Bryan Walthall is recording and mastering engineer based in Richmond, VA. You can also catch him running sound at Gallery 5, Sound of Music Studios, and other venues around town.
I’m producing the next Murphy Kids record and I’m boning up on my new school ska. so we’ll be doing Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Lets Face It.
so i just bought this record and went into my studio. ill answer the 3rd question first at this point, i live in a mixing and mastering suite and by far that is my favorite listening environment. so that means i have a tuned room (kind of,) multiple monitors and consumer speakers to “A/B”. however on the first pass of listening to records i will listen exclusively on what we will refer to as “mains.” the studio is also very conducive to listening for other reasons that are very important in that it definitely has “mood lighting” (you should never be able to tell what time of day it is from inside a studio!) and comfortable seating! so important! i pay particular attention to the lighting at every studio i work at and every session that i run. i have actually allocated parts of larger record’s budgets to lighting! haha. i make a point of this because listening has NOTHING AT ALL to do with your eyes and half the time I’m listening my eyes are closed! so dim lighting is great for this. Important decisions are never made with my eyes open, ever. i suppose also its worth it to go into a little detail of speaker placement. basically you want the speakers to be on the same plain, and be equidistant from each other as they are to you. you want to make a perfect triangle between you and the speakers. also the speakers should be on the same plain as your ears, preferably your ear would fall in-between the woofer and the tweater.
so the first listen of this Mighty Mighty Bosstones record. the first time I’m just taking it all in, like a fan. although I’m constantly listening to the “tones” of the record- how each individual instrument sounds. so the first thing i notice with every song i hear ever is what the drums sound like. drums are the most important instrument ever, period. haha so they better sound good on your record! so we hear what kind of drum sound they are going for. Dry or live and swinging in reverb? a good record will have a mix of each, with notable exceptions (if jesus lizard didn’t have their distinct steve albini produced drum sounds their records would certainly not be as cool!) this Bosstones record has a very interesting mix of drum sounds. it was recorded in the mid 90’s, so its at the end of the recording industries “second golden age” which i would love to go into but won’t.
so my mind can’t help but dissect the technical aspects of a mix constantly but in theory the first listen is just enjoying the music! subsequent listens would yield more and more technical details, but the first pass I’m trying to figure out if these fucking songs are any good really haha.
and my perception of the way music sounds has changed greatly over the past 15 years. my favorite records when i was a kid (hendrix, nirvana) sound completely different! sometimes it breaks my heart because they don’t have the exact same magic they did when i was younger. its as if my “suspension of reality” has been diminished because I’ve seen the sausage being made for 15 years. for the most part they still evoke the same emotional response, but it has been diminished. i hear things completely different now, because i know how they were achieved. thats good for me making records, but the kid in me gets a little bummed sometimes that i can’t just listen to the song, i have to “hear the drums” or “know thats a plate and not a spring” or that “thats obviously a vocal double.”
double edged sword.
For further info, check out this recent feature on Walthall in RVAmag.