„You send me your studio or home recorded tracks and I’ll make your music bigger, wider, harder, and other sexual innuendos” – Today, talking with Jeffro Lackscheide – awesome online mixing engineer from US.
Artur Pruziński: Jeffro, you have mixed more than 3 millions songs…aren’t you tired of this?
Jeffro Lackscheide: …4.2 million and yes, I could use a nap (laugh). But no, I still love what I do and I still get excited when a mix comes together. After doing this for so long, there’s a certain joy that comes when you no longer have that „what the hell am I doing?!” feeling at the beginning of a mix. Instead, it’s just a confidence that eventually you will get the mix to where it needs to go. It’s a much more enjoyable process that way!
Artur Pruziński: You have had the opportunity to work with rock legends like Cheap Trick, Joe Puerta, Bishop Neal Roberson and many more. From whom did you learn the most, who you remember best?
Jeffro Lackscheide: I’m been very fortunate to be at the right place at the right time to work with some incredibly talented people. The person who taught me the most was the studio owner/producer at the first studio I ever worked at (15 years ago!). He took me under his wing and threw me in the deep end and forced me to learn on the job…the absolute best way to do it.
The most interesting was probably the day, we were tracking some of Rick Nielsen’s guitars for a Cheap Trick album. In a casual way, he said that he was taking out the basketball court in his basement and replacing it with a movie theatre. Must be nice to be a rockstar!
Artur Pruziński: You picked up a few RAMI awards (Rockford Area Music Industry) for Best Engineer. Can you tell something more about these awards, competition? I think we don’t have such one in Europe.
Jeffro Lackscheide: Ah yes, the RAMI’s…it’s a yearly music award thing from my hometown…
Artur Pruziński: …I think, I have asked a dummy question (laugh)
Jeffro Lackscheide: Well, my opinion of my hometown isn’t the highest, so I don’t place too much stock in having those awards. It pretty much means that I was voted the „best” engineer in Rockford for a few years. Trust me, that isn’t saying a whole lot. Ha!
One of Jeffro’s mixes:
Artur Pruziński: Great mix should contain…
Jeffro Lackscheide: …Short answer: Solid balance and dynamics.
Artur Pruziński: And the long one?
Jeffro Lackscheide: Everything needs to fit in it’s own place and there should be very little that is static from start to finish. There always needs to be something that is jumping out to catch the listener’s ear. If there’s a drum fill, it should jump out and then dive back down when the vocal comes back in. There should be a lot of small little pieces of ear candy that will blow away the guy listening on headphones who just smoked a joint. The mix should compliment the song and allow the listener to get the most out of the tune.
Artur Pruziński: Let’s think about the situation: Someone – not me (laugh) – brings you weak material, poorly recorded, badly performed, gives you a lot of money and tells „I want that song to be a hit”. Are you interested?
Jeffro Lackscheide: Well, my job as a mixer is not to make „hits” and not to judge the music. My job is to make the tracks sound as good as I possibly can and to hopefully add a bit of „flair” or character to the song. And besides that, I enjoy a challenge!
Other Jeffro’s mix:
Artur Pruziński: Arrangement, musicians, recording, mix, mastering – what is most important, where is mix here?
Jeffro Lackscheide: Great question. Musicians, arrangement, mix, recording, mastering…in that order (in my oh-so-humble opinion!). Bad musicians will butcher a good arrangement and make a track very difficult to mix and therefore difficult to master. I’d much rather have a shitty recording of awesome musicians than a great recording of poor musicians.
Artur Pruziński: Mix and mastering, what are the differences? In simple words – for people who don’t know much about music production process.
Jeffro Lackscheide: Ah, this seems to be the thing that confuses a lot of people. In reality, it’s pretty straightforward. Mix: the process of taking the individual tracks (drums, bass, guitar, vocals) and adding effects, EQ, compression…and bringing all these individual components to a point where they sound good together. Mastering: the process of taking a final mix (just one stereo track, NOT the individual components anymore) and doing overall sweetening, overall EQ, compression, limiting. Mastering takes the final mix and gets it up to standard volume (whatever you consider that these days). It’s also a good chance to have an objective set of ears listen to it and tweak any issues that mix might have.
Artur Pruziński: It is believed that in the US you can find the best specialists in mixing and mastering. Do you agree with this opinion? Would you recommend someone from the other parts of the world?
Jeffro Lackscheide: I don’t believe that at all. I’ve heard some killer work from a lot of different countries. One of my favorite mastering studios is in Norway, for example. I think the US has some fuzzy, feel-good myth surrounding it that musicians get rich here, people flock to local rock shows and „support” local music, and you’re just one song away from striking it big. In reality, I’ve seen much stronger music scenes in other places. I’ve been asked numerous times to help facilitate a US tour from non-US bands. But I know a lot of US bands who regularly tour the US and struggle to even make enough money to have peanut butter sandwiches for dinner. My advice is always to focus on your local scene and slowly expand your reach. The US scene is oversaturated, take advantage of a less saturated scene.
Artur Pruziński: Have you ever worked with any Polish bands, musicians?
Jeffro Lackscheide: Yup, there’s this kickass band named „KA1”; you should check them out!
Artur Pruziński: Hahaha…ok, I will. The last question. You mix mostly rock, blues, gospel and country. What about jazz, chill, trip-hop? I’m looking for great artist in this kind of music, maybe you can recommend someone in the US
Jeffro Lackscheide: I’m mostly in rock and metal these days. I tend to specialize in the genres I feel the most comfortable with. I’m not even sure where I’d begin with trip-hop, so I can’t really help ya there!
Artur Pruziński: Thank you for the interview and… nobody knows, maybe we will work on some material together, that would be a pleasure for me.
Jeffro Lackscheide: Thank YOU!