Tim Latham

Blog

Update: Recording with the final mix in mind

I recently had the pleasure of producing/recording/mixing a blues album for some very talented folks who happen to be friends of mine as well, The Tangiers Blues Band. The idea was simple, yet hardly original: Record an album in a day. We spoke about the technical aspects of recording, briefly. The idea was to set up and let them play. It is a blues records. And to me that meant not getting too precious about any of the technical details. I used 4 mics on the drums, one each on the guitars,lap/pedalsteel and bass with a pair on the B-3. Eleven mics were used on the whole record.

Tangiers Tracking Session Set Up

I used no more than 14 tracks on any song. We recorded the entire album live in 4 hours. Some of the vocals were replaced and the harp had to be overdubbed overdubbed (Harpist, Danny Clinch has a  day gig in photography and he was busy shooting Eric Clapton the day we recorded).  Less than 8 hours total were spent cutting the whole project and about the same amount of time was spent mixing it. I knew in my minds ear exactly how I wanted the record to sound and I nailed it. I approached the recording with mindset that a different mix engineer was going to mix it and I wanted to make it obvious what we were after. I love getting tracks from great recording engineers because it makes mixing so much easier. Whether or not others think it’s a good recording is a matter of taste. But having a crystal clear picture in my minds ear before we started allowed me to set up quickly, get out of the way and let the boys make some noise. A sample of what we accomplished is here.

Genres and Career Possibilities

I’d like to start this  by having the you ask yourselves a question:  How long of a career do you want to have as a mix engineer?  It takes quite some time to become a good mixer and to build a resume.  But to do so built on a single genre in my estimation will shorten your career.  An engineers life cycle is “Who’s Tim Latham?…Get me Tim Latham!!…Get me someone just like Tim Latham!!!…Who’s Tim Latham?”

No matter how successful you become, there will be someone new who wants your gig.  I highly recommend that you, the aspiring mix engineer, try to work on as many genres as possible.  This is a difficult task because as you become proficient and successful in a particular style, you’ll get more work in that style, and it’s difficult to turn away work.  This is not a bad thing, but a good situation.  Success breeds success.  But try to think a few years ahead and set goals.  What might be popular today might not be popular a few years from now and your name will be connected with a fad that’s passed.  You will become pigeon-holed whether you like it or not.  It is a challenge to diversify, especially when considering the city in which you work.  There aren’t too many country records being cut in New York.  If you are living in a city where one genre is the bulk of the work, you have a challenge ahead of you.  If it means taking a few low/no paying gigs in an unpopular genre on the side, take them.  Take them and build your discography.  Your mixes are your business cards.  There have been very successful engineers that have had great, long lasting careers working in a single genre, but you can increase your odds by expanding your resume.  The sad truth is that often your work as an engineer is often overshadowed by sales or lack of sales.  There are mixers who get a lot of work based off the hits that they’ve been involved with, sometimes with less than stellar work.  You might be a great engineer, but you might be overlooked (for a while) due to lack of sales.
I think that it’s even more important now to be diverse and competent in a wide range genres due to declining overall sales and even more importantly, because genres are being mashed together with great ease thanks to pro tools and daw’s in general.
You should strive to be a great mix engineer, not a great”___” engineer.  Bruce Swedien is my favorite example, as well as being one of my heroes.  His work has spanned decades and many genres and he is one exceptional mixer and a great guy to boot!