In the digital age, music producers have been sprouting up like crabgrass in suburban neighborhoods and inner-city streets. While making beats on your computer can lay down a solid foundation of production knowledge, Nail The Mix is working to curb the slew of listless laptop producers by equipping people with the skills they need to make great music, without having to pay for a degree.
Started by Joey Sturgis, Joel Wanasek and Eyal Levi—three acclaimed producers whose resumé includes overseeing recordings by the Devil Wears Prada, Chelsea Grin, Born Of Osiris and many others—Nail The Mix offers hands-on mixing sessions with professionally-recorded songs and commentary from the producer who originally mixed them. A Day To Remember/Neck Deep producer Andrew Wade was the program’s first guest and now, he has made his triumphant return.
How did the idea for Nail The Mix come about? And how does it feel to have Andrew Wade back in the co-pilot seat?
LEVI: At first we started without guest producers; just me, Joey and Joel would rotate, but we figured that would get old after a while. We figured we needed to start bringing in guest producers, and Andrew was the first guy to come on. He came on and did Neck Deep last May and that went great.
Andrew, what was your experience like the first time? And what did you expect the second time around?
WADE: It was great. We shoot it in the studio, so it’s very comfortable. They set everything up, it runs smoothly and it’s awesome to have two people in the same room that you really respect interviewing you, guiding things along and chiming in at the right time. It was laid back, super-easy. I’m going to prepare more this time so we will be mixing from scratch, right from the start. When I first did it I was showing what plug-ins I had on and turning them on. But this time, we are going to go from nothing, which will definitely be more interesting. I think this [session] will dig deeper into my reasoning and how my ear works and how I hear things. I think that’s going to be more apparent in this episode.
Can anyone train their ear to be a producer or do you think that there’s something that you just have to be born with?
WADE: I do have an answer for that: I think the answer is no. I don’t think anyone can do it, there has to be something there, at least a little bit. But I do truly believe that even if someone barely has any talent but they are creative at least a little bit, maybe hum a tune, over the years it’s inevitable that you get better. I mean, that’s been my own experience, because I am clearly better now than when I started.
LEVI: As far as talent and intelligence and propensity to do work and all those things, we are not all born equal. Some people have more innate talent, some people have a better emotional makeup to [how] they can handle adversity and just keep going, and some people crumble under pressure. So even if you have some talent but you crumble under pressure easily, you’re probably not going to be a good producer; you’re not going to be able to handle the pressure of deadlines.
What’s the number one lesson you have to teach an aspiring producer?
WADE: The number one thing to understand is that a) it’s a lot of hard work and it takes a long time—it’s going to take longer than you think. And b) never stop learning and never stop asking questions. I think that those are the most important things. Every band that comes in I always try to use as a learning experience, because there is always more information to learn and I’ve never stopped learning to this day.
LEVI: I’ll add to that and say I think a lot of audio engineer and producer types are introverts. You get some extroverts. Think about what kind of people like to sit and stare at a screen in a room with no windows for 12 hours a day: They’re going to be people with questionable social skills. It’s true, but one of the things that you notice among successful audio engineers is that they are cool to hang out with.
So Eyal, where do you want to see Nail The Mix go from here?
LEVI: We’ve been getting bigger and bigger bands and mixers on and it’s gone from us starting with local level artists, which we thought were good, to Andrew doing A Day To Remember. It doesn’t really get bigger than that in this genre unless you want to go to Green Day or Blink-182. We’ve had bands like Gojira and Papa Roach and Periphery and mixers like Kane Churko, Nolly [Getgood] and Kyle Black. We are going to keep on bringing on people like that. We want to be the place online where budding audio engineers know they are going to get great info from great people. I would like to see us be the number-one choice for people seeking audio education online. I guess I’ll say also that Nail The Mix is only one of the many things that we offer. We also have a service called “URM Enhanced,” for instance, which is a level up from Nail The Mix. We are trying to have everything someone would need for their audio education. A one-stop shop over the next few years is where I see it going.
Did either of you guys go to school for audio or production?
LEVI I did.
WADE: I did not.
As professional producers do you think this program could go on to replace a traditional audio education like going to a school and learning from a professor? Would this give you that level of information?
LEVI: It depends on what the students’ goals are. If your goals are to work with bands, for instance, then yes, we can be a 100 percent replacement. If your goal is to work in a more corporate setting, like going to Hollywood and working at one of those studios, then you probably do need to go to a school because the degree is sometimes a requirement for a job out there. We have plenty of students who never went to audio school who are now pro just studying through us.