1. First off, thanks for doing this interview! Hopefully you can drop some knowledge on the readers. Introduce yourself and give us your background as a Mixing/Mastering Engineer.
My name is Manuel Roessler of Roessler Mastering. I'm a Germany and US, NYC based mixing & mastering engineer. My discography includes artists and producers such as Grand Agent, Pete Rock, AlterBeats (AlterProd), Divine, Kut Masta Kurt, Lord Finesse, Tragedy Khadafi, Oh No and Tribeca to name a few. I'm currently working with French producer AlterBeats on his album “The French Revolution” which features Shabaam Sahdeeq, Block McCloud, Freestyle of the Arsonists, Banish, Divine, Sadat X, A.G., Reef The Lost Cauze and many more. One of the next projects I'm working on is the new album from Divine, entitled “Ghetto Rhymin’” and his single "Camaraderie (Real To Real)" featuring Tragedy Khadafi. Last month I mastered the new Grand Agent album "AC Hip Hop", on which I also produced one of the singles with Tribeca and was the album’s project manager. I also mastered the soundtrack for a documentary series about violence in American cities called "My Block" which was premiering on June 8th in Philadelphia.
2. When did you decide to pursue a career as an audio engineer and how did it come about?
My audio engineering pursuit all began because of my producer and production background. When I finished school years back I was already making beats, so I decided to study audio engineering and work in the music business professionally. During that time I had been taught all the engineering secrets as well as was working on analogue consoles like the SSL, Neve and more. After finishing my studies I already had some contacts to artists and decided to work freelance. At first it wasn't easy to get through to the established and more widely known artists. I had to build up a network with generally unknown artists and work my way up. From time to time I was able to spread my name and to mix and master for more known artists. At the beginning I had to make big investments in gear so I was able to provide an industry standard service and to work the way I wanted too. Sometimes projects can take a while to be finished and depending on when you get paid you need to live from your savings. What I'm missing most is the security of have a steady income. This means you have to manage your funds right for further investments or in the event some gear is broken and needs to be replaced or repaired.
3. What does your production setup look like?
My gear consists of a fully loaded Pro Tools HD 2 rig, a Dangerous 2 Bus analogue summing unit, Euphonix Artist Series controllers, various analogue EQ's and compressors including a Manley massive passive, SSL channel strips and an SSL stereo bus compressor which I always use on the stereo output of the Dangerous 2 Bus to glue the mix together. My studio is completely wired with Vovox cables. They sound very clean but are still providing the warmth and punch I need. I use Waves plugins, Universal Audio, URS and more. For main monitoring I use the Event Opals which are one of the best monitors I’ve worked on before. I also use a pair of Adam's to check back on the mix sometimes. If an album is pressed on CD or vinyl I work with Sonic Studio's Pre Master CD to do the PQ editing and to create the DDP Master for the manufacturer.
4. Describe the process of mixing a song start to finish.
Usually I start importing the delivered files into Pro Tools and start preparing the session, check if the files were bounced out right, do the color coding, clean the session and bring the files in the right order. Then I usually create several Aux tracks which are routed to my 192 i/o interface's outputs for analogue summing or if needed, to break the session out on a console. After doing that, I get a feeling for the song and know which direction the producer and artist want the song to go. Then I start EQing, compressing and cleaning up the songs frequencies, panning, choosing the right effects, etc. Usually I start with the drums, percussions and bass and start processing the vocals to a certain point and bring them in from time to time to see how everything matches together. After that, I go over to the instruments, synths and samples and finish the vocals, correct the EQing and tune them if necessary. When all the processing is done I create fader rides and automation of certain elements to make the song even more dynamic. During mixing I often group certain elements and parts which belong together and control them using VCA's, this makes it very easy controlling big parts in a huge session. At the end I'm recording the analogue summed mix back into a stereo track in Pro Tools. I choose analogue summing over completely mixing in the "box". That way I can easily integrate all my outboard gear and still have mixes providing the richness, punch and warmth that is known from analogue consoles. For me that was very important as I come from the console background and digital mixes simply weren't giving me these features.
5. What are some of the most common mistakes you encounter when mastering other people's mixes?
Most of the mixes I'm receiving are too bass heavy as a lot of artists and producers aren't mixing in a professional acoustically treated environment. The best to avoid this is to analyze your room's acoustic, bass traps can help a lot. If you're mixing with a sub, re-check your settings. You also can compare your mix with some major productions with a similar bass range and listen to these on different systems that way you can encounter the problem very fast. A third of the mixes I'm receiving often don't provide enough headroom I need for mastering. A headroom between -3db and -6db leaves me enough room to process the song right. If you're not sure if you have the right headroom on your mix I provide a preparation guide for download on my mastering website showing a picture with the perfect headroom and giving other helpful tips.
6. There are so many Plug-ins, Production "tool kits", and DAW's on the market these days it can make your head spin! Are there any advantages in keeping things simple and minimal when it comes to mixing a song?
There are many advantages to keep your setup as simple as possible. Choose your DAW wisely depending on if you need it for producing, mixing or recording and choose which one suits you best. Put together a basic setup of plugins which you know by heart. As every compressor, EQ, etc. has its own sound you will need to know how to combine each other to get the desired result. Think like how you would fill an analogue rack in your DAW, if your space was limited, which gear would you fill it with? In mixing often less is more, if you have so many plugins to choose from you can over-process a song very quickly. If you don't know what your plugins actually are doing and how they sound you might search for ages to find the right one you're looking for. This can be a creativity and concentration killer in some way. With a basic setup you will be way faster finishing up a mix and to stay in your workflow.
7. There is a movement of Do It Yourself'ers in all aspects of the Music Industry from Production, Engineering, Videos, Marketing, and more. Do you see any inherent problems with people trying to be "the jack of all trades"?
One of the problems I often encounter with client pre-mixed songs is the sound quality. Some of the artists and producers don't have the knowledge of building up a mix professionally nor do they know how to split up a song in its frequency ranges and work out certain elements of a song. An experienced engineer has the knowledge to do so, and has a trained ear. Every good engineer learned listening training to distinguish different frequencies and noises. There is a reason why people get trained that way. Also not everybody can afford to build a professional acoustic treated studio and purchase gear that delivers a professional and industry standard. If you're working on an album for a long time you will need someone with a fresh view on your project. You will get to a certain point where you're missing problems and where you might mix in the wrong direction. An engineer has this objective view. He will encounter certain problems of your production very fast and will know how to solve them. If you're serious about your music and want to sell more records and get radio airplay you will need your songs mixed and mastered by a professional engineer.
8. For the aspiring engineers out there, what is the best way to jump into a career in audio engineering?
The best way to start is to independently study audio engineering first so you can learn all the ropes and then enter a professional audio engineering school. If you can get the opportunity to be an intern in a studio, it’s a good way to see if this kind of career is really what you want before you start professional schooling. You should be prepared to work very hard, be humble and to work your way up.
9. For the readers looking to hire you to mix or master their next project or single, what is the best way to contact you to do business?
You can contact my through my websites: