Thank you so much for doing the Q&A here, you have an amazing group of work I really respect.
Over your career I am sure you worked in a lot of different studios. How do you acclimate yourself to the monitoring environment, the live spaces, and the equipment available when you go into a different facility?
Do you find that it is easier to get good results in some places, and not in others? How much does the environment and "implied workflow" of a given studio or space effect how you work or the end results of your projects?
Most rooms are not perfect, or should I say NO room is perfect. You make do with what you have. I might want a large hall for a big exaggerated drum sound, and a small room for a tight intimate drum kit. I might need both these sounds for the same song, so I look for spaces that are as versatile as possible. My studio is in a cavernous theater. To control the drum sound I have built a truss system that I hang canvas panels to create different sized rooms. I'll often set a drum kit up in the lobby of the theater to get that tight intimate club sound. Sometimes I'll set a drum kit up on stage and pull the curtains, keeping the cymbal wash out of the big room.
When I recorded System Of A Down at Rick Rubin's home studio, I had to record in a big cement room full of creepy antique taxidermy mounts. There was no dedicated booth. Not a great place to do vocals. My solution was to buy a large camping tent, tall enough to stand up in, and that became our vocal booth. Serge Tankian, the singer for SOAD, set up the space as his private sanctuary. Because of this he delivered brilliant performances. I have yet to get the pot smell out of the tent.
I use reference music to acclimate to a new studio environment. I'll listen to what might be appropriate for the project: Meshuggah, Crowded House, Jet, Beatles, Queens Of The Stone Age, Al Green, Mumford And Sons, Foo Fighters, Sufjan Stevens are some... I'll move around the room to find where the bass pockets are and move my listening position if needed and if possible. If I'm unfamiliar with the room, I will periodically check my chosen reference so I can keep moving in the right direction. I will also use some of my own recent mixes to keep my ears in tune.