Rich Stine is a musician, recording engineer, and producer based in Richmond, VA.
1. You buy a new album, describe your routine/experience of its first listening.
I would say first off, that buying a new album is a rare occurrence for me. There are few true current albums that I really want to listen to from start to finish nowadays. My routine hasn’t really changed too much from when I was a kid with the exception of better equipment to experience music with. I generally listen to music in the evening or in my studio (that always feels like it’s night. There are no windows). It’s pretty dim and I enjoy having things lit this way. You don’t need to see the music, just listen to it, so having the lights dim is important to me. It allows me to focus on the sounds rather than read or be distracted by technology. I actually normally practice in low light, hence why I have reading glasses now! The first listen is the hardest and most exciting for me. There’s so much to take in. I normally let the first pass wash over me and carry me away. I try not to think too much about anything other than enjoying the moment and hearing the sounds.
2. On subsequent listens to that same record, which aspects of the music do you focus your listening on. does this change over time? how?
It absolutely changes over time. From listening to Zeppelin for the first time and trying to figure out how to achieve Jimmy’s guitar tone. How did Hendrix obtain that crazy feedback? Now listening to those records and having had the opportunity to work with the people that made those records, I now listen for the nuances in everything. The drums, the room sound, the bass, the compression, the voice, the subtle synths that you never really knew were there. How things interact with each other. The orchestration of everything. Hearing the delay on Bonham’s drums. Crazy! But, I always go back to WHY those things still make me listen to the entirety of the song. Something was captured and, sure, mic placement and compression, blah blah blah is important. But, energy, soul, vibe, life was captured and printed. That’s why you come back. You’re hearing energy come to life every time you play that record.
3. If you could choose your favorite listening environment, what would it be? what draws you to that place to hear the music you’re listening too?
It depends on the mood and the music. A gothic cathedral imparts something special when I hear an organ and voice, but there is something wonderful about sitting near a lake at dusk and listening to guitar being played. Atmosphere is what draws me to a place to listen. And each environment with different sounds and music will always be unique to that space at that given moment in time. The beautiful thing is once the sound comes out it is instantly diminishing, and no two performances will ever be the same. With that being said, nothing takes the place of a comfortable couch, a good cocktail, some great sounding headphones, and Mingus at night.
4. How does one make their listening listened to? What is the best avenue to communicate your listening experience to others?
You don’t in my opinion. No matter what I do. Bringing them into a space that I’ve created, or talked about the importance of why this piece is incredible or this soundscape is the sonic canvas that will cover your auditory senses in majestic awesomeness; I will never be able to make my listening yours; and that is the imperfect ok. And by that I mean, how I hear and experience is my own. Can I impart and influence you to listen differently? Absolutely. Will your historical experiences impact how you listen? Definitely. I would say that the best avenue to communicate my listening experience is to go into that moment with open ears and heart and maybe, just maybe we’ll both take something special away from it.