Tony Maserati

Oct 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Blair Jackson

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When you design plug-ins, as you have for the Waves Signature Series, what does that entail?

It was an attempt to make some of my ideas — I call them tricks in my pocket, but they're really patches — accessible to other people. So from a Neve EQ to my LA-3A, then maybe crunching it a bit with maybe an 1176 on a parallel aux — or maybe it's going to a Distressor, as well. So I said, “I want to create plug-ins that are sets of patches that replicate some of the patches I have been using for 20 years.”

It's all those elements based on what the compression ratio is, what the attack times are, in some cases even some subtle effects, whether they be delays or reverbs. We approached it that way, and it actually was a lot harder than any of us expected it was going to be because re-creating that analog stuff in the digital world is not always that easy. Digital compression, although getting better, is not the same — a plug-in is not doing quite the same thing that an analog compressor does. So none of them are going to be exact duplicates of what I might use on a daily basis in the analog world. But I think we got close, and I think they'll be very useful for some people — particularly producers, writers and younger engineers who don't want to spend all their time coming up with great sounds.

What's the last piece of gear that blew your mind?

I was at Germano's place — I was using the Chandler Gemanium box and, man, I still don't know exactly what it does! In fact, on my list of things to do is to reach out to Wade and see if he can send me the box so I can mess with it. I think it's one of those boxes you have to spend some time with. I used it on a couple of basses and it sounded great. Another piece I've started using is the Smart AV Tango DAW controller — it's got a touchscreen, and although I'm not as fast on it as my old controller, the unit seems promising.

I'll talk to my [mixing] colleagues about gear. Jean-Marie Horvat is one of the guys I rely on — he's such a gear head and really good at picking and choosing good stuff. He'll say, “You've got to try this!” and he's almost always right. Michael Brauer turned me on to Thermionic Culture and I've been using some of their stuff.

Tell me a little about working on the Jason Mraz album.

The year before we did Jason's album, I had gone to [producer] Martin Terefe's place in London — Kensaltown — to work with him on a Craig David record, and we became friends. Martin is just amazing — I can't say enough good things about him. He's super-musical. He has one of those big lofts, not far from Portobello Road, and a crew of musicians who are around all the time. There's no control room — he's got an old API right in the room, and there are buses going by outside from time to time. Martin's engineer — Dyre Gormsen — recorded the Jason album pretty much live right there. There might have been two or three takes on Jason's vocals — maybe a punch here or there — but very, very little. Anyway, Martin thought I'd be right for the Jason project. I did a couple of mixes for them, and they loved it. So we went forward with it and I ended up mixing the entire record here at my place.

That must've felt like a change of pace for you.

Well, I had just finished a Lizz Wright record with [producer] Craig Street, which was dramatically and sonically complex, requiring tremendous focus. But with the Jason record, no one attended; it was just me and an assistant. I was sending MP3s or full-bandwidth files to Martin and to Jason, who is on the road perpetually. Martin was in the middle of who-knows-what production at the time. We got the whole record mixed and then [Atlantic Records CEO] Craig Kallman and Sam Riback, the A&R guy, wanted to be present and do some tweaks on three or four songs. So I went down to my buddy Hector Castillo's studio — after maybe 20 minutes of recall time, I was able get back exactly where I was on those four songs. Then Craig and Sam were able to come in and give me their comments and tweak it in a studio environment. So those four songs were ultimately mixed there. But the rest was done at my studio upstate.

I have to admit, I was a little nervous about making alterations — when you get something from someone like Jason, who's clearly a great writer and performer, you're always a little leery about making changes, like cutting out part of his vocal or doing an edit, where I hold the drums out till the downbeat of the second verse. It's a little risky. But if you show that you know what you're doing, and you've got a clear direction for the song, they may just say, “I love that idea!” On one Jason song, there were a couple of vocal parts I tried to nix with an edit. I sent it to Martin and Sam, with a note saying, “I dig it this way. What do you think?” Then I sent it to Jason. I got a single-word e-mail back: “Nope!” [Laughs]






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