has grown up a bit, figured out who they are, what they want to create, and how to achieve it. You can hear the guys working together, understanding each others’ styles and roles, and building a sound. Twenty-two minutes flies when you let yourself get lost in a record, and this record is easy to get lost in. I opened my eyes, as the last note faded into its own reverb, all I wanted was more. I need to know what happens next!

Thankfully, it seems the wait won’t be long. Taylor and Nathan are hard at work, finishing the writing for a full-length release under their new moniker, Ghost Leg. Taylor tells us, “For this LP, we’re focusing on keeping the songs tight and flowing, with a strong sense of atmosphere.” I suppose I will have to be patient to find out how the story unfolds, but if you haven’t heard Meeting My Ghost yet, you don’t need to wait for anything. The EP is currently streaming at

Masterdisk Presents: The Smoking Flowers

Masterdisk Presents is a blog series spotlighting some of the incredible artists we work with. Each episode will be a behind-the-scenes look at all the different aspects of music making in the new “Indie” music industry, focusing on the technical, creative and business decisions of the artists. We’re thrilled to celebrate these artists and we hope that you will find the insights into their motivations and methods interesting and useful.

Kim and Scott Collins — The Smoking Flowers — are a Nashville husband-and-wife duo that play a style of music they describe as Southern Gothic Folk. Their influences range from Neil Young to Led Zeppelin, and the Beatles to Gillian Welch — so a Smoking Flowers tune may bring you some rock and roll, or a gentle country waltz, and many things in between. One thing’s for sure – the Smoking Flowers bring you a classic sound (in more ways than one), and they bring it with passion.

Their upcoming album, 2 Guns, was mastered by Andy Wilson at Masterdisk. Andy was particularly impressed with this album — from the songs, to the recording technique, which Andy said “is something you don’t see often nowadays.” It was recorded all-analog in Nashville, live, with minimal miking techniques. For a mastering engineer, this can present some unique challenges. Andy said, “There’s definitely going to be some room noise and some bleed; it’s organic, and it sounds like a real band. More artists are recording this way again, live and together — the way it used to be done. I didn’t want to do much limiting and compressing — I wanted to make sure to maintain the dynamics.”

The bottom line is that it sounds great. Hear for yourself…

I asked Scott and Kim a few questions about the new album.

Masterdisk: Hi Scott and Kim; thanks for answering some questions for us. 2 Guns is a beautiful sounding record. Who were the engineers and how did you choose them?

S&K: We worked with two separate engineers on the 2 Guns album. The primary engineer was Adam Landry. He engineered five of the eight songs (“White Flags,” “The Wrong Kind of Man,” “Pistol Whip,” “El Matador,” and “Heart Darker”). We met Adam several years ago by sharing the bill on some shows with his band The Sways. Later he started his own private studio in Sylvan Park. We just really adored his true commitment to analog, nothing hitting anything digital until the mastering phase. And most importantly we loved the very unique sounds, especially with vocals and drums, that he was getting. Really dark but extremely present and round. Adam had produced a couple records with Scott’s brother (Middle Brother‘s Middle Brother and Pete Molinari‘s Train Bound for Glory) that we really liked sonically. We just really thought the soundscape was a perfect fit for this new Smoking Flowers record.

Chad Brown, who is ironically very good friends with Adam, was our other engineer. He recorded three songs (“Golden State,” “Devil in Drag,” and “Twilight”). We first met Chad many years ago when he engineered and mixed a Kim’s Fable record with Kim. He subsequently did a Pale Blue Dot record, and also was the engineer for The Smoking Flowers debut album Sweet as Port. Chad has been a natural choice for us on many occasions throughout our careers. He totally understands what we do inside and out, aesthetically and technically. It’s nice, and very special, to get to a point in a working relationship with someone where you sometimes can communicate without even having to say a word. That’s Chad at this point.

M: Where did you record?

S&K: Playground Sound, The Toy Box, and Studio G. All these studios are in Nashville. Playground Sound is in Sylvan Park. The Toy Box and Studio G are in East Nashville.

M: I understand you recorded this record with minimal miking — pretty unconventional these days. Tell me about what brought you to the decision to record that way.

S&K: Well, sometimes it’s just the nature of choosing to record to tape (which we have done for most of our career). At Playground Sound, we were tracking on an 8 track machine with 1″ tape. So right away you are limited from the normal somewhat gluttonous options that you have in many modern recording scenarios. We were certainly aware of this going in, and actually embrace these limitations because in our opinion they enhance your production decisions. It makes you commit to what is truly important. If that means multiple people playing or singing multiple things around one mic, then that’s what you do. You also have a cutoff point, or ceiling, so to speak, which is always helpful. You are prohibited from overkill. You’d be amazed the drum sounds that are possible with just 3 or 4 mics. And the beauty of the drums being picked up in the vocal mics because of tracking everything live in a small room with minimal isolation… with just the right amount of tape delay. At The Toy Box we were on a 16 track machine with 2″ tape, so we had a little more headroom, but a very similar fidelity. We wanted this album to sound very classic, hard to pinpoint in era or genre. We feel this recording approach helped to achieve that.

M: How did the recording sessions go?

S&K: Pretty much everything you hear is what went down live. Things like piano and tambourine were, out of necessity due to space limitations, the only real significant overdubs. We love and are very committed to tracking our 2 part vocals together at the same time. We believe in really singing, you know, together, and giving a true performance. We rarely play a song more than 2 or 3 times in the studio once we know the arrangement. Most of the keepers on this album were first or second takes. On one song (“The Wrong Kind of Man”), the keeper was the first time we’d ever even attempted playing it with our band. Some of the others we’d been playing out live for a while already. We love the art of allowing each take to truly be its own separate performance, completely different from one another, with some takes having different strengths than others, and then recognizing the one that has what we like to call “the spook”… which is tough to describe but it’s that special intangible recipe of feeling, moment, execution, and urgency.

M: Are the songs all new?

S&K: Yes, in a sense that they are all less than a year or two old and have never been released. Some were brand spanking new, written just days before being recorded. Others we had been playing out live for a while.

M: Do you do everything yourself? i.e. label, PR, bookings, etc.

S&K: Up until very recently, yes. Total classic DIY, occasionally working with some freelance booking agents. We are, however, about to begin working with the indie label Broadstroke here in the U.S. and possibly with their sister label Wichita in Europe. This new album 2 Guns will be the first release with their support. You can never totally abandon the DIY ethic in this day and age, though, so we will still be very involved in every aspect of our career.

M: What’s the record’s release date, and how do you plan to promote it?

S&K: Still ironing out the details, but likely a late summer / early fall release for the entire album. We are, however, releasing two singles from the album digitally (on iTunes, etc.) ahead of time that will be out and available to hear/purchase by the time this article is printed. So please check them out ! 🙂 As we mentioned, it’s a very grassroots world when it comes to promotion for uncompromising indie artists, so we want to thank Masterdisk for taking an interest in our new album 2 Guns and for featuring us. It was a pleasure to work in a place with such rich history, and to work with a standout engineer in Andy Wilson who really understood and maximized the nuances this album.

M: Thank you, Scott and Kim – the pleasure was all ours.

I was also happy to be able to speak briefly to engineer Adam Landry about analog recording. Here’s what he had to say:

Adam: I have an Otari MTR-90 with 8 track 1″ heads. This is my primary medium, although I have a ProTools system that I use sparingly on certain projects. The Smoking Flowers project was tape only then we mixed it down to a digital 2 track mix. I love tape for all of a thousand reasons. Primarily the sound is far more authentic in every way, and creatively, tape forces decisions in the moment. Editing or “fixing” later is a horrible side effect of the digital age and whether you are pop or avant garde indie noise music, we are all susceptible to those pitfalls. That’s why I prefer to avoid them entirely. The true vision of the artist and composer come through when you record exactly what is happening. Then at the end of the day, it just sounds better too!

Visit The Smoking Flowers at and listen to more music at the band’s Bandcamp page.

Masterdisk Presents: ZELAZOWA

Masterdisk Presents is a new blog series spotlighting some of the incredible artists we work with. Each episode will be a behind-the-scenes look at all the different aspects of music making in the new “Indie” music industry, focusing on the technical, creative and business decisions of the artists. We’re thrilled to celebrate these artists and we hope that you will find the insights into their motivations and methods interesting and useful.

This Masterdisk Presents post features New York-by-way-of-Philly band ZELAZOWA, whose new album Love is Lunacy was recently mastered by Matt Agoglia.

As Matt put it, “Love is Lunacy is a strong record, with great songs and performances — and it was recorded and mixed really well too. The kicker is how they have woven some of their musical influences through the record while keeping the sound fresh and exciting. It’s a record that you can listen to and discover a new layer with each spin.”

I spoke with ZELAZOWA’s lead singer and guitarist Bryan Weber, as well as recording and mix engineer Steve LaFashia, via email.


Masterdisk: Hi Bryan. Give me a little background on the band.

Bryan: ZELAZOWA came together as a band around 2000. The four of us basically grew up together in the suburbs of Philadelphia and were always playing music together in some capacity. Kyle (the lead guitarist) is my younger brother, Terry (the drummer) is one of my oldest friends, and Ian (the bass player) is actually Terry’s cousin who I met years ago. It wasn’t until we officially created ZELAZOWA though and struck out on the road that things really started rolling (in my personal opinion). Since 2006 we’ve pretty much been touring all over the U.S. and Europe, releasing our own records, and having a ton of fun along the way. We even made it into this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue for our song “You Say Love”, which is pretty cool. [“Say You Love” was chosen as the official song for the 2011 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue online video teaser. You can view it here. -JB] Continue reading “Masterdisk Presents: ZELAZOWA”

Masterdisk Presents: Quorum

At Masterdisk we don’t just master releases by bands from big labels, though that is an important part of our business. As the years have gone by, we’ve seen our independent clientele grow steadily to the point where independent artists are now a majority of our business. The music industry, despite all the doom-and-gloom, is a really interesting place to be right now.

We’ve had this idea kicking around for a while: why not write about some of the independent bands that come through our studios? We hear a lot of great music on a daily basis: quirky, intense, beautiful, heavy, slick, rough, you name it — it comes through here. So we’re going to try out our idea by highlighting a recent project that came to us via our Indie program. It’s the Russian neo-progressive rock group Quorum, and their album Klubkin’s Voyage, mastered by Graham Goldman.

Artwork for the Quorum album Klubkin's Voyage.

Graham is one of our younger, up-and-coming engineers. He’s recently worked on a number of sucessful albums for the Relapse label, by bands like Tombs, Rabbits, Broughton’s Rules, and Kill the Client. When Graham isn’t busy (which is becoming more rare) he occasionally takes on a client that comes through our Indie program. That’s how this particular gig happened: Quorum contacted us through the Indie website, and requested a free mastering sample. Graham had some time in his schedule and took the assignment.

We thought the Quorum project would be interesting to talk about because of its unusual qualities. First, the band wanted their album to have a lot of dynamic range — they didn’t care whether it was loud or not. Second, the album is essentially one long piece, which was later broken up into individual tracks. Third, it’s a concept album — essentially one long story — which, in true prog fashion, makes use of recurring themes and other classically-derived techniques. And lastly, the band’s from Russia, and we don’t have a ton of Russian clients (we’d like to have more!) — it’s interesting for us to hear what bands are doing there.

I interviewed both Graham and Quorum member Dmitry Shtatnov for this article. First up, Graham Goldman.

Masterdisk: Do you listen to much progressive rock yourself?

Graham: I listen to all kinds of stuff, so this project wasn’t really that far-out for me.

Quorum: Klubkin's Voyage, Part Two (excerpt) by Masterdisk-NYC

Masterdisk: And Quorum came to you through the Indie program?

Graham: I did do a sample for them. But they sounded like they were pretty sure they were gonna come here before I did it even. We didn’t end up using the sample on the album though. I did a different version of it for the record.

Masterdisk: Why didn’t you use the sample?

Graham: Well usually when we do the samples, you’re really trying to catch their ear and give them what they want — we know from experience that most bands want it kinda loud and maybe more heavy-handed than I would end up doing on the rest of the project. A lot more heavy-handed actually.

Masterdisk: But they liked it.

Graham: They thought it was good — they liked the general sound of it.

Masterdisk: You’ve mentioned that the band wanted the record to be very dynamic.

The main challenge with the record was to keep it listenable — where you’re not having to adjust the volume all the time, but it still has a huge dynamic range. They weren’t concerned with how loud it was compared to other records.

Quorum: Klubkin's Voyage, Part One (excerpt) by Masterdisk-NYC

Masterdisk: Kind of unusual, right?

Graham: Yes. That’s really unusual. I find that most of the time, even when people say they don’t want a loud record, they do. You know, you send them a record that’s not loud, and they want it louder. You’ve got to figure out what kind of music it is, be a little bit of a psychic as to what kind of volume they’re going to want. You can usually tell from the way the mixes sound.

Masterdisk: So how did you pull off the balance?

Klubkin's Voyage

Graham: I didn’t do a whole lot of compression. There’s some mild compression on there but basically it was just a matter of trying to control the loud parts a little bit and also adding some make-up gain to bring up some of the softer parts a little bit. But it was a delicate balancing act to not crush the loud parts at all and not make the soft ones too soft.

Masterdisk: Did it take a long time to do?

Graham: Yeah, I spent some time on it. He [Dmitry] had already sequenced it himself at home, so I had him send me an mp3 showing me exactly what he wanted [in terms of transitions]. I got kinda stoked once I started working on it — and really wanted to make it perfect for them. In the end they didn’t have any revisions at all — just a couple little things. The only thing we messed around with was moving some of the crossfades.

Masterdisk: As a mastering engineer, having this kind of detail come from a client is a plus?

Graham: If an artist has a very specific set of goals they’re trying to accomplish, then it’s really helpful for them to spell it out in as much detail as possible.

Quorum: Klubkin's Voyage, Part Three (excerpt) by Masterdisk-NYC


Masterdisk: How did you decide to use Masterdisk for your mastering?

Dmitry: When it came time for mastering, our mix engineer contacted his friend at a local studio who referred us to Masterdisk. I decided that it was the right place when I saw Genesis and Rush albums in the discography.

Masterdisk: What features were important to you in the mastering?

Dmitry: Our goal was to make sure we preserved the dynamics. Many modern albums including our personal favorites make their sound closer and closer to white noise because of the “loudness war.” It’s hard to listen more than an hour of highly compressed rock or metal. Actually I think it may even cause headaches or toothaches. Our album contains a continuous story and we wanted to make sure it would be comfortable to listen to from the beginning to very end. Of course, all other industry standards like field widening, normalization and spectrum equalization is implicit.

Masterdisk: Could you name albums that served as models for the sound of your record?

Dmitry: In the very beginning of the mix process we were influenced by some classic records of middle/late 70’s: Trick of the Tail, maybe some ideas from ELP, Zeppelin and Rush, but the final mix moved away from that.

Quorum: Books and Dreams (excerpt) by Masterdisk-NYC

Masterdisk: What are your plans for the album now that the mastering is complete?

Dmitry: We plan to release it as a CD but also plan to offer downloads. After the first two weeks of release even the least famous albums appear on torrent trackers. After that your tracks appear as paid (what a paradox!) ringtones or pseudo-legal mp3s automatically by some php-scripts. Our real goal in making a CD is to make material evidence of our existence and give some collectors something new to put on their shelves.

Masterdisk: What are your plans and goals for Quorum?

Dmitry: We plan to record some old songs, most of which will be in two languages, then make a non-conceptual but more sophisticated and dark album, and then try to write an opera or other large form. We already have detailed plans for all of this — seriously!

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