Today we will talk with producer and mix-engineer Warren Huart. He is famous for his work with Aerosmith, Kris Allen, The Fray, Ace Frehley, James Blunt and many more. Warren grew up in England, but then he moved to USA and settled down in Los Angeles. About a year ago, Warren set up his own educational channel Produce Like A Pro, where he introduces to his audience step-by-step nuances of producer’s masterhood. And this November Warren will join our Mixing Camp in Los Angeles as a tutor.
Backstage Secrets: Hi, Warren! How did you get the idea of creating your own educational project? You probably had to go through quite a lot of strong informational noise, because there are so many channels on Youtube dedicated to working with sound: starting from Point Blank up to Dave Pensado's channel?
Warren Huart: Great Question! I wanted to share my experience as someone who didn't come up through a traditional path, I didn't intern at a studio, assist, get credits and observe already successful Producers and Engineers nor did I go to music School. I didn't have friends or family in the music industry, but I still managed to create a niche for myself which has led to a wonderful career. My journey is a perfect illustration of how to make against the odds and is a story that I know many people of the internet would really want to hear! I want encourage them to be creative and not let dogma hold them back!
I've had to fight it my whole career and I want to let everyone know you can be successful! Creativity is King!
BS: The audience of Produce Like A Pro is growing rapidly. Do you think your success was based on creating something unique? What are the principal differences of your channel from others?
WH: Yes I definitely believe I offer something unique, I am working Producer, Engineer, Musician and Songwriter, I'm not a Professional Teacher, I have real world experience and I'm the middle of my career. I'm extremely busy making records so my audience gets to see what it’s really like to make music for a living, plus I get to speak to our professionals who are making music every day!
BS: Could you please tell us about your team? Who helps you with Produce like a Pro every day?
WH: My team is very small! It's a wonderful guy Sam in Germany who has recently taken over the website and is kicking butt! For filming it's split between a couple of my guys Pablo and Max here in LA and I have my good friend David Glenn who is my confidant as well as a business partner of mine in Pro Mix Academy, which is a business we have that creates Mixing and Production Tutorials.
BS: Please, tell us, what brought you to USA? After all, England has it’s own strong sound-recording industry.
WH: The short answer..GUITARS! haha I was in England the home of so much amazing music, but despite Radiohead, Keane , Muse and the other handful of bands like that, it was the 90's and most music was very EDM orientated! So I came to the US where the kind of music I loved as still being made and still is to this day! Don't get me wrong I used to be a DJ and when I first came to the US I would do quite a few DJ gigs playing English dance music, but my first love was GUITARS! I was a guitarist who played 6-8 hours a day!
BS: How difficult for you was to get used to life in Los Angeles?
WH: I immediately loved LA! I'm English, it's rains all the time there! Here in LA it's always sunny out! Haha)
BS: Could you give any advice to foreign sound producers who are planning to develop their career in USA?
WH: If I came here now I would recommend find your own niche, unless you want to play the writer Producer game, if you want to do that then just listen to what's current on the Radio in the US.
BS: Present situation in sound-recording business is rapidly changing and now you don’t need to rent expensive recording studio to reach the perfect sound as mixing in the box is getting more and more popular. What changes are coming? Could you, please, share your opinion on the issue?
WH: I love where we are! Now we can make amazing music with a nice mic, a great mic pre, maybe a compressor and an interface and computer! No need to go anywhere unless you want a huge live drum sound! The changes that are coming are the simulations!
Things are getting better and better, there will be a day when a mic pre will not be necessary and mics like Steven Slate's VMS will be all you need to make music!
BS: Are you dealing with electronic music? What do you think about EDM, Trap, Dubstep? The majority of those mixes are done by DJs themselves as producers. Is it related to the fact that the tasks at hand aren’t as difficult in electronic music as they are in live music?
WH: I grew up on dance music, Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky still sound like the future to me, even after all these years! They blended live and electronic elements to make music that still sounds fresh to me!
BS: It has been said that today there are no such great bands as Queen, Aerosmith, Nirvana. The most known groups now are polished commercial projects created by professional producer teams. Is it true? What is the reason for that?
WH: Music is Art, music is not about the money but the Art, bands like Queen, The Beatles, David Bowie, Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel were complete artists, wanting to make great Art. If a young band wants to get their Art out there and also write incredible songs then we will be blessed with more great music. I do think Muse deserve to be included in the list of contemporary greats and of course U2 continue to make great music for nearly 4 decades now!
BS: You often work with independent groups. Do you deal with development of their future career or you stop with the work in studio and mixing?
WH: Great question! I advise my artists about everything in their careers, I have had experience at all levels and I have a wide range of contacts in all areas of the industry.
BS: Is it possible to formulate any algorithm of building the career for musical groups and musicians in today’s real world?
WH: Haha! Honestly I can see all the things that successful artists do and I can advise artists, but as they say you can bring a horse to water but you can't make him drink! It's not rocket science but it does require a great work ethic!
BS: Is it much more difficult to sign the contract with record label than 15-20 years ago?
WH: Definitely not more difficult, but significantly less lucrative! There's many labels out there signing young up and coming artists, you just have to carefully read the contracts and make sure you are going to gain from the relationship! You can do so much on your own if you are driven!
BS: Could you give any advice to musicians who want to sign a contract with big sound-recording company?
WH: Just get a great lawyer! There's nothing wrong with Record Labels, just make sure you negotiate a great deal for yourselves!
BS: Is it possible for independent group to reach stadium-concert level?
WH: Definitely! I was a staff Producer for 2 seasons on X Factor and the YouTube band Boyce Avenue were voice coaches, they made enormous amounts of income outside of a traditional record deal and played several sold nights at the Wiltern in Los Angeles recently.
BS: Let’s talk a little bit on the studio issue. They say that using a great number of Aux canals in PRO TOOLS affects final mix badly. What is your opinion about it?
WH: Hmm..I'm not sure I agree. I believe there are many factors that make a great mix or a bad mix and AUX is not a huge factor for me.
BS: Do you use drum trigger or you set one shots in a manual way?
WH: It depends I actually do both, I will paste in by hand when I want huge Rock slamming drums but I often use Addictive drums to preserve the feel of the drum kit.
BS: Could you, please, tell about your Master Bus? How do you commutate all the amount on it and what do you use in master section?
WH: I don't do that much to my master bus when I mix in the box, I try to create the energy in the track before it hits the master section. So I will gently compress apply a little EQ around 60hz and boost some 10 or 12k for clarity, then maybe some light limiting.
BS: What plugins do you use in your Master сhain?
WH: I like experimenting with various EQs and Compressors but I almost always end up with an L2 softly limiting.
BS: As a guitar player, what is your opinion on processor emulators such as Axe FX or Kemper, while talking about recording? Or do you prefer to record guitars recording the sound from cabinets?
WH: I have a Yamaha THR100H which I use a lot for Heavy Guitar sounds, it's quick an easy to use and gives me amazing results. So I fully support the Amp Simulators, I used the Axe FX on a Black Rain Album and it sounded wonderful, I also recorded mixed Black Veil Brides' Alive and Burning' Blu Ray/DVD and they used Kempers.
BS: How do you usually start your work on a mix? What is the most important in the very beginning? What helps you to save time in upcoming work on a mix?
WH: When I mix I will start by listening to whole track and get the overall feel for it, what are the instruments to be featured, what's the groove, does it have an edge and energy that will make me want to listen to it over and over again? It's my job to find that energy, that life and bring it to the forefront. I have to connect with the song, once I have that connection I will be able to mix fairly quickly.
BS: Does it ever happen to you that you want to change or add something when the song is already mixed?
WH: Yes, if that's what it takes to make it great. I will edit if necessary, add extra guitars to fill it out, BVs, whatever I need to do to make the song the best it can be.
BS: If you had a possibility to release personalized plugin like Eddie Kramer did with Waves, what would you release?
WH: That's a huge question! I know exactly what it would be, but I don't want to give it away quite yet! Haha)
BS: Who are your favorite sound producers and mix-engineers?
WH: My favorite Producers are John Leckie, George Martin, Phil Ramone, Jack Douglas and Joe Chicarelli and of course many others. Engineers I love are Bill Price, Mack, Mike Stone, Joe Barresi, Bruce Botnick, Al Schmidt and Jay Messina. There are so many!!
BS: Do you have a manager or do you deal with the business by yourself?
WH: Bennett Kaufman and Mike Kato at Maverick manage me, but I do still do a lot of my own leg work with artists, that’s just part of our business these days, you have to be a good businessman.
BS: In your opinion, what are the main professional features of a sound producer?
WH: Be great at communication! Communication is key, listen to your artists, make them feel that their opinion is heard always! It's their music! They may only have one shot so make it count, give your all to the project!
BS: What would you like to wish to all the young producers and mix-engineers reading this interview?
WH: Work hard, keep growing, keep learning, be open to new idea always!
Konstantin Korsakov (Backstage Secrets)