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VLOG #7: Health

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VLOG #7: Health
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I’m just capturing this from the airport. I’m here at the Houston International. Just got back from teaching a Masterclass off in Charlotte, North Carolina, so I’m headed back to LA now.

Hey guys, Matthew Weiss here. So this vlog is not going to be as happy and as funny as I think some of the other ones, because I wanted to dedicate this week to talking about health in the music business, and for one, I’m pretty exhausted. It’s sort of pertaining to my life immediately right now, because I just got off of the plane, I was on the plane for twelve hours, and I come off of three days.

I got about four hours of sleep my first night, six hours of sleep the second night, I got three and a half last night. So I’ve had about thirteen and a half hours of sleep over the last three days. I taught a Masterclass, including setup, it was like a fourteen hour day, and the Masterclass was beautiful. It was wonderful, but I mean, it’s hard experience. I couldn’t exercise, and I, you know, wasn’t eating particularly healthy — it was limited to these last three days. This is not my usual life style.

But for some people in this business, it is, and so I wanted to talk this week about health. Talking about how we can get better practices in as engineers, and then Seth Firkins died, and it became much more apparent how important this episode really is going to be, because bad health can kill you.

Now, I don’t know all of the details of Seth’s death. I know that he died at the age of 36. That’s not much older than me. That’s very young. I know that he died of a heart attack in his sleep, and I would be willing to bet that chances are, it wasn’t related to drugs, it wasn’t related to anything weird, or any kind of secret disease or anything like that.

Chances are it was just this lifestyle, because he’s not the first one to have a heart attack really young. I know of some other engineers that you probably know of — I won’t give their names out — who have had serious health problems very early on in life, because this field is exceptionally competitive, whether you’re a performing artist, whether you’re a song writer, or whether you’re an audio engineer.

The fact is, when I was in New York, I was doing back to back seventeen hour days on a regular basis. I was getting tips on how to do it. Eating grapefruit, things like that, keeping the caffeine in low doses periodically throughout the day. Every little trick to kind of pace yourself out, and make those back to back seventeen hour work days work, the reason being because it’s such a competitive field that if I didn’t do it, somebody else who was willing to do it and willing to risk their health would be doing it, and at the time, I was very young, so I could.

But I only sustained that for about a year. A lot of guys in this business get ahead by sustaining that for a very long time, and I think that Seth was one of those people.

So when he passed away, it just became very apparent that we need to have this discussion. Look, I know a lot of engineers, and a lot of producers, who will go on social media, and say, “We grind all day and all night.” And effectively, what they do is they romanticize the fact that they are working their asses off, but the word sacrifice is a very real word.

When people say that they make sacrifices to get where they had to go, they mean sacrifices. They mean strains in their relationships, divorces, disconnect with their friends and family. Their health. These are not things that you want to give up in life if you don’t have to, so we should stop romanticizing. We should stop dropping the wax poetic on how, “Yo, hour 36 in the studio, no sleep.”

That’s terrible. That’s something that you only want to do if you absolutely have to do it. And I get it, we want to be recognized for what we actually have to give up, because it hurts. And the reality is it does. It hurts. Every time I don’t get to spend time with my wife, it hurts. It sucks.

But I don’t want to go bragging about it, because I don’t want to give people the idea that that should be romanticized, and that they should try and emulate that. I spent a lot of my life figuring out how to become successful without destroying myself, and I want to share that with you guys, so that you don’t do that.

So my first tip is that in order to succeed in this field without sacrificing a lot, we have to accept that we’re going to have to sacrifice a little. Discipline is really important. I don’t drink that much. I joke about smoking weed, I don’t smoke that much. When I wake up, I try and wake up early. I try my best to go to bed early. If I don’t have to be up working until three o’clock in the morning, I won’t. And if I do, I don’t tell people, “Yo, I’m out here working.”

I lament it. I say, “I wish I wasn’t.” I love a day off. I enjoy a day off, and it’s important to try and keep those days off. I will book a day off into my schedule if I can, and unless something absolutely career changing is coming up, I’m going to keep that day off and just tell people that I’m booked for that day.

I exercise a lot. Every day. People have been commenting on Facebook, they’ve been saying, you know, on the YouTube channel and everything, saying I look great, and I love that. I think that’s awesome, because you’re noticing, and I’m putting a lot of work into it. I’m consistently trying to exercise an hour a day, and that’s not easy to do, but I realize that in order to sustain the lifestyle that I want to sustain where I’m as successful as I am, but I’m not losing my health, I have to build in a lifestyle that includes exercise, that includes a good amount of sleep, that includes healthy eating. Right?

I’m cooking for myself. Laura is amazing. She will cook for me too. She will come by the studio and bring me food, which, you know, without her support, this would be even harder. So making sure that I’m eating healthy is a big part of it.


I don’t want you guys to have to go through what I went through, and what I went through wasn’t even as bad as what a lot of these guys go through. But I gained a lot of weight. When I started down this path, I was 135 pounds. I’m only 5′ 6”, I’m not a big guy. I was 135 pounds.

When I moved to LA at the beginning of last year in September, I weighed 212 pounds. That’s a big difference, and now I’m down to 175, so I’m on the right path.

My heart would skip beats if I walked up steps. My body isn’t built for carrying around over 200 pounds. So if you want to be effective as producers, and you want to be effective as musicians, the discipline to win at this competition is not only the discipline to get the work done and work hard, but to work smart, and to take care of yourself, because you can sustain it for a longer period of time, and this game is a marathon.

I’m not even at the halfway point yet myself. I’ve got a long way to go.

For the feature segment, I think it’s only appropriate that we talk about Seth. I didn’t know Seth personally. I knew him through some mutual contacts, particularly through a guy named Leo Goff. Seth and Leo both mixed the Moneybagg Yo record that came our recently, and they were corresponding and doing file transfer while Leo was over here at my apartment, sending the Moneybagg Yo records back and forth, so I got to become familiar with his reputation, and how he did business and things like that, just through proximity, but it really sort of reminded me of how the new world of engineers work.

So for the older guys, it kind of worked like this. You fall in love with music tangentially, either through just being involved in doing it in bands, local bands, doing live sound, being a roadie, something like that, and then ending up in the studio with the bands, and then falling in love with the studio and becoming an intern, and then an assistant, and then an in house engineer, and then an in demand engineer. Following that path.

Now, Seth’s path was similar in the inception of it. He was around music at first, he just liked to be there, then something different occurred, which I think is true for a lot of us who are younger. Instead of going off the intern path, he made his own, and he started a company called Five by Five Media based in Atlanta, which is a private studio, and he built up from there himself. He didn’t do the internship and assistant route. Instead, he created his own lane, and I think a lot of us have to do that.

So he’s probably one of the earliest to really live that story. Seth is kind of a champion of that story, and I think that’s the story that from here on out, most of us are going to have to follow. We’re going to have to get our feet wet, just by being around music in some way. Maybe we’re just making beats on a Roland MC-303. Something like that. Or Fruity Loops, or Native Instruments, or something like that, and then just through being around people in the scene, we start to gravitate into it, and then eventually we say, “You know what, I’m going to build my own thing. I’m going to go through the efforts to get my name around town, to build a street team.”

Seth built his own street team. People who just volunteered because they believe in what he was doing. You know, getting people involved that are supportive in that level. So his story is pretty important in that regard, and when it came time for making the music, he didn’t necessarily have to call himself a mixer, he called himself a producer, even though he was recording and mixing as well.

Normally, these ideas have been thought of as three separate things, but he treated it all like the same thing, and so he said in the interview on Pensado’s Show that he’s a producer. He’s not the guy who makes the beats, he’s the guy who calls the guy who makes the beats, and that’s a producer. Again, something that I feel I strongly relate to, because I also think of myself as a producer.

I’m not the guy who makes the beats. I can, but I usually don’t. There’s probably somebody better. I’m not usually the guy who plays the instruments. I can, but I usually don’t, there’s generally somebody better, but I’m the guy who makes sure the song comes together the way it needs to come together, and that’s what Seth was doing. He was making sure Future’s performance was the performance that would sell the record.

He was making sure it was the capture that would capture the vocal the right way. He would make sure that it was the processing that would give him a signature sound, even in spite of the fact that it’s something a lot of people are doing or emulating.

That’s a very important role, and he did it excellently, and now, he was just starting to get the recognition that has long since been building up. He started getting a lot of really good credits, those credits were becoming known, he started doing these interviews, and becoming — really, he was on his way to that next, next level. He was already doing great with Future, and with Young Thug, and with Sonny Digital, and now the next level was coming.

So I think that’s why this has hit me as hard as it has, in spite of not really knowing the guy. It’s because I see so much of my own story, and so much of my own — when I see somebody win in that way, it makes me feel like, “Well, that’s the way I’m doing it, so I can win too,” and that’s the way so many younger people are doing it, and so they can win too.

Which brings me back to the point of what this week is going to be about. It’s a marathon. So we need to take care of ourselves while we are doing this.

I’m going to wrap this up by saying that clearly, he’s going to be missed by the people that he worked with. Everyone that he’s worked with has taken to their social media platforms to express very sincerely how important he was to their careers, and just as a friend, and I’m sure that his friends and family, who will miss him dearly — and I think that I’d like to bring to light that we should all at least be aware of who he was, his story, and why it mattered so much.


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:

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