With Steven Slate
Steven Slate is one of the top names in the Music Recording Industry. Best known for his drum sample libraries (Steven Slate Drums 4) and plugins (Virtual Mix Rack, Virtual Tape Machines, FG-X), he’s also a producer who has penned singles for major pop artists and mixed albums for legends such as George Lynch. Follow Steven on twitter at @slateproaudio
1 – These days the barrier for young engineers to enter into the profession and own professional tools is extremely small. With your mix master subscription bundle, that barrier gets even smaller. However, try as we might, we aren’t all going to be successful. That’s the nature of business. From your vantage point, what are some of the biggest hurdles young recording engineers face today that they didn’t face even five years ago?
Steven: Well, you can argue this two ways. One way is to say that because many people can afford great sounding pro audio tools to make records, that the engineering world is becoming more saturated than it used to be. But, then you can argue that because so many people have the ability to make great records, that an audio engineer whose work stands out means a lot more than it used to. So in order to rise to the top, you really have to fight your way there with determination and a boat load of talent.
Steven: I can’t really say yet. Perhaps if I see the platform taking off and the demand is there, I will certainly oblige.
3 – Are there any aspects of mixing with analog that you don’t feel are possible to replicate digitally?
Steven: For a short time I worked at a studio that specialized in remixing old analog tapes, and all the tapes were freshly baked (since baking at low temperatures was a rehab process for analog tape). So anyway, there was a certain smell to freshly baked tapes that I have not been able to reproduce in digital. But everything else, I’m fairly certain can be replicated to an indistinguishable degree, including of course the sound of tape.
4 – In your appearance on Pensado’s place, while answering questions from viewers, Dave mentioned using plugins “wrong”. With that in mind, what are some of your favorite “wrong” uses for your products you’ve seen others use that you hadn’t thought of?
Steven: Really most of what we do is enhancing the ‘wrong’. Let’s revisit the tape discussion. If you compare tape to high resolution PCM digital, there is no comparison. Digital is far more linear and does not have the distortion, noise, and other nonlinear gunk that tape has. Why would anyone want to add all that garbage to a pristine analog signal? But of course, they do and for one simple reason. Our stupid ears enjoy that stuff on our music. So that in itself can be considered doing things ‘wrong’.
That’s a bit of a sidestep of the question, so I’ll give you a second answer. One day I was testing out the new VCC 2.0 emulations, and I stacked four Mixbuss instances in a row on a mix I had done, all with a different emulation so I could do some quicker A/B’s. I accidentally left all of them on, each on a different emulation in a series. And I’ll be damned if it didn’t sound so good that I ended up printing the mix just like that.
5 – What is the most valuable lesson you had to learn the hard way?
Steven: You can’t start the road trip without a destination and a great map showing you how to get there. In less analogical terms, realize the end game first and foremost, create a logical plan and strategy that will help you get there, then put your thickest skin on, and start moving.