MixCon Interview: Kevin Killen on Mixing and Beta-Testing UAD Plugins

Justin: Alright, so we’re here at MixCon with Kevin Killen.

Kevin, thanks for doing this.

Kevin: Justin, you’re very welcome, thank you.

Justin: Alright, really excited. His panel has been a great hit with everyone here. Universal Audio is our sponsor for this panel. They’re the guys who made this one totally free to the public.

What made you excited to partner with them? Why do you like their tools and were there any of their tools that you used on this mix today?

Kevin: Absolutely. I’ve been very familiar with UAD products over the years, because I started the studio back in 1979, so I used a lot of the hardware over the years, and then one of my favorite pieces was the Lexicon 224. My favorite go to piece.

So when they brought out a software version of it, I was actually one of the beta testers, and so I actually worked on that one for a bunch of presets. They were very happy with the presets I created and in fact, it’s one of the presets I used on that mix.

So it’s a very, very extended reverb. When I used it as a hardware, it was my go-to reverb, and then the software version emulates it so closely, it’s really fantastic.

Justin: I noticed you also had their EMT 250 up there. What does that one do for you?

Kevin: Well, the 250, I feel in love with the 250 when I used to work at Ocean Way all the time. I love that unit. So invariably, when I was working there, I’d always have it as part of my mix or part of my monitoring path, so yet again, when I had the opportunity to beta test, I was like, “Oh, this thing sounds fantastic,” and there are a bunch of presets that you can quickly call up yet again to start you off.

But it’s very true sounding, and my memory of what it sounds like now versus what it sounds like them seems very similar.

Then also, the RMX 16. I also was a beta tester on that, and created a bunch of presets and you know, in the 80’s, that was the go-to reverb. That and the 224.

So to have both of those back in my arsenal, and then my workflow is a really great thing, and then UA is just a wonderful company. They do great research, they take the time to get it right, and that’s why people like me love to use their product.

Justin: Cool. Well thanks again for taking the time. One last question for you, if there is one key take away you want people to have from your presentation at MixCon, what would it be?

Kevin: One key thing… Wow… I would say make sure that when you actually start a project, you actually think about the mix from the beginning of the project, so from pre-production, and not wait until the mix to figure out what you want to do.

Justin: Even though we’re just focusing on mixing today, it should be part of your focus from the start. I hear you. Very well said, thanks Kevin.

Kevin: You’re very welcome.

It was a very informative moment for me. At that moment, I’d been working in a studio for 17 years, and most times when you’re in the studio, you tend to layer up and layer up, and add more things, and try to cram as many things in, and here was someone who was coming in with a beautifully orchestrated arrangement, and then he was taking it away and really distilling it down to its essence.

So from that point forward, I’ve always started a mix with the vocal. I do this religiously every day on a mix session. Always start with the vocal, get a sound on the vocal, even if it’s just a basic perspective, whether it’s a reverb or delay, but I start with the voice and then add in the next main instrument.

So on this particular song, the singer Alex and the guitar player Nick, they wrote it on guitar, acoustic guitar, and I’m going to just start with the voice and the guitar. Just the basic, raw performance that they did. I’ll play maybe a bit of verse and chorus, and I’m going to turn off the effects, just for now.

So we can just kind of hear the basic thing.

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