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Mixing magic with Tom Lord-Alge
Old 13th September 2010
  #1
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ocianic's Avatar
 

Mixing magic with Tom Lord-Alge

I just got back from a trip to South Beach Studios in Miami to mix a couple of tracks with the famous Tom Lord-Alge and had to share some of my experiences.

I've always been a huge fan of TLA's mixes and have heard all the stories that seem to become larger than life about guys like TLA... like how much it costs per track (10k???), that they are pissed if a mix takes longer than 6 hours... that they train the assistant to do most of the work... or just treat thinks like a production line... that everything is behind closed doors and you can't be part of the mix process..

I am so happy to say that all of these myths we're totally inaccurate.

To begin, Tom was unbelievably hospitable, open and friendly... the vibe was so cool (as you'd expect being only 2 blocks from Ocean Ave in South Beach). On track 1, the first listen was incredible and somehow, from a big session (76 tracks) he had sorted through and pulled out every drop of emotion and every cool nuance that I knew was there - and hoped would be in the mix... My drummer and I sat speechless. He then said with a grin, "It's good but we're not finished yet" and continued to tweak things for a few more hours, almost like he was enjoying it! He (not his assistant) burned us an overnight mix and left it up so we could make changes the next day... I never expected this. We tried hard to find something we didn't like and all we could hear was one background vocal idea that we wanted to scrap (just a creative choice)..

Mixing the 2nd song was even cooler. On day 1 he worked from 3pm to about 10pm on the instruments.. The next day we came in and again, on first listen, we were speechless - before starting I had mentioned a specific snare sound we had tried to reference during tracking (from a mid 90's #1 hit that he had mixed).. In our mix the drums were incredible, but he had taken our snare (which he seemed to like a lot and said sounded great raw) and given me exactly what I had hoped for - no generic sample here! It was reminiscent of the other snare but new and even cooler... amazing.

During the 2nd day, we got to hang with him and watch as he methodically and with great care carved the track to perfection. We finished about 7pm that night. (No assistant all day - Just TLA running everything).

I've never seen anyone work at that level, it was incredibly inspiring and worth every cent!

Back in LA now.. tracks sound amazing on every set of speakers.. no 2nd guessing. He nailed it!

I had high expectations and have been disappointed many times in the past... but for TLA mixing skills, there's just one word that fit's - Magic!
Old 13th September 2010
  #2
Lives for gear
 

thanks for telling us , ocianic! it sounds like it was fun.
Old 13th September 2010
  #3
Gear Nut
 

is there a way we could hear these tracks? maybe before and after sort of thing?
Old 13th September 2010
  #4
Gear Maniac
 
ocianic's Avatar
 

TLA Tracks

Guys.. I don't feel comfortable talking exact costs as I don't want to disrespect Tom and his managers...
I will say that it cost more mixing with top tier guys on a major label 8 years ago than I was charged for these mixes and studio time!

Also, I can't play the tracks yet but may put up some before and after snippets at a future date.

cheers

Last edited by ocianic; 13th September 2010 at 06:32 PM.. Reason: added content
Old 13th September 2010
  #5
Gear Nut
 

awesome. great to hear when these myths are debunked.
Old 13th September 2010
  #6
Lives for gear
 

He did some amazing work for an album recorded at my studio. You can hear one of the songs on the season opener of Grey's Anatomy. He just mixed it on Saturday. The song is called Sheep in Wolves Clothing.
Old 13th September 2010
  #7
Thats so awesome to hear this. I'm a really big fan of TLA [a lot more so than CLA] and have always gotten bummed when I hear people propagating myths like that. Great to know that its total BS. Can't wait to hear the stuff. PM me with it when its out.
Old 13th September 2010
  #8
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This is absolutely amazing news!! Mostly because I'm in South Florida and have wondered if I'd ever be able to get a song mixed by him. This makes me optimistic. Can you speak about how he had you bring the files or was it just on a harddrive? Did he request to have certain tracking files with which to mix?
Old 13th September 2010
  #9
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ocianic's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Slikjmuzik View Post
This is absolutely amazing news!! Mostly because I'm in South Florida and have wondered if I'd ever be able to get a song mixed by him. This makes me optimistic. Can you speak about how he had you bring the files or was it just on a harddrive? Did he request to have certain tracking files with which to mix?
Yes, I was very happy when I got the quote.. I mean it's still a bit of cash especially if you plan to mix a few but well worth it IMO.

His prep instructions are thorough but really just logical at the end of the day
I was extremely thorough in prepping, left no room for error and it paid off.
I overnighted a flash drive and DVD backup that arrived 2 days before the mix date and it all worked flawlessly.

I guess the work has to be of a certain standard and he wanted to hear music before any bookings we're made.

A big part of my journey and everyone's I guess is trying to figure out what you need for a track to have a world class sound.... or, how the raw tracks need to sound for the mix to work well. I had probably too many tracks (gtr tracks mainly), and he actually said my sessions we're a little on the large side. Thankfully amongst those, I had the right one's and he took those and enhanced them.

Massive learning experience for me... now I know what areas I don't have to over-think in future!

In the end it worked out better than I could have hoped. No major label involved either!
Old 13th September 2010
  #10
Lives for gear
 

Sounds like a great experience! TLA is one of my favourite mixers as well.

Could you tell some more about his gear? What monitors did he use? Is he still using the old Sony digital tape recorders? Does he print the final mix to tape or record it digitally from the console? Thanks!
Old 13th September 2010
  #11
Lives for gear
 

Those "myths" afaik were about Chris and not Tom. It's been posted here Tom allows semi-attended and I'm not surprised to read any of this. The "myths" about Chris's assistants were posted here by...Chris's assistants. And much of the rest of Chris's story posted here are relatively first hand reports.

What did Tom's assistants do then? While I appreciate it very much, I think much has been left out from this report...does he still use DASH and NS10's?
Old 13th September 2010
  #12
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Slikjmuzik's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ocianic View Post
Yes, I was very happy when I got the quote.. I mean it's still a bit of cash especially if you plan to mix a few but well worth it IMO.

His prep instructions are thorough but really just logical at the end of the day
I was extremely thorough in prepping, left no room for error and it paid off.
I overnighted a flash drive and DVD backup that arrived 2 days before the mix date and it all worked flawlessly.

I guess the work has to be of a certain standard and he wanted to hear music before any bookings we're made.

A big part of my journey and everyone's I guess is trying to figure out what you need for a track to have a world class sound.... or, how the raw tracks need to sound for the mix to work well. I had probably too many tracks (gtr tracks mainly), and he actually said my sessions we're a little on the large side. Thankfully amongst those, I had the right one's and he took those and enhanced them.

Massive learning experience for me... now I know what areas I don't have to over-think in future!

In the end it worked out better than I could have hoped. No major label involved either!
Yeah, I figured he'd have certain criteria, like by way of having options...I know some guys hate it when you only give them a DI for bass and no mic...not that they can't work with just the DI, but they'd rather have options such as muting and unmuting the mic for the choruses.

I personally prefer 2 room mics for drums as I tend to pan them relative to the overheads and I hate keeping just one room mic in the middle to have yet another channel competing with already dominant sources like kick, snare, bass and lead vocal, which are already in the middle. Didn't know if he had made any personal requests of this nature.
Old 13th September 2010
  #13
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ocianic's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by spicemix View Post
Those "myths" afaik were about Chris and not Tom. It's been posted here Tom allows semi-attended and I'm not surprised to read any of this. The "myths" about Chris's assistants were posted here by...Chris's assistants. And much of the rest of Chris's story posted here are relatively first hand reports.

What did Tom's assistants do then? While I appreciate it very much, I think much has been left out from this report...does he still use DASH and NS10's?
I've been in LA 10 years and have heard many stories about TLA. Has to get a song done in a day, not a nice guy, just throws tracks up compresses the s*#$ out of everything... blah, blah, blah

A week before I left people were saying "I hope Tom puts some effort into this"... He puts more in than I've ever witnessed and at a higher level IMO
That's why he's a legendary name. I know that now from personal experience.

Regarding gear, NS-10's, a small boom box, not sure what the mains we're. Uses a lot of FX in the box and amazingly.... Pro tools 5.1 can you believe that! I was a bit horrified when I saw this (I have Prism ADA's and PTHD8) but I couldn't argue when I heard what I heard... SSL compression slammed..
funny he's got "Spank" written on everything. Even his little dog is called Spanky.

He prints many different masters to 2nd 96k rig and I think one final master on the big Sony digital machine... It still runs in the machine room and the meters sit on the left side of the console..
Old 13th September 2010
  #14
Lives for gear
 

This is a low-rent industry and reports of vicious backstabbing should come as no surprise. A client as respectful as yourself is going to have a pleasant experience with anyone who intends to stay in business.

I think the contraction of budgets industrywide has killed off most of the egomania, but the backstabbing may be getting just more desperate.

Thanks for your reports.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ocianic View Post
I've been in LA 10 years and have heard many stories about TLA. Has to get a song done in a day, not a nice guy, just throws tracks up compresses the s*#$ out of everything... blah, blah, blah

A week before I left people were saying "I hope Tom puts some effort into this"... He puts more in than I've ever witnessed and at a higher level IMO
That's why he's a legendary name. I know that now from personal experience.

Regarding gear, NS-10's, a small boom box, not sure what the mains we're. Uses a lot of FX in the box and amazingly.... Pro tools 5.1 can you believe that! I was a bit horrified when I saw this (I have Prism ADA's and PTHD8) but I couldn't argue when I heard what I heard... SSL compression slammed..
funny he's got "Spank" written on everything. Even his little dog is called Spanky.

He prints many different masters to 2nd 96k rig and I think one final master on the big Sony digital machine... It still runs in the machine room and the meters sit on the left side of the console..
Old 13th September 2010
  #15
Here for the gear
 

I'm glad to hear it. Maybe one day I'll have to call him up. I keep my tracks currently so basic I'd never know how I'd get 67 tracks.. At most I think I'd be up somewhere around 10.. at most.. Although it is sort of pop punk (which Tom is the king of.. hi Blink), and so he'd understand.
Old 13th September 2010
  #16
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api2500's Avatar
Sounds awesome. Really awesome.

Do iTunes link it once it's up (I assume the mix was for that rather than posting on SoundCloud or BandCamp (I am on a mission to begin buying 320s from there) thumbsup).

I do think those prejudices also point at CLA.

But I am a fan of both musically...
Old 13th September 2010
  #17
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Audio Hombre's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by spicemix View Post
Those "myths" afaik were about Chris and not Tom. It's been posted here Tom allows semi-attended and I'm not surprised to read any of this. The "myths" about Chris's assistants were posted here by...Chris's assistants. And much of the rest of Chris's story posted here are relatively first hand reports.

What did Tom's assistants do then? While I appreciate it very much, I think much has been left out from this report...does he still use DASH and NS10's?
dude, do you always have to be such a fvckin bite in the ass? have you ever had a half full glass of stfu, instead of half empty? christ
Old 13th September 2010
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Audio Hombre View Post
dude, do you always have to be such a fvckin bite in the ass? have you ever had a half full glass of stfu, instead of half empty? christ
Sorry Chris.
Old 13th September 2010
  #19
Lives for gear
 

Tom's assitants set the mix sessions up for him and deal directly with the studios to make sure all is in order. Tom comes in and starts mixing, not dicking around and setting stuff up.

That's been my experience anyhow...
Old 13th September 2010
  #21
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Slikjmuzik's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ocianic View Post
I've been in LA 10 years and have heard many stories about TLA. Has to get a song done in a day, not a nice guy, just throws tracks up compresses the s*#$ out of everything... blah, blah, blah

A week before I left people were saying "I hope Tom puts some effort into this"... He puts more in than I've ever witnessed and at a higher level IMO
That's why he's a legendary name. I know that now from personal experience.
I can't believe people say such crap. Outside of subjective opinions, people really have no right. In fact, you can't really argue with success, while a lot of the game with artists is political and who you know, with CLA and TLA, I can listen to their records and say that's a CLA mix or that's a TLA mix. I just don't get where people get off going there. I could care less how long it took it...I want it to be easy for him in fact. I don't want someone toiling with things to make it sound good...either you know what you're doing or you don't. Basically, if you feel what CLA and TLA do is not good, you're basically admitting that you don't hear why what they do has made them succesful. If you feel you can do better, then do it and surpasses their level of success. I doubt many can.

Lastly, people need to stop griping over whatever they feel is too much compression. It's a tired and old topic already. You're not talking about amateurs here that guess on the amount of compression they use. It obviously works and the numbers show it.
Old 13th September 2010
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Slikjmuzik View Post

Lastly, people need to stop griping over whatever they feel is too much compression. It's a tired and old topic already. You're not talking about amateurs here that guess on the amount of compression they use. It obviously works and the numbers show it.
One thing people forget is that most basics are coming in with zero dynamics to begin with due to some pretty lame tracking practices these days. So you might as well compress for tone cause your going to be riding the faders to create dynamics that were lacking to begin with.
Old 13th September 2010
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kats View Post
One thing people forget is that most basics are coming in with zero dynamics to begin with due to some pretty lame tracking practices these days. So you might as well compress for tone cause your going to be riding the faders to create dynamics that were lacking to begin with.
I hear that. Many times I get an artist in here that has it in their head that the vocals has to sound 'finished' while tracking. Same with guitars and drums many times. It gets kind of frustrating after a while. Now I kind of roll my eyes and then go on educating them talking about group compression, master bus compression and then compression in the mastering phase. Granted, I don't compress much on the buss, just enough to hear some glue happening most of the time, but when I compress guitars as much as I do, it's because I want to control them and I know I'm the one mixing the project, so I have that luxury. However, I've seen pro sessions where guys are getting 12db of gain reduction out of guitars to get them under control due to so much palm muting and chugging going on. I see nothing wrong with it as long as the final product, sonically, doesn't sound wrong. I personally don't shave that much as the transformers in the pres I tend to use on guitars do their own 'rounding' so they help out before I get itb, but I don't commit to much compression on anything that's not vocals or bass right from the beginning and even those two sources are not being compressed liberally.

These guys sometimes have to make magic happen out of God knows where, both TLA and CLA have proven that when you have a good arrangement, the bare minimum that can be said is that their mixes won't get in the way. I'm sure someone out there will argue that they might've done nothing to enhance, but they definitely don't get in the way negatively of a song or album doing well, that's for sure.
Old 13th September 2010
  #24
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Barilla's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ocianic View Post
... SSL compression slammed..
Do you mean the channel compressors? Or Buss Compressor?

Sounds like a great experience.
Old 13th September 2010
  #25
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ScumBum's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ocianic View Post
I've been in LA 10 years and have heard many stories about TLA. Has to get a song done in a day, not a nice guy, just throws tracks up compresses the s*#$ out of everything... blah, blah, blah

A week before I left people were saying "I hope Tom puts some effort into this"... He puts more in than I've ever witnessed and at a higher level IMO
That's why he's a legendary name. I know that now from personal experience.

Regarding gear, NS-10's, a small boom box, not sure what the mains we're. Uses a lot of FX in the box and amazingly.... Pro tools 5.1 can you believe that! I was a bit horrified when I saw this (I have Prism ADA's and PTHD8) but I couldn't argue when I heard what I heard... SSL compression slammed..
funny he's got "Spank" written on everything. Even his little dog is called Spanky.

He prints many different masters to 2nd 96k rig and I think one final master on the big Sony digital machine... It still runs in the machine room and the meters sit on the left side of the console..
He uses Pro tools 5.1 ?? What ??
Old 14th September 2010
  #26
Quote:
Originally Posted by ocianic View Post
He prints many different masters to 2nd 96k rig and I think one final master on the big Sony digital machine... It still runs in the machine room and the meters sit on the left side of the console..
I've heard he prints his mixes pretty hot. Any headroom to speak of?
rms, peak?
Old 14th September 2010
  #27
Lives for gear
 

@ Julian.

Another thing to consider is that when basics have no dynamics to begin with, smashing a gtr track (for eg) isn't about compression it's about getting some harmonics/xformer juicyness to an otherwise dead sounding track. You could have the VU's off the meter, makes no difference to the dynamic content.
Old 14th September 2010
  #28
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Charlie Hugall's Avatar
 

Really interesting read, thanks for this - Do you know what AD conversion he was using to print the mix? did he go to tape too?

Thanks,
Charlie
Old 14th September 2010
  #29
Gear Maniac
 
ocianic's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Waltz Mastering View Post
I've heard he prints his mixes pretty hot. Any headroom to speak of?
rms, peak?
Sorry, not sure about level... the Ref CD's I got we're bumped a little with something he called poor man's mastering, not that hot though. I didn't want to bombard him with too many questions so I left the printing questions well enough alone.
Old 14th September 2010
  #30
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Slikjmuzik's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kats View Post
@ Julian.

Another thing to consider is that when basics have no dynamics to begin with, smashing a gtr track (for eg) isn't about compression it's about getting some harmonics/xformer juicyness to an otherwise dead sounding track. You could have the VU's off the meter, makes no difference to the dynamic content.
All I know is that in so many ways I'm glad I get bands that come to me to both record and mix. I'm not one of those that likes this because of control or power reasons, I like it because for me, no one bitches about how I might hand them files and I don't have to deal with poorly recorded music. My capture is what I know how to work with. In this light, I have SOOOO much respect for guys that purely mix. Then again, this is probably why TLA requires that he listen to previously recorded material before he decides to mix it or not. Don't blame him.
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