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Blake Eiseman Interview

Blake has been a recording and mix engineer for over 20 years. He has worked on platinum and multi-platinum records. He has a Grammy nomination, and has contributed to well over 100 million record sales worldwide. His credits include Pink, Arrested Development, Yolanda Adams, Usher, Montell Jordan, and Beyonce.

Matt: Engineers often times have a “sound.” Like for example, Brauer. I would describe his sound in one word as “vibe.” If someone asked me, in one word what is Eiseman’s sound — I would use the word “crisp.” Would you say that’s apt? And is that something you’ve consciously worked on or something that just comes naturally? ‘Cause damn son, them mixes be crispy.

Blake: Well first of all, thanks. I think especially for Pop and current Rock stuff, that’s a compliment. But I don’t know that I purposely push for crispy. I think that’s just what my ear is tuned to. I actually would probably use the word “spacey.” What I mean by that is, I try to give everything its own space, in all dimensions. Left/right, but also up/down and front/back. I like to sit between the speakers and point out where each individual element is in the mix. A lot of times my clients have commented after hearing a mix, that there were sounds they didn’t even realize were in the song, until they heard my mix. That’s because I made sure everything had its own space.

Matt: You’ve come from an era where you were cutting tape, and are now at an era where you’re developing software to help with the mixing process that occurs digitally online. What have we gained in the engineering world over the years and what have we lost?

Blake: Oh man, that’s a huge question. As far as what we’ve gained, I think it’s simple … it’s all in the technology to be able to do things faster, cheaper, and the ability to have more flexibility. I now have a studio in my home that, in theory, is capable of doing everything that I used to do in the big SSL rooms. I think it’s the accessibility to the technology that we’ve gained.

As far as what we’ve lost… I think that comes down to the structured process of becoming an engineer. [School] didn’t just teach us what the knobs do, they taught us why the knobs do what they do. So I was able to read signal flow diagrams and if I didn’t know a certain board, I could figure it out. After school, you had an internship. Then after the internship, you found a job as an assistant, where you got to work under an experienced engineer, like an apprenticeship. You do that for a few months, or years, and only then do you get to sit in the big chair. But that whole structure doesn’t exist anymore, and I think that’s kind of sad.

Matt: You worked at Criteria early in your career. Who did you assist there?

Blake: Well I was never technically an assistant there. I did my internship. But let me tell you that I really lucked out while I was there. I ended up being an “assistant’s assistant” on a James Brown album. It was the album he recorded immediately after being released from jail. It was called Love Overdue. And the engineer … get this … Michael Brauer.

Matt: So do you “pay it forward” in that regard. Taking on interns/assistants? I’ve tried a few times but I don’t really dig it.

Blake: For awhile, I was head engineer at a studio in town called Icon. And I definitely did that whenever possible. I made sure that everyone knew that I had an open door policy. If I was working on a mix, especially without a client, anyone was welcome to come sit in. I really did try as much as possible. But I was surprised to find that with a few exceptions, a lot of people didn’t take me up on it.

Matt: So let’s turn to StereoMonoizer for a sec. Time saving utilities are much needed! You’re filling a desperately empty void.

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Blake: Since I’ve been working from home, the last couple years, I just don’t have the room or need for an assistant. And that’s one of the reasons I developed StereoMonoizer, because I was the one having to do all my own session prep. And that was getting really tedious. [Soundizer’s] goal is to create products that make life easier for engineers, producers, and artists. I don’t see us making EQ or compressor plugins (although I wouldn’t count anything out). Our main focus is going to be utilities that save time and resources. The kind of things that take manual, time-consuming tasks and automate them. I want to save people time so they can spend more time working on music.

Matt: I also like the “Normalize” function. Explain why you built that in. What’s the intention?

Blake: That was actually at the request of one of our beta testers. I’m so glad we had such a diverse group of people testing, because a few of the features came from them. Originally StereoMonoizer was going to do one thing: deal with stereo files. But it kind of grew into a much more fully featured “session prep” tool.

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Blake Eiseman’s work can be heard at binksound.com and StereoMonoizer can be downloaded or purchased at soundizers.com.

Here’s a quick demo of me using Soundizer’s StereoMonoizer.

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Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is the recordist and mixer for multi-platinum artist Akon, and boasts a Grammy nomination for Jazz & Spellemann Award for Best Rock album. Matthew has mixed for a host of star musicians including Akon, SisQo, Ozuna, Sonny Digital, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development and 9th Wonder. Get in touch: Weiss-Sound.com

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