Interview

With mixingAudioPros

mixing Audio Pros:

How and when did you start

your musical career,

give our readers a bit of background info?

Who were you early influences,

early recording studio you worked in etc?

Chris Tuck:

My musical / studio career

pretty much started

after I finished high school.

I would be listening to music

for hours on end,

and so when the conversation turned

to what career I would like to follow,

being obsessed by “the magic”

on the albums I heard –

I knew it was going to be music.

I read the names of the recording studios

and audio engineers on the vinyl sleeve notes

and really wanted to know more

about the whole music recording process.

 

An article in a local newspaper

sealed the deal,

talking about a person sitting alone

in a dimly lit room,

surrounded by flashing lights,

in a trance like state,

listening to music and making

various alterations to the music.

I had to be that person.

I started teaching myself guitar

and started studying Electronics

for my tertiary education,

which in turn got me various jobs

on studio installations.

I bought my first guitar from that money.

It was a Westone Rainbow semi acoustic,

which has made appearances

on almost every job that I have done,

including Seether,

and on Yoav's album – Blood Vine.

My career really started

at The Audio Lab in Johannesburg,

following the fit-out.

It was my first ‘proper studio’,

a large multi roomed facility

with 2 Otari MTR 90 tape machines

and a Harrison 4032 console.

It was a real 48 Track analogue studio,

with the very same console

used to track Paul Simon’s

‘Graceland’ album.

 

It’s here that I learned the ropes

by assisting all the audio engineers

that passed through.

I quickly became the studio programmer,

a role most the audio engineers

did not want to get involved in,

so a lot of my time was spent

with C- Lab and Cubase on The Atari,

and the facility installed Deck

(the precursor to Pro Tools).

During this time I also started playing guitar

in alternative and metal bands,

gigging in various dodgy venues.

I suppose my early

engineer / producer influences

would definitely be people such as

Martin Hannett, Gil Norton, Flood,

Alan Moulder, Roli Mosimann,

John Fryer, Steve Albini etc …

mixing Audio Pros:

When did you first start running

your own studio

and how did you make that progression

from first working in recording studios

to running your own?

Chris Tuck:

I had already been freelancing since 1994,

so the transition to having my own

gear and ‘facility’, was a very natural one.

I first started running my own studio

in 1996 out of the house I was living in,

in the suburbs of Johannesburg.

It was a thatch-roofed house

and had great acoustics.

It was at the dawn of the rise of Pro Tools,

so I bought a D24 card and an

expansion chassis, for the DSP cards.

This sounded like

'passenger airliners at take off'

so it was placed in a spare room.

My recording studio was used for

overdubbing / programming and mixing,

so I would go to the bigger recording studios

to track sessions,

and then take files away.

mixing Audio Pros:

Do you have any particular methods

or preferences of note?

i.e using certain gear for certain sounds?

Any preferences of ways of working

or even preferences of musical styles etc?

Do you prefer producing live bands, jazz, classical etc?

Chris Tuck:

When it comes to producing,

I prefer working in the

alternative / electronic genres.

I really like the opportunity that these genres

allow for playing with atmospherics

and bringing out the darker

moods and emotions.

Having said that, I love

and can really appreciate a great pop song.

I actually work as a DJ from time to time,

and love mixing up the playlist

across genres and decades.

Having a wide appreciation of music

really helps in this career as far as I am concerned.

So when it comes to mixing,

I am happy to mix across all genres.

As far as gear is concerned,

I will make use of what’s available.

During my career

I have been able to make records

with some of the very best gear,

and at other times,

I have had very little at all, to work with.

 

A funny story …

when I first arrived back in the UK,

I had to mix a track

that I had been working on

for a rock band in South Africa.

I mixed this in my friend’s walk in cupboard

in his tiny London flat …

with the aforementioned expansion rack

roaring away at my feet.

I had no other choice at the time.

That track still went to number one

on the National Radio charts,

and the band loved the fact

that their track was ‘mixed in London’.

I have been fantasizing

about recording jazz again lately …

I think it’s the part of me that enjoys

the pure art of music recording.

The challenge you make to yourself

to capture the best result possible.

You know the playing will be great,

so you won’t be getting into all that fixing

that the digital age offers lesser performers.

As far as preferences to recording go,

when it comes to tracking

and producing vocals,

I am not a slap Autotune or Melodyne on it

kind of person.

Those solutions are a last resort for me,

or a way to alter a melody line when composing.

I like to stay out of the way

of the vocalist’s ‘moment to shine’ when tracking.

I will obviously offer some guidance when necessary,

but generally like to get numerous performances

(even if from different days),

and then go through them thoroughly,

finding the best nuances of each performance.

I think it’s all too easy these days

to get a vocal that is in the ballpark,

and then just slap pitch correction on it.

I know you miss some magical moments this way.

 

mixing Audio Pros:

How’s the local music scene in Cape Town.

Any bands or current trends that you are enjoying?

Chris Tuck:

Although the scene here is pretty small,

there are quite a few bands of widely differing genres

and skill levels, gigging at the venues.

Artists that I have really enjoyed watching perform, 

include Matthew Mole, Beatenberg, Holiday Murray,

Blk-Jks, Tailor, Coal and Joshua Grierson.

Something that has always been a problem in SA

is that there is not much of a gigging circuit

or support for bands,

so they end up being very short lived

and musicians end up taking alternate career paths.

mixing Audio Pros:

You are obviously adapting

to the changes in technology

and the music industry

in that you are offering online services.

How do you feel that the industry is adapting

to “‘remote services” such as online mixing

and mastering for instance?

Chris Tuck:

I feel that the industry as we now know it

is nothing like the industry I joined.

There is now less of a focus

as to where the power lies in the industry

and where the work could possibly be coming from.

What I mean by this,

is that the traditional record company model

appears to have been turned upside down.

This is not only my challenge,

but also that of most my colleagues as well.

Once upon a time

I would work at various studios

and clients had no choice

but to use these recording studios, 

since there was not a studio in every home, or in every laptop.

I therefore built up working relationships with clients,

as these studios acted as a central point

for ‘quality services’

where you could meet potential clients

and develop ongoing working relationships.

 

A service like mixing Audio Pros

can now act as a ‘virtual’ version of this scenario.

I observe that Online Mastering

has become more of a normal procedure,

especially since artists and labels

used to have their projects mastered

around the globe, 

in the pre internet days as well.

The Online Mixing side of things is now playing catch up.

This has obviously been slower to implement,

due to the necessity of larger bandwidth,

which is now a reality for most of us.

The hardest part for someone like myself,

is creating an awareness of my skills

and audio services

and finding potential clients

whose music I can mix or produce.

Something that I also come up against often,

is the belief  that an audio

mixer or engineer is no longer relevant.

There is a belief that anyone can do it themselves

since they have the tools available.

While there are obviously some great talents out there

that can do it all themselves,

I still think these roles are very relevant for those that cannot.

My plumber does not cook me meals,

my dentist doesn’t do my accounts.

mixing Audio Pros:

What are your future goals within the industry.

Chris Tuck:

On the mixing side, I would like to connect

with as many like-minded musical artists

as possible,

from anywhere around the globe,

and be a part of their creative process.

I love the idea of mixing tracks for clients

from all over the world.

This way I am exposed to a greater diversity of styles,

and I can reciprocally offer my own interpretation

of a clients sound,

based on my own unique experiences.

I have also been creating

a fair amount of music again recently,

which is really rewarding.

This is a side of my work I definitely wish to expand on.

I have also started a new musical project recently,

with a great vocalist, which I am certain

will see the light of day in the near future

On the production side of things,

I wish to continue producing

a small and select amount of projects

in any given year,

allowing for a good investment of time

in each project.

There is nothing worse

than being forced to rush through a project

and therefore not allow it, it’s full potential.

 

mixing Audio Pros:

Simple but extremely complex.

Favorite band?

Chris Tuck:

This is a very difficult one to answer

because there have been so many over the years.

Ideally, I think I would have to give you a list 

of 20 to 30, all time favourites.

I’m sure anyone asked,

would have the same problem giving an answer.

 

I have to admit that Mark Kozelek, and his

Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon projects, 

have been a consistent favourite

over the course of his lengthy career.

Low have also been another favourite.

They are one band who can eclipse their recordings

with their live performances.

The intensity of feeling coming off the stage

can be quite daunting.

Their use of dynamics is fantastic.

During the quiet sections,

the audience remains rapt,

you can hear a pin drop.

I am currently enjoying Jon Hopkins’ work.

I am humbled by his ability to move emotions.

The Daughter album ‘If You Leave’

is a beautiful listening experience as well.
.
mixing Audio Pros:

What is the single best decision

you have made in your life so far?

Chris Tuck:

That would probably be my decision

to go freelance as an audio engineer,

at a very early stage in my career.

This allowed me more diversity in my work,

and also enabled me the income

to start my own professional recording studio

all those years ago.

Of course this is the sort of career

where most of us end up

as freelance audio engineers,

so it would have occurred

at some stage anyway.

www.darkpopchris.com offers a glimpse into the career, of music industry professional, Christopher Tuck (DarkPopChris). 

Specialising in commercial-release-quality, album productions.

Services include, Music Composition, Music Production, Music Mixing, ReMixing and Music Mastering.