Friday, February 4, 2011

The Man Behind The Mixing Desk - Steve Musters

As Elvis said in the opening to his 68 Special - 'It's been a long time, baby! But Bocca is back with a bang, and takes you behind the band to meet the man who produces, shapes and sculpts The Wolfmen's sound..Mr Steve Musters. As well production on most of The Wolfmen's catalogue including both albums - Steve's CV also includes PJ Harvey, The Editors and Tricky

You've got an impress list of credits (engineer, mixer, producer) covering a broad range of artists. As a school leaver did you have a career in music mind - and if so was it a a techie, musician or something else.
Actually I wanted to be a wildlife photographer! I ended up working as a game warden in Tanzania for a while before deciding I missed civilization.

Barry Manilow's name appears on your CV, (as part of a soundtrack) is this legit!
Sadly yes. It was a very, very long time ago...!

What are your memories of your first project as mixer or producer - who was the artist or album? Were you nervous and would you change anything listening back now.
The engineer ran out of drugs at on an East 17 session and couldn't operate. He asked if I could step in. I had only been working at that studio for a month or so but I managed to blag it.
I love Spotify and have found some of my early mixes I hadn't listened to for years, there are always things you'd like to tweak but on the whole it is usually a pleasant surprise.

How do you approach a new studio session, what do you hope to accomplish at the end.
The best for the record or best for the band. Hopefully what is best for the record is also best for the band! I always aim to maximize the potential of every song with the raw material I have.

You've Produced both The Wolfmen albums, what are the differences between the two

Their sound has definitely developed from the first album. As most of it has been written in the studio all together as a band it has more of a live feel, but their classic influences are never far away!

You must have a head full of music when you get home - how do you switch off.
I have a very effective eject button in my head - the downside is that I forget what I did the week before

Are there any classic albums you listen to and think they need tweaking - if so which ones, and can you listen to music without thinking about production.

I find it very hard to listen to any record without analyzing it, but I never want to tweak iconic albums - the idiosyncrasies are what make them.

Any favourite producers, productions or musicians that shaped your style.
I have never consciously tried to emulate anyone - just do what I think sounds good! However Talk Talk's "Spirit of Eden" was one of the first records that really got me interested in production.

Who are the least/most demanding artists you've worked with.
I have yet to work with anyone as demanding as the Wolfmen! :-)

Is possible to record without software and achieve a level of sound quality that could still be commercially acceptable
Definitely! Tape has yet to be bettered for drums. Software speeds things up a bit especially when you are messing around with arrangements but I'd love to do a Wolfmen record entirely on tape.

You get calls from Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Macca, Bob Dylan and the Sex Pistols - they all want to record new material with you at the controls. But, you can only choose one, which would it be.
It would have to be Bowie - no contest! I worked on a Jagger solo project - that's enough for one lifetime.

Any dream artists you'd like to work with or classic albums you'd like to remix for Deluxe Editions
I have been very fortunate to have worked with some incredible artists in the past so no one jumps out immediately. As far as remixing classic albums - I used to run the old Island Records studio, the Fallout Shelter, for a while and one of the perks was getting old Marley multi-tracks out of the tape store and playing around with them. They always sounded incredible! But as I mentioned before I'd hate to remix a classic album for release - they are classic for a reason!

Artists as self producers - can it ever work.
You have to be a seriously disciplined artist to be so close to a project and still remain objective.

Why do all chart singles sound the same these days - where's the grit gone.

The danger of software overkill is that all the character can be sucked out of a band - bit like everyone in LA having the same noses and teeth!

Any top-tips for home-recording artists
Monitoring is always a major problem at home without spending a fortune on acoustic treatment - you just have to keep comparing your mixes to commercial CDs and adjust and experiment. There are no short cuts! Also spend money on getting the input sound as good as possible i.e. best mics & mic preamps that you can afford!


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