“Tchad is a creative monster. He is the guy who does things differently, all the time. The idea that he should be enslaved to one working method is completely missing the point. He turns the knobs until it sounds good to him, and he’s fucking good at it!”
So speaks David Boucher, the man who in 2001 displayed admirable courage by daring to step into Tchad Blake’s shoes, when he took over as producer Mitchell Froom’s regular engineer and mixer. Blake and Froom worked together from 1986 to 2001, and their fifteen-year collaboration is distinguished by their work on seminal albums by the likes of Suzanne Vega, Los Lobos, Richard Thompson, Crowded House, Paul McCartney, The Pretenders, Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, Stina Nordenstam, Latin Playboys, Ron Sexsmith and American Music Club.
During this time, Froom and Blake received wide-spread acclaim for their sonic and production innovations, which were to a significant degree informed by Blake’s penchant for using all manner of obscure and leftfield analogue equipment and techniques, from guitar pedals to binaural heads, as well as everyday objects like wooden pipes, metal cans, and cardboard boxes. The result was a unique sound, with a lo-fi aesthetic, often distinguished by the elaborate use of distortion and the absence of artificial reverb.
Initially a guitarist, Blake began his studio career in 1979, at the age of 25, when he started work at Wally Heider’s studio in Los Angeles. He worked his way up to become a fully-fledged engineer, and was later active at The Sound Factory studios, where he met Froom in 1986. Their wildly successful collaboration ended with Blake’s move to the UK in 2001. In the following years Blake worked for a number of years at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios, and didn’t only engineer and mix, but also expanded into producing, clocking up credits like Gabriel, Travis, Phish, Tracy Chapman, and Bonnie Raitt.
Blake moved to Wales in 2008, where he now predominantly mixes in his home studio, called Full Mongrel. Remarkably, for someone who made his name pushing the sonic limits of the analogue domain, Blake has since 2005 worked almost entirely in the box.
He has a Protools HD rig with an Icon D Control, plus a choice selection of loads of guitar pedals and a few pieces of outboard. Some of the artists who have benefitted in recent years from Blake “turning knobs,” and “not being enslaved to one working method,” are The Arctic Monkeys, The Black Keys, and The Dandy Warhols. Blake has to date won five Grammy Awards.
Blake comments, “One reason why I went into the box was that it allows me to have an affordable mix room at home. It’s amazing. I’m 99.8% in the box now, as opposed to mixing off tape through a vintage API console at The Sound Factory or the very large SSL at Real World Studios in the past. The 0.2% represents instruments I add or pedal-style effects I use. Not that plug-ins aren’t good enough: I just like to change things up a little and alter the body language.”
Tchad Blake has already conducted four very successful Mix With The Masters seminars at La Fabrique. Calling the seminars “the highlights of my year” he intends to do more. He elaborates, “La Fabrique is unique and wonderful, and the people running the studio, as well as the people that organize the seminars, have all worked really hard at getting everything sorted. They’re good at listening and getting things done and also at allowing things to happen and being open to spontaneity and a bit of mongrel. The way they have developed the seminar is great, and they look like they’re having fun in the process!”
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Q&A with Mitchell Froom & Tchad Blake
Q&A with Tchad Blake
Teaser – 2012 Session
Teaser #1 – 2011 Session
Teaser #2 – 2011 Session