With Andrew Scheps
Andrew Scheps is a mix engineer, recording engineer, producer, and record label owner based in the UK. He received Grammy Awards for “Best Rock Album” for his work on Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Stadium Arcadium, “Album Of The Year” for Adele’s 21, and also “Best Reggae Album” for Ziggy Marley’s Fly Rasta. Scheps is very open with his workflow and philosophies on mixing and production. His training videos can be found on Puremix.net and Mix With The Masters.
1 – What has been the biggest challenge of your career?
Andrew: I would say that there have been two very different challenges that have been with me for my whole carer and will probably continue until I stop working (or beyond)!
The first, and more obvious one, is trying to be a husband and father while doing what we do. The fact that we work in a business where 6 day weeks and 12 hour days are the norm (and in some cases the minimum), it’s almost impossible to lead a normal life. The fact that I have an amazing wife who not only understands what I do, but likes it, has made it possible to even come close to being good at either of those roles.
The other is my never ending self-doubt and lack of self-confidence. I sent a mix off yesterday and had the exact same adrenaline rush as I did when I first started. As soon as I click send I think it sounds terrible and I’ll be fired and never work again! I think in a way it is also what drives me to always get better, so I guess I don’t particularly mind, but it can be a crippling side effect to job where you’re being creative and artistic with somebody else’s art, and there’s never a right answer.
2 – Dave Pensado says not to study your heroes, but instead to study their heroes. With that in mind, who are your heroes and what about them inspired you?
Andrew:I think that’s a really smart thing Dave has said. If you study the person directly you might make assumptions about what in their work and process is important to them, but if you study their heroes, you are forced to at least see that group through the person’s eyes (and ears) and get an insight into how that person thinks about their work.
So, that said here are a random few (and not necessarily the top 3):
Sir George Martin: A really obvious choice, but what inspires me is the complete disregard for what a pop record “should” sound like. I know this is also down to all of the incredible engineers he worked with (and maybe a little to do with the band…), but it all starts with him. The use of orchestral instruments, filters, distortion, chorus effects, vocal effects, sound effects etc etc etc is as daring and creative as anything done before or since.
Brian Eno: When I first really started listening to and buying records, knowing a bit about how they were made and who was making them, I would buy anything that said produced by Brian Eno. The musicality in every release (both as a producer and as an artist, especially the Ambient series) is ridiculously varied, yet consistently amazing. And by extension that led me to Daniel Lanois.
Bill Laswell: His ability to mix and match musicians, styles and cultures and always make something compelling and bad-ass is unparalleled. Completely fearless and a ridiculously great bass player. Just the ability to take Miles Davis’ “In A Silent Way” and “On The Corner” (two albums I love the originals of) and turn them into Panthalassa is incredible on it’s own without the rest of his amazing discography.
I would say that I’ve discovered almost as many musicians listening to Eno and Laswell albums as I have anywhere else.
3 – You mix 100% in the box now, which is a transition that took some time to pull off and required a lot of critical listening. However, you’ve expressed that you’re now getting better results in the box than you were with analog. Would you mind elaborating on that? What is it you’re getting now that you weren’t before?
Andrew: I’ve spoken endlessly about this, so I’m going to completely ignore the technical aspects and just address the creative ones. For me, the biggest difference is working on one song at a time (on the console) versus as many songs as I feel like (in the box). On the console, no matter how difficult you are finding it, you need to continue to work on whatever song is up to be mixed. In the box I work on a whole album at a time (or even multiple albums if that’s what’s going on). This means that I only work on a mix for as long as I’m inspired and have an idea what to do next. As soon as I get stuck, bored or lost, I close the session and open another one. I might spend six hours or five minutes, it doesn’t really matter and I don’t keep track. Because of this not only am I more productive but I get many opportunities to hear a mix in progress with fresh ears, as opposed to the two or three at most when I mixed on a console. This has absolutely made my mixes better. I’m still terrified when I send them out though…
4 – The cost barrier to entry in this field has dropped significantly in recent years. With easy access to the necessary equipment, as well as tutorials from top shelf talent such as yourself, what factors will separate the amateurs from the professionals going forward?
Andrew: Well, the trite and comedic answer is that the only thing that separates pros from amateurs is a pay check. But I think the real answer is that it’s the same as it’s always been. Talent (some innate, some learned), drive and luck. The good thing is that I’m sure it used to be that some very talented producers and mixers never got the chance to succeed because they never got into a studio, where now there isn’t an excuse.
5 – What is the most valuable lesson you had to learn the hard way?
Andrew: No matter how carefully I proofread things I write that go on the internet, there will always be something I say that can start off a 20 page thread.
Share this Post