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BOB CLEARMOUNTAIN: Master Mixer

04/11/2012 22:10

Sound On Sound : Est. 1985

BOB CLEARMOUNTAIN: Master Mixer
Interview | Producer
People + Opinion : Artists / Engineers / Producers / Programmers
Published in SOS June 1999 Print article : Close window

Legendary US record producer Bob Clearmountain undoubtedly has his name on more hit records than anyone else in the history of popular music. Dave Lockwood asks the man who invented the role of 'specialist hit mixer' to reveal the secrets of his success.
Bob Clearmountain has a career credits list that reads like a Who's Who of rock music since the mid-'70s. Starting out as an assistant engineer, he soon followed the logical career progression to engineer and then to the producer's chair, before becoming perhaps the record industry's first acknowledged specialist mixing engineer. Clearmountain obviously settled very comfortably into the role - he readily admits that he enjoys the mixing stage far more than doing the whole producer's job - turning out a seemingly endless string of hits through the '80s and '90s. Indeed, there was a time when it almost seemed as if nobody but Bob Clearmountain could mix rock albums that would become international best sellers, and I would guess that there are few record buyers with collections running to three figures who don't actually possess something with his name on it. Despite the prominence of his work, however, for much of his career, he has seemed something of a reclusive figure, rarely interviewed, and photographed still less. I have to admit, I always imagined that this was a cultivated image, maintaining an air of mystery to perpetuate the idea of the golden-eared hit maker with the magic touch on the faders. The reality, sitting across the table from me, dispels the myth immediately. Clearmountain is quietly spoken, disarmingly frank about his apprehension at the prospect of being interviewed, but above all he comes across as entirely without pretension - almost humble in the way he speaks of his own achievements. He is happy to talk about his mixing techniques, however, despite seeming genuinely surprised at the idea that anybody might be interested in his views on the matter! On the surface, the 'method that launched a thousand hits' appears to amount to no more than: mix quickly; don't listen to any part in isolation for too long; mix quietly on small speakers; and take a break now and again! It's typically Clearmountain that he should want to so understate his contribution. The reality is that the true artistry in his work lies in his ability to get inside a song, a lyric, an artist, to bring out everything that needs to be there and nothing that doesn't, thereby allowing the work to properly communicate to the listener whatever it is that it has to offer. And not just once, not just with a small clique of people that he happens to connect with, but time after time, with a succession of different artists encompassing an extraordinary range of musical genres. That, I believe, takes a rare sensitivity and a quite unique talent.

Like many others who ended up achieving fame 'on the other side of the glass', Bob Clearmountain actually began his musical career by playing in a band. "I was a bass player. Just bar bands though - I never made a record or anything like that. But the last band I was in, when I was 19 years old, was doing a demo in a studio in New York, around '72. But the band split up - the lead singer's girlfriend was getting a little too friendly with the guitar player, or something! So, even though most of my friends were musicians, I found myself thinking that I didn't really want to be depending on these people for my career. The first time I walked into a professional recording studio I immediately thought, 'Wow, I could live in this place' - I was always the guy in the band with the tape machine recording the gigs, and I was always interested in that side of things. I even had a little makeshift studio in the basement of my parents' house - just a little two-track reel-to-reel, a couple of microphones and a talkback. So I started out by hanging around the studio where we'd been doing the
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"When I was mixing 'Sowing The Seeds' for Roland Orzabal from Tears For Fears, he listened to what I'd done and said... 'That's absolutely nothing like what I had in mind!'"

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It's got a big open drum room that's really live and it's a really fun place to play. and when I came back the office people were saying 'Where's that Clearmountain guy? He's supposed to be on a session. You should really hire me. was what http://www. I had never heard of this company before. we ended up getting the first SSL E Series in the USA. So I was recommended to both of them and that. He did one of his solo albums there. but it turned out that the engineer had a problem with black people and he said 'Maybe you should do this session. so mostly we'd use those. that's quick. I was an assistant for a while. and I'm working on a Duke Ellington session.mostly. and I was involved in specifying the equipment for The Power Station. We still used a lot of outboard EQ . and not particularly good-sounding. and the punk bands and working with Springsteen. for which he hired Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band as the backing band. and both Roxy Music and The Stones were on Atlantic and I think they both wanted to get into the dance market more. It actually took a lot more work to use the automation back then.' So I get down there and it's a Duke Ellington session. and he and I hit it off just great. and we did a session out at a studio in Burbank that for some reason had an SSL B Series. The first thing I would do would be to turn all the EQs all the way up at 10kHz because the desk was inherently dull-sounding. It was really good training for me to get to work with a lot of different types of music. we need you to be an assistant engineer'. but they were friends with Ian this someday. I'm 19 years old and I've never even met anyone famous before. and I just loved it. I told them 'I'm going to be good at this someday. But all the gear was so basic in those days that you always had to augment it.the studio had a whole lot of Pultec EQs and pile them all up in my room." Station Master Clearmountain's long-standing preference for mixing on Solid State Logic consoles is well enough known surprisingly. But they only sent me out on two deliveries. "The studio had a 16-track machine . You should really Hunter from Mott The Hoople and he came in and hire me. These days it would seem pretty crude. You'd have a rhythm section and a horn section. "I did a lot of records with a band called Chic. "At Power Station we were doing a lot of New York "I just hassled them to hire me.very unusual at the time . and I just hassled them to hire me. based on a Spectrasonics. whereas nowadays it's quite a bit easier because most equipment sounds pretty good just on its own. So I'm thinking.an enormous Ampex MM1000 . Clearmountain had. they finally did . was just about the nicest guy you could ever imagine. where you'd have to work really quickly. the leader of the band. I was supposed to be assisting on a session with Kool and the Gang.htm?print=yes Page 2 of 6 . I assisted in designing the place and helped to turn it into a rock studio. the association actually goes right back to the company's early days. I ended up doing several albums with them. I punk rock bands.it was easy to get them to sound harsh if you EQed too much . like The Ramones and Talking Heads. It was an in-line desk and it just did a lot more than other desks at the time. and that's how we became friends.having been requested to mix The Stones' 'Miss You' single. as I was starting to work as a producer by then". and I figured I'd probably be doing this for a year or two at least. called You're Never Alone With A Schizophrenic. Hey. But thing about the SSL was that it had the automation. I started him off with it . and eventually I moved on to become Chief Engineer at a studio called The Power Station.although in some ways they were actually more open on the top end than other desks.BOB CLEARMOUNTAIN: Master Mixer 04/11/2012 22:10 demo [a now defunct studio called Media Sound on New York's 57th street]. That's how I got to know them." did some stuff for them on their album that I was producing for them. 'Wow. who was working at Record Plant.Power Station had 24 Pultec EQs in each room. doing deliveries for them. "I did a lot of jingles. which opened up in about 1977 or '78. because they wanted me to stop bugging them! They hired me as a runner. Ron Bell. too.' After a couple of months of this. It's fantastic. almost homemade thing.soundonsound. however. You're not supposed to be a runner. An hour and a half!' "They said 'You're supposed to be in studio A. You couldn't just use the desk. I think. There was one New York band I was told them 'I'm going to be good at involved with called the Tuff Darts which never really got any place. They were an incredibly successful act for Atlantic Records. but I just thought it was fantastic. but really quickly I started engineering sessions myself.it seemed like it was designed by people who actually did mixing rather than by traditional console designers. Then when SSL came out with the E Series. In fact. but then I had to go off and do something else.com/sos/jun99/articles/bobclear. So I'd always show up early in the morning and collect up all this outboard gear from the other rooms .we did a couple of sessions. and they went back to Bruce. It was so much easier to use than most other desks around then . and said 'You've gotta check out this studio. so I started using that.' Actually.and the console was actually a thrown-together. you really had to use the outboard. "That all came about because of the records I'd done with Chic. and have to be ready to go for a take within the first 10 or 15 minutes. but the system obviously got a lot better over the years.You had to be really careful with the EQ . but for the time it was really advanced. already started to be brought into projects just for the mix . we've been looking all over for you. in fact. You kinda had to squeeze and coax the sound out of the equipment then.' So Bruce came over and he did The River [his 1978 album] there. like they do now.

every time I put something in the centre. I'll put on a record and I'll be in the kitchen getting something to eat or just walking around doing something. If you get the effect. so what's gonna happen when they're expected to hook up five or six speakers? And how on earth do we expect home users to get levels right between the front and rear speakers? Somebody emailed me this computer program for optimally setting up a 5.1 system. but not really in any predetermined order.1 yet .most of the people who are asking me to mix their stuff are just desperate to get their stuff played on the radio and that's all they're thinking about . with decisions taken at the recording stage to some extent predetermining what can be achieved at the mix. sees drawbacks as well as benefits in this way of thinking. I mean. It keeps it fresh for me because I have to constantly come up with new approaches and new ways of doing things.so every once in a while there http://www. Then I'll get a basic drum balance and build from there. I really haven't been asked to do anything for 5. It means that each time I mix a record I might have to do something new. although I know a lot of people tend to start with the drums and the rhythm parts. I tend to start with the vocals. it just sounds like it's coming out of a speaker rather than creating the illusion of it being real. I'll try to find effective pan settings for everything. It's easier and it's also quite a bit more fun. People just want to hook up their system and listen to some music. you tend to feature things with that in mind. isn't like that. because different producers and different artists have different styles. "I find if I've produced a record. and then Cuts Like A Knife did pretty well. but maybe it can't do that until someone invents a signal processor that creates more of a seamless illusion between all the speakers. which was a radio hit in the States. almost 'holistic' approach to building his mixes. because I have no prior connection to it. then Avalon and Flesh and Blood. it's a clean slate. and those records did well. I enjoyed mixing that in surround because there was a reason for things in the audio to be placed where they were. and it's probably better to be doing what you're best at. Where are they even gonna put the rear speakers. stereo or even mono . The potential advantage of a surround system is that it ought to be able to make things sound more realistic. where you measure how big your room is and how far the speakers are away from the walls. and the singer to give that vocal performance. I then did a lot more stuff with the Stones and Springsteen. I also started doing some stuff with A&M and that's how I got introduced to Bryan Adams . That matters more than anything. but I think that when you start using the surround channels for anything more than ambience. "I usually try to put everything up at once and do a rough mix to listen to. And I'm thinking. I use QSound for that kind of thing at the moment . how many people even sit down in one spot to listen to a record? I don't even do that myself. 'Yeah. because what's on the tape is different. With pop music. the recording and mixing stages are almost indivisible. Just every now and then I like to have some little sound on a record that comes out right over there. He had produced one record on his own. and both those records were quite successful. sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees when I'm mixing. Half the time people have got their speakers out of phase. I like to think of the instruments as characters. Most music. For Roxy Music. because they won't even notice the effect at all unless they are sitting in the right place and the speakers are set up correctly. whereas with stereo you get this phantom image which somehow sounds more real. because you know every note and every nuance.I'm sure they don't listen to my records. Clearmountain. "If anything. I mixed 'Dance Away' from Manifesto. I tend to not solo things enough . Once I've got a rough mix. and what each thing adds to the song.com/sos/jun99/articles/bobclear. right. It's harder to be objective. I don't make records for audiophiles . He had a song called 'Lonely Nights'. and that makes it much more of a learning experience for me. And I think I'm a better mixer than I was a producer. so they hooked us up together. but that's gonna be it.that's just an audiophile thing. so that situation just sort of grew.BOB CLEARMOUNTAIN: Master Mixer 04/11/2012 22:10 got me into doing rock music. and then I co-produced Simple Minds and The Pretenders. I find that when you remember what it was like to get the guitar player to play that solo. though. They'd probably be appalled by what I do.that's one of my problems . All of a sudden this guitar just comes out from over your left shoulder and you're thinking 'Whoa. But if you just get some little sound like a filtered voice or effect. with the camera perspective from the centre looking out at them. more than what the drums or guitars are doing. When I mix something I've never heard before. all facing each other. and Reckless sold something like 11 million copies. who's gonna do that? Some audiophile geek is probably gonna be totally into it. it starts to sound very unrealistic. and then I might get into guitars and keyboards. "But I have a feeling the record buyer doesn't really care if it's surround. as well as ambience and making the space a little bigger." Clearmountain takes a very song-based. it can be quite dramatic. what's that doing there?' Maybe this is just my perspective.but when I do get to mix for surround I think I'll mostly be using the rear speakers just for effects.htm?print=yes Page 3 of 6 . although A&M didn't actually put it out in surround.' I make records for the general public.I wouldn't put an acoustic guitar or vocals through it. trying to get a sense of what the song is.I don't even tell people I'm using it. it's like 'Wow. To me. because the process doesn't do much with treble. But it's really tricky to use it well. assessing what their contribution is. You put all these parameters into this thing and it tells you exactly how to set the levels. never mind getting the levels right? And how can we mix for that if we don't know what'll be coming out of those back speakers?" Producing The Mix To some producers. so you tend to get the top-end still coming out of the front and the mid-range coming out over there someplace. thinking of it like a stage. It all depends on the track. however. just to see what's going on. There's something funny about having that centre speaker ." Mixing For Surround "Bryan Adams did an MTV Unplugged which we made an album out of. The show was one where they played in the round.it was a very minor success in Canada.he was one of their artists and he needed a producer. to make it seem like you are actually there. I tend to focus on the lyric and the lead vocal more than anything else. but it didn't do very well .soundonsound. what was that?' Usually the sounds I put through it are very mid-rangey . that's what surround ought to get used for. I love switching between types and styles of music. then I'll go through it again and solo individual tracks until I get a really good idea of what's on each one and what the 'role' of each part is.

and it'll sound kinda like a record.'No!' . but not to level it.com/sos/jun99/articles/bobclear. rather than using compression. Motown and English rock bands of the late '60s. Every now and then I'll work with somebody like Mutt Lange [the pair worked together on two Bryan Adams albums: Waking Up The Neighbours and 18 'Till I Die] who will spend all day just riding one vocal. that's not it at all. Sometimes I'll just use a little bit of compression and sometimes I'll smash it. and I think that has hurt the business a lot. I'll go in and get the details and really fix things up. to get a certain kind of effect. like perhaps where I'm missing one word and it needs a ride just for that. Then I'll often do a complete pass from scratch.we would mix sections and then edit them all together. I also like the BSS Dynamic Equaliser sometimes you'll get a harshness on certain notes in a vocal. rather than try to fix it up.. though. I think he's an amazingly talented producer.] "All this gear we have today certainly doesn't make the music any better. and the rest of the time it won't be doing anything. "I'm completely humbled by those records.so we moved on to another song! Digital Versus Analogue "I'm not particularly concerned with what recording medium is used for the records I mix. Of course. I generally try to do everything as quickly as possible. and I use a UREI 1176 sometimes. so I tend to not focus on any one particular thing too much. Where is the excitement in that? They might have this great groove that you can dance too. Sometimes that's just easier. and these days most people will say 'We just want to see what you come up with."I like to just let a mix develop.I did hundreds. And that brings up the situation where you've now got a lot of people out there making records. they'll say. and I have these [Empirical Labs] Distressor units that are pretty cool for certain types of things. I take big issue with this. or it's not sounding present enough. After that. At the end of the day you turn on the fader motors [interestingly.' If I come up with things they like. I won't sit there and listen to the bass drum for six passes. I might compress for the sound.. considers that many of the classic tracks from that era still stand comparison with the best of today's recordings. but it's more because it's fun to use and you can do things quicker and easier with a digital reverb than you can when you have to go off into the echo chamber and put blankets on the walls. but there will never be the same kind of feeling in that record. I might try a couple of different compressors.records made by people who actually did know what they were doing . when we were recording on analogue with no automation . records were made by musicians." [Ironically. But now you get some guy taking loops off a CD and taking samples off this and that and sitting there with a keyboard and a programmer. When I listen to them now. but that can get pretty intense. It doesn't make the records better. singers are all so different. 'OK.soundonsound. Clearmountain prefers to do all his mixing work with the motors switched off] and the faders will look like they're vibrating! Don't get me wrong." "I generally work on the vocal first. Sometimes. Go and listen to pretty much any Motown record. who grew up listening to The Beatles. "Once I've built the rest of the mix. point me in the right direction. finding they impart a unique quality which he is unable to match with a digital processor. And that's the reason I got into the business. 'No . Clearmountain actually has two live echo chambers in his studio which he often uses for his main reverbs. In the '70s. maybe thousands of mixes that way . Clearmountain prefers to start a mix with no preconceived notion of how it should sound . I always try to get rid of that stuff. Years ago. I'll get a good rough mix and then I'll put in some vocal rides in the first pass with the computer. I'm normally somewhere in between just letting everything be. he listened to what I'd done and said. The first pass is the critical thing to me. Then I'll just keep going along until I hear something that sounds out of place and go back and grab it. listen to The Stones. and then I'll listen to something else and keep jumping around until something sticks out and obviously isn't working. as long as the engineer and http://www. It all depends on what it needs. I'll try to get almost like a live mix happening and I'll try to get each section sounding right until I have a complete pass that is a pretty good basic mix. especially if it's a good song. and you can feel the session. and singers who could sing and producers who knew how to produce records. I have some old UREI LA3A compressors which have been modified to reduce the noise. and Mutt!" Divine Ills Unless the artist has indicated in advance any specific direction that they are seeking. listen to The Beatles. and I tend to work pretty much the same way on the computer. it's just that the process of making them becomes easier. though.BOB CLEARMOUNTAIN: Master Mixer 04/11/2012 22:10 will be some rogue sound that gets left in there and someone will say 'What's that noise on there?' and I'll have to go and find it. I'll occasionally find that the vocal just isn't really working any more. when I was listening to records there would always be certain ones that just sounded like people were having a great time in the studio. Remembrance Of Things Past Clearmountain. then great. Whatever happened to records made by real recording artists? People with talent that actually have something to say? Before I got into this business.' He gave me some clues and I worked on it for another couple of hours and then he said. and with the BSS you can find where the harshness is occurring and it will just dip it out at the times when it's needed. After I've written the basic cuts. That's a real useful device. where it's not just a product that's all about making money.htm?print=yes Page 4 of 6 . If I find that I'm missing stuff.. just because they can. It just sounded like something was really happening when this went down. "I'll tend to use the automation to write extensive rides on the vocal faders to make sure that the vocal can always be heard. then I'll maybe go and EQ it. but I'm usually so into the song. I wanted to be there when that was happening. that I just wanna hear the whole thing sounding right. We need to get back to that. and it really made you want to be there.. It was so exciting you could feel it coming out of the speakers. 'That's absolutely nothing like what I had in mind!' So I just had to say.' When I was mixing 'Sowing The Seeds' for Roland Orzabal from Tears For Fears. I think. Nowadays pretty much anybody can throw together something in their front room using a bunch of loops from other people's records . I just listen to it for a little bit and say 'that's great'. 'How did they do that in those days?' I try to have all the latest gear in my studio I have a big SSL G Plus console and all that stuff.

They'd probably be appalled by what I do.those times when I love the music and I'm having such a good time being part of it that I feel like I'm hovering over the console . both commercially and artistically. And then I will actually start to enjoy it . but I just thought about the audience that it was for and it came out great.but then there are times when I sit there and think 'What the hell is this? Why did I say I would mix this? This is terrible!' But even then it really doesn't matter. as well. you gotta understand. I really don't notice any change to speak of. I actually tend to be more concerned with the quality of the music itself.' So I go back and listen to what I'm doing and I think.24/96 "I was quite happy mixing to DAT with my Apogee 20-bit AD1000 converter. it doesn't really matter if it was recorded on a cassette! "Although the warmth that analogue can add to many recordings is sometimes a big advantage. The music tends to sound more like it's live than a recording." It's an approach that has proved spectactularly successful. I don't make records for audiophiles . he just has to figure out what the part is about and be able to be that character. there will be something about it that I will like or that I can work off. seems to be really into it [Clearmountain is now mixing the new album from US rock artist Edwin McCain at 96k via the PSX100]. Anything that's good. What the hell was I doing with this?' So I just started over with that in mind.they're so close together that everything is almost mono. But I don't think it's a huge step . because if the speaker makes everything sound good.htm?print=yes Page 5 of 6 . So I'm mixing this thing for them and and I'm making it all big and lush and wide and hi-fi-sounding. they don't make them any more. and this was when I'd just finished mixing Avalon for Roxy Music.I think. It's just a bit more musical. or even the batch of tape. of course. so I'm not sure that the sample rate is nearly as big a deal as the bit depth. and I can occasionally hear the noise pumping under the music. very rough and jagged sounding. I found that the playback off the tape never sounded quite like what I thought I had . then I know I've got to re-EQ or change something in the track. and I get a really clear perspective of how the overall thing sounds. But they were more like a punk rock band. I've often been frustrated trying to mix soft ballads that have been nearly ruined by the distraction of tape hiss.he doesn't necessarily have to identify with the role.I mixed an Engelbert Humperdinck record once! I wouldn't choose to listen to that if it was the last record on earth. and it was often dependent on the particular formula. and with a great converter like an Apogee [Clearmountain is a consultant for Apogee]. more real-sounding to me . It's not always about listening to a record for enjoyment. lush beautiful thing with delays and reverbs everywhere. we're not Roxy Music." "I actually enjoy other people's input into the process.' thing. 'Yeah.the bottom end sort of mushed together and the character of the top end would change slightly. Digital can alter the sound slightly.only certain things will benefit. It sounds smoother and just more present." http://www." . 'Look. I think of this as being rather like an actor . because it's not my record. as opposed to inside or behind the speakers. are actually really good for judging things like bass and bass drum level.' And that's the essence of what I'm about. It's the same with mixing. I want their impression of who they are. it was 'Yes. believe it or not. It was so great what they did ." He also employs a pair of compact Apple computer speakers.go figure! "When I used to mix to analogue two-track. If I can't hear those on the little Apple speakers. and then you can transform yourself into thinking in the right way about it. I want something that makes me work hard. Compact and jagged and annoying. The little ones. but nowhere near as much. having said that. "Those are actually my favourites! I have them placed right next to each other at the side of the room on top of a rack. some of the guys from the company came over and we jammed a bit and recorded it at 96kHz through the PSX100 and 48kHz through the AD8000 to compare them.com/sos/jun99/articles/bobclear. that's exactly what they are. Of course. You just have to figure out what the thing is about and who it's for . you're absolutely right. I don't like speakers that are too hi-fi for mixing. There's just no hype with the little ones . Bob Ludwig. The difference was actually pretty minimal. If it's a great song. which was this big.BOB CLEARMOUNTAIN: Master Mixer 04/11/2012 22:10 producer have a clue as to what they are doing. you don't work as hard and then the mix is not going to sound very good when you play it back on a lesser speaker. They're also good for setting vocal levels. I like to switch speakers a lot. but then the 24-bit stuff came along and it did sound better. because I just start thinking about the sounds that are on the tape and the balance and I can still totally get into it. and then I totally got it. as my mastering engineer. Dolby SR can help.instead of us having this big.I was actually surprised when I first heard that. You go away and I'll send it to you. and for the recording medium to be making decisions about the sound of my mix irks me a bit. I guess I'm kind of a control freak." "I make records for the general public. 'I'm the one mixing this record and you don't know what you're talking about. When we got to the second mix they took me aside and said. I will probably have to start mixing at 96kHz though. but it sometimes seems to mess with the bottom end. Yet Clearmountain certainly doesn't feel that it is necessary for him to personally enjoy everything that he's asked to mix. I'm absolutely not one of those guys that says 'I'll mix the record.augmented by self-powered KRK E7s "those let me hear what's happening below 80Hz. We're like a small ball with spikes coming out of it.' I want to hear what they have to say. practically all of my favourite records were recorded on analogue tape . When we were beta-testing the Apogee PSX100 converter. Clearmountain On.. although it could sound quite good. they always stop making it. "Its easier for me when I do enjoy it . Of course.I'm sure they don't listen to my records. "I do tend to prefer digital recordings because they're usually simpler to mix ." Clearmountain's main monitors in his mixing room are Yamaha NS10s ."I just know them so well that I can really be sure of what's going on with a mix when I use them..it's easier to get elements of the mix to sound as if they're in front of the speakers. I'm just there to bring out the best in the artist. especially mid-range stuff like vocals.you just have to be able to put yourself in the position of whoever you think the potential audience is. Even if I don't like the music.soundonsound. I worked with an Australian band called The Divinyls.

I tell people I work with. It's very hard rock. I believe. I guess it's the stuff that is a little different that I'm most attracted to ." World. the guitar or the snare drum. mixed at Real records. "Oh. Whatever. I just start to lose perspective. that I was quite happy with. and for the recording medium to be making decisions about the sound of my mix irks me a bit.a balance is a balance . I just mixed this record for this 19year-old kid named Jesse Camp who won a contest to be an MTV VJ in New York. that is the measure of his work as a mixer . The basic mix will always be there though . as if not certain that he has actually ever done anything that he could be proud of.. And make sure you are listening to the whole mix.' But I do most of my mixing work at a pretty low level.anything where the songs are good and the sounds are interesting.soundonsound. or go outside the room. makes Clearmountain himself one of the true artists of the recording era. the overall thing can turn out better. All rights reserved. Yet perhaps. but listening to it now. is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent of the Publishers. Listening from different places is useful too. 1985-2012. I think. I liked the Crowded shouldn't be making House records too . then come back and have a cup of coffee and it's much more obvious if something is wrong. and I like to get as many different perspectives as possible. "Don't listen for too long to any one thing. and I have a couple of little Tannoy bookshelf speakers up there so I can go up there and listen. I'll use headphones occasionally. I used too much reverb on that. I'd do it completely different. detailed Clearmountain mixes that I'm familiar with. then I know that's gonna still be there when I turn it up." Pick Of The Crop My enquiry as to which of the many Clearmountain hit mixes he feels represents his best work seems to have him momentarily unsure. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents. To do that continuously for the best part of two decades. called Play. The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part. or effects levels. When you start to question everything that you're doing and you suddenly don't feel sure what's going on.don't just keep plugging away at something.sometimes I'll finish it before dinner. Published in SOS June 1999 All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors. What that guitar is doing may be really nice. I go and sit on the couch at the back of the room. Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media http://www. The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers." "I switch my monitor levels all the time too . And. and I have AES lines that run up to my den.so any changes at that stage will just be things like a bit of EQ. Roxy Music's Avalon. stop for a while and go and take a walk.BOB CLEARMOUNTAIN: Master Mixer 04/11/2012 22:10 On analogue tape: "I'm kind of a control freak. maybe.I'm actually finishing mixing her third solo album when I get back people making records who to the States and that's just stunning. but when it's brought back a little bit in the mix. usually expecting to wrap it up within a day: "The most I'll do is leave it overnight and then come in the next morning to finish it up. of course. not just the vocal." Clearmountain is certainly not one to agonise over a mix. Loud and irritating!" 'Loud'.just because you like it and you know it's good. Don't think that you have to hear every lick .out of a mix when it's quiet. Normally it won't take that long . I go out with my dog or take a 15-minute catnap. She's one of there are just too many the most under-rated songwriters in the business .and there was a Squeeze album. Does it add anything to the song? Is it really an important element of the record? You have to train yourself to listen to the song and not the individual parts. but it's really good. I was pretty happy with that. And take a break . Listen in the car. too. very 'gnarly' and '70s punk rock-sounding. Is it too wet? Should it be wetter? But if I work for two days on a mix I can't really tell any more.com/sos/jun99/articles/bobclear.I think Neil Finn is just brilliant . doesn't mean it has to be there..emotional power or sound-power . I get a better perspective that way and I can work longer. and then things that are wrong will jump out at you. If I can get a sense of power . in a way. Also. but 'irritating' is not a quality that I readily associate with the glossy. creating the definitive version of whatever it is that each piece needs to be.hardly anyone knows it in the States! It sounds really unusual and the songs are great. 'Just give that monitor pot a spin any time you like. It's a totally unpretentious album of fun pop songs. I don't know if anyone even heard that "The real problem is that record in Europe .the ability to hop nimbly from genre to genre. whether mechanical or electronic. Perhaps Aimee Mann's first s olo album. It'll be obvious that there's a part in the second verse that's pulling your ear away from the vocal when the lyric at that point is really important to the song. The trick is keeping perspective."Hints And Tips Clearmountain's mixing tips for the project studio are as applicable to the guy mixing on a portable cassette multitracker as to the man himself on his giant SSL.htm?print=yes Page 6 of 6 .