Inside The Mix | Music Production and Mixing Tips for Music Producers and Artists

#68: Mike Exeter | Top Tips for Making a Great Mix

February 14, 2023 Mike Exeter Season 3 Episode 9
Inside The Mix | Music Production and Mixing Tips for Music Producers and Artists
#68: Mike Exeter | Top Tips for Making a Great Mix
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In this video, I talk with Mike Exeter about essential mixing tips.

Mike Exeter is a Grammy-winning producer and mix engineer. He's worked with artists like Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, and Cradle of Filth, and he's also worked as a freelancer in the studio industry for over 20 years.

He shares his story with me—how he got started working in studios, how to understand an artist's vision and tease out the idea that they're trying to express through music, and more!

We also discuss his experience working in the studio versus freelancing as well as what he thinks modern technology has done for or against musicianship.

To follow Mike, click here: https://www.mikeexeter.com/

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Thanks for listening & happy producing!

Hey, inside the Mix podcast fans, it's Michael Oakley here. You can follow me on any social media platform that you use. I'm on all of them. You're listening to Inside the Mix podcast, and here's your host,

Marc Matthews:

Mark Matthews. Hello and welcome to the Inside the Mix podcast. I'm Mark Matthews, your host, musician, producer, and mix and mastering engineer. You've come to the right place if you want to know more about your favorite synth music artists, music, engineering and production, songwriting, and the music industry, I've been writing, producing, mixing, and mastering music for over 15 years, and I wanna share what I've learnt with you. Hey folks on welcome back to the Insider Mix podcast. If you are a new Inside the Mix podcast listener, welcome and don't forget to hit that subscribe button, and if you are returning. Welcome back. Now in this episode. I know I say this every episode. Well, I am truly excited about this. We to welcome my guest today, Grammy winning producer and engineer, Mike Exeter. So Mike is a producer and engineer. Uh, so Mike has experience working with the Giants like Sabbath and Priest, which has given him the tools to take all projects from conception to completion. And he's gonna share with us some, uh, recording, songwriting, music production, pearls of wisdom that will know to inspire you and motivate your next project. Mike, Mike, sorry. Thanks for joining me today. And how

Mike Exeter:

are you? Uh, it's a pleasure to be here. Um, I'm not gonna go into my woes. I'm a little under the weather, but this is making me feel so much brighter. Actually, the sun's come out as well, so it's even better. So

Marc Matthews:

all this fantastic stuff. I don't, I dunno what it's like where you are. I'm in the southwest. Are are you, are you

Mike Exeter:

in the Midlands? Yeah, I'm just outside of Warwick, so, um, yeah, yeah, yeah. Um, it's pretty, it's been a bit gritty wind. It's windy today, but um, it is nice finally.

Marc Matthews:

Yeah, I'm always, whenever it's windy, I've got this property and I've got a, this is totally off topic here. I've got a chimney that's got a lean on it. So every time the wind properly gets up, I'm just sat there like that. Fingers crossed. Oh God.. It's not gonna come down. I need to get it sorted.

Mike Exeter:

Need to get sorted. Go. Just a off topic still. I've got a friend, he's got a studio in, um, in Banbury called Woodworm. And um, he's right on the floodplain and he's, he's constantly in panic. That is the log cabin down the garden is going to float away cuz that's where he puts guests up and it's like, good Old England. Good place to live at the moment.. Oh,

Marc Matthews:

oh, well, yeah, I mean that's a whole episode in itself. right there. Just

Mike Exeter:

get me a Morley back on. . Marc Matthews: Yeah. Yeah. You know what? That's a, that'd be, that'd be, that'd be an interesting episode. I listened to the one you did with the production, I can't remember the name of the podcast. Production expert. Yeah. It's an awful

Marc Matthews:

name. Bassy, yes. A production expert. Yeah. So I listened to that episode. It was really, So audience listening, go check that one out as well. So after this one, of course, it's, uh, it's a, it's a really good episode. Um, so what I think it'd be quite cool is to start with a bit, um, of your backstory really. How did you get into mixed engineering? Where did it all be? What, what inspired you to pursue this as a career path? Um,

Mike Exeter:

I, I was born in just at the end of the sixties. I was born in 67, so, um, I, I was very much influenced by, Records that my dad used to play. You know, they, they'd seen the Beatles. The Beatles hadn't broken up long before. So by the time it got to early seventies, um, I was quite lucky, you know, going in the car up to London with my dad, um, where, where he had his factory I'd used to travel up with him. And, um, and he popped like the latest thing on it, it was two the Bells or, uh, duck Side of the moon. Um, or a Rick Whiteman thing, or, yes. And it was all this really proggy stuff, moody blues, and I was sort of exposed to all of these big, massive productions of music. Um, and um, what sort of struck me, um, early on was this visual. This Visual connection 77 around my, my 10th birthday, this album called Animals Came out by Pink Floyd. Um, and we used to drive over the nearest bridge to bridge to Baty Power Station and I'd be listening to Pink Floyd on the cassette and seeing Baty power station from the front cover. And um, and it was just this sort of connection growing up with, um, with something that um, that really sort of, uh, grabbed me emotionally, you know, and as, as a 10 year old, you don't get it like that. But I'd also, um, a couple years before started piano lessons cuz I was actually, um, my brother was tone deaf, he loves music, but they stuck a recorder in his hand at school and my mum had to walk around with fingers in her ears. Thank God it wasn't violin, but I could make music sort of sound quite good. So, um, so I had piano lessons and that sort of got me going. Um, and I'd always got this electronics and. Um, computer sort of interest. I mean, computers were just coming out that were usable by us by, by the end of the seventies. I used to go into a computer room at school and we'd be on a little timeshare terminal, uh, where all the nerds were programming Dungeons and Dragons. But again, you know, this, this whole thing of like technology, um, helping us to, to sort of go down different route. Um, I was just really intrigued by music. I loved what music did to me. You know, it was, um, it put me in a place. It, it made me feel good. Um, and it was oddly enough, you know, I sort of listened to loads and loads of, of albums and, uh, and the one that really struck me was the summer. I think it was the summer of 76 when, um, , when Mr. Blue Sky came out by elo. And it was just such a great feel good thing. And I started taking, paying attention. Um, and I guess. Once you start, you know, I, I had a record player in my room. Once you start looking at album covers back then you're like, and what are these people? Who's this bloke? Allen Parsons, who's, who's Mack, you know, where's music Land studios? What's Happy Road? And you start seeing this whole thing of like, people, this, this music doesn't just appear, people make this, you know, then it wasn't even a thought of a job, it was just an interest of like, I like being around people that seem to be doing something technical, um, and making it sound so emotive. So, I mean, I've told, I've told this loads of times, but I was, I happened to be on a train sometime in the early eighties, um, coming back from Marley Bone and I bought this magazine. I've since tried to find it. Um, and it was a thing, uh, I think it was called Recording Engineer and Producer or something like that. And it had Howard Jones on the front and Phil Collins. and mm-hmm., they'd collaborated on a song. Um, one of Howard's called No One Is To Blame and Inside was this probably six page article with their producer, which I didn't know what that was. Geico, Hugh Padam, who, um, who had put, spent two weekends putting together this thing that I thought was stunning. Um, so I started reading this article and I'd been reading things like electronics and music maker and music technology, which eventually turned into Sound on sound and things like that. But I'd been reading these magazines, but it had never gone deep into what this recording business was. and I devoured this magazine. I can, I can see the adverts in it, you know, it was all cutting edge stuff like Sony, pcm, F one, 12 bit recorders and, uh, , all this kind of stuff. And I think they, they, I remember them talking about recording the drums analog and then syncing them across the digital, whatever that meant. And it was just so intriguing and it's the first time I heard the name Solid State Logic. And, um, all this stuff was just like, my God, this is really, really cool. Um, so really it was just this massive interest in what, what made records happen, I suppose I was an early one of those. Where does the, um, you know, where does the record come out of this console, kind of people, you know, how do, how does it get from that musician to out? Um, and so it was just, um, massive interest in, in, in music and being a keyboard player. Um, I, there weren't that many opportunities, you know, it was either you, you were the best keyboard player, pianist in the school orchestra or that was it , you know, if I'd, if I'd been a violinist, yeah, I could've probably been in the violin section. Um, so there wasn't much opportunity for collaboration and I didn't play guitar and still really don't. So, um, you know, I couldn't get in a scuzzy, um, uh, punk band or anything, cuz you certainly wouldn't get anybody paying Pink Floyd around that time in local pubs, . Yeah, I can imagine circumstance. I, I don't know you, I wouldn't change anything, but it's an, it's an odd set of events when you do go back and look at your life. You go, oh God, how did that happen?

Marc Matthews:

Yeah, it's a amazing story really. It's kind of, kind of similar in a way to the, the way I sort of fell in love with audio engineering and, and mixed engineering and, and whatnot. I mean, it's a case of there's music there and it was, I like, I wanna know, I, I can see that you've got these in these artists who I've come together to write these songs, but how did they get it from the, the live room? To that seat. Well, for me, at the time it was on that cd. How, how has that process happened? Um, I wanna know what happens to the other side of the glass and how it's all put together much like yourself there. It's inter interesting. You men mentioned Alan Parsons there because it is, it's a different sort of timeframe to my own when I started my journey. But Alan Parsons is, was, was huge when I was, when I was looking out. I'm fairly certain I've still got an Alan Parson's book that I took out of a library at a university and I never gave it back.. Good. Um, I'm not gonna say what you need. I'm sure they don't listen to it.

Mike Exeter:

You know what I found? I found this. the CD that he did back in the nineties called Soundcheck. Um, and it was his cd. You could, um, you could use it had test tones on it, time code, um, compression free instruments, and you could literally just go, well, I haven't got anything to practice on. I, but I have got like this vocal that I can loop on the CD player and I'll run it through the console and just see what this compressor does. Um, so it was, it was brilliant, you know, um, and, and he does feature, he features quite heavily and I still think the best, best ever thing that he features in is Austin Powers. When, um, Dr. Evil says, I shall call it the Alan Parsons Project , which is brilliant, Marc Matthews: I never I've, I've watched, I've watched Austin Pads and that must, I must have watched it prior to the me getting, falling in, falling into the industry and whatnot. But , that's brilliant. Uh, okay. I could have to go find that. You got. So, but no, I think, I think the thing what, what really strikes me though is ever since I've seen interviews and stuff, um, really off topic, but um, it, it sort of, it, it, um, it informs you of maintain humility because I've seen things where Parsons is doing an awful lot about, you know, I did this, I did that. The quad mix of the, the dark side of the moon was way better than James Guthrie's 5.1. All these things, I think he feels a bit hard done by. Um, but then you get the, um, the Pink Floyd answer, which is, I think we've probably did more for Alan Parsons than he did for us. So you sort of as a, as a sort of general, here's my first point kind of thing. You know, in a very random way. Yeah. Is you gotta remember that you are you., you, you are not anybody. You're not doing anything unless that artist come up with that idea. Um, you know, you are there to facilitate and be part of this team. So it's quite a lesson, you know, it's something you constantly have to check yourself on.

Marc Matthews:

Yeah. It's, it's interesting you mentioned that. Cause now thinking back to my own perspective, I, I, I knew of Pink Floyd far before Alan Parsons. Um, and then I, having them found a Parsons, I went down the rabbit hole of the Allen Parsons project. Yeah. Um, which my, uh, but it's, it's, it's interesting. Like, well I went back, went back to there and how journeys, although they are over different times, you still, those, those influences are still there from like Alan Parsons. Yeah. Um, I'm gonna have to go revisit all this stuff now. It's been years since

Mike Exeter:

they looked at it. Well, this is it. This is what I love about these things is, you know, the conversation starts and then suddenly you're like, oh, brilliant. I'll have to look for that now. I don't have to get down on hands and knees and pull an album out. I can just get it on Apple Music, you know, and it's like, there we great. Yeah. Um, because it is the, it goes back to that fantastic thing of, um, my friend, um, uh, a Avril McIntosh and Andy, um, Andy Bradfield. They're a couple, they're both brilliant mix engineers. They do a lot of work for the Phish and the Meridian people, you know, independently, and they remixed one of, um, one of the early Meridian albums last year or year before. And it took me back. It was like, my God, that was 1984. I remember being on a family holiday. I can picture listening to this for the first time. It's instantly transported me back. And I don't know really, well, maybe movies, maybe pictures, but we are very, very much emotionally connected to music. So it's, um, it's a huge part of

Marc Matthews:

my life. Yeah, a hundred percent. And I agree with that music side of things there, cuz when you mentioned Meridian straight away, it takes me back to when I was in my band and then, uh, my, uh, the bassist and I would travel to gigs and we, we, I can't remember which album it is with Kayleigh on it, um, cuz the concert album and I can't Yeah, that's the one. Yeah. And we'd put that on, on the Journey Up and the Journey back and straight Away you mentioned Meridian and I immediately think of that time probably 10, 10 plus years ago now when we were traveling. Um, and then listening to Meridian and, um, yeah, it's, it is amazing. It's amazing that that's the great thing about music. Yes. It's all together. And what's great to be sort of operating in, in the music industry, um, . So I was gonna say it leads on quite nicely, but I, I guess it does cuz we're talking about music. But what I wanna dive into now, um, Mike, is uh, is, it's like from, from writing to the final mix. Yeah. So haven't gone on your website. Um, and I encourage the audience to go to, to go and do that. And I'll put the links to, to the website and the bio. Um, why I'd like to, this is, this is more sort of like touching on the psychological side of things and, um, I, I touched on this very briefly when I interviewed Dom a few, few weeks ago, just before Christmas, about the psychology of music and, and in particular when you're recording. So the first question really is could you tell our audience a bit about the process of understanding the person and the story that they're trying to tell? How do you sort of tease that information out of an artist?

Mike Exeter:

Um, well, I guess I'm, I'm lucky in as much as I get to., I get to work with people at a fairly early stage in the process. Not all the time, but over the last 15, 20 years, I've definitely spent more time in pre-production with artists than in the first 12, 13 years of my career. Um, I, I started to freelance fairly early on, which meant that I wasn't particularly tied into a studio. So therefore, um, I would go to rehearsal rooms a lot. And I think as a staff engineer, cuz I started, I mean essentially my, my career really took off back in 91. Um, and for about seven or eight years, I was staff engineering at a few places. The moment I stopped that, um, I didn't f I didn't feel that the studio was the center of my universe. It was the musicians and the writers. Um, , and I was lucky with the crossover with meeting Tony from Sabbath early, uh, well actually before I left Depp, so that would've been around 95 or 96. Um, I think the thing there was that, um, I started to see the process of how, how these people actually worked. Um, I'd always had this thing, which is sort of related to it, that anytime I did an a record, it always sounded better when I heard the live tapes. Um, because I'd sort of, I'd work on an album like Tooth and Nail with People, and then they'd go out, they'd get, they'd do a show, it would be recorded, they'd come back and I'd mix it and it'd be like, oh, that sounds way better than what we did. And it was., there was this sort of transitional time where bands were still working in studios, but they weren't given the, um, the kinds of budgets that they maybe the big artists were getting. So there wasn't quite so much time for songwriting in the studio, and it became a bit of a fallacy. Um, or you don't wanna be writing your songs in the studio, but that's essentially what all the acts did. Uh, early doors. They either wrote them in the studio like Beatles, Floyd, they'd be given access to Abby Road for months on end. And it wasn't just to dick around with DCS three s, it was , you know, carry on the writing process. Um, and also there was an awful lot of, um, proving stuff on the road. So I, I very quickly got an idea that there was something missing. Um, so I would do an awful lot of, um, Visiting rehearsal rooms. I even had a portable studio set up, um, at, um, at sort of this rehearsal room just by the canals in Birmingham where I could work week after week with a band on Ada with a Macie eight bus. And it was basically costing us their lockup time, which was already figured in their thing. So, so songwriting early stage, being a part of the process is probably the most important thing because what it enables you to do is get into the mindset of what the artist is trying to do without feeling like anybody's on the clock. Um, and it's, it's been a massive part of, of the way I've worked for ages. I mean, I'm lucky. I've also, I've been in the studio, I say the studio cuz it always is a studio with the, with, um, the, the guys from the Sabbath and the priest, like, um, they have their own rooms and I've been in those rooms from the inception. Um, Uh, short of, uh, sitting in bed with Tony while he's got an acoustic guitar out, when he records his ideas down to an iPhone, I'm there as early as it possibly gets. Um, and discussing, working, working through with the artist how, how, how, what, what this is about. Um, getting a story off the, the lyricist is important. Um, getting some kind of idea of what inspired them. Why, what is this riff about? Is it as depressing as it sounds?, you know, what, what are you trying to do? Um, and I think this is, this is the lucky thing about having gone freelance is not having to just meet someone on the morning of a session and go, right, what are we doing today? You know, there's, you don't form any kind of relationship. Um, so psychology. Um, is a massively important part of getting the best out of people. You've got to be their, their best friend, but one that can still tell them when they're maybe not going down the right route or, or you're enabling them to try various things without feeling like anything stupid. You know, I do mentoring at, at, at colleges and university and people, I can ask a stupid question and I know the old adages, there is never a stupid question, but there really isn't. You know, it's like, go for it. It's your, it's your round woman. Um, I'll do whatever I can to make you feel comfortable. But by the same token, I want you to, to um, give me the same, uh, courtesy by saying if I come up with something, don't dismiss it outta hand. I'd like you to try my idea, cuz it may not work, but at least we need to know, we need to go down these blind alleys.. So, yeah. Um, kind of in answer to the original question. Yeah. You, you just, you have to get into the mind of the artist and it's whatever way you can do it. Dom taught me a brilliant thing, um, a few years ago. He's , he said, um, learn as many adjectives as you can because if you can find multiple ways of describing the same thing, eventually you are going to find one that the other person understands because you've got to establish some kind of language with these people. Yeah. And um, so yeah, just, just try and form a, form a bond. So I keep doing this stopping thing and giving you no clue that I'm actually, I've stopped cuz I do go on for hours.. It's like when I interviewed Steven Slate once, he would just do that. Oh, right. That's the end of the question. Right. Okay. The, um,

Marc Matthews:

I was gonna say, I, I watched that interview, uh, a couple days ago actually. Cause I, I didn't really, unfortunately I didn't get all the way through it. Um,

Mike Exeter:

good. I didn't get all the way through it.? Marc Matthews: No, my boiler had to get it sorted and the, uh, the plumber came round. But, um, that, that stopped me from going all the way through. But I started to watch it. Um, and I gotta go back and revisit it after this actually. So awful . Watch it back . Um, but I know what you mean. It's, it's a weird one as well. Yeah. Cause when we do these interviews, um, cuz at the moment, cuz uh, this is, this is gonna be quite boring for the audience part, but when we're doing the interview, the actual video is, is, I dunno what it's like your end, but it's grainy my end. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So it's hard to see because you, you're looking for those visual cues and sometimes you can't see them. You need, you need that thing on the old walkie talk. It's like over,

Marc Matthews:

yeah, yeah, exactly. Is it a little like hand signal or something? Uh, you know, um, , but that, that's the beauty of editing. We we could . Yeah, exactly., yeah. Yeah. Brilliant stuff.. So just, just recapping what you went through there. So you're saying like the, the freelance element of it allowed you to spend that more time with the, with the artists so you can be there from the beginning, whereas if you are sort of, um, maybe salaried is the wrong words, um, but if you are tied to a studio as you say, and they turn up on the day, you are working with them for 8, 10, 12 hours, however long it may be, whereas with freelance, you've got that flexibility. It, with that in mind, is there. Playing devil's advocate. Mm-hmm. is there, is there, uh, a positive to being, um, tied to the studio compared to freelance?

Mike Exeter:

Yeah. Um, at the time it was, um, it was a constant throughput of, um, of different artists coming through. Um, and when you're on staff, you get paid , so that was good. Um, it's, um, again, this was a different sort of time as well. It was quite interesting. Listen to, to the, um, I'm gonna keep referring to the one with Don because, um, he, he, he really does speak very good sense. Um, listening to your interview with him, um, listening to his, an analytical approach to, I was in a provincial sort of second city. Studio getting this kind of experience, but then I decided if I'm gonna go to another studio, I need to learn this, this, and this. Um, and I think I'm quite envious of him having been able to have that root into it because he got to, he got to work in a big town doing lots and lots of sessions, quite a long period of time. I, I think the maximum I, I worked out in Rochester, New York for a year and our studio was brilliant and I got to do lots of sessions from, um, Um, like advertising sessions, big companies like Buick and Datson and um, and Basian Lo, who were like the Ray Band people were in Rochester. So we did a lot of commercial sessions. We'd did a lot of, um, local music and jazz sessions. I, I got a massive, massive amount of experience, but only for a year. Then when I got back to the uk I was in Birmingham at a great studio running it. Really, I was head engineer there. Um, so I think what, what working in a facility with other people can do is it can really teach you about collaboration. uh, a support network, which I think is quite important. I miss the coffee, you know, the, the talk around the, the, uh, the water cooler coffee break kind of thing. Yeah. Um, you know, that's why these are so brilliant to do, um, podcasts. You get to meet people, um, and actually talk amongst, um, you know, I, I love going down to events in London cuz it's only an hour for me to get, get down to the outskirts just to go and see people because there's no real, there's not much of that industry anymore. Strong room's awesome. Everybody just hangs out at the strong room. It's brilliant. Um, but every studio used to be like that. So it's, um, I think the, all, all the benefits, especially when you're starting and for the first few years of your career, I think it's great being amongst people and, um, you know, not, um, not being isolated cuz isolation is dangerous.

Marc Matthews:

Yes, yes. Oh, it's, it's interesting you mention that about meeting people because I mean, I, I'm part of the industry now or of that time whereby it's, it's a digital landscape and, um, post, post pandemic and whatnot. Now it's more so in that people are talking and interacting online, probably more so than they did before. Albeit, I think it's maybe slightly the needle going back the other way a tiny bit now. But having started this podcast, I think it's almost two years old, the amount of people I've met and spoken to that I wouldn't have done otherwise, um, just via this and people, and I'm talking to individuals who are in the industry or musicians, artists that are you, you just wouldn't meet otherwise. No. And getting actually a big artist on this question about getting work in a studio, Is, is there that role still of whereby you can start at the, the bot, the proverbial bottom where you are, the, the t, the, the, the runner, and then work your way up in the studio? Do you still, do you still think it exists? Is it a possibility to get that and then get that experience in a studio?

Mike Exeter:

Yeah, I think there's still around. Um, I don't think there's many opportunities. I mean, Metropolis where Dom went. Um, I, I heard recently from, um, a guy, he was at Coventry University, I think. Um, and I met him while he was still at Coventry and he, he badgered me a few years in, you know, running. And then I, I, I was down at Metropolis, probably doing the Stephen Slate interview and um, and he popped in and he popped his head in and he went, Mike, Mike, it's me. And I was like, oh, blame me. How you doing? And he, he was backwards and forwards from so Hall every day. That's, that's like basically just south of Birmingham down to, uh, Chisik every single day. Oh wow. Um, just to keep his foot in the door. And he eventually got a, assuming he's got a staff position, cuz he texted me earlier and he said, I'm in the room with Bob Clear Mountain. So I immediate. sent him a photo of me with Bob Cleman cuz I was equally proud . And um, and, uh, he was, um, he was working on the, um, the prep for the, uh, Taylor Hawkins tribute. Um, and so this guy's stuck at it, you know, and, and he's, he's in a good place cuz you know, metropolis is still a multi-room complex and, um, and he will have a very, very, very good grounding. Um, as far as getting gigs in, in studios, it's like, it's tough because, um, there aren't that many commercial studios. Or certainly not like they used to be. There are commercial studios, but there's an awful lot of people coming outta colleges, um, looking for that dream gig. And unfortunately, I'm, I'm a product of full sale. Uh, I don't mean, unfortunately I'm a product, but I am a product of full sale out in Florida. And back then, w we had a, a stigma attached to us as it was because, ooh, everybody coming outta full sale thinks they're brilliant. Um, and that wasn't the case, but it can work against you. Now. There are so many people that are now training up in, um, Vocational schools, colleges, and universities who are being told that they're producers from the moment they walk in there. And it's like, it's not even this thing of, um, I know some people get really ay about the word producer when it's, um, basically someone building beats, but that's a form of production. I don't care about that. It's songwriting, it's production, it, you know, George Martin, Rick Rubin, they, they weren't hands on. They're equally producers, you know? Um, so it's just a word we shouldn't get head up about that. But what, what's happening is they're being given this idea that, that they've got all this experience. And I tell you the worst thing in the world is that they completely lack in the one thing they should have, which is, um, being able to know their place in a room and um, and read the. And it's not a demeaning thing. I've got a brilliant assistant. She was, um, um, surgery degree student at one of the colleges near here. And, um, and I gave her the opportunity just, just as she was, she was graduating. I said, you wanna come in and hang out and do a couple of, um, you know, a couple of weeks with me on this band? I'm recording. And she's been with me ever since because she, she had exactly the amount of absolute fear of doing the job she wanted to do that made her listen and absorb mm-hmm. and become incredibly useful very quickly, and become as much of a. A f um, a bouncing, you know, bouncing off. Um, opportunity for me sounds as I was to her Yeah. Sounding board because I became reliant on being able to look over and see someone in the room feeling my pain., you know, I know it sounds ridiculous, but it comes back to that isolation thing. It was, it was because she, she turned up every day that she should have done at college and gave a shit. Then I saw in her the fact that actually she could do with a break, like I was given a break and yeah, instantly her whole outlook change. She's actually gonna be doing a session for me next week, um, which she'll effectively be running solo. I'm exec producing it. Um, but it's really just so that her confidence keeps growing because. Um, I think, I think it's what's really missing at the moment is, is the kind of long-term mentoring that needs to go on with people that we used to get in studios. The aforementioned guy, Harel at Metropolis, he's, he's getting mentored by everybody that comes through. I had some brilliant people that taught me and, and, you know, I made mistakes. Um, withed in front of the best, but it doesn't matter because you, you learn by it. So I think if you, um, I think if you are looking to get, get into this, um, you, you, you, nobody's expecting you to be brilliant to anything except being someone that they like to have around. I could teach anybody how to use within reason, how to use a console and how to use pro tools the way I want to use it, whatever, or logic or any of them. Um, I could teach 'em that in an afternoon. What I can't teach 'em is what is to know how to behave. And it's, uh, really tough.

Marc Matthews:

Yeah. Um, it's, it's interesting that, because my, my, my question off the back of that there, cuz you mentioned sort of the, the academic side of things. Mm-hmm. and I've gone down the academic route. So I went and did a degree and then a master's degree, music, engineering and production. And then, um, off the back of it, I kind of finished and I was like, right, cut my hands together rather than right now. Now, now what? Yeah. Now what am I gonna do? And, um, over the, luckily, I mean I did it slightly later in my twenties, so yeah, I was a bit more, I think, I'm not saying that if you are younger, you're less focused. But at that point I was kinda like, this is, this is it now this is

Mike Exeter:

what, when I was 24, when I graduated, So I,

Marc Matthews:

I think I, I, I think I was in 29 or 30 I think when I, when I finished my masters. Wow. Um,

Mike Exeter:

oh, you really are one of those, um, those dilly ding students then?, yeah.

Marc Matthews:

Yeah, yeah. I got clapped around in a band for a

Mike Exeter:

bit, but that's good. I think that's really good. But I'm sorry, I'm interrupting your point. Um,

Marc Matthews:

No, no, no, no. I, I can't remember what I was saying. Oh, yeah, that was it. Yeah. Yeah. So what I was gonna say is, is, um, I've gone down the academic route and, uh, finished it and then at the end I was kinda like, right, okay, so now what am I gonna do? Yeah. And do you find, you see students do that and they don't really have, I think this is where mentoring comes in Totally. And they're like, they're, they're released into the world. Yeah. And I did have a portfolio of work. and, and some, and experience as well. But without, without that mentorship, it's kind of like, well, where do I start? Where do I begin? And the internet. Yeah, I mean you put resources online and on YouTube and whatnot, and sometimes I think there's too much and you can just get lost in a rabbit hole of rubbish. Um, but I mean, is there a case to say that, because there, you mentioned that there's that lack of, that mentorship that I think people are coming out of academic qualification or academia and then just getting, uh, another job entirely because they just haven't got that mentoring.

Mike Exeter:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I've, um, I, I have these conversations, um, um, cuz I'll, I'll get brought in to do. mentoring stuff. I've got, I've got like, I think I have four or five students I've gotta do between now and May at the Birmingham conservator. Um, and I get sent this spreadsheet with their names and theirs and all this stuff and I make contact and um, and I don't really take much notice cuz I don't really have too much of an understanding what all the ma and bema and all that stuff means. Certainly not to me. Um, so I look at this and I just go, okay, great. It's a student. And very often I'll be like halfway through the first couple of hours session going, how long have you been doing this? What year are you in? Is this like second year degrees is this third? And they come up with undergraduate postgraduate and all this crap. And then I'm really lost and I just start thinking of university challenge. But I, I don't re I find that I'm really surprised that some of them will be going into the second half of their third year. I, they're graduating. Coming up next, you know, this coming May or June, and they haven't got a clue about some things that I would think, oh my God, this is so intrinsic to, this is a grounding that you should have had. Um, and, and it's not a shameless plug cuz it's not far enough down the route yet, but I am putting together with a friend of mine, Rob, we're putting together this thing called, uh, production Mentor. Um, we've trialed it on a couple of, um, at a couple of universities, but also, um, I want it to be an almost, um, alternative. Uh, to the kind of snotty approach of mix with the masters, which is you have to sort of almost audition together. This is literally about, mm, I'm going, there is no course, this is about work, shopping and learning and being mentored along, whether it's, um, as a, as an intensive few days together, we go through and we do something or I support you through some stuff. Um, much like Dom's got with his mixed consultancy, but this is more more about what, what is missing? Cuz I, I've done like, uh, summer workshops for, I, uh, did one for Winchester University and it was like, it was going in on a Monday and coming out with a record on the Friday using the same stuff that they had and working with good people and showing that the process of what I do to get the best out of an artist has nothing to do with gear. It's about, hmm. Going through the, um, every, everything that I know is going to make 1% difference, usually to the positive . So, um, I think, I think it's, it's, the main issue I have with the education, the academic academia side at the moment, is that it seems to be, pick and choose a whole bunch of courses to make up your course credits. And I, I shudder when I see a third year degree student doing an, um, a 5.1 or now an a an atmos module. I'm like, you know, you are telling me like two weeks ago you have, you've never hit the EQ on an analog console. What's going on here? So it's all a bit piecemeal and I think that's, but again, this is very, very much about the passion I have for recording and production. This isn't about, if that person is a, is a songwriter and he just happens to choose that module, that's fine because he's got an interest in it. But again, I think when I, when I was, uh, when I was growing up, um, when I was getting involved in this, my course was a recording engineering course. It was all about how to become an engineer as a grounding and not, um, you are gonna be a producer. And I don't think the things are mutually exclusive. I just think you have to grow into one from the other. You know, some of, some people come at it as a producer and they learn how to engineer their own stuff. Other people come at it as an engineer and learn how to produce. And I think it's, it's all thrown together and it's become a bit blurred lines. So,

Marc Matthews:

yeah, I think you, you kind of got, gotta find your own pathway, I guess with, with experience and trying out these different things. You'll, you'll gradually gravitate to the one that sort of Yeah. Fit, fit fits you best. Yeah, I know what you mean. When it, when it comes to the academic side of things, it's, um, I remember when I was doing it and I think that, um, I mean this might be quite a derogatory term to describe it, at the time was a bit of a conveyor belt in terms of they were just getting students in and then obviously university fees though. And, and to be fair, maybe I do it, I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna say where it was listening. You're being really careful. Come back at me . Yeah. Yeah. But I mean, the tutors were, were amazing. Fantastic. And, and the resources there were brilliant. I mean, they had., two floors. Each floor had an ssl. Mm-hmm., um, yeah, they actually, no, I'm not gonna name this desk cuz that way that , the people will know where I'm talking. Um, but they, they, they had these SSL consoles and they had gear out and everything else. and it was brilliant. I, I managed to take a whole year off on my masters' without having to do any supplementary work and just fully entrenched in the studio. But at the same time, it was, you, you, you mentioned there about all these different bits and pieces and courses and Mm, what they call modules that they chuck and I'm like, Hmm, I'm not totally sure how this is gonna be a be benefit me.

Mike Exeter:

Yeah. And I, I know, I mean, I don't wanna get too down on it and there's, there's plenty of nice things to discuss, but yeah, I do think, um, I, I miss, I I, I miss that that root in for people who really want become peop you know, in the studio, people, you know, there was always a way and now it's, it's, it's more difficult. I mean, if you want it really bit me on the backside during the, um, uh, during the pandemic, because I'd always said to people, look, if you really, really wanna learn how to mix, go out and mix a band live in a. Just get out there and push some fades around. And of course then in the pandemic, there were no live gigs. But by the same token, it still holds true. Um, the only way to learn to mix is to shut your eyes and stick your hands on the fades or do it in reverse and actually find the fades first. But learn how to balance, move the things around pan stuff. React to something that's hitting you from stage. You know, guitar is about to walk to the front of the stage into a solo. There's a fair chance you might. You know, turn him up, pull something back that's in his way. Have fun mixing. Get your hands dirty. Don't look at a screen and think, oh, do I need to apply a bit of saturation to this? It's irrelevant. You know, go do some theater mixing. That's the fun one. Do some amateur theater, all like you, theater. And I tell you what will teach you better than anything is, is um, the lead performer's, Nan sitting in the front row, turns around giving you daggers cuz they can't hear their granddaughter singing. It's, it's a real, yeah. You know, Christ , it's like getting, um, getting one of those Paddington stares from your chief engineer when you screw up

Marc Matthews:

Now, I think that's fantastic advice. And my reflection on that is, is, is it's not, I don't, I don't see that sort of advice my online all, all I seem to see online these days, I say these days. Yeah. Um, at the moment is, is. You've got social media and then it's in social media and it's producing content to show X, Y, z technique and then building the following. Yeah. And admittedly I say this cuz I, I do it. Um, but I think you're right. I think just getting your hands dirty and getting out there and doing it. I remember there was a, when I was in the band, I was in the heavy metal band and we had a, um, uh, he was our, he was our unofficial sound guy. He basically just came drunk and did some sound for us a lot of the time. uh, great lad. Uh, but he, he did that and he was, he did exactly what you say there. So he, I met him on a course and he, he was pushing photos and he did the sound for us. And occasionally he, he'd get paid. Um, but I think he was just there for the beers. But he went on and he used that experience and he built on it. And then he moved to London and he did, he did X, Y, Z there. Now he's in California, I think, and he's doing something slightly different now, but he's in the audio industry. Yeah. But from that initial coming with us to Bourmouth, yeah. Playing to 10 people, get having a few beers and moving some faders. He used that experience to then, to then kick on and. And, and do more. He went on tour with the Strangles actually as well. Oh, brilliant. I missed that one.

Mike Exeter:

Yeah. Yeah, I mean, what's quite interesting is, you know, I, I, I, I watched, um, cuz I was lucky enough, I mean, when I was doing the old, um, clang earlier, I was lucky enough to meet Claire Mountain earlier. I was adding, um, California and a friend of mine in a range of meet up and we, we went across to the, to mix this and he played with some staff and we had a really lovely conversation. Um, and he's got his, um, imposter syndrome incredibly. Um, but he just loves music, he loves mixing. And we went to the, um, Apogee, um, uh, pre nam party, uh, the day before the show started and walked in and there he is at the, um, console setting the band up ready to, you know, the band up, applying the party. Bob was mixing because he just loves mixing, you know, and, and what what was incredible was the frustration was as he goes, ah, okay, great, yeah, I'll just get this together. And then suddenly goes, ah, Typical, isn't it? Just about to try and get the bass sound and he stops playing and I thought it's just everybody has the same problems. You know, you go to solo, the kick drum and the drummer plays the tar or something, you know, it was all, it was this stuff of how, how enthusiastic he still was. He was, he's exactly the same as all of us. We just have this love for music and, and sound and, and we want to be part of it. And, um, there's nothing better than the hairs going up on the back of your arm when you hear something that really emotionally challenges you. It's like, wow, that's incredible. You know, it's just awesome.

Marc Matthews:

Yeah. The beauty of music. Mm. Yeah, exactly. And that's what music's there for. It's is motive, isn't it? I was, I was doing an interview just now and it was, um, with, with a mastering engineer and he, he said the exact same thing with regards to emotional music. And we were chatting, this is going down the, the artificial intelligence route now where he, this was off air actually, so it's not gonna feature in the episode, but he was saying how by how, where if you have artificial intelligence, writing music for you, you lose that emotion. There's no connection. And you, and you, you can quite quickly pick that up and that's what music is. It's there. Yeah. You, you've got that connection and that emotion attributes you to it. So you've gotta be careful. Yeah. Um, but well that, that's like a whole nother episode in itself with, with technology and artificial intelligence. Um, Mike, with the interest of time, cause I realize we're almost at 45 minutes. What I'm gonna do now is we're gonna just move on to the, uh, the, the Facebook community questions. Uh, oh. So there's, uh, there's three three in total. So, um, I've got, uh, one question from Daniel Hugh, and he asks, um, well, he's actually got two questions. He says, uh, I know he, he said this, this is quoting Daniel. He said, I know he's really into getting bands to record together in the route to generate the energy of a live performance. So he'd love to, I, Daniel would love to get your take on how to sh how strict he likes to be with that and how he thinks about over dubbing to improve the song without detracting from the performance energy he's captured. So basically, I think the question is overdubbing, what, what are your thoughts?

Mike Exeter:

Well, I mean, over dubbings part of the process, it's all cool. Um, I, yeah. My ideal thing is to get, is to get the band to play together because then we know what's happening, don't we? Um, whereas, um, if you've just got like a click track going and you've got some guide guitars going down, then, then you've probably got a drummer playing along to. Um, a room, you know, where everybody's watching him rather than participating in, you know, he's, he's becoming a session player. Um, and I think my, the energy with getting a band together in a room far outweighs any technical problems. Um, I've been doing this long enough that I don't really, I know I'm not gonna have a problem recording a band together, so let's give it a go. Um, when it comes down to any technicality, I dunno if his, if his question is around the, how do I go about over dubbing when a band's playing together, um, then spill is never a problem and it never has been. Mm-hmm., uh, it's even less. So now we have these, um, reactive loads and various devices for capturing guitars with, you know, basically in a silent room. If we're, even if we're in a rehearsal room, um, where we haven't got booze off to one side or another, it doesn't matter. We can use Kemp's fractals, uh, two note stuff, whatever. I can still capture drums that are usable and production, you know, record level quality, and I can capture everybody else. If he's talking about am I anti overdubs? Absolutely not. Um, we're, we are here to make a record. We're, we're gonna show the band at the best they can possibly be. Um, make the greatest version of who they are. Um, Come out of two very small speakers or EarPods or AirPods or whatever. So, um, I just approach it that if we can get everybody playing together, we know where we're going from the moment they'll start. Um, there's potentially keeper tracks as well. It doesn't matter if none of the tracks are keepers except for the drums, but at least everybody was there because something that the guitarist may have done in that third chorus may have revved up the guitarist to do, uh, sorry, may have revved up the drummer to, to do something different. There may have been a, a little eye, you know, glance of an eye. The bass player may have reached for some kind of fill. The drummer wants to follow. All of this contributes to it, not sounding like it's just being phoned in. Then we overdo what's necessary and um, and it's, um, you can be very efficient with your time when you've got the whole band together. Yeah, it might take you all day to get set up, but then once you are., there's no dicking around between takes. It's like, okay, do you, um, do you wanna try that double on that guitar? Do you wanna do those little, um, overstrung guitar pieces in the bridges? Yep. Great. We're set up. Nothing's too much trouble. So I'm not, um, I'm not, um, I'm not averse to using click tracks and doing it the other way. I just find it becomes very, very disjointed. And I don't actually think it, it particularly sounds as good because, um, I think people are focusing far too much on this thing that is driving the session as a, as a, as a click or a, a grid because people come as the moment click tracks are involved, people become obsessed with the grid. I'd like to see some people that who are obsessed do some sessions where they can use clicks, but they can't see the., let's get 'em on. Um, yes, on a radar or something. And um, I'm not suggesting tape cuz that would be hideous, but I would like to, I'd like to see how reliant some of these people are on that and it's very genre dependent, but there is really nothing better than hearing, um, hearing the ebb and flow and the energy change and the way that, you know, a one or two bpm change over a section can really make you feel like actually the energy's really building here to, to something. Yeah. You can't program that. It just, it's not the same. So, um, another long answer. and only two hours. No, no.

Marc Matthews:

Perfect.. , no. Sorry I've got loads of times. Um, no, that's great. Yeah, I thought that would be the sort of answer with regards to overdubbing. Um, I think of what Daniel. You sort of mentioned there about capturing the performance where you mentioned about how you go from, you might boost it up by 3D B or I don't think Q guitarist hits a particular note in, in a, in a lead section or something like that, that just kicks everybody on. Yeah. My, this is going down the, the, the sort of like the technical metal route. Now you mentioned about the click track and being, um, to the grid. Are there any types of music where, cuz with, with, with some metal where it can get quite technical? I guess that, I dunno, is there, is there an argument to say that sometimes the grid is there to, for that particular, I'm thinking of like, what bands can I think of at the top of my head. Uh, like there's bands like Miss Sugar who are quite technical and they're very like 16th. That sort of music. Um, could that be done in a live envi? I guess it depends on the musicianship as well, I suppose, doesn't it?

Mike Exeter:

Well, I mean, yeah. Um, I'm, some of these players are so bloody good. The, yeah, they've been, they've been pushed on by. The technology allowing them to, so if you think about it's, it goes back almost to, to that thing where, um, people started singing, like they got threats on their vocal chords. As soon as auto tune came out, people thought that's what it should sound like. So you've got a generation, or more, probably two generations now of singers who can do an auto tune cuz that's what they think they should sound like when they sing. They're that. Cuz it's only like some of these, um, African, um, uh, singers, you know, tribal singers who, who have that control where it's like, that's not auto tune, that's what they do. They hit notes. Like there's no slide. It's like a, it's, it's a frat. Um, so people can learn how to copy what's there. And there are drummers who are just so precise and incredibly tight that, um, I don't think it would make a difference if they used a click or not. Um, yeah. But in that genre, I mean, I watched the, um, the URM stuff quite a lot. Al's a great guy, um, you know, nail the mix. He's brilliant. Mm-hmm.. Um, I do find sometimes that, that it turns into a data entry exercise. You know, it's like just spending so much effort to get those kicks and snares right on the grid. I mean, it's the kind of music. It's just not me. Um, yeah. You know, and you go and watch a band do it. Well, I mean, priest are a great example. Scott Travis is an incredible drummer. And, um, whether or not he's completely on the money all the time, I don't think I've ever come away from one of their gigs where someone said, oh, pH, he was a bit shit during that verse, wasn't he? It's. He's one of the best double kick drummers, you know, out there. And there's, there's another one, actually a guy who used to play with cradle of fil back in the old old days. Nick Barker. Nick's fucking awesome. He's like, probably, he's probably above Scott in terms of like the, the really good heavy, heavy quick glass beat drumming. Um, yeah. So there are people out there that can do it and I just, sometimes I question it. Um, God, you're getting me ranting that. It's like dream theater . So, so that's, that's quite a good example actually. I think my, uh, you know, I'm not, I'm a, I'm a Fanish, um, and Mike Mangen is a great drummer, but he hasn't got feel in the way that Mike Portnoy has, uh, port and I lived those songs, so, um, and I, I doubt they were playing into clique's live cuz I just don't think they did. But, um, port and I was that kind of incredible. Drumming with Phil. Um, man Genie is just incredible drumming. Um, but that can even get to the point where it leaves me cold cuz just because John Petrucci and Jordan Rus can play the same solo together in unison maybe doesn't mean they should because that's just clever. Yeah. You know, it's like you might as well have just had a guitar synth tracking it just, it's not my sort of thing, you know? And I love Prague.

Marc Matthews:

Yeah. it's interest. You mentioned Prague cuz the, the band I was in, the drummer, he basically lived Mike Port Portnoy and he's brilliant to what. At one point he, he started his hair like him as well. And, uh, oh no. Every gig we played, um, every, every time he did a sound check, it was always a dream theater, Phil. And we like where it comes . Yeah. Um, I know what you mean though. Sometimes you gotta think, yeah, you can do it, but do you need to

Mike Exeter:

do it sort of thing? Well, it's, it's cool because, I mean, winery dogs, they've just, uh, there's a new album out, um, and that's Portnoy Shean and, um, oh, Richie Coxon, who is, um, I'm mean they're fucking brilliant. And that's like, that goes to show what a great drum of Portnoy is cuz he really knows how to play and with Groove. And he was in a Prague bank called Transatlantic as well with, um, Petro AVAs from, um, Meridian and, uh, oh God, the, uh, singer from SP Beard and um, you know, just brilliant. Um, and you're just like, wow, that's a really great drummer that can, that can go from one thing to another and, and. you know, again, getting back to it. Yes. He, he, I'm sure it's all played to a click in the studio because why wouldn't he? But by the same token, um, you know, I listened to Early Rush and it's like, I don't ever go, oh God, I wish they used a click track.. I think Neil did fairly well without it in the early days.

Marc Matthews:

Mm-hmm.. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. I would agree. Yeah. Yeah. It's interesting, isn't it? I think that technology sometimes as, as amazing as technology is, sometimes it can, we can rely on it maybe a bit too much and then it

Mike Exeter:

stripped out there. Yeah. I think, I think because it became an obsession, um, because back in the eighties we didn't really use click tracks until the computer started to come into the studio. You know, you might get a metronome as it was called, but it would probably have been a metronome. It would've been one of those things that sat on top of the piano, or it was like a little oscillator gang or whatever. But, People didn't obsess about about syncing click tracks until sequences started to be become commonplace in the studio, and that's mid, late eighties I think. that's where it all went

Marc Matthews:

wrong. Yeah.. . Yeah. It's the, it's a lot of the Yeah. The eighties. The, the eighties is, um, yeah, I was gonna say a lot to answer for, but I mean, a lot of the, the listeners podcast. Yeah. Um, because it, it, the podcast initially started out as like a, a synth music specific po but it's gradually, as I mentioned earlier, over time, it's sort of like you find a, a, a mark, not market, but you find, um, you pivot. Yeah. Depending. Yeah, the direction and the feel of, of how it goes. And it started out like that in the eighties. A lot of the audience, um, would, would probably attest to that. Um, but

Mike Exeter:

my years, you know, and, and, um, you know, I loved, uh, and mean Go West. I'm really good friends with the guy that produced all the Go West stuff. And it's just, it was brilliant. And the difference there was they had a great guitarist as well, Alan Murphy. He, he made them stand out from everything in the eighties. But you listened to it. It wasn't all, um, poodle perms and um, uh, and Simmons drums. It was, there was some really good stuff out there. There was a lot of shocking stuff. But, but by the same token people, so, oh, I don't want that fucking 80 snare drums sound. That's shit. And it's like, what? So do you want the generic 2010 to 2020 kick drum from every metal album then? Okay, we can do that . Yeah. You know, it's popularly the kettle black,

Marc Matthews:

but. Yeah. It's almost like paint by numbers, isn't it? I suppose that's the way you can look at it really, when you've got it. When you mentioned there about the grid and everything Yeah. And you're like, right, I've got this kick sample, I've got that s an sample. Yeah. Dot, um, pull it.

Mike Exeter:

It is, it, it's low-grade data entry at times. And, um, you know, yeah. Yeah. I'm gonna get hated for this. Yeah. That's

Marc Matthews:

fantastic.. No, no, it's great. I love this. It's, uh, it's brilliant. It's brilliant. Um, I guess this, this moves on quite nicely actually from this. This is, uh, this is a, a listener called Chao Daniel, and his question is, um, some of the principles of, uh, so yeah. So, um, explain some of the principles of getting a heavy dense mix that still has clarity. Mm-hmm.. So I guess that's feeding into, I, I suppose, I suppose it's not just metal, you do get other pressing Yeah. Genres with, with d it. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. And I think specifically as well with, with regards to recording live and still having that clarity, what are the, what are your sort of top tips for

Mike Exeter:

clarity? Um, , well, e everything's got to have, have a place, uh, for it to speak. Um, which is a word I first heard used when someone said that Tom isn't speaking. I'm like, what do you mean it's not speaking ? And it means it's not projecting. So, so every, everything has its own place. Um, a symbol will speak in a different way to another one. So, so very often at the tracking stage, I'll be listening and I'll be going, ah, have you've got any alternatives on that left hand crash? Cuz that's just too close to that, you know, it's not doing what it needs to in, in the whole arrangement of the drums. So I spend a lot of time, I never, I never tune the drums to the key of the song. I've never got into that, but it's about finding the place with all the instruments. It also, from a production point of view, comes from finding the right, the right sounds to suit the parts. So I'm very often there. Unplugging plugging in pedals and changing amps and um, moving mic positions on amps. Just to, and thank God for virtual amps. Now, where two notes. Two notes. Hardware is brilliant, I have to say. Um, I use the various torpedo stuff. Uh, so we can still use tube amps, but we're not having to mess around too much with microphones. It's all virtual, you know, which is great. The cab sims are brilliant and the dynamic impulse responses are awesome. So I will spend an awful lot of time making the sounds fit the. Um, the, the part, if it's a chuggy riff with loads of muting, you need a certain feel for the guitarist to play to, and that has to happen in the track. So very often it'll be, we'll go in for the, um, for that part of the verse and we'll have a slightly different sound for it because, um, when you go for the sustained stuff, it all gets a bit muddy, so you go, okay. What we'll do is we'll just pull back a little bit of the ribbon mic at that point and we'll punch in on the choruses or whatever it, it is just about finding those parts when it comes to mixing. For most genres that involve any kind of sort of standard guitar based drums, um, rhythm section, I will always start by getting the kick and the snare sounding as good as possible. Um, I haven't come up with this. I listened to and watched Andy Wallace stuff , so kick drum. Big, punchy, roomy. Gotta have room on a kick drum, um, snare drum, same whatever it takes to get that thing sounding explosive and fun. Um, and these are all done with, um, with various faders being at my disposal, um, so that I can pull back the energy. So if I need to pull back, um, a compressed, I, I always mark out the snare with two top mics. I have a 57 and. Currently for the last year or two, it's been a KSM or a Beta 180 1. It's like a side facing in condenser, in instrument mic. That's that by shore. So I'll have a, I'll have a dynamic and a condenser on the top of the snare and they both do different things. And I can balance those, um, to get a really usable sound. And then I can take that off to where I need it to, um, split the track, do whatever, because I print those down to one track and I can, you know, I'll, I'll take a second version of whatever sound I want and send that out to a s Spatty Reva. So I'll get all these things going so that I've got control over, over energy with a view two emotional shift. Um, once I've got the kick in the snare as my foundation, I'll then bring the guitars in and the guitars have to work around what's going on. Um, because the kick in the snare are gonna be the driving force of the rhythm, the guitars are gonna be the harmonic. content. Um, and with Most Rock, you're gonna pan 'em out left and right as a starting point. Um, and.. Once I've established that these three things are working together, kick snare guitars, then I'll start bringing the rest of the elements. And it's like, um, if the bass doesn't feel like it's, um, fitting into the picture, then I will, I will tweak the bass. I'll, I'll ride it. Um, um, eq it, I don't tend to necessarily EQ it out the way the kick drumm or vice versa. They, they will find their place. Um, a lot of the time it's just hard work. It's like it, you can, you can compress the base, you can parallel com. I don't do much parallel compression at all. Um, I'll ride the faders. Um, so I, what I tend to do is I will just keep listening. I'll listen at, um, in stereo at sensible volumes, and then I'll have it over on Ourone in the corner and a little radio going between mono and stereo. Um, Just to see if there's anything that's missing. What, what's getting in the way of what something else. Um, and if, for example, there's a bit going higher up on the base, um, then you might need to push it because it's, it's not got so much energy as the low set load strings on the base. You could use a multi-bank compressor, whatever works, you know, um, but never go for a preset. Go go for something that's, that's solving the problem that you are hearing. And I think that's the critical thing is, is critical listening. So if I feel that what's happened to the energy on the, this part of the song, you know, it's going along. I wanna by, by the, by this time I've brought in the vocals and the, um, symbols and all the ancillary stuff and I'm making those sit, but I very rarely, I re very rarely go back to actually change where that kick drum level is unless there's a drop in the song. So everything's based around that kicking guitars. And then, what am I hearing that's not right? Well, we've got into this section and suddenly all the, all the heft of the track has gone. What can I do to help that? Um, does the kick need more? Maybe it's gone into a half section and the base is playing something up higher. Does the kick need a little bit more of the reverb? Do I need to queue it slightly differently for that section? Um, do the guitars have something I can bring out that will fill that point in where we live in a time where we've got complete control over automation of every single parameter of a mixing console if we are mixing in the box. Um, so I would, I would say if anything is striking me as not being what I want to hear, I'm gonna fix it. And automation takes forever. Um, it's fun. It's the best part. If I can get automating, um, earlier, well, I mean, what I'll tend to do is I'll, I'll. a rough balance. And then the moment I hear something that I'm going, oh, that sounds right there. Oh, it doesn't sound right there. I'm gonna automate it. Automation's gonna solve all my problems. Um, and I'm lucky because I, I've sort of followed the, um, I, I learned on, um, Nevs and Aang Angela with up to file and super true on their other desks, and I learned ssl. So I've always had good automation systems around me and, um, I. Last few years I've been over on the Yukon side of things where I'm using, um, all the advanced stuff in Pro Tools and to me, I, I'll get onto to mixing, um, mixing a song and I'll look over and I haven't, I haven't looked at the Protel screen for probably about an hour because everything's happening on the control surface. Cuz I don't need to go into Protel to do anything. I can basically get access to any parameter and react to what's coming through the speakers. And I think that's the only way that you can actually keep diving into the mix and making sure that, um, that there's always clarity. You start, for me, you start with balance, balance panning and um, then you go for frequency. But that's not always the case. You might go, oh God, that's so boomy. We need to sort that out. Um, I've recently done something for, um, for a guy who he's, he's set us a challenge and we, we had to do a rough mix or that sort of an end of day board mix. All we were allowed to do was balance and panning and send to one of two. Yeah. Delay, reverb things. Everything else was just, um, you, you're not allowed to eq anything and it was really interesting what you could do. So, um, quick, quick aside to the, the way I look at it, I do have this thing, um, uh, uh, where I visualize or when I'm, when I'm trying to get people to understand it, I, I ask them to visualize, um, in between your speakers is a fish tank, one of those big square fish tanks that doctors used to have. And you've got, um, you've actually got five dimensions in mixing. So you've got your left right, which is Japan. Up, down is your frequency, size of the object that you're positioning. Is the volume of it. Your front back is depth, which you can create by using reverbs and delays. And then you've got the fifth dimension, which is time, which is if two things don't exist at the same time, they can't get in each other's way. So you've got five dimensions to play with in a mix, which is way, way more than you immediately think, oh, I've gotta fit all this stuff in here. Just by putting a little bit of pred delay on a vocal reverb, you can completely change where that vocal sits. It doesn't become totally upfront, it just sits back, but it's still clear. Bring the vocal reve, bring this pred delay closer, and suddenly the, the vocal just sits back into it. So there's all these things you can do. Um, and um, another thing I would say about density and clarity is, um, is don't immediately reach for high pass filters. especially, don't you reach for them at 36 DB and Octa? The problem with high pass filters is that they, um, indiscriminately cut off all the low end and they, you are literally just taking everything out. That some of it contributes to the density of that Batman of the mix. And um, and I know that people say, oh yeah, you need to, you know, there's nothing going on in a guitar cab un, you know, lower than a hundred hertz. Well, who's to say there isn't? Who's to say that when you take that away, it does it, it actually makes the mix sound thin. It, it, you've got, you can't indiscriminately do this stuff. You've got to listen. Um, and my feeling is we've also got metering that's pretty good at showing us what's going on. If something's 20 DB down, don't worry about it. You know, it's there for a reason. It's doing something. And, um, people will use the excuse of, well, we're listening on AirPods and laptops now. Yeah, great. But they roll off at their particular frequency. It doesn't affect us. You take that to a mastering studio and there's nothing under 50 hertz. It sounds pretty unimpressive. So let the speaker systems do the rolling off and, um, you know, if, if it's distorting, you've got too much of it. But if, yeah, if it's playing it back okay, off your laptop or your AirPods, you're probably all right.

Marc Matthews:

Yeah, that, that, that's, that's fantastic advice, mate. Uh, I think that's brilliant and I think. going back to what you said right at the beginning there about getting a corrected source where you're on, when you were talking about the microphones and moving the mics around. And um, it goes back to a conversation I had the earlier, which is that , that phrase of fix it in the mix, which you never want to hear. No. Uh, you know, and getting it right at source. And then when you're in that mixing phase of using automation, as you say, and what you, what you said there sort of echoes what Dom said with regards to balancing, getting it balanced, getting that mixed balanced first, and then going on and, and doing X, y, z off the back of that. And I love the fish tank analogy as well. Mm-hmm. It must be, I wonder if there's like a, an info, not an infographic, but a visual of that somewhere.

Mike Exeter:

I'll tell you there isn't, there should be one there. There's um, there's a guy, um, I'm trying to think of his name, David Gibson, the art of visual mix.. Right. Best mullet. Best mullet ever., it's on YouTube and it's this American guy with the mullet and the um, and the mustache. Um, I think he's got the mustache, but he basically d it looks like that he's got these colored objects and he describes it all perfectly. Um, and it, it's, it's, it's really interesting when you see it presented, like cuz he is got all sorts of color graphics actually popping out and like a brass section happens and you see it like, wow, that's, that's turned into this weird hourglass thing cuz they've scooped out the middle, but that leaves stump, you know, room either side. It's really, really useful. It's a very, very cool way of, of breaking it down into something that we can visualize. Because I think we have to, we, we, we are very visual oriented. Um, so, and what we see can have a huge bearing on what we hear in vice versa. So, um, you know, it's very important to, to find anything that works for you and, but you know, by no means does everything that I talk about work for other people every time. It just doesn't, we find a way of doing something, um, and it works for us, but I would always say, get your hand on faders rather than just doing it all with a mouse. Cuz um, you can't do two things with a mouse. And that's the arter balance is to see what happens when you move two things against each other and, you know, even, even turning up an EQ whilst you're pulling the fader down to compensate for the gain. And you just can't do that with a mouse.

Marc Matthews:

Yeah. Yeah. And I think it, it goes back to the idea, I think of using your ears. Yeah. And, and not, not doing it like data entry, like you said earlier. Yeah. It's not just with the click track and that, but you can also., you can see it's, there's maybe somebody puts online, like you mentioned there, about rolling off, um, I dunno, like you've got a, you've got, um, a synth, for example. You've got a synth pad and you Yeah. And it says, right, you, you need to roll it off below 150, a hundred hertz. You're like, well, there's probably some energy down there from that synth pad that's gonna add, add to that mix. So yeah, I think it's definitely use your ears. Yeah. Is um, I know that's probably something that's said a lot. Yeah. But I think is often taken for granted and not really paid much attention to by some, I think. Yeah, definitely. Definitely. And use, use your ears in that respect. Mm-hmm.. So the final question, the final question of today, okay. Is, uh, is from tid. Tim Tid. Tim Woodruff, right. Um, , yeah. Tid. Tid. What was the most important musical lesson you learned over your career? The most important musical lesson. Well,

Mike Exeter:

you gotta, you gotta, um, suffix that with the homeless thing of so far. Um, . Yeah. Yeah. This, this is my, this is my worst day ever dad so far. But, um, God, there's always one, isn't there? Um, I don't, God, um, there's so many. Um, I, I, I would imagine, um, as an overriding thing, probably, maybe just be prepared for what you are you are actually doing, whether you are a musician or producer or an engineer or whatever. Turn up, um, prepared to do the right job. Um, you know, you can, you can plug it so far, but, um, that goes down this massive rabbit hole of like, if you are a guitarist, either get your guitar set up all the time, or learn how to do it yourself. Um, mm-hmm. don't turn up and, and make excuses, you know, just be professional. Um, it's almost a life lesson, isn't it? It's like, you know, wash bath, clean your teeth dressed properly. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just turn up prepared to be professional. It doesn't mean we are not having fun. I mean, if you asked anybody about my sessions, um, I'd probably be canceled because they are ridiculous. Um, we have a laugh, but we all turn up to do the job. You know, if you're a vocalist, do your warmups, you know, just turn up and be prepared.

Marc Matthews:

Fantastic. Yeah, be prepared. I think it echoes a conversation I had with another audio engineer. This was way back last year, and she said the same thing, preparation, just coming prepared because I. This, this is, um, I think across the board now, actually, to be honest, I was gonna say sort of independent artists or newer artists, but I think just across the board, if you're in a studio, I think time is money, essentially. If, if you're going into a studio environment and you're not prepared, um, that, that, that's time not, boy, it's time. And, and it is money wasted. And I admittedly in, in the band I was in, we did do that. Um, I was, I

Mike Exeter:

was just gonna say, I was gonna say, when you're in a band, you get, um, you get that thing where you shouldn't be coming together. to practice, you should be coming together to rehearse the songs. It's like nobody should be, should be learning those songs or learning how to play the riffs during the practice sessions. Yeah. That's what you do at home. Yeah, that's what, that's when you prep. And it's like, I, I know most of this stuff behind me, which is my, you know, pro tools, S one s and Doc and all that stuff. And ev all, every microphone, every piece of gear I use, I pretty much know what I'm gonna get with those because I've spent 33 years getting to this point. And so I, I show up with all that stuff taken care of. What I then bring to the process is support psychology, um, a bit of., uh, psychiatry, all of that stuff. I'm there to make the session flow so the artist feels that they can do their best job and, um, I I, they, you know, it'd be awful if I was sat there reading a manual , but it has happened. Normally on the guitar is pedal board, but you know, it's like, which is the other thing, it's like, oh, my pit board won't do this. I'm sure it will if we look at the manual, you know, I told you. Find out. So, um, yeah. Is this just, it's be prepared, isn't it? I think Badden Palm said that once, Marc Matthews: yeah. And may maybe they need to. I know when I was in the band and we used to call it practice, whenever we would run rehearse, they need to just change the name should be called rehearsal, not practice. Well, exactly. Unless it is band practice, in which case you're in the wrong band.. . God. Can you imagine what a dream theater rehearsal must be like Christ. A bit. They're not laughing. Are they? Marc Matthews: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah,, Mike Exeter: I'll tell you a He was, uh, um, the, uh, one of, one of the guys who used to tech for one of the bands I did, I had to do a short stint with John Petrucci and he said he used to make him set up his guitar cabs, feeler gauge level. He had to walk on stage and make sure all the cabs were like absolutely spot on. You know, the, they were shimmed to make them level. It was like, oh God. That's a certain level, isn't it?? Yeah.

Marc Matthews:

Yeah, yeah. There's, um, intricacy and there's, yeah,

Mike Exeter:

I mean, he's a bloody good player, so he, he couldn't, he can be allowed that one, but, um, it's like, God. Wow.

Marc Matthews:

Yeah. I could imagine selling up into some of the venues I've played and saying, oh, I want my, come on my cap to be like totally level. They would just look at me like, what, who is this guy's a certain level. You get to where you can do that, I think. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Certainly Mike. It's, it's been brilliant. And where can our audience find you online if they wanna learn a bit more about you or interested

Mike Exeter:

in working with you? My, um, my website, um, is, um, probably the primary place. Um, it don't, things don't get updated that often. I try to steer clear of social media at the moment, um, just because of bombardment. But, um, I'm on Facebook, Instagram, uh, Instagram feeds into my website. The website's just mike.com. Um, that's probably the only, the only thing that changes is the Instagram feed on that. Um, cuz I'm rubbish at socials. But, um, yeah, I do, I do stuff on, um, on a record production.com channel. Um, I've done the odd, um, sort of interviews with other producers and, um, walkthroughs of studios and things. I do that for, um, a guy, he, he's sort of the main sales guy at ssl. Um, we have fun going around the country. Mm-hmm. Meeting people. Um, so yeah, you often see me ranting about things on that.

Marc Matthews:

Fantastic. Is that, is that where the Steven Slate one is? Yes. The Steven Slate interview on there? Yeah. Yeah. Hmm. Yeah. I'll have to go watch that though. I've got a bit of time before the next interview, so. Well,

Mike Exeter:

there's, there's actually a really good one of it. There's a good one on there that I did, um, with Carl, who's, uh, Robbie Williams drummer. We did it about, um, we did a couple of videos about, um, recording a drum kit. Um, and it's a full walkthrough of my techniques and stuff. Um, and in fact, actually amazing if you, if you do want to see something, um, God, I wouldn't know where to find it. I might be able to, I might have to find the link and send it to you. It's, it's on YouTube, but it's the studio rack. Yeah. These guys, James Ivy, who, um, Used to do a lot for production expert. I did a, um, a full walkthrough of my then mix template two years ago, um, which was quite interesting. I mean, it's moved on slightly cuz I'm now on the Yukon stuff. But, um, it was all the way my mix template works, how I rooted my philosophy. So, um, I'll find that and I'll send it to you if you, if you remind me. Yeah, please do. That'd be

Marc Matthews:

amazing. Um, cuz that'd be cool to link to. Yeah, yeah.. Fantastic stuff. Mike, a big thank you for today's pleasure. Brilliant. Um, chatting to you about your experience and, and mixing and whatnot. It's been absolutely brilliant and I know the audience listening's gonna get a lot out of it as well, so, well

Mike Exeter:

thanks and thanks for those questions as well today. They were great.

Marc Matthews:

No know, it's, it's my pleasure. And, um, thank you to the, uh, the audience, the community as well, putting for their questions forward too. And, um, I'll leave you now to enjoy the rest of your Sunday and um, cheer, I'll catch up with you soon. Great. Cheers buddy.

The story behind Mike Exeter
What is the role of a producer?
Working in a studio versus freelance, which is the right career path for you?
How do you get a job at a studio?
Why do you need a mentor?
Overdubbing versus live recording, which is better?
How does technology affect performance?
How to mix a song with clarity
What lessons can be learned from a recording studio?

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